Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun
Top 13 Things that Didn't Happen in 2016

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-- People's Cube



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 31, 2016 6:00 PM | Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Future of Fast Food or "Are you really, really sure you want to raise the minimum wage?"



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 31, 2016 9:26 AM | Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Debbie aka "Tammy"

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May 1954. "Debbie Reynolds with Jane Powell in dance scene from the MGM musical Athena." Kodachrome by Maurice Terrell for the Look magazine assignment "Behind the Scenes -- A Day With the Stars."

I never dreamt of being in the movies. I was from a very average, I would say, a rather poor family, so my big treat was to work hard all week - I mowed lawns and babysat and washed dishes and washed cars - to go to the movies.

On Carrie Fisher: People used to call her “Debbie Reynolds’ daughter,” now they call me “Princess Leia’s mother!”

“I gave it all that I had, and it’s gratifying that others seem to be receiving it so well.”



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 29, 2016 10:17 PM | Comments (76)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Intelligent Design

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True colors of solar corona Taken by Miloslav Druckmüller

And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you. Exodus 3:14

Whose Will decreed This slash of sea
Would frame This sun in gleams of green?
What Plan determines stone's decline,
Or shapes in stars, or shadow's sheen,

Or that we track, as clever beasts,
The passing haze of comet's fall,
And are the glaze of Thought on flesh
That sees the need of Plan at all?

I know, I know... no Plan at all
Is thought by some to be the plan,
And yet what is this sheen of thought
That seeks to measure more than man?

Look out beyond the far Deep Field,
Beyond the limits of our sight.
It cannot be that All that is,
Is only night on deeper night.

But if that should be All that is,
And All as purposeless as stone,
The Heart still sings the body's chants,
And moves the Light within the bone.

Perhaps this pattern that we know
As time at slant between two lights,
Is but some dance to entertain
What lies beyond our Shaded sight.

Yet what dark mind could find a gleam
Of pleasure from such turns,
Instead of reading evil
In a countenance of burns?

The Countenance of comets,
That the sky at night assumes,
Mutes all equations memorized
On the Continent of Tombs.

To stand but Once within this Field,
And feel the hands of wind,
Is ample compensation
For the Gift the years rescind.

At length our modern marvels
Seem but Blots of haze on slate,
That we note with brief attention
As we step between the Gates,

And dance, to some faint music,
Along the path of day's retreat,
Our ancient, ageless minuet
That rounds this sleep with sleep.





Posted by Vanderleun Dec 29, 2016 1:19 AM | Comments (46)  | QuickLink: Permalink
They Know

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“ Why do we not consider what contradictions we find in our own judgments; how many things were yesterday articles of our faith, that to-day appear no other than fables?” -- Montaigne
They know now. They all know. All of them who are not racially bonded, or leftist dead-enders, or spiritually or mentally deficient, or a combination of all those fatal factors, all except those, finally know. They hide their knowing.... from each other, from us, and from themselves, but they still know that they know.

And they know that we know that they know.

Yet still they persist. They persist in ignoring all that the golem they put into the White House actually is -- and what he is burrowing away at in his every-day more robotic manner. They know what It is but many cannot yet know that they know. It is too horrible to contemplate, too revolting to admit.

They get up in the morning and cast a glance at the television news and.... there It is, yammering and stammering about “inequality” as Its future net worth soars well above $500 million dollars. They hear Its voice and the very timbre makes them throw up a little in their throat. They know. They know what they have done, most of them twice, and the nausea has now risen inside them and never really leaves. Does it?

African-Americans, professional parasites, the slow or low information ones, those with diminished capacity, and those whose perversions seep into and permeate their politics are, in a sense, lucky. They have lashed themselves to this dying animal so tightly that they still see only the glow of what once others saw in their millions. Except now the glow is a little light, a rushlight; a faint flame powered by the flatulent and slowly burning swamp fumes of the fraud farm. To them it still yields enough light to still say, with deep sighs and passionate yearning for a glance or a touch from Him, “We can still believe. Yes, we can.”

Taken as a whole these are the twenty to twenty five percent of citizens that form Its' irreducible base of panty-waists, parasites, perverts, and poltroons. They will never know anything other than the fable they told themselves long long ago. The truth will be out there but forever beyond their withered reach. If they could know what all the others now know, they would also know how vile their entire life has been; how colonized their minds; how enslaved their souls. And so they cannot know -- or allow themselves to know -- or permit others to tell them. Like the lost children of Hamelin they will follow their Piper into the cleft in the mountain and the cleft will, in time, snap shut behind them. They cannot be rescued or redeemed. Let them go. They are known as “”dead enders” because, in the end, they are as dead as all their pretty lies.

As for the rest -- the ones that know and know that they know or are coming now to know that they know -- treat them carefully. It will be like watching many millions slowly awaken to the horror of what they’ve done to themselves and to their countrymen. They will be ashamed of themselves and not a little sickened and weakened from their extended experience with political depravity. Not all of them will make it out of the mire. Some will be unable to bear the knowing and so will return to the unknowing; will go slide back into the muck.

But that will be, I hope, only a small fraction of “The Returned.” Most will know that to overcome what has happened to them “only a power greater than themselves” can restore them to sanity. Recognizing this we can only, as gently as possible, welcome them back from the lost years of their dark delusion.

Perhaps the best we can do is to look them in the eye as soon as we see that they know and say, with the poet Thom Gunn,

“I hardly hope for happy thoughts, although
In a most happy sleeping time I dreamt
We did not hold each other in contempt.
Then lifting from my lids night’s penny weights
I saw that lack of love contaminates.
You know I know you know I know you know.

Abandon me to stammering, and go;
If you have tears, prepare to cry elsewhere –
I know of no emotion we can share.
Your intellectual protests are a bore
And even now I pose, so now go, for
I know you know.”

Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 26, 2016 10:51 PM | Comments (40)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Happy Birthday to Me: In My Extreme Age

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Turn around, a decade [plus one] is gone. 70? 71? Doesn't feel so old. I'm told that it is but it doesn't feel that old. At the same time I confess I'm not exactly sure who that geezer is who shows up in the mirror every morning -- or where he came from. The thing is he keeps writing notes like this and leaving them where I can't help finding them:

In my extreme age --
In my age extreme --
Skin planed to glassine,
Bone buffed to crystal,
Light locked in the marrow,
And memory melded to images only....

In my extreme age --
In my age extreme --
Thoughts thinned to one
And dreams dimmed to soul;
To that one shred of thread
Which stitches the shroud

Of my extreme age --
In my age extreme.

In that age extreme,
That extreme edge of age,
There shall still
In such stillness
Sing in my deaf ears
One echo of now;

Your echo of now.
And your echo shall glimmer
Still on the river that streams
Through time’s silted canyons
Of my extreme age --
In my age extreme.

-- Vanderleun for Emma Jean.



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 26, 2016 4:33 PM | Comments (80)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Gifts

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The best gift I’ve received in the last few years was a small wooden box, fashioned by hand, and containing a number of carefully selected small objects each with a personal meaning. It has no commercial value. It is a gift of the hand that is filled with the heart. I keep it nearby in my home and, from time to time, I open it and take out each object and hold them briefly before putting them back in their box and the box back on the shelf.

In another time and in another place I once saw the most Christmas gifts I’ve ever seen in a single home. It was in a place where the hands had gone astray and the heart been misplaced. It was the struggle of quantity to overcome quality made manifest.

It was at a home of some people I once knew in a town I once lived in. They had the required large house of many rooms. As a family of four they had about five rooms for every person. It was a house they could all hide in and they did. They hid from each other and they hid all year. On Christmas, however, they came out and pretended they were still a family.


The tree was set up in what these days we call “the family room” even though the room was really just a pass-through for the other rooms. The tree was, as these things had to be in that land at that time, very large and professionally decorated in whatever theme was deemed to be “in” that year. The star at the tip touched and was bent down by the ceiling. The ornaments were so thick that they obscured the green boughs that supported them. The lights were so numerous that the whole tree could have been hauled out and found a place among the approach lights to an airport.

It was good it was a big tree since it needed to be strong to support the wild pile of gifts that started where the two stairs down into the sunken family room bottomed out. The gifts then rose, in a tumult of wrapping paper, in a riot of colored ribbons, to a level of at least two and a half feet by the time they reached the outer boughs. For the family of four there were literally hundreds of presents all wrapped and tossed into the room like some third-world garbage heap until they filled the family room corner to corner.

To pass through this room you had to step carefully along the edges and most people who’d come to the party just went down the adjoining hallway.

In the larger rooms on that day before Christmas the family of four was holding their party for their friends and acquaintances. At that time and in that land the people attending still had lots of young children and their laughter and chatter gave a nice Christmasesque soundtrack to the drinking and eating that went on and on and on.

Our hosts were, to say the least, not getting along that year. Alcohol was taking its toll on the couple, as were the standard infidelities and betrayals common to that set in that land at that time. The hosts tried to put their war into a state of truce on this day so they could pretend, for a little longer, that everything was picture perfect in their world. But as the drinks kicked in their bickering became more and more bitter and I finally sought refuge from the ill spirits and moved off into the house.

I stood at one entrance to the tree/gift room and looked out the window over the mound of presents at the softly falling snow that filled their yard and pool. The winking lights of the tree and the Manheim Steamroller Christmas music coming out of the hidden speakers gave me a moment of Christmas feeling. Angry voices rose for a moment from the far room and then faded.

One of their boys, driven from the room by his parents’ rancor, showed up at the other entrance of the room and looked out over the massive pile of presents. He was a good kid. About four years old and less than three feet high. Red headed and freckled. A Norman Rockwell of a boy. I smiled at him and he smiled at me and then took a step down the first of the two stairs into the gift room.

And tripped.

And disappeared.

Before I could move that kid pitched forward into the gift pile and, with a swoosh and a crunch, was gone.

There were so many gifts piled up that they literally swallowed up the child so that the child could not be seen. He’d vanished beneath the waves of wrapping paper and bows.

After a moment his head popped up like a drowning child in a sea of turbulent affluence and he literally began to make crawling and swimming motions to get himself back to the safety of the stairs. There he climbed out, stood up and glanced at me ashamed by something he didn't understand.

“Looks like you’re going to have a very big Christmas,” I said.

He looked out at the presents that contained at least a hundred with his name on them.

“I guess" he said.

"I dunno,” he said.

Then he went back to the party and back to his parents, The Bickersons.

I had a similar but much smaller Christmas that year in that land. But it was, for that year, a good Christmas.

As for The Bickersons, their marriage and family was finished by late spring of that year. It had gone off to the same landfill that today contains all those hundreds of gifts. It couldn’t, I guess, take the weight. I dunno.

I treasure few things in this world but I do treasure my small burled wooden box containing the things of the hand and the things of the heart. I know where that gift is and what that gift is. And it abides.

Continued...

Posted by Vanderleun Dec 25, 2016 4:44 AM | Comments (32)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Hanukkah Candles on Christmas Eve

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And the Light shineth in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it. -- John 1:5

Throughout the night, the cold drew close,
And wrapped our home in shrouds of frost.
Within, four candles lent us light,
Returning to us what was lost.

Around us, all our village slept.
Our children safe, their breathing slow.
Four candles gleamed beside the tree,
Their flames burned long, burned low.

Then all fell silent round my house.
The snow shown blue, the shadows, slate.
You could almost hear the planet turn.
I stood bereft beside my gate.

Behind me, those I loved slept warm,
Protected by God's endless grace.
Below me lay the village streets,
Clad in shadow's chill embrace.

The darkness waned, the morning loomed,
Within my house the fire grew bright.
But still I walked on fragile snow,
And prayed for greater light.

As a child I'd lived in dreams of stars,
Of peace on Earth --life's golden seal--
And this night seemed, of all our nights,
The one when all such dreams were real.

Tonight I know this is not so.
The world is not as we would wish,
But as we make it, day by day,
In this, the mystery and the gift.

The candles whisper of His gift.
The stars reflect them high above.
The gift is given to us again,
That we remember how to love.

for Justine Van der Leun -- Mill Hill Drive, Southport, Connecticut, 1990



Posted by Vanderleun Dec 24, 2016 12:52 PM | Comments (25)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Yes, Virgina: The Story Behind the Story Behind the Moon

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The question was asked and answered 113 years ago on September 21, 1897. On December 24, 1968, the fourth flight day of Apollo 8, the first human mission to orbit the Moon, the 1897 answer was verified and confirmed by direct observation as Apollo 8 passed behind the moon.

The Apollo 8 Flight Journal - Day 4: Final Orbit and Trans-Earth Injection

089:31:58 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. [No answer.]

089:32:50 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. [No answer.]

089:33:38 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston.

089:34:16 Lovell: Houston, Apollo 8, over.

089:34:19 Mattingly: Hello, Apollo 8. Loud and clear.

089:34:25 Lovell: Roger. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus.

It was a long, strange trip from an 8-year-old Victorian girl's question to a radio message from just past the dark side of the moon, but "Yes, Virginia There Is a Santa Claus" is that sort of essay. Simple and straightforward, it contains a strange magic that never dissipates but only grows.

Virginia O'Hanlon was beginning to doubt the existence of Santa Claus in September of 1897. Her father suggested she ask an editor at the New York Sun remarking, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Virginia wrote and Francis Pharcellus Church received the letter and answered it, probably under the pressure of a deadline and to get one more item into the editorial column for the next day's morning edition.

Writers of great popularity and renown struggle their entire careers to write something, anything, that will break out of their work, out of their era, and into history. Few succeed.

Time winnows out the best-sellers as well as the preening memoirs and the pompous pronunciations on "the news of the day," and leaves only those few things that somehow touch the human spirit deeply enough that we decide, without even deciding, that we will keep certain pieces of writing alive forever.

It was that way with the author of this essay, Francis Pharcellus Church. In 1897 he was the lead editorial writer for The New York Sun. He wrote innumerable reports and stories and editorials before this one and he would write countless more after. Nothing else of his survives outside of microfilm, antique volumes of bound newspapers, and a smattering of footnotes. It doesn't have to. Church's work has already outlived five generations of writers and it will outlive five more.

The editorial wasn't even the lead editorial on the day it was printed. It was number seven down the page. That's the spot canny newspaper editors use for small, tossed off, pieces of "human interest." And that's who "Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus" interested -- humans.

People immediately saw that there was a spirit inside the words that reminded them then, as it reminds us now, that there are more important things in heaven and earth and in our lives than just "The news of the day."

Let's pause awhile with this short but immortal exchange between a young girl and a reporter who had seen the civil war and the meanest streets of New York in the 19th century. More than a century later, this short correspondence still holds the real "news of the day."

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus? "VIRGINIA O'HANLON. "115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."
His response has lasted. It goes like this.... Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 23, 2016 1:08 PM | Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Last Minute Shopping

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One of the abiding delusions of the male mind is the belief it is actually possible to put off critical Christmas shopping until late on the 23rd of December. I am the apostle of this delusion. I take comfort in this false belief every year. No amount of actual experience ever shakes my conviction that it is not only possible to shop like this but economically prudent too. And every year this faith is tested and found wanting. Whatever I may save in last minute markdowns I pay for in this evening's glowing and gut-wrenching angst.

So there I was waiting at the "Information" counter in the local Barnes & Noble in search of, well, "information." I simply wanted to know if this gigantic repository of games, gags, cards, calendars, coffee, and, oh yes, books had a certain title and where it might be located. I was one of a small cloud of befuddled customers hovering about the source of "Information" and the service in the store at this hour of the evening on this last day was not exactly "crisp."

Bluntly stated, the "information" staff of 2.5 employees had had it. Burnt out, tired, tried to the breaking point, they were still going through the corporate mandated methods of "helping" customers locate what they were looking for. At Barnes and Noble these days that means, as it means at so many other stores, a quick look-up and then a guided tour to the book the customer has requested, a hang-out until the clerk is sure they've found it, and then an inquiry of that person whether or not they need anything else. People have gotten married on flimsier relationships.

This mandated hand holding means that those needing a simple data-base query run and simply to be told "That's under the author's name in Philosophy over there," tend to build up at the desk in hordes. And in these hordes on this night nobody's happy. Add to this stituation people actually calling on the phone with "information" requests and you can see the slow steam beginning to rise off the assembled.

Your real need to know means nothing to the "information" clerks of Barnes and Noble. They must, MUST, comply with corporate protocol lest some corporate quality control spy find they are doing things efficiently according to the situation and fire them. They know they could make things run smoother, but they also know they can't. I understand this and, most of the time, I try to hobble my impatience and irritability out of empathy for their plight. Working retail on this day is not a stroll through a heaven of angels wings, babies bottoms, and hot chocolate with teeny tiny marshmallows on top.

However, this was the witching hour of Christmas shopping for me and I was getting ticked off as my, MY!, evening ticked away. The store was crowded and shabby by this point. The lines of my fellow sufferers (90% fellow male procrastinators) were long and growing longer. You could feel their nerve tissues fray and almost see the sparks glinting where the nerves were touching each other and sizzling.

Just when I thought it would be my turn at last to get my measly little question answered and get my own personal guided tour to the book I needed the phone rang at the "Information" desk and the woman, who should have been MY GUIDE THIS INSTANT!, took the call. She listened and said, "I'll see." Then she turned and disappeared into the bowels of the store.

Finally peeved I couldn't help saying out loud in a scathing tone as she departed, "Jesus CHRIST!"

Without missing a beat the man waiting next to me turned and said, "Well, that's Who we're here for, isn't it?"

In the serious practice of Zen meditation, the jikijitsu walks behind the meditators in the hall with a keisaku, a flat stick. If you are having a problem with the depth of your meditation, your focus, you bow slightly in your Zazen posture as the jikijitsu walks by and he gives you a quick and solid rap on the shoulders with the stick. This snaps you into it.

In this case, this man's observation snapped me out of it like a sharp whack on the shoulders from a keisaku. Snapped me out of my bitter mood and back into the reality of the Christmas season instead of the illusion of the bookstore.

"Thanks. Thank you," I said. "You're absolutely right. He is the reason we're here. I needed that."

We both laughed. I shook his hand and left the store and my remaining little needs behind. I'd just gotten what I needed.

Outside in the parking lot you could see the getting and spending still going on in the dark. Beyond the parking lot were the roads and the woods and the streams and the mountains all under a white shawl of snow. Driving back through the whiteness I realized I didn't need to buy any more gifts for anybody. We all already have more gifts than we need or know how to use.

What we all need for Christmas is often the last thing we want -- a sharp whack from a keisaku wielding jikijitsu focusing us to simply accept, at the very last minute, His gift.



Posted by Vanderleun Dec 23, 2016 7:01 AM | Comments (26)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Creche by the Side of the Road

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A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.

--Eliot, Journey of the Magi

Small moments in long journeys, like small lights in a large darkness, often linger in the memory. They come unbidden, occur when you are not ready for them, and are gone before you understand them. You "had the experience, but missed the meaning." All you can do is hold them and hope that understanding will, in time, come to you.

To drive from Laguna Beach, California to Sacramento. California the only feasible route takes you through Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. If you go after dark in this season of the year, you speed through an unbroken crescendo of lights accentuated by even more holiday lights. In the American spirit of "If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing," the decking of the landscape with lights has finally gotten utterly out of hand.

Airports, malls, oil refineries, the towers along Wilshire and the vast suburbs of the valley put up extra displays to celebrate what has come to be known as "The Season." All the lights flung up by the hive of more than 10 million souls shine on brightly and bravely, but the exact nature of "The Season" seems more difficult for us to define with every passing year.

For hours the lights of the Los Angeles metroplex surround you as if they have no end. But they do end. In time, the valley narrows and you come to the stark edge of the lights. Then you drive into a dark section of highway known as the Grapevine.

The Grapevine snakes up over the mountains that ring the Los Angeles Basin to swirl down the far side into the endless flatland of the Great Central Valley. From entrance to exit is about 50 miles.

So steep is the ascent to the top of the Grapevine that the summit makes its own weather. Comfortable valley nights can turn into snow flurries, sudden fog banks and high winds that shake the car. Every transit of the Grapevine promises (and nearly always delivers) at least one accident seen along the roadside if you are lucky, or directly in front of you if you are not. If you are very unlucky, the accident is yours.

Virtually all traffic to and from Los Angeles endures the Grapevine. It is a dangerous and demanding road, made more intimidating by the swarms of trucks that haul freight up the spine of California. Even in broad daylight the Grapevine seems dark. It is an unloved and unlovely stretch of highway.

It was long past sunset when the Christmas pilgrimage to our families around Sacramento sent us climbing up the Grapevine. My wife of that year was driving because my eyes don't adjust quickly to oncoming headlights and because she is, by far, the better driver. My stepson was wedged within a small mountain of bags and presents in the back seat, his cherubic face illuminated by the gray-blue glow of his Gameboy.

I gazed out the window at the churning wall of trucks and the slate black slopes. Heavy cloud cover made everything more obscure. Only the streams of headlights coming on and the endless red flares of brake lights in front of us broke the darkness. It was the nadir of the year, two days before Christmas, climbing between dark mountains with millions of others, most aiming at some destination filled with the rituals of the season; rituals that seemed, as they often do, only a blunt repetition of some sharper but now dim vision.

It came up fast and passed faster as things often do up on the Grapevine. It was vague at first. A dim smudge of light in the middle of a looming dark hillside. Then it resolved itself as we sped up on it at around 70 miles per hour. We came abreast and I saw it clearly for only a few brief seconds. It was that rarest of all this seasons sights, a roadside Nativity scene.

Wrapped in a ring of floodlights near the crest was the classic creche. Nothing fancy but all the elements. The manger was indicated by a backdrop of shingles, scrap lumber and palm fronds. The life-size colored figures of the Magi, Joseph and Mary, a few amazed shepherds, three camels, an assortment of barn animals, an angel perched a bit precariously on the roofbeam, a Bethlehem star nailed to a pole, and a bunch of hay bales thrown in for atmosphere. Miles from any sign of human habitation, there to be seen only from the road and at a high speed, some anonymous person had placed this endangered sign of an endangered season.

Why had it been done? As a reminder to motorists of why they were going where they were going? As a defiant gesture towards the ACLU and all those who have now not only taken the Christ out of Christmas but the Christmas out of Christmas as well? As an assertion that God still loved an America that has increasingly chosen to ignore Him? As an expression, a pure expression, of faith?

Perhaps all of these things and perhaps none. Perhaps for that most American of all reasons -- simply because it could be done.

I pointed it out to my Gameboy-entranced stepson who looked up and back only to see a faint trace of it. His entirely sensible question was, "How did they light it all the way up there?" I answered that I didn't know but they might have used a very long extension cord. He shrugged and went back to the more compelling challenges of Super Mario 3.

In a moment it was past. In 20 seconds we'd rounded a curve and the light from it was gone. There was no going back. We rushed down the slope and out of the Grapevine onto Highway 5 where a bitter storm wind drove clouds of tumbleweed into our headlights.

In a few hours, we stopped for the night. For us there was room at the inn -- reserved at the Harris Ranch inn; a oasis sporting an Olympic sized swimming pool and overpriced steaks in the midst of the valley's orchards and deserts. As distant in comfort from the creche in the mountains as, perhaps, 2000 years.

The next day we reached Sacramento and the first of our sets of in-laws. Then the holidays (Since this is how America has decided to name this time of the year.) began with a vengeance.

Absurd objects were exchanged. Eternal assurances of love and affection were delivered. Children received, as usual, far too many things to appreciate any one thing. Much loved faces were seen and small pageants were performed.

The eating began and went on with no quarter; lavish meals that left one yearning for the simplicity of a salad bar.

In the background, bowl games with no purpose were played. People went to three hour movies celebrating pagan fantasies, and paid drive-by holiday greetings in the last busy days. Photographs and video tapes were made to be looked at ... when?

It was a time of busy moments blurring together. Strangely, of all the moments, I was most moved by the small ritual of grace before meals performed at my in-laws. In these rare moments, the central meaning of these days was acknowledged in the phrase, "We thank you, Lord, for your gift, your Son." And then, like all good Americans, we got on with the getting of our gifts.

Before we could be anyplace at all we found ourselves going south over the Grapevine heading home. I didn't see the creche on the return trip. Perhaps you couldn't see it from the southbound lanes, perhaps I slept. I'm really not sure.

Some days after returning, the three of us took in the annual Christmas Pageant performed at the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County. This pageant always receives rave reviews, due to its incorporation of live camels, lavish costumes, a serious pipe organ, and a bevy of angels flung about the vaulted interior of the church on wires. It's a blend of high kitsch and sincere belief; the sort of spectacle you should see at least once if you live in the area.

The show promised the apotheosis of the real meaning of Christmas in a secure setting; a kind of armed hamlet redoubt of contemporary Christianity besieged by the secular. The show delivered. It had lights, camels, action. It told the old tale in the old way using all the new tricks of the Las Vegas strip. It was spectacle incarnate.

At the climactic moment, angels sang while swooping overhead on their wires, Magi with jeweled headdresses the size of small ottomans adored Him from beside kneeling camels, shepherds abided, the organ groaned, six heralds sounded their trumpets, Mary and Joseph framed by a backlit scrim of stars gazed with awe down into a straw rimmed basin under the worlds largest Bethlehem star ornament, and an airport landing light blasted up out of the cradle, through the glass ceiling and out into the indifferent night.

Houselights. Magi bow. Romans bow. Mary and Joseph bow. Exit camels stage left.

And I thought, "Now, that's entertainment."

But I also thought of the other nativity scene. Halfway over the Grapevine, up along the slope of the dark mountains, an island of light in the midst of a vast and expanding darkness. A little light arranged by the small hands of faith to mirror a larger light moved by the inconceivable hand of God. I'll look for it next year when we drive north. It's so far out of the way, it should still be there. But then, you never know. Do you?

[Republished from December, 2003 ]



Posted by Vanderleun Dec 22, 2016 8:57 PM | Comments (30)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Pause.... and Begin Again


Sung by the Gloucester Cathedral Choir. Lyrics by Christina Rossetti:

Continued...

Posted by Vanderleun Dec 21, 2016 6:37 PM | Comments (32)  | QuickLink: Permalink
UPDATE: Tumblr shuts Happy Acres down.

Yesterday: "Suddenly one of my favorite tumblers, Happy Acres, appears to have vanished. If anybody (Dave? Dave?) knows what's happened I'd be pleased to find out here or via email. Thanks."

Today, Leslie forwards this from Twitter.

AHAPPYACRES.jpg

This while hundreds of thousands of the worst sorts of raw porn Tumblrs grind on and on and on with no let up.



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 21, 2016 3:54 PM | Comments (42)  | QuickLink: Permalink
One Moment in Time: The Solstice Seen from Newgrange

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Deep inside the world's oldest known building, every year, for only as much as 17 minutes, the sun -- at the exact moment of the winter solstice -- shines directly down a long corridor of stone and illuminates the inner chamber at Newgrange.

Newgrange was built 1,000 years before Stonehenge and also predates the pyramids by more than 500 years.

Lost and forgotten along with the civilization that built it, the site was been rediscovered in 1699. Excavation began in the late 1800s and continued in fits and starts, until it was undertaken in earnest in 1962. It was completed in 1975.

NEWGRANGE.jpgSeen as a tomb, the function of Newgrange in regards to the solstice wasn't known until 1967 -- and then by happenstance acting on a hunch. It was in December of 1967 that the astronomical alignment was witnessed and understood:

Michael O'Kelly drove from his home in Cork to Newgrange. Before the sun came up he was at the tomb, ready to test his theory.

'I was there entirely alone. Not a soul stood even on the road below. When I came into the tomb I knew there was a possibility of seeing the sunrise because the sky had been clear during the morning.'

He was, however, quite unprepared for what followed. As the first rays of the sun appeared above the ridge on the far bank of the River Boyne, a bright shaft of orange light struck directly through the roofbox into the heart of the tomb.

'I was literally astounded. The light began as a thin pencil and widened to a band of about 6 in. There was so much light reflected from the floor that I could walk around inside without a lamp and avoid bumping off the stones. It was so bright I could see the roof 20ft above me.

'I expected to hear a voice, or perhaps feel a cold hand resting on my shoulder, but there was silence. And then, after a few minutes, the shaft of light narrowed as the sun appeared to pass westward across the slit, and total darkness came once more.'

Since that time, people from all over the world have made the pilgrimage to Newgrange to bear witness to this ancient ritual begun over 5,000 years ago and only brought back into the light for the last 40.

The unknown makers built well. And they built for a very long time:

Five thousand years ago, the people who farmed in the lush pastures of the Boyne Valley hauled 200,000 tons of stone from the river bank a mile away and began to build Newgrange. At the foot of the mound, they set ninety-seven massive kerbstones and carved many of them with intricate patterns. Inside, with 450 slabs, they built a passage leading to a vaulted tomb, and placed a shallow basin of golden stone in each of its three side chambers.

Like so much else from the Age of Myth the "why" of it all at Newgrange will never be known. The people who took 20 years to move 200,000 tons of rock left us no clues beyond the spiraling runes cut into the rock. Like all the mysteries that emerge from time with no footnotes, it is left to us to make what meaning we can from them. But perhaps this one monument from the Age of Myth gives us, every year, one small hint.

No matter what time and the universe can throw at us, we still go on. To remind ourselves that we have and shall endure and prevail, we still mark our small planet's turn around our home star. We mark it with ceremonies every year when, at this moment in time, the sun begins to rise higher to warm us again in our small patch of heaven. And we are still here to bear witness, no matter how shrill the Acolytes of Zero, to the mystery and the gift. We're a tough race and a rough species. It will take more than a few degrees centigrade, one way or another, to finish us.

The light of the solstice pierces to the heart of the tomb at Newgrange, and then, soon after, the Light of World arrives. Two moments that remind us of the many manifest miracles of God. Reminders that no winter is without end and that The Gift is given to us again. If we can but receive it.



Posted by Vanderleun Dec 21, 2016 12:20 AM | Comments (51)  | QuickLink: Permalink
On Donations

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In the last couple of months my readers have been especially generous with donations for which I am deeply grateful. I am always pleased to receive them but of late they have been especially helpful.

The last time that I expressly asked for donations I was stunned by the response. It was right after I had relocated from Seattle to Paradise, California, and was a chaotic time of unpacking and sorting. Unfortunately I had elected to thank everyone personally with a handwritten, stamped and mailed note. After I had finished over two hundred of these notes the shopping bag in which I had placed them for mailing at the Paradise Post Office was mistakenly put into my recycling trash bin and taken away to the local landfill before I knew about it. The bag also contained all original envelopes and addresses in a folder and those were gone as well. Hence, to my chagrin, I was unable to replicate the effort.

Since then I have relied on PayPal and a mail forwarding service in Seattle to handle donations. This has worked well for a couple of years but evidently this is not longer the case. This morning I received an email from a kind soul who informs me that she received a cash donation for me since she now holds the box number I held. As a result I have to assume that other donations to the mailing service have also gone astray. I apologize if you have sent a donation to that address and failed to receive a thank-you note from me.

To address this I have stopped the Seattle service and am now using a local address here in Paradise, California to handle this. This new address is at the top of the sidebar.

Again I wish to thank all those who donate to this nearly 14 year old project and to apologize to any who have not been properly thanked. Life’s been a bit hectic of late.

To paraphrase Tiny Tim, “God Bless you all, everyone.”



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 20, 2016 2:50 PM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Gift of the WalMagi

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In New England in December the cold does not come in on little cat feet. Instead some mountain god of the great north woods throws open the door to Canada late one night. When you step out the next morning your scrotum promptly goes into hibernation somewhere around your arm pit. The cold gets hammered down tight. And it stays that way. Until, oh, somewhere in the middle of March.

I’d come to New England after many years away and, in Seattle, thought I’d packed well for the trip. I’d made a point to bring my very warm Seattle jacket. I stepped outside into the New England winter this morning and between the door and the car I knew, based on testicle retraction velocity, that my coat had nothing to say to this winter. I might as well have packed and dressed in a Speedo. At least I would have been rapidly arrested and taken to a warm jail cell until my need for medication could be determined.

In the car, having cranked the heat to fat end of the red stripe on the dial, my thawing reptile brain hissed, “Get a coat or die, monkeyboy.”

But where? I was only going to be here for a few weeks before going back to the temperate zone of Seattle. I knew that various stores around this township would have vast stocks of sensible and warm winter coats but I didn’t really feel like investing somewhere north of $100 in some multiple layered goose-down body blimp that would warm you even within fifteen yards of Al Gore. I just needed a warm and dependable coat at not too much money… $75 to $85 … that would get me through the New England nights without frostbite.

Then I remembered that this town has something that Seattle didn’t because Seattle is just far too “smart” to have one – A Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart, the greatest thing to happen for working people in the United States since trade unions and, today, a lot more beneficial to them as well. This town had two vast Wal-Mart’s. It was bracketed with them. I set off confident I could get a temporary coat at an affordable price. Little did I know.

I pulled into the vast parking lot and got out. Between the car and the door my core temperature dropped about ten degrees and I shivered as I took the warm cart and got the warm “Welcome to Wal-Mart” from the silver haired grandma at the door.

Inside the store stretched out before me like a land of dreams so wonderful so various so new…. Everything new. And shiny. And, well, cheap.

I got distracted at first in the food area of the store that could have held six of my local Seattle market inside it. I picked up a half-gallon of milk, a couple of bottles of club soda, and a jar of imported cherry jam ($3.00 less than what I paid for the same thing in Seattle). Then I pushed the cart off into the deeper realms of the store where banners proclaiming “UNBEATABLE” and “ROLLBACK!” loomed out of every aisle.

sevendollarcoat.jpgI found the basketball court sized area marked ‘MEN’ and turned in. Fleece coats, fleece vests, overcoats, Dickie work coats, and then winter coats in the quilted style that simply shouts, “You’ll stay toasty inside even in Nome!” And, amidst three or four circular racks, I saw a selection in blue, grey, black, green, and red of bright and shiny new winter coats. Above the racks was the simple sign in red and it said: “$7”.

Yes, I blinked and looked away. I looked back. It still said: “$7”. Above it a smaller sign said, almost in apology, “Was $15.”

Among dozens of these coats I found my size. Perfect fit. Smoothly made. Ample pockets. Serious zipper for closing. Nice shade of blue. And reversible to another nice shade of lighter blue with ample pockets on that side as well. I zipped it up and felt my temperature rise until it was uncomfortable to keep on.

I placed it in my cart and rapidly made my way to the register in order to get out of the store with it before they realized they’d left a zero off the back sides of the $7 and the $15. As I checked out I noted that the milk, water and jam had cost more than the winter coat. I put it on in the doorway and walked back across the lot to the car not feeling the cold at all from my thighs to my neck.

I can’t get over it. A winter coat for $7? The Goodwill won’t sell you a dead man’s old winter coat for $7.

And yes, it was “Made in / Hecho en China,” but…. well… how? Is there some darkened cavern that stretches for miles under the Gobi desert in which harvested brains in wired jars control robotic Chinese infant arms that stitch endless winter coats from the sheets of polyester that flow in a dark river beneath the factory floor? And then they’ve got to pack them up and ship them from the wastes of the Gobi to the racks of stores in New England. And then they price them at less than a small bag of groceries? How? Is? That? Possible?

It’s not. It’s a miracle. It’s a manufacturing, wholesale, supply chain, retail miracle on such a staggering scale that we can’t even begin to perceive it up close. We just walk into any one of the thousands of Wal-Mart stores and buy a winter coat for what it would take a homeless beggar about thirty minutes to cadge out of passing people on a downtown street on an average afternoon. It’s more than amazing. It’s a magical gift of modern American corporate capitalism.

It’s the gift of the WalMagi. It’s keeping me warm this Christmas season. And tens of thousand of other people too.

[First published.... last Christmas]



Posted by Vanderleun Dec 20, 2016 1:44 AM | Comments (77)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Required Reading: The Intellectual Yet Idiot by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

But the problem is the one-eyed following the blind: these self-described members of the “intelligentsia” can’t find a coconut in Coconut Island, meaning they aren’t intelligent enough to define intelligence hence fall into circularities — but their main skill is capacity to pass exams written by people like them. With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

Indeed one can see that these academico-bureaucrats who feel entitled to run our lives aren’t even rigorous, whether in medical statistics or policymaking. They can’t tell science from scientism — in fact in their image-oriented minds scientism looks more scientific than real science. (For instance it is trivial to show the following: much of what the Cass-Sunstein-Richard Thaler types — those who want to “nudge” us into some behavior — much of what they would classify as “rational” or “irrational” (or some such categories indicating deviation from a desired or prescribed protocol) comes from their misunderstanding of probability theory and cosmetic use of first-order models.) They are also prone to mistake the ensemble for the linear aggregation of its components as we saw in the chapter extending the minority rule....

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READ THE WHOLE THING AT Nassim Nicholas Taleb writing at Medium



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 18, 2016 10:09 AM | Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Star

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Were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt.

         -- T. S. Eliot, "The Journey of the Magi"

Theirs was the Age of Myth; a world where night was not dimmed by the web of lights that now obscures the stars. Their nights were lit by flaring torches, dim oil lamps, guttering candles; by the phases of the moon and the broad shimmering river of the Milky Way. As the sun declined and night ascended, life withdrew into shuttered and barred homes. Only the very rich or the very poor were abroad in the dark.

The night sky, now so thin and distant, so seldom really seen, was to them as thick and close as a handful of coal studded with diamonds. They could turn it in their mind's eye even as it turned above them. They reclined on their hill sides, their roofs, or in rooms built for viewing and marking the moon and the stars. They watched it all revolve above them and sang the centuries down. They remembered. They kept records and told tales. They saw beings in the heavens -- gods and animals, giants and insects, all sparking the origins of myth -- and they knew that in some way all was connected to all; as above, so below, "on Earth as it is in Heaven". They studied the patterns of it all and from those repeating patterns fashioned our first science, astrology.

And, like all our other celebrated sciences since, they looked to astrology to give them hints about the future, about what they should do, what they should expect, what they should become. They looked to their science then, as many look to their science now, to remove their doubt.

In time stronger, more intricately argued sciences would rise upon the structures of the proto-sciences of astrology and alchemy; sciences that chained demons with data. These new data-based sciences would push the first sciences into the realm of myth, speculation, superstition and popular fantasy. And, as it is with our advertising, promise, big promise is the soul of our brave new sciences.

The new sciences, you see, are much, much more about "Reality" than the old sciences. They will never be tossed aside as so many playthings of mankind's youth. The authority of our astronomy, our biology, our physics, our chemistry and others is, we fervently believe, as certain as the pole star. Unlike astrology and alchemy, they will never be questioned; they will be built upon.

It is a central tenet of our faith in science that the new will encompass the old in one endless and eternal conservation of sense and sensibility. In this cathedral we worship a database. We can see outward to the edge of what is, and downward into time was to (almost) the moment of Creation. We can see inward into (almost) the mute heart of matter. We have the proven method. We have the hard evidence. We know that nothing is, in time, beyond our knowing. All doubt has been removed. We are the Alpha and Omega. Our science is now as eternal and as deeply grounded in truth as... well, as astrology was in 5 B.C.

Somewhere around 5 B.C. three of the world's leading astronomers/astrologers noticed something unusual in the sky. It could have been a comet. It could have been a supernova. It could have been a rare conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Whatever it was, it was strange enough for them to travel towards it. Or so it is said. Or so it is written. Or so it is remembered from the time of myth.

Myth or history? What is the reality of this road trip towards an obscure birth in a wretched town, during a not very pleasant passage in history, over 2,000 years in our past?

We do not know. We cannot know. As it is in so much else that we ignore it is not given to us to know.

We have only shards of pottery and fragments of texts snatched from desert caves or teased out of the soil with tin trowels and brushes. We have only the sifted detritus of history; a global jigsaw puzzle where ninety-nine percent of the pieces have long gone to dust.

Our past is a handful of ashes. It is beyond our gift to ever know the difference between an inspiring folk tale and the eyewitness accounts of something that, even today, would occupy the realm of the miraculous. For today, in the realm of the mysteries, we no longer have any time for the good or the beautiful; we have no time for miracles. We have only time for denigration.

In 2004 Time and Newsweek, endeavored, in their ham-fisted way, to gin up some circulation with articles that purported to "examine" the miracles surrounding the intersection of the divine with a world now buried two millennia deep in the ash of the Earth. We shall probably see the same sort of thing this year. The cheapening of the spirit in this culture,"the expense of reason in a waste of shame," by those whose lamp of the soul burns low, is now as predicable as the winter solstice.

In the manner of these publications, and the habits of the sodden intellects that grind them out for small silver, a lot of time was spent on the "question" of the Virginity of Mary, the mother of Christ. It's a scurrilous bit of work. A "hit piece" on Mary, in the jargon of the magazine trade. For all the preening of these publications, the articles were just two chunks of thinly veiled anti-Christian porn, sops to secular hedonists in search of a cheap thrill by imbibing another hit of their favorite pap. These kinds of magazine articles always strike a chord of sadness in me, because I know at last the true cost of creating them. They are a curious kind of self-damnation in life, and, as a result, a waste of life.

Beneath all the buffed prose and appeals to experts and phoned-in quotes from scholars, the articles rose to little more than the coarse chortling of fraternity boys in the early drunken hours of the morning: "A virgin? Right! Sure. Any wife'd tell her husband that if she suddenly..."

In the offices of Time and Newsweek, there is no room for wonder beyond the fact that, for fewer people every passing year, they are still publishing and still making payroll. So far. Anything else, anything that might have within it the spark of the divine, is fit for nothing except denigration. This belief squats at the cold dead center of their editorial philosophy, a philosophy they share with untold millions of our coarsened fellow citizens. And still they cannot comprehend why year after year, no matter how cheap they price their subscriptions, their circulation continues to decline. In none of their editorial meetings do any of those attending look about them and declare that they have become "an alien people clutching their gods" in a land that finds them more and more dispensable.

We will leave them in their conference rooms high above the Avenue of the Americas, and wish them a "Happy Holiday. Have a good one." It is far more interesting to ponder, instead, those ancient ancestors who had no doubts that what they had seen in the heavens was unusual enough to travel.

In 5 B.C. "travel" was not something undertaken lightly. It involved, across distances that would seem trivial today, risks of life and death at every turn. It required wealth and endurance. Few traveled for pleasure. To travel at all required a motivation far beyond the ordinary. So, at the very least, while we cannot know what was in the sky in those days, we can be certain it was something very unusual.

In his short story, "The Star," Arthur C. Clarke's Jesuit narrator of the far future discovers the remnants of a civilization destroyed by a violent nova so that its light might announce the birth of Christ on Earth. The story has that ironic twist that is popular with authors and pleasing to readers. I remember it as making an impression on me when I was around 12 years old. But the story does not age well because the science of it, like all science, does not age well. The story is just 53 years old.

In 1957, when I was twelve years old, we all lived in a far smaller universe with far fewer stars for God to destroy by way of cosmic birth announcements. Now that the inventory of His stars has increased a billion fold, I think it is safe to say He could have found one to suit His purpose that didn't involve destroying a blameless alien race. He could simply pick one deeper in the field and, well, ramp up the volume. That sort of thing is just an afterthought once You've got omnipotence. It might even do double duty if You could use a star in an area that might need a few more heavy elements across the next brief one or two billion years of Your plan.

Sages and mystics, Eliot and Clarke, and a host of others have all had their turns with the story of The Star. In the end it remains what it was when it began, a story. The story of a road trip by three astrologers, kings, wise men. A journey by men who saw something special in the heavens and determined to follow it wherever it led, no matter what the cost.

To see something special. To see something beyond yourself and your imaginings. To follow it wherever it leads. To always remain prepared for miracle. That is the inner music of the story of The Star. Like all stories that survive, it is the music of the heart and not of the head, and like the heart, it will endure.

"Were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt."

To have "evidence and no doubt." That is what those that put themselves forward as our "wise men" seem to propose to us day after day from their sterile rooms high above the avenues. They have the "data" from which we should derive, they insist, doubt about all that for which they have no evidence, no data.

First and foremost in their blinded vision is their iron requirement that we should doubt the original myths that have made us and sustained us as individuals and as a people across the centuries. In their pointless world, they would have us cast off the old myths and embrace their "new and improved myths -- complete with evidence;" myths made of purposeless matter "hovering in the dark."

And seeing what these "wise men" have become, we turn. We turn away.

Instead, every year a bit more it seems, a tide has shifted in the hearts of men and we turn like a lodestone to the deeper myths of the human heart; that place where The Star will always shine -- always within and yet always beyond us. In the end, the Mystery is the Gift.



Posted by Vanderleun Dec 17, 2016 1:18 AM | Comments (69)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"As roses might in magic amber laid"

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First Dinosaur Tail Found Is Preserved in Amber and Covered in Feathers: The piece—which is about the size of an apricot—had already been partially shaped into an oval by a jeweler.

Rather than damage their research, this actually helped them analyze the cross section of the tail, where they discovered remnants of iron deposits found in dinosaur soft tissue. The sample dates to the mid-Cretaceous Period, some 99 million years ago. And the feathers? While the first fossil evidence of feathered dinosaurs was found in the 1990s, the 1.4-inch preserved appendage is the first time scientists can clearly associate plumage with these extinct creatures. Based on the tail’s structure, it’s believed that it belonged to a juvenile coeleosaur. Coleosaurs are a group of theropod dinosaurs that includes everything from tyrannosaurs to modern birds. -- My Modern Met

Envoi

Go, dumb-born book,
Tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes:
Hadst thou but song
As thou hast subjects known,
Then were there cause in thee that should condone
Even my faults that heavy upon me lie
And build her glories their longevity.

Tell her that sheds
Such treasure in the air,
Recking naught else but that her graces give
Life to the moment,
I would bid them live
As roses might, in magic amber laid,
Red overwrought with orange and all made
One substance and one colour
Braving time.

Tell her that goes
With song upon her lips
But sings not out the song, nor knows
The maker of it, some other mouth,
May be as fair as hers,
Might, in new ages, gain her worshippers,
When our two dusts with Waller’s shall be laid,
Siftings on siftings in oblivion,
Till change hath broken down
All things save Beauty alone.

-- Ezra Pound

The Creation maybe mysterious in that much is yet to be revealed, but is not a secret. It is pervasive and profound. Just look around. If you wish to see the dinosaurs, look up.



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 16, 2016 6:14 PM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Digging Out? Save Your Back and Your Life. There's a Reason They Call the First Big Snowfall "The Widow Maker"

How to shovel snow the easiest & safest way! Aching back NO MORE

No bending your back. No aching back. No chiropractor.

This is how I shovel, when I need to.

No special shovels, no money to waste on half baked contraptions.

All you need is a piece of rope, or chain, or anything flexible that you attach to the lowest point of your snow shovel, or other type of shovel, or pitchfork.

Stand with your back straight and arms straight down. Load the shovel. Lift by curling your arm that is holding the rope while the other arm shoots the snow, or the sand etc., away. When shoveling upwards on steps, just shorten up your rope grip..... something you cannot do with the bent shovels.You can also shovel going downwards on steps, just lengthen your rope grip. At all times KEEP YOUR BACK STRAIGHT UP AND DOWN.
This is how I save my back, save money, and my shoveling is actually fun.



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 16, 2016 10:39 AM | Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems: "Fire all of your guns at once / And explode into space"

Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin' go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space

I like smoke and lightning
Heavy metal thunder
Racin' with the wind
And the feelin' that I'm under
Yeah Darlin' go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space

Like a true nature's child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never want to die

Born to be wild
Born to be wild

Or, as I used to say before I died, "I just wanna flash before I crash." Then, after I came back from the dead, my motto became....

Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 15, 2016 11:50 AM | Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
In America, if it is worth doing it is worth overdoing.

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Standing at around five feet tall, the impressive architecture was shaped with a Dremel tool. In addition to its gothic silhouette, it includes inlaid candy glass windows with intricate, hand-painted details throughout. What’s even more remarkable is the gingerbread’s structural integrity. “There’s no supports of any kind,” McConnell explains, “and everything (aside from the lights) is edible.” It took her a full month of 10 to 15 hours per day to finish..... McConnell documented the edible masterpiece in progress. Artist Sculpts Massive 5-Foot-Tall Gingerbread Castle



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 14, 2016 10:53 AM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Where black is the color, where none is the number

Accepting the Nobel Prize for Bob Dylan is Patti Smith singing "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall"Even more touching when she loses the thread of the lyric and apologizes and goes on....


Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?

Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?

I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’

I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest

Where the people are many and their hands are all empty

Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters

Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison

Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden

Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten

Where black is the color, where none is the number

And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it

And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it

Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’

But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall | The Official Bob Dylan Site



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 14, 2016 10:31 AM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Rex Tillerson: Eagle Scout

Eagle Scout and chairman, president, and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation, Rex Tillerson, addresses the audience at the Orange County Council Leadership Breakfast, Boy Scouts of America. October 13, 2016 at the Hotel Irvine in Irvine, California.

"My whole life is defined because I was a boy scout.

There’s no other reason a 64 year old CEO with a lot of things on his mind can recite the words to the Scout Vesper. Because every night, before we went into our tents, our scoutmaster had us recite the Scout Vesper....
Softly falls the light of day,
While our campfire fades away.
Silently each Scout should ask
Have I done my daily task?
Have I kept my honor bright?
Can I guiltless sleep tonight?
Have I done and have I dared
Everything to be prepared?


His oath:

"I Rex Tillerson
reaffirm my allegiance
to the three promises of the Scout Oath.

I will do my best to do my duty to God
And my country and to obey the Scout Law.
I will help other people at all times
And keep myself physically strong,
Mentally awake, and morally straight.

I thoughtfully recognize and take upon myself
The obligations and responsibilities
Of the rank of Eagle Scout.
I will at all times do my best
To assist other Scouts climbing the Eagle Trail,
Especially those of my own Troop, Team an Post.

I will help build America on the solid foundation
Of clean living, honest work and reverence to God.
I promise to make my training and example,
My rank and my influence
Count strongly for better Scouting
And for better citizenship in my family,
Church, community and country
And with my contacts with all people.

I realize that the Eagle rank
Is not the end but the beginning
To this I pledge my sacred honor!"

[HT: Abigail Adams]



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 13, 2016 7:22 PM | Comments (20)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Within Living Memory: Norming the Perverted

"What’s happening is the manipulation of humans to enter their weakest and most corrupt state.

This prevents family formation and makes it easier for them to be controlled. When humans are driven by transient feelings of lust, gluttony, and sex instead of traditional rituals, moderation, and strength, they are slaves to their present desires and needs. The inversion can easily be seen in photos. Western Society Has Become Completely Inverted

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Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 12, 2016 11:58 AM | Comments (19)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Beautiful and So Very, Very, Very "Correct;" 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

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The Approach, 2nd Place, Action.

An EF2 tornado bears down on a home in Wray, Colorado, on May 7, 2016. As soon as we were safe, as the tornado roared off into the distance through a field before roping out, we scrambled up the hill to check on the residents. Thankfully, everyone was all right, and we were grateful for that. As I was checking in with a young woman coming out of the basement, we became very aware of a strong new circulation right above our heads. We needed to run for cover and did so before saying a proper goodbye. # © Tori O'Shea / 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

Winners of the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Contest - The Atlantic

Two more if you...

Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 12, 2016 11:44 AM | Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Victor Davis Hanson - The Mythologies of the 2016 Election

Hanson sums it up elegantly. Yes, it's 44 minutes and everyone pure gold.

The video runs about 45 minutes. The final 20 minutes are questions and answers, but some of his most pointed comments come in the final 20 minutes. I think this is worth your time if you, like me, continue to try to sort things out. | Power Line


Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 11, 2016 7:20 PM | Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Smokey the Bear Sutra by Gary Snyder

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Once in the Jurassic about 150 million years ago, the Great Sun Buddha in this corner of the Infinite Void gave a discourse to all the assembled elements and energies: to the standing beings, the walking beings, the flying beings, and the sitting beings--even the grasses, to the number of thirteen billion, each one born from a seed, assembled there: a Discourse concerning Enlightenment on the planet Earth.

"In some future time, there will be a continent called America. It will have great centers of power called such as Pyramid Lake, Walden Pond, Mt. Rainier, Big Sur, Everglades, and so forth; and powerful nerves and channels such as Columbia River, Mississippi River, and Grand Canyon. The human race in that era will get into troubles all over its head, and practically wreck everything in spite of its own strong intelligent Buddha-nature."

"The twisting strata of the great mountains and the pulsings of volcanoes are my love burning deep in the earth. My obstinate compassion is schist and basalt and granite, to be mountains, to bring down the rain. In that future American Era I shall enter a new form; to cure the world of loveless knowledge that seeks with blind hunger: and mindless rage eating food that will not fill it."

And he showed himself in his true form of

SMOKEY THE BEAR

A handsome smokey-colored brown bear standing on his hind legs, showing that he is aroused and watchful.

Bearing in his right paw the Shovel that digs to the truth beneath appearances; cuts the roots of useless attachments, and flings damp sand on the fires of greed and war;

His left paw in the mudra of Comradely Display--indicating that all creatures have the full right to live to their limits and that of deer, rabbits, chipmunks, snakes, dandelions, and lizards all grow in the realm of the Dharma;

Wearing the blue work overalls symbolic of slaves and laborers, the countless men oppressed by a civilization that claims to save but often destroys;

Wearing the broad-brimmed hat of the west, symbolic of the forces that guard the wilderness, which is the Natural State of the Dharma and the true path of man on Earth:

all true paths lead through mountains--

With a halo of smoke and flame behind, the forest fires of the kali-yuga, fires caused by the stupidity of those who think things can be gained and lost whereas in truth all is contained vast and free in the Blue Sky and Green Earth of One Mind;

Round-bellied to show his kind nature and that the great earth has food enough for everyone who loves her and trusts her;

Trampling underfoot wasteful freeways and needless suburbs, smashing the worms of capitalism and totalitarianism;

Indicating the task: his followers, becoming free of cars, houses, canned foods, universities, and shoes, master the Three Mysteries of their own Body, Speech, and Mind; and fearlessly chop down the rotten trees and prune out the sick limbs of this country America and then burn the leftover trash.

Wrathful but calm. Austere but Comic. Smokey the Bear will Illuminate those who would help him; but for those who would hinder or slander him...

HE WILL PUT THEM OUT.

Thus his great Mantra:

Namah samanta vajranam chanda maharoshana Sphataya hum traka ham mam

"I DEDICATE MYSELF TO THE UNIVERSAL DIAMOND BE THIS RAGING FURY BE DESTROYED"

And he will protect those who love the woods and rivers, Gods and animals, hobos and madmen, prisoners and sick people, musicians, playful women, and hopeful children:

And if anyone is threatened by advertising, air pollution, television, or the police, they should chant SMOKEY THE BEAR'S WAR SPELL:

DROWN THEIR BUTTS

CRUSH THEIR BUTTS

DROWN THEIR BUTTS

CRUSH THEIR BUTTS

And SMOKEY THE BEAR will surely appear to put the enemy out with his vajra-shovel.

Now those who recite this Sutra and then try to put it in practice will accumulate merit as countless as the sands of Arizona and Nevada.

Will help save the planet Earth from total oil slick.
Will enter the age of harmony of man and nature.
Will win the tender love and caresses of men, women, and beasts.
Will always have ripened blackberries to eat and a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at.
AND IN THE END WILL WIN HIGHEST PERFECT ENLIGHTENMENT

...thus we have heard...

(may be reproduced free forever)

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HT: Hyland who gave me Smokey the Bear Sutra by Gary Snyder



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 11, 2016 10:44 AM | Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Fully Automatic Glock or Hand of God? We Report. You Decide.

File under: "In America, if it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing."

Then again, if the pistol fails you there's always the fully automatic shotgun....

Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 11, 2016 8:33 AM | Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Freak Men:" Gully Foyle Interviews a Robot Bartender

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One of my favorite passages from what many, rightly, call "the greatest science fiction book ever written:" Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination


'Life is so simple,' Foyle said. 'This decision is so simple, isn't it? Am I to respect Presteign's property rights? The welfare of the planets? Jisbella's ideals? Dagenham's realism? Robin's conscience? Press the button and watch the robot jump. But I'm not a robot. I'm a freak of the universe ... a thinking animal ... and I'm trying to see my way clear through this morass. Am I to turn PyrE over to the world and let it destroy itself? Am I to teach the world how to space-jaunte and let us spread our freak show from galaxy to galaxy through all the universe? What's the answer?'

The bartender robot hurled its mixing glass across the room with a resounding crash. In the amazed silence that followed, Dagenham grunted: 'Damn! My radiation disrupted your dolls again, Presteign.'

'The answer is yes,' the robot said, quite distinctly.

'What?' Foyle asked, taken aback.

'The answer to your question is yes.'

'Thank you, Foyle said.

'My pleasure, sir,' the robot responded. 'A man is a member of society first, and an individual second. You must go along with society, whether it chooses destruction or not.'

'Completely haywire,' Dagenham said impatiently. Switch if off, Presteign.'

'Wait,' Foyle commanded. He looked at the beaming grin engraved in the steel robot face. 'But society can be so stupid. So confused. You've witnessed this conference.'

'Yes, sir, but you must teach, not dictate. You must teach society.'

'To space-jaunte? Why? To reach out to the stars and galaxies? What for?' "

'Because you're alive, sir. You might as well ask: Why is life? don't ask about it. Live it.'

'Quite mad,' Dagenham muttered.

'But fascinating,' Y'ang-Yeovil murmured.

'There's got to be more to life than just living,' Foyle said to the robot.

'Then find it for yourself, sir. Don't ask the world to stop moving because you have doubts.'

'Why can't we all move forward together?'

'Because you're all so different. You're not lemmings. Some must lead, and hope that the rest will follow.'

'Who leads?'

'The men who must . . . driven men, compelled men.'

'Freak men.'

'You're all freaks, sir. But you always have been freaks. Life is a freak. That's its hope and glory.'

'Thank you very much.'

'My pleasure, sir.'

'You've saved the day.'

'Always a lovely day somewhere, sir,' the robot beamed. Then it fizzed, jangled, and collapsed. "



Clink Link for The Stars My Destination in PDF format



Posted by Vanderleun Dec 10, 2016 8:21 AM | Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Counting My Blessings

Yes, this was sung and filmed within living memory. Seen now its textures, singers, tones, hues and the spirit of a confident culture give it a luminosity that cannot be recaptured no matter our wealth and technical capability. Yet it still has the capacity to soothe and comfort and uplift. It's a song in the affirmative. It would be nice to write and sing songs in that key again.

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
So if you're worried and you can't sleep
Count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 9, 2016 10:44 PM | Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Moving Images 2016

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Supermoon

Continued...

Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 9, 2016 12:08 PM | Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: English for Beginners



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 8, 2016 4:02 PM | Comments (14)  | QuickLink: Permalink
John Glenn (1921-2016): Now He Is Starlight

"I pray every day and I think everybody should.

I don't think you can be up here and look out the window as I did the first day and look out at the Earth from this vantage point. We're not so high compared to people who went to the moon and back. But to look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is, to me, impossible. It just strengthens my faith."

Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 8, 2016 1:02 PM | Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Day We Killed John Lennon

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We'd finished filming John and Yoko for the video a day or so before he was shot to death. It was their last video, but of course we didn't know it at the time. There was film of them holding hands and walking in Central Park in the place that would later become "Strawberry Fields." We'd filmed them rolling naked in bed together in a Soho Art Gallery where she looked healthy and ample and he looked small and slight, with skin that was almost transluscent. I remember being slightly surprised by the fact that Lennon's need for Ono was so constant and palpable. He was seldom more than two feet away from her side and had the disconcerting habit of calling her "Mommy" whenever they spoke.

My role was as "executive producer" which really meant that I was to stand around with a roll of hundred dollar bills and pay-off the teamsters and solve other problems with copious applications of money. It was an odd job in more ways than one, but I was grateful to have it at the time.

We'd sent the last of the film to the lab, and the director, Ethan Russell, had gone back to Los Angeles to begin editing. The crew had dispersed and I'd taken to my bed racked with pain. The job, this time, had been so tough and high stress that my neck had gone out. I could barely turn my head without feeling as if a sledge was hammering a hot-needle into the cervical vertebrae. I was lying carefully propped on the bed eating Bufferin as if they were Tic-Tacs and trying not to move. My neck was held in one of those tight foam collars. Not moving was the best thing to do at the time and I was doing it with all my might.

It was a small one-bedroom apartment on the East Side of Manhattan. My first wife and I were there after three years of living in London, Paris, the Algarve and other European locations. She was eight months pregnant with our daughter and looked as if she was trying to smuggle a basketball across state lines for immoral purposes. Her mood, never really cheerful, was not improved by her situation.

The apartment was on loan from her uncle's girlfriend. I was down to my last few thousand dollars and was looking for a job. The film gig had been a gift from my old friend Ethan, and I'd been glad to get it. But it was over and, with a baby banging on the door of the world, things were not looking up. At the time, the only thing looking up was me since my neck required me to lie flat and gaze at the ceiling. It had been a rough two weeks but I thought things would certainly improve.

And of course, that's when things got worse. It got worse in the way most things do, the phone rang and my wife called out, "It's for you."

Some New York wag once said, "Age fourteen is the last time in your life when you're glad the phone is for you."

I groped blindly to the side of the bed and picked up the extension. It was Ethan calling from an editing room in Los Angeles. "John's been shot. He's dead."

Continued...

Posted by Vanderleun Dec 8, 2016 12:30 PM | Comments (72)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Dark Matter

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Dark Matter

for Tom Mandel (1946-1995)

Love must see all things that are,
But not with any eye.
Dream must rise from darkling waters,
Yet still gloss clear and dry.

The heart must mimic life lived large
In its sentences and fate;
Accepting time must finally halt,
And enter through the gateless gate.

The body, all its time undone,
Must yield itself to air.
The soul, a dream no longer dreamed,
Must rise upon the spiral stairs,

That lead up to that heart of light
Which circles in that storm;
Where one eye sees all things that are,
Where that which is, is born.

The Case Against Dark Matter: A proposed theory of gravity does away with dark matter, even as new astrophysical findings challenge the need for galaxies full of the invisible mystery particles.

For 80 years, scientists have puzzled over the way galaxies and other cosmic structures appear to gravitate toward something they cannot see. This hypothetical “dark matter” seems to outweigh all visible matter by a startling ratio of five to one, suggesting that we barely know our own universe. Thousands of physicists are doggedly searching for these invisible particles. But the dark matter hypothesis assumes scientists know how matter in the sky ought to move in the first place. This month, a series of developments has revived a long-disfavored argument that dark matter doesn’t exist after all. In this view, no missing matter is needed to explain the errant motions of the heavenly bodies; rather, on cosmic scales, gravity itself works in a different way than either Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein predicted.

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Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 8, 2016 1:33 AM | Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems:Aquarius

"When the moon is in the seventh house...."



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 7, 2016 9:27 AM | Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Fewer than 200 survivors of the attacks... Hawaii are still alive."

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It has been 75 years, but U.S. Navy veteran James Leavelle can still recall watching with horror as Japanese warplanes rained bombs down on his fellow sailors in the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War Two.

Bullets bounced off the steel deck of his own ship, the USS Whitney, anchored just outside Honolulu harbor, but a worse fate befell those aboard the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS Utah and others that capsized in an attack that killed 2,400 people.

"The way the Japanese planes were coming in, when they dropped bombs, they'd drop them and then circle back," said Leavelle, a 21-year-old Navy Storekeeper Second Class at the time of the attack.

Leavelle, now 96, was among 30 Pearl Harbor survivors honored at a reception in Los Angeles before heading to Honolulu to mark Wednesday's 75th anniversary of the attack.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor took place at 7:55 a.m. Honolulu time on Dec. 7, 1941, famously dubbed "a date which will live in infamy" by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. Fewer than 200 survivors of the attacks there and on other military bases in Hawaii are still alive.


Pearl Harbor Hero Returns Home After 75 Years in an Unknown Grave "For decades their bones lay forgotten until a Pearl Harbor survivor uncovered their story."

My Sad Captains by Thom Gunn

One by one they appear in
the darkness: a few friends, and
a few with historical
names. How late they start to shine!
but before they fade they stand
perfectly embodied, all

the past lapping them like a
cloak of chaos. They were men
who, I thought, lived only to
renew the wasteful force they
spent with each hot convulsion.
They remind me, distant now.

True, they are not at rest yet,
but now that they are indeed
apart, winnowed from failures,
they withdraw to an orbit
and turn with disinterested
hard energy, like the stars.

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Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 7, 2016 7:21 AM | Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Ten Part Trump Tweet Pattern That Won the West

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PIERS MORGAN: Twitter helped Trump's campaign triumph, so we'd better get used to government by 140-characters. And if the press and political elite hate it, then tough Twitty!

Since the election, Trump has continued to Tweet away. He's called for Hamilton to be boycotted and flag-burning to be criminalised, and every time the same 10-part pattern unfolds and the whole thing starts again.

Each episode followed a familiar 10-part pattern:

1) Trump posts an inflammatory, highly opinionated tweet.

2) The media goes nuts.

3) Trump’s tweet then dominates the news all day.

4) The media demands he stops tweeting because it’s ‘un-presidential.’

5) Trump ignores them.

6) Conventional politicians demand he stops tweeting because it’s un-presidential.’

7) Trump ignores them too.

8) Trump wakes up next morning to every paper and cable news show talking about his tweet.

9) Trump chuckles to himself.

10) Trump tweets again.

Repeat.



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 6, 2016 9:57 AM | Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Goodbye to the Way We Were

Reaffirmation Post: In which I discuss how I got from "there" to "here" back in April, 2006....

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My Back Pages: Debating on the step of Sproul Hall, UC Berkeley, 1966. (Left to right:) Me (Somewhat younger but just as strident), An Iranian friend named "Jaz" -- worked with me in the UC library, a refugee from the Shah's Iran -- probably went back after the fall of the Shah, (foreground right) He lost his eye in the Hungarian Uprising and had to run for the border and on into the West to stay alive. In this picture he's attempting to convince me that Communism is an evil ideology. I'm not buying it then, but I buy it now. (Click to enlarge)

Well, I try my best
To be just like I am,
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.
They sing while you slave and I just get bored.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

-- Maggie's Farm

A friend with whom I have a daily correspondence takes great pleasure in needling me on my, shall we say, adamantine position that we need to start fighting the First Terrorist War to win it and not as if we are engaged in a game of patty-cake. In March of 2004, after the Madrid bombings, while I was trapped on a Cruise Ship somewhere deep inside the sixth circle of Hell, he decided it was an ideal time convert me to his policy of "reasonable accommodation." It was the moment in which, as he put it, "...the common citizens of Spain and France are saying 'Tell us again what this got us, other than lots of angry teenagers with bombs?' "

I replied that I'd lived for years in France, with months in and about Spain, and most of the 'common citizens' of those countries would surrender to anything and sell out anyone if it meant they could shop in peace for a few more years. Vichy and Franco came to mind as examples.

Yesterday, in Tel Aviv, the angry teenager with a bomb on his body came again, as he has so many times over the last few years, and as he will in the years to come. Maybe Spain was right to see the effort as futile. Maybe Europe as a whole should just roll over and not just play dead, but be dead. Perhaps Israel should just shrug and say, "Okay, you win. We'll move or we'll die. You tell us."

After all, what's really in all this fighting and dying for anyone? None of the countries that are engaged in this war against terror seems to be ready to do the terrible things necessary to end terror. ("Don't you see? That would make us just like them!" "Perhaps, but we would be alive to repent and reform.")

I once admired the subtle thought, the careful parsing, the diplomatic pas-de-deux of policy, but lately I seem to have gotten a taste for straight talk. It seems to me that if you don't go to war ready to achieve victory by any means necessary -- by any means necessary -- why would you bother to go at all? And of late, I'm only hearing the weasel word "win." I'm not hearing a lot about "victory," which is quite a different thing.

It seems to me that if you are actually "in" a war, victories, big and small, are what you seek to achieve. Once you have the final victory, and that means that the enemy and all that supports the enemy, is so destroyed and laid waste that there's no fight left in him, then and only then can you say you have "won." Absent a drive for victory, there seems to be nothing in this war for any one fighting terror on any front other than pain and death -- and the added insult of an unremitting disparagement from many of the citizens for whom they fight.

That's certainly true when it comes to the United States of late. We seem stalled at the stage of the struggle that brings to mind Churchill's proclamation that he had nothing to offer except, "blood, sweat and tears." We've had those three things constantly for years -- as our media are so keen to remind us every three minutes of every day.

Another factor in the dumb-show called "Bringing Democracy to the Middle East" seems to be that our leadership has become, shall we say, less than inspiring and more like Monty Hall emceeing "Let's Make A Deal" with contestants and a studio audience packed with crazed and crapulous mullahs. Finally, we're seeing a host of our fellow citizens so immersed in their hatred of George Bush that the impression we are hip-deep in demented traitors is getting hard to shake.

All of these things conspire, on a daily basis, to shake our belief in ourselves, our institutions and our commitment to rid the world of the scourge of terrorism. Lately we seem to be living on a daily drip-feed of despair for our future and estrangement from our past. It's not a new diet in this country, but it is starting to assume the proportions of a runaway fad diet, a political Pritikins. And yet this thin gruel is what's being poured into us from Seattle, Washington to Washington, D.C.

If you look closely at this diet for a diminished America you see a familiar list of "ingredients." The list is composed of the ideological stock and trade of a significant segment of Americans to whom this nation, as conceived by our founders, and struggled for for more than 200 years is merely one long, large joke.

And I should know. After all, that boy in the picture up there -- that boy that thought Communism was "something we could live with" -- that young boy was me.

Continued...

Posted by Vanderleun Dec 6, 2016 7:57 AM | Comments (62)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Adam Carolla's Epic Rant on the War on Christmas

"All you asswipes out there who have declared war on Christmas (You know who you are.), considering everything in this world that needs to be done. There's weeds by the side of the freeway that need to be pulled. When you come to your deathbed are you going to be saying 'In my life I was able to remove symbols for Christmas from this college in Portland? But please go to work on Ramadan so the Muslims will behead you and we won't have to listen to your douchey crap any longer."



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 5, 2016 2:59 PM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Sometimes Just a Small Makeover Changes Everything

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Ladies and Gentlemen, a new look for the President of the United States. It's time to see who we are really dealing with.

The above image is, of course, a photoshop. A minor adjustment of outward elements that make up Trumps face and, as a result, give him a strikingly different aspect than the more colorful and animated personality that appears in public daily now.

Still, this is not the only time we've seen the aspect of Trump that is represented in this photoshop. We can see it in some otherwise offhand photographs from unguarded moments. By that I mean those moments when the subject is not aware that he is being photographed and, hence, does not have his photographic personality suffusing his face and body.

A case in point is the photo below. It was taken just moments before Trump made his entrance on election night to inform the nation and the world that Hillary Clinton had conceded and he was now the President-Elect. Here we see Trump in the wings of the stage and in a moment in which his face makes manifest the enormous weight that had finally, after 18 months, settled on him. It's a sober moment and you can see it in the close-up below.

The eyes, as always, are the windows to the soul. At least in those moments when the man does not have his shades drawn.

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Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 4, 2016 6:39 PM | Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. "

when god lets my body be

from each brave eye shall sprout a tree
fruit that dangles therefrom

the purpled world will dance upon
between my lips which did sing

a rose shall beget the spring
that maidens whom passion wastes

will lay between their little breasts
my strong fingers beneath the snow

into strenuous birds shall go
my love walking in the grass

their wings will touch with her face
and all the while shall my heart be
with the bulge and nuzzle of the sea

---by e. e. cummings

"I've had a lot of luck to have such a life. I wish there was some way to pass on with what I've learned of. My God, I was learning fast there at the end." -- Islands in the Stream

UPDATED for the (somewhat) less athletically inclined........



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 4, 2016 12:09 PM | Comments (2)  | 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



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In The Cascades

Above the trail to the summit
Clouds climb the mountains --
Hands through water, fingers of rain,
Smoke in dreams, as steps accumulate,
Placing first one foot, then the other,
Pacing out the rip-rap of the years.

Below the snow ghosts swirl behind
Drifts of leaf-shimmer, billowed veils
Of wind whose whispers echo back
Across the distant silence singing
To the tempo of the breath:
"Once only, once only, only once."

Above the stream in the ravine.
Watched by sentinels of stone, of fir,
Of trees so tall their tops dissolve
Into the breath of the mountains.
Ebony glints of ravens' wings
Banking into green on darker green.

Below it's all been settled long ago.
Only on foot, step by step,
Can you climb up, beyond,
And out of time -- except for the weight
You carry on your back; gossamer
Thread spinning down into the Labyrinth.

At the crest, looking back, looking below,
Herds of mule deer graze beneath pylons
Where a survey crew measures the steel river,
For a grid of concrete and copper cables
Connecting the Matrix coiled on the coast.
Above, the mountains' shoulders shatter the rain.



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 4, 2016 1:55 AM | Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
On Extra-Terrestrial Life

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I accept the existence of saucers,
I concede there's a case
To be made for believing that something's achieving
the conquest of space;

I find it completely convincing
Whenever I hear
That creatures from Venus were recently seen
As a spaceship drew near:

And yet there's a problem remaining
That baffles me still.
I'm not disagreeing that some super being
Can wander at will

From one universe to another-
But if it be thus why on earth (so to speak)
Should he bother to seek
Any contact with us?"

-- Anthony Brode



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 3, 2016 7:55 PM | Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Saturday Funnies: "I have not yet begun to gloat"

"You know what, as painful and as excruciatingly long as it was... in retrospect this was the most fun election ever."

Just when Democrats and Moonbats think it's safe to go back in the political waters, Joe Dan Gorman releases, on IntellectualFroglegs.com, "No Rules for Radicals." Funny and insightful and with a down home and homespun flavor that should be bottled and poured over your Moonbat Babyback Ribs at your January celebration barbecues. Joe Dan takes us back over the campaign trail and into the dawning of the age of Trump. With this caveat:

"Now while we are rooting for President-Elect Trump to succeed wildly—we are sycophants of no one. We will hold Trump’s feet to the fire, but only when needed. We are not going to scrutinize and micromanage his every move.

"We knew Trump was apolitical and unpredictable…and no doubt he will have us all scratching our heads at times. But with a history of success that is second to none— Donald Trump for lack of a better word— backs up his bullsh*t like no other.

"So for now… Donald Trump has earned my trust— until he doesn’t.

Popcorn. Full screen. Sit back and enjoy as much as you enjoyed The Buster Brown Show with Froggie and his rollicking sidekick Andy Devine.

"It's the holidays. Enjoy them. Turn off the idiots in the media and bask in the glorious fact that Hillary Clinton will NEVER be our President."



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 3, 2016 8:14 AM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
It's a Machine About Nothing.

Popular Mechanics wrote in 1954,

“We all know someone who works harder doing nothing than most of us work doing something, but we can’t possibly know anything that works harder at nothing that a machine built by a California hobbyist. The machine has over 700 working parts that rotate, twist, oscillate and reciprocate — all for no purpose except movement.”

Ye Olde Web 1.0 Page Sayeth:Lawrence Wahlstrom and the Do Nothing machine



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 2, 2016 9:51 PM | Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Kicking Off the Christmas Season! “It’s The Most Wonderful Time in 8 Years”

Here's the lyrics just in case you want to add this to your caroling around the neighborhood.

It's the most wonderful time in 8 years
Yet some kids are protesting
while Trump fans investing their time with good cheer
Sing It's the most wonderful time in 8 years

It's the hap-happiest voting season of all
With each staff member Trump picks, Democrats up to their old tricks …Just trashing them all
but It's the hap- happiest election season of all

There’ll be one party hosting All three branches toasting
but how low now will the press go
There'll spin misguided stories Trying to steal Trump’s glory
from a playbook written, long long ago

It's the most wonderful time in 8 years
There'll be much more enjoyment a lot less unemployment
Cuz Trump will be near
It's the most wonderful time in 8 years (go up)

Hillary’s party’s not hosting they’re no longer toasting,
Beyonce, Kanye, Cop Killers, Racists and the Muslim Brotherhood
They ignored true stories of Hillary who wasn’t sorry
for her crimes now and long ago

Now It's the most wonderful time in 8 Years
We’ll deport all the criminals, Taxes will be minimal
Bad trade deals disappear
It's the most wonderful time
yes the most wonderful time
Oh the most wonderful time… in 8 years!



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 1, 2016 6:37 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Mountains and Rivers Without End: The Zen Poet of Kitkitdizze

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"Gary Snyder, the Zen poet, lives on a hundred backcountry acres in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, meditates mornings, and thanks his food before he eats it, clapping his hands together and saying “Itadakimasu,” which is Japanese for “Thank you very much.”

He likes a boilermaker at dinnertime (a shot of bourbon and a tall glass of beer) and, on occasion, the bullfrogs from his pond. “I follow the ‘Joy of Cooking,’ “ he says. “You’ve got to skin them and brine them overnight. She recommends rolling them in bread crumbs and frying them.” He finds that vulture feathers make the best pens for calligraphy, and collects them when he hikes. Some nights, he takes a blanket and a thermos of sake and a star map, walks along a gravel riverbed not far from his house to a spot among the mounded diggings left by the gold-mining ventures of the past two centuries, and, by the light of a red torch, works on the constellations....."
“Throughout human history and prehistory, the trail was only to get you somewhere,” he said. “What was important was what was off the trail. Food, roots, berries, dye plants, glue plants, poisonous plants, recreational-drug plants, squirrel nests, bird nests, everything you might think you’d need. What’s way off the trail are the places you go to be alone and have a vision and your own spiritual trip, maybe with some of those recreational plants”—knowing snickers from the kids—“and then you come back.” -- Zen Master - The New Yorker

Excerpts from Myths & Texts - Gary Snyder

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Gary Snyder's bio, poems, and articles at the Poetry Foundation

Paris Review Interview - Gary Snyder, The Art of Poetry No. 74



Posted by gerardvanderleun Dec 1, 2016 9:55 AM | Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
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