Saturday, June 1, 2024

Jeremiah Babe, "Bank Meltdown, 85K Customers Locked Out Of Their Accounts"

Jeremiah Babe, 6/1/24
"Bank Meltdown, 85K Customers Locked Out Of Their Accounts;
 Surviving In The Worst Economy Ever"
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Musical Interlude: Two Steps From Hell, "Evergreen"

Full screen recommended.
Two Steps From Hell, "Evergreen"

Close your eyes, let your imagination flow with the music...
What images do you see, what do you feel?

"A Look to the Heavens"

"The beautiful Trifid Nebula is a cosmic study in contrasts. Also known as M20, it lies about "5,000 light-years away toward the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. A star forming region in the plane of our galaxy, the Trifid does illustrate three different types of astronomical nebulae; red emission nebulae dominated by light from hydrogen atoms, blue reflection nebulae produced by dust reflecting starlight, and dark nebulae where dense dust clouds appear in silhouette. But the red emission region roughly separated into three parts by obscuring dust lanes is what lends the Trifid its popular name. 
Pillars and jets sculpted by newborn stars, below and left of the emission nebula's center, appear in famous Hubble Space Telescope close-up images of the region. The Trifid Nebula is about 40 light-years across. Just too faint to be seen by the unaided eye, it almost covers the area of a full moon in planet Earth's sky."

"If You Don't..."



by Tim Knight

“A handwritten letter arrived in my mailbox last week from a reader. In it was a note from whom I would guess is an elderly gentleman, thanking me for my work both on Slope and on Tastytrade, but politely asking me to use the phrase "God damn it" less frequently, since he found it upsetting. The handwriting on the paper trembled like leaves in an autumn breeze, and it was obvious it took time and effort to send me this two-page missive. It meant something to him.

It never occurred to me that I ever used this phrase in a video, let alone often enough to cause concern. All the same, the letter, as with the many other letters I have received over the years, made an impression. For one thing, it made me wonder how angry I must be in order for this kind of sentiment to seep through, since I wasn't even aware I was saying it.

Which leads me to the topic at hand. Specifically, a man. A terribly deformed man whom I think about almost daily. For now, I'll call him Sup.

One summer evening, a few months ago, I was walking with my family down University Avenue, the central boulevard in our town, and the location of dozens of high-end retail stores that cater to the insatiable appetite of the affluent consumers in my fair city. "Sup?" came from the voice from below. (As is: "What's up?") I glanced around and didn't see the speaker. That is, until I looked lower. There, standing on the brick sidewalk on the corner of Bryant and University Avenues was a person unlike any I had ever seen before.

His head, torso, and arms were normal. There were two things obviously terribly wrong with 1117-suphim: first, his back was completely malformed, with a huge hump, and second, his legs - or what passed for legs - were just a few inches long. He appeared to be mixed race (the politically incorrect term, I think, is "mulatto") and he had a big afro.

"How you guys doin' this evening?", he asked. I stammered that we were pretty good, although I confess being a little surprised. That brief exchange ended the conversation, and my family and I continued on to Umami Burgers for dinner. In the receding distance, I heard this fellow chatting up other people as they passed, asking for a dollar from anyone who would listen.

From that day forward, I paid attention to that corner whenever I passed it in my car or walked by it during my downtown errands. Sup, as I called him, was on that corner more often than not. On occasion, I'd see a special wheelchair near him, which I suppose he could hoist himself onto and roll to wherever it was he lived (if such a place existed). But he was never in it. He was also on the sidewalk at knee level.

What struck me about Sup the most was his attitude. This guy was seriously and, dare I say, grotesquely deformed. When he moved from one place to another, he typically did so by pressing his hands against the ground and swinging his torso and tiny legs forward, much like an ape at the zoo. Although his short stature made him easy to miss, once people saw him, they couldn't help but take note. I can only imagine the range of reactions he's ever received.

But back to his attitude: this guy was relentlessly positive. And I don't mean grinning, giggling, and thumbs-up positive. I'm talking about a self-evident confidence, determination, and cachet. He gave salutations to everyone who passed; he casually smoked on a cigarette while chatting up people who would talk to him; and he made verbal passes at good-looking women as they strolled by (enjoying, incidentally, a supremely good view of their legs from his two-foot high vantage point). In spite of all this, most people tried their best to ignore him. They just felt too awkward (as if they were the ones who were entitled to feel uneasy).

Since I'm an unrelentingly self-referential twit, I pondered these observations in the context of my own behavior. Here was this guy who had every reason to feel sorry for himself. His tremendous physical deformities were going to dominate whatever impression he might possibly give to someone. He was begging on a street corner for dollar bills. He was being passed every day by countless numbers of people, many of them affluent, some of them stinking rich, while he begged for a little money to eat. And yet he was totally unfazed (in spite of, I wager, some cruel reactions or mean utterances offered by heartless strangers).

I, on the other hand, have a PhD in self-pity. I'm a white American male - by definition, a privileged class - who has a perfectly good body, good health, a zillion dollar house, and enough money to live the rest of my life without working another day. I've got a beautiful wife, magnificent children, and a good income that doesn't rob me of any personal freedom. And yet I am seized on a virtually daily basis with how miserable and rotten my life is, and how I don't deserve any of the bad things that have ever happened to me. I dare feel sorry for myself due to solvable personal problems or the fact the stupid stock market refuses to fall.

Sure, if I cornered you and shared a couple of drinks, I could probably conjure up enough tales-of-woe to get you to agree that, yeah, poor Tim is a pathetic sumbitch, and it's no wonder he's often tempted to jump in front of the next CalTrain that passes by. Indeed, most people on this planet would be able to surgically extract some sliver of their lives and make it seem sad. Hell, Elon Musk could surely give grisly tales from his multiple failed marriages, although I imagine it would be a Herculean feat for anyone to actually conjure up sympathy for the guy.

Sup, in sharp contrast to this morose malaise, was just plain cool. On more than one occasion, I'd see that he had managed to coax a couple of women - attractive young women - over to talk to him, and he was just smoking his cig, chatting them up, casual as could be. I don't know what he said to get their attention, but whatever it was, it worked. God knows the guy has chatted up more good-looking women than I ever have in my own life. That's me in the corner.

I've long been tempted to interview the guy, because there's so much I want to know about him. Where is he from? What's his background? What's his physical malady all about? What are the most interesting, kind, and nasty things people have said to him? What are some interesting stories from the many months he's been hanging out at this particular corner? What does he hope the future brings to him? How does he manage to stay so upbeat?

I haven't done the interview yet, and I'm not sure if I ever will. I mean, it takes a certain amount of gumption to start quizzing a guy up and down; he might react poorly to the whole thing. But I've got a suspicion he would be all too glad to tell his story. I'm more worried about my ability to do the interview than his interest in answering my questions.

However, I took one baby step in that direction a few days ago. I was walking by, and as usual, he tosses out - "Sup, man? Got a dollar for me?" I was on my way to my mailbox, so I replied, "In a minute." I suppose he gets this kind of brush-off all the time, but I was sincere. I was going to come back with a dollar in a minute, because there was something I wanted to buy with it.

"Yo, yo!" he said as I returned to the corner. I handed him a dollar and asked, "What's your name?" In my mind, the question was "What's your real name?", since I had known him as "Sup" all these months.

"OK, have a good night." And I left.

So now at least I had a real name for this person. That was a more dignified, after all, since I had heretofore attached a goofy moniker to him. But I really need to interview this guy one of these days. In a way, I admire him, even though his disposition and attitude just make me loathe myself even worse than before. I mean, seriously, what right do I have? So be it. Zachary is one tough hombre. Respect.”

"What Is Hope?"

"What is hope? It is the pre-sentiment that imagination is more real and reality is less real than it looks. It is the hunch that the overwhelming brutality of facts that oppress and repress us is not the last word. It is the suspicion that reality is more complex than the realists want us to believe.

That the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the actual; and in a miraculous and unexplained way, life is opening creative events which will light the way to freedom and resurrection. But the two — suffering and hope — must live from each other. Suffering without hope produces resentment and despair. But hope without suffering creates illusions, naïveté and drunkenness.

So let us plant dates even though we who plant them will never eat them. We must live by the love of what we will never see. That is the secret discipline. It is the refusal to let our creative act be dissolved away by our need for immediate sense experience, and it is a struggled commitment to the future of our grandchildren. Such disciplined hope is what has given prophets, revolutionaries and saints the courage to die for the future they envisage. They make their own bodies the seed of their highest hope." 
- Rubin Alves


"No one today likes truth: utility and self interest have long ago been substituted for truth. We live in a nightmare of falsehoods, and there are few who are sufficiently awake and aware to see things as they are. Our first duty is to clear away illusions and recover a sense of reality."
- Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.” 
- Oscar Wilde

Dan, I Allegedly, "Bank Run Warning - Are Your Funds Safe?"

Full screen recommended.
Dan, I Allegedly, 6/1/24
"Bank Run Warning - Are Your Funds Safe?"
"Now we’re hearing more warnings from JP Morgan. Jamie Dimon recently issued a dire bank warning, and it has major implications for private banking and potential bank runs. In this video, we dive deep into the financial turmoil that’s hitting banks, private lenders like Ninepoint, and even major institutions like the Bank of Montreal. Things are getting very serious right now."
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The Daily "Near You?"

Wheat Ridge, Colorado, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

The Poet: Ernest Dowson, "Vitae Summa Brevis"

"Vitae Summa Brevis"

"They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses;
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream."

- Ernest Dowson

 "Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam" 
is a quotation from Horace's "First Book of Odes": 
 "The shortness of life prevents us from entertaining far-off hopes."
Full screen recommended.
Deuter, "Black Velvet Flirt"

Free Download: R.D. Laing, “The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness”

"The Divided Self: 
An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness"
by R.D. Laing

"Ronald David Laing (7 October 1927 – 23 August 1989), usually cited as R. D. Laing, was a Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness – in particular, the experience of psychosis. Laing's views on the causes and treatment of serious mental dysfunction, greatly influenced by existential philosophy, ran counter to the psychiatric orthodoxy of the day by taking the expressed feelings of the individual patient or client as valid descriptions of lived experience rather than simply as symptoms of some separate or underlying disorder. Laing was associated with the anti-psychiatry movement, although he rejected the label. Politically, he was regarded as a thinker of the New Left..”

"First published in 1960, this watershed work aimed to make madness comprehensible, and in doing so revolutionized the way we perceive mental illness. Using case studies of patients he had worked with, psychiatrist R. D. Laing argued that psychosis is not a medical condition but an outcome of the 'divided self', or the tension between the two personas within us: one our authentic, private identity, and the other the false, 'sane' self that we present to the world.”
Freely download ,"The Divided Self: 
An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness"
by R.D. Laing, here:
"Insights Of R.D. Laing"
"Decades ago, psychiatrist R.D. Laing developed three rules by which he believed a pathological family (one suffering from abuse, alcoholism, etc.) can keep its pathology hidden from even its own family members. Adherence to these three rules allows perpetrators, victims, and observers to maintain the fantasy that they are all one big, happy family. The rules are: 
Rule A: Don't talk about the problems and abject conditions; 
Rule A1: Rule A does not exist; 
Rule A2: Do not discuss the existence or nonexistence of Rules A, A1, and/or A2."

“From the moment of birth, when the stone-age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father have been, and their parents and their parents before them. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities. This enterprise is on the whole successful.”

“Children do not give up their innate imagination, curiosity, dreaminess easily. You have to love them to get them to do that.”

“We are all murderers and prostitutes - no matter to what culture, society, class, nation one belongs, no matter how normal, moral, or mature, one takes oneself to be.”

“Insanity - a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.”

“We are bemused and crazed creatures, strangers to our true selves, to one another, and to the spiritual and material world - mad, even, from an ideal standpoint we can glimpse but not adopt.”

"Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent."

"Of All Tyrannies...

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals." 
- C.S. Lewis

"How it Really Is"


"Deflation v Inflation v Stagflation – Misconceptions Clarified"

"Deflation v Inflation v Stagflation –
 Misconceptions Clarified"
by Martin Armstrong

"Some people have a very hard time understanding that we are in a massive deflationary spiral; they think that rising prices simply means it is inflation and not deflation. Then they mistake stagflation for deflation and wonder why people are spending more on less. They only see prices, not disposable income, and certainly not economic growth and unemployment.

Prices rose sharply following the OPEC oil price hikes of the 1970s, but the sharp rise in energy crowded out other forms of spending, resulting in rising prices that had nothing to do with a speculative economic expansion but a deflationary contraction they called STAGFLATION occurred with rising prices and declining economic growth.

This is like Biden saying vaguely that he will press corporations to raise wages and lower prices. Great plan, which, as always, means absolutely nothing and illustrates that he has nothing to offer. Biden revealed his position that government is never the problem. If you want to raise NET DISPOSABLE INCOME, lower taxes! Raising wages, as he argues corporations should do, will escalate people to higher tax brackets, and soon, all benefits will come into play with these socialistic programs. As always, nobody in government ever talks about reducing the size of government waste and corruption.
Click image for larger size.
Household income will soon be defined as everyone living in the same house – kids and all. Perhaps you will have to pitch a tent and make the kids sleep outside with the dog to avoid “household” income tax increases. Deflation is not the lowering of prices, it is the lowering of economic activity that can also include STAGFLATION, which occurs when prices rise but there is no economic growth.

Now, stagflation is not exactly the same as deflation, where the price of goods and services do decline. For example, prior to World War II, the US experienced a massive deflationary environment where GDP fell 30% between the crash of 1929 and 1933. A quarter of Americans were unemployed. Prices plummeted, and consumers were not spending because they had very little, if anything, to spend. Panics erupted, and people hoarded; the Second World War brought America out of that economic downfall.

During periods of stagflation, the prices of goods and services increase while buying power decreases. Consumers end up spending more on less. As we are seeing now, for example, retail sales on items such as clothing have declined, but people are spending more on gas and groceries. People feel as if they are earning less despite earning more because their buying power has been drastically reduced. Companies will suffer as consumers spend less, as we are seeing at restaurants, as one example, and this will lead to reductions in the workforce. Unemployment during the OPEC crisis of the 1970s was not nearly as drastic but unemployment did rise to 7.2% by 1980. Inflation went from around 1% in 1964 to 14% in 1980, and GDP growth went from 5.8% to -0.3% during that same period.

So be very careful. If you only look at prices rising and ignore the fact that your disposable income is declining, you will be in for a very rude awakening."

Adventures With Danno, "AM/PM 6/1/24"

Full screen recommended.
Adventures With Danno, AM 6/1/24
"Strange Prices At Aldi!"
"In today's vlog, we are at Aldi and are noticing some very strange prices. We are saving where we can on their Aldi Saver Deals, but even those are mostly just 10 - 20 cent savings."
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Adventures With Danno, PM 6/1/24
"Items That Are Skyrocketing In Price Here
 In Summer 2024! Prepare For The Worst!"
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"Wars And Rumors Of Wars"

Full screen recommended.
Col. Douglas Macgregor, 5/31/24
"Israel's Endgame; Russia Strategic Shifts"
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Full screen recommended.
Hindustan Times, 6/1/24
"Putin Aide Lashes Out At West, 
Issues Fresh Nuclear War Threat; ‘Not Mere Intimidation…’"
"Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide, Dmitry Medvedev, issued a tough warning to NATO. Medvedev warned NATO against the "fatal mistake" of dismissing Kremlin nuclear capabilities. He warned that Moscow is not bluffing about using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine and that Western support to Ukraine may risk the escalation of war. This comes after the U.S. permitted Ukraine to use American weapons to strike inside Russian territories." 
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Full screen recommended.
Times Of India, 6/1/24
"Hamas Chief Haniyeh Calls For Mass Mobilization
 Against Israel, ‘Seize Al-Aqsa Flood…’"
Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas, called for mobilization to unite Arabs against Israel, seizing the strategic opportunity presented by the recent events at Al-Aqsa. He made these remarks at the Arab National Security Conference in Beirut.  
Comments here:
Full screen recommended.
Times Of India, 6/1/24
"How Three Hamas Battalions Chased
 Israeli Forces Out Of North Gaza"
"After Israeli withdrawal from Jabaliya Camp in northern Gaza, US-based defense think tanks say that Israeli forces faced some of the most ferocious combat seen in the war on Gaza to date as Palestinian fighters defended the refugee camp from Israel’s incursion, which began on May 11 and ended with their complete withdrawal on Friday. The civilian infrastructure in Jabalia was converted as part of a “fortified combat complex” by the Palestinian resistance, which allowed them to quickly maneuvre in safety through buildings without exposure to Israeli air or ground attack, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Critical Threats Project (CTP.)" 
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"Israel is Evil personified. Israel is Evil embodied."
- Scott Ritter

Friday, May 31, 2024

Jeremiah Babe, "America Is In Fu**ing Trouble"

Jeremiah Babe, 5/31/24
"America Is In Fu**ing Trouble
Business In New York Is Done; US Food Prices To Soar"
Comments here:

"Judge Napolitano, Weekly INTEL Roundtable 5/31/24"

Judge Napolitano - Judging Freedom, 5/31/24
"Weekly INTEL Roundtable: 
Johnson & Matt Hoh in for Ray McGovern"
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Musical Interlude: Graham Nash and David Crosby, “Wind On The Water”

"As I rocked in the moonlight,
And reefed the sail.
It'll happen to you
Also without fail,
If it happens to me.
Sang the world's last whale."
- Pete Seeger
Full screen recommended.
“Wind On The Water”
by Graham Nash and David Crosby

"Over the years you have been hunted
by the men who threw harpoons,
And in the long run he will kill you
just to feed the pets we raise,
put the flowers in your vase,
and make the lipstick for your face.
Over the years you swam the ocean
Following feelings of your own,
Now you are washed up on the shoreline,
I can see your body lie,
It's a shame you have to die
to put the shadow on our eye.
Maybe we'll go,
Maybe we'll disappear,
It's not that we don't know,
It's just that we don't want to care.
Under the bridges,
Over the foam,
Wind on the water
Carry me home."

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Dwarf galaxies NGC 147 (left) and NGC 185 stand side by side in this sharp telescopic portrait. The two are not-often-imaged satellites of M31, the great spiral Andromeda Galaxy, some 2.5 million light-years away. Their separation on the sky, less than one degree across a pretty field of view, translates to only about 35 thousand light-years at Andromeda's distance, but Andromeda itself is found well outside this frame. 
Brighter and more famous satellite galaxies of Andromeda, M32 and M110, are seen closer to the great spiral. NGC 147 and NGC 185 have been identified as binary galaxies, forming a gravitationally stable binary system. But recently discovered faint dwarf galaxy Cassiopeia II also seems to be part of their system, forming a gravitationally bound group within Andromeda's intriguing population of small satellite galaxies."


“At the approach of danger there are always two voices that speak with equal force in the heart of man: one very reasonably tells the man to consider the nature of the danger and the means of avoiding it; the other, even more reasonable, says that it is too painful and harassing to think of the danger, since it is not a man’s power to provide for everything and escape from the general march of events; and that it is therefore better to turn aside from the painful subject till it has come, and to think of what is pleasant. In solitude a man generally yields to the first voice; in society to the second.”
- Leo Tolstoy, “War and Peace”
“All our mortal lives are set in danger and perplexity: one day to prosper,
and the next – who knows? When all is well, then look for rocks ahead.”
- Sophoclese, “Philoctetes”
Free Downloads:
A little light reading from Tolstoy…
Freely download “War and Peace”, by Leo Tolstoy, here:

Freely download “Seven Tragedies of Sophocles- Philoctetes” here:

Adventures with Danno, "Grocery Prices Coming Down? This Is What's Really Happening!"

Adventures with Danno, 5/31/24
"Grocery Prices Coming Down? 
This Is What's Really Happening!"
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"51 Million Americans Struggling With Rent Increases As Prices Soar 400%"

Full screen recommended.
Epic Economist, 5/31/24
"51 Million Americans Struggling With 
Rent Increases As Prices Soar 400%"

"Evictions are rising rapidly as millions of Americans face soaring rent increases driven by inflation, a shortage of affordable housing, and the end of pandemic relief. Rent prices are now 31.4% higher than pre-pandemic levels, with the median rent surpassing $2,000 in May 2024, according to Zillow.

This explains why a quarter of U.S. renters say they can no longer afford rent, and about one in five plan to move back in with parents or friends, according to a study by Intuit Credit Karma. "The current housing market has many Americans making adjustments to their living situations, including relocating to less expensive cities and even moving back in with their families," said Courtney Alev, consumer financial advocate at Intuit Credit Karma. "What's most concerning is that rising housing costs aren't just impacting younger generations, but older generations, too."

Alev noted that while rent prices have been surging in most parts of the country for a while, Americans have also had inflation, higher borrowing costs and record-high credit card debt to contend with. That's on top of federal student loan payments that resumed in October. No wonder why so many Americans are feeling pessimistic about the economy.

Earlier this year, a Harvard study found that half of the country’s 102 million renters spend a third or more of their income on housing. In other words, about 51 million households are currently cost-burdened by rent. Whitney Airgood-Obrycki, a senior research associate at Harvard, said, "It’s one of the worst years we’ve ever seen." She added that the number of Americans spending 30% or more on rent in 2024 had not been seen since the Great Recession in 2008, when 10 million Americans lost their homes to foreclosure."
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Dan, I Allegedly, "The Auto Industry's Next Big Crisis - Stellantis is Going Down"

Full screen recommended.
Dan, I Allegedly, 5/31/24
"The Auto Industry's Next Big Crisis - 
Stellantis is Going Down"
"We're diving into some shocking news about Stellantis, one of the big three automakers. With recent layoffs, unpaid bills, and problems with the Auto Workers Union, is Stellantis on the brink of collapse? The car industry is in big trouble. The price of cars is through the roof. Car payments are higher than ever. Could one of the big three automakers go down?"
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"We All Got Problems..."

“We all got problems. But there’s a great book out called “Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart.” Did you see that? That book says the statute of limitations has expired on all childhood traumas. Get your stuff together and get on with your life, man. Stop whinin’ about what’s wrong, because everybody’s had a rough time, in one way or another.”
- Quincy Jones

The Daily "Near You?"

Alexander City, Alabama, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"Whatever Your Fate Is..."

“Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment - not discouragement - you will find the strength there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures, followed by wreckage, were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.”
~ Joseph Campbell

Kurt Vonnegut, "Requiem"

“The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice and a sense of irony,
might now well say of our abuse of it,
"Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do."

The irony would be that we know what we are doing.

When the last living thing has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up perhaps
from the floor of the Grand Canyon,
"It is done. People did not like it here.”

- Kurt Vonnegut

"Peregrinations of Grief"

"Peregrinations of Grief"
by Emily Polk

"A few weeks before Trevor went missing, Annie disappeared. She left one day in February 2022. Thousands of people looked for her, but their hopes dwindled as time went on. After a week, a local ornithologist told a reporter that: ‘Given the amount of time she’s been missing, it’s probable that she’s gone.’ News spread quickly that Annie, the most famous falcon in California – maybe even North America – had likely been injured or killed.

Before she disappeared, more than 20,000 people from all over the world watched her every day through live cameras that ornithologists had placed near her nest on top of a tower at the University of California, Berkeley in 2019. She and her lifelong mate Grinnell first showed up in 2016 and soon became iconic images of wildness in an urban landscape. I started watching Annie during the COVID-19 pandemic, after hearing a colleague talk about her as though she was an old friend: ‘You’re not going to believe what Annie did today…’

Mostly, the cameras showed her perched on a ledge, her yellow-rimmed eyes searching the metropolis below. I watched, mesmerised by Annie’s vulnerability and strength – she was a promise of what might survive in the face of all we were losing. When I looked through the eyes of the cameras, I felt my own animal self staring at another on the opposite side of the screen. Sometimes, she seemed so close I felt I could put my face to her feathers.

Annie’s nest atop the tower at Berkeley was about 25 minutes from my house. When she went missing, I searched the sky for her pointed blue-grey wings, imagining them spreading nearly three feet through the sky, with dark brown bars making striped horizons across her white chest. But I saw only sky.

Three thousand miles away, just a few weeks after Annie disappeared from the falcon cameras, a different camera caught a 45-year-old man leaving his car in the parking lot of a beach in New York. It was 2:30 in the morning. The cameras showed him leaving his vehicle and walking toward the water, then faded to black. The next day, his family reported him missing. Trevor’s car was still in the parking lot, a few miles from where we both grew up.

I had known Annie for only a few years of my adult life, but I had known Trevor since I was 17 years old. We got to know each other at the end of 1993, right around the time the European Union was established and Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature. And we grew closer the following year as we spent more and more time with each other – I remember watching the infamous police car chase of OJ Simpson from the couch in Trevor’s family room. That was also around the time when I read Kurt Vonnegut’s novel "Slaughterhouse-Five," or, "The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death" (1969).

I couldn’t get "Slaughterhouse-Five" out of my head after Trevor and Annie went missing. When I first read it and learned about Vonnegut’s protagonist – a Second World War vet named Billy Pilgrim who becomes unstuck in time – my brain exploded. Over the course of the book, Billy returns to different moments in his life, including the war, and the period when he lived naked in a zoo on a planet called Tralfamadore, inhabited by aliens called Tralfamadorians. From these aliens, who live every moment over and over again, Billy learns that time is not linear. ‘The Tralfamadorians,’ he explains, ‘can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.’

After Trevor went missing, the ache to believe this was true was so surprising and sharp, I felt it in my chest. If we couldn’t find him in this present moment, could he still be somewhere else – maybe back when we were just kids, when everything was as fine as it would ever be? I let myself dream.

The phrase ‘So it goes’ is written 106 times across the 186 pages of the first edition. "Slaughterhouse-Five" is a story of time travel, but it is also a story about death. So many people die in "Slaughterhouse-Five." Everywhere Billy goes, it seems somebody has died or is going to die. They die during battle. They die from illnesses. They die in plane crashes. His wife dies from carbon monoxide poisoning. Billy himself is murdered.

The largest number of deaths take place in Dresden in Germany where Vonnegut was also a prisoner of war, locked up like his protagonist Billy in a pig slaughterhouse. And, like Billy, Vonnegut also survived the firebombing in 1945, which destroyed the city and killed as many as 25,000 people.

‘So it goes.’ Every time there is a death in the book, the narrator repeats those three words. The phrase ‘So it goes’ is written 106 times across the 186 pages of the first edition. When Salman Rushdie wrote about this Vonnegutian mantra for The New Yorker on the book’s 50th anniversary in 2019, he claimed that most people who hear the phrase accept it as a resigned commentary on life: "Life rarely turns out in the way the living hope for, and ‘So it goes’ has become one of the ways in which we verbally shrug our shoulders and accept what life gives us."

But Rushdie doesn’t think that is what Vonnegut wanted to say: the phrase ‘is not a way of accepting life but, rather, of facing death.’ The irony of ‘So it goes’ is that it communicates the depths of grief, hidden within an acceptance of how things are. ‘Beneath the apparent resignation is a sadness for which there are no words,’ Rushdie wrote.

When I read "Slaughterhouse-Five" the first time, I bristled at how often ‘So it goes’ appeared on the pages. No death is immune to it. Billy says the phrase after the death of his wife, after ‘the greatest massacre in European history’, and after the potential end of the universe. It does not matter if death is merely part of the natural order of things or follows a brutal massacre. ‘So it goes’ is always waiting to punctuate the end of life. I wondered if the effect flattened the sharp and personal pain of grief into something so generic that it might desensitise us to it entirely. Vonnegut draws the same blanket over death’s many faces, no matter how near or far, big or small.

When I reread the novel again after Trevor disappeared, I no longer understood the phrase as a shrug or a resignation. Instead, I read those three words softly, with tenderness, as a mantra gesturing to the ways we have all been wounded by loss, even as we still fight to save who and what we love. I don’t believe ‘So it goes’ is only a way for us to ‘face death’. I think it is a way for us to face each other, to connect with the ones still alive – those left with the active work of grieving, which is to say, the active work of living. It is not a phrase we are meant to whisper alone to help us quietly accept the suffering of the world. It’s words that can connect us to each other, expressing the grief of being alive, together – expanding, not shrinking, this experience. It is both a contradiction and an invocation, communicating the indescribable sadness of living through loss, a ‘sadness for which there are no words’.

If ‘So it goes’ helps us to face each other through our shared suffering, then how did Vonnegut want us to face our dead? I think he offers us a way to do this by describing linear time as an illusion. By showing us that time doesn’t really follow a linear sequence, ‘like beads on a string’, he was imagining us freed (if only for a moment) from the constraints of grief. ‘When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse,’ Billy explains, ‘all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.’ The possibility of time travel, of nonlinearity, lets us take a breath from the pain, by imagining a nonlinear escape, even if there was nothing we could do to stop the arrival of our suffering in real time.

I hadn’t seen Trevor in more than 15 years when Mike first called to tell me he was missing. Mike called from the beach as he was searching for him. He told me Trevor had not been well for months. He was not acting like himself.

Trevor and I became friends nearly 30 years ago when we were seniors in high school. We both chose to take a leadership class that culminated in student-led performances meant to educate our peers about sex. Having no experience either with sex or the education of others, I have no idea why I took this class. I was awkward in my one-piece jumpsuit that gave me the air of a car mechanic, with my frizzy brown hair held back by a heavy brass clip that looked like I stole a trumpet from the marching band and squashed it on my head. Though I could recite every love poem by Pablo Neruda in English and Spanish – ‘it grows and roams / within us,’ he writes in ‘Ode to Time’, one of my favorites, ‘it appears, / a bottomless well, / in our gaze, / at the corner / of your burnt-chestnut eyes / a filament, the course of / a diminutive river, / a shooting star / streaking toward your lips’ – I had never come close to having a boyfriend, or to believing I was somebody who could be loved. Trevor, however, was different. A star athlete and a popular straight-A student, he took pleasure in being a paternal figure to those closest to him. He was knowledgeable about everything and loved by everyone who met him. 

I don’t remember how our conversations after class turned to conversations on the weekends. They weren’t really ‘conversations’, they were almost always arguments. No topic was too big or small or weird – we debated the reasons for Barry Manilow’s success; the benefits of sharing a birthday with a sibling (which he did and loved); the geopolitics of Russia and whether it was better to stay where we grew up or leave. (I was always going to leave, mistaking leaving for having a ‘big life’, and he was always going to stay, believing that he already had one.) The tension in our debates was playful but, through it, we were also staking a claim and mapping our identities – his, calm and rational; mine, starry-eyed.

Sometimes, though, we didn’t talk at all. We’d walk along the beach or park at an overlook facing a nearby powerplant and lay on the roof of his parents’ Jeep. Sometimes, I sat on his lap in the driver’s seat while he taught me how to drive down the hills that led into town. When he kissed me one night, I thought I could never read another Neruda poem the same way again.

Now, nearly 30 years later, Trevor’s car sat empty in a beach parking lot a few miles from that overlook. I sat in a chair and waited for him by my window just like I did when I was 17. When I finally fell asleep, I dreamed about a boy and a bird. In my dream they were together. They were safe.

Nameless birds appear at the beginning and the end of Slaughterhouse-Five. In the first chapter Billy says: "There is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre… Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like ‘Poo-te-weet?’

This is how the novel ends, too. As the trees leaf out, the silence after death is broken only by a bird who asks Billy a question: ‘Poo-te-weet?’

According to the journalist Tom Roston, approximately 125,000 copies of "Slaughterhouse-Five" have been sold every year throughout the 21st century. I think so many of us watched Annie on the cameras for the same reasons we read Vonnegut’s novel. We wanted to see a pilgrim on their journey. We wanted to witness a living being surviving in the face of danger, relentless risk and constant precarity. We wanted to imagine a world where it was possible to endure and adapt, despite looming existential threats. We wanted to travel through time and space and even beyond the bounds of what we know to be true. We wanted to believe that anything was possible.

The history of the peregrine (pilgrim) falcon, Falco peregrinus, is another tale that might make you believe anything is possible. It is a story written with absences. As development spread across the United States at the turn of the 20th century, peregrine populations declined due to an unprecedented loss of habitat. And by the mid-1960s, peregrine falcons were extirpated from the eastern US while their numbers dramatically declined everywhere else. Around the world, use of the poison DDT (intended to control mosquitos and other insects) had caused eggshells to thin and weaken, making them unable to support the weight of incubating birds, which nearly wiped peregrines off the face of the Earth. The species was declared endangered in 1970. And by 1975, according to California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, there were just over 300 known falcon pairs in the US. Then, in the decade after DDT was banned in 1972, falcons started to make a gradual comeback. And since the mid-1970s, more than 6,000 American peregrines have been bred in captivity and released.

Today, even though peregrine falcons have been restored to their historic range, they still face threats. Before Annie went missing, she and her partner Grinnell lost children and battled falcons for their territory. And months before Annie’s disappearance, Grinnell was even found wounded and nearly dead, on top of a garbage can. But they survived.

I think this is part of the reason why thousands of people looked for Annie when she disappeared. A team of volunteers monitored the tower and, as people all over the world watched for her on the live cameras, ornithologists made guesses about what happened. She was likely injured while hunting, they said. She was trapped in a building. Maybe she went to visit falcon relatives on Alcatraz Island and got hurt.

After she was missing for a week, most presumed she was dead. The ornithologists who helped launch Cal Falcons, the group who first set up the falcon cameras, Tweeted that she may have died: ‘Unfortunately, we believe that Annie has either been displaced from the territory, is injured or dead.’ For years, so many people had watched her, loved her. Now their grief was shared publicly on social media. For the ornithologists, the hardest comments to read were from elementary school teachers who had to tell their young students the news. One member of Cal Falcons described the role of the team as something like a ‘biological grief counsellor’ for distraught falcon fans.

Then, nine days after Annie went missing, a scientist caught sight of a falcon sitting on the edge of Annie’s nest. She had calmly returned. Scientists were dumbfounded. ‘This is something that is totally unexpected and goes against pretty much everything we’ve seen,’ the ornithologists who monitored her reported. It seemed impossible: a falcon returned from the dead to be with her mate.

Where did Annie travel to? And more importantly, what led her back? When Trevor went missing a few weeks later, I began asking the same questions. If I could just figure out how Annie got back, perhaps I could figure out the same for Trevor. As I reread "Slaughterhouse-Five," I hoped things would finally come right, that Annie’s return might promise a reprieve from the inevitable. But hope can be so thin, barely able to hold the weight of life – and sometimes the inevitable isn’t what you imagined at all.

On the last day of March, nearly a month after Annie and Grinnell reunited, a pedestrian found Grinnell’s mangled body in the middle of a street in downtown Berkeley. The group who monitored the falcon family spoke for thousands of us all over the world: ‘We are devastated and heartbroken.’ Either he was in a fight, ornithologists suspected, or he got too close to the road and was struck by a car. His body was too destroyed for an autopsy.

In August 1994, on the last night before Trevor left for college, Mike invited friends to sleep over at his house for one final celebration. Since most of us would be leaving for college within the month, it was a chance to say goodbye. Trevor and I stayed up long after everybody went to sleep, talking softly. In my diary, I later wrote: ‘And I told him everything I needed to.’ I didn’t elaborate. What did my 17-year-old self need to say? That he was the best person I knew? That I was in awe of the way he took care of the people he loved? That I knew he would make a life in our tiny town, and I would leave and never come back?

On that last night we were together, I woke again and again to find him looking at me, tracing my face with his fingers, like a sailor trying to remember a map or a child memorising the lines to a book they loved. In the morning, we drove down to the harbor, sat in the parking lot overlooking the beach, and cried.

Trevor and I kept in touch as friends in college, connecting when we were home on school breaks and writing long letters to each other that eventually grew sparse as we stretched into adulthood. When he went missing, I searched his letters for clues that might foreshadow the sickness that would come later. But I found only good memories.

The last time I saw him in person was during the summer of 2004. We spent a weekend together with friends at a small beachside cottage for Mike’s wedding. I was almost 30 and living in a shared apartment in Harlem. Trevor was a cardiologist now, on his way to getting five board certifications. He was engaged to a woman he loved. I was three years into a loving relationship with an acupuncturist I’d marry a few years later. Trevor and I had grown into comfortable buddies in the years since high school, and easily slipped back into the familiar banter of old friends who grew up together.

That summer, on the night before the wedding, Trevor, Mike and I returned to our young selves as if we were always tethered there. We returned for just a night, to remember who we were when the world was young and we were just waking up to it. The three of us stayed up talking and laughing until the orange lid of the sun crested over the bay. I later wrote in my journal: ‘Everybody should know what it is to have friends like these. Everybody should know what it is to be loved like this.’

A week after Grinnell’s body was recovered from a busy street in Berkeley, Trevor’s body was found in the water not far from where he was last seen. I wanted to attend the funeral, but with young children to take care of, it was impossible. Friends said there was a line all the way around the block. You couldn’t see where it ended.

After Grinnell died, hundreds of mourners left flowers, notes and photos at the foot of the falcon’s bell tower. But only one day later, another falcon was spotted in Annie’s nest. Ornithologists named him ‘New Guy’. We all watched as New Guy defended the nest from other birds, sat on the eggs, and even brought a large mourning dove to share with Annie. She was seen copulating with him before laying another egg. How could she move on so quickly, mourners wondered, if her bonds with Grinnell were so strong? Don’t falcons mate for life? Annie had been with Grinnell for many years, but the raptor expert who retrieved Grinnell’s body said her acceptance of the new falcon was no surprise. ‘She only has two imperatives: survival and reproduction. This isn’t a bad thing.’

Grief, as humans understand it, does not seem to be an imperative for peregrine falcons. I started to wonder what we might have to learn from Annie. What did her version of ‘So it goes’ look like? I wondered if she was mourning in her own falcon way, with a different sense of time and permanence, a sense more like that of a Tralfamadorian who could, as Vonnegut wrote, ‘look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains … It is just an illusion …’

Did she wonder, like I did, that someone she was close to might now be somewhere else, in another moment, maybe back when we were younger, when everything was as fine as it would ever be? Did she dream, too? No one knows.

I have long debates with Trevor about what Annie was thinking, mostly when I’m driving to work – entire arguments in my mind. I hear his laugh so vividly, I’m certain he’s in the car with me. But these debates are not a product of time travel. It is just somebody feeling grateful for an old friend and doing her best to remember him.

I think Vonnegut, who died in 2007 aged 84, wasn’t only trying to show us the nonlinearity of time and the horrors of war when he wrote "Slaughterhouse Five." By offering us a portrait of personal and universal grief, and the way that loss permeates our lives, he was pointing toward something else. Steve Almond captures this in his tribute to Vonnegut, an essay titled ‘Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt’ (2009): "Vonnegut has been trying to explain [something] to the rest of us for most of his life. And that is this: Despair is a form of hope. It is an acknowledgment of the distance between ourselves and our appointed happiness.
At certain moments, it is reason enough to live."

Yes, we despair because grief is a precondition of being alive, but I’m not sure Almond meant to imply that it was despair itself that gives one hope. Hope, I think, lives in the possibility of a shared realisation. It is our understanding of the universality and inevitability of this despair that connects us to each other and helps us endure and make meaning from it.

The words ‘So it goes’ have always belonged to the lexicon of pilgrims who understand that life sits still for no one, no matter how we came into the world or how we leave it. Nothing stops. Not time, not life, not death – or grief. In the end, might we all be pilgrims peregrinating through arcs of time, longing to close the distance between ourselves – our grief – and our ‘appointed happiness’? Might we see our aliveness amplified through this longing?

I think the ultimate ‘So it goes’ Vonnegut imagined for us is this: that we should know how lucky we are to have the mouth and breath to say these words. That we might say them to each other with a softness that connects us, and the hope that perhaps one day somebody will say them over our own bodies, making a full-circle prayer that illuminates the miracle we were ever here to love and be loved at all."
Full screen recommended.
Cal Falcons South/West Cam, UC Berkeley