Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun
Grace in the Blue Ridge Mountains

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The Asheville, North Carolina restaurant was one of those common to our post-post-modern world. Open and airy with a wall of windows framing hanging plants. Casual to the point of paper napkins. Sporting a list of local beers and -- surprise -- local wines. Tarted up with the kind of overtly ironic art on the walls where the painter has one statement and one image in his repertoire and repeats it ad nauseam. This time it seemed that the sensibility being trotted out was one of Hieronymous Bosch meets Hello Kitty.

The menu, a litany of updated regional classics such as black-eyed pea cakes, was relentlessly "improved" by garnishes such as avocados and Basmati rice. The joint's "philosophy" -- since all new restaurants must now publish a justifying manifesto along with their menu -- centered on the now tedious homage to "local" "organic" produce and a dedication to "reviving tradition" -- plus the removal of trans-fats. Collard greens, sweetened lima beans, and salty sweet potatoes bracketed the entrees. In the center you'd find rib-eyes under slathers of sauteed onions, broiled slabs of local fish dusted with some orange spice, chickens with a roasted-on glaze, pork in five different variations, and dried cranberries slipped into cakes on the sly just when you thought it was safe.

It was a boutique version of the kind of food once common to the region, but that now survived either in roadside diners named "Granny's" and "Hubert and Sal's,"or at upscale nostalgic eateries such as this one. I suppose you could call it a "cuisine" -- as the local magazines and guides are wont to do -- but that word has too many curlicues. Call it "eats" and get on with it.

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The diners seemed to agree and were not slow about getting on with their meals. One man to my right hulked over his plate like a Turkish sumo and ate mechanically as if his hands were back hoes in some mountain grave yard, the coffin inbound on the midnight train and the kinfolk getting antsy. Across from him, a slim woman ate in a punctuated manner and talked at him at the same time, her hand gestures angular and as precise as scalpels. He nodded dully as if barely feeling her opinions and just put his head down and ate right on through them, looking up just often enough and nodding just slightly enough that she might believe he was actually hearing her.

Hearing anyone was a sometimes thing in this room. It was one of those restaurants whose hard ceilings, walls, and floors made for a constant din and clatter and clang. You had to raise your voice to be heard over it, and -- since raising your voice added to the din -- it made you and everyone else speak ever louder until the yabble peaked, then plunged into brief silence as everyone lapsed back into murmurs. Then it began building, again, inevitably to shouts, and so on.

It was a down-home yuppified place with a pretty good kitchen and fine intentions. It was a place where you could get the same meal you could get at "Granny's Country Kitchen" out along the highway, but you could rest assured that none of the boys from the hills -- those with flag decals on the pick-up's bumper and a deer rifle on a rack in the rear window -- would be smoking or farting or telling tales next to you. This privilege only cost you about three times as much.

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This was downtown Asheville in the heart of the freshly gentrified, cosmopolitan zone and instead of pick-ups rattling down the streets, Porsches prowled growling in the night outside the rock-climbing gym. This was an armed cultural hamlet in the New South, guarded by down-home decorating parlors ready to give your custom log-cabin that shabby chic lived-in look; where the sentries were hair salons called "The People" with mirrors in front of each station resembling nothing so much as the guillotines that "The People" of France once used so effectively in solving their aristocracy problem. The difference here was that the new aristocracy of this region was busy admiring themselves in the mirrors of these guillotines with nary a Marat or Robespierre in sight. Instead, downtown Asheville -- or at least some small section at the top of the hills -- was relentlessly promoting our new secular religion of senseless and endless shopping opportunities.

Down in the gulch streets below the mini-Madison Avenue of Asheville a wide variety of ethnic restaurants from the Jerusalem Cafe to Mela Indian foods jostles with used book stores and the ubiquitous tattoo parlors. Antique stores have arrived with a vengeance as have poodles and other toy breeds that bring with them shops devoted to "canine cuisine". After all, once you've got a whole generation of 20 or 30 and sometimes 40 somethings that have elected to raise dogs rather than children, nothing is too good for your fur-faced kids, is it?

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And where there are bakeries for dogs, there are restaurants whose owners handle regional foods as carefully as curators in a museum. In this, I admit, they do not do half-bad at the Early Girl Eatery where quick bread can be had at breakfast for three bucks a plate, and slow-cooked pork in the evening for fifteen. It's not quite the roadside diner down in the hollar, but that land's been bulldozed for one of the endless gated communities sprouting across the landscape in these parts like dubious toadstools. At least at the Early Girl you're pretty sure the pork isn't road kill. And even if it was, the sauces and seasoning would make up for it.

The check had come and I'd paid it. They'd filled the restaurant and turned it once since we'd been there. A popular place. A post-post- modern place, a place that was a sterling example of how we live now -- the real and the regional reduced to a remembrance, the communities gated, the homes "maintenance -free." History in a bottle, cleaned, pressed and with the trans-fats removed. Just the way we like it. Traditional in style but tradition-free in content. The experience without the meaning and not missing it.

As I got up to leave the family of six at the long table across from me was served with the quick flourish and satisfied air of presentation that is the style of serving these days. The was food steaming in front of them, but none of them made a move towards it. Instead, they talked quietly amongst themselves and seemed to come to a decision. They made their selection from among them. It was to be one of the daughters, a girl of about 17 I guessed. The din in the restaurant rose and fell, but the family of six sat quietly and then bowed their heads as one. Then they said grace.

I stood motionless at my table. I had, I thought, never seen this before in a restaurant. I'd seen it in private homes to be sure, but upon reflection I realized that I'd not seen it there in quite sometime. And I was quite sure this was, for me, a rare event. I'd probably not been paying attention since it no doubt went on all the time, but still it was a startling moment. Perhaps I'd just been too long in Seattle where the only manifestations of spirit are flimsy; where the invocations are raised to a watery Buddhism or bloodless Unitarianism where God is impossibly distant if at all extant. Be that as it may, this simple act of saying grace did not so much shock me as still me. I paused to listen in. And the daughter did not disappoint.

Her's was no gestural grace -- "Bless this food. Amen. Let's eat." -- but an extended meditation on the good fortune to find oneself among family and before a rich selection of food; an acknowledgment of an unusual level of being blessed by God, and a calling down of God's grace on members of the family present and not present, and ending with a wish that God continue to bless the family, the community, the state and the country. Then, and only then, was "Amen" spoken and the meal begun.

Outside along the Asheville streets, it was a balmy evening. Down the block another restaurant offered "Exceptional International Vegetarian Food," and a shop on the corner sold items imported from Africa whose purchase was purported to help suffering children here and there in that blighted continent. A local freebie paper picked off a stack had decided that a photo of a tribal protest in Santiago, Chile on the Dia de la Raza was important information for the citizens of this part of town. Down in the Asheville hipster-dopester-homeless gulch at a more cut-rate vegetarian restaurant, citizens with shaved heads, "message" t-shirts, multiple facial piercing and full-body tattoos were climbing the stairs in search of a bran muffin, bitching about George Bush, global warming, and their personal collection of STDs while complaining of residual racism in a city that seems more white than Seattle.

The road back to the house in the hills was dark and winding and you had to take it slow. Going back it was nice to know that somewhere, somehow, and for reasons that sometimes challenge all understanding, there were people still asking God to bless America.

For now, that's the big headline news of the day here in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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[First published October 2007]



Posted by Vanderleun Aug 31, 2014 4:21 AM | Comments (60)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Great Souls of Our Time: Van Morrison

Morrison9.jpgBut darlin', those days are gone
Oh yeah
Stop dreaming
And live on in the future
But darlin', a-don't look back
Whoa, no-no
Don't look back

-- John Lee Hooker

Ah, but we do, don't we? We always look back. Seeing the shapes, getting the measure, going the distance and finding -- if only for a moment -- the safe harbors of your life requires a spiritual sextant for sighting the fixed stars. It's a ghost ship's voyage with what lies ahead a blank white screen while what is behind fades into the smoke of the world well lost. There are shallows, shoals and the fatal allure of Sirens and the lee shore. Times in irons, then storms, then stretches of clear open ocean on a broad reach, but always with the sense of hidden reefs and an unknowable destination. It helps to track others' voyages, to follow similar arcs, to watch if they pass, or seem to pass, the same checkpoints. Some are siblings. Others are friends and lovers. Still others are artists that, at some point, strike us as sharing if not a life then at least a similar trajectory.

Everybody has a different set of charts, but some overlap. Among these are the singer-songwriter / poets of our era. These are our troubadours, the most influential of which in our time, is Bob Dylan. Indeed, I've often thought that it must gall the endless pile of disposable poets stashed in the academy that, for all their pallid effort, the greatest American poet of this era is Dylan. But Dylan, for all his protean output and achievement, misses the music as much as he hooks the mind.

For my money, the singer-songwriter-poet among my contemporaries, that both hooks the ear and brings the music is Van Morrison.

Not only for his ability to play his voice like some transoceanic jazz choir, nor his manner of mining the blues and jazz traditions and his own life, but also because -- like Dylan -- he endures. Not only that, but he reports back. And like a few others in music, painting and writing, the arc of his life seems to resonate with mine. It may be just a fluke of years lived in the same unfolding history, but it seems larger. It seems, as it always seems with the great souls, that there's an emotional and spiritual concordance happening, as one bell might pick up the tone of another nearby even though it has not itself been struck.

"Take me back, there, take me way back there..."

But that was later, and this is earlier, much earlier. Before there really was "Van Morrison." When he was just a singer. When he was one of THEM.

Comes a-walkin' down my street
When she comes to my house
She knocks upon my door
And then she comes in my room
Yeah, an' she make me feel alright

G-L-O-R-I-A (GLORIA)

Remembering that song the first thought is "Who, but who, was ever that young?" But of course we all were. And the number of times that the 45s of Mystic Eyes and Gloria were spun on the turntables in those years pretty much surpass memory. I do recall they made for some long and fine white nights. Gloria, played at the right time, could pretty much close the deal.

"The cool room, Lord, is a fool's room."

Make-out songs weren't the only thing in Van Morrison's bag, even in those years. Something else was there. Something that lived in the deep and would insist upon rising.

Within two years Morrison left "Them" and soloed, releasing the trendily titled Blowin' Your Mind! from Bang Records. The hit on that album was "Brown-Eyed Girl" and it has, thanks to the continuing and increasing supply of brown-eyed girls in the world, stayed pretty much a perennial since then. Boomers used it first for seduction and later for lullabies.

But there was another song on that first album that foreshadowed Morrison's work much more deeply, "T. B. Sheets." This is a dark and haunting evocation of death and sickness. Junkies like to think it's about them, but junkies think everything is about them. It's bigger than that. Much bigger. And it is, in its provenance as well as it's lyrics, nothing like any pop song that came before, and very little like any that came after. In the other songs on Blowin' Your Mind! you hear a young singer pulling out everything he knows in quest of a hit, any hit. But "T. B. Sheets" is vastly different. In it you hear the song of an old soul, one that has been here before; one that knows the deal and has paid the bill.

The origin of "T. B. Sheets" is, figuratively and literally, in nightmare.

His mother, Violet Morrison said that the song originally had emerged from a nightmare her son had and that he had felt it so strongly that he couldn't tell it to her but sang it instead with verses lasting for an hour.
An hour? The song on the album runs nearly 10 minutes, twice the length of any of the others, and an eternity for a pop album of the mid-60s. But an hour? Just to stay in that mental space for 10 minutes is enough for most people. (The song did not chart.) But an hour is inconceivable.

Still, I'd like to hear it. It's a song that first insinuates itself deep into your lungs and then crawls down your bones:

So open up the window and let me breathe,
I said, open up the window and let me breathe
I'm looking down to the street below
Lord, I cried for you, Oh, Lord.

The cool room, Lord, is a fool's room,
The cool room, Lord, is a fool's room,
And I can almost smell your T.B. sheets
And I can almost smell your T.B. sheets, on your sick bed.

I gotta go, l gotta,
And you said, please stay.
I want, I want a drink of water,
I want a drink of water,
I went to the kitchen to get me a drink of water,

I gotta go baby.
I send, I send, I send somebody around here later,
You know we got John comin' around
Later with a bottle of wine for you, babe.

So much for the easy pop songs from a handsome young jazz singer who had gotten mixed up in rock-and-roll. There's Milton's "darkness visible" writhing at the center of that song, something seldom seen in pop music -- especially in the days of "Do you believe in magic/ in a young girl's eyes?"

"Darkness visible." That was to be a recurring image in Van Morrison's work. That and a search for the light as well.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

-- Traditional hymn, recorded in Hymns to the Silence, 1991

Light seen sometimes in the present, and sometimes in the past. But always with a sense of trying to learn, in the end, what he hears from John Lee Hooker:
Don't look back
To the days of yesteryear
You cannot live on in the past

Ah, but we do. Don't we?

[Bird Dog @ Maggie's reminds us that today is....Van Morrison's birthday - Maggie's Farm He's only 69. Looks 79. Acts 89. We appreciate his work, though.]

Continued...

Posted by Vanderleun Aug 31, 2014 2:10 AM | Comments (26)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"You can fool all the people some of the time...."

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Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 30, 2014 8:14 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Would the last person out of the global warming crack house please turn off Al Gore's lights?

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Stunning satellite images show summer ice cap is thicker and covers 1.7million square kilometres MORE than 2 years ago...despite Al Gore's prediction it would be ICE-FREE by now: The speech by former US Vice-President Al Gore was apocalyptic.

‘The North Polar ice cap is falling off a cliff,’ he said. ‘It could be completely gone in summer in as little as seven years. Seven years from now.’ Those comments came in 2007 as Mr Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaigning on climate change. But seven years after his warning, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that, far from vanishing, the Arctic ice cap has expanded for the second year in succession – with a surge, depending on how you measure it, of between 43 and 63 per cent since 2012.



Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 30, 2014 7:03 PM | Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Medium Is the Message

When you move your home the most important tool turns out to be a twenty dollar bill. Lots of them. Collecting a stack from the bank yesterday, this one turned up.

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What's in your wallet?



Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 30, 2014 9:20 AM | Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Ordinary Heroes Come Out of the Rain

Just another fallen angel
Trying to get through the night.

Step by step, one by one,
higher and higher....

Step by step, rung by rung,
I'm climbing Jacob's ladder.

They tell me to always try to do "more," but never do "too much." When you are recuperating from coronary arrest and a subsequent two week time-out in the ICU these are difficult quantities to judge. My solution is to try to add more to what I did yesterday. Once around the block equals once and a half around the block. Tedious but true. Never a lot. Always a little more.

And sometimes that extra step leads you to a moment of strange revelation; revelation in which you do not know what it means other than that it may mean something; that it must mean something. Maybe something labeled in invisible ink "To Be Revealed Later." Random encounters of matter moving randomly in the dark or something else designed in some subtle way to keep you moving-- climbing,
step
by step,
rung
by rung...

So anyway....

Last night I decide to push myself and attend a Richard Thompson concert in the University District. In a fit of optimism the previous week, having been released from the hospital, I bought two tickets. I didn't "feel" like going, but I don't "feel" like doing much of anything. I do it anyway. It's not really an option.

So anyway....

While waiting for Thompson to come on I find I can't really sit in the chairs comfortably and have to walk randomly about the Neptune theater. I do this every ten minutes or so. On one of these perambulations I decide to go upstairs to the balcony. Then I pause for a minute examining the CDs, t-shirts, and posters that make up the commercial back-beat of concerts today. Then I amble along the corridor and take the handicapped ramp down towards the main floor where the main entrance is. Outside it is a rainy night.

I pause for a moment and pick up a flyer listing future concerts at the Neptune. That takes about three seconds. I turn to go back into the theater and to my seat.

At that precise second he comes through the door of the Neptune into the concert....

.... From sometime on the evening of the 13th of October to sometime on the night of what I think was the 22rd of October I have no memory. Ten days are expunged from my life as if they never existed. These were the days in which I was first effectively dead; then the days in which I was, thanks to a team of extraordinary ordinary heroes in the ICU, returned to life itself. To say what you feel towards these people and all the others of your friends and family is a sense of "gratitude" does not even begin to get on the scale of what you feel.....

.... he comes through the door of the Neptune into the concert.

I take one look and know the man as well as I know my brother. This man was my "respiratory therapist." His was the first face I saw on waking from my coma. He was sitting at the end of my bed in the ICU with his chin resting on his hand like Rodin's Thinker. He was wearing blue scrubs and I think he had some broad bands of a Maori tattoo around his biceps. He glanced at me. I think he said, "I'm deciding whether or not we can take that tube out of your lungs now," and then I drifted by into my drugged haze.

He did decide to remove the tube and that began my ability to leave the ICU and then the Hospital and then my home to attend this concert on a rainy night in Seattle and walk past the door at the precise second....

What do you say to a man like that?

For my part I said, again, "Thank you for saving my life."

He said, "You're welcome but there were a lot of us involved. I'm glad to see you are doing so very well so soon. Don't try and do 'too much.'"

A bit more small talk and then a handshake and he moved off to find the person he was here to meet on his night off from saving the lives of strangers that get delivered to him high above the street at the Harbor View Medical Intensive Care Unit.

I make my way back to my seat and soon the main attraction comes out and begins to play. He's good. Surprisingly good. But at the same time I think I've already seen the main attraction of the evening and I leave about two-thirds of the way through the concert.

At three in the morning I wake in the dark quiet room and I think, "A couple of seconds either way and I would have missed thanking the man who saved my life."

And in that dim room with day still far off I think, "What did that mean? What could it possibly mean? Does it mean something or is it just random?"

The only answer I have so far is, "I. Don't. Know.

'Step
by step,
rung
by rung....'
"

[November, 2011]



Posted by Vanderleun Aug 30, 2014 1:42 AM | Comments (23)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Stealth "Recycling" and the New Little Green Bin

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Look at these happy little green robots and admire how carefully they were selected to represent all genders and demographics

Head robot of Portland, Mayor Sam Adams (oh the shame he attaches to that illustrious name!) tells his fellow green robots to shape the fuck up: "I want to thank my City Council colleagues for passing a measure today that makes food scrap composting possible. We’re currently sending 29,000 tons of useful food scraps to landfills each year. Beginning October 31, the new waste collection program will let you throw these food scraps in the green yard debris roll cart so they can be turned into useful compost. In addition, your collection schedule will change as less of what you throw away goes in the trash. The green yard debris cart will now be picked up weekly – just like the blue recycling cart and yellow bin – and trash will be picked up every-other-week."

The little green bin is proliferating everywhere these days. Just one more task that the green fascists have gotten all the citizens to pitch in and do. Plus you pay extra for the privilege of doing the work for the state. What a deal!

You'll recall how this make-work state project started. First you were told to bundle your newspapers and put them out in a stack. (Magazines in coated paper in a separate bundle, thank you.) This led, over time, to a glut of newsprint that put pulp mills in Maine out of business; then to such a tsunami of glut that the newspapers were going into landfills just the same. Just on separate trucks purchased and manned by the city for that purpose.

Then you were told to separate out the glass from the trash and put it in those open blue bins. Small at first but now these bins are gigundo in size and cost. This led, in pretty much no time at all, to a glut in recycled glass that led to huge mountains of glass trash growing quietly outside of all major cities. After all, there are only so many glass tiles and glass blocks that the market can absorb. Then it's right into the landfills again. On new separate trucks, of course.

Then came the plastic bins for plastic. Then the consolidation of the plastic and glass bins -- since it was all really going into the landfill it really didn't matter.

Then came the "Yard Waste" bins because, well, in large cities large cities were suppose to compost all this crap from yards into rich humus. This of course led to humus mountains outside of all large cities and programs where the cities would give you some compost if you picked it up. That you were hauling the composted yard waste back to the yard after it had been hauled to the compost heap from the yard was, well, sort of glossed over. But the compost mountains grew anyway.

At this point you had, behind your house or to the side, a trash can, a glass and plastic recycling bin, and a yard waste bin... minimum. But you do not, it seems, have enough bins behind your house since the city can, it seems, charge you for picking up each and every bin as well as sell you the bin in the first place.

This is a good deal for the city and now it seems the cities want to extend it to yet another bin. This is the small green bin for the "organic kitchen waste" previously known as "garbage" that previously went into, well, your "garbage can."

The deal here is that you are supposed to pick through your garbage with your hands and put into the new tiny green bin only the choicest bits of pre-compost compost. Then you set that bin out on the day for it's collection after a week of pawing through the crap.

That makes four (count 'em) 4 bins to keep track of and to pay for, each one more foul than the one before.

You'd think that an operation that had a monopoly on such a rich resource of salvage could make money operating it. You'd be right. It makes money by charging you more for doing its work for it. And by selling you yet another bin.

But there is hope for the guerrillas among us. These new green bins, being vile and odiferous, are the perfect means of smuggling toxic chemicals out of the house and into the landfills without paying for Hazmat service.

Let's say that, after the forced retirement of the incandescent bulb, and the forced import of mercury filled bulbs into your house you actually break one. (Hey, it could happen.) With the little green bin you can just hide the shards under the kitty litter and avoid the $2,500 clean-up fee from the EPA.

I know that lots of cities are meeting their budget shortfalls not by firing staff but by actually hiring Garbage Cops to patrol your bins, but I'm willing to bet these dolts are not going to be digging into kitty litter and kitchen waste. I'm betting they'll be the number one cops in the doughnut shops for 95% of their shifts.

So, you know that pile of old dead fluorescent tubes you've got in the garage because you're not willing to pay the city the $50 for the "special pickup?" Get yourself a teeny-weeny green bin and some kitty litter.

Problem solved.



Posted by Vanderleun Aug 29, 2014 4:20 PM | Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Shine, Perishing Republic

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While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire,
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste, haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught -- they say -- God, when he walked on earth.

-- Robinson Jeffers



Posted by Vanderleun Aug 29, 2014 2:10 PM | Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Dust in the Wind and the Summer of 77

We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness.

-- Eliot, The Dry Salvages

Following a memory of my own, I "found" this video shortly after it was posted to YouTube around three years ago. It struck me then as enormously powerful in that offhand, out-of-left-field way that found objects can be. The power of this short window into 1977 is that it captures, without intent, the elements of memory. It melds the plaintive almost psalmic acoustic hit by Kansas with an imagery whose sheer faded quality adds to an overall impression of other times once lived and now gone beyond recall. It is the essence of "time in a bottle."

Ordinary when made the film aged into something beyond itself. The better memories do that. They seem, if we think of them at all at the time we have the experience we will later remember, to be just barely beyond the cusp of ordinary. Often we don't even discover them as memories until years later when they emerge, not as they were, but as they have become as our souls expand enough to value what we thought at the time was dross as the real gold of our lives.

The fact that it was viewable by me at all was one of those strange conjunctions of love and fate that the Web has made possible. The video is under the YouTube account of "uselessdirector" who has in the years since he posted this posted only two other personal bits in his account. The response to those is what it should be. Negligible. But the response to this video is now above 3,640,000 6,277,000 views with fresh comments still coming in almost hourly.

What is the provenance of this video? Uselessdirector states only, "Filmed in 1977 by my dad, this music video nearly became "dust in the wind" until it was restored from its failing 8mm format." His role was to see the film as it was made, 8MM or 16MM, and to save it as a video before time faded the film to invisibility. He caught it just in time and in doing so caught time itself. Then because he knew it had a value beyond itself and because he could, he placed it on YouTube where, in time, it was discovered.

From the video itself, we learn the names of the "Cast" in the credits and also see a list of "The Tribe." Aside from that there are other hints to the spring or summer in which this was made. We discover it was made in Findley Lake, New York, a small rural community up near the shore of Lake Erie. Was "The Tribe" a group of friends or a small commune of the kind that were still common in those years? Did the young man and young woman paired as "Adam" and "Eve" have a relationship outside the film or was it only for the purposes of the film? Somehow I doubt it was the latter.

Looking a little deeper into the Net I found a few things worth noting. For one thing it is possible, through the odd but wonderful Google Street View to compare "Then" with "Now" and confirm, as if we did not know it with every cell of our being, that "Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky."

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Then

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Now

An interesting exercise in contrasting the present to a memory. But "interesting" is pretty much the finish of the exercise. In mere aesthetic terms it is obvious that the "Then" as evoked by the film image is far superior to the glimpse of "Now" gleaned by a Google Street View car sweeping by and capturing a slice of that particular road during the particular minute it passed that otherwise nondescript place on the edge of Findley Lake. The former is gold, the latter dross.

What was the memory I was following when I first found this film? It was the memory of that song heard first in the summer of 1977 somewhere in London, New York, or Burgundy. I loved the summer of 1977. It was one of my favorite years. It was one of those luminous years when everything seemed to fall right and come together into something you could assign to happiness. I'd wait 26 years for the next one.

I heard the song once again in memory. It was in a suburban mall parking lot in Connecticut on a chill winter evening during one of those years when it all went smash.

If I have to choose between memories I'll take the one contained in this ineffable bit of short film saved from the fade and the fog of time. It's one of those strange artifacts that evokes among those alive in the time it was made the cliched thought, "Dear God, were we ever that young?" Made on a whim during an afternoon, the film answers, "Yes, you were. Yes, we all were. And in time, with the grace of God, we will be again."



Republished from April 1010 2010. [What would I do without my prufreaders?]



Posted by Vanderleun Aug 28, 2014 10:14 PM | Comments (40)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Beating Bush: The 42% President

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So far this month, the president's approval rating has averaged just 42 percent, his lowest August rating since 2011. For Obama, August Is The Cruelest Month : NPR

Reading that took me back about seven years to an evening out in Seattle with a friend. He's a long-gone liberal who's never coming back. He's gifted in many ways except, alas, for politics. When it comes to that he has a fully colonized mind and a solid Democrat record of supporting hustlers, losers, con-artists and criminals from Louisiana to New Jersey. Like all slaves on that ideological plantation he thinks it makes him more free and believes everyone he knows will forget about his many decades of picking the worst his party has to offer.

I've long returned from that dark tunnel, but I admire and respect him and our friendship of long standing. Our default position on politics is that "it doesn't come up."

Meeting him were a couple of his friends which are only acquaintances of mine. As such, this being Seattle, they did not suspect, even for a moment, that I happen to be "one of 'THEM'." (Indeed whenever a Seattle acquaintance discovers my politics -- as happened last week at the airport -- the reaction is invariably along the lines of "I never knew you were THAT WAY." )

Into the bar came his friends, one of them walking with a swagger as if he'd just been sprinkled with holy water by the Messiah himself. He ordered a round of drinks and when they were put up lifted his glass, smacked his lips, and said, "Forty-three percent!" This was in reference to the approval rating of George W. Bush that had been announced that day.

Three glasses clinked but mine remained on the bar. The back of my hand brushed it back towards the bartender and left it there.

The man who ordered the drinks looked at me quizzically. I looked at him and, because I am blessed with an English Major and a large mental file of American poetry, said, “there is some shit i will not eat."

An awkward silence ensued from which all were saved by the start of the show we'd come to see.

My friend and I still see each other.

Less now than before as the elephant of Obama’s failure has moved from the lawn to the porch with its trunk in the room.

I never saw his friends again. Never had to refuse another drink. I'm okay with that but they came to mind today when these new disapproval numbers of their tin god were released.

I wonder what they do now. Do they still order drinks to make toasts to Obama's numbers as they sink below Bush, or do they just grab the whiskey and CHUG-A-LUG it straight from bottle?



Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 28, 2014 7:20 AM | Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Moving On..... and on and on and on and on.... [Pinned]

"Three moves equals one house fire."

Because of a series of events too strange to tell, the house I rent is being put on the market. As a result I have to clear it of all my possessions over the coming labor day weekend and find another place to live. Even with the help of dear friends it's a daunting task and I do not, as of this writing, know exactly where I will find my next home. It will, however, not be in Seattle but rather in a town much closer to my mother in Northern California who, as she turns 100, is happy to hear of the prodigal's return.

The consequence of all this is that posting on American Digest will be a much less regular thing than in the past ten years. This note will be pinned to the top of American Digest for the next month. Regular ranting will resume when I am packed, moved, and settled.



Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 27, 2014 9:02 AM | Comments (57)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The List

notoffthlist.jpgAs some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I've got a little list--I've got a little list....
- W. S. Gilbert

"The List" is the bane of testosterone-driven humans. "The List" is kept in the secret mental lock-box of human beings of the estrogen persuasion. Some believe that "The List" is a social construct, while others believe that "The List" is hard-wired into the DNA of the human female. I favor the latter theory since it seems to me that "The List" is merely a subset of "The Plan" -- and "The Plan" is not only part and parcel of the basic makeup of the human female regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, or historic epoch, it is also the reason that -- over time -- women triumph over men. Women, in short, always have a life plan while men are stuck with something that looks like a cross between a spread sheet without a recalc button and a really slick marketing idea.

In short, men might have a plan for making a rocket-propelled street luge, but they have none at all when it comes to human activities that stretch across decades -- unless it involves such trifles as national defense or energy policy. Men seem to see items like this as actually important, but women know that what is really important is the command and control of male behavior. Hence, "Your Permanent Conduct Record" aka "The List."

Women reading this essay are, of course, not the type to ever keep an indelible list of male transgressions, large and teeny-tiny. But trust me, there are many that do. Why? Because it works.

"The List" is a means of male-control through negative feedback. Positive male actions towards a woman are expected, perhaps noted at the time, perhaps not, -- but always in pencil. A brief pat and nod of encouragement and then the woman goes back into the default mode of "what have you done for me lately?" "Lately" is, as all men know, but a small subset of a single day.

Failings of the male -- such as lapses in mental telepathy -- are kept on "The List" in indelible ink, preferably blood-red. "The List" also includes transgressions, large and small, against the woman from previous relationships with previous males. The ownership of all these transgressions is automatically transfered to the male of the current relationship at the moment of inception or conception, whichever comes first. This is the reason men sometimes feel they are expected to pay an overdue bill for a meal they did not eat in a restaurant that no longer exists. Plus a 20% tip.

"The List" is a lethal weapon and has the combined qualities of a rapier, a bludgeon, and a bread-knife to the heart. It can be employed silently via "The Look," or over great distances via the telephone or a highly compressed text message such as "U no wht u did." Its deadly deployment is not dependent on current transgressions. It can be brandished and employed at any inconvenient moment, such as, say, pants half-off. Just because you have presented a woman with a 10 caret diamond right now does not mean she will not think in the next moment, and perhaps ask, "Why not 11? And why not in 'canary'?" The lack of that last caret and the color will, invariably, find its way onto "The List."

"The List" exists outside of time. Hence the passage of time does not make for erasure. List entries cannot be expunged because they can always have an immediate utility.

"I am behaving this way today because five months ago you did X, and even though I didn't mention X at the time, what you did then excuses this behavior now. Y for X makes us even."

Don't believe that last part. You are not "even." "The List" does not grow "even," it only extends. The existence of an item on "The List" is eternal, and will be used --explicitly or implicitly -- on many occasions, numerous and multiple.

Women who use "The List" will recognize, but never admit to, the existence of "The List" even when you call them on it on the spot. Should you press the issue with hard evidence, they plead "not guilty by reason of 'You don't know what you're talking about.' If, in rare cases, they are convicted their plea shift to, "Guilty... but with an explanation." In very rare cases, usually involving bribery, they will confess that they are keeping "The List" and promise, sincerely but falsely, to never consult it again. This is merely a ploy. No woman who uses "The List" can ever really give up "The List" (It is a control item.) Regardless of what they agree at the time they will immediately put the fact that you had the gall to call them on "The List" *on*The*List*.

It is very foolish to call them on "The List" unless you no longer want them around. Once you do, they are going to look for ways to blow you off since they need men who don't know about "The List;" men ignorant of its existence and doomed to remain so until marriage -- which is when "The List" really comes out. Then, of course, it is too late for our poor pilgrim.

"The List" is usually found attached to another larger and even more ancient body of female laws known as: Rules You Will Not Be Allowed to Know Exist Until You Break Them. You might think that "The List" is the source of such rules, but you will be wrong and your assertion that it is will become yet another entry on "The List."

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"The Look of List Is In Your Eyes" Warning Signs: Men, when you see this look you'll know there's an entry being made on "The List."



[Republished because this came up at supper last night with good friends. I would have discussed it in more detail but it was clear it was about to become an entry on The List.]



Posted by Vanderleun Aug 26, 2014 1:51 AM | Comments (62)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Secret by Robert Frost

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NASA: Humans Will Prove "€˜We Are Not Alone In The Universe"€™ Within 20 Years:

Speaking at NASA’s Washington headquarters on Monday, the space agency outlined a plan to search for alien life using current telescope technology, and announced the launch of the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite in 2017. The NASA administrators and scientists estimate that humans will be able to locate alien life within the next 20 years. “Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life. Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over — the possibility we’re no longer alone in the universe,” said Matt Mountain, director and Webb telescope scientist at the Space Telescope. Science Institute in Baltimore, which plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018. “What we didn’t know five years ago is that perhaps 10 to 20 per cent of stars around us have Earth-size planets in the habitable zone,” added Mountain. “It’s within our grasp to pull off a discovery that will change the world forever.” Describing their own estimates as “conservative,” the NASA planet hunters calculate that 100 million worlds within the Milky Way galaxy are able to sustain complex alien life forms. The estimate accounts for the 17 billion Earth-sized worlds scientists believe to be orbiting the galaxy’s 100 billion stars.

Oh yeah? I call that sort of number-blather not "searching for life" as much as NASA's standard search for the fountain of perpetual funding.

The more we know, the bigger deal the Fermi Paradox becomes.50,000 years is a blink of an eye, evolutionarily speaking. So there is quite a decent chance that we have simply been experiencing the explosive growth of a brand-new species, which is at some relatively soon point going to flat-line -- the species will have reached maturity, and like the chimps and horses, develop no further, achieve nothing greater in its technology. Is that now? Maybe. Maybe not. We could go on for centuries longer, millenia even, and this would still count as our infancy. But it seems very unlikely to me that we will continue our straight-line growth for 500,000 or 1 million years. It also seems likely the growth rate will decline smoothly to zero.
So it is entirely possible that our present capacity for interstellar travel and communication is near or even already at the greatest level we can achieve as a species. It may not change in the next 1,000 years, or even the next 10 million. And if we represent the best intelligence allowed by the structure of the universe, then no other species has or ever will achieve any better technological sophistication either. The reason we don't hear from them is simple: they're no more sophisticated than we are, and never will be.



Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 23, 2014 11:40 PM | Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Prayer of the Modern Crusader

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Dear Lord,

Once again men of Faith and of the West face the swords of the heretics. Once again, those who oppose Thy divine Order surround the remnant of Christian Civilization like wolves against prey. Once again, dear God, we turn our eyes to You and beg Thy gracious aid. If it be thy will, dear Lord, save us. If it be Thy will, raise up a great Leader to inspire Christian hearts in this country and in all the world. If it be Thy will, O Lord, send us a leader, a man to shore up our sagging spirits and rally us to the defense of our faith, our posterity, and our patrimony.

We ask Thee, O Lord, to raise us up a Leader of men like Your servant Emperor Constantine, who, in obeying Your command in hoc Signo vinces, turned the Roman Empire to Your service at the Milvian Bridge; send us a dauntless hero like King Pelayo at Covadonga; send us a uniter and propagator of civilization like Emperor Charlemagne; a daring cavalier like King Jan Sobieski; a triumphant Conquistador like the Servant of God Isabella, Queen of Castile, and her royal husband Ferdinand King of Aragon; an implacable defender of the Church and the West like their grandson Emperor Charles V. Send us a soldier like Charles Martel; a warrior like Don John of Austria; a grim defender of Faith and Nation like Gmo. Francisco Franco. Lord God of Hosts, send Thy people a man of war who will take up the sword of Christendom and crusade against the enemies of Christ and His Church.

If it be Thy Will, send us too a crusading Vicar of Christ like Your servant Pope Saint Leo the Great, who will ride boldly out to meet the Hun in Your Name; a Pope like Your servant Saint Pius V, who assembled the Holy League and rallied the fighting forces of Christendom to smite the Muslim at Lepanto; a Pope like Your servant Urban II at the Council of Clermont, who will stand before the might of Europe-in-arms, point to the Holy Land groaning under the tyranny of the Crescent, and cry "Deus Vult!"

Lord, we pray that you smite the filthy heresy of Islam wherever its ugly stench may waft, and by Thy divine Hand bring into the fold of Your Church all those of that creed who truly seek Thy Face. In this we ask the intercession of Saint James of Compostela, and the spirit of Charles
Martel, the Hammer. We beg you to use us today as you used Pope Innocent III and the strong arm of Thy Church against the Cathar and the Albegensian so long ago. May God rebuke the soi-disant prophet Muhammad and all those who preach his error throughout the world.

God of Nations, restore to the men of Europe and of all nations their true identities as members and protectors of their diverse nationalities, and with a mighty Hand crush the evil global Revolution that seeks to destroy nation, ethny, tribe, clan, sept, and the natural human family and amalgamate all into a corrupt and infernal "new order of the ages". Teach us to live in peace with one another, each color and race in its own sovereign space, each nation united not by artificial propositions or constitutions but the the natural and lasting ties of ancestry, language, culture, and creed; and teach us to recognize as unique the only form of universal human brotherhood that exists: the brotherhood of men separated by nationality but united in Your Church.

Dear God, restore our civilization. Bring all of Your servants to the happy renaissance of a robust, lively, orthodox, and crusading faith.

And, if such be not Your Will, we beg Thee to take the mantle of Christian leadership from us, your unworthy servants of the West, and lay it upon the men of China, or Korea, or Japan, or whatever such nation You deem fit to carry the banner of the Cross down through the ages remaining before you subjugate death, hell, and all worldly powers unto Thyself.

If any of these petitions are unworthy in Your sight, may we come to know Your displeasure through your gracious and loving correction, and may Our Lady's prayers be efficacious on our behalf, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

- S.M., August A.D. 2014

Shibes Meadow in a Comment on The Dead Dark Heart of Islam



Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 20, 2014 6:31 PM | Comments (18)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Dead Dark Heart of Islam

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"That's my boy!"

Well, I sailed through the storm
Strapped to the mast
But the time has come
And I’m seeing the real you at last
-- Dylan

The chittering insects that scuttle across the wastes of the middle east under the black flag of ISIS are masters of the maniac’s use of “social media." They make videos of the pleasure they take in laying hundreds of prisoners down and riddling them with machine gun bullets. They provide Facebook pages with photographs of the children’s heads they have impaled on stakes in the land where they hold sway. They pass around the Instagram moment of a man holding up the dress draped body of a little girl with her head taken off and her neck a bloodless stump. They “tweet” the 'That's my boy' image of an Australian member of their hive getting his son to hold up the head of someone, among thousands, that they have killed and killed filthy.

In all this they have done an invaluable service to the feckless and cowardly western world of the 21st century. They have not only killed those who have come under their rule and power. They have killed, now and forever, any wisp of an argument that the religion of Islam contains within it any significant “moderate" elements who are devoted to the idea of devout peace. There is no such “moderate Islam." There never was a “Moderate Islam.”

Islam is ISIS and ISIS is Islam. There is no other Islam.

Islam is religious Ebola and its only cure is fire.

Once the question was ”How can we help the moderate Islamics to help the others to a peaceful transition into the modern, multicultural world.” Now the question has become, "Can we find the leadership and the political will to burn this disease out of the human race root and branch?"

Those that seek to persuade you that somewhere within the foaming psychosis of Islam there is a moderate, peaceful religion struggling to get out, striving to be heard, are those that want you -- and your loved ones and your children -- to lie down in the shallow trench in the dry dust and have your children beheaded before you just before the sword slices through your supine and surrendered neck.

Lately there have been a plethora of posts scattered around concerning the kindly provision of Islam that if you like your religion you can keep your religion. All you have to do is pay a tax, set by Islam, on an annual basis. Deal or no deal? Either way it is a lie. What Islam wants is what is has always wanted; the enslavement and death of the infidel.

You cannot negotiate with psychopaths. There are no deals to be made or negotiations to be had with Islam. It is, first, last, and always, a perverted and vile system that has no spirit in it whatsoever. God? God’s got nothing to do with it.

Some weak and wet slaves of Islam still say, as they said to me after 9/11, “There are a billion muslims in the world. You can’t kill them all.” A billion you say? Big job. Well begun is half done.

Only by fire is fascism finished.

"There is nothing more dangerous than the conviction that diplomats should be America's first line of defense. ...America will get tough or it will get terminal." --Norman Liebmann

Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 19, 2014 9:03 AM | Comments (24)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Only By Fire is Fascism Finished

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Year upon year in this world's dark forests,
Heaped at the foot of the trees,
The tangles and bundles of dead brush increase
Which sunlight shall never seize.

The vampire by sunlight or stake.
The wolfman by silver in bone.
The demon by book, chant and pentagram.
The fascist by fire alone.

The ash that descends in the clearest of skies?
The leapers that swam down the stones?
Best answered by bombs from mid-heaven at prayer
With the fire that hollows the bones.

The vampire by sunlight or stake.
The wolfman by silver in bone.
The demon by book, chant and pentagram.
The fascist by fire alone.

If their god decrees war, God's war shall prevail.
His lessons are seared in the stone.
No dreams shall defer, nor wishes erase,
The answer that's burned in the bone.

The vampire by sunlight or stake.
The wolfman by silver in bone.
The demon by book, chant and pentagram.
The fascist by fire alone.

Only by fire is fascism finished.
This sin is demanded that your line may live.
Only through fire is freedom reborn.
Each generation pulls the sword from the stone.



Posted by Vanderleun Aug 19, 2014 8:00 AM | Comments (41)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Our Place in Creation

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Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 17, 2014 4:00 PM | Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Hee-Haw

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Place: Southport, Connecticut.

Time: Somewhere in the late 1980s.

Status: Married.

Mood: Pissed off.

It was one of those arguments that, if they don't end a marriage outright, threaten it with premature extinction. Like most, it was my fault. Like most, it probably started over a small thing in the way that explosions start with a spark in a primer. Whatever it was, like an explosion, it quickly escalated to the well-worn phrase that those who are wrong always use at the end, "Okay, that's it. I'm out of here!"

And out the door I went. Down to the driveway I went. Into the car I went. Out of the driveway and into the road I drove taking a hard left that would lead me down the right curve, then the left curve, then onto the main road. Halfway down this road I pulled the car over, turned off the engine and sat there listening to the crickets in the summer evening.

Well, I thought, that'll show her. I'm gone.

At which point it dawned on my small reptile brain, as it must have to countless husbands, that although I was gone I had no place to go.

Of course that wasn't quite true. In theory I had everyplace to go. Everyplace except back to the house I'd just left. I was parked close to the I-95 and the Boston Post Road on coastal Connecticut. I could go west-north-south wherever.... but I couldn't go back. At least not right then. That would be too humiliating.... too much like a Monty Python sketch. So I chose the solution that countless husbands have taken, I headed to the nearest hotel/motel.

In this case the nearest hotel/motel was an extensive establishment just off the Post Road. I pulled in front of the entrance and went inside. The check-in clerk visibly brightened as I walked in and gave me an effusive welcome. It didn't really lighten my mood to be greeted so warmly. I just asked for a quiet room where I could relax and take stock.

"A quiet room? We have a fine quiet room for you just across the parking lot. I'm sure you'll find it most satisfactory."

If the word "Whatever" had been in use then, I'm sure I would have spoken it. As it was I wasn't paying that much attention. He took my registration and credit card information and passed me the key. "Just pull across the way. It's on the ground floor. Do you need any help with your luggage?"

I needed no help at all with my luggage since I didn't have any luggage. Storming out of a house loses its impact if you pause to do anything sane like, say, pack a bag. I took the key and paused a bit looking at the indoor swimming pool that was just off the lobby. I didn't note the clerk pick up the phone and mumble into it.

The exhaustion, the adrenaline jag, that sets in after anger passes was beginning to overwhelm me. I left the lobby and drove the car about twenty yards to park in front of the my room, my rented refuge. I was looking forward to the solace of television and a fully stocked mini-bar. If I got hungry later there was a Greek Diner about a hundred yards down the road with "Breakfast All Day." It was not a good plan but it was the only plan I had. Maybe later I'd admit I'd become an extraterrestrial in my own town and "Phone home" seeking forgiveness. Maybe.

Stupefied I walked up to the motel room door, put the key in the lock, turned it and opened the door.

There were dim lights on in the room so I stood in the doorway and scanned the room left to right for a moment. Wall, bathroom entrance, wall with flocked green wallpaper and bad seascape (at least it wasn't clowns), bed, night table, donkey eating a bale of hay.

"Hold it. Scan room again please," said brain.

Wall, bathroom, seascape, bed, table, donkey eating a bale of hay. A small donkey. A large bale of hay. In the night and in the dim hotel room in the corner. A calm and not too big donkey eating hay.

Check nose. Yup, smells like a fairly clean donkey in there.

One more time. Situation same. Wall, picture, bed, donkey.... wait.... wall.... slightly at an angle instead of flat a portion of the wall where there should have been a sharp corner. Look more closely and see a thin place in the wallpaper. Hear a soft whirring noise. Then the phone rings.

The phone is on the table next to the bed and the donkey. I am in the doorway. It rings and it rings. I do not move. It stops ringing and the door of the room next to mine opens and Alan Funt's son Peter walks over to me with a clip-board, a pasted on smile and his hand held out.

"Hi, I'm Peter Funt. Smile, you're on Candid Camera!"

Candid Camera was an ancient staple of TV running from 1948 until it petered out at the end of the 1980s with a few brief returns since then. It is now virtually extinct, but it was big "laff-riot" TV in its day.

"The premise of the show involved concealed cameras filming ordinary people being confronted with unusual situations, sometimes involving trick props, such as a desk with drawers that pop open when one is closed or a car with a hidden extra gas tank."
In my case, it would seem that the gag was that random travelers of the Boston Post Road who'd come to the hotel/motel for refuge would be treated to a donkey in their room and filmed from behind a blind next to the wall. It probably seemed like a fine premise for a gag show into it's fourth decade, but I -- for one -- was not exactly in the mood.

Instead of being the good-sport the show depended on I gave Peter Funt a look that caused him to take two careful steps back and lower his hand. I reached forward and slowly closed the door to the donkey room noting that, across the way, the check-in clerk and others are in the entrance to the lobby watching what happens next. They were all, of course, in on the gag.

In the next minute or so, Peter Funt brings me into their little circle of funsters. I remember that he seemed most concerned I sign the release form he had on his clipboard. I refused and asked, "Am I going to be charged for this."

"No, of course not, the room's on us and we'll stand you for a new one for tonight with no donkey if you prefer, and dinner's on us. Just sign this and..."

He was talking to the air. I was in the car and out of the parking lot and gone up the Boston Post Road and home. Long before they'd reset the room and walked the donkey, I was softly knocking on my front door seeking forgiveness and a room for the night. Without farm animals.

I was very tired. I was glad to be home.


And now? It's. Baaaaaack! ‘Candid Camera': TV Land’s Reboot Continues the Show’s Ongoing Legacy

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Posted by Vanderleun Aug 15, 2014 7:27 AM | Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
In less that 24 hours it is official...

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I am sick to death of hearing about Robin Williams. Funny guy. Sad guy. Rich guy. Famous guy. Dead guy. Buh Bye.

While it doesn't take a literary genius to understand John Donne's Meditation 17 ("No man is an island..." ), I'm pretty sure that when Donne penned:

Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,

the poet was not watching some blonde bimbette and her beta boys in blue blazers blather without stop about the endless amusement to be found in somebody who got his big break breaking out of a giant egg and then went on to a brief and hilarious classic comedy career of cocaine abuse. (Known forever after as, "When Robin Williams was really funny.")

Suffice it to say that if Robin Williams was not suicidal before his suicide, watching the reporting of it would have sent him running towards the clown throwing the cyanide pies screaming, "Me! Hit me with ten pies! Now! Dear God... Oh the humanity!".

My good friend off in the kitchen perusing the regrigerator offers the only rational explanation for this tsunami of Robin Williams, Robin Williams, and, oh by the way, here's more about Robin Williams!, "Given all else that's going on in the world right now, Robin Williams killing himself is -- strangely enough -- the 'feel good' story of the day."

Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 12, 2014 1:03 PM | Comments (20)  | QuickLink: Permalink
I can no longer abide this fantastical, "Hang 'Em High" bluster. [Bumped]

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Regarding the assertion that "The solution begins with buying the wood for the gallows to be built on the Mall in Washington. It’s only then that we have truly faced up to what we have to do to fix our country." as found in The Top 40: America’s Colonial Class AGoyAndHisBlog says:

Sorry, but I'm finding that I can no longer abide this fantastical, "Hang 'Em High" bluster.

First, an untouchable oligarchy wielding the full might and technology of the most powerful military machine ever conceived by Man simply chuckles at such empty threats, assuming such threats are acknowledged at all.

Second, and more importantly, any viable - constitutional - solution to the dilemma we face can only begin once we understand who the "pod people" really are, what made them the way they are (or, more accurately, what has permitted them to remain the way they are), and what has facilitated their ascendancy over virtually all of society.

Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 8, 2014 6:41 PM | Comments (95)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Remember those 15 cent school lunches from 1943? Good times.

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May 1943. "Keysville, Virginia. Randolph Henry High School cafeteria. Typical lunch for 15 cents: candied yams, macaroni and cheese, fruit salad, deviled eggs, dessert and milk. Milk is free and children can have as much as they want." Shorpy Historical Photo Archive :: Cafeteria Cuisine: 1943

And now?

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Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 8, 2014 9:27 AM | Comments (15)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Kipling: Not Poetry but Prophecy


The Gods of the Copybook Headings


AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,

I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.

Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.


We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn

That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:

But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,

So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.


We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,

Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,

But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come

That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.


With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,

They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;

They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;

So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.

They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.

But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."


On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life

(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)

Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."


In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,

By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;

But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."


Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew

And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true

That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.


As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man

There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.

That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,

And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;


And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins

When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,

As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,

The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!




Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 6, 2014 10:48 PM | Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Hiroshima Day - or- Nukes: Time for a Live Demo [Updated]

Dear LowInfo Citizens, It's been about five SIX years since this was first proposed. It is still something to keep in mind as you hope for change and a better world via magical thinking. You may not be interested in false hopes, but false hopes are interested in you.... Duck and cover!

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A bomb called Licorne. Fired at 18.30 on July 3, 1970, and yielded 914 kilotons (Think "57 Hiroshimas"). Imagine it being fired next door. Hope that if it is ever fired, it is fired next door.

Sixty-NINE years ago : "On Monday, August 6, 1945, the nuclear weapon Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima by the crew of the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay, directly killing an estimated 80,000 people. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought total casualties to 90,000-140,000. Approximately 69% of the city's buildings were completely destroyed, and 6.6% severely damaged." - Hiroshima

"Little Boy," the aptly named 16 kiloton bomb that took out Hiroshima, was -- in comparison to the nuclear devices in the world's arsenals -- sort of a light field artillery shell. There was, at the time, a second bomb called "Fat Man." Weighing in at 21 kilotons it would put paid to Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. With the erasure of Nagasaki, the world was fresh out of nuclear weapons. It was only a temporary lapse. Today we've got about 25,000 of these little items of discipline scattered about.

The largest nuclear bomb ever detonated in the atmosphere was The Soviet Tsar Bomba , or "Big Ivan" which at 50 Megatons was very harmful to every living think on Novaya Zemlya Island (located above the arctic circle in the Arctic Sea) in October of 1971. Whatever else you might think about them, you can't deny those Soviets dreamed BIG dreams.

No matter what our political feelings, I believe we can all agree that the world is getting just a wee bit too hot for comfort these days, and I don't mean "Global Warming." I mean that people here and there about the globe are getting just a wee bit too hot under the collar. They seem to have forgotten just exactly what comes into play like the force of gravity when whole nations or peoples get really ticked off. Time to refresh our collective memories.

I think we need to have the people of the world focus like a laser on the table stakes of going beyond these little patty-cake wars we are currently diddling around with and look, really look, at what can actually happen with one little slip.

What we need to do this is: "The Live Demo." By this I mean we need to find a small island or deserted space somewhere on the planet and sacrifice it for the greater good by setting off one, just one, low-yield thermonuclear device in the atmosphere for all the world to see.

Think of "The Live Demo" as a remedial educational moment for the entire world; a kind of slap upside the head coupled with a large shout out of: "PAY ATTENTION!"

I believe this "Live Demo" needs to be announced -- in date, time, and place -- to the entire world with something approaching the intensity of the promotion dumped on the Beijing Olympics.

I believe that we should allow any media organization that wishes to to cover this event and provide the infrastructure necessary to film and broadcast it (from a safe distance) to the entire world in all media -- live. I believe we should re-task a satellite to give us a view of the event from space.

No matter what many may think, this event would be the essence of "appointment television" for the people of the world.

I think we should also construct some of those quaint suburbs, villages, and towns that were set up in the ancient Nevada tests to demonstrate just what happens to a family sitting down for an evening snack when the sun is brought -- for one brief shining moment -- to the surface of the Earth. (Those of you who saw the opening scenes of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull probably got some laughs out of this stuff, but it is not really a laughing matter, is it?)

I know that there will be an army of Environmentalists around the world that will bitch and moan about the "harm to the environment" from setting off a single nuclear device in the atmosphere. Those same people need to contemplate instead the "harm to the environment" that comes from setting off several hundred or several thousand of these devices in one very bad afternoon. They need to, for one brief and shining moment, sit down and shut up!

Then there will be those who will carp about "The Test Ban Treaty." They need to take a chill pill, lie down and think of England... or Cleveland... or Tel Aviv... or Tehran.

I can assure you that having the entire world tune in for "The Live Demo" -- and the whole world will tune in -- shall give the entire planet pause. It's not enough for humans to be told about nukes. Every so often, we need to see to believe.

Let's touch off a nuke for world peace next year on August 6. It will be a fitting memorial to Hiroshima. Nothing else we can do will have quite the same... impact.

Continued...

Posted by Vanderleun Aug 6, 2014 12:36 AM | Comments (79)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Your Legend Never Did"

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In the early morning hours of August 5, 1962, legendary screen goddess Marilyn Monroe was found dead in the bedroom of her Los Angeles home at the age of 36.

From the moment her body was discovered, her death became as much of a media circus as most of her life had been, rife with sordid speculation and half-truths. Marilyn’s life had never been an easy one. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, her mother Gladys was mentally unstable so Norma spent the bulk of her childhood in orphanages and foster homes. She married in 1942, and while her husband was serving in World War II she began modeling. By 1946, her marriage was over, but her movie career was just beginning. She was signed by Twentieth Century Fox and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe.

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Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 5, 2014 8:58 AM | Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
“We shall persuade them that they will only become free when they renounce their freedom to us and submit to us.”

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El Greco, Oil, 1600-1604

“Mankind as a whole has always striven to organize a universal state. There have been many great nations with great histories, but the more highly they were developed the more unhappy they were, for they felt more acutely than other people the craving for world-wide union.

“The great conquerors, Timours and Ghenghis-Khans, whirled like hurricanes over the face of the earth striving to subdue its people, and they too were but the unconscious expression of the same craving for universal unity. Hadst Thou taken the world and Caesar's purple, Thou wouldst have founded the universal state and have given universal peace. For who can rule men if not he who holds their conscience and their bread in his hands?

“We have taken the sword of Caesar, and in taking it, of course, have rejected Thee and followed him. Oh, ages are yet to come of the confusion of free thought, of their science and cannibalism. For having begun to build their tower of Babel without us, they will end, of course, with cannibalism.

“But then the beast will crawl to us and lick our feet and spatter them with tears of blood. And we shall sit upon the beast and raise the cup, and on it will be written, "Mystery."

“But then, and only then, the reign of peace and happiness will come for men.

“Thou art proud of Thine elect, but Thou hast only the elect, while we give rest to all. And besides, how many of those elect, those mighty ones who could become elect, have grown weary waiting for Thee, and have transferred and will transfer the powers of their spirit and the warmth of their heart to the other camp, and end by raising their free banner against Thee.

“Thou didst Thyself lift up that banner. But with us all will be happy and will no more rebel nor destroy one another as under Thy freedom.

“Oh, we shall persuade them that they will only become free when they renounce their freedom to us and submit to us. And shall we be right or shall we be lying?

“They will be convinced that we are right, for they will remember the horrors of slavery and confusion to which Thy freedom brought them.

“Freedom, free thought, and science will lead them into such straits and will bring them face to face with such marvels and insoluble mysteries, that some of them, the fierce and rebellious, will destroy themselves, others, rebellious but weak, will destroy one another, while the rest, weak and unhappy, will crawl fawning to our feet and whine to us: "Yes, you were right, you alone possess His mystery, and we come back to you, save us from ourselves!" From The Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky



Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 5, 2014 2:49 AM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
If today's editors of the New York Times were in charge in 1943

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-- The People's Cube



Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 3, 2014 3:20 PM | Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Constant Murmur from the Mind

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“White clouds encircle the mountain waist like a sash,
Stone steps mount high into the void where the narrow path leads far.
Alone, leaning on my rustic staff I gaze idly into the distance.
My longing for the notes of a flute is answered in the murmurings of the gorge.”

-- Shen Zhou, Poet on a Mountain c. 1500. Painting and poem by Shen Zhou


Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 3, 2014 1:55 AM | Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Gotham Gazette: The Saturday Review

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How Islam Built The Very Fabric of America After the Revolution, we wrote the Constitution, which opens with "We, the subjects of the Caliphate…" What's more, the first amendment to the Constitution clearly reads, "Congress shall make laws coercing compliance with Sharia, and prohibiting the free exercise of any of the religions of the infidels; and defining freedom of speech, and of the press; and the right of the people peaceably to assemble to burn private property in protests, and to accept whatever the Grand Mufti decrees for a redress of grievances."
US Announces New Plan To Destabilize Middle East In Hopes Of Failure Kerry then turned over the briefing to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to discuss some of the plan’s military aspects. “As we speak, cruise missiles are in the air targeting the Wailing Wall, Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Al Aqsa Mosque,” said Hagel. “In order to prevent any of them from being rebuilt, the entire Temple Mount will be resettled with tigers displaced by habitat loss. We debated using lions, but decided that a non-indigenous predator would cause greater instability. Close behind the wave of missiles, 200,000 American soldiers and Marines are now en route to the Middle East. They have not been briefed on their strategic objectives, because there are none. They do not even know their destinations, which are being drawn from top hats by their pilots while in the air. This will likely cause at least some of the planes to conduct crash landings due to lack of fuel, which we hope will only add to the chaos.”
There will be a FU*K! SH*T! test MOTHERF**KING C**TBREATH! BA**S! soon:A Brief Overview of Tourette Syndrome Although some suffer from the well-publicized outbursts and swearing, many with Tourette have less severe tics. These may include vocalizations like grunting, throat clearing, sniffing and snorting, as well as movements like eye blinking, nose scrunching, jaw thrusting, grimacing, shrugging and jerking.
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17 Excellent Animal Illustrations from a 16th Century Book | Mental Floss The first written description of a unicorn—which, unfortunately, is not real—appeared in the writings of Greek physician Ctesius, and it doesn't resemble the animal we've come to think of at all:There are in India certain wild asses which are as large as horses, and larger. Their bodies are white, their heads dark red, and their eyes dark blue. They have a horn on the forehead which is about a foot and a half in length. The base of this horn, for some two hands'-breadth above the brow, is pure white; the upper part is sharp and of a vivid crimson; and the remainder, or middle portion, is black. Those who drink out of these horns, made into drinking vessels, are not subject, they say, to convulsions or to the holy disease [epilepsy]. Indeed, they are immune even to poisons…This is the only way to capture them: when they take their young to pasture, you must surround them with many men and horses. They will not desert their offspring and fights with horns, teeth and heels; and they kill many horses and men. They are themselves brought down by arrows and spears. They cannot be caught alive.
Articles: Seniors Out Now! Another rationale for deporting seniors is that they are so often considered of little use here.They cannot increase the population, pick fruit, mow lawns, slaughter animals, or build infrastructure. Most are electronically challenged, to put it kindly. You rarely see seniors sitting around and texting, for example, so they could hardly be credited with adding much of a contribution to the ubiquitous “social network.” So why, indeed, keep them around?
Wealth, risk, and stuff When rich people present the idea that they’ve learned to live lightly as a paradoxical insight, they have the idea of wealth backwards. You can only have that kind of lightness through wealth. If you buy food in bulk, you need a big fridge. If you can’t afford to replace all the appliances in your house, you need several junk drawers. If you can’t afford car repairs, you might need a half-gutted second car of a similar model up on blocks, where certain people will make fun of it and call you trailer trash.
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Terrorist Armies Fight Smarter And Deadlier Than Ever | We see Islamist fighters becoming skilled soldiers. The thrust of the Islamic State down the Euphrates River illustrates a style of warfare that melds old and new. U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq used to say: “Thank God they can’t shoot.” Well, now they can. They maneuver in reasonably disciplined formations, often aboard pickup trucks and captured Iraqi Humvees. They employ mortars and rockets in deadly barrages. To be sure, parts of the old terrorist playbook remain:They butcher and execute prisoners to make unambiguously clear the terrible consequences of resistance. They continue to display an eager willingness for death and the media savvy of the “propaganda of the deed.”
The Wilderness Survival Skills Everyone Should Know As for primitive toilet paper, in the winter, a snowball is actually quite invigorating, but most of the time, leaves of a plant like mullein are the go-to method. Sometimes an unopened pine cone will work, but ouch! One of the keys to this is to squat not sit. This forces the cheeks apart and means that there will be far less cleaning necessary.
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Mind in the Mound: How Do Termites Build Their Huge Structures? Contrary to common notions, termite mounds are not high-rise residence halls. Rather, they are "accessory organs of gas exchange," in Turner's words, designed to serve the respiratory needs of the subterranean colony located several feet (a meter or two) below the mound. For many years, researchers looked at termite mounds and supposed that the spires worked like chimneys, drawing hot air up and out. But Turner discovered that mounds function more like lungs, inhaling and exhaling through walls that appear impenetrable but are actually quite porous.
Rabbit, jumpThe bunnies varied greatly in size and certainly in energy and eagerness. Some were quite—jumpy. Some dug in like mules and just could not be successfully prodded by their young owners to get off their duffs. The winner cleared a barrier six hurdles high. Each hurdle looked to be about an inch or an inch and a half, which doesn’t sound impressive until you look at it with bunny eyes.
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Leonardo’s smile | BestQuest Because he was so influential a painter it is all the easier to forget how Leonardo shocked and distressed his contemporaries by the revolutionary nature of his art, as astoundingly original as his soon to be amassed scientific ideas explored in the Notebooks. The peculiar eyes of the women he painted were just the result of a Florentine fashion. At the end of the 15th century aristocratic women just had to shave off their eyebrows and eyelashes, and pluck out the hair at the centre of their hairline. Don’t ask.
The mirage of Russian power: Contrary to what Western observers tend to believe (or tell the public), Russia is simply not capable of large-scale military aggression. Comparisons with the machinations of Nazi Germany in the Sudetenland abound, but these comparisons do not testify to much historical insight. Nazi Germany in 1939 had a larger economy than either the United Kingdom or France, and had secured the alliance or neutrality of two other powers. The Russian economy, on the contrary, is only one fifth the size of that of the EU or the USA.
The Problem With Minimalism | The great irony of minimalism is that while it purports to free you from a focus on stuff, it still makes stuff the focus of your life! The materialist concentrates on how to accumulate things, while the minimalist concentrates on how to get rid of those things…ultimately they’re both centering their thoughts on stuff. It’s like a compulsive overeater and a bulimic. One thoroughly enjoys eating, and stuffs his face whenever and wherever he can. The other eats, hates himself for eating, and then purges it out. But they’re both obsessed with food.
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888,246 Ceramic Poppies Surround the Tower of London to Commemorate WWI | Colossal To commemorate the centennial of Britain’s involvement in the First World War, ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper conceived of a staggering installation of ceramic poppies planted in the famous dry moat around the Tower of London. Titled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” the final work will consist of 888,246 red ceramic flowers—each representing a British or Colonial military fatality—that flow through grounds around the tower.
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Begging, with Camel: An employee talks with a beggar kneeling in front of a restaurant to beg for money with a camel in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, on November 25, 2013. Several beggars with their camels showed up at a business area in the city, kneeling down store after store to beg for money Scenes From 21st-Century China - In Focus - The Atlantic


Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 2, 2014 1:05 PM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Books That Should Be: New Additions to the Invisible Library

DREAMS OF MY TWO FATHERS: World's Most Important Autobiography Revised and Uncloseted

GLIDE PATHS AND PORK CHOPS: Principles of Porcine Aviation

REVOLUTIONARY RELAXATION: How to Unwind with Small Shooting Sprees

COMPROMISE ECOLOGY: The Handbook of "The Friends of the Sierra Club and Halliburton's Earth."

STIFFED: Around the World in 80 Lapdances

LOOK MOO, NO THUMBS: A Cow's Guide to Instant Messaging

BOYFOOT BEAR WITH TEAKS OF CHAN: Zen Puns for Every Occasion

FUELISH: The Future of Electrosolarlunamethanecorn-powered Vehicles

SEX MIT SCHLAG: The Tangled Histories of Love and Dairy Products

THE 7 COMPULSIONS OF HIGHLY DEFECTIVE PEOPLE

WE'RE TWELVE STEPPING: 12 Foolproof Square Dances for AA Shindigs in Rural America

THE SPEED OF DARK: Measuring the Slowest Thing in the Universe

GENDERLENDING: Same Sex Marriage for Heterosexuals

DUCT-TAPE DROMEDARIES: Beyond Balloon Animals

MY GIRL: The Life of Jenna Bush, 46th President of the United States As Told by Her Father

PRONE YOGA: Asanas for People Too Pooped to Sit Up

THE PEOPLE, MAYBE: The Progressive Professor's Guide to Making Sure Only Smart People Vote

THE I-CHANGE: Fortune Telling with the New Commemorative Quarters

YO, GOD: The Revised Standard Hip-Hop Version of the Gospels



Posted by Vanderleun Aug 2, 2014 2:33 AM | Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
When "Going Viral" Via "Social Media" Is Not a Cause for Celebration

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But just because somebody decided to actually import known carriers of Ebola into the United States is no reason to be concerned. After all the Federal Government and the military have this all under control. "The country's in the very best of hands."

Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 1, 2014 11:40 AM | Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Obama's Superpower: "The Man Who Taught His Asshole to Talk"

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"Did I ever tell you

about the man who taught his asshole to talk? His whole abdomen would move up and down you dig farting out the words. It was unlike anything I ever heard.
This ass talk had sort of a gut frequency. It hit you right down there like you gotta go. You know when the old colon gives you the elbow and it feels sorta cold inside, and you know all you have to do is turn loose? Well this talking hit you right down there, a bubbly, thick stagnant sound, a sound you could smell.
This man worked for a carnival you dig, and to start with it was like a novelty ventriliquist act. Real funny, too, at first. He had a number he called “The Better ‘Ole” that was a scream, I tell you. I forget most of it but it was clever. Like, “Oh I say, are you still down there, old thing?” -- William Burroughs @ RealityStudio »



Posted by gerardvanderleun Aug 1, 2014 10:49 AM | Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
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