This Japan business is something else. An extremely wired country, bustling and hustling through another busy day, then slammed with a one-two punch that's left a wake of rubble and death. Even when we speak of reining in our industries, our waste, our output into the air around us, sometimes Nature has other plans. A readjustment here, a realignment there. For countries that sit atop islands, peninsulas and other outcroppings, the effect of such flexing is ruin.
I'm reminded of George Carlin's comment that we delude ourselves when we claim to have some effect on the Earth and its doings. He wasn't denying that we impact our environment, simply that the Earth could just shake us off like troublesome pests if it so desired, and he's pretty much right.
In all the blather about the West Coast of the U.S. and its potential risk, I've read loving descriptions of the two fault lines - one beginning down near San Diego and one up in British Columbia - that meet at San Francisco. We saw what happened in that city in '89...it wasn't pretty.
I hope we're not in for a spate of such upheavals, and I need to stop watching disaster porn on the History Channel, with its shows about our imminent redrawing of the U.S. along floodlines, etc.
Sheesh.... So we're sending Tomahawk missiles raining down on Libya now? Fantastic. I've just looked into my wallet, and yes, I can fund a few salvos of ordnance to be further rained down on the sands of the desert. Love it: more unilateral action. Once again, we're bombing a sovereign nation that poses NO threat to us. It's for the "people," we're told by our handlers. What about the people of Tunisia and Egypt? Didn't they need our hook-up as well? A cynic would say the oil situation wasn't as critical in those regions, so being a cynic, yes, I'll go ahead and point that out. I'm already teaching all my pets Mandarin so they'll understand whoever owns them someday...do I have to watch yet again as America expends funds it simply does not have?? The icing on the cake is the bafflement among our military in the region, heads still swimming from the mission creep and ambiguity of the last 10 years.
What do they really do, and for how long, and under what rules of engagement?
Vietnam Part II, hell - this is Vietnam, Endless, 2002 - ?
Other Voices, Other Apps
Every day, it seems, I wade out into the world through an ever-thickening sea of gadgetry.
From beanies configured for iPod Nanos to refrigerators pre-loaded with Pandora (!) there are manifold examples of needs we didn't know we had. Yet are these gee-whiz assemblages of glass and circuitry making out lives better? Not really, no. They're merely distractions...dilutions of experience.
If I'm snowboarding I should be doing just that, not scrolling through my playlist and looking around for someone to impress with my taste. Likewise, a trip to the fridge should involve the construction of a ham sandwich, not some damned tech interface.
Remember the quaint old expression, "modern convenience?" Well, a modern convenience was something that lessened your toil, like a washing machine, or new tile in place of quickly filthy linoleum. It wasn't cars that steer themselves, wending their way along a pre-ordained course toward whichever destination, their driver (strike that: occupant) free to...to what? Text? Suck down french fries? Sleep? Does a raft of apps make anything better? Perhaps you could ask the person who's so dependent on their cell phone's SIM card that they've forgotten their mother's home number.
What of the person (who, deep down, perhaps dreams of a self-navigating vehicle) so glued to their GPS that they've abdicated the plotting of any trip longer than one to their local Wendy's?
I was stunned recently to pass a local bowling alley whose marquee read STAY CONNECTED - FREE WIRELESS INTERNET. I mean, yeah, you're at the bowling alley...you've got all that time on your hands...what to do?? This shouldn't surprise me. Kids (yeah, here comes the crotchety old-guy part) spent a while calling on their mobile phones, then moved on to the post-verbal (and post-lingual) practice of texting.
One is never simply doing something - there are always the steady currents and eddies of potential activity, potential entertainment, potential contact with others within one's hive...but seldom is there a sustained, real-time event that demands energy or focus.
A recent Time article with the Singularity crowd (Ray Kurzweil and Co.) discussed, other than neat-o posthuman physiology, the skyrocketing arc of technology and the group's projection for sentient proto-life - "awareness" in the ranks of automation - for the 2040s. Sounds like then'll be a good time for me to check out, as I'll have no interest in the peoploids (wish it were my word, but it's Bowie's) who'll no doubt be manning the Wii consoles and talking grocery carts of the day.
I'm analog, dammit, and I don't think I'm the only one...
The Devil on Two Legs: Saul Alinsky and the Radical Imperative
It's a vile word, right?
They create no jobs, at least directly, goes the critique, and therefore no commodity or product, no revenue, and so are de facto worthless, a waste of time and career field. Furthermore, it's a hindrance to shackle the gleaming engines of capitalism, which if left to their own devices will churn forth a world of plenty (unless it's 1929 or 2008, in which case watch your ass).
Be an organizer, then, but if you succeed you can be expected to be labeled a commie Jew, even as you moulder in the ground. If you're at all effective, and someone like Barack Obama reads you and likes what you have to say, then Obama earns the title commie half-breed.
Idealists, line up now behind the ghost of a man who was born into the hardscrabble Chicago of 1909 and went on to try to change that city - and his country - a bit: Saul Alinsky.
He was in his mid-30s when he published Reveille for Radicals in 1945.
By the time of its reprinting by Vintage in 1969 he had much more to say, words which rang true then and hold warnings for our times now. In the following year he worked on a second book, Rules for Radicals, which appeared in 1971, after which he died suddenly in 1972.
What do these books contain?
I'd meant to read them during the election, when Alinsky was being discussed in the same breath as a certified domestic terrorist (Bill Ayres), and a publicly America-damning "reverend" (Jeremiah Wright). Given the President's recent spate of kaffeeklatsch and pep talk stops in recent months (at least before Japan and the Mideast knocked everything else to the back burner), I knew it was time to read this dangerous, wild-eyed firebrand.
What I found was what I suspected a bit, deep down...that those who vilify, denounce and call for this man's head (again, from the spirit world) have never read him. Big shock, eh? So here's my humble reading of the two books in question.
We begin with Reveille. After a discussion of the polymorphous nature of America's cultural makeup, Alinsky proceeds to define the word "radical," that is, as he sees and perceives it. Quoting Jefferson from 1824, he chooses to keep that man's distinction between "aristocrat" (those who fear people as a rule and feel that power should be held in a few select hands) and "democrat" (those who seek to understand and identify with others and wish a decent life for all).
He suggests that the name "democrat" of the time was synonymous with "radical," and so states that a radical embraces not just a general outlook of pragmatic optimism but also specific manifestations of this creed such as the Bil of Rights and the abolition of slavery. Like MLK, he wants the country only to live up to the lofty ideals which it espouses.
He ponders the radicals of American history, those who stood in the face of trial, difficulty, persecution and death, rallying toward a cause often known to be lost - and persevered. Indeed, we are a country born in revolutionary fervor, that seeks to continue a human tradition in which changes for the better come from drastic action.
Alinsky draws definite, provocative lines between "liberal" and "radical." The liberal is focused inward, considering issues with his head, given to talk (which Alinsky damns from the 1770s to the time of the slavery question), while the radical looks outward, feels with his heart, and is more disposed toward action. It's indignation vs. righteous anger, "respectable" dissent vs. the view from behind bars. Finally, crucially, for Alinsky liberals dream while radicals build. Yet a liberal is not his enemy...if anything is an enemy for him, it is an idea, a system: a person remains a person. Accordingly, he embraces unions, etc., only insofar as they help people toward better lives. It's a theme he returns to over and over, one that must be borne in mind as he expresses disdain for such flawed constructs as communism.
The proof is in the foreword, where he writes: "...the American radical, by his individual action, may appear to be the epitome of inconsistency, but when judged on the basis of his ideals, philosophy and objectives, he is a living definition of consistency." He rejects ideology of any kind as requiring for itself to exist a basic kernel of Truth. "An ideology, a dogma requires certainty," he writes, and it is clearly not the kind of dogma we need.
He foolishly dreams of such luxuries as education, jobs with meaning, an end to (the worst manifestations of) prejudice, yet understands that such wishes butt up against the reality of human nature. He wishes for them anyway. Progress...advancement...loaded words in the last 50 years.
Problems arise when he considers topics beyond education and housing, as with the idea of the people's exercise of collective ownership of the means of production. Within this context, he comments on the adversial relationship between industry and labor, seen within the specific scope of capitalism. Writing in the mid-1940s, he criticizes unions as having become "...strong, wealthy, fat and respectable," i.e. just like their bosses.
Interestingly, he paints the two as both striving to protect private ownership, the workplace and its fruits, capitalism, against such interlopers as, again, communism. "The radical's problem," he writes, "is not that he chose to make his bed in the labor movement, but that he fell asleep in it." The labor movement represents a huge pool of those who - if they could, if they looked beyond the arena of their immediate situation - be a force for good in society and industry.
Further expanding on this theme, he presciently observes that industry and labor are intertwined, with a common interest (an interest that can be easily overlooked) and we're now, in 2011, seeing the sad aftermath of not just automation but wholesale outsourcing of labor, with the obvious devastating economic and societal fallout.
His intial experience with organizing the Back of the Yards area in Chicago led to the concept of the Peoples' Program, a reproducible cadre that would reject charity "outreach" in favor of producing the basic necessities of life, without which any other lofty talk means little. The words "collective," "peoples'" and so forth engenders fear and mistrust among us - so is our lot after several generations of the USSR, then Red China, and those systems' encroachments in America. Yet organizing to Alinsky means not herding people into groups to strong-arm this or that thing, group or body - it means appealing to a person's consciousness, to their basic humanity and worth as an individual.
It gives the person an active stake in his or her own life, and makes possible a better life with more substance, more meaning. (It is significant, really, that the worst thing they could say about Obama during the '08 election was that he was just a community organizer - why, he'd never run a business, never trafficked in the ring of capitalism which, other than being a wartime general, we seem to prize as being a desirable resume item for leadership at our country's highest levels).
The afterword could have been written yesterday, as Alinsky mulls a fragmented society, with much of its citizenry better off than ever and swimming in material goods and leisure (yet quietly wondering if this is all there is?). He foresees a service economy that has come to pass, and fears for what this will do to a nation ever grappling with its inequities. He sees that - in 1969 - there is still segregation even within unions, and that unions have largely become aspects of the Establishment.
Most tellingly, he sees that far from growing together, the country's patchwork, parochial activist groups still have no network that could effect change at the national level, and that there has arisen a surfeit of sloganeering, half-baked revolt-as-fashion.
Obama's detractors will be able to mine the text for a few "gotcha" moments, such as Alinsky's bemoaning of the status quo as "anchors of stagnation" and rot, impediments "against the winds and seas of change."
It's there for the twisting.
Companion/follow-up Rules for Radicals was an amplification and refinement of his thought, brought forward for the dawn of the 1970s. He's confronting here the new generation, the children of those who read his first book, many of whom were then (1968-69) experiencing a collision with the prevailing culture, Nixon's America, wherein they moved far beyond books and campus talk and faced nightsticks and teargas. These kids now approach Alinsky and repeatedly ask him about the feasibility of change from within the system. He counsels patience, and warns of the futility of adopting the poses of and unrealistic fascination with recently anointed superstars such as Che, Castro and even Ho.
Where he earlier addressed the radical, here he considers the nature of revolution, examining texts ranging from the Declaration of Independence to the writings of Lincoln and Thoreau, before noting that all revolutions have been burnished in memory...wonderful, noble and just, but that these days it's not really a workable thing. The culture has a vested interest in continued smooth sailing. Also noted is the revolutionary nature of such movements as Christianity which, over time, became the power-conserving status quo.
He regrets the equation of revolution with communism, and states that he seeks, with the current book, a way beyond wars Hot and Cold, capitalism vs. communism, ideologies in clash and human energies stunted. At its roots he sees history as a "relay of revolutions," with the "torch of idealism" handed off periodically. Here too his comments will draw ire, as with talk of sharing between the Haves and the Have-Nots (in any capacity or fashion), a sure, er, "red" flag for critics.
A protracted section on ways and means discusses the traitor, working to undermine then remove the existing power structure, who becomes the patriot, the Founding Father. Alinsky mentions, vis-a-vis the "natural shift" of goals and perspectives, Lincoln's suspension of habeus corpus, the dropping of the atomic bombs, and the gauzy hindsight of those events' critiques. The Indian National Congress, after all, outlawed nonviolent resistance only eight months after Gandhi used it to diminish and defeat the Haj.
The President has introduced some incredible legislation, some of which is so overreaching as to be untenable (with "Obamacare," he shares the dream of one Hillary Rodham, who did her Master's Thesis on Alinsky).
Don't blame the man himself, though...dreamer or fool or visioanry that he may have been.
The Episodic Brilliance of Scott Walker
Popular music moves across a linear, lateral path, and seldom trails its fingers below the surface in passing. There are, occasionally though, musicians who trawl that space beneath the surface and in so doing create a parallel existence, a parallel art.
In Scott Walker: 30 Century Man we begin by examing the mystery of this most unique of musician-composers. At a 2004 recording session (for which he allowed cameras for the first time) Walker lets the viewer watch as he guides the studio through the composition of his sound. It's clear he sees and hears his own personal melody, and must now labor to give it external life...
He was born Scott Engel in Ohio, and after initial positioning as a teen heartthrob began a career on the white-hot Sunset Strip of the early '60s.
When he took a lead vocal on 1965's "Love Her," he vaulted his group The Walker Brothers (none of whom were actually named Walker) to new heights of attention. Another 1965 hit, "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" cemented the act's popularity, and a subsequent move to England only increased the adulation heaped at their feet.
Director Stephen Kijak traces Walker's rapid growth as a writer, including a post-band BBC series, begun then cancelled in 1969 after only six episodes. It's the solo LPs of the period, culminating in the broadly acclaimed (yet commercially unsuccessful) Scott 4 that made him his name. It's not pop that he does, nor jazz, classical or avant garde, but some alchemical stew of all of these, and so flock Bowie (the film's executive producer), Eno, Sting, Julian Cope, Marc Almond, Jarvis Cocker, Johnny Marr and Radiohead in toto to his door.
After a brief Walker Brothers reunion, resulting in 1978 favorite Nite Flights, Scott settles into a cyclical work pattern of sorts, producing Climate of Hunter (1984), Tilt (1995) and The Drift (2006), in addition to various other scores, productions and collaborations. If the music and its drive (still incorporating on-the-spot "feel" elements) takes 10 years to gel, that's just the way Walker does it: those around him know to expect this as part of the experience, and the proof - assertive, even authoritative - is there in the final, obsessively calibrated mix.
What should a documentary such as this one do? Perhaps obviously, it should orient the viewer completely about an artist and their world, afford exposure to the work and insight about the work. The best docs do this, but also capture the certain fleeting essence that makes a man or woman do what it is they do.
This film, shadow-wrapped and duskily powerful, does just that.
In September 1980 Paramount released Breaking Glass, a gritty tale about a young singer, her aspiring manager and the snares she and her band encounter when entering the Pop stakes.
The movie starred Coventry-born Hazel O'Connor as Kate, and Phil Daniels (fresh off a star turn in the previous year's Quadrophenia) as Danny.
Danny, driven by a deep need to be a player in the record world, coerces Kate to take him on as manager. Her exisiting band is shown the door, and a new one is created around the junkie Ken (played by the extremely versatile Jonathan Pryce). After a series of missteps and setbacks a contract is, against the odds, seized. So begins a new round of problems, not the least of which is Danny's marginalization and eventual sacking. The biz does not acquit itself well in the film, and darkness, duplicity and compromise spread until they lap at Kate's heels.
Out into popular consciousness vaulted O'Connor, amid a fairly crowded field of Nena, Lene, Siouxsie, Kate and Lydia. She was perfectly suited to the spiky vibe of dinosaur-decrying Postpunk, with a persona that was confrontational yet still accessible. When preparing a soundtrack album, veteran musician and producer Tony Visconti was selected, and he set about putting together a pickup band to recreate the film's numbers, the lyrics to which had been written by Hazel herself.
Recorded in the U.K. and mastered in the U.S. (and appearing on A&M here), it's a strong recreation of the film's mood and musical progression. It opens with "Writing on the Wall," the tune the movie opens with, where Danny first encounters Kate while she trips merrily through a subway car, posting band flyers. The pressures on Kate and the fledgling band Breaking Glass - the band and its film take their name from Bowie's track of that name, from 1977's Low - only increase, and the music reflects this: "Big Brother" addresses not just the oppressive forces they face (not the least of which is the predatory music industry) but also the dimmed hopes of a country four years into the Thatcher era.
Another ever-present concern, especially for England and Europe, was the nuclear threat, and O'Connor reflects its proximity in "Who Needs It." Indeed, "...here comes the era of the living dead." As the company contract ropes the group into an outdoor showcase they're beset by yet another aspect of the Britain of the times: skinheads. Hazel/Kate fuels the fire as she spits out "Blackman," sending the skins into a frenzy.
In addition to the rockers, including "Top of the Wheel," wrung from the band's experience with the label's demands, there are several beautiful pieces for O'Connor to display her softly vulnerable versatility. On "Will You," drawn from Kate's initial times alone with Jimmy, where the two get to know each other, Wesley McCoogan's sax is mixed prominently atop the arrangement (as it is through most of the record), but the vocal keeps the song from sliding into schmaltz. She sings "Calls the Tune" through a veil of fatigue, and truly relaxes into a striking delivery with album closer "If Only."
The track "Eighth Day" was selected for a single, and it paints a chilling picture. In the film Kate, painted silver, shot full of "medicine" and filmed against a stark black backdrop, measures out a tale of man crafting a newer, seamless world and resting on the seventh day, after which the chickens come home to roost. On the other side of tenderness and passion is O'Connor's snapping, baiting take on the fine "Give Me an Inch," wherein she stares down the clutching figures and the world they've created for her: "You are a program," she repeats coldly.
Thankfully the music avoids the synth excesses of the New Romantics movement which was getting underway at the time (although when touring the album she featured an unknown young Duran Duran as support act), and sounds good today. At the time it was a monster, hitting #5 on the U.K. album chart and going double platinum.
After the furor of the film and soundtrack tour she continued on the road as well as making time for numerous stage presentations, including some of her own creation. O'Connor appeared at Glastonbury in 2008 and Wembley in 2009, and shows no sign of creative drought.
This album gave a start to a strong voice, a vital stage presence, and it and its parent film are well worth the examining.
A Look at National Review
William F. Buckley Jr., dapper and gracious and brilliant to a fault, spent the years between core works God and Man at Yale (1951) and Up From Liberalism (1961) launching a magazine for the new energy he felt needed to be injected into the Right in America: something to move the country's discussion away from the stodgy suits, isolationist tendencies and status quo that seemed to make up the conservatives of the day.
His labors brought forth National Review in Spetember, 1955, and gave he and others like him - that sought the retrieval of fleeting traditional values (at least those of the WASP), a reinvigorated pride in the American spirit and a greatly more proactive foreign policy - a home. Even as he embraced many other projects, including the stalwart evergreen television program Firing Line (on from 1966-1999 and broadcast, it must be noted with irony, on PBS), the magazine was his baby. His spirit hung on its page.
Looking over the short opinion pieces in The Week, there were a few things that certainly stood out, not the least of which was the observation that "...homosexuality will necessarily take up more attention from conservatives than other vices and social ills." Hmmm. The UK provides a screeching example of indoctrination through their desire to introduce gay-saturated themes into every aspect of the schoolchild's curriculum, including math, beginning age 4.
Apparently Stanford and Harvard are (further) incensed by the ROTC's disallowing of (wait for it) transgendered cadets. In addition to a few pokes at lightning rods Pelosi, Biden, Gore and Olbermann there was a piece on a sting documentary that utterly nailed Planned Parenthood. A bit of humor about America's insistence on keeping our old units of measurement, a note on George Shearing and a rap on the knuckles for the harebrained plans for U.S. rail round out a variety-pack selection of topics.
A few columns were up next, beginning with Florence King's The Bent Pin, wherein she ladles out a somewhat incoherent review of a new U.K. series called Downton Abbey. (Did she really, in discussing the program's historical context, write the words "A ruling class lifts all boats"?) Rob Long's The Long View provides a bit of fluff about colored pins on the Oscar-night red carpet, while Athwart (named for Buckley's insistence that NR stood "...athwart history, yelling 'STOP!'") features James Lileks in a piece so mired in schtick that I couldn't quite tell what he was saying at all. Hard-righters shouldn't crack wise was what I came away with.
I began the substantial serving of articles and features with Anthony Daniels' "The Brute and the Terrorist," an example of multiculturalism's influence, in this case in England, and Eli Lehrer's "Jailbreak Conservatives," which takes on prison reform. Samuel R. Staley delivers a wonderful story with "Transportation-Policy Crossroads," an examination of the state of our roadways and their funding (including the Highway Trust Fund and its legacy) and open-road/in-motion and high-occupancy toll collection.
Stanley Kurtz's "A Frightful Democracy" was enlightening as well, and includes a discussion of the departed Mubarak and his complex relationship with the U.S., while worrying over the factions that stand in the mouth of Egypt's vacuum.
One may be thrown by some ad hominem moments elsewhere, as in the conclusion of Bing West's "With the Warriors," an account of a Marine patrol in Afghanistan, which closes with this: "That spirit - that warrior ethos - will always be critical to our nation's security." No one disputes the Marines' dedication and effectiveness, but why the need to club us over the head with an implied tie between Mideast adventures and America's safety? Likewise, popular columnist Jay Nordlinger writes a thoughtful overview of "The Peace Corps at 50," then can't resist finishing with "There is at least as much idealism in another corps, the Marine Corps, and that latter corps has done infinitely more good." It's sloppy writing, but worse, marks one as an ideologue and zealot.
Getting back to the plus column, Ramesh Ponnuru is on hand with "Pawlenty to Like," a look at Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty that got me completely up to speed on the intriguing 2012 hopeful. Ponnuru is unafraid to criticize the candidate, the party or bright lights like Palin, Romney and Gingrich. It's a nice show of spine. Also bracing was Colin Dueck and Ray Takeyh's "Reaganite Iran Strategy," which examines the "relic" of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with an eye toward the application of a strong policy approach to the country, an approach that would weaken it a la Reagan's efforts against the USSR.
There are several reviews up for consideration, led by Kevin D. Williamson's piece on Dambisa Moyo's How the West was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly - and the Stark Choices Ahead. The entrenched political class (redundant, yes) is in for a thumping. MacKubin Thomas Owens discusses Bing West's The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy and the Way Out of Afghanistan, a book which draws on what West has seen as an embedded war correspondent. West decries the "new" counterinsurgency therein, a variation on the discredited, vestigial hearts-and-minds routine that's creating an ever-wider gulf between American tactical execution (ranking with some of the best in history) and strategy (incoherent and counterproductive).
The ads are somewhat revealing, with their breathless text and numerous spots for conservative schools and coin investment firms: irony strikes yet again when the fevered exhortations to jump the shitty economy's sinking ship and BUY SOME SILVER DOLLARS ALREADY is balanced out by the full back page ad for a meltdown antichrist, Goldman Sachs.
In terms of overall impressions, it's fairly well-written, although some of the material left me scratching my head. I didn't get a feel that the magazine cohered very well: perhaps relying on a sample issue has led me to pronounce inaccurately. Points, again, for not being a tedious organ of the NeoCon machine. Fox and AM radio could benefit from its restraint.
Buckley, one presumes, is smiling from his perch.
Old Genre, New Lawman
Kentucky, a place with a few desirably hip cities but a deeply agrarian past, struggles with finding its way in the 21st Century. Its men still haul coal from beneath prehistoric bedrock, and its hills retain deep rhythms unique to the state. Those hills are still home to a people who, while clannish and particular, are strong by virtue of toil and hardship. Money is money, and in modern-day Kentucky most of the grass is no longer blue.
Marijuana has been the state's number-one cash crop for a while now (supplanting its older relative moonshine), and it also has its share of meth labs and Vicodin runners.
It's this world that Raylan Givens returns to, only now he sports the badge of a U.S. Marshal.
So opened the FX Network's Justified in March, 2010, now in its second season and settling into its characters' delicately interwoven lives.
Timothy Olyphant (who we first met on Deadwood) brings a reserved studiousness to Givens, who often must tread lightly even as he prepares for an explosive moment of confrontation. The Marshal's character is taken from the writings of Elmore Leonard, who also acts as a executive producer for the show, and was developed by Graham Yost.
In the first season a man named Boyd Crowder (a tense Walton Goggins) was the focus of Raylan's surveillance: now he's cleaned up and is working the mine, and resents Givens for the continued attention. Givens does himself no favors by having an affair with a colleague's wife, Winona (Natalie Zea, who seems torn between the two), as the Federal office simply isn't that big.
Gunplay, a helping of violence, profanity and a little skin garner the show a TV-MA, but it's not a distraction. The little jockeying for a decent ratings position doesn't detract from what's basically a very watchable show.
Check it out...it'll probably just get better.
Again, my thanks for the interest.
My best to you, wherever in the far-flung world you are.