Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun

American Studies

The Go-Bag: "What does one wear to a truly stunning natural disaster?"

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Yesterday's spate of look-backs on the Mt. St. Helens eruption recalled an essay from some years back on disasters and being prepared for them.

It all started in Laguna Beach when something went BUMP!

And then
something went BUMP!
How that bump made us jump!

We looked!
-- The Cat in the Hat

ABOUT QUARTER TO NINE this serene Sunday morning, as I was sitting down and wondering what to write about, the house bumped me. One BUMP with the sound of "Thump!" as if a giant's fist had given the floor a little love tap. And then... nothing. No rattle of plates and shuddering of books in the shelves. No rising hiss of gas lines pulled open. None of the sounds of panicked birds. Just one BUMP with a thump and then everything goes back to "Condition California Normal."

Everything except me.

When you've recently had a number of homes 400 yards from you just wake up one morning and decided to take a slide down their hill, you tend to become just a wee bit oversensitive to your environment. That solid BUMP had me out of my chair and moving toward the front door with dedication. Once second, I'm sitting. Next second, I'm standing in the middle of the intersection looking up and down the streets. I'm
paying special attention as to whether or not I can see any tall trees swaying on this windless morning. Nope. Nothing. But the birds agreed with me since they had, for once, shut up.

I also found myself standing in the intersection in my pajamas with bare feet. A neighbor dressed in a robe and boxer shorts came out on his third-floor balcony, wallet and keys in his hand.

"You feel that?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah. I see you did too."

"Maybe," I said, "we should get dressed."

A new Lexus came up the steep hill behind me heading for the road down from the summit. It stopped for a moment. An old couple was inside. He was driving. She looked resigned and was holding a irritated looking cat.

"You feel that?" he asked.

"Am I standing in the middle of the street in my Pajamas?"

"We're going downtown and then out to the valley for the day. Can't be too careful."

"Well, that's true enough. Just don't linger on the canyon road. You got rock slide zones on both sides."

"We're not going through the canyon. We're going up to Newport along the coast."

"Well, get through those parts that run along the cliffs quickly."

"You got that right. Anyway, I've got water, food, and shovels in the trunk. You can't be too careful. These days you can't be too careful."

His wife was beginning to roll her eyes and their cat continued to squirm.

"Or too prepared," I said with a slight edge of sarcasm in my voice.

"No, you can't," he said, and gunned the shiny tan Lexus up the hill and out of sight. They were pretty old and frail. I hoped that, if anything happened, they'd be able to get out of their car and to the shovels and water in the trunk.

I looked up at my neighbor on his balcony high above the street and thought about the ten or fifteen seconds it would take to fall on top of me if we had another more serious BUMP, which was due in Southern California.... oh, just about any day now.

My neighbor shrugged. "What you gonna do?" he said in the manner of those who, faced with their continuing powerlessness, have nothing at all to say.

"I don't know about you," I answered, "but I'm getting dressed."

"There's a thought."

I went back inside and got dressed thinking, "Now what does one wear to a truly stunning natural disaster?" This thought revealed to me that I had not a smidgen of an idea about what to wear or what to do at all. Not a single brain cell in my over-furnished brain had been tasked with determining how to survive the most likely disaster in my little world.

Like millions of others on this shaky slab of the planet, I just woke up every day, took a breath, had some coffee and ran my "I'm okay and I'm okay" tape in the background and got on with "havin' a good one." Like millions of others in this state which is, like all states, just a state of mind, I "had the experience but missed the meaning." Like millions of others, I had -- in my heart -- scoffed at the old man in the Lexus who had, probably for the hundredth time, pushed to wife and the cat into the car and driven to the valley with his various survival supplies rattling in the trunk. Unlike millions of others, I stood in my bedroom and, not for the first time, realized that I was an unreconstructed fool. Worse still, I was a fool that laughed at the wise. Worse yet, I had no plan for a disaster that was not an if, but a when; a bad day that only lacked a date certain.

I had no plan even though I'd seen, at first hand, the man-made disaster of 9/11 kill thousands in seconds and render a great city helpless and floundering for weeks and months after. But then I thought, as my neighbor said, "What you gonna do?"

Which was when I remembered Mandel's car.

Tom Mandel was the first good friend that I made during the stone age of online communications in the 1980s. He was my first 'cyberbuddy' in the days before we had such a wet word for it. I met him through the Well conferences (about which the less said the better these days), and he grew to be a real friend in the real world. We even co-authored a book together. He was a good, complex, secretive, and brilliant man. And he died young of a bad disease.

Tom had lived in Palo Alto and been alive during the Loma Prieta earthquake that hit the Bay Area on October 17, 1989. Nothing much happened to him or his home on that day, but people driving in the wrong section of Cypress structure on the Nimitz freeway were not so lucky. Large portions of this concrete overpass pancaked down and reduced a number of cars and 42 of their occupants to flattened slabs of metal. bone and flesh. Others, somewhat luckier, were trapped in their crushed cars until rescue.

After Tom died, his widow -- a woman he loved and married in his final weeks -- was going through various things and came to his car. He hadn't used it for some months. When she began to clean it out she noticed first that the front seats had been rigged so that they could flatten backwards. Then she noticed that the back seat had been rigged so it would pop out easily enabling you to crawl into the trunk. Opening the trunk she found blankets, a number of military issue MREs, containers of water, a folding shovel, a long crow bar, two hundred feet of rope with knots tied in it every two feet, and three small but powerful hydraulic jacks. It would seem that, although he was not a man given to planning the future, Tom was at least prepared for being trapped in a collapsed structure after an earthquake. He could have gotten out of that one. It was the cancer that he couldn't escape, but in the end there's always something for each of us that we can't escape.

Then there are those that we can. If we plan.

Experienced sailors, having seen the lethal caprice of the sea and survived it, have a habit of packing a "Go-Bag." People who advise about emergencies also advise you to have one. These bags are supposed to contain all sorts of items handy in a survival situation: radios, batteries, flashlights, first-aid kits, ropes, knives, and so on. All the items deemed necessary to get by and keep going if the world around you is, suddenly, transformed to one state or another of, well, rubble.

I can understand, finally, the wisdom of that and, after this morning's BUMP, I've finally gotten the message clearly enough to begin to assemble my own Go-Bag along with a few other items in the trunk of my car. I don't know if I'm going to go as far as the hydraulic jacks, but the folding shovel and the blanket seem to be a good bet.

In order to do my Go-Bag right, I've made a list of all the practical things I'll need to assemble or buy, with an eye towards practicality and portability. But as I look at it now, I can see there are some essential things that I'll need for survival that I've left out. If you've ever made such a survival list, I'll bet you've left out some of the same things. None of the sites or agencies that talk about Go-Bags include them either. I'm going back in to add them even if it means I have to throw some 'sensible' things out. The new additions include:

  • A collection of photographs of my daughter in a small album. It stops at age 11.
  • A card she once made for me for a long-ago father's day.
  • A long letter of advice from my father that he wrote to me when I was too young to know how valuable it was.
  • A photograph of myself and my two brothers in our Sunday School best posing with my mom and dad on some long ago summer afternoon.
  • A sheet of paper with a hand-written haiku made for me by my first love.
  • A slim King James Bible owned and bearing the initials of my paternal Grandfather, that old reprobate.
  • A page from a notebook containing idle doodles and a few self-portraits of my daughter that she did, off hand, while being bored at my apartment in New York five years back.
  • Tom Mandel's Marine dog-tags.

That's the list and I've now got them all in a small, sealed canvas bag next to my front door. I'll buy the "important" survival supplies this afternoon at the mall, but for right now I think I can say that the BUMP made me jump enough to survive. My real Go-Bag is full and I think, at last, that I'm finally good to go.


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 19, 2014 2:21 PM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Kids Today

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They say it is a mental flaw to let things go "in one ear and out the other," but at my age it is merely a question of deciding what to admit onto the hard drive of my brain. Mine is a large but, alas, limited hard drive, and at this point it is pretty much full. To save something new to it means I often have to delete something else from it. Often what I am deleting is not known to me until later when I search for it. At my age I don't view this "in one ear thing" as a flaw but rather a necessity. I don't forget a thing so much as I let it just "slip my mind."

A common variation of this slippage is our deplorable habit of letting something slip "in one ear and out of the mouth" without first striking either a reflective surface or passing through a BS filter -- preferably both. Once you realize that "In-Ear-Out-Mouth" (IEOM) is an affliction of epidemic proportions in contemporary America you can spot it maiming and killing brain cells everywhere.

The latest notable example of IEOM showed up a few nights ago at a meeting of troubled Americans that I, being troubled by Americans, often attend. A woman of middle years was -- yet again -- bemoaning the fact that she is just, well, nuts. Being nuts is, according to her, part of "Being all I can be!" Even though being crazy makes her unhappy, she seems as determined to hold onto her nuttiness as she is to "let go" of her girlish figure "and let God" bring on the burritos.

It is not that she is nuts that is the problem. The problem is that she has a burning need to "share" her insights. These reflections on her part often give way, as such reflections do, to the nostalgic and idealistic:

"Things were better when...,"
"If only I had what I had when....,"
"Don't you all think I should have now what I had then.....?"


She thirsts for the past. It is her central theme. But last night she introduced a variation on her theme of yearning for the past. She yearned for the deep past -- when she was a child, or, even better, an infant.

In the course of announcing this insight to the stupefied listeners counting the seconds until her 3 minutes were up, she emitted a pure bit of IEOM. She said,

"I was feeling extra crazy so I took a walk down to the town beach where all the new babies were out and all the children were playing. And I saw, so very, very clearly, how lucky the babies and children were to be so simple, and so deeply, deeply sane."

"How lucky the babies and children were to be so simple, and so deeply, deeply sane" is a safe statement to make in a Troubled Americans meeting. It was an IEOM statement that was so incontestable -- lest you be labeled a churl -- that all the other females in the room (Those either presently incarcerated in mom-jail, recently paroled from mom-jail, or hoping to be soon condemned to mom-jail.) began to bob their heads in agreement like a gaggle of drinking birds over the glass.

I, of course, am a churl.

Hence my only thought on hearing this statement was

"In-Ear-Out-Mouth... and you really are crazy if you think that babies and children are sane for one second of the live long day. Infants and children are many things, sweetheart, but sane is not one of them."

Not sure? Let's review.

First and foremost, the unsanitary insanity of infants is strikingly obvious. Any adult human being who has to be spoon-fed, drools uncontrollably, and has forgotten the rudiments of bowel and bladder control had better have loving relatives, a sizable trust fund, a pit-bull lawyer, and medicare lest he or she be put down like an old dog in this society.

It would seem that we put up with this shitty behavior from infants for more than two years simply on the grounds of "they cute." Well, so are kittens and puppies, and the time and expense spent on their basic training is considerably less. Besides, if the kitten or puppy doesn't work out you can just drop it off by the side of the road without much trouble. Try that with an infant and you are quickly brought to heel. It would seem that we are determined to protect levels of unsanitary insanity in some of our citizens more than others. I ask you, how fair and equal is that?

After sanitation, there's post-infancy sound pollution. Children, having had some time to practice at life, acquire small motor skills and a sailor's vocabulary without losing the ability to screech like a disemboweled wombat at any instant and for no reason at all. As a result they present a more interesting buffet of brain disorders.

Napoleonic complexes and the belief that their backsides produce nothing but moonbeams are common mental disorders. Children also have a distinct inability to understand any time lapse at all between desire and gratification. Add to these items the realization that we have, as a society, decided that no actions of children -- no matter how awful -- are to have any consequences other than a disappointed look and a "Time Out," and you have the recipe for all these inmates to rule their asylum homes. Which they do. With predictable results.

In a simpler time, children's misdeeds and psychotic outbursts (A frothing temper tantrum involving heel pounding and floor revolving on being denied a pack of gum was observed recently at a local supermarket.) were controlled simply by referencing the "father" who would "get home soon." No longer. There is often no father that will be home at any time in the next decade. Even when a father is home he is often inhibited in his impulse to renovate the insane child by the knowledge that the child knows how to dial 911. And that the police will respond. With handcuffs and guns.

In making sure that the state guardians of children always respond to 911 calls with weapons, we have given the whip-hand to the nuts in our homes. It is as if an asylum provided an armed bodyguard to every sociopath admitted, and gave that bodyguard permission to shoot the doctors if they even looked cross-eyed at the afflicted. Today the afflicted can look cross-eyed, stick out their tongues, and flip off the doctors as long as they have 911 on the speed dial of the cellular phones the doctors bought for them.

Whenever I observe young children shrieking, swearing, defecating and twitching in public while exhibiting other certifiable insanities I often long for a technological solution and training aid. But since I have been informed that cattle prods and radio-controlled dog shock collars have not been approved for humans under 180 pounds I despair.

I know that in our frantic efforts to get the control over our insane children back from the experts and government agencies to whom we've ceded it, we have often resorted to drugs, but surely some simple behavioral modification techniques can be employed to return them to sanity. Perhaps the "talking cure."

Perhaps our use of the word archaic "No" as a functional part of the conversation with our children would help. Upon reflection, however, that seems doomed to failure as long as the word "No" functions only to instill in our children the rudiments of a gambling addiction.

Think about your own children or children you have observed in the full grip of a "I-want-you-buy-me-crappy-thing-or-I-die-now" dementia. Do you ever see "No" used as a final answer? If you have then you have also seen winged monkeys thrashing about in the parent's pants. Adults who tell demented children "No" are seen by those children as mere slot-machines:

"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "Oh, all right."
"JACKPOT!"

This is made even more of a certainty since children, being functionally insane, cannot have or hold jobs and hence have no cash whatsoever. This makes them persistent and tireless negotiators.

Another example of how demented children are can be seen in their fashion sense. Yes, from the time they learn to fasten their shoes' little Velcro flaps (Another indulgence we've made so they don't ever have to suffer learning how to tie a bowknot lest a life moment dent their "self-esteem."), children left to dress themselves will emerge from their cells in outfits that would cold-cock a circus clown.

So unremittingly awful is a child's concept of couture that mothers will go to extraordinary lengths to dissuade them from appearing outside the bedroom closet in certain combinations. Indeed, the dictum of "You are not going ANYWHERE dressed like that!" seems to be the only requirement still enforced by parents. Yet, every so often, one does slip past comatose parents to a school where the psychotic fashion plate promptly becomes the envy of his fellow inmates: "Whoa, stained underwear over the plaid pants and a penis gourd? Cool!" This is how trends are born.

Of course, by the teenage years, this ability to dress in a myriad of ways suggesting the increasing degeneration of the cerebral lobes has paired itself with the ability to attack parents in their sleep with edged weapons. Once this happens all restraint is lost. This accounts for many children -- during the peak teen-aged years of unbridled psychopathic and sociopathic insanity -- emerging from their million dollar homes and their personal SUVs with the look of a feces-smeared Balkan refugee with multiple facial piercings and a 'message' t-shirt promising to fight for the right to party like demented schnauzers.

Any responsible adult appearing in any of our cities and towns with this "look" would immediately be reported to Homeland Security, surrounded by Navy SEALS locked and loaded, and find themselves on a one-way flight to Guantanamo. But for our children, it's "Hey, they're only kids. What can you do?"

Absent accepting long prison terms should the bodies be found, I guess the only thing we can do is increase our medications faster than we increase those of our children. It's the American Way.

In the meantime, as real adults who have survived our childhood and adolescence and been returned, somehow, to sanity, we might want to think about letting loose talk about the "sanity and innocence" of our children stop passing "In-Ear-Out-Mouth."


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 18, 2014 9:31 PM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
On the Return of History

rockwellthepeople.jpg In the darkness with a great bundle of grief the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people march:
       "Where to? what next?"

-- Carl Sandburg: The People Yes

IN THE DAYS AFTER THE TOWERS FELL, in the ash that covered the Brooklyn street where I lived at that time, in the smoke that rose for months from that spot across the river, when rising up in the skyscraper I worked in, or riding deep beneath the river in the subway, or passing the thousand small shrines of puddled candle wax below the walls with the hundreds of photographs of "The Missing," it was not too much to say that you could feel the doors of history open all about you.

Before those days, history happened elsewhere, elsewhen, to others. History did not happen to you. In your world, until that day, you lived in the time after history. There were no more doors in front of you, all history lay behind you. It was a given.

You would have, of course, your own personal history. You would live your life, no bigger or smaller than most others. You would meet people, have children, go to the job, enjoy what material things came your way, have your celebrations, your vacations, your possessions, and your dinner parties. You would hate and you would love. You would be loved and betrayed. You would have your little soap opera and the snapshots and emails to prove it. At some point or another you would die and be remembered by some for some time. Then it would all fade and the great ocean would just roll on. And that would be fine.

History was behind us. It was something our parents entered for a while during the war but they emerged into what was, essentially, the long peace. They'd had enough history, didn't want any more, and did what they could to keep history from happening. In general, the history of the Cold War is the history of what didn't happen punctuated by a few things every now and then such as Korea and Vietnam. But all in all, for over 50 years, history didn't happen.

With the end of the Soviet Union in a whimper and not a bang brighter than the sun on earth, history was officially over. The moment even got its own book, "The End of History," which stimulated an argument that even more than the book emphasized that history was over.

Most sensible people liked it that way. In fact, a lot of people really liked it that way. Because if history for the world was over, these people could get on making the history that really mattered to them: The History of Me.

More and more throughout the 90s "History" was "out," and "Me" was in. "Me," "Having My Space," "How to Be Your Own Best Friend," "Me, Myself, I," were hallmarks of that self-besotted age. The History of Me was huge in the 90s and rolled right through the millennium. It even had a Customized President to preside over those years; the Most Me President ever. A perfect man for the time and one who, in the end, did not disappoint in choosing "Me" over "Country." How could he do otherwise? It was the option his constituency of Many-Million-Mes elected him to select. I know because I was into Me then and I voted for him because, well, because he seemed to be "just like me." It was a sad day when "Me" couldn't run for a third term, but The Party of Me offered up "Mini-Me" and a lot of Mes turned out for him too.

Many millions of Mini-Mes were very upset when there weren't quite enough Mes in one state to put Mini-Me in office to continue with the wonderful Me-ness of it all. I voted for "Mini-Me" in 2000, but not because he really seemed like Me, but because he was the only thing out there that said he was Me.

Unlike millions of miffed Mini-Mes, I wasn't too upset when he didn't get in after stamping his feet and holding his breath. I suppose I should have. It was what all the really intense Mini-Mes were doing. But I'd already started to become disgusted with all the Me-ness that had been going around so long and this tantrum of the Mini-Mes just made me not want to hang around them. After all, we were well beyond the End of History by this point, so what did it matter?

Then on one bright and unusually fine New York September morning History came back with a vengeance we'd never seen before in the history of America. It came back and it stayed and stayed and stayed. The doors of history swung open again and we were all propelled through them into... what?

Nobody knows. Not the President, not his opponents, not the right, left, center, or just plain unhinged and now in low-earth orbit. We know how it began, but we don't know how it will end. We don't really know what's next. Indeed, we never know.

It was better when we lived in The History of Me. We knew how Me would end -- birth, fun, school, fun, job, fun, family, fun, age, fun, death and then ... probably fun, who knew, who cared? The meaning of this history was not deep but was to be found in the world "fun." Mini-Mes love fun. You could almost say it is their religion, a religion of fun. A funny concept, fun. Fills the space between birth and death. "He was a fun guy" could be a generic epitaph for the era.

Now we find ourselves back in history as it has always been and it is not fun. Not fun at all. The history of history has little to do with fun, almost nothing at all.

Most of the Mini-Mes don't know what to do in a history that isn't fun. All their lives have been about shaping history towards fun and they've been having a good run at it. They like it so much, they are now willing to do anything to bring it back -- the Kennedy Era, such elegant fun; the Clinton Years, "Hey, we partied like it was 1999." In the run-up to the last election and now for the next, there's been and there will be a lot of code swapped about getting the fun back in the game. "Remember the fun of the 90s? You can have it all back. Peace. Love. Understanding. Stock-market Boom. Money. Any number of genders can play." Indeed, these Merry Pranksters of our politics are setting up to run "The Bride of Fun" for President in 2008, even though it is clear she is the least fun of any of them.

Unlike "The Bride of Fun," Fun is very attractive. It is an illusion to Us now, but the Mini-Mes need Fun and want it back more than, well, life itself. The Mini-Mes talk a great game about groups, entitlement, empowerment, but their program really is, like fun, "all about Me."

This is not to say that the incumbent administration is the Second Coming in any way, shape or form. Nor is it to say that Me-ness doesn't dominate that bumbling faction as well. Washington is always about Me-Magnified. In a way, it is true to say that a lot of what is going on is a fight over which set of Mes shall be master. But that is always the case.

Still there are always "differences of degree," and it is on those differences that one must judge. Weighing the two, it seems to me clear that there is, within the core of the current party in power, at least the recognition that "fun" is no longer what we need to be about at this time. Indeed, there is an understanding there, backed with deeds and policies, however flawed in conception and execution, that our holiday from history is over and we need to get back to business if we'd like to be around in any kind of recognizable form by mid-century. There is even, if you look at it closely, a distinct lessening of "Me" and the beginnings of an "Us" on the peripheries of the Party. Not a lot, but when you look at the other, there is none. Only a yearning for the warm mud of Me.

History as it will now unfold will require little from Me but much from Us. I'd like to say that this country's going one way or another tomorrow will be the ruin of the nation. If I could I would be able to get my Me into the Punditocracy. But that is false. One result or another will not be the ruin of the nation for there is, as one of the founding fathers once remarked, "A lot of ruin in a nation."

Should the nation choose to continue in the elections of this year to move forward, to stay the course and continue the offensive, our encounter with history will move forward at much the same pace as it has these past four years, perhaps a bit accelerated. Should the nation choose to step back, to retreat, it will simply retard the process that grips it a bit more than otherwise might be the case. Neither result wil place us back in the History of Me no matter how many yearn for it.

History, having returned, will continue to happen, not to Me, but to Us.

We will have war whether we wish it or not. It will continue to be brought to us as it was brought for many years before we could see it in a pillar of flame by day and a pillar of smoke by night. We will be long in this wilderness, perhaps as long as forty years, and it will take a terrible toll from us, soldier and civilian alike; a toll we have not yet begun to see. Like all global wars in the past century, the war upon us will rise in violence until such time as we either capitulate, or find the will to kill our enemies wholesale. This is not what we would choose, but it is what we shall have.

We could, if we wished, withdraw every soldier from every inch of soil that is not American territory and leave them here inside our borders rusting for a decade. War will still come because war is already upon us, and wars do not end in staged withdrawals, but in either defeat or victory. The lessons of Vietnam and the Cold War teach this to us if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

In this First Terrorist War, the character of our leadership will make a difference to some degree, but it will not decide. It is who we are and who we shall become as a people that will decide. How that will be in the end, I do not know. What I do know is that history, no matter what they tell you, never comes to an end. And because of that, the one small thing that I have the power to do is to decide that I shall no longer vote for Me. I shall vote for Us.


First published March 2006


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 16, 2014 9:10 PM |  Comments (49)  | QuickLink: Permalink
How We Live Now

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Now the wintertime is coming,
The windows are filled with frost.
I went to tell everybody,
But I could not get across.

-- Bob Dylan | It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry

Chico, CA: Early September, 2007

This September, as in most Septembers, the days have been hot and parched here in the upper reaches of California's Imperial Valley.

This year, as in most years, wildfires have been stalking the region sealing the old folks, the ecosensitives, and the ever-proliferating hyper-allergenic inside behind their oxygen canisters, filters, and mounds of medications. The local TV weathermen make much of little, delivering the particulate count as if every second carbon atom spelled doom for untold numbers of weakened and afflicted Americans. It's all part of the shameful litany of vulnerability chanted so often that many previously tough Americans come to believe they are as insubstantial as moonlight at noon. It's how they live now.

The valved hum of the Highway 99 rolls relentlessly beyond the buttresses of the razor-wire fence and medical offices. The artery flows north and south through Chico, elevated until it drops down into the tabletop mesas towards Oroville on one end and the rolling walnut orchards towards Red Bluff. From both directions the road pumps into town, after the morning rush, the hardcore unemployed, the morbidly obese, and those obsessed with vapid shopping sprees in sleek aisles bracketed by cheap Chinese chintz. It brings them in to the all-you-can-stuff-in Country Town Buffets and the big box stores of Costco and Wal-Mart. Hard to figure that with so many working we can still have so many with nothing very special to do with their lives, but that is why we have daytime shopping networks and enough free parking at the mall to handle everyone who might, just might, show up on December 23rd. This is how we live now.

It's a Tuesday, six years thirteen years on from that much more memorable September Tuesday in New York City. To an extent, the qualities of today here in California mimic that day. Clear and calm and not all that hot. The light breeze moves the surface of the apartment complex's pool just enough to put a ripple on the clear water of the cool chemical soup. Every so often a car playing old rock anthems cruises into the parking lot with some half-heard lyric…. "Won't get fooled again?"…. too faint and quick to know for sure. The tennis courts bake in the afternoon sun but it is unlikely that they'll be used. They not much more than a selling point for a property purchase. It's how we live now.

Through the ground floor windows of the apartments here at night I note the proliferation of the large plasma screens washing the rooms they dominate in an endless retinal massage of football players, fools, and TV personalities such as an Oprah interviewing other TV personalities such as a Letterman in an endless round of media auto-fellatio. Mesmerizing meaninglessness. Just what the doctor ordered. Tomorrow, the expected sun and the expected heat and the expected high level of particulate boogey-men will be back to fade the parched concrete by the pool a still lighter shade of grey. Tennis courts and swimming pools can't hope to compete with pure plasma, xBox ecstasy, "social software," porn-on-demand and Grand Theft Auto. It's how we live now, a reality faded media gray.

Six years back the New York winter had faded the snapshot faces of "the missing" by February. Faded even those images their loved ones had sealed in plastic. Earlier than that (Was it before Christmas?) the spontaneous shrines of candles, keepsakes, images and children's sad art signed by whole "second, third, fourth grade class" that appeared in Penn Station and elsewhere across Manhattan had vanished over one weekend. Somewhere in the system officials had decided that enough was, at last, enough and had the tokens taken to wherever such tokens are taken. Perhaps the landfill in New Jersey where so much of the Ground Zero refuse, once hauled out of the pit, was taken to be sifted by ever-finer screens for something that resembled human remains. Perhaps that is where all those millions of pieces of fourth period art went. Or even more efficiently "disappeared." Difficult to know. Nobody was tracking the details. There were too many of them. That was how we lived then.

How we live now is in a space where the blood-oath "Never forget!" has been efficiently "disappeared" as well. Instead, the oath has become -- at most -- the question, "Have you forgotten?" popularized a year or so back by a maudlin Country and Western tune of large popularity but little distinction. Once a blood-oath becomes a question the answer is always -- for most -- "Yes."

For those who have not forgotten and who still hold to the oath of "Never forget," such an answer affirms only the shallowness and self-deceit of the growing mass of fellow citizens weary of war at six removes; of those eager to "move on."

And while this is neither unexpected nor incomprehensible, it is disheartening to see the shameless use of this urge daily -- most explicitly in the work of the media-traitors that compose the group of the same name; a group that seems always fully funded and well beyond any consequence as yet for their treason. A group for which "Pride in Treason" seems to be a checked "Yes" on the membership application. This too is how we live now.

Well, what of it? Let those diseased with decadence, dead of heart, steeped in cowardice, roiled by hate of that which nurtures them, and possessed of souls riddled with the chancres of the spirit brand themselves. The better to know them in a future time. Such beings always proliferate in the dark passages of history; and always play on the mindlessness of the masses. It is their insect nature. You can see it in the species from the maggot men of Palestine on up the mold chain to the preening Congressman prattling about "patriotism" while selling his country out for tin or a tickle. There will be more. Mark them well. It is how we live now.

How else should we live now that for most the first fear has faded and no more bad days have come their way? You can't promote a war of survival when your politics have only promoted a time of "perfect public safety here at home." The argument that "there have been no attacks" is not just a desperate demonstration of efficacy, but a perverse demonstration to the senses that there is indeed no real war upon us at all.

A war is not demonstrated by an absence of attacks on the homeland. Absence merely demonstrates the convergence, on a day to day basis, of somewhat effective methods of interdicting attacks, no little luck, and the forbearance of the enemy to engage directly what can be won more easily by disengagement. Enemies do not strike to enrage the foe, but to kill them in large numbers and break their will to resist. Absent the capability to do that, a wise enemy who thinks in Biblical spans of time will make few large moves and many minor ones. The London Blitz was such that no British citizen was in doubt that a great number of Germans were working night and day to kill him. A war of attrition against American soldiers in a distant land, with a casualty rate so insignificant that each killed or wounded soldier can be lionized, is hardly a war that presses home its lethality to the vast mass of work-crazed or leisure-soaked Americans.

The absence of enemy action at home is seen, over years, as the absence of an enemy, as an absence of intent, as no war at all.

One can easily fall under the spell of this month's cover story in the Readers Digest, "The Miracle of Sleep." One can be lulled into the illusion of peace on earth just sitting here by the swimming pool while the old man beyond the fence walks his dachshund from the comfort of his motorized wheel-chair, and his grandson in cut-offs and a t-shirt pedals lazy circles around him on one of those retro red Schwinns that is suddenly – like so many other ironic and harmless artifacts of the 1950s – back in style again. Back to the fifties with the aging children of the sixties – O paragons of cowardice -- in control of the Congress. It's how we live now.

War? Ask not what is it good for, but where is it? Ask also how long you think this luck will last?


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 15, 2014 11:20 PM |  Comments (15)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Magic of Childhood

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I'm not at all sure which pagan religion my 10-year-old stepson belongs to. Perhaps it is the arcane cult of "Nintendoism" with its secret rites of "The High Priests of the Thumb". Perhaps he is an acolyte of "Transformerology," which evidently commands him to amass enough Legos to build a Romanesque Chapel in his room that is large enough for himself and two friends.

I am disturbed this unknown cult requires him to keep a graven image in his room that resembles a large square sponge with legs and a Satanic expression. From time to time, he is known to take trays of burnt offerings, in the form of charred circles of dough covered in melted cheese and a sauce as red as blood, into his room. The offering trays are later recovered, but there is no trace of the sacrifice, only vague stains of red on the sponge and rug beneath it.

I am not sure how or when he came by this religion. Perhaps he was converted during one of those dead of night gatherings known among his coven as "sleep-overs." Sure, they sound innocent enough, but I am positive that these are covens at which much arcane and secret knowledge is transferred.

No matter what the source or nature of his unknowable religion, one thing is clear about the dangers of it. He has become convinced that there is such a thing as magic. My fear is that he may be right.

I suspect this because I have witnessed this dark magic at work in my own home.

One often seen magical incident is what I have come to know as "The Ritual of the Spirit Shoes." In this ritual, he discards his shoes at any place in the house in the sincere belief that they will reappear lined up in pairs in his closet. This, you will be astonished to learn, is exactly what happens. They actually do appear in the closet within the next 24 hours. At times they even reappear, as if they sense they will be his choice of footwear for the day, next to the front door ready for his feet in a kind of reverse Cinderella moment.

I have come to understand that "The Ritual of the Spirit Shoes" is only one of the strange effects that comes about through the intervention of "The Magic Floor." This "force" seems to be able to cause any and all items of his clothing discarded at any point in the house to vanish only to reappear, clean and folded, in his drawers and closets.

I have tried to reproduce this effect for myself by discarding items of clothing here and there about the house, but the only magical effect this seems to have is to cause "the look" to appear on the face of my wife. After which, I collect my spurned offerings from "The Magic Floor."

By far the most stunning proof that my stepson's religion is dark magic with large mojo is what I have come to understand as "The Miracle of Toys and Games."

As a 10-year-old boy, my stepson has no job, no prospects of a job, and is currently doomed to be a member of the hard-core unemployed for an unknown number of years. Because of this, he does not enjoy positive cash-flow. In fact, if he has any cash-flow at all, it is decidedly negative.

Still, he seems to have an ever expanding level of possessions. No sooner does he obtain, through prayer, an X-Box than he calls out to his strange gods for a Playstation II and, poof!, it appears. It comes complete with several strange circles of shiny metal that he places in the slot on the Playstation altar for an extended periods of worship.

Objects of this level of expense must, it would seem, be chanted for intensely, and the chants repeated frequently, over a period of time. The more mundane items such as school supplies seem to be the fruits of silent prayer. Still, the miracle manifests itself on a daily basis when, without any tapping of his own horde of cash kept in a large brown cigar box, his possessions multiply around him.

All this happens behind his back and without any intervention from him while in a trance state. At this level of contemplation and meditation he receives visions from strange beings that appear to him hour upon hour. Observing him in this state I can only conclude he is channeling his arcane gods through some mystical conduit that he calls "The Cartoon Network."

I am not sure what messages he is receiving since those few visions I have been allowed to witness involves bizarre figures of a slightly oriental cast flying about on alien worlds. Other than flying and exploding, they are unmoving except for a vibrating crimson squiggle where their lips would be. I am not sure what gospel they are preaching. I am sure, however, that I there is a monthly tithe for this somewhere in my cable bill.

No matter. Although it is a bit unnerving to witness the magical power of my stepson's unknown religion, I am at least comforted to know that he, unlike so many of our materialistic children, has a rich and full spiritual life. That's so important in these days when the secular seems to be dominating so much of our culture. Since many of his friends seem to share the same religion, I am also gratified that he has chosen peers whose family's values also accentuate the spiritual.

Yesterday I thought that I would help my stepson take one of his first steps towards adulthood by getting him his own wallet. In this way I believed I could begin to show him how to be responsible for his own finances. On reflection I thought better of it. His religion is so powerful that he would simply take it into his room, mutter some words over it, expose it to the mystic rays beamed in via "The Cartoon Channel," and it would be transformed into "The Boys' Wallet of Wonder -- Money checks in, but it doesn't check out." He would always leave home without it.



[Note: First published ten years ago this month.]


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 14, 2014 2:52 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
200 Years. Still Waving. "At 6:00 a.m. on September 13, 1814" The Flag at Fort McHenry

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The Flag at Fort McHenry

This is the first known photograph of the American flag taken on June 21, 1873 by George Henry Preble. The flag was flown over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland during an infamous battle between the British and the United States during the War of 1812.
At 6:00 a.m. on September 13, 1814, British warships began to attack Fort McHenry with guns and rockets in an attempt to take over the strategic Baltimore Harbor. For 25 hours American soldiers stood their positions, unable to do much but watch the British shoot at them. Their own cannons did not have the range to touch the British ships. The British, on the other hand, had longer-reaching guns and could hit the fort. However, they were wildly inaccurate. So the British sat in the harbor attempting to damage the fort while the Americans sat in the fort hoping their enemies’ guns would continue to be erratic. The British finally ceased their attack the next morning after using most of their ammunition. When the smoke cleared, only one British soldier was wounded while the Americans lost four and had twenty-four wounded.
The reason the attack on Fort McHenry is forever ingrained in the history books is because of one witness, a Washington lawyer, who wrote a poem about the attack. The poem, originally called “The Defense of Fort McHenry” but was later renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and became the United States’ national anthem. It was penned by Francis Scott Key who came to the fort to negotiate the release of a friend that was taken prisoner by the British. He witnessed the bombardment from a ship about eight miles away. Inspired by the sight of a lone, large American flag still waving strongly at the end of the battle, Key reflected what he saw in the famous poem: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof though the night that our flag was still there.”
The oversized American flag he saw (shown in the above photo) was sewn by Mary Pickersgill. In anticipation of the British attack, she was given $405.90 to create the 30 by 42 feet flag. Pickersgill, a thirty-seven-year-old widow, had made ships’ colors and signal flags before and often filled orders for military and merchant ships. In making this particular flag, she was assisted by her thirteen-year-old daughter Caroline, her nieces Eliza Young (also thirteen) and Margaret Young (fifteen-years-old) along with Grace Wisher, a thirteen-year-old indentured servant. It took them seven weeks to make this flag along with a smaller flag.


Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 13, 2014 3:08 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
School Today: Made by Mouthbreathers for Mouthbreathers

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 9, 2014 8:32 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Back to School

Yesterday I heard of a young mother who came downstairs early in the morning to find her fifth-grade son dressed for school but flat on his back in the middle of the living room staring in despair at the ceiling.

MOM: "What on Earth do you think you're doing?"

BOY: "I can't do it. I just can't go to school any more."

We all know how that small strike ended. Management made an offer ("Go to school or else."), and the union of one caved in with a few plaintive "But mom's.... "

I first thought that there was rough justice in that. After all, the thought of actually going on a ten-minute "I-won't-go-to-school" strike never would have entered my ten-year old mind. If it had I would not have heard the dreaded promise, "Wait until your father gets home." No, I would have heard the thermonuclear announcement, "I'm calling your father at work and telling him to come home right now." That one always alerted me that I had only one half-hour to get my affairs in order.

Today, after mulling the lie-down strike a little more, it seems to me there's more than a little to be said on the side of the fifth-grader's strike. After twenty years of schooling and more than thirty on the day shift, those early grades seem -- looked at through society's grubby glasses -- to be an idyllic time. After all, weren't they?

No real worries. No problems with the opposite or the same sex. No goals other than getting to Christmas break, Easter break or the long and endless summer. No money to make. No money, in fact, to speak of at all. All your expenses covered. No taxes. No sense of mortality. In short, the lost and golden land of childhood. We all think of it, once far removed from it, as some distant Edenic idyll.

But if we try and shift our point of view a bit, and if we try to remember all those things the haze of our twice-told childhood fairy-tales hides from us, we might see it -- just a bit and just for an instant -- from the point of view of the fifth-grade boy flat on his back in the living room staring at the ceiling in utter despair.

Here he lays. He's been going to this job of his for as long as he can remember. Unlike my experience which didn't start until kindergarten, today's boy has probably been working in the education industry since age 3.

They started him out on basic blocks and why he shouldn't nail somebody who took his cookie. Those are hard lessons. How to stack something up so it doesn't collapse in a heap at the first shudder in the earth. How to "share" your very limited and very personal resources. Why you don't just whack anyone who irritates you with the nearest blunt object.

These are basic lessons, and we forget how hard they are. Some of us don't learn them at all. Those people are either in prison, assembling bombs, or CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Still, that's your entry level position in the educational-industrial complex at age 3. It's all downhill from there.

For years you get up at an ungodly hour and don't even get a chance to read the paper. Plus, no coffee at all. Not. A. Drop.

You are then pushed out of your home and either driven to your "office-complex" by a cranky chauffeur with complete control over you, or you get to ride with a few dozen of your more-or-less peers with different ideas of hygiene and levels of intelligence in a shaking tin box with no seatbelts, driven by some of the least intelligent members of your community. I'd be a nervous wreck by the time I got to the office, I'll tell you.

Once you do get to the office, your time to just goof off is extremely limited. No leisurely stints by the water cooler for you. No coffee cart with tasty pastries coming by after only an hour. Bladder issue? Raise your hand and get a note. Other than that you are never alone.

You get one break out in the dirt, with, I might add, no coffee. A couple of hours later you get a quick hit of really bad food that is the same this Wednesday as it was last Wednesday. After that, it's back to your office where they don't even have a little cube for you, but slam you together with 15 to 30 other slaves to the clock in a room fit only for 10.

In some huge gesture to your youth, they let your out of this joint at 3 in the afternoon. They tell you it's a "school day," but if you've been up since 7 and out at three, that's a full eight hours in my book.

Oh, and no chatting with your friends. Yes, you, pipe down. If not it's off to the CEO's antechamber for a quick and humiliating performance review. Daily if you don't snap out of it. If you really don't snap out of it, we're calling your father AND your mother to come here from work right now.

Perhaps you get to enjoy the mastery of your skills? Don't make me laugh. Master one thing and boom here comes another.

Comprehend fractions? That was so last week. Now do long division. Made a volcano that blew up on cue last week? Big deal. This week you are going to construct an Algonquin winter lodge diorama from scratch --- and it better have plenty of cotton balls for snow.

One o'clock. Your project for this hour is the basic structure of the cell. Okay, two o'clock, everybody stand up and turn to the person next to them and say, "Hola, como se llama..."

Day in day out, week in week out, year in year out ... you trudge off to this room crammed to the brim with bird's nests, flash cards, trilobites, pilgrim hats, Indian headresses, drawings and paintings in which the proportion of the head to the body is never right, but looks for all the world like an exhibit by demented Fauvists with no drawing skills whatsoever and a very garish color sense. Twice a day, everybody in this room is let out. Is it any wonder they run screaming into the sunshine?

You have no veto whatsoever over your co-workers, your working conditions, your hours, or your choice of when to do what tasks. Everyone does the same tasks at the same time for 55 minutes and then it is on to something new.

Did I mention the fact that you can't quit? If you try to quit they send the Gestapo to your home and track you down and haul you back.

There is, however, judgment. Oh, the judgment. Constantly tested. Constantly graded. Constantly up for criticism with your single allowable plea being, "Guilty. But with an explanation." It's like an annual review every week with no raises, ever.

And nothing, nothing you do, is ever quite good enough, is it? Except for that four-eyes up in the front row who always gets it done perfectly. No mistakes ever. You know, the kid who will be pantsed and then smothered with 30 co-workers backpacks out behind the backstop one rainy afternoon.

By the fifth grade, you've been in this dead end job for about seven years. If you're lucky, your pay has gone from a dollar to ten dollars a week. Get straight A's and you might get a bonus of one day at the local "Magic Kingdom." Then it's, "Okay, break's over. Everybody back on their heads."

I don't know about you, but that sounds like one of the worst jobs in the world. In fact, the more I think about it the more I want to lie down with that kid in the middle of the living room and say, "I just can't do it any more either."

It took me about 30 years to get to that point. I guess I'm not as smart as I was in the fifth grade. In fact, I'm sure of it.


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 9, 2014 2:29 AM |  Comments (35)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Gun School

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What I said to my "concerned" friends that asked was, "I like to collect permissions to do things." I lied. Being freaked out that anyone they knew would take gun training and get a concealed weapons permit, they tacitly agreed to believe that lie. It kept everything smooth and "non-political," which I how a lot of my friends and I like it these days. All part of the little lies we tell because we cannot face reality in the world and in our relationships.

I took pistol training because one day it dawned on me that if I ever actually needed a gun it would be too late to shop.

It dawned on me after an unarmed mother and daughter were shot to death hiking in the mountains around Seattle. (Mother Daughter Shot While Hiking). It dawned on me after an enraged Muslim had bluffed his way into the Jewish Community Center of Seattle last summer and shot six women and killed one. (Six Women Shot One Killed at Jewish Federation) That was the week I went and signed up for gun training. After the training I felt I would be qualified to get a gun.I would get it because it was my right to get it. I would get it because I could. I would get it because Washington, no matter how deeply mired in denial and dementia Seattle may become, Washington itself is still a "must issue" state. And how long that would last in the demented rush to disarm and make all citizens effective wards of the state for their "protection" was anybody's guess.


Tracking the killings of over 30 unarmed, effectively disarmed and therefore helpless students, at Virginia Tech [in 2007] confirmed me in my decision. It took many bullets for this tragedy to unfold. It would have taken just one going the other way to stop it. That and the training to know what the situation was and how to react.

Unless you are morally, spiritually, and politically blind to human reality, you know that this is the truth.

Just one weapon on one person in the hundreds that ran and scattered in front of the maniac could have written a much different ending to this sordid and vile rampage. But there were none because the regents and officials and politicians responsible were mired in yet the persistent liberal utopian dream of a world that never was and never will be. In a very real sense, those students that died were sacrificed to the flaccid and unexamined politically correct beliefs of those charged with their education and their security. What they made in their yearning for perfection was a perfect "free-fire zone" for maniacs. This week one maniac took advantage of this officially safe killing zone. There are thousands of others.

There will be massive lawsuits. There SHOULD be other public consequences of dramatic proportions for those that failed and those that constructed the failed policies. Otherwise the whole thing will drift off into the vague whisps of woulda and shouda and the whole massacre will be repeated, somewhere else somewhere down the line. For those that live in the happy world, the real world never instructs because they always avoid any consequences.

The people who sit around and dream up their "perfect world policies" never suffer any consequences to a great enough extent to give the others of their ilk pause. It's a consequence of decades of dementia among those that gain positions of trust and tenure at our colleges and then hire other similarly demented people to chum up with them. It's the "old liberals' network" that is every bit as protective as the "old boys' network" it so preeningly replaced.

We've handed off our colleges to weaklings and the intellectuallly insane. No surprise when fresh insanity breaks out and kills our kids. No surprise at all. And the kicker is that these people with these mindsets stand ready to do it again in exactly the same way at some other location. What happens in the real world doesn't dent their wooly womb at all. Their school is not now and never will be The Gun School.

In the real world, the Gun School I attended wasn't what anyone here who would never consider taking gun training would think. Everyone I spoke with here when I was taking the training expected a place surrounded by pickups sporting Confederate Flag bumper stickers and gun racks. It didn't matter that The Gun School existed a half a mile from Microsoft in the deepest heart of soft and fluffy nerd land. They had their internal image of 'gun nuts' and they were sticking to it. Reality cannot hope to displace insular group fantasies decades old.

In reality my class at The Gun School was composed of about 14 people and it met four times for three hours. It was basic gun safety and handling. Everyone who want to get a gun needs to take such a class. A gun is not a pick-up and go play kind of thing. As we are all aware, it is the kind of thing that will, to say the least, hurt you or someone else real fast and permanently if you get stupid with it. It can hurt you even worse if a maniac has one and you don't. Then you're just a target for their rage and an instrument of their twisted pleasure. You're going to go and you'll go cheap.

Of the 14 people in my class, seven were women -- of which four were two lesbian couples. One and all told me they were there because of the killings of the mother and daughter who had been shot while hiking near Seattle. They had, I noted, the regulation number of anti-Bush stickers on their cars.

Two somewhat elderly Jewish couples took another four chairs. They were, I discovered, lifelong and committed Democrats and both drove the same model Prius. They were there because of the shootings at the Jewish Community Center. One of the wives, a grandmother type, said almost in passing, "It could happen again."

Then there was the programmer from a company he declined to name ("My coworkers and manager would think it really weird if they knew I was here.") and one man in his 20s who "just wanted to learn how to shoot." He drove a muscle car with no bumper stickers proclaiming his ideological persuasion. And then there was me.

The only thing vaguely ideological about my car is the license plate that says LEM for "Law Enforcement Memorial." When I registered the car I had my choice of "theme license plates" that would let me celebrate the woods, the streams and a host of other ecologically correct Washington themes. Way down at the bottom was a new one that gave the extra fee to a memorial in honoring Washington police who have died in the line of duty. These days it somehow seemed more fitting to me, but then again I'm strange in my Seattle set. I go to things like The Gun School. When they ask me about why I have a plate on my car honoring law enforcement -- a function without which their happy perfect world could not exist -- I tell them I think it will give me an edge if I'm ever stopped for speeding.

Like my reasons for going to The Gun School, I'm lying, but it helps keep their happy world intact and, really, once you're armed you always want to keep everything very polite.

But am I armed? Maybe. Maybe not. As far as institutions with demented policies and hardcore fantasies like Virginia Tech are concerned, it really is none of their business. They'd be better off today as would the students they sacrificed if they'd had that attitude to begin with.


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 8, 2014 1:15 AM |  Comments (39)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Love Gone Missing

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"Why did you come to Seattle?"
"I came to Seattle for the love."
"The love. But Seattle is a desert."
"I was misinformed."

Back at the beginning of the century, in 2005, absent being in a coma, a terrorist or monk somewhere on a high mountain, or sunk to your neck in the middle of a cypress swamp, you could not escape the story of "The Runaway Bride:"

"The runaway bride case was the case of Jennifer Carol Wilbanks (born March 1, 1973), an American woman who ran away from home on April 26, 2005, in order to avoid her wedding with John Mason, her fiancé, on April 30. Her disappearance from Duluth, Georgia, sparked a nationwide search and intensive media coverage, including some media speculation that Mason had killed her. On April 29, Wilbanks called Mason from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and falsely claimed that she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a Hispanic male and a white woman. Jennifer Wilbanks gained notoriety in the United States and internationally, and her story persisted as a major topic of national news coverage for some time after she was found and her safety was assured. "

Wilbanks was the plat du jour of selfishness and fear in our blighted age and was the story of the decade for as long as it lasted. When she finally showed up and confessed she was parsed and probed, drawn, quartered and eviscerated by the rapacious media until she was little more than a damp spot on some surgical sponge.

I despised The Runaway Bride from the first moment it was revealed she was safe and had simply freaked out and taken the geographic cure by getting gone to Las Vegas. It was a match made in hell. Along with Wilbanks sane people have to hate Las Vegas too -- a place that advertises that when you do freak out, it is the psycho's vacation destination of choice. A pathetic reason for a town to exist, but cheap and low places need to work with what they have. After all, nobody would mistake Vegas for Vatican City until, of course, they build a 1/3rd scale model of Saint Peters and slam six thousand slots into the basilica -- something I am sure is in the planning stage.

Still Vegas was the perfect place for The Runaway Bride to select as the terminus of her bus ticket. Once you go psycho in America it seems you have to pass through at least a Vegas of the mind and soul even if your final destination is someplace much more mundane like.... Albuquerque.

Let her go.Let her go. God bless her,
Wherever she may be.
She can search, search this whole world wide over....

-- St. James Infirmary

Freaked out, flipped out, bugged out, came back, fessed up, and was forgotten in a wave of law suits.... "then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago." That's the surface. Let's take a dive.

Let's look instead at what lies far below the personalities of this pathetic drama to the deeper principles which illumine why this tawdry little tale once had such a large impact.

Father forgive the media, they know not what they do. But sometimes they do things right in spite of themselves. "The Runaway Bride" was one of those stories. And no matter how many in the media beat up their peers for paying so much attention to this tawdry tale, in the end it illuminates a deeper truth about ourselves and our lives.

What we are really seeing here is something that has a deep and abiding interest to humans because it is something that happens -- in their secret hearts and deeper souls -- to millions of human beings every single day. This particular iteration is merely some modern passion play in which people act out on the stage of the nation our daily common tragedy entitled: Love Gone Missing.

It seems to me that if we knew the secrets of all our hearts, we'd know that love goes missing in our country thousands of times an hour. It doesn't usually go for a run, take a taxi, and grab a bus for destinations thousands of miles away, but that can often be the end of it.

Love goes missing in a moment of fear, of spite, of words spoken or left unspoken, in blink of an eye or a sentence only half-heard or remember wrongly. Love untempered by fire or by ice is a skittish thing in our lives. We think we know what it is, but we really only know what we've been told it is -- at least at the beginning.

We've been told Love is the white-hot passion that comes at the beginning of romance and is supposed to sustain itself at that level of heat across the decades. When that expectation burns through the weak vessels that we are, love goes missing -- off on a quest to find the next pile of fuel on which to burn. Go to a Family Courthouse in any county in this country on any day of the week and you'll see, scattered about the corridors, the scorched waste, sodden ash and family rubble left by this fools' fire.

We've been told that Love is seen in the increasingly lavish weddings whose example is the 14 bridesmaids, 600 guests bash that our current poster child for Love Gone Missing fled from. With such a monstrous beginning, what love could not go missing either before or soon after. No real love can measure up to such grandiose beginnings. After all, Princess Diana had only 5 bridesmaids at her wedding and we all know about the bloody tunnel in which that love gone missing ended in a Paris night.

Wise people and scriptures all tell us that Love, if it is not to go missing, should be built carefully and slowly until what lies inside Love is seen and grasped. But our Love we are told should not be centered on the soul but on things. We are told that Love needs to be seen in the world through things -- the place setting from Tiffany's, the endless objects from the multiple registries, the proof positive of the house becoming the ever larger house as we flip our homes every three years to get our nice appreciation rise. And so we seek to buttress and shore up Love by meeting the expectations of others in the material realm. God forbid you fail those expectations, for then, in an instant of selfish decision that always opts for better and not for worse, Love Goes Missing.

I've seen love go missing in a single, secret, brief and enraged glance on Christmas Day. I've heard love go missing months before the front door slammed. I've seen it go missing in me in a hundred silent moments where I did not speak my heart and in a hundred other moments when I spoke my heart falsely and far too quick. And the only thing I think I've learned about love gone missing is to let it go -- and I'm not even sure about that no matter how often it is repeated to me. Your milage, of course, may vary.

For most of us, when Love Goes Missing it is not easily found again. When it goes missing it goes -- near or far in space -- a long, long way away and we don't have the town turn out to walk search grids for our family, or issue nationwide alerts, or offer $100,000 rewards. It just goes and once it goes we may struggle to find it for a time, but by that time it is far out of reach and beyond our puny power to locate.

But even if one could locate it, what good would that do? Love gone missing can't be compelled to return like some runaway bride taken through the airports with a cloak over its head -- an apprehended perpetrator of the non-crime of going missing. Love's a wild force in our too domesticated and ordered frantic lives. Once gone missing,for whatever reason, it can't be just taken back as it was even if it is found. For if love gone missing is found and returns, it always remains a shattered vessel.

Yes, I know that in the endless bromides of our modern Therapeutic State Religion one is supposed to find the heart, the mercy and the compassion and the patience to pick up every little shard of what has been shattered and, with our ample supplies of theraputic superglue, painfully and tediously put it all back together as it was. Except, of course, it can never be what it was.

Love gone missing takes with it the hostages of trust and truth but they don't come back with it if it returns. They've been buried somewhere en route and their locations long forgotten, far off the map. Even if you could accept it without them, you'd still see the fine hairline cracks in the vase you put back together together. You'd both handle the love like a rare museum object, always looking for the next soft place to store it so that it could not break or escape again. Love under constant guard will never be entirely free from the craving to go missing once again. At any time and for any reason. Sometimes for no reason of love at all.

So, like some many other things that ring deep in the changes of our hearts, we look for what to do; for how we can fix what cannot be fixed by us. If we find love gone missing and if it seems to have been returned to us we look to repair the rare and delicate thing. But it is, we find, like trying to repair a Swiss Watch with sledgehammer. Nobody human has that delicate a touch.

Perhaps it is better, in the end, to learn to let it be. Nobody says you can have only one love with one person. If there can be, and there is, room for more than one love in one life, perhaps there can be more than one love in one love. Maybe the answer, if answer there be, is not the easy answer of repair, but the harder answer of starting all over from the gross and shapeless clay of love.

Maybe you worked too fast at the first pass of love and threw on the wheel of your days a lopsided and thin pot, something that had, deep inside it, some emptiness, some pockets of thin air that you could not see from outside, but that caused it to crack inside under the long heat of our lives of days and hands. Not everything that's pretty is strong.

Perhaps the best thing to do with love gone missing is, as said before, to just let it go and get it gone. It seems cold to say that no search will find it again as it was, but that's probably the truth. At the same time, and in the always inscrutable nature of love, to know that love has gone missing is not the same as knowing that love itself is gone. That's the thing that we always seem to miss and that we need to remember.

Maybe, if you take the time to improve your skills on the wheel of life, you will be able at some point to take up the clay of that love and, kneading more patiently, centering more carefully, and shaping with care and constant hands a better, stronger vessel.

True, it might not be as fine and pretty as the first more delicate one, but it could be good and serviceable and steady. Not at all as likely to shatter on a glance or a word or a silence or a shadow and just go missing.

Like all things made here on the great wheel, love could -- in time -- be coming around again.


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 5, 2014 2:33 AM |  Comments (20)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Radical Roots and the Conquest of the Democratic Party

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Dateline: AmeriKKKa, 1968 -- 2006

WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG, majoring in marijuana at the university, hanging out with the Progressive Labor Party, and skipping through the clouds of tear gas on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, I was convinced that any war that would send my long-haired, sensitive, poetic and acid-tripping self off to wade through rice paddies in Vietnam just had to be wrong, wrong, wrong .

In those years it was easy to see the United States through red-tinted glasses. All you had to do was load a Chillum , roll another Giant Doobie, put "Blonde on Blonde" on the turntable, plug in the Bongomatic and light everything up. Like so many others in that long ago land of Nod-Out, this ritual was my major course of study.

Once this gentle ritual sufficiently soothed my tortured soul I'd often make my way (s l o w l y) to the daily Vietnam Day Committee meeting for a righteous rap session on how "the man can't bust our music or our movement." Then I'd float my way back home to listen to my hot red-diaper girlfriend rhapsodize about her Worker's Party parents and natter on about old Progressive Labor Party parties in New York that seemed to center not on politics but on heroin suppositories. She thought "those were the days."

I wasn't so sure, but she had cool Communist credentials signed off on by no less than the dowager princess of the American Communist Party Bettina Aptheker, so I was inclined to go along with her drivel in order to get along with her. Living with a red-diaper princess who was on the steering committee of the VDC was, in those days at Berkeley, better than going steady with the Homecoming Queen.

In later life, my princess was due to come down in the world. The last I looked she was counseling families into or out of the family state. Just another ordinary therapist wading through the muck of Urban angst. Back then she was professionally oppressed by the fascist war machine and so was I. So was every other college-deferment clutching coward of my time. Fear and lust controlled us well. She, and so many others, "said 'Yes!' to boys who said 'No!'" so I memorized all the ways in which we were oppressed. She was always giving a test on this subject and I didn't do so bad.

I also found that, like any good Berkeley radical, you needed -- in this realm of unremitting oppressions so thick and so multiple that counting was foolish -- to find some good friends; some very good friends both at home and abroad. And so you looked around, not so much for friends, but for enemies of your enemy, the oppressive AmeriKKKa. You looked around the world using the dubious intellectual filter: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

When you ran everything you said and did through that filter you had no end of friends in the 60s and early 70s. Some of them even had guns, ammo, armies, armor and nuclear weapons.

The "friends" of our slice of the young America included, but were not limited to, The Soviet Union, The People's Republic of China, Castro's Cuba, and socialist and communist parties stretching across Europe and down through Mexico, Central and South America. Elsewhere they included the Viet Minh, the Viet Cong, the Khmer Rouge, the Red Army Faction... on and on until the international litany of political dementia girdled the globe in a seamless political landscape of perpetual Revolution, sexual and otherwise. You and your oppressed and draftable friends saw those groups and nations as "righteous." You saw them not as the totalitarian serial killers they were, but as the secular saviors of civilization. They were, well, just very cool guys. They were "happening, bro."

When you got done with feeling cool about those friendly states and organizations, you still weren't out of friends. Instead, you just went on to the "enemies of your enemy" that were not necessarily rooted in real estate, but in the mind and the culture. These groups have been summed up in a stunning fashion by Paul Mann in his perceptive essay "Stupid Undergrounds." They were --take a deep breath --

Apocalyptic cults and youth gangs, garage bands and wolfpacks, alternative colleges and phalansteries, espionage networks trading in vaporous facts and networks of home shoppers for illicit goods; monastic, penological, mutant-biomorphic, and anarcho- terrorist cells; renegade churches, dwarf communities, no-risk survivalist enclaves, unfunded quasi-scientific research units, paranoid think tanks, unregistered political parties, sub-employed workers councils, endo-exile colonies, glossolaliac fanclubs, acned anorexic primal hordes; zombie revenants, neo-fakirs, defrocked priests and detoxing prophets, psychedelic snake-oil shills, masseurs of undiagnosed symptoms, bitter excommunicants, faceless narcissists, ideological drag queens, mystical technophiles, sub- entrepreneurial dealers, derivative derivistes, tireless archivists of phantom conspiracies, alien abductees, dupe attendants, tardy primitives, vermin of abandoned factories, hermits, cranks, opportunists, users, connections, outriders, outpatients, wannabes, hackers, thieves, squatters, parasites, saboteurs; wings, wards, warehouses, arcades, hells, hives, dens, burrows, lofts, flocks, swarms, viruses, tribes, movements, groupuscules, cenacles, isms, and the endlessly multiplied hybridization of variant combinations of all these...
That just about sums up the enemies of our enemy, AmeriKKKa, in the Vietnam era.

As you can see we had plenty of friends.

And they and we all grew older. We survived and thrived. Some even grew up, but only a few. For most of us -- no matter what was our lot in later life -- it would always be 1968. We so loved being "The Lost Boys."

Although I was of -- and among -- many of the groups above, none of them are among my friends any longer. I have, alas, far fewer friends. Indeed, as my strange political odyssey of saying "Goodbye to all that" continues, old friends seem to melt away like the highland mist at high noon in the desert. It is sad, but still, with friends like those....

Over the four decades since 1968, the list of regimes dedicated to, and capable of, the destruction of the United States shrank. They either took a long dirt nap in history, or are now shambling towards the graveyard of all other failed but deadly fascist ideologies. The political genius and destiny of the United States lies, after all, in the fact that we do not require you to be a friend. You simply have to not be an enemy.

The American Way is, after all, that nothing need be personal when it can just be business. One on one, Americans can be very warm, understanding and generous. But piss us off too much and we'll bomb your cities to rubble. We don't like business to be disrupted too much.

In all this, the world at large has gone forward and, all in all, improved for the better. We call it "Globalization" and it seems, slowly, to be working out well for most of those people who have, as they say, "gotten with the program."

But there remains a residual group of Americans who, although they batten off the program, don't want to get with it at all -- except when it comes time to buy a new Prius, vacation in Provance, or score a country home. They take pride in never having sold out, even as they buy in. They are "the Not-So-Great Generation."

Those Americans of the 60s whose fantasies were lit by a dream of a destroyed United States have very few friends left out of the long list of countries once dedicated to totalitarianism. And the list becomes shorter with each passing year.

Time and chance also makes the list of those Americans still dedicated to becoming life-long friends of countries and movements dedicated to the destruction of AmeriKKKa shorter every year. Yet most strangely still live and thrive in the very country they hate the most.

These dreary souls without a country have made prosperous lives for themselves in our local, state and national governments and politics. They are legion in the comfortable realms of academia, entertainment world, and the media. Graying they tint their hair and continue in their quest for an enemy of their enemy to make their friend. Balding, they tie what they have back in a ponytail and strut on impertube.

They are the American Left and, risen from their impoverished conditions in 1968, they now have tenure, high position, or acolytes from which they draw comfortable stipends. Of late, they've taken more and more to coffee klatches with Islamic fundamentalists who, if they don't have the armies to bring about the destruction of the United States, have at least shown they've got enough hate to kill Americans here and abroad retail and wholesale. Besides, they're out shopping for a nuclear weapon and some smallpox, so what's not to like about these guys from an American Leftist's point of view?

Sadly the longer list of Paul Mann's Stupid Undergrounds shows no signs of shortening. Fueled by the vapid culture of cool it gets longer by the day. And it is from within this expanding list of Stupid Undergrounds that the American Left of today draws not only its strength but its fresh and much younger converts.

If it were only the denizens of these fringe groups that supplied the ideological cannon fodder of the American Left, it would be a small matter to marginalize them since their very mindsets marginalize them from the square numbered "1." Indeed, just a few years ago, they could only exist within the rarefied environment of on-campus humanities and ethnic-studies departments. Once removed from these hyperbaric chambers, their failure to thrive in the world outside -- absent a position in various media companies and Washington Wonk Tanks -- was assured. They were, if not really useful idiots, harmless idiots.

Sadly that is no longer the case. Recently a very large and significant American institution has stripped to the buff, oiled up, and made its body politic freely available to the tender mercies and tough love of the American Left. Indeed, the capture of this group is the single significant achievement of the American Left in decades. With the elevation of Howard Dean, the canonization of Hillary Clinton, the sanctification of Ted Kennedy, the renovation of Nancy Pelosi, the self-defenestration of Barbara Boxer, and the deification of Barack H. Obama, it is clear that the political base of the American Left has now migrated from the fringes of our political arena to the dead center of the Democratic Party. And it is there to stay.

The American Left now controls the political party that calls upon the allegiance of nearly half of the country. It is the political party that is the Plantation Party of African-Americans. It is a party that holds its members now not with the plans of what it will do for them in the future, but with the fading memories of what it did for them in the past when it was a great and honorable party. The American Left will remain in control of this Party's shell since it has brought with it not only its failed ideology and all the rag-tag constituents of the Stupid Undergrounds of America, but the very fuel source of these groups itself -- Bush Hate. And on the Left today, Bush-Hate, more than money, is the new mother's milk of our darkening politics. With Bush-Hate money can always be had. Throw that out of the Democratic Party and what money there is currently coming into the party will surely flow away.

It is true that Bush-Hate brings with it a number of disturbing ideological contradictions to the center of the Democratic Party. These were best summed up recently by Pamela Bone in her essay The Silence of the Feminists :

Dislike of George Bush's foreign policy has led to an automatic support of those perceived to be his enemies. Paradoxically, this leaves the left defending people who hold beliefs that condone what the left has long fought against: misogyny, homophobia, capital punishment, suppression of freedom of speech. The recent reaffirmation by Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie has been met by virtual silence; as has the torture and murder in Iraq of a man who would be presumed to be one of the left's own - Hadi Salih, the international officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions. The hard left these days is soft on fascism, or at least Islamofascism.
All clear and present and very dangerous contradictions to be sure, but typical of the American Left today when you recall that a popular slogan of the AmericanLeft in the Sixties was, "Vive les contradictions!"

The conquest of the Democratic Party by the American Left which has now been consummated and will shortly be consolidated is, of course, bad news for the Democrats and for the country as a whole. A vital two or even three party system is essential to the long term balance of the Republic.

But this doesn't bother the Leftists of the Democratic Party at all. They are too busy counting the loot. And there is loot to be had.

The American Left receives many things from their conquest, not the least of which is the damage it does, axiomatically, to the United States. They also receive money, lots of it; especially when you think of the low funding levels the American Left has had for most of its existence. Their plunder also includes electoral organizations -- many -- as well as access to local, state, and national unions in the public and private realms. Add in mailing lists tens of millions of names long as well as websites and online acolytes by the thousands.

Most important of all, the American Left now has open access and control over sitting Democrats in Washington and the state legislatures. With money and organizations to win elections, the American Left now has the power over elected Democrats to instruct them to support and advance some decidedly non-centrist, non-liberal, but classic Leftist agendas. In a very real sense, the conquest of the Democratic Party gives the American Left a base that it could never hope to win, and will now probably never win, at the ballot box.

If you would see the American Left's apotheosis, regard the near vertical ascent, wreathed in light, of Barack H. Obama to hover over hordes of rapt worshipers eager to have their sins washed clean by his voice and visage.

Even though this regrettable transformation of the Democratic Party leaves it much smaller than it would otherwise be, it makes the American Left much bigger than it ever thought it could be. Those who have lingered all these years in the thick bong smoke of the 60s now have their fantasy within their grasp. They have made the enemies of George Bush and the New America at home and abroad into their friends and it is, at last, "Springtime for Lefties!"

Of course, it is a crowning irony to note that the proverb, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." was originally an Arab proverb, as were, indeed, the fuming chillums of 1968's Not-So-Great-Generation.

But hey, as me and my hardcore leftist friends said way back then, "Smoke 'em if you got 'em.".



First published 2006-09-08


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 4, 2014 8:03 AM |  Comments (39)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Seattle

Turn around, a decade's gone.

We watched the city skyline from the ferry deck
And you put your arms around my neck
We talked of looking just out of town
Now it's looking like a dream shot down
I still believe that there's somewhere for us
But now it's something that we don't discuss
And you're the best thing I ever knew
Stay with me, baby, and we'll make it to
We'll make it to
Seattle - you've got to love the rain
And we both love rain
We both love rain

So long good friends. With God's grace I'll see you all again a little further down that long and winding road.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 2, 2014 8:46 PM |  Comments (22)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Burning Hellcat

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Crash landing of F6F-3, Number 30 of Fighting Squadron Two (VF-2), USS Enterprise, into the carrier's port side 20mm gun gallery, 10 November 1943. Lieutenant Walter L. Chewning, Jr., USNR, the Catapult Officer, is climbing up the plane's side to assist the pilot from the burning aircraft. The pilot, Ensign Byron M. Johnson, escaped without significant injury. Enterprise was then en route to support the Gilberts Operation. Note the plane's ruptured belly fuel tank.
"I once showed a photo to my father-in-law (he, and my father, were WW II vets). It showed a carrier deck crewman jumping onto a flaming Hellcat airplane, which sill had the huge fuel drop-tanks attached, and he was trying to help free the pilot. Get it? He was jumping onto a flaming gas can to save a man. Here's what my dad in law said: he was doing his job.

"Now you understand something about that generation. They were made of iron." --Posted by: Casey Klahn in The Top 40: Falling on Grenades:

[Note: I'd been saving this image in my drafts for well over a year waiting for something. This comment by Klahn today was that something.]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 1, 2014 11:50 AM |  Comments (14)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Vague Food Found Inside the Food Lion

It began when my brother, Jeff, reached into his cupboard one evening in Black Mountain, North Carolina, and pulled out a small can. "You want to see some vague food?" he asked holding the tin out.

"Vague?"

"Yes, vague," he said. "Just what is "Potted Meat" anyway? Has it been smoked, drenched, strained, and then slammed into the can with extreme prejudice? What animal gives potted meat?"

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I looked carefully at the can and turned it to the list of ingredients "as required by law." Not vague in the least.

Mechanically Separated Chicken, Beef Tripe, Partially Defatted Cooked Beef Fatty Tissue, Beef Hearts, Water, Partially Defatted Cooked Pork Fatty Tissue, Salt. Less than 2 percent: Mustard, Natural Flavorings, Dried Garlic, Dextrose, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite

The first item caught my eye since I had no idea what "Mechanically Separated Chicken" was except that it sounded bad for the chicken. Since then I've learned what the process entails:

Mechanically separated meat (MSM) [I'll let the acronym "MSM" pass without comment], also known as mechanically recovered meat (MRM), is a paste-like meat product produced by forcing beef, pork or chicken bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. Mechanically separated meat has been used in certain meat and meat products since the late 1960s.
That really perks up the taste buds, doesn't it?

My brother, to his eternal credit, didn't open that can of "Potted Meat." If he had we might have had to vacate his home at high speed surfing just ahead of the odor wave. Instead he prepared a very good dinner using real food.

Still, his concept of "vague food" stuck with me. How much vague food was there and what was it like? The next morning I found myself roaming through one of Food Lion supermarkets that are scattered about North Carolina. It was a bit of spontaneous cultural anthropology. My mission was to discover what other strange offerings had crept onto the grocery shelves during the years in which my own tastes had tended towards the more high end of offerings at YuppieChic Whole Foods style markets. I was not to be disappointed.

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 1, 2014 9:50 AM |  Comments (48)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Grace in the Blue Ridge Mountains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[First published October 2007]


Posted by Vanderleun at Aug 31, 2014 4:21 AM |  Comments (60)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Medium Is the Message

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

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What's in your wallet?


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 30, 2014 9:20 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
In less that 24 hours it is official...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 12, 2014 1:03 PM |  Comments (20)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Remember those 15 cent school lunches from 1943? Good times.

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

And now?

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 8, 2014 9:27 AM |  Comments (15)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Your Legend Never Did"

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

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

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Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 5, 2014 8:58 AM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Summer of Our Content

August 1910: It wasn’t the last summer but it was one of the last summers when America was at peace with the world and at peace with itself. The Civil War was a 45 year old memory. The first of the World Wars that would scar the century to come was not even the shadow of a premonition. Lenin was an exile in Europe with no power and Mao was a student in Hunan. Hitler was living in a homeless shelter in Vienna selling paintings to tourists. Stalin was either being sent to or escaping from Siberia. Churchill was the Home Secretary in England and planning the first bit of social engineering, the National Insurance Act. Taft was President and his plan was "try to accomplish just as much [as Teddy Roosevelt] without any noise."

Both the automobile and and the electric light were ubiquitous. Air conditioning was still a wild fantasy, but the swamp cooler had begun to come online in 1904 so it wasn't completely out of the question for the very rich.

Halley’s Comet had just passed by taking Mark Twain with it. Somewhere in Macedonia Mother Teresa had just been born. If men looked up they could have seen, had they been in the right place at the right time, other men in flight. If any had been in Sheepshead Bay out side of New York City on the 20th they would have heard the first gunshots ever fired from an airplane. Individual lives might have their small tragedies but there was no perceptible or imaginable catastrophe in the cards dealt Americans that summer. It was August and everywhere Americans paused to refresh themselves.

Presented for your contemplation: One wave breaking over a group of Americans who have waded into the Atlantic on the Jersey shore sometime around noon on a hot day in August in 1910.

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The wave would have swelled up and started out far over the eastern horizon near the edge of the Gulf Stream. It would have rolled with strict impunity in the midst of thousands of others like it, all bound towards the shore. The photographer would have gotten up early and hauled his cumbersome equipment towards the shore. The bathers would have arrived in the late morning if they were not already staying near the shore.

Once there they changed into swimming apparel known more for modesty than comfort. From the light it was around noon and would have been hot. Seeking to be cooler they waded in. Some stayed near the shore. Others waded further out the steadily deepening water.

On some kind of elevated platform above the sand, the photographer put the 8x10 glass plate into the camera and ducked under the black hood for final adjustments. Then he stood up and called out and called out and called out and finally got the attention of some. Most ignored him.

The wave rolled in from somewhere over the horizon, rising up and down, maybe cresting here and there, until it swelled one last time and, just as the photographer happened to release the shutter, jumped up in that one moment and splashed and spattered the unwary people posed and unposed in the cool salt water just off the beach on the Jersey shore.

That was the moment, less than a second, in the midst of that summer now more than a century gone. All, each and every one, of those nearly 300 souls are now gone as well, even the children held on the shoulders or standing in the shallows, all gone -- all perhaps, maybe, save one now almost silent centenarian.

Well, what of it? That’s the way of the world and the way of the waves of the world and our lives. What we have is this moment snatched out of time on the Jersey shore one afternoon in August before the last century went smash. Who is there? What were they like? It can’t be known, but it can be seen and what can be seen, at least in this one moment, is that these people had what anyone would recognize as that thing we call happiness. Let’s see what we can see of it.

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 31, 2014 2:12 AM |  Comments (27)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Roadtrip Attractions

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Nevada State Route 375

To capitalize on the purported paranormal activity along the route, the Nevada Commission on Tourism sought to rename the highway. State officials drew inspiration from the alien legends and dubbed SR 375 the Extraterrestrial Highway in February 1996.[18] The tourism commission hoped that the renaming would "draw travelers to the austere and remote reaches of south-central Nevada, where old atomic bomb test sites, secret Defense Department airstrips and huge, sequestered tracts of military land create a marketable mystique."

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World's Largest Ball of Twine, Cawker City, Kan:

This ball of twine, built by a community, not just an individual, continues to grow during the annual "Twine-a-Thon" every August. At last measure, the ball weighed in at nearly 18,000 pounds and measured 40 feet in diameter.

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Carhenge, Alliance, Neb.:

Built by artist Jim Reinders in 1989, this installation of 38 vintage American cars in a formation replicating that of Stonehenge, nestles in the soft, long grasses of the Nebraska High Plains and tops many a list of cool roadside attractions. Unlike its more unruly Texan relative, Cadillac Ranch (mentioned later in this story), graffiti is prohibited in favor of a matte, primer grey finish.

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Enchanted Highway, Regent, N.D.:

Dotted along a 32-mile stretch of an unnumbered highway in the southwestern part of North Dakota, are the giant sculptural creations of local artist Gary Greff. Conceived as a way of enlivening and drawing tourism to Regent, North Dakota, the Enchanted Highway features the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures, taking a variety of forms, from a titan farmer with pitchfork to birds and fish in flight. For more of Greff’s quirky tastes, viewers can stay at his similarly-themed Enchanted Castle hotel, also in Regent.

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Randy's Donuts, Los Angeles:

Get your tasty pastry fix at any time of day at this iconic 24/7 sweet spot.Randy’s Donuts, a longtime landmark near Los Angeles’ LAX airport, with its giant rooftop donut sculpture, has been the backdrop for many a blockbuster film, includingIron Man 2, Get Shorty, Mars Attacks!, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, as well as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ music video, "Californication."

More at Quirky roadside America - a gallery on Flickr


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 26, 2014 10:25 AM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The 400' Flagpole

It's something everyone would rally around. Every time you see it, it means something. A symbol of freedom, but also a symbol of hope.
- Ben Salzmann, President & CEO, ACUITY Insurance

Flagpole facts:
• At 400 ft, the tallest flagpole in the world flying a U.S. flag
• The flagpole is 11ft in diameter at its base tapering to 5ft 6in at its top.
• The pole weighs approximately 420,000lbs and was fabricated and erected in six sections.
• The 60ft x 120ft flag weighs 350lbs.
• Over 500 gallons of paint provide corrosion protection.
• The foundation is comprised of 680 cubic yards of concrete.
• Designed to withstand low temperature service of minus 41 degrees Celsius and wind speeds of 120mph

[HT: Chasmatic]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 22, 2014 12:56 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
'Boomerang Kids': Portraits of Millennials Living Back Home with Mom and Dad

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Alexandria Romo, 28, Austin, Tex.
Degree: B.A., Economics, Loyola University, Chicago
Career goal: Environmentalist
Current Job: Working at a corporate-security firm
Student Loans: $90,000

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Gabriel Gonzalez, 22, Suffern, N.Y.
Degree: B.F.A., Graphic design, School of Visual Arts
Career goal: Graphic designer
Current job: Graphic designer and production assistant
Student Loans: $130,000

-- Others @ Feature Shoot


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 14, 2014 8:09 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Any Questions?

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 13, 2014 5:55 PM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
10 Minutes with Dennis Miller

"Muslims will want to go to the moon when the Jews set up Israel there."


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 12, 2014 12:20 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Chicago and the Don Zaluchi Policy by John Fleming

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Blood is washed away from the sidewalk after a 24-year-old man was shot and killed on the South Side of Chicago, Ill. According to published reports, the man was the 73rd homicide victim and the 39th victim under the age of 25 in Chicago this year. -- NBC

Don Zaluchi runs Chicago, although it's actually grey-black powder.

If they had any sense or American identity left in them, they'd realize that they are every one his sacrificial pawns. The Don wants this, every child gunned down makes the case for firearms confiscation, and the reversion to slavery complete. But this, in this country, will never happen without risking civil war. And the Don knows, the rest of the country doesn't care either and believes as he does. Who cares if soulless animals off each other? There's no downside to letting this continue, or so he and his associates think.

The Don could stop this. But it would mean a severe squeeze on the rackets to make the streets safe. The Capo's would get themselves a new Don. That the Don only calls ineffectively for firearms confiscation, while doing nothing to actually make the city safe for all People, "evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism"

Instead of killing each other, they should march on City Hall and purge with extreme prejudice every Alderman, Ward heeler, precinct and police captain they can find. And for good measure, torch Hyde Park, raze it, and salt the earth.

It's too late for apologies. "[I]t is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." If they don't, they're dead anyway. If they do, they have a fighting chance to "institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness".

Posted by: John A. Fleming in "Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin' town"

Don Zaluchi:

I also don't believe in drugs. For years I paid my people extra so they wouldn't do that kind of business. Somebody comes to them and says, "I have powders; if you put up three, four thousand dollar investment, we can make fifty thousand distributing." So they can't resist. I want to control it as a business, to keep it respectable.I don't want it near schools! I don't want it sold to children! That's an infamia. In my city, we would keep the traffic in the dark people, the coloreds. They're animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 8, 2014 5:15 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Fatso the Cat

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"In the past if someone was famous or notorious, it was for something—as a writer or an actor or a criminal; for some talent or distinction or abomination. Today one is famous for being famous." -- Malcolm Muggeridge

I’m a man who doesn’t like cats. I don’t understand why women and certain men don’t get the simple axiom: “Dogs? Cool. Cats? Not.” It is one of the universal truths that no sane man can deny. And yet the chicks and chestless men persist in promoting this most useless of animals which steadfastly resists domestication, becoming an agreeable amusement, and is next to useless if not downright nauseating when sauteed or roasted, grilled or boiled, or even deep-fried.

There was one cat, however, that I did come to admire; Fatso.

Fatso arrived in my life like most cats arrive in the lives of men -- attached to a woman. Indeed, Fatso was one of three cats attached to this woman, and he was the least promising at the outset. The other two cats were: 1) “Spotty” -- an utterly coal black cat whose only “spot” was directly under his tail, and 2) “Oswald LeWinter” -- a cat who was so utterly gay that he could have been the reincarnation of Liberace. And then there was.... “Fatso” -- a cat so utterly beaten down and scabrous that on him a sucking chest wound would have looked good. When this particular woman arrived in my life the cats were all firmly established in hers so it was a done deal if I wanted her to stick around which, at the time, I did.

Fatso was not only a fat cat -- from eating anything no matter how vile and rotten, -- he was a loser cat. He was continually wandering off into the neighborhood and getting into screeching, yowling, spitting, clawing, gnawing fights with every other cat whose food bowl he tried to hoover. And he always, but always, lost and came dragging home with this flap hanging off him, that long slash in his side, and claw marks slanting across his face. His fur would be matted with urine, spit, drool, feces and blood. Fatso was one ugly beaten down fat cat.

The woman who owned him was, obviously, committed to him in the way that women get committed to hurt things, battered things, stupid things, and things that don’t really run on all cylinders. It’s their training for putting up with men, I guess. She’d hold him down and squirt this fine yellow powdered sulphur into his wounds to promote healing or at least hold off gangrene. After a day or so of recuperating around the house, Fatso would haul himself out the window and start catting about the neighborhood looking for food and finding a fight. Then, after a day or so, he’d come limping back with yet more of his body turning into scar tissue.

I put up with Spotty since he was a black cat and I didn’t want to alienate any black cat lest he put some bad juju and mean mojo on me. As for Oswald LeWinter, the gay cat, I said, early on, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” -- even though I suspected, with cats at least, there might be. As for Fatso, well, he disgusted me. I had no use for him. I was even starting to measure him for a river diving bag.

And so it went until..... until.... until the hippy girl arrived.

In those years hippy girls were always arriving. It was what they did. They came and then... they went. And they all had.... they all had to have.... a handicraft. Some did tie-dyes. Others did very heavy and clumsy pottery. Some chipped arrowheads out of flint. Some made teepees in the back yard. Still others wove macramé diaphragms.

This particular hippy girl did beaded belts and chokers. And, needless to say, methamphetamine. She had several egg cartons holding a mass of teeny-tiny beads and a kind of wire frame loom. She’d wire up the loom, smoke a lot of dope, pop a little meth, and then crack open the egg cartons and bead up a bunch of stuff she hoped to sell somewhere along the edges of Telegraph Avenue. I once figured she was making about a dime an hour and when I told her this she said, “That much? Groovy.”

She lived in the apartment behind ours and one day, while setting up her loom, Fatso wandered by her and wiped the latest blood from his wounds on her tie-dye skirt. She glanced down and said, “Oh, Fatso. Uncool.” Then she went to work her hippy girl fingers flying lightly over her bead loom as only the young, stoned, female speedfreak can manage.

Within two hours she had finished a large cat-sized collar in beads. She called Fatso over and strapped it on him. He tossed his head a little bit since the collar was over an inch in width and must have pinched a bit on his neck, but then he seemed to accept it. He sauntered over and has he passed me I glanced down. The hippy girl had woven and arranged a collection of bright red beads against a black background to read, in capitol letters, “FATSO!” (Exclamation mark included.) You could read it from six feet away. The cat, supremely indifferent to this gift, wandered through my legs, into the back garden and hobbled out of sight. “Good riddance,” I thought and hoped he’d try to kill a large delivery truck with his teeth at thirty miles an hour.

It was not to be. Instead we heard, for over a week, a whole chorus of yelps, screeches, yowls and other indications of a virtual tom cat war breaking out across the back yards of the neighborhoods with nary a sign of Fatso limping home for repair. A few days into the week some neighbors would, walking by, remark, “Hey, I saw your cat Fatso kicking some ass the other day. Slipped him some tuna. Cool cat, man.” Other praise kept coming our way. It would seem that Fatso was becoming, if you were of a feline persuasion, a force to be reckoned with in the neighborhood.

Then late one afternoon a changed Fatso sauntered casually back into our house. It was, of course, just at feeding time and he immediately walked up to Spotty and knocked him away from his bowl. Then he turned to Oswald LeWinter and knocked him away from his bowl. Both cats began to make aggressive gestures and take on puffed up postures, but a single glance from Fatso and both shrank away and went to a far corner of the kitchen where they made faint mewling noises. He ate from each of their bowls and then his own. Then he sauntered back to the door and down the stoop and walked slowly away up the center of the sidewalk.

The woman and I, stunned, followed him at a discrete distance. All along the way as he was being passed by people, they’d glance down and, taking note of his collar, say “Hey, Fatso! What’s happening?” Some would even stop to pet him until he purred. Then Fatso would seem to give a feline shrug then and saunter on.

At his approach, other cats would disappear until he passed. Fatso had, by virtue of his collar, become known by name to the entire neighborhood. He had become famous by being famous. He'd become a celebri-cat, the first I’ve ever known.

All it took was a collar and a name and Fatso was never beaten up again and certainly never went hungry ever again. In time his saunter became a strut. You couldn’t help but like Fatso since liking him was what Fatso was all about.

In a year or so the woman and I decided to move up into the hills above the town. We packed up Spotty and Oswald LeWinter, but when it came time for Fatso he was nowhere to be found. He’d decided to stick to the old neighborhood. With nearly twenty women putting out food for him and with all the other cats living in fear of him there was no motivation to move with us. We were now “little people.” He was.... well, he was “FATSO!”

For all I know he's still there to this day, kicking fur-butt and flaunting his name; master of his domain, King of Kats. All he needed was what we all need.... a little name recognition.

[Republished for Geoff: Hello Kitty Captain of Queen Anne]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 8, 2014 2:36 AM |  Comments (24)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The American Argument

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For a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder. --- Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Sometimes small notions indicate issues of larger moment. In the discussion of a previous post, a commenter delivers a vest pocket critique of America seen from abroad. The salient part reads:

As for the last paragraph - well, personally, I don't give a damn whether Americans kill themselves through gross overeating and under-exercising, filling their food with chemicals for short-term profit or turning their cities' air into poison gas - not to mention handing terrorists billions of dollars to kill Americans (and others) with.
What I do mind is that Americans are setting a bad example for everyone else; as a small example the streets of Britain are filled with grotesquely large 4x4s. I am quite sure the fashion comes from across the pond. As another, the Chinese might well ask why they should restrict their economic growth when America already uses many times more fuel than they do - and they'd be right.

What I do mind is various American corporations not only trying to foist their Frankenstein food on us, but trying to make it impossible for us to tell that they are doing it - did you know that Monsanto are claiming in various court cases that labelling of food containing GM soya is against free trade treaties?
I could go on - but I won't, except to say two things. Americans' bad habits are a poor example for everyone else - and America's gluttony for oil in particular, and their actions to make sure it gets fed, and the money transfers resulting from it, make the rest of the world much more dangerous
Some observations strike me as fair, others as dubious. Most strike me as those a reasonable man might form on a daily diet of the American media melange. It is a dangerous diet; a diet rich in junk and toxins. In large doses it might make your head fill with harmful fat.

Just as it was when the Soviet Union lived -- and is still to be found on the islands of socialist utopias still extant -- once the propaganda mills are relentlessly anti-American, a real picture is hard to come by. One is pretty much a slave to one's choices of input. Not much can be done to change a mind fed a constant drip-feed of plaint from the current America-based "My country wrong or wrong" crowd.

I can see how the commenter comes by his impressions. I grant that he comes to them fairly by using what he is given to draw his conclusions. They simply don't map well to my experience of ordinary life in America in 2007. As American life, or a simple driveabout will teach you, "the map is not the territory."

It is not my purpose here to flense his critique point by point, only to note that his intellectual malnutrition is, of necessity, determined by what he feeds his head.

By way of example, my day-to-day experience tells me that while the lumbering results of having "way too much food" are more than visible in America, so is the cult of "way too much exercise." The buffed anorexic and the wobbling obese are the opposite ends of the bell-curve. In the middle I see that most Americans are mindful of what they eat because they can afford to be. Making this possible is a system of food production and distribution that delivers such a wide-spectrum of food choice at cheap prices (organic, non-organic, and junk) to every niche of the landscape. Indeed, the system is so advanced and sophisticated that we have achieved a society in which one of the major problems among the poor that remain is obesity.

The impression that Americans are "turning their cities' air into poison gas" is likewise well meant but ill informed. It is demonstrably not true.

It is not true from a glance at the steadily declining levels of emission in a steadily increasing and mobile population over the decades. It is can be seen to be obviously untrue from the simple fact of living in America for six decades -- decades that have seen more deep and lasting social change than at any other time in the history of the country, perhaps the world.

I was, as constant readers may know, born in Los Angeles six decades ago. I remember the poison air of the 1950s. I remember the smog alerts, the soot that would settle on the windowsills and grind its way into the clothes. I remember the black smudge that would be visible within a block of my front yard. I saw it that same black smudge some three decades later, not in Los Angeles, but in London.

Today there is still a haze over Los Angeles on most days, but you have to stand back some to see it. You also have to stand back in your mind and know that Los Angeles, depending on how you define it, is now home to between 10 and 18 million people (Up a tad from the 4 million of my childhood when only every family and not every individual had a car). The only way that air in Los Angeles today could become perfect would be if you gave every resident a unicycle for transportation, a mandated vegan diet, and forbid flatulence under pain of death.

In short, the air in American cities is today more than acceptable and is not, by any stretch of an imagination not twisted by false impressions, "poison." And it improves daily. Could it be improved more? Certainly it could and inevitably it will.

The same observations hold true for our rivers, our reservoirs, our parks, our homes, our communities, and for all other nation-wide measures by which one might discover the true quality of life. We tolerate high gasoline prices in large measure because we will not drill and pump our vast reserves nor will we build new refineries. This indulgence can be reversed whenever the political will to do so arrives. And it will.

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 6, 2014 1:47 AM |  Comments (63)  | QuickLink: Permalink
How Beautiful We Were

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A short list. In no particular order.

We told our children that any child could grow up to be President. And then we made it come true.

We had car shows, boat shows, beauty shows and dog shows.

We ran robots on the surface of Mars by remote control.

Our women came from all over the world in all shapes and sizes hues and scents.

We actually believed that all men are created equal and tried to make it come true.

Everybody liked our movies and loved our television shows.

We tried to educate everybody, whether they wanted it or not. Sometimes we succeeded.

We did Levis.

We held the torch high and hundreds of millions came. No matter what the cost.

We saved Europe twice and liberated it once.

We believed so deeply and so abidingly in free speech that we protected and honored and, in some cases, even elected traitors.

We let you be as freaky as you wanted to be.

We paid you not to plant crops and not to work.

We died in the hundreds of thousands to end slavery here. And when that was done continued for a century and a half around the world.

We invented Jazz.

We wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysberg address.

We went to the moon to see how far we could hit a golf ball.

We lifted a telescope into orbit that could see to the edge of the universe.

When people snuck into the country against our laws, we made parking lots and food stands off to the side of the road so they wouldn't get hurt, and we let them use our hospitals for free, and we made their children citizens.

We didn't care what God you worshipped as long as we could worship ours.

We let the People arm themselves at will. Just to make sure.

We gave everybody the vote.

We built Disneyworld. Just for fun.

We had a revolution so successful it was still going strong two and a quarter centuries later.

We had so many heroes, even at the end, that we felt free to hate them and burn them in effigy.

We electrified the guitar.

We invented a music so compelling that it rocked the world.

We had some middling novelists.

We had some interesting painters.

We had some pretty good poets.

We had better songwriters.

We ran our farms so well we fed the globe.

We made the automobile and the airplane.

We let you get rich. Really, really rich. And we didn't care who you were or what you were or where you came from or who your parents were. We just cared about what you made or what you did.

We had poor people who, even at their most wretched, were richer than any other poor people on the face of the planet.

We were the most nobel nation the world had ever known.

We had so much freedom that many of us voted to just throw it all away.

Even towards the end, as we dissolved into the petty bickering and idle entertainments that come with having far too much leisure and money, many among us were still striving to make it higher, finer, brighter, better and more beautiful.

Even towards the end, the best of us declined to give up and pressed on. "Where to? What next?"
[First published 2007]

Continued...
Posted by Van der Leun at Jul 4, 2014 2:41 AM |  Comments (78)  | QuickLink: Permalink
First Moon Party: How We Live Now


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 23, 2014 9:20 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Can You Imagine?: On the American "Elites"
“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” — André Gide

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But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

-- Sonnet 18

In the end, it is not our failure to learn from history that condemns us to repeat it, but our mind's turning away from even the briefest glimpse of what the dark passages of history were like that damns us. We may know, but we refuse to see. We blind our own mind's eye. It is our inability to imagine the most evil things that all men are capable of that corrupts us.

No, do not say "our inability" to imagine. Say rather, "our refusal" to imagine since the imagination itself -- if we were honest -- can indeed visualize carnage and depravity with ourselves as the actor and never the acted-upon. Our mind can and does see things that we cannot stand to admit we see. Our imagination can bring to itself an image -- and hold in our mind's eye things -- of infinite vileness.

And in such images we see, most of all, ourself. And so we turn away, turn away, and assign what we may have imagined, might have seen, if only briefly, as but a bad dream, a short nightmare; something that will pass at dawn when 'the sleep of our reason no longer breeds nightmares.' It is how we live. Now and again when we tire of our wars not because they are wrong but because they endure.


In America, the only depraved things that actually happen -- we are assured daily -- are those of individual criminals, they are never the responsibility, the known and foreseen result, of the crimes of a whole people that "could not" imagine, that "refused" to imagine, and so turned away, turned away. A portion of a people that granted, if only they were left alone, permission to be vile to another more animalistic portion of the same people.

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Many years ago, when I was a book editor in Boston, I spent a day with the distinguished Israeli author Aharon Appelfeld. My purpose was to, as we said then, "woo the author" and acquire him and his books for the house. Aharon Appelfeld had just won the Israeli Prize for literature and was considered, if not a "hot property," at least one that would, as we also used to say, "add luster to the list." Since my publisher, Houghton Mifflin, was the publisher that had given the English-speaking world Mein Kampf in 1939 and continued to sell it at the time, the addition of a celebrated Israeli author writing in Hebrew was a luster devoutly to be wished.

I had dutifully read all of Appelfeld's works available in English (translated from his chosen language of Hebrew) and put on my very best suit, my very best tie, and my very best Bahston editorial manner. Since he had won prizes and high critical regard the house had no problem with taking him for a lunch at Loch Ober, a Victorian era restaurant with a menu the size of a small town phone book and prices that were, even then, astronomical. I was pulling out all the stops in the "designed-to-impress-editorial-express." Appelfeld was, as I now dimly recall, not the sort of man to be at all impressed by the vanities of the world.

Today the Internet entries for Appelfeld give his pre-Israel life a short entry. The Jewish Virtual Library states:

"Aharon Appelfeld was born in Czernowitz, Rumania, and deported to a concentration camp at the age of eight. He escaped and spent three years hiding in the Ukraine before joining the Russian army. A post-war refugee, he made his way to Italy and immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1946. He currently resides in Jerusalem."
Short with no sweetness about it, that paragraph sums up an experience that most living Americans can only dimly perceive; that most living Americans know nothing about and about which, if the truth were told, most living Americans wish to know less than nothing; something we "refuse" to imagine. It is a very short story about a boy's life taken out of its halcyon first years, plunged into the deepest dark bloodpools of genocide, and left there to steep.

Wikipedia's brief entry for Appelfeld notes:

"In 1940, the Nazis invaded his hometown. His mother was killed and Appelfeld, a boy of eight, was deported with his father to a concentration camp in Ukraine He escaped and hid for three years before joining the Soviet Army as a cook. After World War II, Appelfeld spent several months in a displaced persons camp in Italy before immigrating to Palestine in 1946, two years before Israel's independence...... Aharon Appelfeld is one of the foremost living Hebrew-language authors, despite the fact that he did not learn the language until he was a teenager. His mother tongue is German, but he also speaks Yiddish, Ukrainian, Russian, English and Italian. With his subject matter revolving around the Holocaust and the sufferings of the Jews in Europe, he could not bring himself to write in German."

At my lunch, and subsequent afternoon spent with Appelfeld, some of the brief details in the biographical facts of his life were filled in.

There were the years in hiding, the years when he pretended to be an orphan, a refugee, a Gentile -- anything other than what he was, a Jew escaped from the camps. There was his passage as "a cook for the Soviet Army." As a cook of around 13 at the time one wonders what his actual duties were.

After the war the entry notes that Appelfeld "made his way to Italy." According to him this 'making of way' entailed walking for over three months across the entire landscape of a shattered and gutted Europe. What he saw on this tour of the ashes of that culture is something that recurs in his books, as are the things he did to survive that time and reach Israel as a survivor. To know what he saw and suffered and did to survive you need to read across the whole of his work since they appear only in flashes, like snatches of bad dreams and nightmares fitfully remembered.

At the time we met, I'd read Badenheim, 1939, the story of how upper middle class Jews in Germany came, by stages, to their doom. It is a book in which the horrors do not unfold on stage, but like the great Greek tragedies, wait off stage in the wings of history to gather up and destroy a whole people who, like so many now, "refuse" to imagine what awaits them; "refuse" to imagine how their "Happy World" can ever change.

Little of my conversation with Appelfeld remains in my memory save for one question and answer. I asked him what he thought his single message and driving force behind his writing was. His answer was essentially and in paraphrase, "As a Jew no matter how safe you think you are, no matter how assimilated you think you and your family might be, you aren't. You are never safe and you are never assimilated. You know could always happen again. You know it will."

From time to time his statement comes back to me when I'm faced with the inexplicable actions, the weak thinking, the unfathomable ignorance, and the cultural cringing of my fellow countrymen in our present era. Yesterday [ July 8, 2007 ] it was the bizarre editorial from the New York Times calling for immediate retreat and surrender in Iraq. Entitled somewhat poetically "The Road Home" the editorial is a monument to "the refusal to imagine" mindset that has overtaken so many Americans after years of the unremitting media water torture on the issue of Iraq. It's key passage reads:

"It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.... Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide."

When I first read this blithe gush issuing -- without heart or care or conscience -- from whatever mind originated it, and passed by whatever chortling editorial process approved it, I felt the twinge of nausea that I often feel when reading the carefully crafted and anonymous twitterings of that paper's editorial pronouncements. But, like most of those moments, I stopped ingesting it and, in time, my nausea passed.

Later that day I was speaking with a friend and the subject of the editorial came up. My friend was mystified by it, hard pressed to understand how a paper like the Times, a paper filled with intelligent people whose families had had no little experience with genocide, could so blithely advocate a policy which would, if carried out, condemn hundreds of thousands if not millions of Iraqis to death in a thousand brutal ways that we all would "refuse" to imagine. What could possibly be the motivation, the obsession, the vile-on-the-face-of-it commitment to such a policy? Didn't they understand what it would mean?

My answer at the time was that while the editorial board, the publisher, and the Finzi-Contini owners of the New York Times knew full well what it would mean, they didn't care. The settling of political scores and the advancement of their internal political agenda was what mattered. It was indeed the only thing that mattered and their agenda was simple -- they sought "The Restoration" of The Floating World.

The inevitable genocide of the Iraqis would take place off their stage and would not trouble their sleep on beds made plush by three inches of Memory Foam. Of course, their media companies and their minions would report the killings in due course and in the appropriate tone -- taking care not of offend whatever entities were their reporters' hosts for the viewing of the slaughter -- but the slaughter itself would not matter. Their bubble would not be pierced. Their catered dinner parties would go on undisturbed. Their parades would roll through the Village without rain. Their dogs would be walked for them and their dogs' droppings scooped and disposed of for them. Their hands would not touch the droppings.

Their summer homes in the Hamptons would be cleaned and buffed for them. Their waiters at their beach clubs would bring them their beverages on a tray and they would sign for them. Their drivers would always be waiting at the door for them, cars washed, polished and swept. Their power tables at breakfast and lunch would always be set and reserved for them. They would again be welcomed at White House fetes and the bedrooms there would be prepared for them.

It would all be as if George Bush and September 11, and Afghanistan, and Iraq had never happened. There would even be Bill Again -- playing that cool saxophone, smoking those big cigars, and laughing into the long and languid summer nights in the Rose Garden. All would be as it once was. This they could imagine.

Whatever might or might not be happening in Iraq then would be reported as the reports of summer storms in the Midwest tracked as green and red blurs by radar are seen on the Weather Channel -- distant thunder never coming closer. They would "refuse" to imagine it had anything to do with them, that it was anything that could happen to them. After all, the new New York Times Building was several miles from Ground Zero. That was Downtown, they were Midtown.

No. They were safe at last. They were fully assimilated into the safest country on Earth; the Finzi-Continis of our time. They were, once again, fully-vested members of the power elite of the United States of America. They weren't running some dying newspaper on the West Side of Manhattan. They were back. Whatever happened elsewhere was the fault of the previous lost years. History could never happen to them. History, once again, was at an end. History was, once again and this time for good, something that they actually "could not imagine."



First published July 9, 2007 and lo, five years later, they have learned exactly nothing: Yesterday in the wake of the massacres in Syria we have the New York Times whining little editorial, The Massacre at Houla , which seems to feel the opponent of Obama is the point of the story and "sanctions" the only solution:
Sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and others are having an effect. Still, a United Nations arms embargo and the toughest possible comprehensive economic sanctions are long overdue. Russia has the most leverage, but, inexcusably, it still sells arms and coal to Syria and uses its Mediterranean port of Tartus. We can see no easy solutions to Syria, despite Mitt Romney’s facile criticism of President Obama. In a campaign statement issued on Tuesday, Mr. Romney called for “more assertive measures to end the Assad regime.”
What small and contemptible minds.


Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 18, 2014 1:11 AM |  Comments (37)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Queen FTOUS: The First Tranny of the United States

One assumes this is a mere satire. I mean it just has to be satire. I mean it can't be just bad craziness. Right? Right.

Viral Video Claims To Have Evidence Michelle Is A Man

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 16, 2014 8:12 AM |  Comments (20)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Waiting for the Barbarians by C. P. Cavafy

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What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

                The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

                Because the barbarians are coming today.
                What laws can the senators make now?
                Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

                Because the barbarians are coming today
                and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
                He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
                replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

               Because the barbarians are coming today
                and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

                Because the barbarians are coming today
                and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

                Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
                And some who have just returned from the border say
                there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

-- C.P. Cavafy 1904

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 14, 2014 2:40 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, Television ... North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

"Hillary, Cantor, Al Qaeda/Iraq, open borders; Just reading the headlines on Drudge makes my brain go into vapor lock." - chasmatic

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Meanwhile, our scholarly research into Marilyn Monroe continues with "The Battle of the Bosoms"


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 11, 2014 8:37 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
What is a "Feuilleton?"

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"Among the favorite subjects of such essays were anecdotes taken from the lives or correspondence of famous men and women. They bore such titles as “Friedrich Nietzsche and Women’s Fashions of 1870,” or “The Composer Rossini’s Favorite Dishes,” or “The Role of the Lapdog in the Lives of Great Courtesans,” and so on. Another popular type of article was the historical background piece on what was currently being talked about among the well-to-do, such as “The Dream of Creating Gold Through the Centuries,” or “Physico-chemical Experiments in Influencing the Weather,” and hundreds of similar subjects." -- Herman Hesse, The Glass Bead Game

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 9, 2014 10:16 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Everything is Broken

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“It gets really hurtful when I think, this guy was worth my son’s life? My son who was patriotic? Who was a true soldier? Who defended his country with his life?” Andrews told Army Times via phone on Monday. “That guy was worth that? I don’t think so.” Gold Star mom: 'This guy was worth my son's life?'

3 More Members Of Bergdahl's Platoon Speak Out...

Joshua Cornelison, 25, who was a medic in the platoon: “He was very, very quiet. He kept everything very close to the vest. So, after he actually left, the following morning we realized we have Bergdahl’s weapon, we have Bergdahl’s body armor, we have Bergdahl’s sensitive equipment (but) we don’t have Bowe Bergdahl.” At that point, Cornelison said, it occurred to him that Bergdahl was “that one guy that wanted to disappear, and now he’s gotten his wish.”

Evan Buetow, 27, who was a sergeant in the platoon:said Bergdahl asked him how much of a cash advance he could get and how to go about mailing home his personal computer and other belongings. He also asked what would happen if his weapon and other sensitive items such as night vision goggles went missing. He said he told Bergdahl that, as any soldier would know, that would be “a big deal.”

Matt Vierkant, 27, was a team leader of another squad in Bergdahl’s platoon. Asked about the statement Sunday by National Security Adviser Susan Rice that Bergdahl served “with honor and distinction,” he said: “That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t know if she was misinformed or doesn’t know about the investigations and everything else, or what.” He said Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers knew within five or 10 minutes from the discovery of disappearance that he had walked away. “He said some strange things, like, ‘I could get lost in those mountains,’ which, at the time, that doesn’t really strike you as someone who is going to leave their weapon and walk out.”

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 4, 2014 9:02 AM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Marilyn Monroe vs the Potato Sack

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Continuing our strictly scholarly study into the life and times of Marilyn Monroe American Digest is proud to present the little known saga of Monroe and the Potato Sack:

The story is that Marilyn was once chastised by a female newspaper columnist for wearing a low-cut red dress to a party at the Beverly Hills Hotel. According to Marilyn, the columnist called her cheap and vulgar. Not stopping there, the writer then suggested that the actress would look better in a potato sack. So, Twentieth Century Fox decided to capitalize on the story by shooting some publicity stills of Marilyn in a form fitting burlap potato sack just to prove she would look sexy in anything. The photos were published in newspapers throughout the country. vintage everyday: Marilyn Monroe and the Potato Sack Dress, c.1951

Do the photos "prove she would look sexy in anything"? We report. You decide.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 3, 2014 4:48 PM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Pumping Iron with Marilyn Monroe

Working out evidently always came first for Miss Monroe. Here you can see her strenuous set of bench presses and the result. We present these images in the hopes of inspiring our fellow Americans to a greater awareness of the necessity of fitness.

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In this widely familiar portrait, Marilyn Monroe wears a white evening gown and stands with her back against two walls,

one dark, the other light, her eyes half closed and her dark, lipsticked mouth partly open. Yet Halsman deftly avoided any explicit representation of the true subject of the picture. Using the euphemistic language of the time, Halsman’s assistant admired the photographer’s ability to make “suggestive” pictures of beautiful women which still showed “good taste,” emphasizing “expression” rather than “physical assets.” And then the assistant added, “Halsman is very adept at provoking the expression he wants.”
MARILYN MONROE by Halsman @ The Selvedge Yard


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 29, 2014 10:00 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
It begins in the Ukraine. It ends in the nuclear immolation of Washington D.C.

You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate
As reek o' the rotten fens, whose loves I prize
As the dead carcasses of unburied men
That do corrupt my air, I banish you;
And here remain with your uncertainty!
Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!
Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,
Fan you into despair! Have the power still
To banish your defenders; till at length
Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels,
Making not reservation of yourselves,
Still your own foes, deliver you as most
Abated captives to some nation
That won you without blows! Despising,
For you, the city, thus I turn my back:
There is a world elsewhere.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 29, 2014 8:46 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Bigger Tents: On Rebranding "CONSERVATIVE" and "REPUBLICAN" with "AMERICAN"

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An American, one of the roughs, a kosmos,... No sentimentalist .... no stander above men and women or apart from them...
-- Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855)

“I am not an American, I am THE American.”
-– Mark Twain

Remember when Hillary Clinton, during her last attempt to rule the world, stopped calling herself a “liberal” and rebranded herself as a “progressive?”

I do.

It was Clinton's desperate attempt to crawl out from under the vast heap of crap she and all the other “liberals” had piled on themselves -– notably during her own husband's administration. And who, when trying to run, wanted to have that old "liberal" ball and chain around her thick ankles? Not Hillary.

By 2007 “Liberal” had become so drenched in sewage liberals could only clean it through “rebranding.”

The new/old brand name chosen was 'progressive.'

And it worked for them -- and for Obama -- just long enough to get them elected the first time by a credulous public who had seemingly never heard "progressive" before.

“Progressive...” it sounded so, well, hopeful. It was, after all, not "trans-" but "pro-"gressive.

After all, who can be against “progress?” Who is not pro "pro?"

Who, that is, except the vast majority of older Americans who had seen the wreckage that the progressives' “progress” had wrought wherever it touched down on the American landscape.

Still, the recloaking of ye olde “liberal” wolves inside of the “Progressive Sheeps' Clothing” worked well enough with the young and stupid as well as the old and malicious.

"Progressive" caught on because it junked “liberal” but didn't say “socialist.” At least not in so many syllables.

That was then. Now, of course, “progressive” as a brand has become synonymous with cheats, control-addicts, the walking brain-dead, and the power junkies that want to tell you all about the bad McDonalds Happy Meals in condom chewing San Francisco.

Today "Progressive" is as dead as Hitler's charred corpse smoldering in a ditch outside the bunker on Pennsylvania Avenue. But “progressives” don't know they're crispy critters because they can't entertain any ideas that were minted ye olde Soviet Union. So let's let them keep it.

Let those bitter aging boomers cling to their Darwins and their "progressive" programs and labels. Progressives, after all, are the queens of worthless labels.

What we need to do is a little “rebranding” of our own in order to blunt the brain-dead attacks that keep coming from the attack poodles of the left. Attacks that when examined are all aimed at the label “Conservative” or “Republican.”

"Conservative." "Liberals." These two categories are not the same. Not all “Conservatives” are “Republicans,” and – unfortunately for the life expectancy of the Republican party – not all “Republicans” are “Conservative.”

Let's dump both brands.

I don't know about you, but I do not consider myself either a “Conservative” or a “Republican.” Never have. I consider myself to be one thing and one thing only:

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I AM AN AMERICAN.

Always have been.

Always will be.

Nothing less.

Couldn't be anything more.

To call me a Conservative is to miss the point.

To call me a Republican is to mistake me by a mile.

To call me an AMERICAN is to know me down to the bone. I suspect this blunt fact is true of all those who term themselves “Independents,” all those who call themselves “Conservative,” all those who joined the Tea Party, they and all the others who,

Came from the hills and mountains, 

The valleys and the plains
,
Some were kind and gentle, 

And some too wild to tame.

That's who we are and that's who we shall always remain -- Americans.

A single, obvious, and overarching word to cover a wide, wide tent:

Americans.

Americans all regardless of race, color, creed, or national origin.

Let's rebrand ourselves from this point forward:

When you are called a Conservative, you reply, “No, I am an AMERICAN.”

If someone tries to tar you with the label “Republican,” you must correct them by saying, “No, I am an AMERICAN.”

If they say you are arguing from Republican or Conservative views, point out to them that you are arguing from AMERICAN views only.

Do that consistently and we can all look forward to future disputes and elections that pit the “Progressives” against the AMERICANS. I know which way I'd bet.

It's a big country. If we call ourselves "AMERICANS" we're going to need a bigger tent.

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Failing to fetch me me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass [1855]

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 27, 2014 11:38 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Small Flags

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Army Capt. Ed Arntson, of Chicago, kissed the grave of Staff Sgt. Henry Linck in Arlington, Va., National Cemetery Thursday. Staff Sgt. Linck was killed in Iraq in 2006. Armed forces placed flags at more than 300,000 gravestones ahead of Memorial Day.

The cemetery at the top of Queen Anne in Seattle is busy this weekend. This even though a cemetery under all circumstances is seldom thought of as a busy place. We haven't had busy cemeteries since 1945. Since then the long peace and its sleep was only briefly, for a few years every now and then, interrupted by a small war. The cemeteries fill up more slowly now than ever before. And our sleep, regardless of continuing alarms, deepens.

These days we resent, it seems, having them fill at all, clinging to our tiny lives with a passion that passes all understanding; clinging to our large liberty with the belief that all payments on such a loan will be interest-free and deferred for at least 100 years.

Still, the cemetery at the top of Queen Anne does tend to take on a calm, resigned bustle over Memorial Day weekend, as the decreasing number of families who have lost members to war come to decorate the graves of those we now so delicately refer to as "The Fallen." They are not, of course, fallen in the sense that they will, suddenly and to our utter surprise, get up. That they will never do in this world. For they are not "The Fallen," they are "The Dead."

In the cemetery at the end of my street , of course, all the permanent residents are dead. But those who are among the war dead, or among those who served in a war, are easily found on this day by the small American flags their loved ones who still survive place and refresh. In this cemetery atop Queen Anne hill in Seattle, the small flags grow fewer and smaller with each passing year. It is not, of course, that the size of the sacrifice has been reduced. That remains the largest gift one free man may give to the country that sustained him. It is instead the regard of the country for whom the sacrifices were made that has gotten smaller, eroded by the self-love that the secular celebrate above all other values.

As you walk about the green lawn and weave among the markers, the slight breeze moves the small three-colored flags. Some are tattered and faded. Some are wound around the small gold sticks that hold them up. You straighten these out almost as an afterthought. Then the breeze unfurls them.

Here and there, people tend the grave of this or that loved one; weeding, washing, or otherwise making the gradually fading marks in the stone clear under the sky. Cars pull in and wind slow, careful on the curves, and park almost at random. An old woman emerges from one, a father and son from another, an entire family from yet another. They carry flowers in bunches or potted and, at times, gardening implements and a bucket for carrying away the weeds. It's a quiet morning. Nobody is in a hurry to arrive and once arrived to leave.

When I lived in Villers-Cotteret , between Compaigne and Soissons, along the Western Front in France, the cemeteries were as quiet but on a scale difficult to imagine unless they were seen.

In the Battle of Soissons in July of 1918, 12,000 men (Americans and Germans) were killed in four days. Vast crops of white crosses sprouted from the fields their rows and columns fading into the distance as they marched back from the roadside like an army of the dead called to attention until the end of time. American cemeteries merged with French cemeteries that merged with German cemeteries; their only distinction being the flags that flew over what one took to be the center of the arrangement. I suppose one could find out the number of graves in these serried ranks. Somewhere they keep the count. Governments are especially good at counting. But it is enough to know they are beyond numbering by an individual; that the mind would cease before the final number was reached.

To have even a hundredth of those cemeteries in the United States now would be more than we, as a nation, could bear. It would not be so much the dead within it, but the truth that made it happen that would be unbearable. This is, of course, what we are as a nation fiddling about with on this Memorial Day. We count our war dead daily now, but we count mostly on the fingers of one hand, at times on two. Never in numbers now beyond our ability to imagine. This is not because we cannot die daily in large numbers in a war. September 11th proved to us that we still die in the thousands, but many among us cannot now hold that number as a reality, but only as a "tragic" exception that need not have happened and will -- most likely -- never happen again.

That, at least, is the mind set that I assume when I read how the "War on Terror" is but a bumper strip. In a way, that's preferable to the the mind set that now, in increasing numbers among us, prefers to take refuge in the unbalanced belief that 9/11 was actually something planned and executed by the American government. Why many of my fellow Americans prefer this "explanation" is something that I once felt was beyond comprehension. Now I see it is just another comfortable position taken up by those for whom the habits of automatic treason have become just another fashionable denigration of the country that has made their liberty to believe the worst of it not only possible but popular.

Like the graves in my local cemetery, these souls too bear within them a small flag, but that flag -- unlike their souls -- is white and, in its increasing rootedness in our body politic signals not sacrifice for the advancement of the American experiment, but the abject surrender of their lives to small spites and the tiny victories of lifestyle liberation.

In the cemetery at the end of my street, there are a few small flags. There are many more graves with no flag at all, but they are the ones that the small flags made possible. Should the terrible forests of white crosses ever bloom across our landscape -- as once they did during the Civil War -- it will not be because we had too few of those small, three-colored flags, but because we became a nation with far too many white ones.

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The grave of James A. Wilmot, Pvt 49th Spruce Squadron, World War I. Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Queen Anne, Seattle

[Originally published Memorial Day, 2007]


Posted by Vanderleun at May 25, 2014 1:35 AM |  Comments (62)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Mirror Mirror

IS981-067.jpgThose damn Chinese commies are at it again! We all know that the omnipresent tag on goods "Made in China" means cheaper, shoddier, and at times dangerous to small animals, children, morons and democrats. But since cheaper trumps shoddy and risky, we swipe the debit card and take them away regardless of what may be their hidden intent, which is to undermine the American way of life. Nowhere is this more apparent than in that most insidious product now coming out of the slave cloning pens of Peking and roboticized neuro-protein vats of the Matrix caverns beneath the Gobi desert, the Chinese mirror.

It seems that, when I wasn't looking, secret Chinese agents replaced my trusted and faithful American bathroom mirrors with a mirror "Made in China." It is a hideous substitution and one that would go unnoticed except for the fact that from time to time I look in my mirror for this or that grooming ritual. When I do I know that the mirror has become a Chinese mirror because the effect is immediately and consistently horrifying. Briefly put, the person in the mirror is someone that does not resemble me at all. I don't know how he got in my mirror but he's got to go.

Like all of us, I have a perfectly good idea of what I look like in my mind's eye. It is, indeed, so perfect that I haven't had any good reason to renovate it for over thirty years. Unlike the Chinese mirrors in my house, my mind's eye knows that I have a well-cut chin, assertive full-face and sharp in profile. It does not add the two or three secondary chins that the Chinese mirror, through some Fu Manchu optical magic, slaps on.

In my mind, I am quite safe in the knowledge that my brow is unfurrowed and that the lines around my eyes are only there for a brief moment during laughter. The Chinese mirror seems, especially in the morning, to be able to carve in the brow lines with a dull chain saw and make the lines around the eyes resemble the cracks seen in ill-maintained Dutch portraits from the age of Rembrandt. How the Chinese manage timed optics in ordinary cheap mirrors is beyond me, but they probably stole it from an American inventor and professional sadist.

Another power of the cheap Chinese mirror is the ability to actually amplify gravity. I know to a certainty that my face is as it was 30 years ago (the last time I really checked) well structured and taut as a snare drum in a high school marching band. The Chinese mirror in my bathroom seems to emit some sort of force field that actually makes it appear that my face has fallen towards the center of the earth. If a Chinese mirror can do that to my face I hate to think of what the similar technology could do to the fighters and bombers of the USAF. Not only that but the mirror can also puff one's face outward while dropping it at the same time. Sheer twisted genius!

Finally, the Chinese mirror, through some sort of uncanny symbiosis between its fun-house surface and advanced microchips grown in the organ banks of Chinese prisons, actually has the power to project brown age spots onto my skin and have them follow me around in the mirror no matter how I twist and turn my face. Very spooky and very persistent since no matter how much I scrub my face and the mirror the spots seem to stay exactly where the mirror places them on first glance in the morning.

I've considered scrapping the Chinese mirror and spending the monumental sums that a high-quality French mirror would cost so that I could see myself again as I know I am, but I am a cheap bastard and have decided not to give the French the money or the Chinese the satisfaction. I've looked around for an American mirror but I've discovered there are only two areas of the country that manufacture them any more; five blocks in the West Village near "The Ramrod," and the Castro District in San Francisco. Made by the Rainbow Glass Blowers and known as The Dorian Gray in New York and The Oscar Wilde in the Castro, the mirrors ar more affordable but do no reflect you as you are but only as you would be if you were more fabulous.

Since I'm now about as fabulous as I get I'm sticking with the lying, cheating Chinese mirror.

But I do have some standards.

I recently crossed a picket line of impossibly rich progressive busybodies at Walmart and bought a full length Chinese mirror. I did so because of complaints that it was impossible in my house to see if what one was wearing matched one's accessories. Why seeing yourself full-length before going out is important I don't really understand. I've always thought that if you have your shirt, shoes, boxers and pants on you're pretty much good to go. (Socks optional.) Nevertheless I am reliably informed by GynoAmericans of all persuasions that a full-length mirror is something no home should be without.

So, I broke down and got the full-length Chinese mirror from the Walmart toxic waste dump department, carried it home and installed it in my closet where it seemed it would do the most good.

It did not occur to me that this mirror, being four times the size of the bathroom Chinese mirror, would have four times the power. Indeed, it seems to have the power of teleportation. I say this because the very next morning when I opened the closet to dress I discovered that the mirror had somehow brought into my home a strange man who seemed, in the midsection at least, to be six months pregnant.

That mirror and the stranger it held is now in the recycling bin marked "Hazardous Waste." Me? I'm writing to some contacts at Disney to see if I can get one of those Mirror Mirror On the Wall items from Snow White. After all, if it worked for the Queen....


Posted by Vanderleun at May 23, 2014 3:39 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Problem with White Folks Is -or- "29 Pitfalls of Working With White People"

More racial "healing" from those fine, fine folks who call themselves "progressives."

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Published by The Beyond Diversity Resource Center

The Red Box Diversity System offers an approach to learning about workplace diversity that is unique and available only from the Beyond Diversity Resource Center:

Engaging and enjoyable program
Exercises completed in 30 minutes
In-depth exploration on diversity concepts
No lectures or training seminars
Adapts to fit each organization and each employee
Low cost per employee
Proven effective for teaching essential diversity skills
Employees will learn and practice the following diversity skills:

Cultural self-awareness
Empathizing with others
Learning by interaction
Avoiding Stereotypes
Relating to others who are different
Being more flexible
Tolerating cultural ambiguity
Knowledge of how culture shapes world view
Learning about other cultures
Being less judgmental
Communicating more effectively
Listening and observing others
Adjusting to feedback from others
Being appropriately consistent

Group That Made Anti-White Pamphlet Received DOJ Grants | The Daily Caller

In fiscal year 2011, the center received a $250,000 grant from the Office on Violence Against Women, which falls under the DOJ.

In Aug. 2012, they received a $249,479 grant from the Office for Victims of Crimes to conduct “National field-generated training, technical assistance, and demonstration noncompetitive continuation projects.”

According to the DOJ’s 2012 program plan, Beyond Diversity Resource Center partnered with the school of social work at Rutgers University on a “demonstration project” that involved providers of victim services from across the country.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 22, 2014 11:24 PM |  Comments (38)  | QuickLink: Permalink
In Their Own ****ing Words: This Perverted ****ing Administration


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 21, 2014 4:57 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Essential Innovations: Can These $20,000 Houses Save the American Dream?

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Built in 2009 in Newbern, Hale County, Alabama. Dave’s House, a shotgun vernacular with gables over the short ends, derives from Frank’s House; monthly utility bills average $35.

Rural Studio builds brand new $20,000 houses in Alabama. "Rural Studio launched its affordable housing program in 2005.

We were eager to make our work more relevant to the needs of west Alabama, the Southeast, and possibly the entire country. We looked at the omnipresent American trailer park, where homes, counterintuitively, depreciate each year they are occupied. We wanted to create an attractive small house that would appreciate in value while accommodating residents who are unable to qualify for credit....Our goal was to design a market-rate model house that could be built by a contractor for $20,000 ($12,000 for materials and $8,000 for labor and profit)—the 20K House, a house for everybody and everyone. We chose $20,000 because it would be the most expensive mortgage a person receiving today’s median Social Security check of $758 a month can realistically repay. A $108 monthly mortgage payment is doable if you consider other monthly expenditures. Our calculations are based on a single house owner, because 43 percent of below-poverty households in Hale County are made up of people living alone. That translates to a potential market of 800 people in our county..... So far Rural Studio has designed 12 versions of the 20K House. The houses that we build each year are academic experiments, given away to local residents in need. We find the clients for 20K Houses the same way we do for our client houses. We hear about people in need from mail carriers, church pastors, local officials, and others. In deciding who to choose, we trust our gut. Our clients are always down on their luck and often elderly, and our homes add immensely to their quality of life. As with our client houses, the 20K House instructors maintain strong relationships with the new homeowners. In order to improve the 20K Houses each year, we observe how our clients inhabit and use their new homes. Their homes, as with client houses, carry their names."

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Built in 2008 in Greensboro, Hale County, Alabama, Roundwood House was an experiment in building the structure of a small, affordable house with locally sourced loblolly pine thinnings. At 532 square feet, it includes a 110-square-foot porch.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 20, 2014 11:05 AM |  Comments (27)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Wear Sunscreen" [And Lubricant] **

Congratulations, class of 2014: You’re totally screwed! In sum, you paid nearly sixty grand a year to attend some place with a classy WASP name

and ivy growing on its fake medieval walls. You paid for the best, and now you are the best, an honorary classy WASP entitled to all the privileges of the club. That education your parents got, even if it was at the same school as yours, cost them far less and was thus not as good as yours. That’s the way progress works, right?
Actually, the opposite is closer to the truth: college costs more and more even as it gets objectively worse and worse. Yes, I know, universities today offer luxuries unimaginable in the 1960s: fine gymnasiums, gourmet dining halls, disturbing architecture. But when it comes to generating and communicating knowledge—the essential business of higher ed—they are, almost all of them, in a frantic race to the bottom.


**"Wear Sunscreen": The Story Behind the Commencement Speech That Kurt Vonnegut Never Gave: Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune columnist and Brenda Starr cartoonist, wrote a column entitled “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.” In her introduction to the column she described it as the commencement speech she would give to the class of ’97 if she were asked to give one.... a column that was written, according to Schmich, “while high on coffee and M&Ms.”


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 19, 2014 11:19 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Errand Gleanings

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Sunday afternoon is the time I spend shopping for the week's basic groceries, as well as for those items that have to be prepared from ingredients as fresh as can be obtained in the present day supermarkets. These present day supermarkets are, if you've been on the planet longer four decades, breathtaking in the kinds of packaged foods, fresh meat and seafood, and fresh produce.

In these cathedrals of commerce it seems that every month more and more items from throughout the world are on offer. Ghee! You can now buy ghee in jars. It is true that some special cheeses seem to be coming in at $40 per pound and that the one ounce package of sliced dried mandarin oranges works out to $65 a pound. These items are there if you are so drenched in disposable income that nary a thought of the price to value absurdity of it all can emerge to shimmer the surface of your seething cranium.

From blackberries air-dropped from Peru and pre-stuffed Turducken's in the freezer rows to the "local sustainable organic" food items that are four times the price of their more plebeian corporate varieties, the sheer variety is staggering to someone who can remember when an orange in the toe of one's Christmas stocking was a very hard to obtain and expensive fruit for that season.

Besides these somewhat obvious but always striking impressions of how America fares in its current position as the top of the food chain, three other things struck me as I went to three, yes three, different supermarkets on this fine Seattle afternoon in late Spring of the year of our Lord 2014.

First, as a friend remarked a couple of weeks ago, "Every woman in America seems to have gotten the personally addressed memo concerning very tight jeans and/or leggings. This includes the 90% of American women who, if caught dead in them, would die; and yet they too seem to have joined the Cult."

Second, while a warming Spring brings out a very fine parade of nubile ladies in various stages of revealing and "en déshabillé" clothing, it also reveals Winter's crop of thoughtless, tasteless, and usually revolting fresh tattoos on areas of the body heretofore thought untattoable. One unfortunately memorable one seemed to be located at above the "tramp stamp" position and was a kind of winged velociraptor baby with a bloody beak breaking out of an egg. It gave one pause. And then one walked on.

Third was the advent of a new parting phrase from supermarket cashiers. Usually they inguire as to the manner in which your day is going, something to which I invariably answer with an upbeat "Great. Thanks for asking" just to be polite. The ringing up of one's groceries then takes place and one pays, as one pays for most things in today's suddenly cashless society, with a debit card. Then the receipt whirrs out of the machine at the end, after it has transmitted the contents of your cart to the supermarket's headquarters, the local police, and the host of three letter interested parties in the government, and the cashier usually just thanks you by name after glancing at the receipt.

Today this was as it always is but with the addition of the trenchant phrase, "Thanks for coming in."

Three different cashiers at three different supermarkets on three different levels of retail demography -- working class, middle class, and upper middle class -- all saw fit to say the exact same phrase, "Thanks for coming in."

An alien visitor to our planet might think that's simply a coincidence of phrasing, but I take it to be the beginning of some bit of customer-stroking fluff that depraved retail consultants started telling their corporate customers in order to have something to justify their many, many thousands in annual billings. They probably came up with some study that showed that of every 100 customers that you said "Thank you for coming in" 15% more came in again.

It's bullshit of course, but retail and marketing in the food industry needs a constant stream of fresh bullshit if it is to keep its profit line up. Just as things done to transmogrify kale work as this year's chipotle, so does "Thanks for coming in" operate as the new "Have a nice day."

Listen for it at a supermarket near you.

Soon to be a major motion picture.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 18, 2014 5:00 PM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Saturday Matinee: Roy Rogers - Hoppy, Gene And Me We Taught You How to Shoot Straight

Well the prairie sky is just as blue
And life's like a rainbow
Just like you, he'll be a saddle pal
To Hoppy, Gene and Me

Hoppy, Gene and Me
We taught you how to shoot straight
You were going to be a cowboy
That's how it had to be

Your stories from the silver screen
Now most of them forgotten
Double feature Saturday's
With Hoppy, Gene and Me

(Yodel to end)

"Hoppy, Gene and Me" (1974) peaked at number 65 on the Billboard Hot 100.

As for Roy Rogers (aka Leonard Franklin Slye), Dale Evans, Trigger, Bullet, Nelly Belle,and the Sons of the Pioneers it was all a "Yodel to the end" for them.

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Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 17, 2014 2:02 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
How We Live Now #325

What we do.

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How it was done.

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 16, 2014 11:15 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: The Evolution Of Visual Effects

1878-2014: in chronological order (More or less.)

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 14, 2014 9:58 PM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Want to See the Real "New Normal?"

This is the real "new normal." Accept no cheap substitutions raised up out of shadow.

"Barefoot Blue Jean Night"

A full moon shinin' bright
Edge of the water; we were feelin' alright
Back down a country road
The girls are always hot, and the beer is ice cold

Cadillac, horns on the hood
My buddy Frankie had his dad hook him up good
Girls smile when we roll by
They hop in the back, and we cruise to the river side

(Whoa-oh)
Never gonna grow up
(Whoa-oh)
Never gonna slow down
(Whoa-oh)
We were shinin' like lighters in the dark
In the middle of a rock show
(Whoa-oh)
We were doin' it right
(Whoa-oh)
We were comin' alive
(Whoa-oh)
Yeah, caught up in a Southern summer, a barefoot, blue jean night

Blue eyes and auburn hair
Sittin' lookin' pretty by the fire in a lawn chair
New to town, and new to me
Her ruby red lips was sippin' on sweet tea
Shot me in love like a shootin' star
So, I grabbed a beer and my ol' guitar
Then we sat around till the break of dawn
Howlin' and singin' our favorite song

(Whoa-oh)
Never gonna grow up
(Whoa-oh)
Never gonna slow down
(Whoa-oh)
We were shinin' like lighters in the dark
In the middle of a rock show
(Whoa-oh)
We were doin' it right
(Whoa-oh)
We were comin' alive
(Whoa-oh)
Yeah, caught up in a Southern summer, a barefoot, blue jean night.....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 14, 2014 3:49 PM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Lieutenant Reagan

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"Ronald Reagan enrolled in a series of home study courses sponsored by the U.S. Army as early as 1935

and enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in April 1937 and was posted as a Private with the 322nd Cavalry (Reserve) at Des Moines, Iowa. Due to his studies prior to enlistment he was quickly promoted to Second Lieutenant in May of the same year. Reagan moved to Southern California not long after this to pursue his acting career and transferred to the 323rd Cavalry. Both the 322nd and 323rd were part of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 66th Cavalry Division.
"Reagan’s acting career was at its height when the United States entered World War Two and as a member of the Reserves he was not eligible for the draft since it was only a matter of time before he would be called to active duty. This occurred in April of 1942. Activation subjected Reagan to a more stringent physical examination than the Reserves and his eyesight proved bad enough to prevent his service overseas. Many of Reagan’s critics imply that somehow he managed to avoid being sent overseas during the war but this is either due to ignorance of how the Army actually operates or outright vindictiveness. The Army decides what they need you to do and where they want you and there you go."
サ Blog Archive サ Two for the Gipper


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 13, 2014 11:57 PM |  Comments (15)  | QuickLink: Permalink
My Mother at 97 98 99 ... and now halfway to 100

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Her earliest memory is being held on the shoulders of her father, watching the men who lived through the First World War parade down the main street of Fargo, North Dakota in 1918. She would have been just four years old then. Now she's 90 years old and she comes to her birthday party wearing a chic black and white silk dress, shiny black shoes with three inch heels, and a six foot long purple boa. She's threatening to sing Kurt Weill's 'The Saga of Jenny" and dance on the table one more time .

She'll sing the Kurt Weill song, but we draw the line at her dancing on the table this year. Other than that, it is pretty much her night, and she gets to call the shots. Which is what you get when you reach 90 97 and are still managing to make it out to the tennis courts three to four times a week. "If it wasn't for my knees I'd still have a good backcourt game, but now I pretty much like to play up at the net." [Note: Alas she had to give up tennis two years back when her knees finally gave up. She didn't. Water walking twice a week. She gave all a scare a couple of years ago but came roaring back after major surgery and is more or less back to the regular schedule.]

She plays Bridge once or twice a week, winning often, and has been known to have a cocktail or two on occasion. After her operation she gave up driving much to the relief of my brother who fretted over it for several decades.

She keeps a small two-bedroom apartment in a complex favored by young families and college students from Chico State and, invariably, has a host of fans during any given semester. She's thought about moving to the "senior apartments" out by the mall, but as she says, "I'm just not sure I could downsize that much and everyone there is so old."

She was born deep in the heartland at the beginning of the Great War, the youngest of five children. She grew up and into the Roaring 20s, through the Great Depression, taught school at a one room school house at Lake of the Woods Minnesota, roamed west out to California in the Second World War and met the man she married.

They stayed married until he died some 30 years ago. Together they raised three boys, and none of them came to any more grief than most and a lot more happiness than many.

After her husband died at the end of a protracted illness, she was never really interested in another man and filled her life with family, close friends (some stretching back to childhood), and was, for 15 years, a housemother to college girls. She recently retired from her day job where she worked three mornings a week as a teacher and companion to young children at a local day-care and elementary school.

She has always been a small and lovely woman -- some would say beautiful. I know I would. An Episcopalian, she's been known to go to church, but isn't devoted to the practice, missing more Sundays than she attends. She's given to finding the best in people and letting the rest pass, but has been known to let fools pass at high speed.

Born towards the beginning of the 20th century, she now lives fully in the 21st. Nearly 10 years ago we gave her a 90th birthday party. It was attended by over 200 people from 2 to 97, many of whom told tales about her, some taller than others.

We didn't believe the man who told about the time in her early seventies that she danced on his bar. He brought the pictures of the bar with her high-heel marks in it to prove the point.

Other stories are told, some serious, some funny, all loving. But they all can only go back so far since she has only been living in Chico, California for 30 years. I can go back further, and so, without planning to, I took my turn and told my story about her. It went something like this.

"Because I'm the oldest son, I can go back further in time. I can go back before Clinton, before Reagan, before Nixon, before Kennedy, before Eisenhower. We'll go back to the time of Truman.

"It must be the summer of 1949 and she's taking my brother and I back home to her family in Fargo for the first time. I would be almost four and he'd be two and a half. The war's been over for some time and everyone is now back home and settled in. My father's family lost a son, but -- except for some wounds -- everyone else came out all right.

"We're living in Los Angeles and her home is Fargo, North Dakota, half a continent away. So we do what you did then. We took the train. Starting in Los Angeles we went north to San Francisco where we boarded the newest form of luxury land transportation available that year, the California Zephyr.

"Out from the bay and up over the Sierras and down across the wastes until we wove our way up the spine of the Rockies and down again to the vast land sea that stretched out east in a swath of corn and wheat that I remember more than the pitched curves and plunging cliffs of the mountains. On the Zephyr you sat in a plush chair among others in a long transparent dome at the top of the car and it seemed all Earth from horizon to the zenith flowed past you.

"There was the smell of bread and cooking in the Pullman cars that I can still capture in my mind, and the lulling rhythm of the wheels over the rails that I can still hear singing me down into sleep.

"At some point we changed trains to go north into the Fargo Station and, as we pulled into Fargo in mid-morning, my mother's family met us with their usual humble dignity -- they brought a full brass band that worked its way down through the John Philip Sousa set list with severe dedication. They also brought me more family members than there were people living on our entire block in Los Angeles. There may also have been a couple of Barbershop Quartets to serenade us during the band breaks, but I'm not sure about that.

"My mother and brother and I were swept away in the maelstrom of aunts, uncles, cousins by the dozens, and assorted folks from the neighborhood on 8th Avenue South.

"The day rolled into a huge lunch at a vast dining room table where my grandmother ruled with an iron ladle. Then, after a suitable post-prandial stupor, my entire family rose as one and headed out to the nearby park for their favorite activity -- trying to crush each other in tennis. When this family hit the courts, it was like a tournament had come to town. Other would-be players just took one look and headed for another set of courts elsewhere.

"I was still too young to play, although my mother would have a racquet custom-made for me within the year, so instead I would have been exhausting myself at some playground or in one of the sandboxes under the eyes of my older cousins. Then, at dusk, I made my way back to the courts.

"In the Fargo summers the twilights linger long and fade slowly. And as they fade the lights on the courts come up illuminating them in the gathering dark. And I sat, not quite four, as the night grew dark around me and my mother and her family played on below.

"Now it is all more than sixty years gone but still, in my earliest memories, they all play on in that endless twilight. I see them sweeping back and forth in the fading light. Taunting and laughing together. Calling balls out that are clearly in. Arguing and laughing and playing on forever long after the last light of day has fled across the horizon and the stars spread out high above the lights.

"Service. Return. Lob. Forehand. Volley. Backhand. Volley. Love All."

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Lois Lucille McNair Van der Leun -- then and now

November, 2004 -- Chico & Laguna Beach, California


Posted by Vanderleun at May 11, 2014 1:59 AM |  Comments (46)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Mr. Wonderful's Bad Day

11174.jpgSo my pal and I are standing in line in a sandwich shop waiting to see if two chicken salad sandwiches, chips, and cokes will yield any change from a $20 (They don't), when this guy my pal knows staggers in the door and joins the line. He's the blonde, aging and pear-shaped frat boy type on a life pension from his grandparents common in these parts. He's an elite member of the Maynard G. Krebs Zero-Work Brigade.

It's possible to see he is a reasonably good looking man, but just. This is because, besides a distinct wobbling lurch in his step, he also appears to have gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson in his prime.

His nose is thickened along with the rest of his face, and not just from a lifetime's love affair with single malt. There's a huge nasty scab across the bridge of his nose and a larger one running along the side of his jaw and under his chin giving off a rusty red gleam like some speed strawberry birthmark. Both his eyes have large, dark circles around them as if they've gotten special attention from a ball-peen hammer, and their expression is that of a man who's just walked out of a fire-fight in the Afghan hills.

My pal knows him and introduces me. I shake his hand and say, as anyone would, "What happened to you?"

"I had a bad day on Wednesday."

"Obviously," said my pal.

"Do you want me to tell you about it?," the walking wounded asked.

"Obviously," said my pal.

"Well, I get up in the morning and go out to the garage for my car. That's when it starts.

"Its got a flat and the tire that's flat is the spare that I put on the week before that I haven't gotten around to getting fixed. So I have no spare for the spare, and have to get the tow truck to come out and take the car to Discount Tire and me to Budget Rent a Car for some wheels. They rent me a car and I drive away for the rest of my day intending to pick my car up in the late afternoon. I do some errands and go home and hang around there for a few hours.

"Finally it's time to pick up the car and take the rental back. I call the tire shop and they tell me I'm good to go. So I pick up the keys and go out to the car that's parked at the top of my driveway.

"At some point in my walk, I notice there's a bee buzzing around my head. Then I notice three bees and then an entire swarm and they are all swooping and diving at me and trying to sting me."

At this point, the sandwich line and the entire sandwich shop has slowed to a crawl, listening.

"I get stung three times on the forehead, four times on one arm, twice on the other and six times on my right leg." (Polo shirts and shorts are the uniform of choice in this town.)

"I'm whirling around, waving my arms, and trying to get to my rental car. That's when I notice that the bee swarm is thickest between me and the car.

"I decide to do one thing. Flee! I turn around and still waving my arms all around me begin to run at top speed down the slope of my driveway towards the street about thirty yards away down the slope.

"Running downhill at speed in flip-flops isn't, I'm here to tell you, a great idea since at some point I feel my hip give and, boom, I perform a perfect face plant in the asphalt.

"The good news is that this seems to throw the bees off since they leave me alone. The bad news is this face. The worse news is that just when I think that I'll just lie there, phone 911 on my cell, and wait for the paramedics since I can't walk, my hip pops back in and I'm able to sneak around the house and into the rental and drive myself to the emergency room."

My pal and I murmur our condolences and gather up our sandwiches.

"Thanks," he says. "But that's not the best part."

"No?"

"Nope. When I came out this morning to go to work, another tire was flat. I walked here and now I'm afraid to go home."


Posted by Vanderleun at May 9, 2014 3:38 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Hello Cowgirl in the Sand

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American Cowgirls of the 1940's Here's a collection of unseen photographs of cowgirls were taken by LIFE photographers Nina Leen, Peter Stackpole and Cornell Capa between 1947-48 at the University of Arizona Rodeo and the opening of the Flying L Ranch in Texas, which included a celebratory cowgirl fashion event.

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Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
Thou foster child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both....

- - John Keats: Ode On A Grecian Urn

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 7, 2014 9:10 AM |  Comments (15)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Illustrated, Odd and True Tale of Dave's Killer Bread

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[Then jail.... then jail shrink.... then jail meds..... then out and back to the bakery where Dave invents "vegan loaf" and others..... then a rise to huge success... then...]

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The whole loaf can be seen at Modern Farmer


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 3, 2014 4:13 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Firebase Cobra in Afghanistan: Americans with Beards Who Are Not Members of the Pussified Hipster Tribe

AN OPEN LETTER TO BEARDED HIPSTERS | Beardsy.com The following is a blog entry from Nicki Daniels:

"Look, I get it. I really do. I understand the motivation behind your beardedness. In fact, I even pity you. Thousands of years of evolution priming you guys to kill stuff, and chase stuff, and fuck stuff….and now what? You’re stuck at a desk all day. No battles to fight. No wars to wage. So you assert your masculinity the only way you know how. You brew beer. You grow some hair on your face. I’ve seen you, hipsters, sitting in downtown eateries, with your rock chick girlfriends, dipping your truffle fries, trying not to get the aioli in your mustache. I’ve seen the quiet desperation in your eyes. I know you’re screaming into the void.
"But I still hate you for it. You’re confusing me. It’s now on me to suss out who is the real man and who is the poseur. Sadly, I fear most of you are the latter. Before this explosion of whiskers on trendy men everywhere, if I saw a bearded man it was safe to assume certain things about him. Like, he probably owned a hammer. Or washed his hair with a bar of Irish Spring. His beard was probably scented with motor oil and probably had remnants of last night’s chili in it."


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 3, 2014 8:34 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Being Nice by Scott M

This is the model for today. You and I should play by the rules UNTIL the people trying to enslave us demonstrate they will not play by any rules. THEN we stop and deliver justice and win. I'm not saying it is time for violence. I don't think it is. In fact, right now, resorting to violence is the worst possible action we can take. But I am begging all of the nice people that dream about how things were back in Mayberry, stop playing by Mayberry Rules when we are faced with officials and supporters that will not limit their actions against us by any rule other than "just win baby."

Being nice isn't nice. It's sacrificing nice people to evil people. The sooner we break out of this preemptive resignation to future defeats the more good we will save in the system and the less harm will be done to the system. Choosing to play nice or waiting for future outrages before we start implementing "direct action" like showing up in large numbers at people's offices and homes and flooding hearing rooms, etc is letting the people that "shoot at helpless people in parachutes" return to base, reload, and come back to shoot more people in parachutes.

There is no nice path forward. There is no magic candidate around, or possible, that can fix things who won't require more conflict. Our situation is one that will either become a Leftist Tyranny or will demand civil strife and drive the Leftists out or underground. If you think smart people can find some other alternative you are choosing to be the weak link in the chain and you put the rest of us at risk. You have no right to throw the rest of us away simply because you want to believe in a fantasy.

The Left will come after you and the other nice people just as they will persecute anyone they see as a threat. The Left will lie about their enemy and nice people on our side will stand aside and watch the target destroyed simply because the target may/may not be in violation of some Mayberry Code of Conduct. You can just as easily be isolated, slandered, and destroyed. The facts won't protect you. Only group resistance will save you.

You must choose fighters and accept the fight so that one day we can return to Mayberry Rules. Stop choosing grey men who seem comfortable, but fail to change the system. The Left is brittle and a little mass resistance will go a long way. But, don't fool yourself, without active resistance there will be no change. This habit of retreating from The Left will ruin us all, you included. Putting off this fight only increases the numbers of us that must fight and the destruction from that fight.

I propose we strongly urge state legislators to support Mark Levin's Article 5 Convention of the States. We elect only people with a history of fighting, not working within the system. And we tie up elected official's offices with phone calls, emails, office visits such that regular business comes to a halt. The system isn't going to change itself and the usual suspects will not upset the system. Pick a fighter, not a comfortable dinner guest.

The greatest Generation had to go to war to save the world. We are only being asked to visit offices, makes some phone calls, donate some money, and keep doing it.

Posted by: Scott M in The Top 40: Don't shoot at men in parachutes


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 28, 2014 2:59 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Go-Along to Get Along Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong by Ray Van Dune

Many years ago I was working for a small office of a major IT consulting firm. "George" was a new consultant who wasn't working out. Several clients had asked for him to be replaced. Older hands like me had tried to mentor him, but truth be known he just was not a fan of hard work, and tended to blame everyone and everything except himself for his lack of success. So one day I was called in to have a chat about him with our "HR guy", Joe. Joe was reluctant to let George go, because Joe wanted to be everybody's friend and I think he wanted me to tell him to pull the trigger, so he didn't have to feel so guilty about it. Well, I did and in no uncertain terms.

Joe says to me "You're a hard man, Ray." I replied to him "No Joe, I am not hard guy, I am actually pretty sentimental. When I see George screwing the pooch, I worry about all the new guys whose jobs might be at risk because of how George is dragging down the numbers. And you know how we get premium rates because we say to our clients that we have only the best people? Well, I want to be telling the truth about that, because I really care about our clients getting their money's worth - I am kind of old fashioned about things like that too. So I see that if we keep carrying George, we are screwing our clients and our good performers, because we won't do the right thing and protect them, and instead we focus on protecting George!"

George cleaned out his desk that afternoon, and as long as I worked with him, I understood that Joe lacked the clarity of thought to really do his job well, and never really trusted him after that.

That's how I feel about the go-along to get-along leaders of the Republican Party - they lack the clarity and integrity to act on the principles required to protect those who have placed their trust in them. They are worse than George, they are Joe. And they gotta go.

Posted by: Ray Van Dune at April 25, 2014 6:40 PM in The Top 40: Don't shoot at men in parachutes


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 28, 2014 1:34 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Psychopath Checklist

"Hi. Got a tape I want to play you."

1. Look for glib and superficial charm. A psychopath will also put on what professionals refer to as a 'mask of sanity' that is likable and pleasant.   It is a thin veneer.

2. Look for a grandiose self perception. Psychopaths will often believe they are smarter or more powerful than they actually are.

3. Watch for a constant need for stimulation. Stillness, quiet and reflection are not things embraced by psychopaths. They need constant entertainment and activity.

4. Determine if there is pathological lying. A psychopath will tell all sorts of lies; little white lies as well as huge stories intended to mislead. Psychopaths are gifted or dull, high functioning or low performing like other people. An untalented psychopath may harm a few; a highly talented psychopath may lay waste to nations. The difference between the psychopath and others lies in their organic lack of conscience and empathy for others. The sociopath is trained to lack empathy and conscience. The psychopath is a natural.

5. Evaluate the level of manipulation. All psychopaths are identified as cunning and able to get people to do things they might not normally do. They can use guilt, force and other methods to manipulate.

6. Look for any feelings of guilt. An absence of any guilt or remorse is a sign of psychopathy.  They will often blame the victim.

7. Consider the level of emotional response a person has. Psychopaths demonstrate shallow emotional reactions to deaths, injuries, trauma or other events that would otherwise cause a deeper response. Other people are satisfaction suppliers, nothing more.

8. Look for a lack of empathy. Psychopaths are callous and have no way of relating to others in non-exploitative ways. They may find a temporary kinship with other psychopaths and sociopaths that is strictly utilitarian and goal-oriented.

9. Psychopaths are often parasitic. They live off other people, emotionally, physically, and financially. Their modus operandi is domination and control.  They will claim to be maligned or misunderstood to gain your sympathy.

10. Look for obsessive risk taking and lack of self-control. The Hare Checklist includes three behavior indicators; poor behavior control, sexual promiscuity, and behavioral problems.

11. Psychopaths have unrealistic goals or none at all for the long term. Either there are no goals at all, or they are unattainable and based on the exaggerated sense of one's own accomplishments and abilities.

12. Psychopaths will often be shockingly impulsive or irresponsible. Their shamelessness knows no bounds. You will ask, what were they thinking? And the answer was, they weren't because they did not care.

13. A psychopath will not genuinely accept personal responsibility. A psychopath will never admit to being wrong or owning up to mistakes and errors in judgment, except as part of a manipulative ploy.   They will despise and denigrate their victims once they are done with them.  If they have any regret it is that their source of satisfaction supply has ended and they must seek another.

14. Psychopaths lack long term personal relationships. If there have been many short term marriages, broken friendships, purely transactional relationships, the chances the person is a psychopath increase. Watch especially how they treat other people in weaker positions and even animals. 

15. Psychopaths are often versatile in their criminality. Psychopaths are able to get away with a lot, and while they might sometimes get caught, the ability to be flexible and adaptable when committing crimes is indicative.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 22, 2014 1:14 PM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Increasing the Dose: Progressives, Junkies, and Their Mutual Mental/Spiritual Disease

"There comes a time in the routine of an ordered civilization when the man is tired at playing at mythology and pretending that a tree is a maiden or that the moon made love to a man. The effect of this staleness is the same everywhere; it is seen in all drug-taking and dram-drinking and every form of the tendency to increase the dose. Men seek stranger sins or more startling obscenities as stimulants to their jaded sense. They seek after mad oriental religions for the same reason. They try to stab their nerves to life, if it were with the knives of the priests of Baal. They are walking in their sleep and try to wake themselves up with nightmares." -- Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

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"I tell you boys, I've heard some tired conversation but no other OCCUPATION GROUP can approximate that old thermodynamic junk Slow-DOWN. Now your heroin addict does not say hardly anything and that I can stand. But your Opium "Smoker'' is more active since he still has a tent and a Lamp . . . and maybe 7-9-10 lying up in there like hibernating reptiles keep the temperature up to Talking Level: How low the other junkies are ``whereas We--WE have this tent and this lamp and this tent and this lamp and this tent and nice and warm in here nice and warm nice and IN HERE and nice and OUTSIDE ITS COLD. . . . ITS COLD OUTSIDE where the dross eaters and the needle boys won't last two years not six months hardly won't last stumble bum around and there is no class in them. . . . But WE SIT HERE and never increase the DOSE . . . never-never increase the dose never except TONIGHT is a SPECIAL OCCASION." -- Testimony Concerning A Sickness, William S. Burroughs


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 21, 2014 9:32 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Contemporary American Classics: East Bound and Down

"I'm gonna bar-b-que your ass in molasses!"

Ol' Smokey's got them ears on and he's hot on your trail.
He aint gonna rest 'til you're in jail.
So you got to dodge'im and you got to duck'im,
You got to keep that diesel truckin'.
Just put that hammer down and give it hell.

East bound and down, loaded up and truckin',
We're gonna do what they say can't be done.
We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
I'm east bound, just watch ol' "Bandit" run.


{HT: Mikey NTH}


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 15, 2014 8:37 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Hey Abbott!" Email from Our Minnesota Outpost

COSTELLO: I want to talk to you about the unemployment rate in America ..

ABBOTT: Good Subject. Terrible Times. It's 7.8%.

COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?

ABBOTT: No, that's 14.7%

COSTELLO: You just said 7.8%.

ABBOTT: 7.8% Unemployed.

COSTELLO: Right 7.8% out of work.

ABBOTT: No, that's 14.7%.

COSTELLO: Okay, so it's 14.7% unemployed.

ABBOTT: No, that's 7.8%.

COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE! Is it 7.8% or 14.7%?

ABBOTT: 7.8% are unemployed. 14.7% are out of work.

COSTELLO: If you are out of work you are unemployed.

ABBOTT: No, Congress said you can't count the "Out of Work" as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.

COSTELLO: BUT THEY ARE OUT OF WORK!!!

ABBOTT: No, you miss his point.

COSTELLO: What point?

ABBOTT: Someone who doesn't look for work can't be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn't be fair.

COSTELLO: To whom?

ABBOTT: The unemployed.

COSTELLO: But ALL of them are out of work.

ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work gave up looking and if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.

COSTELLO: So if you're off the unemployment rolls that would count as less unemployment?

ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!

COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don't look for work?

ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That's how they get it to 7.8%. Otherwise it would be 14.7%. Our govt. doesn't want you to read about 14.7% unemployment.

COSTELLO: That would be tough on those running for REELECTION

ABBOTT: Absolutely!

COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?

ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.

COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?

ABBOTT: Correct.

COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?

ABBOTT: Bingo.

COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to have people stop looking for work.

ABBOTT: Now you're thinking like an ECONOMIST!

COSTELLO: I don't even know what the hell I just said!

ABBOTT: Now you're thinking like our CONGRESS!


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 12, 2014 10:15 AM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Here's What I Would Have Said at Brandeis

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On Tuesday, after protests by students, faculty and outside groups, Brandeis University revoked its invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree at its commencement ceremonies in May. The protesters accused Ms. Hirsi Ali, an advocate for the rights of women and girls, of being "Islamophobic." Here is an abridged version of the remarks she planned to deliver.

One year ago, the city and suburbs of Boston were still in mourning. Families who only weeks earlier had children and siblings to hug were left with only photographs and memories. Still others were hovering over bedsides, watching as young men, women, and children endured painful surgeries and permanent disfiguration. All because two brothers, radicalized by jihadist websites, decided to place homemade bombs in backpacks near the finish line of one of the most prominent events in American sports, the Boston Marathon.

All of you in the Class of 2014 will never forget that day and the days that followed. You will never forget when you heard the news, where you were, or what you were doing. And when you return here, 10, 15 or 25 years from now, you will be reminded of it. The bombs exploded just 10 miles from this campus....

Read the rest of this remarkable speech at Ayaan Hirsi Ali - - The Wall Street Journal


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 11, 2014 11:41 PM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Short and Stout

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If you had to guess what is considered to be one of the most collected archetypal forms in the craft world, what would it be?

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Before you spend too much time with that question, I will tell you.

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It’s the teapot.

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While the traditional teapot should be at the very least functional — that is, have the ability to hold and pour a liquid, I recently viewed an exhibition that turns all that on end with the “idea of a teapot.”

If you take the most basic functional elements of what defines a teapot, it boils down to three things: a vessel-like shape with an opening at the top, a handle, and a spout.

Take those elements (and throw in a lid if you like) and you have the essence of a teapot. -- Design Observer

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 11, 2014 9:43 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Rosebud

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Dust swirls around citizens of Black Rock City as they peek into the "Black Rock Bijou Theatre" at the 2013 Burning Man festival. Photographed by Mark Kaplan of Carrollton, Texas. Smithsonian Magazine's 2013 Photo Contest - In Focus - The Atlantic


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 9, 2014 5:59 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Rest in Peace Ultimate Warrior ( June 16, 1959 – April 8, 2014 )

Springtime for the Ultimate Warrior:

We shall not see your like again. We're not even sure we saw it in the first place.

The Ultimate Warrior in Winter, Apr 7, 2014:

“No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own.

Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life what makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend makers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well. I am The Ultimate Warrior. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans and the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever.”

[NOTE: Those for whom all this is, well, opaque might want to spend an hour with David Lee Roth for his causal and off-the-cuff "tutorial" on Post WWII Wrestling.]

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 9, 2014 4:07 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Address: Seven Score and Seven Years Ago

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For Lincoln -- "His Truth is Marching On"

To be born an American, or to become an American, you need only know and understand four things that we have written down. Our founding document, The Declaration of Independence. Our agreement with ourselves and our government that specifies and protects the self-evident truths and freedoms of the Declaration, The Constitution. Our national motto:  "In God we trust." And our credo, "The Gettysburg Address."

A credo is a short and straightforward statement of beliefs or principles. A credo has no fixed length but lies somewhere between a motto and a manifesto. The most widely known traditional credo would be "The Apostles Creed."

Although it is not often thought of as such, Lincoln's brief oration at Gettysburg at noon on that long ago November day is, in all its elements, our national credo. Although shaped as prose fit to be cut, as it has been, into stone, The Gettysburg Address is also a lyrical poem as polished as a crystal prism. Through it, all that we had been up until that day midway through our most terrible conflict passed and was transformed into the multifaceted nation we have become today. And it is still not finished with us, nor we with it. 

The Address shows us first how we came into existence as "the last best hope of Earth." It echoes the opening refrain of the Declaration's notes of liberty and equality. It reminds us of our original goals of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;" goals to which our founding fathers pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor." It implies that all generations of Americans must, if the nation is to endure, pledge the same.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

The poem then brings the credo into the present. Not just the present moment of November 19, 1863, but all the present moments that came after right up to this very day in November in 2010. Then the argument between Americans had become so pitched that civil war between the contending factions had torn the nation asunder. We have come close to similar passes since then several times, but have -- remembering "the better angels of our nature" -- always turned aside and found a way to move forward together as a great nation of a greater people. Now may be another such moment; another such turning. Lincoln could not know our moment, but in his credo he indicates his belief that the test of his moment will be passed and that the nation will long endure. He also knows the cost of that test for those who "gave their lives that that nation might live." 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

From that moment in that long ago November, Lincoln's credo casts a cold eye on the ultimate costs of liberty whenever men determine that liberty, for themselves and their posterity, is worth whatever sacrifice is asked of them. Out of that vision he tells us what the duty of all future generations of Americans must be. 

In the closing of the Address, Lincoln is at once a President, a poet, a seer, and an American. As such, he closes the credo to which all future Americans must cleave. The credo requires us to be constantly renewing the work of liberty. The credo tells us that we -- if we are to bear true faith and allegiance to all those who have built, stone by stone, poem by poem, word by word, and life by life, the city on the hill that is America -- must always be dedicated to the unfinished work that is always before us. The credo requires that we "highly resolve" to leave our nation in a greater state of liberty than we found it. And to leave our Union entire and intact as "the last best hope of Earth."

The most successful revolution in history was not the Russian Revolution or the Chinese Revolution. It was the American Revolution. It began more than two centuries ago and it continues to this day. It is not over yet. This is its credo.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

 


Dateline: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. November 19, 1863 

The only confirmed photo of Abraham Lincoln (circled) at Gettysburg, taken about noon, just after Lincoln arrived and some three hours before the speech. To Lincoln's right is his bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon.


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 5, 2014 2:10 AM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Most Illegal Move in the History of Wrestling


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 27, 2014 2:45 PM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
1965 New York City | Girl on a Scooter | Photo: Joel Meyerowitz

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From Mid-Century Modern Freak


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 23, 2014 7:35 PM |  Comments (17)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Bringing It All Back Home: Released Today 1965

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"The session began with "Maggie's Farm": only one take was recorded, and it was the only one they'd ever need:"

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 22, 2014 2:34 PM |  Comments (22)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Horseman Passing By

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I encountered the Horseman in Laguna Beach riding along the Pacific Coast Highway. He was ahead of me moving at horse speed. The traffic, hurried as always, slowed to a pause and then pulled around him. As I pulled past him, I could hear the clip-clop of the hooves of his mount and his pack horse. I glanced into the rear view mirror after I got ahead of him and saw the blinking red and blue lights and heard the short bleep of a siren tapped once. He had been pulled over by the Laguna Beach police for an interview. I pulled in around the corner, walked back, and joined a group of citizens already watching this encounter.

The Horseman was riding to Texas. He said he'd started at the Canadian border. The cop asked him why he wasn't driving. He said he didn't have a truck and a horse trailer, just a horse, a pack horse and a dog. His plan was simply to ride the coast to San Diego and turn left.

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He had what he called a "shoulder pass" which he drew from his pocket and presented to the officer. The officer, being confused, was not even sure such a document existed and examined its molecular structure.

Then the Laguna Animal Control officer showed up. That officer informed the cowpoke that he did not have his dog on a leash. Something all good little citizens of California do as willingly as they carry bags of the dog's feces around in their hands.

The Horseman replied sensibly that his dog (named, I swear, "Dog") knew how to follow along, and that if he put a leash on him from the saddle he risked strangling the dog.

"Horse goes one way, Dog goes another. Tough on Dog, officer."

At this point, having been alerted to the Horseman, another police car showed up with another, but more senior, officer. He stood to the side a bit taking in what the situation actually was.

The animal control officer, failing to see the sense of not strangling a dog on a leash tired to a horse, began a hectoring lecture on the very special ordinances of the very special town of Laguna Beach, California. The Horseman stood motionless as the scolding went on. Finally the litany of banal cop-talk was interrupted by the senior officer who evidently had less patience for the Animal Control claptrap than the Horseman. After all, if you are riding a horse from Canada to Texas in the 21st Century, you are probably not in much of a hurry.

In short order, the senior officer informed the others that, regardless of the endless petty ordinances of Laguna Beach, what they were actually going to do was let this man continue on his way. Not only that, they were going to give him a police escort out of town.

I assume the senior officer looked into the near future of any other action. And in that future he saw the issue of providing transport for two horses to some undisclosed location as well as the dog, while they were arraigning the Horseman, was going to be far too much paperwork to contemplate. That and noting about 15 citizens gathered nearby, ready for a sincere chat with the city council probably gave him pause as well.

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The Horseman had heard and seen it all before on the long road between Canada and Laguna Beach. He took "The Cowboy Way." He rolled a smoke, nodded, saddled up, whistled to Dog and was escorted out of town.

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That was all years ago and on another planet. But I still like to think of the Horseman. I like to think he's still out there making his way from Canada to Texas -- via a left turn in San Diego.

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[2009-08-11]


Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 22, 2014 2:08 PM |  Comments (34)  | QuickLink: Permalink
A Series of Dreams

I was thinking of a series of dreams
Where nothing comes up to the top
Everything stays down where it’s wounded
And comes to a permanent stop
Wasn’t thinking of anything specific
Like in a dream, when someone wakes up and screams
Nothing too very scientific
Just thinking of a series of dreams

Thinking of a series of dreams
Where the time and the tempo fly
And there’s no exit in any direction
’Cept the one that you can’t see with your eyes
Wasn’t making any great connection
Wasn’t falling for any intricate scheme
Nothing that would pass inspection
Just thinking of a series of dreams

Dreams where the umbrella is folded
Into the path you are hurled
And the cards are no good that you’re holding
Unless they’re from another world

In one, numbers were burning
In another, I witnessed a crime
In one, I was running, and in another
All I seemed to be doing was climb
Wasn’t looking for any special assistance
Not going to any great extremes
I’d already gone the distance
Just thinking of a series of dreams


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 21, 2014 12:08 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Olympic Peninsula at the Vernal Equinox

Too much rain? Two words: "Road Trip"

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THE FIRST THING YOU LEARN IS your don't go "into" the Olympic Peninsula. You go around it. Although Seattle has the feel of being on a coast, it's really an interior city protected from the lashing storms of the Northwest Pacific by a vast up-welling of mountains, as much as it is protected from the cutting edge of our political storms by its removal to the far corner of the nation. One of the advantages of the city is that it sits at the bottom of a vast bowl of straits, lakes and mountains. When the rain clears out and you take in the western view from the top of Queen Anne Hill (the highest hill in Seattle) you see the barrier of the Olympic Mountains that seems to wrap around half the horizon. After seeing this a number of time, two words appear in the mind: Road Trip.

So it was with Spring a day away and, for once, a promising weather forecast I set out for a short trip to the Olympic Peninsula since I had had enough, for a few days at least of:

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But, as I said, there is no "into" when it comes to the Olympic Peninsula, only "around."

It was not promising when, in my effort to get to the ferry that would take me out to the jumping off point, I ran afoul of three detours and two Sunday afternoon traffic jams. What should have been a fifteen minute drive to the ferry turned into an hour and a half. Enough time to take me off my original plan of staying at the Kalaloch Lodge. Instead, I only managed to make the town of Forks in time to participate in the town's annual scholarship auction. You had no choice but to participate since every sound system in every store and restaurant was tuned to the broadcast of the auction and turned up loud. I took shelter by going to the auction itself.

It was one of those small town events that puts your faith in the essential goodness of people back into your soul. Everyone in this town of some 1,300 souls had evidently donated something (From a $1600 Alaskan Fishing Trip to a plate of 6 brownies baked by the Brownies -- $22 and delicious). And everyone in the town was buying something. Furniture, art, baked goods, embroidered guest towels, exercise equipment... a hodgepodge of a town wide garage sale. The purpose? A fund to send some kids from Forks to college. And in Forks getting to college was very, very important because it meant those kids that made it had a chance to get out of Forks.

Not that it is a bad town. Not at all. It is just that it is a dying town. The curtailing of logging and fishing in the Olympic Peninsula may have gone over well in Seattle where people are concerned that they won't have any natural, unspoiled environments in which to ride their horsies and mossy woods to hike about in. In Seattle, the only thing more popular for a politician to say than "It's for the children" is "It's for the environment." Some of the brighter politicians have taken to working in the phrase, "It's for the children's environment!" This always plays to rousing ovations and cheers, especially from the childless.

Things are not so happy in Forks which has had to deal with the loss of thousands of jobs as a result of various "popular" [in the cities] measures. Forks, by any measure, is struggling to keep its head above water. You can feel it in the forced cheer and the determined pride shown at this one small auction where, against all odds, they have managed to raise more than $50,000 for the Forks Escape Fund.

One of my local correspondents, much more knowledgeable about the shameful political history that killed Forks related this small tale that pretty much sums up the relationship of city and town in Washington state:

Our US Senators, Patty Murray (D) who we rightfully detest and Slade Gorton (Republican and now defeated by Maria Cantwell) were on opposite sides of a timber debate on the floor of the senate. Listening to the floor action on the squawk box, we heard Patty nattering about how she was totally in tune with the people of Washington on timber issues, why in fact the lumbermen of Forks were some of her best sources of information and strongest supporters, The staffer turned to me and said "Seattle liberal greenies may love Patty, but not the good folks in Forks. She's cost hundreds, maybe thousands of timber people their jobs. If you handcuffed her to the stop sign in the middle of Forks at 3 AM, come morning she'd be gone and they would never be able to find her body."

True enough. I looked. And she wasn't there. There are many hungry crab pots in these waters.

After an amazingly indifferent meal, I put up at the Pacific Inn Motel to wait for dawn and pray for sun.

Which, amazingly, arrived with the dawn. I wanted to go south towards the Hoh Rain Forest, but since La Push was nearby I decided to head there. Big mistake. Even though my correspondent, who had been so prescient about Forks, declared that she "grew up hiking, camping, trying to drown myself and poaching salmon, crabs and clams off all these beaches and I love every stinking piece of seaweed on every slippery barnacle befouled rock, " I found that I could not share the love enough to find it in La Push. La Push is an indian village and like most of these sad places, seems determined not to let money from casinos work against decades of squalor. Whenever I find myself in these towns I always have to wonder where all those millions are going. Certainly not for paint or decent housing. I beat a quick retreat.

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La Push, the only scenic view

About an hour later, I took a left and came to one of the roads I was looking for.

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This let me know that I was well on my way to what is probably the greatest collection of moss in the Northern Hemisphere, the Hoh Rain Forest.

I stopped in a small store on the way in where the woman behind the counter had been waiting patiently for at least a week to sell something to somebody. She sold me a rain coat. "You'll probably need it seeing that you are going to a rain forest." What could I do but agree? Besides, it was lined with the holy fabric of the Pacific Northwest, fleece, and it doubled my holdings.

Correctly attired, waterproof, I pushed on up the road past local inhabitants --

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--- and signage betraying local attitudes that seemed as eager to say "Goodbye" as "Howdy tourista!"

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But it was worth it because, once beyond the mysteriously deserted entrance to the Hoh Rain Forest, --

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-- I found myself alone in the location where they will shoot the Freddy Kruger epic, Nightmare in the National Parks.

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Walking the Hall of Mosses trail alone on a Monday morning brings you quickly in touch with the overwhelming beauty of this carefully preserved and presented part of the forest. The signs along the way and the slow rise into deeper and deeper groves of moss obliterated trees is like walking through a live Powerpoint slide show on "the value of preserving our national parks at all costs. No matter who has to pay."

At the same time, this particular show, by the time you get to the core of it, starts to present your subconscious mind with all sorts of disturbing back chatter. For all the beauty of it, you still understand that you are also seeing a parasite run wild across a very large chunk of forest. And you see, time and again, how a very small organism such as a spore of moss can topple very large forms of life such as a 300 foot tall spruce. I've always liked moss but I have noticed that various treatments to kill it are quite popular at the local Home Depots. Perhaps, just perhaps, even a good thing can get a little out of hand.

From the Hoh Rain Forest I finally found my way to Kalaloch Lodge. I'd made this my destination since it seemed to promise all the things I need in the way of a retreat from the world, that vision of Edna St. Vincent Millay of:

.... a little shanty on the sand

In such a way that the extremest band

Of brittle seaweed shall escape my door

But by a yard or two ...

and closer still to an acceptable restaurant

serving three meals a day

compete with an adequate wine list

and a nearby store fully stocked

with a vast assortment of

classic American snack foods.

And so I was forced to hunker down with plank-grilled salmon and a few glasses of crisp Riesling. And there I sat until, as it will, the last light came and got me.

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It not only fetched me out of the cabin, it fetched the entire lodge as if a lodestone had, on the very cusp of the vernal equinox, of Spring, taken hold of our rain-soaked, mossy souls and dragged us out of our pastoral stupor, back into the world dimensional.

All along the cabins strung down the bluff doors opened and men, women, children and dogs came tumbling out onto the wet lawn to hover and stare as far out to sea as they could while the sun came down from beneath the curtain of cloud and lit the world and made it new.

It was only about five hours steady drive back to Seattle, but nobody was leaving. Behind us you had the impenetrable escarpment of the Olympic Peninsula.

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In front of us you had the slow Pacific swell illuminated by the hand of God.

Tomorrow would be the first full day of Spring. It would rain again. It would always rain again.

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For now, nobody was going anywhere.


Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 20, 2014 12:38 PM |  Comments (28)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Brands of 1964: Where Are the Foods of Yesteryear? They’re Still Here!

“The past isn’t dead.  It isn’t even past.” – William Faulkner

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A stock image of a shopping basket and check out counter from 50 years ago reveals the staying power of brands from that long ago time. It’s interesting to gaze into the “purchases” in the pre-scanner grocery store and note that even after 50 years most of the brands still survive.

Survivors: Sanka, Jello, Birds Eye, Maxwell House, Bakers, Good Seasons Italian, Tang, Kool Aid, Duncan Hines Cake Mixes, Maxwell House Instant, Log Cabin Syrup, Yuban, SOS Pads, Minute Rice, Dream Whip, Post Toasties Corn Flakes, Alpha-Bits, Prime.

Swallowed up by time: Awake, Lemonade Mix, Gaines-burgers.

The persistence of real food: Milk, Bread, Cheese, Apples, Celery, Cabbage

Listen to the sound of a Maxwell House coffee maker at work and other vintage commercials from 1964:

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 19, 2014 12:13 PM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Kute Korner Krack Dealers: They're Baaaaaaack!

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There oughta be a law against these kinds of high-pressure selling tactics.

It's that time..... again! Who let them out? Why are they everywhere? On the corners, by the entrances to supermarkets, at the crossings, and all over the place. They swoop into the neighborhood in massive SUVs driven by classic MILFs. They pull in, tumble out giggling, and yank their card tables and their boxes of contraband from the back. Then they set up their offerings in stacks, and slap crude handmade signs with a heavy helping of glitter on the tables. Then they don their gang colors and get to work on you.

They are the most ruthless retail agents known to man. They are virtually irresistable in their peddling of their wares. They do it with cutting edge cute, and they have no scruples concerning your desperate attempt to diet away the winter flab.

They are the Girl Scouts and no matter how I try I cannot avoid them.

Their web of pushers has been strung across Seattle. They don't even offer the first one free. They just jibber-jabber among themselves with their guardian MILF smiling knowingly at you. Sometimes, when the junkies are slow to line up for their fix, they do things like cartwheels or jump rope. Then they get your attention. The MILF sees this and smiles again.

And you are sunk. You have no hope of escape. Your whole universe of abstaining from sugar collapses. The few measly ounces you've lost by denying yourself that fourth scoop of Cherry Garcia at one in the morning are swamped by the tsunami of the C.U.T.E. in their little vests with their patches. You world of hope for a change in your gut is gone, and the only thing left for you is the stark choice: Thin Mints or Samoas?

I've tried to escape their clutches, but it's no good. Today, desperate to kick after discovering last night that I could hear a box of Thin Mints calling to me through a closed door, I even invented a granddaughter.

The MILF saw my glance at their cookie table and smiled. I said, having bought no less than three boxes of their krispy krack over the last week, "I'm sorry, but my granddaughter has made me swear to buy cookies only from her troop." (I have no granddaughter, but I was in despair.)

One of her henchgirls shrugged and did a cartwheel while the other two looked disappointed in that trademark Girl Scout disappointed look that I'm sure they give a patch for.

"Oh, don't worry," said the MILF. "We'll never tell. Right girls?"

"We'll never-ever tell," said all three virtually in unison as if they'd practiced it throughout all of February at their Girl Scout/MILF coven meetings.

It was all over for me. All I could say was,

"Samoas."

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 17, 2014 4:10 AM |  Comments (65)  | QuickLink: Permalink
In-N-Out: "When you start adding things, it gets worse"

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The History of In-N-Out Burger
Harry’s son Rich had worked in the restaurants all of his life and assumed the role of company president at the young age of 24 following his father’s passing. During his tenure, the chain experienced unprecedented growth, opening over 90 restaurants through the 80s and 90s. But while business was booming, In-N-Out still remained firmly grounded in southern California, and against the franchising model. Rich believed that outsourcing the brand purely for accelerated growth was tantamount to “prostituting his parents”. “There is money to be made by doing those things” he said, “but you lose something, and I don’t want to lose what I was raised with all my life”.

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His resolution to maintain the simple menu devised by his parents was equally strong, which he made clear to Forbes in 1989, saying “it’s hard enough to sell burgers, fries and drinks right. And when you start adding things, it gets worse”. A lemon-lime soda would be the only exception during his tenure as president."

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 12, 2014 10:48 PM |  Comments (18)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Hotshot Eastbound

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"One summer night in 1956 in the coal-mining hamlet of Iaeger, West Virginia, a stranger walked up to Willie Allen at the drive-in. "Excuse me, sir," he said, "how would you and your date like to watch the movie from my convertible?

"What's the catch?" Allen, then a 23-year-old Army corporal on leave from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, recalls asking.

"All they had to do, the stranger said, is sit in the car until the train passed. "I'll give you $10," he added.

"Allen and his date, Dorothy Christian, took the deal, and the stranger took their picture. Thus O. Winston Link produced one of the most elegiac railroad pictures in a series he had begun some months before....

"He took almost all his train pictures at night, when he could engineer his scenes without the sun getting in his way.

"To do that, he had to devise his own flash system. Link would mark a train's path with lanterns, and then map out where to set out flash reflectors. Each reflector, which held up to 18 flashbulbs, was wired to a portable supply of batteries and condensers. When the train hit the right spot, Link pushed a button to fire the bulbs and, 35-thousandths of a second later, released the camera shutter. The system wasn't without its quirks—since the bulbs were wired much like Christmas lights, a single broken wire or faulty bulb could knock out all the others in the circuit." -- The Big Picture @ Smithsonian

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 10, 2014 1:59 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Outside Americans: Coulter "It's me against the universe."

Developing Nuclear Fusion in a Basement with a Reclusive Gunsmith


"We practice here what I call 'libertarian communism.' "

Doug Coulter used to build signal processing and radio gadgets for our favorite three-lettered intelligence agencies,

but for the past decade or so, Doug's chosen to explore his engineering interests in the isolated backwoods of Virginia, absent from any pesky boss or sticky bureaucracy.
After tiring of living with a meth head who had a trigger finger itchier than an Appalachian mosquito bite, Doug gave his ex-housemate the boot and confiscated his weapons, thus paving the way for his new found love for gunsmithing. Doug has since open sourced his gun and ammo making techniques on his well-trafficked engineering forum.
But Doug's most exciting creation is his guerilla-engineered nuclear fusion reactor. Doug's pursuit for a limitless source of clean and self-sufficient energy takes place in what he calls his "den of creative chaos," which is essentially a cluttered workshop in the entrance of his home, directly underneath his bedroom. Read more @ The DIY Engineer Who Built a Nuclear Reactor in His Basement | Motherboard


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 5, 2014 11:01 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
They Live

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 4, 2014 3:38 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boneyard: "Pilots all go west someday."

"Commonly referred to as the “Boneyard,” the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., contains about 5,000 retired military aircraft throughout 2,600 acres. Crews at the Boneyard preserve aircraft for possible future use, pull aircraft parts to supply to the field, and perform depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. (U.S. Air Force video/Andrew Arthur Breese)"


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 28, 2014 9:23 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Honest University Commercial


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 25, 2014 10:59 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Bon Voyage, Suckers!

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"Welcome to the new Captain Tammany H. Plutocrat Seawater Economy.

Climb aboard the Ship of State, a wholly owned subsidiary of Titanic, Inc, they said. But there isn't room for everyone on board, and most of us are cast adrift in a rowboat, and there's nothing but ocean in sight. We sailed until becalmed, rowed until our back gave out, and the map we were given said land was just over the horizon, but of course the horizon, by definition, is always on the horizon. The canteen we were given is dry, but has a Groupon for water in it. The ration cans are filled with nothing but dietary advice. Captain Plutocrat buzzes by from time to time on his cigarette boat, made from the finest flotsam of our lives dashed on the rocks he steered us to, and gives us advice. First it was: You don't need all your possessions; why not throw them overboard? Then throw the people you don't like overboard. Then the feeble. Eat the fat ones before they get skinny. Why not chuck the kids in the ocean, too? Finally, when we're all alone with nothing, he tells us to stop whining and drink seawater if we get thirsty." - - Read all @ Sippican Cottage


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 24, 2014 8:19 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Lincoln: "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."

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Abraham Lincoln's Letter to Horace Greeley:

The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free. Yours, A. Lincoln.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 21, 2014 5:44 PM |  Comments (23)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Ansel Adams' Lost Los Angeles

[Happy Birthdaythis week to Ansel Adams, 1902- 1984.]

Unknown photographs from when Adams was, if only for a few days, an urban photographer.

I don't recall what I was searching for when I came across the Ansel Adams photographs of Los Angeles at the beginning of World War II, but I don't think it was a handsome rendering of Half Dome or a Moonrise in New Mexico. It was something much more gritty. On reflection, it might have been photographs of my original elementary school, Benjamin Franklin in Glendale. In any case I was running a search in the Los Angeles Public Library's immense online collection of photographs when something in a record caught my eye, the name "Ansel Adams." The image attached to this record was of a parking lot with a cars jumbled together around a prominent No Parking sign.

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I don't normally associate Ansel Adams with ironic snapshots of parking lots or small format urban photography at all. Like you, a photograph by Adams means the classic evocation of the great American wilderness. It never crossed my mind that he had photographed any of the cities of men, much less Los Angeles. But there it was. Maybe, I thought, there were more.

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 21, 2014 4:55 PM |  Comments (24)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"You know I've smoked a lot of grass / O' Lord, I've popped a lot of pills"

As seen in the comments to: The Top 40: Current Seattle Beverage Option


"Great, more mind and mood altering drugs. Spatial and temporal perceptions are distorted. What we need -- more stoners driving and working in jobs like fixing the brakes on your car or repairing gas and electric faults, driving them big eighteen wheelers on down the road.

"Before ya start flamin' me I'll tell you that I know what I am talking about. I am 67 years old and have not always been on the straight. Here's what I'd say at an NA meeting. (I didn't like them, too many losers there, I got my sobriety in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous):

I betcha I smoked more dope than what you weigh and, kid, pot brownies were not invented yesterday; I have popped pills; snorted coke — speed with a better alibi; shot junk in all forms, took it orally — methadone in Tang, it did the job; never tried opium suppositories, would have but they were unavailable; I did peyote, psilocybin, mescaline — never dropped acid, didn't want to get too out of control, haha.

"When I wanted to straighten up I shifted to booze, figured what's good for the nation is good for me. Uh huh, same pattern of addiction and I do indeed consider that folks who smoke weed on a regular basis have an addiction. Not in a physical sense, but there is dysfunction, and some emotional and mental deficiencies. It can be a recreational drug if used like someone that has a couple beers or glasses of wine, stops, "nope had enough" and maybe doesn't consume again for a week.

"( Boy, I am drifting a bit. Don't fear, I have not lost sight of shore. )

"OK, patterns of addiction can be applied like workaholic, sexaholic, the gamblers, people who get off on violence.

"The thing is, the substance is only a symptom, the rest of an addiction is an Inside Job.

"(Here we go, headin' for shore.)

"I quit all that crap twenty seven years ago. I followed the program of AA and have never regretted it. I got God in my life (now don't go EEK, all running away from that concept, it worked for me). I maintain that all chemicals that alter our reality are essentially not good for us as individuals and certainly not good for society as we all seem to wish it was — according to all the commenters.

"I am reading about this all around the sites. Much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, “Oh how good we could be, uh, just as soon's we get up off the couch".

"(Awright, up on shore and waiting for what will be excellent replies. )

"Work with me, folks, we're all in this together. I am sure I can learn something, there appears to be a whole lot of commenters smarter than I am." -- Posted by: chasmatic at February 18, 2014 1:08 AM

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 18, 2014 9:59 AM |  Comments (19)  | QuickLink: Permalink
I have pondered. Perhaps you have too.

John C. Wright ponders. Ponder with him.

"Perhaps, like me, you have wondered how it is that so many people, otherwise honest, can adopt without demur the Orwellian anti-language of Political Correctness; how it is that so many people, otherwise rational, can adopt without demur the paradoxes, self-contradictions and logical absurdities involved in relativistic morality, materialistic ontology, subjective epistemology, and the other nuggets of vacuous blither forming the foundations of modern thought; how it is that so many people, otherwise possessing good taste, can without demur fund and support and praise the blurry aberrations of modern art, praise ugliness, despite beauty; how it is that so many people, otherwise good and peaceful, can praise and support and excuse the hellish enormities and mass murders of figures like Che and Mao and Stalin and Castro; or can view with cold eye the piles of tiny corpses heaped outside abortion mills, and make such enemies of the human race into heroes; or can rush to the defense of Mohammedan terrorists with freakish shrieks of '€˜Islamophobia!'€™ and '€˜Racist!' even thought to be wary of Jihadists bent on your destruction is rational rather than phobic, and even thought Mohammedanism is a religion, not a race; how otherwise happy, moral, reasonable and decent people can not merely excuse sexual perversion, but will be swept up in a fervor of righteous indignation even if someone points out the biological or Biblical reality of the situation; and likewise excuse lies in their leaders, and adulteries, and abuses of power, and abuses of drugs, and any number of things these otherwise ordinary people would never do themselves.

"And, finally, perhaps, like me, you have wondered why it is that these people who are otherwise civil nonetheless can neither explain their positions nor stop talking, and their talk consists of nothing, nothing, nothing aside from childish personal attacks, slanders, sneers, and accusation, accusation, accusation.   Why are they so angry? Why are they so noisy? Why are they so blissfully unaware of the vice, injustice, ugliness and evil they support?

Ponder all this and more at Restless Heart of Darkness /€” Part Four | John C. Wright's Journal


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 9, 2014 4:55 AM |  Comments (17)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Raking Hay, 1945

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Farmer Robert Pikes’ daughter Joyce, age 16,

operates a side delivery rake during haying season on the family farm in Cornish, Maine in July 1945. With labor shortages due to the war, women helping in fieldwork was not an uncommon scene. From - History World War II - Family Farm Fieldwork Hay Hay Season Maine Rake Tractor War Women World War II - History By Zim


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 7, 2014 8:13 PM |  Comments (6)  | 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 at Feb 6, 2014 7:57 AM |  Comments (59)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Get "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee"

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If you're missing Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, you are missing.... out. Seinfeld 2.0; “I wanted to make a show for a phone. Network TV just seems smaller to me than the internet. Why would I put a show on a big, heavy rectangle in your house when I can put it in your pocket?” -- Jerry Seinfeld

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The latest episode is George Costanza "The Over-Cheer" - Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee by Jerry Seinfeld

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Get "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" RIGHT HERE.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 4, 2014 3:34 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Unexpected Success of the Boeing 747

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"Passenger airplanes are extraordinary machines. They are a crucial element in a worldwide system that transfers millions of people safely and efficiently through thin, icy air over vast distances in a very short time. Day in, day out, they fly higher than the highest mountain ranges and move faster than any other means of public transportation. Yet there are surprisingly few of them: the total world fleet of all passenger airplanes presently amounts to 25,000 at the most, including almost 1,500 Boeing 747s.....

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"No doubt one of the most heated debates concerned the basic shape of the fuselage. The general belief, one shared by many of Sutter’s personnel as well as by PanAm CEO Juan Trippe, was that the design process would inevitably produce a double-decker craft: a tall, narrow airplane with two floors. This was mainly due to cues taken from ship design and the general idea that the passenger airplane was a flying ocean liner. Words like ‘crew’, ‘captain’ and ‘purser’ still bear witness to this association."

The Unexpected Success of the Boeing 747 by Ed van Hinte (Works That Work magazine)Read it all HERE.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 3, 2014 7:58 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Out for Dinner at Delmonico's in 1882: How About Something Light? [Updated]

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"ANNUAL DINNER [held by] NEW ENGLAND SOCIETY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK [at] DELMONICO (RESTAURANT) 1882" - - Design Observer

It would seem, upon deeper research, that there was no such thing as a light repast in the long ago evenings at Delmonico's in New York. To translate the menu above:

Start with endless oysters with finger bowls brimming with Olives & Radishes along with other amusing tastes of this and that.... Then two "soups" which are:

Consomme Sevigne, made as follows:

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And/ Or Fausse tortue or Mock turtle soup:

"Take a large calf's head. Scald off the hair. Boil it until the horn is tender, then cut it into slices about the size of your finger, with as little lean as possible. Have ready three pints of good mutton or veal broth, put in it half a pint of Madeira wine, half a teaspoonful of thyme, pepper, a large onion, and the peel of a lemon chop't very small. A ¼ of a pint of oysters chop't very small, and their liquor; a little salt, the juice of two large onions, some sweet herbs, and the brains chop't. Stand all these together for about an hour, and send it up to the table with the forcemeatballs made small and the yolks of hard eggs."

Then things really get rolling with Bass A La Rouennaise:

Dress the fish and put it into a fish kettle, moistening with a mirepoix (No. 419), and white wine, adding to it a few branches of parsley; when the fish is done, drain the stock, and reduce it; mingle it with a Normande sauce, finished with lobster butter (No. 580). Dish up the fish and garnish around with blanched oysters, mushroom heads, and pike quenelles (No. 90), molded with a teaspoon (No. 155), the whole arranged in clusters. Cover over with half of the sauce, and serve the remainder in a sauce-boat. Besides these garnishings an outside row of trussed crawfish should be added.
(I can't imagine anyone ever said, "Hold the crawfish!")

Or you can simply have Fried Smelts with tartar sauce... or both.

Then it's time for a nice slab of Boeuf Matignon. What was "matignon" you ask? A light concoction, a bed for the beef if you will:

To prepare the dish, a little butter is melted in a pan and the sliced vegetables, the ham or bacon and the herbs are fried in the butter on a medium flame until the onions have turned translucent and the ham has turned brown. The heat is then turned low and a little salt and some white wine are added to the pan to season the vegetables and the ham. The mixture is cooked, stirring occasionally, until the white wine has evaporated. The matignon is now ready and can be used for a variety of purposes. It may be eaten just as it is or it may be used in the preparation of roast chicken, beef, lamb or fish. In this case, the cooked vegetables and ham are placed in a layer at the bottom of a casserole, and the meat, which has been brushed with melted butter, is placed on top of the layer. The casserole is then roasted in the oven, and, as the meat roasts, it absorbs the flavor of the vegetables and ham.

Of course the physical effort of eating all this has probably left you famished. No problem, just tuck into Dindonneaux a la Viennoise aka Breaded turkey cutlet with mushroom sauce, followed by some Mignons de Chevreuil (Venison fillets) and perhaps a brace of Cailles Braisses Macedoine or stuffed quail. Then just step back and get busy with Roti Canvas-Back -- Roast duck. You'll have potatoes, beans, and salads to dabble in and then....

After multiple desserts and coffee, as the New York Times reported, "It was nearly 9 o'clock before the descendants of the Pilgrims concluded the frugal repast which Delmonico had provided for them, and when cigars were lighted, the President, Josiah M. Fiske, called the assembly to order...." And it was time for the speeches. Most notable of which was the toast "Woman--God Bless Her," assigned to "Mark Twain." And while not exactly politically correct by today's dumbfounding standards, he did not disappoint:

"For text let us take the dress of two antipodal types--the savage woman of Central Africa and the cultivated daughter of our high modern civilization. Among the Fans a great negro tribe, a woman, when dressed for home or to go to market or out calling, does not wear anything at all but just her complexion--(laughter)--that is all; that is her entire outfit. It is the lightest costume in the world, but is made of the darkest material. It has often been mistaken for mourning. It is the trimmest and neatest and gracefullest costume that is now in fashion. It wears well, is fast colors, does not show dirt. You don't have to send it down town to wash and have some of it come back scorched with the flat iron, and some of it with the buttons ironed off, and some of it petrified with starch, and some of it chewed by the calf, and some of it exchanged for other customers' things that haven't any virtue but holiness, and ten-twelfths of the pieces overcharged for the rest "mislaid." And it always fits. And it is the handiest dress in the whole realm of fashion. It is always ready "done up." When you call on a Fan lady and send up your card the hired girl never says, "Please take a seat; madame is dressing--she will be down in three-quarters of an hour." No, madame is always ready dressed--always ready to receive--and before you can get the door mat before your eyes she is in your midst. Then, again, the Fan ladies don't go to church to see what each other has got on and they don't go back home and describe it and slander it....." Full text HERE of Twain's 1882 Toast to Woman
All in all, a kinder, gentler, more forthright and much more well-fed time was had by all.

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 2, 2014 3:05 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Davy Crockett and One Week's Pay: "Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity."

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David Crockett Member of Congress 1827-31, 1832-35

One day in the House of Representatives, a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in it's support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:

"Mr. Speaker-- I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him. Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.

Later, when asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett gave this explanation:

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 30, 2014 3:43 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
My Fellow Americans

"The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live." -- Kevin Williamson, Great Caesar's Ghost


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 28, 2014 8:26 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"I can't believe we made it!"

I can't believe we made it. from Bart Mitchum on Vimeo.

There’s a new day at dawn and I’ve finally arrived
If I’m there in the morning, baby, you’ll know I’ve survived
I can’t believe it, I can’t believe I’m alive!

-- Where Are You Tonight?

Thanks to Morgan @ House of Eratosthenes


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 26, 2014 6:39 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Never Trust a Computer Over 30.... like the Apple Macintosh

The Lost 1984 Video: young Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh

THEN:

NOW:
Apple - Thirty Years of Mac


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 24, 2014 3:01 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
How to Knock Off a Bag

"Are you looking for a shortcut to success? Watch this "How To" video and learn all of the shortcuts and tricks others already use to bypass quality. And you too can make loads of money knocking off our Saddleback Leather Briefcases. Riches untold!!! And If you do it just right, the people who buy your copies, and reward ethically challenged and creatively bankrupt people, will never know... for about a year!!! Think of all the drugs and women and alcohol you'll be able to buy before they start complaining!!! Today is your lucky day. "


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 24, 2014 11:12 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
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