Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production


Dragon City Journal features contemporary cultural essays & graphics, on a variety of subjects, but mostly dealing with politics and government, film, cities and urban life, religion and metaphysics, and travel.  It is a monthly or bi-monthly publication. There are also occasional book and film reviews as well as some fictional pieces.  “Subscribers” are notified by email of the posting of new essays, and are encouraged to add comments express their thoughts and opinions.

DCJ Author:  James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an  UrbisMedia Ltd. Production


Carpe Diem (DCJ Thoughts and Images of the Day.)

When I was a kid (back around 1948, or the Late Cretaceous) my favorite beverage was a soft drink called Pee Wee A. It came in two flavors, orange and grape. My favorite was grape. It was very syrupy, and sweet and came in a small bottle that was sold from a Coke Cola ice chest in the local “mom and pop” store that was a converted house at the corner of my street. The store sold milk, eggs and bread, sugar and flour and some canned goods, and not much more, in addition to the cooler of soft drinks.

I loved having a Pee Wee A (or two nor three–they were less than a nickel each) after playing ball in the street on sweaty, humid summer days. My memory can still taste the sweetness of the grape syrup and I can feel the sugar (who knows how much there was since there were no ingredients listed on the little bottle that we returned to a cartridge at the store) rushing into my veins to restore my energy.

They are all gone now, gone for decades—the store, the Coke ice cooler, and the Pee Wee A, into the memory bin of my youth that contains Bakelite phones, my AM radio, and being a sugar-fueled kid who could run fast enough that the air passing my ears was like the roar of conch shell and play baseball all humid summer day.

We all have such memories and can get pretty annoyingly nostalgic about them. That’s not a problem. The problem is that there are large numbers of people who feel that their nostalgic world had gone in the toilet, or has been sundered by some foreign, godless, unpatriotic plot that is destroying American society as they knew and loved it. They want it back, or protected from any further degradation—they want to conserve it. They are the Conservatives.

Each day when I boot up my computer I see the following before me: panta rei kai ouden menai. It’s from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “all things change, noting remains the same.” It’s the bane of the conservative who basically desires a (past) “morning in America” (Reagan), or a fictitious“Make America Great Again” (Trump), or a return to a time when women only worked in their kitchens and did not have birth control or access to abortions, when LGBT people stayed out of sight and public life, cannabis was illegal, and Black athletes stood for the national anthem, and minorities “knew their place,” and prayer in schools, but not reference to evolution or climate change.

There has always been a peculiarity to the American Right’s version of Conservatism. In the late Christopher Hitchens recent review of two books on G.K. Chesterton he quotes his subject’s distillation of Cardinal John Henry Newman’s “theory of development” as: “all conservatism is based on the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave the thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must always be painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.”

Trying to hold back change by denying the progress of science and the conduct of social life is like trying to hold a butter-basted Chris Christie from sliding down a greasy chute. Holding onto the Bible as the prime description and guide to life is to be stuck in a static fairytale of error, falsehood, prejudice and inconsistency written by men in a time when the main form of life was pastoral with no relevance for an age in which billions of humans could destroy their plant several different ways.

Most of these conservatives are Whites who see their hegemony over American society slipping away in demographic realities that have caused them to haul out their Nazi flags, erect statues to Confederate generals and barriers to immigration and minority voting, arm themselves against imagined insurgencies, and cozy up to fascism.

Their delusional idyllic world is gone, much of it in a haze of mnemonic filter that leaves out all the bad parts and keeps the prom photo of when they were forty pounds less and had a whole set of hair, plays their favorite Hit Parade tunes, and is redolent the first time they got laid in the back seat of that ‘49 Ford coupe that is long gone to the junkyard. They cling to that sinking existential Titanic that is their youth, that mythic Camelot period of time between the depression and the end of World War II and the beginning of those revolutionary 1960s. They would prefer the America in red, white and blue, to the one that is increasingly black, brown, and yellow.

Conservatives need to heed he words of Heraclitus. The future cannot be the past. Even if I could find an ice cold bottle of grape Pee Wee A it’s not going to taste the same to someone who is no longer a thirsty eight-year-old kid.




Current Journal Post

Las Vegas is a fake city, a national casino, whorehouse, and gun show venue founded by organized crime in the desert and dressed up in the icons of real cities. Having no historical renown or other raison d’etre, it offers in its imitative structures a faux New York, Eiffel Tower, Venetian canals, Egyptian ancient Rome in lieu of any urban originality.

I am already on record as having little more than contempt for Las Vegas, but that opinion is only enhanced by the mass murder at the recent country music concert that took place within effective ballistic distance from the Mandalay Hotel perpetrated by one of the city’s frequent high-rolling patrons (and collector of assault weapons).

Not being a Muslim, immigrant or person of color the perpetrator almost gets a free pass. Totally baffled by an undiscoverable lack of motive, Stephen Paddock seems almost to be regarded by authorities as just some white guy with a vague grievance and an arena to give it vent. Media give the Mandalay, a hotel that totally failed in its “security” by allowing over twenty firearms to be checked into one of its suites. Of course, Paddock just might have been returning from a shopping expedition at one of the fifty or so gun shows that Las Vegas hosts every year. Let’s add hypocrisy to the list of excesses of this social septic task.

There is now almost a numbing standard routine to America’s mass murder events.

The Responders are usually the first (as they should be), and they are always portrayed as “heroes”. Heroes are very essential to the “exceptional” American character. This is not to take anything away from people doing the job they signed up for, but everybody cannot be a hero, or the term is even more meaningless than it has come to be. In any event, the police chief or some local pol will get up before the mics and not miss the PR opportunity of a mass murder. There are other “heroes,” but we will leave it to the smarmy, wimpy media to extol them.

Quick to grab the microphone and the PR opportunity are the Preachers and comforters. Nothing triggers my regurgitive reflex more than the self-important pomposity of preachers blubbering and beseeching their Great Sky Fairy for interceding in an event that they never ask why this was part of “God’s plan.” Why they never seem to pray for better gun regulations, or that perpetrators be divinely denied their opportunity does not seem to fit into these orgasms of supplication. The sheer absurdity of where God figures into these dramas seems smothered in the melodramatic piety of these phonies. God has blood on his hands. Close behind are the legion of counselors and psychobabblers whose time might be better spent trying to figure out why our country has this self-abusive love affair with firearms.

The Pols are always ready with their spins and denials. The one they have used time and again—“this is not time to bring politics into the discussion” (while we are busy doing that “thoughts and prayers” thing and figuring out how to keep those NRA donations flowing). Of course, we know most of them to be sleazy, opportunistic hypocrites, and so they will speak of how these tragedies anneal us Americans into a stronger, more unified (now there’s a laugh) nation. They can’t get themselves to call this one “terrorism,” so the bullshit piles higher when you don’t have a Muslim or person of color to go off on. So, off to see Wayne Newton or Celine Dion or some other crappy glitz show.

The Victims. The media love to tease out those human interest stories from the carnage and chaos of the newsworthy moment. Finding the right “hero” or victim can make a journalistic career (unless you are a complete fuck up like Wolf Blitzer). I listened to more of these than I should have on NPR (which has succumbed to the bullshit false equivalency journalism of the rest of the media). But one remains significant. Steve Inskeep of NPR interviewed the father of a girl who had been badly shot, but fortunately survived. The father, a parole officer or something like that, had come up from Texas to be with his daughter. After discussing the girl’s condition Inskeep asked the father how he felt about gun control. The father said he fully supports the Second Amendment, carries a firearm himself and sees no need for regulation. In fact, he does not blame the shooter, and certainly not any of the guns he used (“guns do not kill people . . .”). So Inskeep, follows with a question as to who is responsible for his daughter getting shot. No, is wasn’t the daughter, or country music, or even Las Vegas; it’s because, the father answered without missing a beat, “we have became a godless nation.” Inskeep did not ask how God picks out the sinners (Jesus, this is freakin’ Las Vegas! It oughta be easy) when his instrument is a guy firing into a packed crowd of twenty thousand.

The Media are, of course, our conduit into these events, probing with their cameras, interviews, and authorities and experts. They love this stuff; if it bleeds, it leads, and there is a lot of blood in these events. The can milk them for days and weeks. These days there is much less trust and confidence in the traditional media than there used to be, no avuncular Cronkites and now cable and the Internet full of phonies and outlets with agendas that have sundered journalistic credulity with outright lies and “fake news,” propagated by the same interests to whom creating distrust of the media serves their ends. The exemplar of this methodology is the President himself, a mendacious creep who is in many respects a literal product of the media, and able to castigate and denigrate it with impunity. They slavishly follow him for his audacious newsworthiness in the perfect masochistic-sadistic relationship.

Soon the thoughts and prayers will dissipate and Las Vegas will return to its essential sinful purposes and the nation will await its next mass suicidal event. In this case “What happened in Las Vegas will definitely not stay in Las Vegas.”

Oh God of Sin City, where , we implore thee to have a care for the souls, and bodies, of those who worship at the altar of country and western music and so cruelly and untimely brought to grief by thy hand that guides the aim of they servant murderer. If thou must have blood, let just one time thy hand smite the firearms profiteers and their enabling political hypocrites.

And, Lord of Chance, while you are at it, if I double down on a pair eights at the Black Jack table, could you . . .

©2017, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 10.06.2017)