Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun

American Studies

In America Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Overdoing

Okay, this holiday lights thing might just be getting a wee bit out of hand.



"Welcome to the houses on Manning Street.
We have 16 houses with Christmas lights coordinated to music. Christmas songs will change and be added through the weeks. We are also playing the music throughout the neighborhood so people can walk or you can tune your car radio to 92.5."
Yucaipa Christmas


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 14, 2014 7:40 AM |  Comments (17)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"On any street in any town / In any state if any clown"

Seems some people in Berkeley want to have the army in their city ..... Oh really? Is that what they want? Well, they need to be careful what they wish for.

Speaking as someone who has been in Berkeley when the army showed up; someone who's been shot at, chased through the streets, and then gassed from helicopters, everybody out and about in Berkeley might want to just shut up, go home, sit down and chill out.

This is how the army in the cities rolls. And it gets worse.

Well, I seen the fires burnin'
And the local people turnin'
On the merchants and the shops
Who used to sell their brooms and mops
And every other household item
Watched the mob just turn and bite 'em
And they say it served 'em right
Because a few of them are white,
And it's the same across the nation
Black and white discrimination
Yellin' "You can't understand me!"
'N all that other jazz they hand me
In the papers and TV and
All that mass stupidity
That seems to grow more every day
Each time you hear some nitwit say
He wants to go and do you in
Because the color of your skin
Just don't appeal to him
(No matter if it's black or white)
Because he's out for blood tonight

You know we got to sit around at home
And watch this thing begin
But I bet there won't be many live
To see it really end
'Cause the fire in the street
Ain't like the fire in the heart
And in the eyes of all these people
Don't you know that this could start
On any street in any town
In any state if any clown
Decides that now's the time to fight
For some ideal he thinks is right
And if a million more agree
There ain't no Great Society

Blow your harmonica, son!


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 12, 2014 3:03 PM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Day We Killed John Lennon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 8, 2014 1:30 AM |  Comments (70)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Whistling Through the Graveyard: United State of Pop 2014 (Do What You Wanna Do)

A mashup of the 25 biggest hits during 2014 in the U.S. You'll probably think it's gotten worse since last year. You'll be right. After all, what do most of these monotonal blatherfests have in common? It's acceptable to turn down your speakers and click off after about 30 seconds. It's all the same.

Featuring:

A Great Big World feat. Christina Aguilera - Say Something
Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea - Problem
Bastille - Pompeii
Dj Snake & Lil Jon - Turn Down For What
Hozier - Take Me to Church
Idina Menzel - Let It Go
Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX - Fancy
Iggy Azalea feat. Rita Ora - Black Widow
Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz - Talk Dirty
Jeremih feat. YG - Don't Tell 'Em
Jessie J feat. Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj - Bang Bang
John Legend - All Of Me
Katy Perry feat. Juicy J - Dark Horse
Lorde - Team
Magic! - Rude
Maroon 5 - Animals
Meghan Trainor - All About That Bass
Nico & Vinz - Am I Wrong
One Direction - Story of My Life
Passenger - Let Her Go
Pharrell Williams - Happy
Pitbull feat. Ke$ha - Timber
Sam Smith - stay with me
Taylor Swift - Shake It Off
Tove Lo - Habits


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 6, 2014 12:23 PM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Little Redder Schoolhouse: "We have come for your children. Again."

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"That's my last socialist there on the wall...."

Once a socialist gets hooked on child molesting there's no cure. Obama Administration to Launch Global Warming Education Initiative - US News

Perhaps unable to convince older Americans of the severity of global warming, President Barack Obama is hoping to have better luck with the next generation by turning to the classroom. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Wednesday announced it will launch a new initiative aimed at climate education and literacy that will distribute science-based information – in line with the administration's position on the issue – to students, teachers and the broader public.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 3, 2014 11:23 PM |  Comments (18)  | QuickLink: Permalink
They Know

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

And they know that we know that they know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 3, 2014 2:51 AM |  Comments (32)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Persephone, the Queen of Hades and the beautiful bride of grief.

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"It was as if we slept from Friday to Monday and dreamed an oppressive, unsearchably significant dream, which, we discovered on awaking, millions of others had dreamed also. Furniture, family, the streets, and the sky dissolved, only the dream on television was real. The faces of the world's great mingled with the faces of landladies who happened to house an unhappy ex-Marine; cathedrals alternated with warehouses; temples of government with suburban garages; anonymous men tugged at a casket in a glaring airport; a murder was committed before our eyes; a Dallas strip-tease artist drawled amiably of her employer's quick temper; the heads of state of the Western world strode down a sunlit street like a grim village rabble; and Jacqueline Kennedy became Persephone, the Queen of Hades and the beautiful bride of grief. All human possibilities, of magnificence and courage, of meanness and confusion, seemed to find an image in this long montage, and a stack of cardboard boxes in Dallas, a tawdry movie house, a tiny rented room where some shaving cream still clung to the underside of a washbasin, a row of parking meters that had witnessed a panicked flight all acquired the opaque and dreadful importance that innocent objects acquire in nightmares." -- John Updike

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via neo-neocon

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Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 22, 2014 12:52 AM |  Comments (33)  | QuickLink: Permalink
One may smile and smile and be a villain....

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Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams....
Richard III

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Meanwhile, back at the Roman Forum....

CASCA Speak, hands for me!

CASCA first, then the other Conspirators and BRUTUS stab CAESAR

CAESAR Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar.

Dies

CINNA Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead! Run hence, proclaim, cry it about the streets.

CASSIUS Some to the common pulpits, and cry out 'Liberty, freedom, and enfranchisement!'

BRUTUS People and senators, be not affrighted; Fly not; stand stiff: ambition's debt is paid.

SCENE I. Rome. Before the Capitol; the Senate sitting above.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 20, 2014 7:11 PM |  Comments (17)  | QuickLink: Permalink
TODAY'S TRUESBURY Behind the scenes with the Truth Team

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Today’s Truesbury |


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 19, 2014 12:10 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Jerry’s monologue from “The Visa” episode of Seinfeld:

"I am for open immigration but that sign we have on the front of the Statue of Liberty,

“Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” Can’t we just say, “Hey, the door’s open, we’ll take whoever you got”? Do we have to specify the wretched refuse? I mean, why don’t we just say, “Give us the unhappy, the sad, the slow, the ugly, people that can’t drive, that they have trouble merging, if they can’t stay in their lane, if they don’t signal, they can’t parallel park, if they’re sneezing, if they’re stuffed up, if they’re clogged, if they have bad penmanship, don’t return calls, if they have dandruff, food between their teeth, if they have bad credit, if they have no credit, missed a spot shaving, in other words any dysfunctional defective slob that you can somehow cattle prod onto a wagon, send them over, we want ‘em.”

Via NYT finally discovers a type of immigrant it doesn’t want - The Unz Review


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 18, 2014 7:37 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Full Circle Fascism: While Mowing the Lawn

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And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine

-- Bob Dylan

For some it shall always be "2008!": November, 2014:

My colleagues in the humanities support Barack Obama nearly unanimously, some of them still believing the salvation narrative that developed in 2008 whereby the junior senator from Illinois would rescue the nation from the hell of the previous eight years—not to mention four centuries of white supremacy. -- Humanities: doomed to lose? by Mark Bauerlein - The New Criterion

Their infernal machine lops and trims the green upstarts, the single emerald sprouts, the high stalk topped with the blue cornflower down to the level of the dull brown mass.

Their minds are the godless grave of words from which no living meanings can ever hope for resurrection.

Their secular "green" religion has its bad rap but no hymns.

Their dreams of a "better world" will become their children's small and shrunken lives on a nightmare planet where all men, finally equalized, will live like insects.

And yet, like zombies lashed to a dying animal, they persist in their death-in-life existence, seeking only the freedom of an approved and "assisted" suicide as their reward.

They call themselves "progressives" and flatter themselves that their thoughts and actions are "revolutionary" when they are as reactionary as can be remembered from history.

What happened to all those who, in my youth, marched and sang for "freedom?" How did they become so old, so hidebound, so mired in the past? When did they become stuck in "suppose?" How, from once striving so hard against colonialism in all its guises, did they allow their minds to become so utterly colonized by a matted mass of dim and discredited notions?

They chain themselves deep in the pit of pretend, and celebrate their servitude by bending heaven and earth to get you down in the hole that they're in.

They believe that the individual should become the mass, and that the mass should worship its apotheosis; that one who best reflects their ossified visions on which the anointing oil has long since dried to a brown crust of thought.

They are the monarchists of the mass. They seek a state in which the head that wears the crown may change but where the crown itself grows forever larger.

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 17, 2014 2:41 AM |  Comments (21)  | QuickLink: Permalink
On Knowing What's What and Who's Who

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Last week the 91-year-old father of a friend of mine was out riding his Harley. (He's a tough old bird to be sure.) Sadly that day turned out to be one of those times where, when taking a curve, something went wrong and down he went on his motorcycle at speed.

There were, as you might imagine, multiple injuries from which he will spend some months recovering. The first thing that happened, however, was that 911 was called and an ambulance pulled up to the scene of the accident where the elderly biker was being held still and comforted by his son who was out riding with him.

Two paramedics jumped out and came up to the injured man and assessed his physical condition. That done they moved onto his mental condition.

"What year is it, sir?"

"It's 2014," he replied faintly.

"What month is it, sir?"

"It's... it's November."

"How many quarters are there in a dollar," they asked.

"Four," he replied.

"And who is president of the United States?"

"That SON OF A BITCH!"

Prognosis today for a full recovery? Excellent.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 14, 2014 8:23 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems: "MacArthur Park" Everyone Knows the Refrain. Everyone Wishes They Didn't.

In which we discover that the cake is left, by some highly irresponsible person, outside in extreme precipitation with the predictable result that all the sweet, green icing ends up flowing down much to the distress of the singer who laments that he or she will be unable to repossess the evidently highly secret recipe to said baked good.

Which, as it turns out, was actually sitting there out in the rain in the Los Angeles park dedicated to the famous American general.

Despite the rather poetic homage paid to it in the 1968 song, MacArthur Park became known for violence after 1985 when prostitution, drug dealing, shoot-outs, and the occasional rumored drowning became commonplace, with as many as 30 murders in 1990.

Jimmy Webb discusses famous lyrics in 'MacArthur Park':

"I've also tried to tell the truth, which is that it's just a song about a girlfriend of mine, Susie Horton, and this place on Wilshire Boulevard where we used to have lunch, which is called MacArthur Park. And the truth is that everything in the song was visible. There's nothing in it that's fabricated. The old men playing checkers by the trees, the cake that was left out in the rain, all of the things that are talked about in the song are things I actually saw. And so it's a kind of musical collage of this whole love affair that kind of went down in MacArthur Park."

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Muse Then

Muse for Jimmy Webb's 'MacArthur Park' treasures those days: Suzy Ronstadt — then Suzy Horton — was the flesh-and-blood muse Webb immortalized for "the yellow cotton dress foaming like a wave on the ground around your knees" that she wore one afternoon while the couple ate lunch in L.A.'s MacArthur Park.... But Webb was more smitten with her at the time than she with him. "It was unrequited love," said the woman who once held the title of Miss Colton — and who today sings in a pop-folk vocal quartet I Hear Voices!

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Muse Now

The song consists of four sections or movements:

A mid-tempo introduction and opening section, called "In the Park" in the original session notes, is built around piano and harpsichord, with horns and orchestra added. This arrangement accompanies the song's main verses and choruses. A slow tempo and quiet section follows, called "After the Loves of My Life". An up-tempo instrumental section, called "Allegro", is led by drums and percussion, punctuated by horn riffs, builds to an orchestral climax. A mid-tempo reprise of the first section, concludes with the final choruses and climax.

Harris's version

was released in April 1968 (WABC first played it on Tuesday 9 April 1968) and on the Hot 100 bowed at #79 on 11 May 1968 and peaked at #2 on 22 June 1968. The song peaked at No. 10 in Billboard's Easy Listening survey and was No. 8 for the year on WABC's overall 1968 chart. In 1969, "MacArthur Park" received the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).

First, a version by a man who can actually sing, Glenn Campbell

Second, the backstory and snippets of the original version by Richard Harris, a man who couldn't sing but whose version put it on the charts.

Third, the definitive Donna Summer Version....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 14, 2014 9:28 AM |  Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Age of Miracles and Wonders and Papaya in November

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This isn't a still life from 17th-century Europe. It's fresh produce from four upscale markets in Manhattan. [Detail]

Eating locally and reducing carbon footprints may be in, but these fruits and vegetables made big trips to the Big Apple—in some cases covering nearly 9,000 miles. In fact, in the United States, produce imports have increased significantly since 1980.
PRODUCE MILEAGE - 223,875: The total distance traveled by all the food items combined is 223,875 miles. That's enough to travel around the Earth roughly nine times. - 3,731 miles: The average distance traveled for all of the items is 3,731 miles. - - A Moveable Feast

To see the full still life....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 8, 2014 7:29 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Sitting on Obama's Head" Is a Diplomatic Way of Putting It

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“In my first draft, I had the elephant sitting on Obama’s head,” says Liniers, the Argentine artist behind next week’s cover. “This version is a bit more subtle.... I hope Obama finds some way to maneuver around this situation.” Obama’s Elephant Problem - The New Yorker

Elsewhere:

A guy works in the circus, following the elephants with a pail and shovel. One day, his brother comes to see him. He says, “Sam, I’ve got great news. I’ve got you a job in my office. You’ll wear a suit and tie, work regular hours, and start at a nice salary. How about it? Sam says, “What? And give up show business?

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 8, 2014 6:37 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Awe Gone

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The word “unbelievable” has lost all force. That's why the kiddies and their adult imitators invented the word awesome. -- Commentor BillH, 2014

Moments of real awe that overwhelm the soul are rare, but if you look closely at the miracle of creation in the macro or micro cosmos you can create such a moment almost at will. Real awe is front-loaded into the universe.

At the same time, those things of man that inspire awe diminish moment by moment under the unstoppable onslaught of the word "awesome." The descent of the word "awesome" from a valuable modifier when describing an experience to the status of a brain fart is a classic example of how our "educated" illiterates destroy literacy.

I've had a few moments in my life where genuine awe shook me to the roots of my soul. Holding my daughter in my arms a moment after she was born comes to mind as does a time when I was very young, lying a field and looking up at the sky and the high cirrus glowing burnt orange in the fading rays of day. There were others as well, gifts given and grace notes. Common to all were an intake of breath and a feeling as if your heart had been grazed by a thought of God and forgot, for that moment, to beat. Matched up against all the torrent and cascade of moments though, this genuine awe was rare; it was one of the pearls beyond price, the shining instant of "Ah ha, so that's what it's all about."

Not so today. Today awe is as common as clay. Today all things of man possesses the awe of someness. The movie is awesome. The SmartCar is awesome. The candy bar is awesome. The cheeseburger is awesome. Today it would seem that every slice of tripe spun out of the crap factories of pop culture is awesome even though one note of the 9th Symphony would crush the entire oeuvre of Arrowsmith. My morning latte was described by the barrista as "awesome" when, like all our cornucopia of crapulous things described as such, it was quite mediocre, thank you.

I'm not sure when "awesome" died, but it was sometime in the very late, not-so-great, 20th century. You'd think it would be mummified by now, but no. Whenever someone so forgets to drive their mouth responsibly that the word "awesome" emerges it carries with it the stench of that slaughterhouse where perfectly good words go to die.

In a time when moments of true awe are needed to slake the parched post-modern lost souls, the intense trivialization of awe by the neutered generation is awesome.


Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 1, 2014 1:01 AM |  Comments (30)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion."

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"Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." Washington's Farewell Address


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 29, 2014 8:38 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Hitchhiking in the Land of the Dead

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Pull up a chair and sit a spell. Death's in residence on my block

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die
To cease upon the midnight with no pain....

-- Keats, Ode to a Nightingale

Once upon a time, when Europe could be had at $5 a day, I found myself hitchhiking on the freezing plains of Spain just outside of Madrid. Car after car swept past me, the winds in their wakes chilling me further. This was very disconcerting since I had with me my fail-safe ride generator, a hot hippie girlfriend (Think a good-looking Janis Joplin.) My ride generator had never failed me before but on this day she was generating zero rides even though the traffic on the road was heavy. Then I noticed two things.

First there seemed to be no trucks on the road. Second, the cars that huffed past us were filled to the gills with whole Spanish families bearing vast bouquets of flowers. And all those Spaniards looked, to the last, very grim.

After a few futile hours, we made our way -- walking -- a few kilometers down the road to a truck stop where, using my pidgin Spanish, the mystery of the ride drought was solved. It seemed that we were trying to get to Barcelona on one of the most holy days of the Spanish year -- All Saints Day, or as we have it here in America, Halloween.

The Spanish tradition on this day is for the whole family to load up the car with flowers and other offerings and haul off to the local graveyard for a visit and picnic with the dearly departed. After that many go off to a traditional performance of Spain's Faustian epic Don Juan Tenario in which the final act takes place in a cemetery. On this holy day in Spain we had almost zero chance of getting a ride anywhere other than the local graveyard. Chastened, we made our way back to Madrid by bus and set out the next day with much better luck.

What remains in my memory from watching the parade of cars on that long-lost Spanish highway is just how dour and serious the Spanish were on their Halloween. They weren't fooling around with death, but taking it at its word. They not only believed in death they also, in their prayers and rituals and their traditional play, believed that what you do in life determines how you will be treated in the afterlife. They had, at bottom, that adamantine belief that is the pearl beyond price of the Catholics. But even if you were to strip away the 2000 years of dogma, these people still had the one thing that more and more Americans lack at the core of their lives: a belief in something greater than themselves, a belief in something greater than man, greater than death.

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred.

-- Dylan

In my neighborhood in Seattle many don't believe in anything sacred other than, at best, Obama. Their entire belief system centers on that tin god then on themselves and their "only one life to live, live, live!." All of which makes for an empty skin sack of existential desolation that they try to fill every Halloween with the greatest of American secular concepts: fun.

"Fun" is a curiously American concept that seems to have begun its invasion of all aspects of our shared life shortly after the end of WWII. I suppose that after the Great Depression and the war, the nation felt it could use a little fun. And, as usual, that great American axiom, "If it is worth doing, it is worth overdoing," came into play. Nowhere do we see the idea that life should be "fun" pumped up into bigger balloons of pure vanity than on Halloween.

From a minor tradition of sending kids out for to pick up some free candy, Halloween has mushroomed into a major American auto-fornication festival in which we regularly -- and with increasing intensity -- celebrate the meat state of life while pretending to vaguely celebrate the spiritual part. If you've noted, as I have, the increasing lust for gruesomeness in costumes at every new Halloween, you might have reflected that dark humor has taken a back seat to darker fascinations. One new costume around this year allows you to dress us as a corpse in a body bag complete with wounds and autopsy slashes. And that's a mild one.

Added on to costumes depicting violent death, mutilation, and the corruption of the grave, we have the increasing trend to freak show street events and private parties where this week's perversion is served as bubbling punch; as a witch's brew we are only too pleased, dressed as dregs, to drink to the dregs. In Seattle, of course, freak show street events and perversion parties are pretty much the order of the day, if not the daily spectacle on many blocks. But there's something about Halloween that brings out the horror show of many inner lives like no other event. The only thing that saves us from seeing ghouls and goblins parading naked about the streets with their full-body tattoos and multiple genital piercings on display is the colder temperature, but there are clubs that specialize in that all about the city so you can see it if you wish.

It seems strange that a day for the contemplation of mortality has been turned into a carnival of corruption in this country, but perhaps not all that strange. I'd suggest that, as the country becomes more secular; as it ceases to believe in anything other than the here and now, the moment in the meat, it becomes increasingly terrified of the extinction of the self by death. It is one thing to profess a belief in the Great Nothingness, it is quite another to have to face it. The only weak weapon that can be raised up against it is its denial.

Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death touches on why this is so:

Becker argues that a basic duality in human life exists between the physical world of objects and a symbolic world of human meaning. Thus, since man has a dualistic nature consisting of a physical self and a symbolic self, man is able to transcend the dilemma of mortality through heroism, a concept involving his symbolic half. By embarking on what Becker refers to as an "immortality project" (or causa sui), in which he creates or becomes part of something which he feels will outlast him, man feels he has "become" heroic and, henceforth, part of something eternal; something that will never die, compared to his physical body that will die one day. This, in turn, gives man the feeling that his life has meaning; a purpose; significance in the grand scheme of things.

Of course, absent religion and the perception of the vertical in the universe, science and the deep belief in the Great Nothingness is a poor substitute. As Becker notes, without something larger than yourself, the "heroic project fails."

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark...

-- Eliot, Four Quartets

We aren't accustomed to failure in our ceaseless search to find a meaning in the Great Nothingness. But fail we do because the nature of the Great Nothingness that we so admire is exactly that, Nothing; death as a black hole with despair as the free-candy in your skin sack.

What the empty among us are compelled to do when confronted by death is a bit of mass-culture symbolic magic. We dress as what we fear most, and we deck our halls with symbols of death and decay. We pretend that shaking these shibboleths and feathered fetishes against the dark will protect us much as hiding under the covers kept us safe from the monster under the bed. It's a child's response to fear and it is not at all surprising that, as the worship of the Great Nothingness grows and festers among us, the ever escalating morbid gestures of Halloween do nothing to fill the Great Nothingness that roils the souls of many of our fellow citizens. It's a bit like the ceaseless urge to "keep ourselves in shape" that obsesses so many.

Alas, it will not avail us. You can drape yourself with the rubber raiments of Zombies all you want, the world will always, in time, eat your flesh down to dust. And without faith, that fate is the hard-core horror of existence as mere meat. Without faith, more and more of us find ourselves hitchhiking on the cold plains with no chance of being picked up. Without faith, the vehicles that pass us on the high road just aren't going our way.

[Republished from October 2008. New this year, the ante goes up with these hyper-realistic hacked up chunks of human meat. There really is no bottom. Is there?]

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Axed Up Body @ Fright Catalog, Inc.

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And this year comes word of "The fake “dismembered human” meat packages from a fake butcher called The Chop Shop were discount store Europris’ way of getting into the Halloween spirit." Norway Pulls Hands Why not? Halloween is "for the children!"


Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 28, 2014 1:40 AM |  Comments (30)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Not-So-Contemporary Classics: Man Of Constant Sorrow [Updated]

As sung by Bob Dylan, Roscoe Holcomb, The Foggy Mountain Boys, The New Lost City Ramblers, Dan Tyminski and... wait for it... Limbotheque.

"I am a man of constant sorrow
I've seen trouble all my days
I'll say goodbye to Colorado
Where I was born and partly raised.

Your mother says I'm a stranger
My face you'll never see no more
But there's one promise, darling
I'll see you on God's golden shore.

Through this open world I'm about to ramble
Through ice and snow, sleet and rain
I'm about to ride that morning railroad
Perhaps I'll die on that train.

I'm going back to Colorado
The place that I started from
If I knowed how bad you'd treat me
Honey, I never would have come."

History of this traditional American folk song.

"It was first recorded by Dick Burnett, a partially blind fiddler from Kentucky. "Man of Constant Sorrow" is a traditional American folk song first recorded by Dick Burnett, a partially blind fiddler from Kentucky. Although he song was originally recorded by Burnett as "Farewell Song" printed in a Richard Burnett songbook, c. 1913. An early version was recorded by Emry Arthur in 1928 (Vocalion Vo 5208).
"On October 13, 2009 on the Diane Rehm Show, Dr. Ralph Stanley of the Stanley Brothers, born in 1927, discussed the song, its origin, and his effort to revive it: "Man of Constant Sorrow" is probably two or three hundred years old. But the first time I heard it when I was y'know, like a small boy, my daddy -- my father -- he had some of the words to it, and I heard him sing it, and we -- my brother and me -- we put a few more words to it, and brought it back in existence. I guess if it hadn't been for that it'd have been gone forever. I'm proud to be the one that brought that song back, because I think it's wonderful."
"There is some uncertainty whether Dick Burnett himself wrote the song. One claim is that it was sung by the Mackin clan in 1888 in Ireland and that Cameron O'Mackin emigrated to Tennessee, brought the song with him, and performed it. In an interview he gave toward the end of his life, Burnett himself indicated that he could not remember:
Charles Wolfe: "What about this "Farewell Song" -- 'I am a man of constant sorrow' -- did you write it?"

Richard Burnett: "No, I think I got the ballad from somebody -- I dunno. It may be my song..."

"If Burnett wrote the song, the date of its composition, or at least of the editing of certain lyrics by Burnett, can be fixed at about 1913. Since it is known that Burnett was born in 1883, married in 1905, and blinded in 1907, the dating of two of these texts can be made on the basis of internal evidence. The second stanza of "Farewell Song" mentions that the singer has been blind six years, which put the date at 1913. According to the Country Music Annual, Burnett "probably tailored a pre-existing song to fit his blindness" and may have adapted a hymn. Charles Wolfe argues that "Burnett probably based his melody on an old Baptist hymn called "Wandering Boy".

Bob Dylan stated,

"Roscoe Holcomb has a certain untamed sense of control, which makes him one of the best." Eric Clapton called Holcomb "my favorite [country] musician." Holcomb's white-knuckle performances reflect a time before radio told musicians how to play, and these recordings make other music seem watered-down in comparison. His high, tense voice inspired the term "high lonesome sound." Self-accompanied on banjo, fiddle, guitar, or harmonica, these songs express the hard life he lived and the tradition in which he was raised. Includes his vintage 1961 "Man of Constant Sorrow."

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 22, 2014 12:56 PM |  Comments (17)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"The Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all."

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Number One

17 All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations,

under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.
18 However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion. Washington's Farewell Address

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Number Nothing


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 22, 2014 8:52 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something wicked this way comes....

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A radio-controlled flying witch makes a test flight past a moon setting into clouds along the pacific ocean in Carlsbad, California, on October 8, 2014.

SCENE I. A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.

Thunder. Enter the three Witches

First Witch
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

Second Witch
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.

Third Witch
Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time.

First Witch
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.

ALL
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Third Witch
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

ALL
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Second Witch
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, locks,
Whoever knocks!

Enter Barack Hussain Obola....

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Obama Plans to Let Ebola-infected Foreigners Into U.S. for Treatment - The Obama administration is actively formulating plans to admit Ebola-infected non-U.S. citizens into the United States for treatment.

Specifically, the goal of the administration is to bring Ebola patients into the United States for treatment within the first days of diagnosis. It is unclear who would bear the high costs of transporting and treating non-citizen Ebola patients. The plans include special waivers of laws and regulations that ban the admission of non-citizens with a communicable disease as dangerous as Ebola. One source tells us that the Obama administration is keeping this plan secret from Congress. The source is concerned that the proposal is illegal; endangers the public health and welfare; and should require the approval of Congress. -- Judicial Watch


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 20, 2014 12:57 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Ship of State

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“Strait times come in history. Our time is such a time, millennial, full of fast currents, tossing, eddied, dangerous to pass through.” -- John Fowles, “The Aristos"

The thing is under the boat. The crew suspects as much but can't know for sure exactly where it is. They won't know where Leviathan is until it rises, inevitable and unstoppable, from the deep directly beneath them.

Can you feel it lurking just under the surface? I can and I think you can as well. The Greeks knew it as "Nemesis." Melville's Ahab knew it as "thou damned whale" and he struck at it from Hell's heart. Unperturbed it gathered him up and took him down. Then it took the boat and after that the ship. All save one followed. The whale beneath the surface of America's life is still there and all signs point to its breaching soon. Exactly where and exactly how are still unknown, but soon.

I feel the thing beneath the boat and I think others of my fellow citizens in ever growing millions feel it as well. We do not feel good about it and what it augers for the near and far future.

The jobs are not coming back. To know that you need to get off the inter-states; off the scenic blue highways that lead to your summer beach retreats. You need to get into the towns that have been passed by; the towns whose main industry has become food stamps and "assistance." These towns are growing in number daily and will continue to grow.

There is no work in these towns. The factories that supported them are long dead or dying. They, like the people they supported, are carbon based life forms and the strange insects that govern us seem to be united in making sure they never return. The checks and the food stamps come, but that's not enough to paint the houses or put in the gardens or do much more than eat too many pizzas and drink too much watery beer. The young would leave but more and more there's no place to go. They spend their time instead deciding on what sort of new tattoo will go well with the previous twenty.

The building of new houses and malls and condos and other large construction projects are not coming back. And even if they did where would we find the workers trained to build them? Old carpenters have moved on to making a living at something other than construction. There's not enough work to bring young ones onto the job and help them to master the skills needed. When a nation stops building it stops having the jobs that can train the next generation of builders. Mexicans, working cheap and off the books, are still in some demand, but there's a limit to repainting and the kind of minor brickwork that makes for a pleasant garden.

The money isn't coming back except at something worth less with every passing day. It begins to seem like mere slips of paper or a meaningless string of numbers that always seems to decrease. The stock market moves in fits and starts but doesn't seem to inspire the confidence needed to boost what once was the middle class. The debt looms ahead and consumes everything even as the argument is over whether or not to increase the debt rather than pay it down.

It's large and it's under the boat and it is beginning to rise. The crew is confused and flailing about. And the captain is insane but convinced he's on the right course. During the boom years it was commonly said, "A rising tide lifts all boats." True enough, but the rising of Leviathan can break the spine of our boat and send it down into the Maelstrom.

And the thing is under the boat.


[Republished from November 2011]

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 15, 2014 2:17 AM |  Comments (25)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

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THE "Red Death" had long devastated the country.

No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal --the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys....
And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all. -- The Masque of the Red Death


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 14, 2014 11:14 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Low-Info MoFos: Random Interviews with Your Fellow Citizens Who Still Support Obama

Yes, you do have to be "special" to still support Obama. Yes, these are your fellow citizens. Yes, they do have the right to vote. Yes, you can now set yourself on fire.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 14, 2014 1:04 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The 80s: Big Babes with Big Hair, Big Shoulders, and Big Sounds. Guys in The Big Suit

Ah, the 80s. Ronald Reagan for the Right and Leather Bars for the Left. Talking Heads fitness videos for everyone else. What was not to like? Except PC, AIDS, mortgage rates north of 12% and its rollicking sidekick, an inflation calculated to give you a permanent facial twitch.

All that and the rise of the Psycho Killer as cultural icon.


"Hi. I got a tape I wanna play."


"Whoa, you like to think that you're immune to the stuff, oh yeah...."

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 11, 2014 10:19 PM |  Comments (17)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Coming Home, Prelude: The Hive and the Town

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During my years in the cities, returning to New York by air at night mesmerized me during the long approach. Sliding down over the Alleghenies from the west, curving in over the Atlantic from the South, or throttling back and easing off the Great Circle Route from Europe, the emergence of the vast sprawl of lights that defined the Hive always enraptured me.

On moonless nights, after the humming hours held in that aluminum cylinder hoisted into mid-heaven, you saw the long continents of dark water or land dissolve into shimmering white-gold strands connecting to clusters of earth-anchored constellations that merged to expanding galaxies of towns, suburbs, and cities until all below was a shimmering web of man-made stars.

As you swept down still lower, these massive meadows of stars resolved to highways and streets, boroughs and neighborhoods, houses and buildings and the yellow prongs of headlights darting under the streetlights. Then you were over the boundary, the runway blurring just beneath your seat. A bump and a bounce, engines reversing, weight shifting forward then back, and you were returned to earth and rolling towards the gate. If you were coming in from the Caribbean there was grateful applause for the pilot for the miracle of a safe landing.

You deplaned, grabbed your bags, hailed a cab and soon were bumping along the Long Island Expressway, one pair of headlights hazed beneath streetlights you'd looked down on only minutes before. The meter clicked past $30.00, the skyline of Manhattan rose behind the gravestones of the vast cemetery, a bridge and a toll and you were back in the Hive.

I loved the Hive across all the long years I lived within it. It was at once exciting and exasperating, densely communal and achingly lonely, empowering and eviscerating, inspiring and degrading.

The Hive was always present, its sirens faint and rising roiled your sleep. The Hive never stopped coming at you and, on those days when your mental defenses were weak and your emotional shields wavered, it could splatter your soul.

The same random evening stroll through downtown that would show you six people ambling along dressed as gigantic baked potatoes (complete with a pat of butter, gob of sour cream and chives), would also show you a wizened bum so diminished that he would drop his trousers, squat, and defecate in the middle of the sidewalk as bond traders in bespoke suits and handmade English shoes stepped carefully around the spectacle seeing nothing, nothing at all.

An old friend with little use for it describes the Hive as, "Hell with good restaurants."

But Hell has its charms no less than Heaven; more it would seem than mere Heaven for how else does the Hive hold so many in thrall for so long? Did not Milton, who being blind saw so deeply, declare, "Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven?"

In the Hive as in Hell, there's always someone lower in the ranking than you, until, of course, you become the defecating bum or another one of the soul-gutted homeless set out randomly on the streets as both warnings and talismans of what can happen should you fail to toe the line, talk the talk, and walk the walk that the Hive demands in exchange for your small but continuing prosperity.

These small skills of toeing, talking and walking I mastered in my first days in the Hive. I continued to deploy them with some modest success across all the long years after. I say "modest" since, just as there was always no shortage of those beneath you in the Hive, so too did the heap of souls piled in the Hive rise far above you. Exactly how far their relative altitude was above yours was always measured only by the cold metric of gold. And if the Hive is long on anything, it is gold.

Except of course that no matter how gold much you acquire, you only have a little of all that there is to be had; a fact that keeps people in the Hive long after there's any real human need for being there. In the Hive there's always more gold to be had. The only thing the Hive asks of you in exchange is your time. The Hive never has enough "time," since to be in the Hive is to squander your time at a greater rate than you realize until you turn around, three decades are gone, and at long last you know -- you know to a certainty -- that you're running short.

Soon it will be fifteen years since I left the Hive and I've no inclination to return. It's easy to say that my love affair with the life of the Hive ended in fire, smoke, ash and falling bodies on the crisp and clear morning of September 11, 2001, but that's only a convenient peg on which to hang the more complicated dissolution of an unwritten pact.

It more probably began in a house northeast of the city some ten years before 2001. Or perhaps it began in a hundred other equally mundane moments. In truth, you are either growing into a thing or growing out of a thing and towards something else, some other phase of this long series of repeated lessons handed out by existence for what you hope is some purpose, although what purpose that might be is always obscure; always emerging from the smoke of the world but never seen until you are past it. No matter. As the early Portuguese explorers knew, "It is important to travel. It is not important to arrive."

By the time I left the Hive, whatever had once bound me to it had long since frayed away. The upward pace of a "career" seemed more and more like a pointless marathon, a mere job. Long days spent striving to "exceed corporate goals" came to resemble a game of pick-up-sticks played with cows. Efforts to save an enterprise that one didn't own came down to admitting that the enterprise had no intrinsic worth other than maintaining the vulgar lifestyle of an aging monomaniac who could no longer reason his way through two and two to four. It all combined into a vast cloud of wind-spun detritus that obscured the plain and simple fact that while government employees were working 24 hours a day printing more money, nobody anywhere was printing more time.

And so, at last, "Man, you gotta go."

Jack Kerouac, Bard of the Road, wrote "Man, you gotta go." Then he went home, lived with his mother again, and died a drunk. Not my road.

Okay. Fair enough. But go where? Here? Maybe. But where, exactly, is "here?"

Today, for a week or so, "here" turns out to be a small town up on the northwest edge of the nation. In size and composition, architecture and attitude, it is just about the exact polar opposite of the Hive.

Where Central Park in the Hive is a large, long oblong of struggling overused green in the center of an immense slab of asphalt, steel and concrete, the central park of this town is about 25 yards on a side. It's a pleasant patch of cool grass studded with picnic tables and ringed with oaks that drape it in a shawl of shade. At the east end is a brick and cedar bandstand where banjos, guitars and fiddles sing out on odd afternoons and evenings. You'll hear some country and some rock, but mostly you'll hear the strains of bluegrass brought down out of the old Alleghenies and carried far west to these higher, more distant and demanding mountains.

On the west side of the park is a five-foot by three-foot marble faced granite slab in the shape of two tablets donated and erected there by the local chapter of the Eagles. Carved into the marble face in polished script are the Ten Commandments, King James version.

It would seem that whatever local chapter of the ACLU exists in these parts has chosen to ignore this blatant eruption of the Christian tradition in the secular town park. One might suppose the ACLU has done this simply because it hasn't gotten around to it. It would, however, be much more likely that the organization is aware that in this town an ACLU suit to remove the Ten Commandments would be answered not with a five year legal argument, but with 30 rounds of semi-automatic rifle fire into the offices and automobiles of those seeking its removal. Since, for all its posturing, the ACLU has devolved into a refuge for moral and physical cowards with law degrees, it's not difficult to see why this stone, largely unread and unnoticed, has been given a pass.

This is a heavily armed part of the nation and, as a result, it is a very civil and polite part as well. The local army surplus store, called "Army Surplus," offers a selection of 40 MM artillery rounds (disarmed) to those locals who collect vintage ammunition or simply to those in need of a paper weight with authority.

The local classified bargain hunter newspaper ("Nickel's Worth – One Copy Free") offers free rabbits (with hutch), free pigs (no accommodations included) and free kindling ("2 cords U haul"). On the same page you're offered such amusements as a 50 pound keg of black powder ($75.00) and a pistol grip pump-action Mossburg shotgun with a short 20 inch barrel ("Used twice, like new, make offer.") There are rumors that some folks outside of town own used Army tanks, but these are not listed in the paper although large tanks for storing diesel and gasoline on your land are, along with military level first aid kits. Just the thing for a sucking chest wound.

As I get up and walk away from the shaded picnic table where I've been writing, a man sitting on the bandstand with a lunch sack and a large bottle of Mountain Dew smiles and asks, "Are you vacating that table?"

Like I said, when the people are well armed people are very polite.

But of course, that's not the driving reason for civility, only a part of the general community background coloring. Another reason in this town of about 6,500 souls is that -- for all the locals complain about the summer traffic -- the town is not very crowded at all. Yet another reason is that the town is very, very white; so white that even the Native Americans here are, well, sort of pale.

Currents concerns and tensions over ethnic diversity make it to the town via television, radio, and the puffed-up editorials scribbled in the distant Spokane newspaper. A shabby local rag parrots the received line of the American Left, but it is largely ignored except by the 20 odd people listed on its gigantic masthead. The love of diversity is probably taught in the schools along with the other two vital educational truths of our era -- Tobacco, bad; New York Times, good -- but other than that diversity and the other tendentious tenets of these times are just a wisps of smoke on far distant waters. In this town, being white is simply what you are.

If you had any doubt of this, a haircut at the local barber shop ("The Last Male Outpost") would trim your notion shorter than a Marine flat-top. Although sporting a red, white, and blue barber pole outside the shop boasts a Confederate Stars and Bars barber pole on the inside. Taking a seat you can leaf through vintage copies of "Field & Stream," "Guns & Ammo," and the long defunct "The Mother Earth News" ("Build a Compost Tumbler from Your Hot Water Tank!").

There's no New-Age elevator music here, but an always on police scanner so you can be among the first to know "when it all goes down." If you listen while the clippers are whirring in your ear, your barber will tell you that what all women secretly and shamefully want is the one thing they can't have, "The natural power of the male." He'll also reveal that he's trying to get this power working on his third wife.

If you said the right things and listened harder and came by for haircuts at regular intervals for a year or so, you might find out a few other things concerning high-caliber automatic weapons and ammunition stockpiles against that fateful day "when it all goes down," but blunt inquiries from a casual summer drop-in would probably be met with silence and a very bad, very close haircut.

From all of this, if you live in the Hive, you might think you have a clear impression of this town up along the northwest edge of the nation, and file it with similar impressions of other towns out on the edges of the grid and far from the maddening crowd in the Hive. You'd have that impression but it would be a false impression. Not because of anything I've put in, but because of what I've left out. Like any other place, the town has many faces.

It's a town of small houses and tin roofs ("So the snow slides off easy.") A town where the teenagers drive the five block main drag with rap music blaring from their parent's cars. It's a town where there's comedy and tragedy inside a small house with five kids and a hand lettered sign on the fence welcoming the father back from Iraq. It's a town with the plagues of drugs and festering resentments. In that, it's like a hundred thousand other towns and not so unlike the giant Hives of our cities. Looking at only into the shadows of these towns, you'd miss the many other things that there are to see.

You'd miss a lot.

You'd miss the rope swing hanging down from the tree over the river and the line of teenagers in tight bodies and tighter swim suits arcing out from the bank and then up and letting go with a shriek at the top of the arc and plunging down into the clear, chill water, laughing and scrambling up the dirt bank to go again, an update of Thomas Eakins great painting, "The Swimming Hole," in real life and real time, right now on an endless summer afternoon.

You'd miss the sweeping panorama of the long lake clasped between the ranges of hills and mountains daubed with vast swathes of pine and cedar; the mountains seeming to hold back the piles of white cumulus far to the north and the west leaving the town and the lake warm under a bright clear sky all down the slope of the day and into the lingering twilight.

You'd miss the small farmer's market setting up around me in the park now as I make these notes. A market presenting for those who wander by hand-fashioned bread loaves with thick crusts still cooling in the reed baskets on the table, fresh cut wildflowers in large bouquets, the seven varieties of garlic with soil still on their roots offered up by the "Two Ponies Organic Farm" -- plowed by, yes, two tired-looking ponies hitched to a harrow. You wouldn't see and taste the "Heirloom" tomatoes, the pickling cukes, the golden beets and the mounds of other produce all centered about the local Cult of the Huckleberry and the several dozen different products derived from this fruit.

You'd miss the ever increasing overlay of people migrating in from other, larger places, other Hives, bringing along with them the omnipresent espresso and pastry shops, the Ahi-tuna centered restaurants, the downtown rock and salsa nightclub where the sign in front proclaims, "It's a great place to be gay... or not!"

You'd miss this latest demographic's obsessive concern with a wide and constant availability of mildly superior California wines in their almost infinite sameness.

Following close behind this influx of aging tomb-boomers you'd see the proliferation of shops specializing in giving an antlered, worn-pine, Indian blanket, Western feel to the $500,000 vacation condos and the $2,000,000 lakefront McMansions with floating boat docks sporting 25' Sea Rays.

Driving just beyond the town limits, you'd find the immense alien landing sites of Home Depot and Wal-Mart, which haven't managed to kill off the local merchants. Yet. And in all of this you'd rest secure that once in town you'd never be more than five minutes from a Starbucks since, once in town, you're never more than five minutes from anything. Walking.

You'd miss the much-bemoaned (unless you're buying) real estate slump, and the whines about "all those damned Californians that've invaded since that damned Sunset article naming us as the best town in the Northwest." Years back that and, in the manner of magazines that must publish the "same article, only different" time after time, other "best towns" have been named since, but the beat of the boom goes on, and prices out those that must work in the Wal Mart in favor of the aging geezers who shop at Neiman Marcus -- via the Internet with free shipping and no sales tax, thank you.

You'd miss the postman actually walking his route through the town clad in regulation shorts, uniform shirt, official US mail sack and baseball cap, with goatee, sleek Nikes, and Blades shades, strolling door to door right down the Oak Street sidewalk where the concrete slabs narrow down to round stepping stones that curve across the shaggy, shaded lawn to the vine-drowned porch of the small yellow house where, at last and quite literally, the sidewalk ends.

You'd miss lounging back on the wide expanse of lawn in the town's Little League field where the peaked white tent has been set up for the music festival like a thousand other small town music festivals, and you'd drink your cold white local wine from a plastic cup as the burning banjos and mandolins of a Bluegrass group you'd never heard of went to work, brought it on, and played their hearts out while the sunlight faded off the hills and dusk rose up by the lake, and they still played on as hundreds bobbed and turned and beat their feet in the looming dark while the red hawk settled down out of the sky onto his nest on the street light above the water.

And you'd miss, late into that same crisp summer night, when the freight train rumbles over the long bridge across the lake on the edge of the town and the sliver of the new moon jumps up over the ridgeline and the train fades off down the tracks and the dark deepens in the yard, you'd miss lying on the cool grass a long, long way from the fine restaurants of Hell, looking straight up forever into an infinite hive of stars.


Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 8, 2014 2:39 AM |  Comments (19)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"This is how you win."

Elbert Guillory: Mary Landrieu is Not Helping Blacks

HT: The Zman


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 6, 2014 6:47 PM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Plague Doctor on the Green River

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"Dress for success!" 1656

Plague doctors in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries :

Some doctors wore a beak-like mask which was filled with aromatic items. The masks were designed to protect them from putrid air, which (according to the miasmatic theory of disease) was seen as the cause of infection. Thus: The nose half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each side near the nostrils, but that can suffice to breathe and to carry along with the air one breathes the impression of the drugs enclosed further along in the beak. Under the coat we wear boots made in Moroccan leather (goat leather) from the front of the breeches in smooth skin that are attached to said boots and a short-sleeved blouse in smooth skin, the bottom of which is tucked into the breeches. The hat and gloves are also made of the same skin… with spectacles over the eyes.

He wore spectacles over his eyes and a floppy sun hat during our days drifting down the river. No gloves though. That was for his lab and we were a long way from his lab.

We were camped somewhere on the Green River in Utah. In a shallow canyon down near the Green's Confluence with the Colorado. We were seven days into a nine day canoe drift down the river. It was night. We'd eaten, smoked, had some cups of grog and were lying back on our sleeping bags with the stars as close as a tent's roof. The night was warm and we were talking about the things we did when we were back in the world.

He was a scientist. A biochemist. When he wasn't drifting down a river in the vast American outback he was working behind several levels of barriers against biohazards at some megacompany whose name has now been washed down the Green River with so many other moments. Everything except his short monologue about his line of work. He was working with the live AIDS virus. And to him it wasn't just another chunk of strange almost alive almost dead tiny bit of matter. No. Not at all. To him the AIDS virus was very much alive. It had a purpose and a personality.

"What I worry about sometimes," he said, "is that it's so lively for a virus. It's mutating all the time."

"Well, that's what makes it interesting," I said. "Isn't that what a virus does? And besides, don't you have to have long and direct contact to contract AIDS?"

"Yes, now you do. But don't always count on that. It could always figure out how to get airborne. Then you've got a real problem."

"Okay, but isn't that very difficult and very unlikely?"

"Maybe," he said sounding sleepy. "Maybe, but from what I see in the lab I have to say that this virus is a very clever virus. Very clever and getting smarter all the time."

But that was just some fading campfire conversation soon subsumed by sleep. It was a long, long time ago, in another life, down on the Green River.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 2, 2014 7:53 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Mark Twain's Corn-pone Opinions: "He was a gay and impudent and satirical and delightful young black man"

marktwaincornpone.jpgFIFTY YEARS AGO, when I was a boy of fifteen and helping to inhabit a Missourian village on the banks of the Mississippi, I had a friend whose society was very dear to me because I was forbidden by my mother to partake of it. He was a gay and impudent and satirical and delightful young black man -a slave -who daily preached sermons from the top of his master's woodpile, with me for sole audience. He imitated the pulpit style of the several clergymen of the village, and did it well, and with fine passion and energy. To me he was a wonder. I believed he was the greatest orator in the United States and would some day be heard from....

One of his texts was this:

"You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."....

I think Jerry was right, in the main, but I think he did not go far enough.

1. It was his idea that a man conforms to the majority view of his locality by calculation and intention. This happens, but I think it is not the rule.

2. It was his idea that there is such a thing as a first-hand opinion; an original opinion; an opinion which is coldly reasoned out in a man's head, by a searching analysis of the facts involved, with the heart unconsulted, and the jury room closed against outside influences. It may be that such an opinion has been born somewhere, at some time or other, but I suppose it got away before they could catch it and stuff it and put it in the museum.

I am persuaded that a coldly-thought-out and independent verdict upon a fashion in clothes, or manners, or literature, or politics, or religion, or any other matter that is projected into the field of our notice and interest, is a most rare thing -- if it has indeed ever existed....

The outside influences are always pouring in upon us, and we are always obeying their orders and accepting their verdicts. The Smiths like the new play; the Joneses go to see it, and they copy the Smith verdict. Morals, religions, politics, get their following from surrounding influences and atmospheres, almost entirely; not from study, not from thinking. A man must and will have his own approval first of all, in each and every moment and circumstance of his life -- even if he must repent of a self-approved act the moment after its commission, in order to get his self-approval again: but, speaking in general terms, a man's self-approval in the large concerns of life has its source in the approval of the peoples about him, and not in a searching personal examination of the matter.

"A political emergency brings out the corn-pone opinion in fine force in its two chief varieties -- the pocketbook variety, which has its origin in self-interest, and the bigger variety, the sentimental variety -- the one which can't bear to be outside the pale...."

Mohammedans are Mohammedans because they are born and reared among that sect, not because they have thought it out and can furnish sound reasons for being Mohammedans; we know why Catholics are Catholics; why Presbyterians are Presbyterians; why Baptists are Baptists; why Mormons are Mormons; why thieves are thieves; why monarchists are monarchists; why Republicans are Republicans and Democrats, Democrats. We know it is a matter of association and sympathy, not reasoning and examination; that hardly a man in the world has an opinion upon morals, politics, or religion which he got otherwise than through his associations and sympathies.

Broadly speaking, there are none but corn-pone opinions. And broadly speaking, corn-pone stands for self-approval. Self-approval is acquired mainly from the approval of other people. The result is conformity. Sometimes conformity has a sordid business interest -- the bread-and-butter interest -- but not in most cases, I think. I think that in the majority of cases it is unconscious and not calculated; that it is born of the human being's natural yearning to stand well with his fellows and have their inspiring approval and praise -- a yearning which is commonly so strong and so insistent that it cannot be effectually resisted, and must have its way.

A political emergency brings out the corn-pone opinion in fine force in its two chief varieties -- the pocketbook variety, which has its origin in self-interest, and the bigger variety, the sentimental variety -- the one which can't bear to be outside the pale; can't bear to be in disfavor; can't endure the averted face and the cold shoulder; wants to stand well with his friends, wants to be smiled upon, wants to be welcome, wants to hear the precious words, "He's on the right track!" Uttered, perhaps by an ass, but still an ass of high degree, an ass whose approval is gold and diamonds to a smaller ass, and confers glory and honor and happiness, and membership in the herd. For these gauds many a man will dump his life-long principles into the street, and his conscience along with them. We have seen it happen. In some millions of instances.

Men think they think upon great political questions, and they do; but they think with their party, not independently; they read its literature, but not that of the other side; they arrive at convictions, but they are drawn from a partial view of the matter in hand and are of no particular value. They swarm with their party, they feel with their party, they are happy in their party's approval; and where the party leads they will follow, whether for right and honor, or through blood and dirt and a mush of mutilated morals.

In our late canvass half of the nation passionately believed that in silver lay salvation, the other half as passionately believed that that way lay destruction. Do you believe that a tenth part of the people, on either side, had any rational excuse for having an opinion about the matter at all? I studied that mighty question to the bottom -- came out empty. Half of our people passionately believe in high tariff, the other half believe otherwise. Does this mean study and examination, or only feeling? The latter, I think. I have deeply studied that question, too -- and didn't arrive. We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. And out of it we get an aggregation which we consider a boon. Its name is Public Opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it the Voice of God.


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 30, 2014 11:44 PM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Slow Fires in the Great Smoky Mountains

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Vista, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, October 20, 2007

Fast fires consume California. They take men's homes and the habitat of "protected" and unprotected species without fear or favor; without asking permission of the coastal commission or the EPA. Whether sparked by nature or arson, the decades of overbuilding, misbegotten "environmentally correct" management policies, the logjam of litigation that prevents stewardship, all combine -- like the fires and the winds themselves combine -- into "the perfect firestorm."

Many, afraid to blame utopian politics and fanatic environmentalism as two of the culprits, blame "nature;" the only admitted vengeful god of our age. But nature, as wise men know, always sides with the hidden flaw, and the flaws hidden here are those of men, foolish men who believe they can control and terraform the planet they inhabit. The walls of flame and hills of smoldering ash are the answer to their green hubris.

A similar instance of eco-utopianism currently seethes in the Great Smokey Mountains. The fire there burns much more slowly and selectively, but it burns all the same. In the end, a spark or a maniac will touch it with flame and then it too will rage up and destroy that which the fire's enablers most wish to save. And when the ashes cool and everything is bare and dead, their answer will be -- as it always is -- "we need more laws to protect that which our present laws have destroyed."

The slow fire in the Smoky Mountains is a pest, the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, that attacks and kills the hemlocks in the park. The adelgid has been having its way with hemlocks throughout the eastern seaboard since it first snuck into the area from Asia in the 1920s. The park service reports that:

"Over 800 acres of old-growth hemlock trees grow in the Smokies -- more than in any other national park. Younger hemlock forests cover an additional 90,000 acres of land in the park. Originally discovered here in 2002, adelgid infestations have now spread throughout the park's hemlock forests. In some areas infested trees have already begun to die."

"Begun?" It would be more accurate to say that in pretty much all areas that can be observed, the hemlocks have not just "already begun to die," but are -- in fact -- stone cold dead and gone.

Here is a photograph I took from a viewpoint in the Smoky Mountain park two weeks ago:
greatsmokieshemlocks.jpg

Pretty, isn't it? Actually, to stand in the place that this was taken and to look out over the mountains is more than just "pretty." It is overwhelming to the senses as ridge upon ridge and valley leading onto valley fill and brims with the reds, the scarlets, the oranges and the yellows of full autumn.

If you do not look too close. If you do not look too deep.

Here's a detail from the photograph above:
hemlockscloseup.jpg

The grey spindly splotches are the dead hemlocks and they are legion in every direction. They are visible from every overlook. They are dead and they are dry. Pitch-soaked pine torches waiting for the match. And, we assume, that deeper into the park where only intrepid hikers and members of the Forest Service patrol, the carnage goes on and on.

What's the Forest Service plan to halt or control this parasite that destroys its host and leaves stands of tinder in its wake? Soap and beetles. That's it, soap and beetles.

While there is a pesticide, Imidacloprid, that works against this plague, it can contaminate the soil and the watershed for 30 days in water and 27 days in soil or, in aerobic soil, up to around 3 years. If you have hemlocks on your property and are either careful or stealthy you can save your own personal hemlocks. But since it is, after all, a pesticide, this is politically impossible to use in a National Forest. The Sierra Club does not, after all, approve.

(The Park Service does note that this insecticide is being used on hemlocks "near campsites" and on "tall trees." I guess the hope is that if you can see healthy hemlocks you won't think the service is losing the war so badly. Call it the "Park Service lied and hemlocks died" program.)

Instead, the current plan is to use an "insecticidal" (sounds nicer than "insecticide" doesn't it?) soap solution that must be applied to each and every tree that is infested. And no, you can't spray the soap suds from the air. Yes, each and every hemlock surviving in the "800 old growth areas" and "90,000" other acres has to be individually tended to and scrubbed.

Call me crazy, but I just don't see the Forest Service -- even if its budget were to be increased 10-fold -- as having the ability or the technology to wash down all these trees. Much less get to them. In terms of stopping the infestation, washing down the trees seems to me to be a chunk of ecologically-correct make work.

Do not despair over the bogus "soap solution." There is also a back-up plan. That plan involves releasing a beetle. A teeny-tiny beetle that will, someday, increase in numbers enough to destroy the parasite on the hemlocks. "The park has released tiny black lady-beetles that feed only on adelgids. They have been thoroughly studied in the field and do not congregate in large numbers and do not leave the forest during their summer dormant period."

These beetles were brought in in 2002 and it is, of course, far too soon for their populations to have had a noticeable effect on reversing the slow fire in the park. Meanwhile, the parasite continues to kill the hemlocks and leave the towering trunks of tinder behind.

But to keep hope alive and to give the impression of actually doing something effective, the Forest Service has a back-up to the back-up and a back-up to that as well. (Fret not, none of these involves actually using something that is known to kill the pest on contact.)

According to a brochure stapled to a notice-board at the park's visitors' center, the service is essentially getting ready to lose what it has probably already lost. This brochure attempts to answer the now very frequently asked question, "Why are so many trees dead, Ranger Rick?" After the standard blather about soapy water and beetles, the brochure admits that the Forest Service has sequestered many seedlings elsewhere in a protected and undisclosed environment. Not only that but it has also frozen many seeds in seed-banks so they can be replanted after the current plague has run its course and the parasite died off for lack of a host.

I suspect that under this plan, the hemlocks in the Great Smoky Mountains can be back on track in, say, two or three centuries. This assumes, of course, that the seedlings, the seed-banks, and the United States Forest Service along with the United States lasts that long. Still, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

A week of partial rains has dampened the land and the forest in this region of Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains. For now the threat of real fire has receded here. But the rains have only moistened the surviving hemlocks and given a drink to the pest that burns them slowly. In the hemlock forests of the east coast the slow fires rage on, out of control, and we refuse to use the one tool that could -- maybe, just maybe -- put them out. Why? Because the eco-fanatics in the Forest Service and elsewhere just don't like them. For them, forests with vast stands of dead trees are fine. For them these places are paradise....

Cue The Eagles:

"They call it paradise
I don't know why
You call someplace paradise,
kiss it goodbye"


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 29, 2014 1:30 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
A Small Favor

achicken.jpgIn the account books of friendship, a balance can never be struck. Favors are always owing. True, there's some sort of record and you can, if you really push it, get overdrawn, but the Bank of the Friend is very forgiving of minor transgressions and small inconveniences. You can be lounging about on a weekend morning with no intention of dressing and driving out into the cold, but the call comes in and you saddle up.

Ringtone: "Hello."

"I need help with my equipment I used in the sermon."

"I thought that was just going to be one telephone."

"It got more elaborate."

("Elaborate" is a word he uses when he let his imagination get the better of his judgement. In general, he believes in simple things: zen gardens, books of quotations or jokes, a single perfect leaf next to a perfect rock, wood floors instead of shag rugs. Over the years his friends have learned to fear "elaborate.")

"More 'elaborate' huh?"

"Well, I wanted it to be a memorable sermon."

(This was in response to an invitation to give a speech at a certain Seattle church's 50th Anniversary.)

"And?"

"It started when I decided to give the sermon in the chicken suit."

(He owns three full-body yellow-feathered chicken suits -- with heads. There are full-body bunny suits as well and there was once, briefly, a full-body pink gorilla suit, but that's two other stories.)

"But they've already seen the chicken suit."

"That's exactly what I thought so I decided to dress it up."

"And?"

"So I went down to The Love Connection by Lake Union."

(The Love Connection is a local "Adult" Toy Shop with a special line of lingerie, leather wear, and expensive, very large dildos for the truly ambitious.)

"And?"

"I told the woman at the store that I needed a large size set of red sequined bra and panties. She nodded and looked me over." (He's a large bearded man.) "It was clear she got requests like mine every day."

"I imagine that she does, this being Seattle, the headwaters of the Gay Bear community of the Greater North West. Not that there's anything wrong with that."

"Yes, but I had to explain to her that size was an issue. It had to go over my full-body chicken suit."

"What did she say to that?"

"She said, 'Oooo, kinky!' and then she got me some really spectacular foundation garments."

"I've always said that it would take a man like you to make a woman like you."

"Hey, I wanted to make my sermon memorable."

"I see that you were well on the way, but where do I come in?"

"It started with the telephone. I had to get a prop telephone. So I went to Archie McPhee."

(Archie McPhee in Seattle is the ground zero for bizarre gifts, weird props, practical jokes and rubber chickens. It is where you go when you need something nobody has.)

"We've all told you time and again to stay out of that store. It's like smoking crack for you."

"I know, I know. But I needed a prop telephone quick. One with a body, a headset and a dial."

"Did you score?"

"Yes, of course. But when I was in the store I noticed that they had a cake for rent."

"A rental cake? Doesn't that get a bit stale?"

"Not that kind of cake, Jake. But a great cake. You know, the kind that strippers can jump out of."

"More elaborate, right?"

"Exactly. In one blinding instant I put me, in a chicken suit, wearing a sequined bra and panties, jumping out of a cake with a telephone in my wing. Memorable."

"Not easily forgotten, true."

"So I rented the cake."

"And?"

"Well, it is a huge cake. Six feet around at the base, four layers, five feet tall. With casters. Weighs about 125 pounds. So I had to rent a trunk. Which is where you come in."

"I'm not shoving you around a church in your chicken suit inside a five foot pink cake. Let's get that straight."

"No, no. I got that handled. Did it all. Got the cake to the church, got inside, had myself pushed out on the stage, and jumped out of the cake in the chicken suit with the foundation garments on and gave that sermon last night."

"Memorable?"

"Yes, but I don't think they're going to ask me back any time soon."

"A church has to have some standards."

"Maybe, but these are Unitarians."

"Oh. In that case, they'll probably come around."

"Anyway, I got the cake back to Archie McPhee's fine, but now I've had to return the truck way out here in Ballard and I've got no ride back. Can you come pick me up?"

"Are you still wearing the chicken suit with the bra and panties?"

"No. Of course not. Do you think I'm crazy?"

"Honest?"

"Swear."

"Okay, I'm on my way, but if I see so much as a feather within a block of you I'm driving right on by."


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 27, 2014 2:07 AM |  Comments (26)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Clear History

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[Archival from 2006 but still, in light of recent events, worth repeating.]

If your life on the web is running too s l o w, if your browsing and grazing at this site or that is just b o g g i n g   d o w n, what do you do?

Like any good cybernaut, you look for the "techno-fix."

There are, of course, many fixes to find. New connections, new computers, new hard drives, new browsers, new plugins, and more. But the first thing everyone should do is to take the cure common to all cyberspace slowdowns. You click on your browser menus and tell it to "Clear History."

"Clear History" works wonders for your cyberlife. As you move within the web, your History grows, and the more History you hold the slower your web brain, your browser, thinks and acts. Thinking slowly and acting slowly may be wise in life, but it takes the zip out of your online drive.

When you "Clear History" your browser forgets all the places it has been, all the things that it has seen, all of what it has learned. All that bitsludge is wiped away and your browser's internal brain is made as smooth as a baby's bottom, as blank as a goldfish's brain. Things run faster, you get loaded more quickly and will probably stay loaded longer. You flash but you don't crash. Why would you? You've "cleared your history."

I probably didn't have to tell you to "Clear History." You knew it. Pretty much everyone knows it. But this better browsing tip seems, like many other dubious cyberspace insights, to have oozed out into the real world, into the world dimensional.

And when 2D goes 3D there's always a problem.

Applying cyberspace notions to the world at large, like believing the Mapquest is the territory, is usually a mistake, but people, being people, are always eager to make new mistakes. After all, "cyberspace" explains so much, doesn't it? Cyberspace has become the new paradigm and controlling metaphor of our age, supplanting the use of the computer as the controlling metaphor in the last quarter of the 20th century, much as the idea of the "clockwork universe" caught on at the dawn of the Enlightenment as the Age of Reason was driven forward on the escapement of the highest tech of that time, the clock.

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 22, 2014 11:04 PM |  Comments (27)  | QuickLink: Permalink
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 (18)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Kids Today

kidstoday.jpg

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

hockneybigsplash.jpg

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 (16)  | 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 (10)  | 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 (34)  | 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

ayaan-hirsi-ali.jpg

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.

a_03.16.14.09_525.jpg

It’s the teapot.

a_03.16.14.17_525.jpg

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
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