Who What How…Why??

Published May 30, 2023 by Nan Mykel



Yeah, I know about evolution and believe in it, but…this is pretty hard for me to comprehend.

Tell me this: When the “camouflage” matches the background, how does that come to pass?  Does the critter select a background to match its plumage or does the baxkground change to match>  And how does the critter see what to match with, since he can’t see himself?  And why all the bother for much shorter lives than ours?  I think it’s time for us to get a little help of some kind, from somewhere, evolutionarily speaking.


Poem – Winning a War With Time

Published May 28, 2023 by Nan Mykel




And time’s short

She might not remember

Today, tomorrow, or a minute from now

Something important for the next generation

A central tremor waves the lines of each written letter

But she’ll never surrender

Just hold down the fort

condo 1004A


Stockpile the ammo!

Half a dozen pens and pencils

Between the bed sheets

Notebooks and tissues

Magazines and books afloat the waves of the unmade bed

A trail of trailmix down the hallway

fiery passion

And a zest


Words of wisdom are held captive on the page

Waiting to be released

As each one of them is read


And that’s how you win a war with time

While sitting in bed.


Shared with permission of Nan’s friend Carrie Carson


Published May 27, 2023 by Nan Mykel



Forty percent 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide. The rates of suicidality are highest among transgender youth.

“I am transgender, someone you may not believe exists.  My truth is not your truth, your experience not mine.  I have a heart, and feelings.  I’m not sure you do.  Why do you hate me?”


THE ANSWERS  – Check one or more

I get nervous around things I don’t understand

….am afraid of you

….imagine you are against me

….you threaten my way of life

….you are different

….you may harm my children

….I just hate fringe people

…. are uncultured

….break the American mold

….think you are better than me

….are a threat to our civilization

….probably have a disease

….may lead my children astray

….are liars

….are animals that need to be put down

….aren’t decent

….are ungodly

….are unnatural

(You may add additional reasons)


….I DON’T hate you

(Fill in the blanks)






Published May 26, 2023 by Nan Mykel









An arty arty I stumbled across in my old photos.

Art is everywhere!  Depends how you look at it.


Take a look at Ruth’s experience with animals:


Last year’s nest of chickadees on the front porch

Hanging basket of bright orange impatience,

All hatched, sang, tested their wings and flew away.

This year a nest of four robin’s eggs on the front porch

Atop a plastic floral wreath hanging on the wall,

Still incubating, so we’re using the side door.

An unopened walnut tucked into the wicker mail basket

Also on the front porch. A thank you for the stale Cheerios?

Two big black ants on the white counter top

Face to face, in an embrace not moving

Even with me coming in for a close up.

A pregnant doe, with belly big and round,

Resting in the backyard, watching me as I watch her,

As I suspect, I have been since she was a fawn.

Beyond her, the yard scraps heap suddenly

Sporting a perfectly round entrance hole in its middle

About the size of a ground hog often seen eating my garden, or

That amazing white backed skunk seen streaking across the yard one night,

Who all  the neighbors know as well.

Likewise Thomas, the big orange tom who left cat footprints in the wet cement,

And who I was not about to feed,

But now gets Teaka’s leftovers so is at the back door every morning.

Was it the struggling bee caught in the kitchen that I trapped, then released

Who let the secret out?


Used with permission by R. H. Reilly 5-22-2023


Felix’s Poem

Published May 24, 2023 by Nan Mykel


I’m an octogenarian of 85.

My antiquity astonishes me.

I’ve got three types of cancer.

I don’t see, hear, or walk well.


I’m a medical dumpster fire,

a near senile, geriatric elder,

doddering, decrepit, obsolete,

out-of-date, far past my prime.


Still I embrace my life’s remnants.

Never has time been more valued,

nature’s splendor more precious,

loved ones more deeply cherished.


I now take life day by day,

savoring each dawn as a gift.

Living is intensely relished.

I intend to try lingering longer.


Felix Gagliano, May 2023

GUEST POST: Because Nice Matters

Published May 21, 2023 by Nan Mykel

On the mantel at our fireplace a long board with the words “Because Nice Matters” leans up against the wall. Several Christmas and birthday cards mostly hide it now, but I know it is there, and I know it is important to both Diane and me. She has owned it for years. Diane thinks of niceness in terms of personal interaction, which should be conducted with sensitivity, kindness. Of course, that is important and she is often nicer in person-to-person interaction than I am. I’ve required a lot of training. But for me, niceness compasses more. I have always been oriented toward  political and cultural matters. So I say, in society, honesty is nice and dishonesty is not.  Fairness is nice and unfairness is not. Refraining from violence is nice and violence is not.

For the last seven years I have been trying to find more than just a couple simple expressions to argue that what is most the matter with the Trump era –and its antecedents and its post-Trump carryings-on–is the assault on norms of decency and the change in tolerance for, even celebration of, norms of incivility.  I know–“decency” and “civility” are such beige terms. The import does not come across. Norms are expectations of behavior, especially verbal and physical behavior in public life, whether one has a loud megaphone or one does not, but does have a mouth or a gun. I haven’t been able to develop much of an argument past a plain assertion, although I have come to believe the main point more strongly through living these past few yeas.

Decency matters, matters more than any policy, although I think policies and their use matter a great deal. But laws can be changed, and are, and even Supreme Court decisions get reversed. We have a harder time collectively changing basic notions of what is OK, partly because norms are not always legally encoded, let alone enforced by having any consequence except shunning. And shaming has lost power recently. In fact, acting as a finger in the eye of the rules of civility gets points in some fighting corners. Maybe it is hardest to change norms in the direction of honoring the rights of Others, those who are not one of one’s racial, economic, or religious, or ideological tribe. America has done a lot of that since the sixties. And maybe abandoning those norms that have been solidified just in living memory in such a direction (that is, toward honoring Others) is not as hard as establishing them. A change in norms toward tolerance of dishonesty, unfairness, and violence began before Trump’s presidency, but his reign was brought about by valorizing that change (that is, toward unfairness, etc.) and continually reinforcing it — Trump loves to double down. We’ve seen a lot of contention in the last 60 years.

The destruction of the old norms of decency and the substitution of the norms of simple license for the powerful to get their own way has been championed by Trump for much of the last few years, although he did not begin it  and his imitators are continuing it.  The mind set for the task requires amorality, and from that, shamelessness, and from that, imperviousness to censure. The common tactic is to double down on every challenged lie, in part to assert the effectiveness of such brazen behavior in self.

Lies re not nice. The Washington Post’s tracking project noted more than 30,000 of them from the mouth or tweeting finger  of  Trump during his presidency.  Until October, 2020, the volume got too much to keep up with. The lie with the greatest consequences is the Big Lie, which still lives and causes trouble, that the presidential election was stolen. By election day in 2020 a big tribe of believers had been established, who still accept any absurdity, will make any denial in the face of shown facts, including video existence, and re nurtured by the MAGA identity.

Hate and fear mongering are not nice, not only because they are dangerous motivators, but also because they are unfair. The last seven years of norm destruction and remaking have been times of racist, sexist, antisemitic, transphobic hate speech and attempts at fear-driven policies like the Muslim immigration ban. In addition, the MAGA right is creating or at least further stereotyping more targets, such as well-sourced media, Hollywood, coastal urbans and elites, and now, even law enforcement, the FBI and the “woke” military for support of  trans personnel. Why all this animosity?  What does it accomplish?  Cruelty is the point, Adam Serwer writes in the Atlantic. Cruelty not only hurts, it discourages both the target and other observers, or is meant to. It assaults the old norms of decency in order to change expectations of compliance with them. Cruelty always includes the message that you cannot win, you cannot expect justice. You must put up with unfairness. You are a loser.

Violence is not nice, and its celebration is an abomination. “Trial by combat” Giuliani called for at the rally on January 6, 2021, and off the crowd went. Trump has encouraged violence as far back as his first campaign in 2016, suggesting that his followers beat up protesters at one of his events. Acts of public square violence, as well as intimidation through threats and a general atmosphere of danger, are becoming ordinary in our daily civic lives. Violence has become more common in public contests, including struggles about voting rights and abortion rights.  A gang of militants plots the kidnapping of the governor of Michigan,  losing candidate in Arizona gets hired guns to shoot into the homes of political opponents, and lets us know that his model for his own election denial is, of course, Trump.

Norms hold us together. In 2017, early in Trump’s regime, I noticed that I could not keep up mental hold of the Trump-related incidents that shocked and appalled me, ones that alarmingly suggested changes in norms. Each one was replaced within days or a week or so by by some new outrage. Even the big ones, like Trump’s call to Ukraine’s President Kelensky (trying to extort dirt on the Biden family by threatening to withhold already pledged defensive support), came to nothing but a failed impeachment, after which the man carried on bald-faced. There were just too many affronts to decency to keep up with emotionally, so mindfulness of them faded. There was and still is an inundation from the reactionary side of things; we sink into the flood of it. It is like an atmospheric river that the weather has been producing in California–ubiquitous and drowning. That is how it works. Through the deluge of changed behavior and its drenching, insisted-on- normalcy, there has been a change to the normal, and the normal becomes normative; the rules of civility, the norms themselves, are replaced.

I’ve become aware these last two years that it is not formally codified, law-enforced rules, that are the most important rules, but the international regularities that, if not complied with, get our attention and corrective action, like a rule against racial slurs or a boast about grabbing pussy. (And, of course, formal laws, too, depend on cooperation; subpoenas are ignored now, and authorities can’t or at least don’t force compliance.)  But attention and corrective action for non-compliance with informal norms depend on the force of disapproval, not of guns, courts or jails. If the old norms of decency, of niceness, are not subjected to corrective action, or the action has no punch, and new expectations take the place of old just by getting away with it, the rules have, effectively, changed. This frightens me. For the first time ever, I would be hesitant to speak up sharply and publicly against militia thuggery or for law changes in the state to restore full reproductive rights, for fear of assault against my home, especially since I am not alone; my wife would be in danger.  I am not saying I would not do it–but for the first time I am apprehensive, concerning my own home, my northern, middle-class home.

More than half a lifetime ago I spent time where there was reason to fear for the safety of the place where I slept at night, the place that was my temporary home, during the civil rights movement, when I was doing voter registration work down south. But I was young and therefore felt immortal, or at least heroic, impassioned; and we had rousing songs and each other. That was then, this is now.

It’s different. For one thing, I’m now a 77-year old body. The flesh intuitions are different and more self-protective. But, too, the times are different. I have accumulated years, but so has the world, our world, our country. In the 1960’s racial violence was a reality, but the trajectory of unfolding events and changes in discourse seemed strongly against it continuing without consequence. We could believe Dr. King  that “the arc of history bends toward justice.” Politics promised progressiveness, stretching as far as I could imagine. Well, I was barely 20, so with very little life experience.  Now I have lived through the rise and effect of modern feminism, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act, the two-term presidency of Barack Hussein Obama and and a legal marriage with my wife Diane, on the one hand; but the neocon politics of Newt Gingrich and Pat Buchanan, and the rise of white nationalist, Christian nationalist and anti-intellectual, hate-nourished culture that allowed for a Donald Trump to lie and hustle his way into the White House, on the other.  Books and articles inform me that authoritarianism is on the rise in many places, and our country is one of them–and I can see it’s so. Trump even suggested not bothering with the Constitution. Tens of thousands of Americans engaged in insurrection. They attempted a coup. The arc does not seem to be bending toward justice. Or even toward a bit of good sense. Certainly not toward civility, decency. Not toward niceness in the civic sphere.

This morning I was watching a movie on Amazon set partly in the civil rights monument of the 1960’s. The dangers of that time seem to me too much like the threats today; or the threats of today seem too much like the dangers of the 1960s. Do we really want to fight the same battles, or ones that rhyme so well, as Mark Twain said about history? News of violence against politicians, election workers, women, jews, children in school comes almost daily. The possibility of violence seems quite close. The lies continue. Law changes and court decisions undo hard-won fairness. It is  all normal. It has become normalized. I am alarmed.

Used with permission of Birch Moonwoman

No More Bad News

Published May 18, 2023 by Nan Mykel

I hope I can keep this promise: No more bad news from my pen…or keyboard, after today.  Not necessarily good news, either,  maybe just flat-out experiential or Let’s Pretend ideas of the feel-good type.  My very last bad news is…A.I. is sold out, obtained by dark forces, so you can’t believe anything any more.  So, it’s back to poetry which I will try and keep under control.  Things in old books will be okay, but all rcent news organizations have become highly suspect due to their willingness to fund themselves by running well-known shyster ads.  This post is in response to a N.Y. Times column saying A.I. is no longer under control.  You can’t read that column if you’re not a subscriber.

I am still puzzled about what happened to the value of honesty.  Sure did go out of style quickly, at least with the Citizens United decision in 2010.

I see I have to force myself to try and vacate entire areas of negativity, maybe only trust that my nighttime dreams are aimed at helping me grow. It  would be a bad scene if I couldn’t trust myself.  But honestly, there are some areas in which I can’t trust myself…so I try and stay out of them.   So maybe it’s that I know myself  too well, honestly…





Published May 15, 2023 by Nan Mykel

“Let them eat cake” is the most famous quote attributed to Marie-Antoinette, the queen of France during the French Revolution. As the story goes, it was the queen’s response upon being told that her starving peasant subjects had no bread. Because cake is more expensive than bread, the anecdote has been cited as an example of Marie-Antoinette’s obliviousness to the conditions and daily lives of ordinary people. But did she ever actually utter those words? Probably not.  From <https://www.britannica.com/story/did-marie-antoinette-really-say-let-them-eat-cake>HOWEVER, obviously the anecdote matched the feelings of many or it would not have trickled down to us.

The quote came to mind when reading about the jazza-ma-tazz of splurges in a number of high-rises, as revealed and commented upon by  The Nation earlier this year:  “Absurdly opulent offices defy the market’s gloom.” …Or would that  be deny  the market’s gloom?

“Take a look inside the most expensive home in the country, a penthouse in New York City’s Central Park Tower that is listed at $250 million.”  While you’re at it you might like a nice purse at $10,200 dollars.  You don’t have to bother with the battle against the homeless in downtown San Francisco or the  attempt by the poor in New York to ban evictions (The Nation, April 2023).  It all depends on where you look, where your attention is drawn, your own backyard.

If you look at the salaries of those lucky enough to have found a job, then the increase per hour might seem encouraging.  On the other hand, if you’re looking at the homeless and others without work and impoverished education who  compete with burgeoning technology,  the situation is alarming/horrifying/sobering/grim.  Free counseling from A.I. will never make up the shortfall.

Does every American have a right to a job?  Since might makes right, it’s questionable in practice.  Certainly the statement is  not popular with most of the wealthy.  The vision, however, is that a federal job guarantee could be transformational for our country.  “The concept is about much more than just providing work and an income for people who are unemployed, as important as that is. A job guarantee will help us rebuild our country, go a long way toward ending economic insecurity, improve mental health, and create a stronger sense of community.  It will create a much healthier and happier America.”  Perhaps you guessed that the words are from Bernie Sanders in The Nation March, 2023.  (Of course, undoing the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling which changed corporations  into people  and permitted the massive buying of elections.  One corporation against Mr. or Mrs. John Q. Public?  Unspeakable and destructive, as we’re seeing and feeling it today.


Gun deaths among American children rose 50 percent between 2019 and 2021, from 1,732 to 2,590, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.  Gun deaths among all Americans rose 23 percent during that period.  Male castration fears continue to rule in most states, at the cost of neighbors’ lives.

In many states will forced childbirth not replace them, population-wise?  Excuse my bitterness.  I’m not sure but I may have homeschooled if my young’uns were school age now.


Why don’t conservatives want children to be upset about the world they live in?  A 63-year old psychology teacher in Florida gave his 11th and 12th grade students an assignment to write their own obituary in order to inspire reflection on how they want to move forward with their lives.  A super idea, in my opinion. Did his assignment result in more mature students able to contribute to our world?  Are you kidding?  He was fired. (The Week April 21, 2023)



Published May 13, 2023 by Nan Mykel

A discussion in the May 7, 2023 New York Times Magazine raises once more the question of what to do with the dangerous A.I.  We already know it’s dangerous because we have seen its misleading affirmation of “reality.”

As mentioned in an earlier post, Geoffrey Hinton, an artificial intelligence pioneer and major developer of A.I. has withdrawn from its development.

On a recent Monday he officially joined a growing chorus of critics who say those companies are racing toward danger with their aggressive campaign to create products based on generative artificial intelligence, the technology that powers popular chatbots like ChatGPT.

Dr. Hinton said he has quit his job at Google, where he has worked for more than a decade and became one of the most respected voices in the field, so he can freely speak out about the risks of A.I. A part of him, he said, now regrets his life’s work.

The New York Times Magazine article of May 7, 2023 by Gary Marcus  contains a grim warning and forecast: “People are going to make fake Guardian articles, fake New York Times articles, fake CBS News videos…because the cost of mis-information is going to zero.”

…”By the time the election comes around in 2024, nobody’s going to believe anything, and anything they don’t want to believe they’re going to reject as being A.I.-generated. And the problems we have around civil discourse and polarization are just going to get worse.”

I Don’t Believe Oprah Did It…But Who?

Published May 13, 2023 by Nan Mykel






During the past month I have received two separate false e-mails, both from friends on my e-mail list, telling me that they were sending photos that they should probably have sent earlier, and I would probably remember.  When I opened  them I saw PR about Oprah Winfrey.  There may have been more in the e-mail but I got rid of it quickly.

(Just a word to the wise, as my teacher used to say.)



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