Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun

American Studies

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 (4)  | 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


"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.


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 (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Here's What I Would Have Said at Brandeis


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


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?


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


It’s the teapot.


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

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 11, 2014 9:43 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Most Illegal Move in the History of Wrestling

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


From Mid-Century Modern Freak

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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



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

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

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

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

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

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 21, 2014 12:08 PM |  Comments (0)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Olympic Peninsula at the Vernal Equinox

Too much rain? Two words: "Road Trip"


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

La Push, the only scenic view

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


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

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

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


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

a_nogarbage.jpg a_rainsign.jpg

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


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



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

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

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

.... a little shanty on the sand

In such a way that the extremest band

Of brittle seaweed shall escape my door

But by a yard or two ...

and closer still to an acceptable restaurant

serving three meals a day

compete with an adequate wine list

and a nearby store fully stocked

with a vast assortment of

classic American snack foods.

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


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

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

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


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

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


For now, nobody was going anywhere.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Developing Nuclear Fusion in a Basement with a Reclusive Gunsmith

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 24, 2014 8:19 AM |  Comments (0)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Lincoln: "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."


Abraham Lincoln's Letter to Horace Greeley:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"( Boy, I am drifting a bit. Don't fear, I have not lost sight of shore. )

"OK, patterns of addiction can be applied like workaholic, sexaholic, the gamblers, people who get off on violence.

"The thing is, the substance is only a symptom, the rest of an addiction is an Inside Job.

"(Here we go, headin' for shore.)

"I quit all that crap twenty seven years ago. I followed the program of AA and have never regretted it. I got God in my life (now don't go EEK, all running away from that concept, it worked for me). I maintain that all chemicals that alter our reality are essentially not good for us as individuals and certainly not good for society as we all seem to wish it was — according to all the commenters.

"I am reading about this all around the sites. Much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, “Oh how good we could be, uh, just as soon's we get up off the couch".

"(Awright, up on shore and waiting for what will be excellent replies. )

"Work with me, folks, we're all in this together. I am sure I can learn something, there appears to be a whole lot of commenters smarter than I am." -- Posted by: chasmatic at February 18, 2014 1:08 AM

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 18, 2014 9:59 AM |  Comments (19)  | QuickLink: Permalink
I have pondered. Perhaps you have too.

John C. Wright ponders. Ponder with him.

"Perhaps, like me, you have wondered how it is that so many people, otherwise honest, can adopt without demur the Orwellian anti-language of Political Correctness; how it is that so many people, otherwise rational, can adopt without demur the paradoxes, self-contradictions and logical absurdities involved in relativistic morality, materialistic ontology, subjective epistemology, and the other nuggets of vacuous blither forming the foundations of modern thought; how it is that so many people, otherwise possessing good taste, can without demur fund and support and praise the blurry aberrations of modern art, praise ugliness, despite beauty; how it is that so many people, otherwise good and peaceful, can praise and support and excuse the hellish enormities and mass murders of figures like Che and Mao and Stalin and Castro; or can view with cold eye the piles of tiny corpses heaped outside abortion mills, and make such enemies of the human race into heroes; or can rush to the defense of Mohammedan terrorists with freakish shrieks of '€˜Islamophobia!'€™ and '€˜Racist!' even thought to be wary of Jihadists bent on your destruction is rational rather than phobic, and even thought Mohammedanism is a religion, not a race; how otherwise happy, moral, reasonable and decent people can not merely excuse sexual perversion, but will be swept up in a fervor of righteous indignation even if someone points out the biological or Biblical reality of the situation; and likewise excuse lies in their leaders, and adulteries, and abuses of power, and abuses of drugs, and any number of things these otherwise ordinary people would never do themselves.

"And, finally, perhaps, like me, you have wondered why it is that these people who are otherwise civil nonetheless can neither explain their positions nor stop talking, and their talk consists of nothing, nothing, nothing aside from childish personal attacks, slanders, sneers, and accusation, accusation, accusation.   Why are they so angry? Why are they so noisy? Why are they so blissfully unaware of the vice, injustice, ugliness and evil they support?

Ponder all this and more at Restless Heart of Darkness /€” Part Four | John C. Wright's Journal

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 9, 2014 4:55 AM |  Comments (17)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Raking Hay, 1945


Farmer Robert Pikes’ daughter Joyce, age 16,

operates a side delivery rake during haying season on the family farm in Cornish, Maine in July 1945. With labor shortages due to the war, women helping in fieldwork was not an uncommon scene. From - History World War II - Family Farm Fieldwork Hay Hay Season Maine Rake Tractor War Women World War II - History By Zim

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 7, 2014 8:13 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Goodbye to the Way We Were

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

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

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

-- Maggie's Farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 6, 2014 7:57 AM |  Comments (59)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Get "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee"


If you're missing Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, you are missing.... out. Seinfeld 2.0; “I wanted to make a show for a phone. Network TV just seems smaller to me than the internet. Why would I put a show on a big, heavy rectangle in your house when I can put it in your pocket?” -- Jerry Seinfeld


The latest episode is George Costanza "The Over-Cheer" - Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee by Jerry Seinfeld


Get "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" RIGHT HERE.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 4, 2014 3:34 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Unexpected Success of the Boeing 747


"Passenger airplanes are extraordinary machines. They are a crucial element in a worldwide system that transfers millions of people safely and efficiently through thin, icy air over vast distances in a very short time. Day in, day out, they fly higher than the highest mountain ranges and move faster than any other means of public transportation. Yet there are surprisingly few of them: the total world fleet of all passenger airplanes presently amounts to 25,000 at the most, including almost 1,500 Boeing 747s.....


"No doubt one of the most heated debates concerned the basic shape of the fuselage. The general belief, one shared by many of Sutter’s personnel as well as by PanAm CEO Juan Trippe, was that the design process would inevitably produce a double-decker craft: a tall, narrow airplane with two floors. This was mainly due to cues taken from ship design and the general idea that the passenger airplane was a flying ocean liner. Words like ‘crew’, ‘captain’ and ‘purser’ still bear witness to this association."

The Unexpected Success of the Boeing 747 by Ed van Hinte (Works That Work magazine)Read it all HERE.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 3, 2014 7:58 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Out for Dinner at Delmonico's in 1882: How About Something Light? [Updated]


It would seem, upon deeper research, that there was no such thing as a light repast in the long ago evenings at Delmonico's in New York. To translate the menu above:

Start with endless oysters with finger bowls brimming with Olives & Radishes along with other amusing tastes of this and that.... Then two "soups" which are:

Consomme Sevigne, made as follows:


And/ Or Fausse tortue or Mock turtle soup:

"Take a large calf's head. Scald off the hair. Boil it until the horn is tender, then cut it into slices about the size of your finger, with as little lean as possible. Have ready three pints of good mutton or veal broth, put in it half a pint of Madeira wine, half a teaspoonful of thyme, pepper, a large onion, and the peel of a lemon chop't very small. A ¼ of a pint of oysters chop't very small, and their liquor; a little salt, the juice of two large onions, some sweet herbs, and the brains chop't. Stand all these together for about an hour, and send it up to the table with the forcemeatballs made small and the yolks of hard eggs."

Then things really get rolling with Bass A La Rouennaise:

Dress the fish and put it into a fish kettle, moistening with a mirepoix (No. 419), and white wine, adding to it a few branches of parsley; when the fish is done, drain the stock, and reduce it; mingle it with a Normande sauce, finished with lobster butter (No. 580). Dish up the fish and garnish around with blanched oysters, mushroom heads, and pike quenelles (No. 90), molded with a teaspoon (No. 155), the whole arranged in clusters. Cover over with half of the sauce, and serve the remainder in a sauce-boat. Besides these garnishings an outside row of trussed crawfish should be added.
(I can't imagine anyone ever said, "Hold the crawfish!")

Or you can simply have Fried Smelts with tartar sauce... or both.

Then it's time for a nice slab of Boeuf Matignon. What was "matignon" you ask? A light concoction, a bed for the beef if you will:

To prepare the dish, a little butter is melted in a pan and the sliced vegetables, the ham or bacon and the herbs are fried in the butter on a medium flame until the onions have turned translucent and the ham has turned brown. The heat is then turned low and a little salt and some white wine are added to the pan to season the vegetables and the ham. The mixture is cooked, stirring occasionally, until the white wine has evaporated. The matignon is now ready and can be used for a variety of purposes. It may be eaten just as it is or it may be used in the preparation of roast chicken, beef, lamb or fish. In this case, the cooked vegetables and ham are placed in a layer at the bottom of a casserole, and the meat, which has been brushed with melted butter, is placed on top of the layer. The casserole is then roasted in the oven, and, as the meat roasts, it absorbs the flavor of the vegetables and ham.

Of course the physical effort of eating all this has probably left you famished. No problem, just tuck into Dindonneaux a la Viennoise aka Breaded turkey cutlet with mushroom sauce, followed by some Mignons de Chevreuil (Venison fillets) and perhaps a brace of Cailles Braisses Macedoine or stuffed quail. Then just step back and get busy with Roti Canvas-Back -- Roast duck. You'll have potatoes, beans, and salads to dabble in and then....

After multiple desserts and coffee, as the New York Times reported, "It was nearly 9 o'clock before the descendants of the Pilgrims concluded the frugal repast which Delmonico had provided for them, and when cigars were lighted, the President, Josiah M. Fiske, called the assembly to order...." And it was time for the speeches. Most notable of which was the toast "Woman--God Bless Her," assigned to "Mark Twain." And while not exactly politically correct by today's dumbfounding standards, he did not disappoint:

"For text let us take the dress of two antipodal types--the savage woman of Central Africa and the cultivated daughter of our high modern civilization. Among the Fans a great negro tribe, a woman, when dressed for home or to go to market or out calling, does not wear anything at all but just her complexion--(laughter)--that is all; that is her entire outfit. It is the lightest costume in the world, but is made of the darkest material. It has often been mistaken for mourning. It is the trimmest and neatest and gracefullest costume that is now in fashion. It wears well, is fast colors, does not show dirt. You don't have to send it down town to wash and have some of it come back scorched with the flat iron, and some of it with the buttons ironed off, and some of it petrified with starch, and some of it chewed by the calf, and some of it exchanged for other customers' things that haven't any virtue but holiness, and ten-twelfths of the pieces overcharged for the rest "mislaid." And it always fits. And it is the handiest dress in the whole realm of fashion. It is always ready "done up." When you call on a Fan lady and send up your card the hired girl never says, "Please take a seat; madame is dressing--she will be down in three-quarters of an hour." No, madame is always ready dressed--always ready to receive--and before you can get the door mat before your eyes she is in your midst. Then, again, the Fan ladies don't go to church to see what each other has got on and they don't go back home and describe it and slander it....." Full text HERE of Twain's 1882 Toast to Woman
All in all, a kinder, gentler, more forthright and much more well-fed time was had by all.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 2, 2014 3:05 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Davy Crockett and One Week's Pay: "Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity."

David Crockett Member of Congress 1827-31, 1832-35

One day in the House of Representatives, a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in it's support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:

"Mr. Speaker-- I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him. Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.

Later, when asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett gave this explanation:

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 30, 2014 3:43 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
My Fellow Americans

"The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live." -- Kevin Williamson, Great Caesar's Ghost

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 28, 2014 8:26 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"I can't believe we made it!"

I can't believe we made it. from Bart Mitchum on Vimeo.

There’s a new day at dawn and I’ve finally arrived
If I’m there in the morning, baby, you’ll know I’ve survived
I can’t believe it, I can’t believe I’m alive!

-- Where Are You Tonight?

Thanks to Morgan @ House of Eratosthenes

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 26, 2014 6:39 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Never Trust a Computer Over 30.... like the Apple Macintosh

The Lost 1984 Video: young Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh


Apple - Thirty Years of Mac

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 24, 2014 3:01 PM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
How to Knock Off a Bag

"Are you looking for a shortcut to success? Watch this "How To" video and learn all of the shortcuts and tricks others already use to bypass quality. And you too can make loads of money knocking off our Saddleback Leather Briefcases. Riches untold!!! And If you do it just right, the people who buy your copies, and reward ethically challenged and creatively bankrupt people, will never know... for about a year!!! Think of all the drugs and women and alcohol you'll be able to buy before they start complaining!!! Today is your lucky day. "

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 24, 2014 11:12 AM |  Comments (0)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: 18055 SW Seiffert Rd, Sherwood, Oregon

"This wonderful estate on 19.67 acres is for sale with a working scale railroad on Looney Listing and it's like some kid who never grew up built it. The train tracks loop around the whole spacious property, there are tunnels and trestles to make it look even more legit and a whole train station dedicated to the mini trains..... et's pool our money to buy it. It's running for $3.5 million. Yeah, I know... WORTH IT." - - Sploid

[Redfin Listing: 18055 SW SEIFFERT Rd, Sherwood, OR 97140 | MLS# 13571619 | Redfin]

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 24, 2014 10:12 AM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - John the Revelator, Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, and the Higgs Boson Blues

In the sidebar is a small item from Metropolitan magazine with a middle-aged Nick Cave on the cover. A commenter asks, "Nick Cave who?"

Well, he's not Van Morrison, but who is? These days not even Van Morrison is Van Morrison.

Still, as we used to say way back on the floor of The Avalon Ballroom in 1967:


In fairness, Cave is an acquired taste. Here's some samples. You've been warned.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 23, 2014 9:09 AM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Abortion in America: A Personal Journey

Four and a half months

Did you ever have to make up your mind?
Pick up on one and leave the other behind.
It's not often easy and not often kind.
Did you ever have to make up your mind?

-- The Loving Spoonful

No Answers Here. Just Observations and Anecdotes

Like most serious people in America today, I've had to struggle with my views on abortion. You are required, in this deadlocked and soul-locked society to have a view on this issue. "I don't know" just wont cut it. You've got to know. It says so right here in America: The Instructions.

But what do I know about Abortion? Here's what I thought I knew then and what I think I know now. Why today? Because I read the news today (Oh boy). And the news is only too happy to tell me that January 22, 2009, is the 36th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that released the crushing Abortion juggernaut to roll over the soul of America.

Abortion is, as we all know, one of the 25 or 30 third rails of American politics. So what? A President must prove to the American people that, from time to time, he can reach out and touch a few of these rails with both hands. This can be, as I am sure George W. Bush discovered and Barack Obama will find, a shocking experience, but I wouldn't want a man as President who couldn't do it.

Like it or not the issue of abortion is one of those rails. Bush grasped it to his cost and benefit, but it is clear he did so out of personal conviction and not political expediency. Whether or not you like his choice depends on your choice. But grasp it he did. I'm pretty clear where he stood on abortion. Obama is on record, where record there is, of being pro-abortion, even in its most odious forms. But it seems that Obama is more a man of expediency than conviction and such men are always malleable. Decisions from Obama, always have the whiff of Prufrockian diffidence about them:
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

This Prufrockian posture in civic life clothed in the skin and expressions of some smooth operator is one of the main reasons Obama has been able to feed his legions -- so far-- on the thin political gruel of "hope." Now that he has entered the realm of his every syllable being recorded and his every move being examined like auguries, his long stroll on the beach is over. He is now expected to serve up the bitter and chafing gall of "change" and convince his legions it tastes of ambrosia. Somewhere on the list of ingredients in this dish is "abortion."

The Vexation and the Fear. The Abstract Issue and the Real Child

Abortion is one of our most vexing issues. Like a satanic Energizer Bunny it just keeps going... and going... and going. There's no good in it and no good end to it.

It is currently resolved one way, in favor of choice, but the palpable, visceral fear of those who support choice no matter what has been that one Supreme Court appointment could overturn Roe v. Wade. The fear from the other side is now that one Supreme Court appointment the other way could set Abortion in stone. I'm not so sure about that, not sure at all, but the energy source here is fear and fear is a big motivator, especially if you are on the Left in America these days. Indeed, fear and hate seem to be driving most of the concepts coming out of the Left lately which is why I distrust them so deeply.

On abortion, my view has shifted over time. It shifted most palpably after the birth of my daughter. Something about birth makes you realize the stakes involved in the abortion issue in a way that was merely abstract before.

It seems to me that if the issue remains, or is contained, as an abstract notion (What would you do if...) then "choice" -- given the agnostic temper of the times -- remains paramount. In the abstract. we'd all like to be given a choice and not a mandate -- from the state, from God, from our society, or from ourselves. We'd all like to go through life doing what we want, when we want, with no consequences. You know - "No judgments, man," "Hey, no blame, Dude," "No problem. It's all good." Alas, abortion is not an abstract procedure or some harmless gedankenexperiment, although many of the more virulent Pro-Choice people would like it to be thought of in that way.

My own experience has been that when you are confronted with the abortion issue after having nurtured a child, abortion is no longer an abstraction -- i.e. "Resolved, all women should be able to control their bodies without interference" -- but becomes more concrete -- i.e. "Resolved, all women should be able to control their bodies without interference including ending a life within them at will."

It seems to me that (absent the usual banal disclaimers involving crime, rape, incest, danger to the mother, etc.) the abortion issue splits between those who base their position on the abstract notion of choice, and those with more concrete experience -- parents. This is not to say that those with children who remain pro-choice are caught in an abstraction, quite the opposite. I place them in the latter camp. It is to say that, no matter where they stand on the issue, the opinion of people with children has more standing, to me at least, than those without children. Parents have, to use an expression not without irony, "Real skin in the game."

Beginnings: Life and Human Life

Evidence that life begins at conception is obvious and conclusive. If an egg has become a zygote that zygote is alive that life is on the path to a person. This is how babies are built. Once fertilized and viable, a zygote will become -- barring misadventure or intervention -- a blastula, a gastrula, a pharyngula and so on, but always alive. Life is a property both the egg and sperm possessed and the result of that union possesses life by definition and will grow. No life, it does not grow. With life, it grows. Life begins at conception. Full stop. Period. End of discussion.

When human life begins is harder to know.

Certain lower life forms can already be grown to term from zygotes in artificial environments by our scientists, and it is foolish to think that human life will be immune from our technologies in this regard, unless by decree -- and even that is foolish. American policy may currently be squeamish and retrograde in this regard, but other cultures are neither so religious nor so delicate. And there is every indication that an Obama administration will want to play catch up with this ghoulish science. The Left's love affair with eugenics is an ancient and fundamental perversion in a political philosophy that is no stranger to perversion, but rather seeks to embrace it in all its forms.

The crux of the abortion dispute is, as mentioned above, the question of when human life begins. At this point, we all know the opposing political and religious positions. At some point, human life begins and the fate of the fetus is either at the absolute will of the mother or it is not. Nevertheless, it is still hard to say exactly when humanness happens since:
1) We do not agree on the term "human," and
2) as a result, all evidence on this issue remains anecdotal once you strip away the slant of the "research" that supports your preferred result.

A Small Island of Agreement

Still, a modicum of progress in this politically-religious or religiously-political cleft stick has been made.

We seem to have found some small island of agreement in the fact that children who can survive premature birth are good indicators that human life began sometime previous to the time they were delivered. This is an inch of progress, but I don't look for people to set a date certain for "human life begins" anytime soon.

The two sides now seem to be that, on the one hand, all human zygotes are human life in potentia, ergo all zygotes are babies. This treads awfully close to the "every sperm is sacred" territory and I'm not sold.

On the other hand, the extreme opposite side seems to be saying that up until the moment a woman delivers a child it is but a fetus and remains her sole property to dispose of at will. I'm not ready to buy this either, nor do I think most women would endorse a proposition that seems to argue from the concept of human slaves and chattel. This is a concept women have been pretty vigorous getting rid of when it comes to women.

Either way, I'm left not knowing, but knowing that I'm not alone in my ignorance. Yes, we do know a certain amount about when higher brain functions arise, but is a higher brain function some sort of real sign of human life, or a concept that is merely attractive to the intellectually insane? It seems to me that wise people also know, first and foremost (and what the last 10 decades of our tremendous expansion of knowledge are a testament to) is that what we know most certainly is that we do not know very much at all. And I don't mean that to be a cute little circular statement, but the foundation of wisdom - the highest form of knowledge.

Abortion: The Buckminster Fuller Gambit

Some time ago, in another online venue, a thoughtful person advanced Buckminster Fuller's proposition: "'the status of an 'individual' [is] established as soon as there is 'consciousness of otherness.'" I'll allow that Buckminster Fuller was a brilliant man, if not the one I'd turn to for his track record of being right (As anyone who has lived in a dome can attest.). But for politeness sake, our discussion went on from there. My remarks were:

'Otherness' strikes me as a bit fuzzy. Almost as fuzzy as 'consciousness' but I'll say I accept it for the present. Suppose the fetus that, in its development, recapitulates the fetus forms of lesser orders and at some point comes to a 'consciousness of otherness.' We really do not know, and we really, as far as I can see, cannot know what the instant of such an awareness would be. If the ambiguity of life and a human beings general development once born is any guide it could be at any random moment within a certain time range. The fetus as embryo might have a knowing of otherness -- that which is not what it is -- but it is a purely poetic exercise to suppose this. Indeed, it nothing but a leap of faith.

Does a fetus only achieve the knowing of otherness when, as an infant, it says 'mama,' or does it know it at some point in the womb? That point would be the nub. Since after that point the abortion would amount to the ending of a human life and before that point it would be, what?, a mere medical procedure? I can realize that rationally, but I don't have to like it. Indeed, I do not like it.

And my visceral dislike of it signals to me that what I really feel is that, regardless of any right to freedom of choice what is happening in an abortion is still wrong.

The "wrongness" of abortion does not put it beyond that pale or make it into something that is de facto illegal. We do many wrong things for a 'better' result in life, but that doesn't eliminate the wrongness of the action. It is mere mitigation of doing evil for the sake of some future good, where the good is not foreordained as the outcome, but only theorized.

To argue that everyone must stand up and assert that there is nothing wrong with the "right to choose" seems to be asking for vindication rather than toleration. I don't think it is wrong to pursue your rights, but don't think the pursuit of this right leads you to right action. While having the right to choose may be one of those derivative rights constantly being discovered by those that mine the subtext of the Constitution, that doesn't mean you get to have a pat on the back and a big cheer from society. Unless, of course, you want to have the kinds of medals and awards that were once given out in socialist dictatorships for following the instructions of the state to limit your children to one (and throw away the girl children while you're at it.)

My own experience tells me that the child knows the other in the womb before birth. The movements of the child in the womb. The reactions of the unborn child to music or other external stimuli all tend towards this. I'd say, without really knowing, that the fetus knows "otherness" certainly at some point within the last trimester. I suppose that most reasonable people who have been through a pregnancy to term would agree with me.

Okay, it knows other in the last trimester. How do we know? We know only because the child is at that point capable doing something that *we* perceive as knowing the other. But is it capable of this knowing before it can exhibit behavior we can perceive? Is it in some sort of coma state where its knowledge is in advance of its ability to act on it? Probably. And if so, how far back into gestation does this ability to know go? Is it possible to know the other before being a viable fetus that can live outside the mother? This we do not yet know and we may never know.

The Death Camp Book

But.... but... something persists in me from a book read long, long ago concerning the Death Camps during the Holocaust. I read this history more than forty years ago as a teenager and have not read it since. I read it so long ago that I cannot remember the title but retain trace memories the photographs of Dachau in the center that shocked me out of childhood. I also remembere one particular passage. I find it strange that, given my youth at the time, and the thousands and thousands of books since, that this passage should stay with me.

I cannot quote it but its import went something like this:

The person being interviewed was a female concentration camp survivor. She survived by being 'of use' to the camp. This use was to take the unborn, the aborted, the babies, the infants and the small children (dead or alive, I'm no longer sure), and throw their bodies into the ovens. At the end of this passage she reflected (in paraphrase): "Were we throwing another Mozart or Moses into the flames? We'll never know." And that not knowing was her enduring hell.

The Lost Children I'll Never Know

Early in my first marriage, involved in my career and my first wife involved in hers, she became pregnant. Because we still thought of children in the abstract, we "agreed" to have it aborted. It seemed like the "sensible" choice at the time. We told ourselves we "weren't ready" (Who is?). We went ahead with the abortion of our first child and, after a short recuperation, life went on as before. At least it felt as if went on as before.

Two years later, my first wife became pregnant again and this time we "were ready." We moved back from Europe, got jobs, got settled, and had a little girl.

Being at the birth of your child is an amazing thing. Stunning. You feel your whole previous life close like a giant circle coming together. You feel another circle begin.

Two years after my daughter's birth that my wife told me one day that she was pregnant again. She had been raising our daughter for two years and was not, she said, 'ready' for another. This time, though, my mind and soul had changed. I was not in such an abstract frame of mind about abortion.

Money was short, my future uncertain and I was fearful of another responsibility as large as another child, but I loved the daughter I had. I hung back. I wasn't sure. But then my wife reminded me that it was her body and she had "a right to choose." My choice was not to be a hypocrite-- a churlish choice as I now realize -- but really the only one open to me, as I was only the father.

And so, with my support, she went ahead at a hospital in Massachusetts on what I remember as a particularly raw late Autumn day. Although it was her right to choose, the decision was ours and I was fully complicit. Perhaps if I had earned more money or been more confident of my future, she would not have seen it as a necessity. I don't know. I just know that that is the way in which I participated in what I have come to think of the loss of my third child. "Loss" makes what was done sound less awful even if it was not. That it was shameful and wrong is attested to by the fact that, once done, we never spoke of it again.

All this was long ago and far away, but still, today, here on a different coast and in a different life, I think at times, usually late at night, about those two "losses," those two choices, to which I agreed. And in those dark nights I can almost see the ghosts of what those two children might have been, might have become.

Were they, maybe, another Mozart or Moses? Not likely. Almost certainly not. Be that as it may, at some point they would have become two of my children, and I do not know, still, at what point that would have been. I do know that ending those lives was right and wrong, and rightly and wrongly, I was complicit in their destruction. It was my choice too.

If I knew them, would I miss them, would I mourn them? The question is absurd. With abortion, you never get to know what you are missing. That's part of the deal.

And that, leaving aside all our abstract notions and the tidy ideas about consciousness and otherness, is the private hell everyone involved in an abortion enters. Its not a hell you're in and then walk out of, but a hell that burns within you forever. There are no fire escapes.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 21, 2014 9:06 AM |  Comments (82)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The West

Journey Part 1 from Andrew Walker on Vimeo.

"This timelapse video is a collection of footage shot over the last year and a half around the western half of the United States. The shots ranged from very different locations. From Montana to Arizona and most weren't easy to get to but of course that makes them worth going to. The locations captured ranged in temps of 100 degrees to -9 degrees and in elevations of 12,000 feet to 225 feet below sea level. It took over 15,000 captured still images to make this video."

Music: "Journey to the Line"

Artist: Hans Zimmer

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 20, 2014 1:40 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Jerry Seinfeld here. I will give you an answer."

Q: Where did the idea of, in Seinfeld, your character being a comedian for a profession, but be the straight man for your friends, come from? I always thought that juxtapositioning for the show was genius.

Seinfeld: Very good observation and analysis on your part, Baxter.

You are truly exhibiting a good comedic eye. The reason I would play straight was it was funnier for the scene. And very few people have ever remarked on this, because it was a conscious choice of mine, only because I knew it would make the show better, and I didn't care who was funny as long as somebody was funny and that the show was funny. So you have hit upon one of the great secret weapons of the Seinfeld series, was that I had no issue with that. Reditt's IAmA feature

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 19, 2014 12:36 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Thinking Like a Mountain"


We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.

I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes — something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.
Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. ... I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. -- “Arizona and New Mexico: Thinking Like a Mountain”, pages 130-132

We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness.

The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men. -- “Arizona and New Mexico: Thinking Like a Mountain”, page 133

Thinking Like A Mountain: Full Text in PDF

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 18, 2014 10:17 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
San Francisco Just Before the Earthquake of 1906. Now with Sound

Twelve minutes of life before disaster taken over one hundred years ago. It takes you all the way to the turnaround for the streetcar at the Ferry building where the breeze from San Francisco Bay, at that moment, blows a man's full beard to the right.

"Shot on April 14, 1906, four days before the San Francisco earthquake and fire, to which the negative was nearly lost.

It was produced by moving picture photographers the Miles brothers: Harry, Herbert, Earle and Joe. Harry J. Miles cranked the Bell & Howell camera which was placed on the front of a streetcar during filming from Market Street from 8th, in front of the Miles Studios, to the Ferry building. The Miles brothers were en route to New York when they heard news of the earthquake. The sent the negative to NY and returned to San Francisco to discover that their studios were destroyed.
The film was long thought to have been shot in September of 1905, after being dated as such by the Library of Congress based on the state of construction of several buildings.
However, in 2009 and 2010, film historian David Kiehn, co-founder of Niles Film Museum in Niles, California, dated the film to the spring of 1906 from automobile registrations and weather records. Kiehn and eventually found promotional materials from the film's original release and dated the film to April 14th, 1906. "

A few days later....

"Clearing away the debris, California Street, San Francisco." Aftermath of the earthquake and fire of April 18, 1906.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 17, 2014 10:46 AM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
MARIJUANA!! The Truth! [Bumped]

As usual, it's complicated. Too complicated for the wake and bake set....

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 17, 2014 10:40 AM |  Comments (26)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Weiner Mobile


"The 'Wienermobile' may be one

of the most famous promotional cars in America, having been on the road in one form or another since 1936. Shaped like hot dogs on a bun, a fleet of Wienermobiles is used to promote Oscar Mayer products across the US. Oscar Mayer’s nephew, Carl, designed the original version, and over the years the vehicles have evolved and developed.


"In 1995, a Wienermobile was created

that measured 27 feet in length and stood 11 feet tall; meanwhile, a 2004 version featured a voice-activated GPS system. Touring fleet crewmembers are known as “hotdoggers,” and in 2013 the company even developed an app to keep them all connected. Eight of the vehicles are currently operational, and they remain seriously popular. A 2004 competition offering the winner the use of a Wienermobile for one day reportedly prompted more than 15,000 entries in a month." - - Oscar Mayer


UPDATE: The Wiener Crash


That Wienermobile crash photo on Facebook? It's from 2008 -

Does this hot dog look familiar? It should. It's the same hot dog, and the same snowstorm, and the same ditch.

A photograph of an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in a ditch popped up Monday and Tuesday -- following a brief Wisconsin snowstorm -- on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. It trailed an infinite supply of puns.

The photo, however, is not current.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 17, 2014 6:04 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Holy Ghost Power: 'The devil thought he had the keys.'

Robert Duvall: "One Sunday as I strolled down the main drag I noticed people flocking to a simple white clapboard building, the local Pentecostal church. All sorts of folks, young and old, were going inside, where I could hear the clink of tambourines, the rap of a snare drum and organ music rising. Might as well check this out, I thought. I slipped in and sat in back....

"I had never seen such an extraordinary outward expression of faith as I witnessed in that Pentecostal church. I had never seen church like that. People could barely contain the joy of their faith. Their faces were alive with it, imbued. Folks were on their feet, singing praise and clapping, shouting to God! The air crackled with the Spirit. It was nearly impossible to be a mere observer. I wanted to sing and shout with them. I couldn't explain it, but I knew the people in that church had a gift, a story to share. Somehow, someday, I would tell that story.

"What was most important to me was to make a movie where Christianity was treated on its own terms, with the respect it deserves. Hollywood usually shows preachers as hucksters and hypocrites, and I was sick and tired of that. I wanted to show the joy and vitality I had seen with my own eyes and felt in my heart and in my life, the sheer, extraordinary excitement of faith. I especially wanted to capture the rich flavor, the infectious cadences and rhythm of good, down-home, no-holds-barred preaching. The story seemed to flow from me. I wrote everywhere, in airports and hotels, on set between scenes, even in meetings. But writing a screenplay is one thing. Getting it produced is something else altogether. I took my script to Hollywood producers, and was met with the same response: "Bob, religion is not a subject our audiences want to watch." I disagreed. Why wouldn't audiences want to watch a movie about something that is foremost in so many people's lives?" How Robert Duvall Discovered His Faith While Making 'The Apostle'

HT HappyAcres

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 12, 2014 10:45 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Dreams of the Sonora Aero Club


It turns out that the drawings/watercolors were the work of one Charles August Albert Dellschau (1830 - 1923).

Dellschau was a butcher for most of his life and only after his retirement in 1899 did he begin his incredible career as a self-taught artist. He began with three books entitled Recollections which purported to describe a secret organization called the Sonora Aero Club. Dellschau described his duties in the club as that of the draftsman. Within his collaged watercolors were newspaper clippings (he called them “press blooms”) of early attempts at flight overlapped with his own fantastic drawings of airships of all kind. Powered by a secret formula he cryptically referred to as “NB Gas” or “Suppa” — the “aeros” (as Dellscahu called them) were steampunk like contraptions with multiple propellers, wheels, viewing decks and secret compartments. More examples and information at Accidental Mysteries



Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 5, 2014 2:05 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Under The Hood: Donald Duck's Car [Bumped]

[I've bumped this because I feel more people need to see the schmatic to the Donald Duck care. In case there is a quiz.]



Everything You Urgently Need To Know About Donald Duck's Car

"In fact, a really, really detailed cutaway of the 313 was produced in 1998 by Claude Lacroix in a French journal, and here we can see all kinds of details about the car. It's an inline twin engine with an overhead cam, driving the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. There appears to be a solid live axle at the rear, and pretty basic suspension design, but it does seem to have rack-and-pinion steering. I think those are drum brakes all around, and the seats look very well-sprung."

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 4, 2014 10:33 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Because Racist


From all the blather and spew concerning the Romneys' adopted black grandchild over the recent holiday break a few things worth noting have emerged in the clear and serene present. Mark Steyn -- as a guest host for the "Rush Limbaugh I’m-Always-On-Vacation" radio show -- framed the first by observing that the real meaning of the mocking of the adopted child was that the professional racist Pecksniffs among us are now out of a job. And that is a good sign for the nation as a whole.

[A “Pecksniff,” is a hypocritically benevolent; sanctimonious person of sneering meign after Seth Pecksniff, a character in Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit . The nation is, of course, currrently suffering a plague of pecksniffs which ooze across our landscape from the central point of infection, the chair behind the desk in the Oval Office. But that rhoid in time shall, like balloons of opium in the guts of drug mules, pass. In the meantime, in-between time, we shall have to listen to the president’s pecksniffs of MSNBC proclaim “racism” at any moment when their minds go empty of thought. Meaning... alas... a lot.]

Steyn’s point when it came to the adoption by the Romneys of a black child was quite astute. He observed that the United States how now become such a completely non-racist society, a country so utterly devoid of classical racism, of hate for and denigration of, its African American citizens, that the entire pecksniffian racism locating industry is so utterly bereft of “proofs” of racism that it has to center on one small black baby on one white knee in a large family holiday photograph. That’s it. That’s the very best these professional race hustlers can manage at the beginning of 2014 as somehow “”proving” the racist nature of the United States. That’s it. That’s all they’ve got.

And if that is all they have they have, in short, NOTHING. The last vestiges of significant racism in the United States died with 2013 and a Christmas card from a large Mormon family.

Of course the cottage industry of race hustlers didn’t die with racism. They continue to strut and fret their hour upon the stage long after the lights have dimmed on them. In a way it is like watching the last surviving lepers of the world wave their stumps and ask for alms and notice long after leprosy has been eradicated. We see them and pity them but we move on. They linger behind us and insist, hold their fetid breath and stamp their little toeless feet and, by all that is Obama, INSIST that racism is still alive and well in this fair land. They can’t find any to show you but they do have one thing left strapped to the end of their gangrenous stumps, a pointer. And they use that pointer to do what moral lepers have always done when accusing others of their sin, misdirect.

You may have noticed, and you will notice, this misdirection being used by the racism lepers more and more. It works like this.

Someone or something is labeled “raaaaacist” and the pointer is extended. But the pointer never really points at the person or thing labeled but at something else back in the deep shadows of history. The pointer points at a lynching. The pointer points at a drinking fountain labelled “colored.” The pointer points at a “minstrel show.” The pointer points at the scars on the back of a man born a slave who was dead before the end of the 19th century. The pointer always points elsewhere and elsewhen. It points to that which has been dead and buried for at least five decades. Which is where racism is. And what racism is. Today racism is one thing and one thing mostly and mainly.... and that is gone.Gone, long gone, from the mainstream and the main mind and oversoul of the nation.

I know that it is possible to pull up dozens of racist website and thousands of web forums deeply drenched in racism and race baiting and race reveling. I know you can pulls this dreck up and run about showing every one that your hands are full of sewage, but that only proves you've been diving into our sewers and need to be hosed off and scrubbed down before we let you into the house. You can do the same with any dark shadow found in the human soul. But all of these lumped together do not have one iota of a tittle of a jot of real power over the nature of America in 2014 as a nation that is 99.9999999% racism free.

In fact, if you want to look at the real truth about racism in the United States it would have to be that the only things keeping even the last smidgens of race hate alive in the United States are the MSNBC professional racism pecksniffs and their ilk and the current resident of the Oval Office. If they want to see the real racists among us, they need only raise their hand mirrors.

[Main baby mocker] Melissa Harris-Perry would never mock the fact that a Mormon family lovingly embraced a little black child, as she herself was “a black child born into a large white Mormon family.” I’m just guessing that she may still be a bit conflicted over this however,as her birth mother is white butt MHP has been quoted as saying: “I’ve never thought of myself as biracial. I’m black.” Michelle Obama's Mirror

Sorry Mom: you’re white and I’m not.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 2, 2014 11:11 AM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Touchstone 2 for 2014: The Wreck and the Raft



"19. The old myth that his raft, his world, is especially favoured and protected now seems ridiculous. He has seen and understood the message from the distant supernovae; he knows the sun is growing larger and hotter and that his world will one day be a white-hot ball in a sea of flames; and he knows that the hydrogen bombs waiting and closer at hand. Inwards and outwards the prospect before him is terrifying. (Fowles, 1964)

"23. Hazard has conditioned us to live in hazard. All our pleasures are dependant upon it. Even though I arrange for a pleasure; and look forward to it, my eventual enjoyment of it is still a matter of hazard. Wherever time passes, there is hazard. You may die before you turn the next page. (Fowles, 1964)

"32. The whole is not a pharaonic cosmos; a blind obsession with pyramids, assembling, slaves. Our pyramid has not apex; is not a pyramid. We are not slaves that will never see the summit, because there is no summit. Life may be less imperfect in a hundred years' time than it it today; but it will be even less imperfect a hundred years after that. Perfectibility is meaningless because whatever we enter the infinite processes we can look forward with a wind of nostalgia for the future, and imagine a better age. It is also evil, because a terminus of perfection breeds a cancer of the now. For perfectibilitarians, perfect ends tomorrow justify very imperfect means today. (Fowles, 1964)

"33. We build towards nothing; we build (Fowles, 1964)


FROM The Aristos - A Self Portrait In Ideas: John Fowles

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 1, 2014 9:29 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Full Circle Fascism: While Mowing the Lawn

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

-- Bob Dylan

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.

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 30, 2013 2:41 AM |  Comments (20)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Painters on Brooklyn Bridge


“Eugene de Salignac (1861–1943) was an American photographer who worked for the Department of Bridges in New York City

“He had no formal training in photography. At the age of 42, his brother-in-law found him a job as an assistant to the photographer for the Department of Bridges, Joseph Palmer. After 3 years of apprenticeship, Palmer suddenly died, and in October 1906, de Salignac assumed his duties.” | Retronaut

For the full shot from sometime around a century ago...

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 29, 2013 3:50 PM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Which Dreamcatchers?

Yes, it's come to this.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 29, 2013 12:39 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Night Fishing In San Francisco


San Francisco, the nation's leading open air exhibition of failed social policies, never fails to instruct one in the infinite disabilities of social utopianism. Although large sections of this city still retain their charm in the far or middle distance -- the swooping helicopter pan shot in from the Golden Gate; the brightly painted Cable Car cresting a backlit hilltop -- most soon lose all charm in close-up.

Example: A clear and crisp dawn in a small side street near Laguna and Hayes. Plantings in all the window boxes, well but not fussily painted facades. A few, very small, very well kept front yards. Clean curtained windows. All in all a pretty and quiet moment in the city's morning. Then, between two of the cars on the street and a bulging shopping cart on the curb, I noticed a man who has obviously slept rough for at least 200 consecutive days turning in a slow pirouette and gazing intently at the ground. Then he lowered himself delicately down between an Audi and an SUV.

Seeing no real reason not to stroll on past, I did and noted that the man, pants to his ankles, was relieving himself. I was to see this behavior twice in a single day in San Francisco. And I was in the better neighborhoods.

In the course of a random walk of four hours through the most touristed sections of the city, this scene was only the most unhappily memorable of a serious of disturbing moments. Perhaps they only disturbed because they were playing out against the postcards of my memories of San Francisco during the six years I had lived and worked there in the early 70s; against even deeper images of the city in the Summer of 1968.

Against memory any present day moment would pale as nostalgia took its toll. You'd be prepared, at the least, to be disappointed since feeling that the past is preferable to the present is a common human instinct. What you're not prepared to be is disturbed but yet not shocked. After all, you've read and heard about it for years. No matter. The actual San Francisco of the present is a clear reminder that the rap is not the territory.

The extent to which the homeless, the hard-core unemployed, the drunk and the addicted, and general shabby personalities of all kinds are deployed about the city is something to bring even the most hard-core liberal from elsewhere up short. If the myriad policies and millions man-years of effort, coupled with untold billions of dollars in funding deployed in San Francisco over the last four decades have created the current visible result, something is seriously askew with the city's basic social engineering. It is as if the entire region has spent 40 years and 400 billion building a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge on Ocean Beach intending to span the Pacific. A good intention, but a city's gotta know its limitations.

Strolling San Francisco past the blanket wrapped souls that sleep upright in bus shelters, past the ad-hoc shanty towns of clustered shopping carts, past lone men swaddled in sleeping bags on a stretch of stained concrete with only a fence and a warning between them and a few meager blades of grass; all this gives one a deep sense of unease and unmitigated tragedy after the 20th exposure. After the 50th they just fade into the background body count, one more item of the city's detritus -- the sudden sirens, the litter shuffled about by the wind, the hysterical graffiti and the crass billboard ads and signs announcing yet another source of 24 hour lap dancing, the pockets of schizophrenic pan handlers, the others. All just part of San Francisco's rich tapestry of diversification through stupefaction.

Seeing so many driven so low -- and this in what still passes as "the better neighborhoods" -- you have to wonder what happened to, and what is still happening to, the billions of public funds being compulsively shoved at this problem. Where has the money and time and good intentions all gone.

The best that can be said is that it has provided lifetime employment in various government and private agencies for those who would otherwise be part of the problem they have sworn to solve. In a way, although it is commonly thought that poverty creates homelessness, it is also as correct to say that agencies set up to combat homelessness have a deep and abiding interest in preserving it. This interest and these agencies are now such a permanent feature of our government that there is virtually no chance of disbanding or eliminating them. Ever. The best that can be done is to slow, if possible, the growth of their funding since increased funding primarily swells the size of their employee pool and thus perpetuates and enhances their power.

A cynical person might believe that THISF ( "The Homeless Industry of San Francisco)", which recently merged with the Free Schizophrenics Movement (FSM), exists not to curtail suffering but to expand its scope. After all, were the number of the homeless to actually diminish in San Francisco, the number of those serving the insatiable needs of this group would also be expected to fall.

A cynical person would believe that an institutionalized, unionized group with excellent benefits and a fine pension plan would never knowingly do anything that would lower its customer base. Indeed, it would be much more likely to make the description of its customer increasingly complex so that ever more people would be discovered to be lacking in basic social services.

A cynical person would believe that the industry's customer base in San Francisco was booming. Booming to the extent that this year, and the next, and the years that come after the years after, the nation, state and city will all require more and more money from the citizens to continue to not solve homelessness.

But I am not that cynical person. I see hope in the small things, the little signs on the street that not all the homeless wish to remain so; that some of them still possess the classic American entrepreneurial spirit.

Example: At night in the same day as dawn above. I am walking down Laguna Street towards Hayes with an old friend. We have just been to a party and to drinks after and are feeling very in charge of the night. As we walk down the block I can see we are coming up on a parking lot behind a chain-link, razor-wire capped fence. I notice something odd in the fence.

When we get up to it I can see it is a used -- very used -- fishing rod of uncertain vintage and battered aspect. Instead of fishing line, rough brown twine comes up through the line loops on the rod and dangles down from the tip about 11 feet above the sidewalk. On the end of the twine, is a used -- very used -- large Starbucks coffee cup. The twine is very carefully woven into the lip of the cup. On the cup itself a grimy 3x5 card is taped. Printed on the card in hasty letters is the word "Please."

That's it. Just hanging there in the middle of the block panhandling for its owner well out of standard pan handling hours. We glance inside and it's working. There's about three dollars in change at the bottom.

Cynical men would have emptied it out to feed the parking meters for their Escalades. Not having Escalades we just chipped in and strolled on by.

Still, it was nice to know that somewhere in the vast and increasing army of the homeless now occupying The Streets of San Francisco was at least one soul who pushed aside total dependency and chose, instead, innovation in his or her chosen field of endeavor. You'd think that the vast apparatus that exists to keep people from begging on the street could learn a bit about begging from this constituent. But then again, why should they? Getting more money to do less from San Franciscans these days is like shooting fish in a barrel; a large barrel and a lot of very fat-headed fish.

For D. --who loves this city beyond all reason.

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 27, 2013 5:25 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
What is Christmas All About?

"And that's the fact, Jack."

HT: Big Fur Hat

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 24, 2013 10:11 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Creche by the Side of the Road


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

--Eliot, Journey of the Magi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Republished from December, 2003 ]

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 23, 2013 1:57 AM |  Comments (27)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Gift of the WalMagi


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[First published.... last Christmas]

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 22, 2013 1:44 AM |  Comments (67)  | QuickLink: Permalink
They Know


“ 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 It’s irreducible base. 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 last five 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.”

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 18, 2013 12:51 PM |  Comments (22)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Success:" We will be flying today at a cruising altitude of 4 feet for 12 seconds.

We seldom have an image of the exact moment when the history of the world changed. But we do have this one from one hundred and ten years ago today at 10:35 AM.

Click to Enlarge

"This is it. This is the moment, and you can see Wilbur. He's caught in mid-stride. You can see Orville on the machine. It's just all_ all right there. it's that moment frozen forever."
The following telegram was sent from Kitty Hawk:

Four flights Thursday morning. Longest fifty-seven seconds.
Inform press.
Home Christmas.



Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 17, 2013 2:18 PM |  Comments (22)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Greatness of Dirty Jobs

["Do listen to the TED talk. The story about lambs is worth the price of admission."]

Mike Rowe: One of our better citizens.

"I’m personally tired of stories about people who follow their dream, ignore the naysayers, struggle mightily, eschew every other viable opportunity, suffer for decades, go into debt, and finally achieve some monumental breakthrough that leads people to marvel at their fortitude and perseverance. Tales of inspiration are important, but do they all have to revolve around the same narrative of never giving up on your “true calling.” I think we need more stories about people who do whatever it takes to thrive, and somehow manage to find happiness and passion in whatever they choose to do. Isn’t that more empowering than identifying one specific “passion,” and making every happiness contingent upon attaining it? " WATCH: Stories You Won't Believe From Some of the World's Dirtiest Jobs | TEDTalks


"As for your personal characterization of Glenn Beck, I can only assume you have information not available to me.

In my time with him, I saw nothing “horrible, psychotic, hateful, or nasty.” I smelled no burning sulfur, no smoldering brimstone, and saw no sign of cloven hooves. To the contrary, I found a very passionate guy who employs about 300 people, works his butt off, and puts his money where his mouth is. Do we agree on everything? Of course not. Am I “disappointed” by that fact? Not at all. The real question, Shannon, is … why are you? To be clear, I’m not here to tell you what to think or whom to hate. Like everyone else, you’re free to pick your devils, choose your angels, and attach the horns and halos accordingly.But the guts of your question – even without all the name-calling and acrimony – reveal the essence of what’s broken in our country. You want to know “how I can associate” with someone you don’t like? The short answer is, how can I not? How are we ever going to accomplish anything in this incredibly divisive time if we associate only with people that we don’t disagree with? Devil or Angel, Whichever You Are « Profoundly Disconnected


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 9, 2013 11:29 PM |  Comments (17)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Day We Killed John Lennon


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."

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 8, 2013 1:30 AM |  Comments (66)  | QuickLink: Permalink

"From above, the land is like one endless, unpunctuated idea — sand, tumbleweed, turkey, bunch stem, buffalo, meadow, cow, rick of hay, creek, sunflower, sand — and only rarely did a house or a windmill or a barn suddenly appear to suspend the sense of limitlessness." - - Life Along the 100th Meridian





Photography from "Dirt Meridian" by Andrew L Moore

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 7, 2013 11:48 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
2015 The Ford Mustang at 50: "I had a pony. Her name was Lucifer"

2015 Ford Mustang as reveled by Ford and yes, Virginia, there is a convertible.




1964 Ford Mustang -- Serial Number: One

First Ford Mustang owner still has the keys 49 years after trading a Chevy:

The way Gail Wise tells it, she was just looking for a car to get her to her first job out of college, and was growing tired of her parents' '57 Ford Fairlane, when she went to Johnson Ford in Chicago. After a tour of the showroom turned up nothing of interest, the salesman said “I’ve got something in the back that's really new" — a light blue Mustang convertible, fully loaded with a 260 V-8 and a power top.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 7, 2013 1:46 PM |  Comments (21)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Welcome to the New Age:" United State of Pop 2013 (Living the Fantasy)

The amalgamated fantasies of youth for 2013. Some will just live it. Most will just continue to live in their parent's basement.

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Bob Dylan

A mashup of the 25 biggest hits during 2013 in the U.S.

Avicii feat. Aloe Blacc - Wake Me Up
Bruno Mars - When I Was Your Man
Capital Cities - Safe & Sound
Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams - Get Lucky
Eminem feat. Rihanna - The Monster
Florida Georgia Line feat. Nelly - Cruise
Imagine Dragons - Radioactive
Imagine Dragons - Demons
Jay-Z feat. Justin Timberlake - Holy Grail
Justin Timberlake - Mirrors
Justin Timberlake feat. Jay-Z - Suit & Tie
Katy Perry - Roar
Lady Gaga - Applause
Lorde - Royals
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton - Can't Hold Us
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz - Thrift Shop
Miley Cyrus - Wrecking Ball
Miley Cyrus - We Can't Stop
OneRepublic - Counting Stars
P!nk feat. Nate Ruess - Just Give Me A Reason
Rihanna - Stay
Robin Thicke feat. Pharrell & T.I. - Blurred Lines
Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin - Don't You Worry Child
Taylor Swift - I Knew You Were Trouble
Will.I.Am feat. Britney Spears - Scream And Shout

Okay, I know. You haven't been paying attention and neither have I. I don't make the pop culture anymore, I just report it.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 6, 2013 11:55 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"How Not to Do It:" The Circumlocution Office by Charles Dickens

"It was this spirit of national efficiency in the Circumlocution Office that had gradually led to its having something to do with everything."

The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office....

This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving--HOW NOT TO DO IT.

Through this delicate perception, through the tact with which it invariably seized it, and through the genius with which it always acted on it, the Circumlocution Office had risen to overtop all the public departments; and the public condition had risen to be--what it was.

It is true that How not to do it was the great study and object of all public departments and professional politicians all round the Circumlocution Office.

It is true that every new premier and every new government, coming in because they had upheld a certain thing as necessary to be done, were no sooner come in than they applied their utmost faculties to discovering How not to do it.

It is true that from the moment when a general election was over, every returned man who had been raving on hustings because it hadn't been done, and who had been asking the friends of the honourable gentleman in the opposite interest on pain of impeachment to tell him why it hadn't been done, and who had been asserting that it must be done, and who had been pledging himself that it should be done, began to devise, How it was not to be done.

It is true that the debates of both House and Senate the whole session through, uniformly tended to the protracted deliberation, How not to do it.

It is true that the [State of the Union] virtually said, Ladies and gentlemen, you have a considerable stroke of work to do, and you will please to retire to your respective chambers, and discuss, How not to do it.

All this is true, but the Circumlocution Office went beyond it.

Because the Circumlocution Office went on mechanically, every day, keeping this wonderful, all-sufficient wheel of statesmanship, How not to do it, in motion.

Because the Circumlocution Office was down upon any ill-advised public servant who was going to do it, or who appeared to be by any surprising accident in remote danger of doing it, with a minute, and a memorandum, and a letter of instructions that extinguished him.

It was this spirit of national efficiency in the Circumlocution Office that had gradually led to its having something to do with everything.

Mechanicians, natural philosophers, soldiers, sailors, petitioners, memorialists, people with grievances, people who wanted to prevent grievances, people who wanted to redress grievances, jobbing people, jobbed people, people who couldn't get rewarded for merit, and people who couldn't get punished for demerit, were all indiscriminately tucked up under the foolscap paper of the Circumlocution Office.

Numbers of people were lost in the Circumlocution Office. Unfortunates with wrongs, or with projects for the general welfare (and they had better have had wrongs at first, than have taken that bitter English recipe for certainly getting them), who in slow lapse of time and agony had passed safely through other public departments; who, according to rule, had been bullied in this, over-reached by that, and evaded by the other; got referred at last to the Circumlocution Office, and never reappeared in the light of day. Boards sat upon them, secretaries minuted upon them, commissioners gabbled about them, clerks registered, entered, checked, and ticked them off, and they melted away. In short, all the business of the country went through the Circumlocution Office, except the business that never came out of it; and its name was Legion.

From Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 3, 2013 10:21 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
My Mother at 97 98 99...

momasyounggirl2.jpg   momnow.jpg
Lois Lucille McNair Van der Leun -- then and now

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 2012: 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 plays Bridge once or twice a week, winning often, and has been known to have a cocktail or two on occasion. She still drives even though it causes my brother to fret. This is a good thing since he's the kind of man who sees the incipient disaster in everything and it's good for him to fret about something that has a smidgen of reality to it.

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 "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 still works 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. It is her 90th birthday party. It is attended by over 200 people from 2 to 97, many of whom are telling tales about her, some taller than others.

We don't believe the man who tells about the time in her early seventies that she danced on his bar. He's 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 that I remember more than the pitched curves and plunging cliffs of the mountains. You sat in a plush chair at the top of the car and 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 fifty-four years gone but still, in my earliest memories, they 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."

November, 2004 -- Chico & Laguna Beach, California

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 30, 2013 1:59 AM |  Comments (43)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Oh Beautiful for Turkeys from Sea to Shining Sea

7 For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; 8 A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; 9 A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. 10 When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Deuteronomy 8-10 - All the commandments which I command - Bible Gateway

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 29, 2013 9:25 AM |  Comments (0)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Thanksgiving Blues, 1942

Chef With Thanksgiving Menu, Norman Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post Cover 1942

"Norman Rockwell gives us a humorous take on KP, or Kitchen Patrol, duty at the start of WWII.

We are not privy to whether or not this chef is a full time chef or just one of the kitchen staff.

One things is certain. He had his work cut out for him. He has prepared a Thanksgiving Feast for 137 men, a whole brigade stationed at Fort Ethan Allen in Vermont.

The menu shows lots of items. I count 34 total.

The list includes:

Roast Turkey
Giblet Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Apple and Raisin Dressing
Candies Sweet Potatoes
Scalloped Corn
Brussel Sprouts
Chocolate Cake
Pumpkin Pie
Fruit Cocktail
Olives and Celery
Lettuce and Tomato Salad

The meal was scheduled to be served at 12:15. The time is now 1:22. The meal has been served.

Now our chef can unwind. He is sitting down. His boots are off. He is stretching and wiggling his toes.

He is also free now to enjoy a cigarette and a cup of coffee.

This Thanksgiving chef may not be actively involved in battle, but he has sure seen plenty of action!

Now it's time to take a deep breath and start cleaning up."

HT: 10engines

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 28, 2013 7:38 AM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Last Hour When the American People Had Open Access to Presidents


November 22, 1963. "Overview of crowds of people waving as President John F. Kennedy and his wife sit in back of limousine during procession through downtown Dallas, Texas; Texas Governor John Connally and his wife ride in the limousine's jump seats." - -Welcome to Big D: 1963

"In the United States, the Kennedy assassination was the catalyst.

Since 1963, the Secret Service’s staff grew by a factor of 10, and its budget by a whopping 273 times. Obama, according to Yahoo’s Chris Moody, rides in a hunkered-down fortress with a mobile blood transfusion lab. It’s a far cry from JFK’s open-top aparade. The vehicle’s fuel tank is sealed in foam so that it won’t explode, according to a Discovery Channel special. It’s sealed against biological or chemical attack. The doors weigh as much as those on a Boeing 757. 50 Years After JFK, The History And Future Of Political Assassination




Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 23, 2013 1:00 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink


John F. Kennedy's favorite photograph of himself: Walking on the dunes, Hyannis Port, 1959 -- Mark Shaw The Kennedys @ Le Journal de la Photographie

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 22, 2013 11:43 PM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Persephone, the Queen of Hades and the beautiful bride of grief.



"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


via neo-neocon



Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 22, 2013 12:52 AM |  Comments (27)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Two Priests Stepped Out of Parkland Hospital


Associated Press teletype news bulletin from Friday, November 22, 1963 shows news that President Kennedy had died after being shot in Dallas. The message reads, "TWO PRIESTS STEPPED OUT OF PARKLAND HOSPITAL'S EMERGENCY WARD TODAY AND SAID PRESIDENT KENNEDY DIED OF HIS BULLET WOUNDS." This document is now located in the AP Corporate Archives in New York.

As It Happened: AP Wire Copy of the JFK Assassination - In Focus

He's Dead, All Right: Kennedy's Last Rites Priest And Making Of News

When Fr. Huber arrived and was led to the trauma room, Kennedy was already covered in a white sheet. “I did not speak to him,” Fr. Huber later wrote, “it was evident he could not answer.” Huber pulled the sheet down to below the President’s nose and was “sure that he was dead,” in a clinical sense. But Fr. Huber also thought it possible Kennedy’s soul had not yet departed and so, he began to administer the last rites.
With a small Roman Ritual book in one hand and Holy Oil in the other, Fr. Huber prayed aloud in Latin. He conditionally absolved Kennedy of his sins. Still praying and paging through the Ritual book, he anointed the President’s bloody forehead with Holy Oil. Huber could not give Kennedy his last communion, but ended the ritual with several Our Fathers and Hail Marys. The First Lady joined in praying aloud. Before leaving, Mrs. Kennedy asked for Huber’s prayers. He assured her that he would say Mass for the President.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 22, 2013 12:20 AM |  Comments (0)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The incorrigibly industrious Eugene Dalton 100 years ago


November 1913. Fort Worth, Texas.

"Some results of messenger and newsboy work. For nine years this 16-year-old boy has been newsboy and messenger for drug stores and telegraph companies. He was recently brought before the Judge of the Juvenile Court for incorrigibility at home. Is now out on parole, and was working again for drug company when he got a job carrying grips in the Union Depot. He is on the job from 6 A.M. to 11 P.M. (seventeen hours a day) for seven days in the week. His mother and the Judge think he uses cocaine, and yet they let him put in these long hours every day. He told me 'There ain't a house in "The Acre" [Red Light] that I ain't been in. At the drug store, all my deliveries were down there.' Says he makes from $15 to $18 a week. Eugene Dalton."
Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine. - - Shorpy Historical Photo Archive :: Hard Worker: 1913


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 20, 2013 3:48 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Eisenhower on "The insolvent phantom of tomorrow."


"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

"Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

"Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present -- and is gravely to be regarded.

"Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

"It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow."

Source: American Rhetoric: Dwight D. Eisenhower -- Farewell Address

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 14, 2013 12:33 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
True Story, True Price: "Sippican Cottage: Our $25,000 House"


Sippican spins the first of a series of ripping yarns about this amazing living machine; some of which I've heard. If you can't believe the price, you won't believe the repairs!

We bought a fairly big, 1901 vintage, Queen Anne house for $24,400. I consider any house for sale for less than a Kia "free." It wasn't "Detroit" free, either. I know you can buy a crackhouse in Detroit for a double sawbuck, or trade it for a couple syphilitic chickens or something, but then you've got to try to defend its walls against all comers --the walls where the copper pipes used to live before the crackheads gave your new home its crackhouse soubriquet -- but we moved to what's considered a nice neighborhood in a quiet little town in western Maine. And in addition to a lack of Mogadishu-level crime, the taxes here are low because there's a huge, stinking paper mill right in the center of town paying half the town's freight, so our free house didn't come with a bent number followed by a vapor trail of zeroes after it for back taxes, or front taxes or sideways taxes. Details at Sippican Cottage: Our $25,000 House and bookmark it because the fun's only just begun!

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 9, 2013 5:46 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, "

"unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid." - - Dwight D. Eisenhower - Letter to Edgar Newton Eisenhower, 1954


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 9, 2013 9:30 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Video Dreamgirls: 60 years of Female Stars on CBS

Suggestive, evocative, and mesmerizing.

Made by Phillip Scott Johnson

Via Mid-Century Modern who notes "We Could Watch This All Day ." 1948 - 2008

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 7, 2013 5:05 PM |  Comments (15)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Box of Crazy


"So a friend of mine found this box by the trash, it is full of wonderful, crazy illustrations. Clearly something happened to this guy that was very memorable. It measures roughly 29" by 38" and almost all the drawings are very large."


5  Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. Rev. 4.6 And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
6  And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
7  And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the color of burnished brass.
8  And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. - - Ezekiel 1


Contents of The Box of Crazy can be seen HERE.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 5, 2013 8:38 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
This Just In: "Teacher" Arrested at JFK


Via: LaToni

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 2, 2013 2:11 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO by Edgar Allan Poe (1846)


THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled --but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my in to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my to smile now was at the thought of his immolation.

He had a weak point --this Fortunato --although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; --I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him --"My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts."

"How?" said he. "Amontillado, A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!"

"I have my doubts," I replied; "and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain."

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 31, 2013 11:28 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Hitchhiking in the Land of the Dead

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?]


Axed Up Body @ Fright Catalog, Inc.


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, 2013 1:40 AM |  Comments (30)  | QuickLink: Permalink
[Buffalo Bill 's] BY E. E. CUMMINGS


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 27, 2013 6:34 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Thinking Right. Now with New Thinking


"The tagline for my website has been SMART CONSERVATIVE THINKING. I chose it because it was bold, it was defiant, and it was assertive: it was running to the top of a hill and planting a flag for people to rally around.

"Now, with my new vision, I see that it is all those things: a conventional unit on an open plain. That flag, and that hill, will be turned into searing napalm the instant is starts to become enough of a threat to warrant an airstrike.
"That message – that smart, common-sense, responsible conservative message – cannot change. That message is the entire reason we are fighting this battle in the first place. But I have to stop thinking like an American – which is not only hard but extremely distasteful for me – and start thinking like the Viet Cong. I have to start thinking the way the Left itself started thinking forty years ago. They didn’t come out and say GET YOUR COMMUNISM HERE. They turned students into professors who then turned out more students. That’s how we have to think: the Long March. Dammit."
-- More at Bamboo Spears @ Bill Whittle

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 26, 2013 9:10 AM |  Comments (14)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Adam Carolla goes off on how hypocritical Hollywood celebrities are and why they are all liberal.

HT: redbloodedamerica: Adam Carolla goes off on how...

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 25, 2013 12:27 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Higher Education and the Holy Cookie

P1100874.jpgOn the greatest chocolate-chip cookie in the known universe, with recipe....

The Critical American Issue of the Day

This issue is not, as many would have you believe, whether or not the Constitution is a "living document" (It will be a living document on the day that it breaks out of its case and takes the current Supreme Court out for a drink, a toke, a smoke, and a poke -- assuming Justice Ginsberg stays home.), but is centered instead on the much more important and utterly American question: "Just what is the finest chocolate chip cookie in the known universe?"

One night in the Hood River Hotel in Hood River, Oregon on the banks of the Columbia, I had a chance to examine that question again just before the cataleptic sugar shock of nine home-made chocolate chip cookies knocked me sideways for eight hours like a poleaxed pound puppy.

When this coma finally released me, I thought more deeply on the question of the Holy Cookie and what makes for greatness. I would have liked to hand the baker of the cookies that conked me the laurels but I cannot.

I shall explain the nature of my judgment, the history behind it, and also, should you choose to stay with me, provide you and you alone with the recipe for, "the finest chocolate chip cookie in the known universe."

First of all, anything that can be purchased in a supermarket is not fit to be called a cookie, much less a chocolate chip cookie, no matter how thick the BS on the package may be. Especially any with the word "artisan" on the package which must be incinerated in situ. We're all agreed on that, right? Right.

Second, do not be fooled by "boutique" chocolate chip cookies. They are all from Satan's Workshop and are, therefore, instruments of the Enemy who is out to weaken the intellectual and moral fiber of America. Consumption of these cookies leads, inevitably to "a profound sense of fatigue... a feeling of emptiness [and] loss of essence." You may, in a moment of weakness after, say, a friendly strip search at the air port, find that you cannot "avoid" these cookies, but under no circumstances are you to give them your essence.

Eat Not the Cookie of Satan

Yes, ever since Mrs. Fields rightly determined that her days of getting on the covers of the Adam and Eve and Victoria's Secret catalogues were over and she went into the sidewalk-blower bakery business, these evil simulacra of chocolate chip cookies have spread over the American landscape like the Eighth Plague of Egypt. The results are murder, insanity, death and an obesity so monumental that the victims do not so much walk our streets as teeter through them -- a threat to passersby, lost pets and unreinforced brick structures.

Do not, I repeat, consume boutique chocolate chip cookies. Pass by these scented and seductive venues of the Fifth Horseman. Deny them, I say, your essence.

Instead, know that small batch, by hand, and home-made chocolate chip cookies are the only chocolate chip cookies that may even begin to aspire to the realm of the Sacred and the Holy. A realm in which, like wives, many are cold but none are frozen. Indeed, if Nestles, dairy farms and refrigeration had existed at the time of the Last Supper the entire menu of Holy Communion would be different today.

Partake Only of the Holy Cookie

Like American Christianity today, the Church of the Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie has many branches, subsets and sects. And, like American Christianity, these various factions contend mightily over the question of which, in the eyes of God, is the true gospel of the Chocolate Chip, the Recipe of the Word.

I do not pretend to know the mind of God. Indeed, I am still unclear about the workings of the will of God in my life. But I am clear about what is the true gospel of the Chocolate Chip. I know beyond a scintilla of a speck of an iota of a jot of a doubt that single Cookie which is now and forever shall be the Greatest Chocolate Chip Cookie in America and the Known Universe, yea even unto that alien planet of the hard-bodied and the homeless, San Francisco.

This Cookie Given by the Hand of God would be, beyond question, of my sainted mother's chocolate chip cookies. These and these alone are the good, the true, and the blessed -- the Holy Cookies. All others crumble before them and return to the dust and detritus of the earth from which they were mistakenly called forth by the unconverted, the heathen and the apostates.

The Advent of the Holy Cookie

I was converted to the Holy Cookie soon after my teeth came in. For several years thereafter I lived in heavenly bliss since the only person in the house with whom I had to contend for ALL the cookies was my father and, even though he was much larger than I was as a toddler, he had to work and sleep sometime. This left me free to range about the kitchen in search of yet one more Holy Cookie. Something I did at all hours until my mother saw fit to deploy a leg shackle along with my fresh pajamas.

Alas, Eden was not to endure forever since I had a couple of brothers coming along in the years that followed. With the advent of these "cookie competitors" the leg shackle was retired, but I was required to learn the always difficult lesson of "Share."

As the eldest and hence the largest, my capacity to "share" the plate of Holy Cookies my mother would set out for us diminished in direct proportion to the distance between that plate and my mother and/or father, or both. Sharing was on as long as they were in the room, but if they stepped out my little inner Hitler would emerge and endeavor to take all the cookies and the Rhineland as well.

This dictatorial method of getting all the cookies only served me well for a few years. It fell apart on the day it came to my attention that my "little" brother had at last grown large enough to literally kick my ass when it came to taking more than my share of cookies.

Day of the Judgment of the Father

On that day I was also foolish enough to kick back in an effort to retain my rightful share of all the cookies. A small war broke out in the kitchen which caused my mother to come in from the laundry room, break us up, take all the cookies away and cast both my brother and I into the slough of despond by uttering the phrase no child ever, ever wishes to hear from his mother: "Wait till your father gets home."

An afternoon longer than eternity squared ensued. Our father did get home and subsequently gave instructions to my brother and myself, in turns, on why it was a bad idea to have a fist fight over chocolate chip cookies in his house. He reminded us both of his first and only commandment, "Thou shalt not upset thy mother." It was a lesson that is "seared, SEARED!, into my memory."

Like all sinners, this lesson made us repent briefly but did not actually reform. Instead we made an alliance in order to ensure our survival and advance our quest for the Holy Cookie. Sensing, as she always did, this shift in the order of things, my mother took to hiding the Holy Cookies about the house.

She knew that my father favored the cookies, and that if they were not hidden from us, the chances he would have any upon 'getting home' would range from slim to somewhere below absolute zero. She became, as all mothers of boys must, sneaky. She began to bake the cookies while we were at school, hide them before we got home. She'd also take care to destroy all evidence that the Holy Cookies had been baked and would carefully air out the house. She always was a clever woman.

Quest for the Holy Cookie

But we were two to her one; the smallest band of brothers on a mission from God. In no time, we found ourselves cowlick deep in a war of spying and surveillance against our own mother. It was a cold war that escalated over time as our methods of sensing and locating the hidden cookies became increasingly sophisticated. Towards the end, these methods became so refined that we could have found a single small Weapon of Mass Destruction under the shifting sands of the Sahara if it happened to have a Holy Cookie in the war head.

But we never were required to go that far afield, even if we once found them in the garage of the people who lived next door. (Their kid, our mole, tipped us off for a paltry three cookies.) Over the years we found them at the bottom of the clothes hamper in the master bath, behind a box of motor oil in the garage, in the trunk of her car, under the camouflage of towels in the dryer, behind the set of World Book Encyclopedias in the den, even taped in coffee cans and stuck up under the kitchen counter concealed behind the disposal unit.

Once, in her despair, she actually sealed them in a large container and buried them behind the shrubs in the back yard. We found them by checking carefully for disturbed earth, and that night snuck out after our parents were asleep, disinterred them with a trowel, ate them all on the spot, and then buried the container again with a Crayoned note that said, "Delicious, The Avengers." We were bludgeoned with meatloaf sandwiches in our school lunchboxes for a week after that one.

Spies in the House of the Holy Cookie

Mothers know a lot of secrets about their children, but not all secrets. My mother's favorite way of finding out our secrets was a simple psyche-war method of asserting that she knew what she didn't know in order to elicit a confession. She'd give us "that look" and say, "Well, you might as well know that I know."

"Know? Know what?"

"You know what, so you might as well tell me."

It shames me now to admit that this simple ploy worked on more than one occasion. What never worked, and what she was never to figure out, was how we knew when the Holy Cookies had been made.

Early on it dawned on her that we were watching the house supply of Nestle's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. When those bags were used or diminished, it would be a dead give-away that there were cookies to be located and my brother and I would, as a team, work the grid. Using step-stools, ladders, and a mirror attached to a broom-handle that I kept taped above the door in my closet, there was no area of the home we could not scan. Sooner or later, once we knew they were around, we'd find them. Kids don't have many resources, but they do have oceans of time.

Her solution, so she thought, was to buy replacement bags of chocolate chips before baking a batch. In that way, she foolishly assumed we'd assume -- seeing a full bag undisturbed -- that no cookies had been baked that day. What she did not know, and was never to learn, was that each bag of chocolate chips in the house was marked with a small dot of ink on the lower right hand corner of the back of the bag as soon as we could get to it in stealth mode. We'd check the bag daily after that and when it did not have that mark we would know the truth.

We also, as a back-up, used faint pencil marks, not on the level of Scotch in my father's bottle (that was to come later), but on the canister of Quaker Oats which were another essential ingredient of the Holy Cookie. She bought the economy sized canister and we discovered that using a red pencil on the red part of the package was almost undetectable unless you were looking for it, which we always were.

The Holy Cookie Cold War

The Holy Cookie Cold War of stealth and surveillance continued across the years until my second brother and I left the home for college. My mother breathed a sigh of relief at our departures. Little did she know that before we left we had passed on the full Holy Cookie Finder File to our little brother ten years my junior. He carried on the tradition until he too left. At which point my mother brought out the apple shaped cookie jar which had been stored away for decades and began to enjoy the long peace as well as a cookie or two from time to time.

Except, of course, there would be no peace. The begging letters and phone calls came in from colleges, apartments and houses across the country and down through the years. From time to time, these pathetic screeds and whines would elicit a package of the Holy Cookie, but only at the kind of interval that makes the Pavlovian Rat press the pellet bar that much more compulsively. As long as she held the keys to the Holy Cookie, my mother knew she would hear from us frequently.

But the technology of the time was working against us and the Holy Cookie. This was the pre-eBay era when packing and shipping were still lost arts to most Americans. Lost most of all, I regret to say, to our mother.

East of Eden and the Problem of the Post Office

For while she could bake, she could not ship. As a result of this and the less-than-reverent attitude of the United States Postal Service, the shipments of the Holy Cookies would arrive transmogrified into the Holy Cookie Crumbs. It is, I have discovered, very difficult to dunk a crumb into a glass of cold milk to any sort of meaningful effect other than crummy milk.

After suffering our complaints for longer than anyone other than a mother would, she finally took drastic action. She had to. After all, she had a life to live, friends to see, places to go and tennis sets to play. We were grown men now with fully dysfunctional families of our own, and she was no longer going to allow herself to be crucified on the golden cross of the Holy Cookie.

And so it was that on one faithful day, her three sons received in the mail, not the Holy Cookies for which they begged, but the Holy Cookie recipe and instructions that they learn to cook. I love my mother, but she can be a cold woman once she makes up her mind.

The Torch is Passed to a New Generation

On the other hand, my need was great and my understanding of the gap between desire and gratification scant. And so I learned, at last, to cook. It was one of my mother's many fine and enduring gifts, perhaps the finest next to, of course, life itself.

First, out of sheer necessity, I learned the Holy Cookie and, when that turned out well after only a few disasters, I went on to learning to cook other things. Things like entrees, side dishes, bread and desert right down to and including a Chocolate Souffle.

As my confidence grew I took to exotic dishes and found myself in a Chinese cooking course. Other cuisines followed. I even, during my stint as a book editor for Houghton Mifflin, published one cookbook ( Fear of Cooking: The Absolutely Foolproof Cookbook for Beginners (And Everyone Else) by Robert Scher Amazon rank: 1,332,536 which is not that bad for a book published in 1984).

And so, from a cookie recipe, I grew to have one of the basic life skills that everyone should have; a skill no longer taught in our schools since it is much more important that our children learn the Inner Meaning of the Inner Child of the Maori-Americans than how to do anything with food other than pick a number at the drive-through window. I learned it from my mother who taught it to me not by doing, but by standing out of the way and not doing; by letting me discover how to do it myself. That's always the path to the real higher education in life. It's a path never taught in our crippled schools but always open to everyone regardless of age, color, creed, national origin. All you have to have to get on the path is the need to learn something and the passion to do it yourself.

That and a recipe. Here it is. What are you waiting for? Gentlemen, start your ovens.




Please note: It is not to be made merely by combing the ingredients but by following the procedure, the sacred ritual.

Combine: 3/4 Cup brown sugar with 3/4 Cup white sugar.
Mix in until smooth but gritty 1 cup shortening ( Crisco [classic] or butter/marge + Crisco in varying proportions )* This, and other mixing moments, can be done with your hands if a) you have washed them, and b) nobody's around to see you do it. Maintain plausible deniability.

Add 2 eggs -- Beaten-- plus 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Combine One and 1/2 Cups flour with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon soda and then work into sugar, shortening and egg mixture until smooth.

Add two cups of rolled oats and work into the dough. Add one 12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips (No more. Resist temptation.) and (optional) 1 cup chopped black walnuts**. Shape into medium-sized (no more than 3" in diameter, baked) cookies and bake on a greased cookie sheet

Bake in a 350 oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Monitor at around 8 minutes.

The recipe is usually good for 2-3 standard size cookie sheets. When baking, it is best to start one tray in the lower rack of the oven and after eight minutes move it to the upper.

Allow to cool. You will snake three to five and burn your lip on the first bite, but try to show a little restraint after this, okay?

Yield: 4-5 Dozen

Note: The Holy Cookie, when baked to perfection, should not be chewy or soft but possess, upon being cooled, a toothsome quality and a certain proportion of crisp-walled open cells throughout the cookie that absorb milk when dunked, but do not become a milk sodden mush. The milk should be present within the cells of the cookie, but the cookie itself, providing one has not be lazy and let it just slosh around in the glass, should still retain a certain crispness and emit a distinct crunch when consumed.

* Yes, Crisco. This ancient pure product of Amerca can still be found in the baking aisle. The Holy Cookies cannot achieve their proper milk absorbing properties without its presence. If you have some sort of issue with Crisco, get over it and just cowboy up. While butter or margarine can be used in combination with Crisco, their proportions are problematical. One stick is probably the maximum.

** Black Walnuts are optional but not, strictly speaking, classic. Still, they add an extra texture which is appealing, unless, of course, you are allergic to walnuts in which case you eat them and you die -- happy and with an enhanced skill set.


Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 22, 2013 5:58 AM |  Comments (65)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Ann Rutledge: "Out of me unworthy and unknown"

Out of me unworthy and unknown
The vibrations of deathless music;
“With malice toward none, with charity for all.”
Out of me the forgiveness of millions toward millions,
And the beneficent face of a nation
Shining with justice and truth.
I am Anne Rutledge who sleep beneath these weeds,
Beloved in life of Abraham Lincoln,
Wedded to him, not through union,
But through separation.
Bloom forever, O Republic,
From the dust of my bosom!
- - - Edgar Lee Masters

HT “I Love Red Hair” | Uncouth Reflections

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 21, 2013 8:43 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Mickey Mouse Breaking Bad


"In the 1950s, non-medical use of stimulant and sedative drugs was widely accepted and promoted in the mainstream media–

so widely in fact that they even made it into a children’s Walt Disney 1951 comic book starring Mickey Mouse as a speed dealer who just loves his own product.

"In ‘Mickey Mouse and the Medicine Man’,

Mickey and Goofy try a new medicine called ‘Peppo’, representing a brand of amphetamine (speed). In a time of fierce commercial competition between pharmaceutical companies that helped drive amphetamine consumption higher, Mickey and Goofy become brand evangelists for Peppo and end up pushing the drug in Africa! While trying to hustle their product, the pair run into some drug rivalry with another local dealer, ‘the medicine man’, who has doped his entire village on “hash”." From That time Mickey Mouse was a Drug Dealer @ Messy Nessy Chic


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 19, 2013 11:50 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
My Good Friend Says, "I Just Don't Understand Why Americans Can't See Through Him"

Transcript: But there’s a reason. There’s a reason. There’s a reason for this, there’s a reason education SUCKS, and it’s the same reason it will never, ever, EVER be fixed.

It’s never going to get any better, don’t look for it, be happy with what you’ve got.

Because the owners, the owners of this country don't want that. I'm talking about the real owners now, the BIG owners! The Wealthy… the REAL owners! The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions.

Forget the politicians. They are irrelevant. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice! You have OWNERS! They OWN YOU. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought, and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls.

They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying, lobbying, to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I'll tell you what they don’t want:

They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. Thats against their interests.

Thats right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that!

You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shitty jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it, and now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street, and you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later cause they own this fucking place! It's a big club, and you ain’t in it! You, and I, are not in the big club.

By the way, it's the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head with their media telling you what to believe, what to think and what to buy. The table has tilted folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care! Good honest hard-working people; white collar, blue collar it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Good honest hard-working people continue, these are people of modest means, continue to elect these rich cock suckers who don’t give a fuck about you….they don’t give a fuck about you… they don’t give a FUCK about you.

They don’t care about you at all… at all… AT ALL. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Thats what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick thats being jammed up their assholes everyday, because the owners of this country know the truth.

It's called the American Dream,because you have to be asleep to believe it.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 18, 2013 7:18 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink





Quitting Time

They seek a dedication
No passion prints on stone,
Their reveries -- of clouds.
Their benedictions -- moans.
Not one can name their masters,
Nor indenture's date reveal.
Doomed to ride the animal
That runs within the wheel.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 17, 2013 4:24 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
American Landowners: The Million Acre Club

For a basic sense of how the world of ultra-massive real estate has changed, here’s one fact: Between 2012 and 2013, the top 100 added 700,000 acres to their collective portfolios, bringing their total to two percent of the U.S. land mass.

In other words, stitching together all the land listed here gets you something about the size of Connecticut.

#1 John Malone
2,200,000 acres

Loves land and his wife loves horses, which explains #1’s 2013 acquisitions. The cable billionaire from Denver added two properties in Wellington, the epicenter of South Florida’s equestrian community, and an Irish castle with a solid set of stables.

#2 Ted Turner
2,000,000+ acres
Doesn’t just own CNN — he is the largest landowner in New Mexico. His purchase of the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa brings tourists closer to two of his landmark properties and, ya know, space. Richard Branson’s spaceport is just a quick drive away.

#3 Emmerson Family
1,860,000 acres
The family behind logging company Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) with land holdings twice the size of Rhode Island. Still, that’s not as it much as it once was. The Emmersons have transferred 6% of that chunk to the public since Curly Emerson founded the company in 1949.

#4 Brad Kelley
1,500,000 acres
This businessman has ranch holdings in Texas, Florida, and New Mexico. He also knows his way around the rest of the world. His NC2 Media Company recently bought Lonely Planet guidebooks.

#5 Irving Family
1,250,000 acres
A logging family with a state-of-the-art $30 million softwood sawmill in Ashland, Maine. Because if you’re going to go softwood sawmill, you want to make it state-of-the-art.

#6. Singleton Family
1,100,000 acres
This ranching family owns some of the oldest operating ranch land in the country. Their holdings outside New Mexico include the Peachtree and Top ranches in John Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley.

Via America’s Top 100 Land Owners - Modern Farmer

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 16, 2013 5:46 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Saddest Shutdown Photo


Awwwwwww..... - - KA-CHING!

Meanwhile, from the comments: "Sure would be nice to know how they came up with those fancy, professionally made signs on such short notice. It takes the government 8 months to buy a box of ball point pens, so where did all those signs come from on such short notice? Say, you don't think this was planned, do you?" -- Former Lurker"

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 11, 2013 12:04 PM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
They’re Coming to Make Me Eat Kale, Ha-Ha!

Kale Joy! A bargain at $5.00 an ounce

Of late many self-employed food bullshit artists have concluded that we should eat more kale. Why anyone would want to eat even a little kale is beyond me. Kale, considered dispassionately, is something that you’d want to dry and stuff into a tick mattress if you were out of paint soaked rags and seaweed. Kale is not, strictly speaking, a food.

And yet, and yet, there it is. Oozing in piles of of leafy green intestine cleansing fronds in what can now only be described as the weed section of the produce aisle at your average Whole Foods.

How kale actually got into our national food chain is a mystery almost as deep as how the flavor of pumpkin (backed by “Spice!”) has been infused into foods and beverages starting October 1. Both kale and pumpkin exemplify items from the somewhat vegetable kingdom that would be better going straight from farm to compost without passing through humans.

And yet, and yet, here we are .... one more mile down the road to hell courtesy of those post LorenaBobbittized vegans within whom there is not a teaspoon of testosterone in a trainload.

Not only is kale the original EmoTwink vegetable, it is now been shown to be (Isn’t it always?) deadly to man(!), lambs(!), and the environment(!). As Melissa McEwen points out in "Just Kale Me,"

“Before scientists were blinded by kale’s health food halo, they studied its horrific effect on livestock. Farmers had been mystified by the births of lambs that already had goiter. Researchers experimented with kale on sheep and rabbits with grisly results. Turns out kale does contain a goitrogen, thiocyanate, which is chemically very similar to deadly cyanide. Some young lambs were stillborn, their brain development stunted by their goiters. The consumption of kale had blocked their thyroid’s ability to function properly even in the presence of proper iodine consumption. With many Americans consuming little iodine, especially those obsessed with health foods who eschew iodized salt, the effects could be devastating.”

Ah, cyanide and stillborn little lambs! What can be more “Heart and Earth Friendly”? What? Kale, it turns out. McEwen continues:

“As kale becomes more and more popular, it raises the question: how will we feed the world’s almost 9 billion people on kale? The Food and Agricultural Organization at the UN doesn’t track kale production and consumption yet, but they will have to start. At current rates of growth, by 2350, almost all the world’s cropland will be devoted to kale. The consequences to the environment will be devastating.
“Large-scale industrial commercial kale production requires clearing massive amounts of animal habitat and killing animals that invade the fields of kale. In the world of leafy greens production, any life that’s not a leaf is a potential liability. After the spinach-related e.coli outbreak, farmers can’t take the risk of co-existing with other plants and animals. Will the world look like the Salinas Valley looks like today? A sterile dry wasteland where any signs of life are promptly shot or poisoned?”

Killing for Kale!. That’s the wave of the future and it is not an amber wave under spacious skies. Nope. It is a wave of pale and sodden progressively "good-for-you" greens slopped onto your aluminum plate in the prison chow line on Planet Vegan. You remember that putrescent puddle of gurgling spinach guts in spinach water that was once glunked on your plate in the high school cafeteria? This is the same thing only with extra thiocyanate. But hey, its KALE!, so count yourself lucky. Think of all the children of the elite and super rich that are going to bed tonight without any.

Of course it is not enough that the progvegan aliens will poison your guts and your planet by convincing you that kale’s the thing, first they will rob you.

How will they rob you? By transforming the fresh feisty poison of common kale into the gold dust of kale, Kale Chips!

Kale Chips are the philosopher’s stone of kale. They prove that the depravity of vegans can always, ALWAYS, make a vegetable worse and more expensive at the same time. You may well have seen these “chips” hanging in their foil coffins from J-hooks in the stores. They currently retail at around $5.00 a bag for about an ounce. Yes, five bucks for one ounce. For all those who skipped multiplication, that’s $80.00 a pound for ...... kale! A jaw-dropping price that says, at least to me, that the owner of said store wants to keep all his kale chips in his private collection.

On the other hand, it might be better, in light of the downside to kale that transcends its vile nature and threatens your liver, your planet, and your little lambs, to locate the growers and producers of this green harbinger of tomorrow’s turd today and burn them out. Much like one once burned out witches. Tied to a stake with a bunch of dry kale chips at their feet they’d make a fine beginning to an old fashioned barbecue. Not as food, mind you, but as entertainment. Who knows, with enough kale-fueled auto-da-fés we might even put the amber waves of grain back where they belong. Under our spacious kale-free skies.

Of course you can always take the extreme position that McEwen does,

"In the end the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and the world is to avoid kale and its cousins. This post contains over fifty peer-reviewed references to science, so think about that next time your so-called friend serves you a massaged kale salad with delicious flecks of parmesan reggiano. Remember there is no documented need for kale in your diet and you can get all the nutrients you need from delicious nutritious cow’s liver."
That is before, of course, she admits that she was just making all those alarming things about kale up:
Yes, Kale does contain chemicals, all foods do. In very large amounts or in certain vulnerable people could cause problems. Many of the studies I chose involved animals with a diet almost completely based on kale, which I think anyone will agree is a bad idea. Most also involved varieties not sold for human consumption and consumed in ways that humans might not consume- uncooked, un-marinated, etc. A lot of the rest involved just scary language about various chemicals and studies involving isolated chemicals.
As you can see, McEwen is clearly a transgendered gurlboi in transition from an American to an Amoronican, and is really, really, really just kidding when I comes to the killing fields of kale. Unfortunately for her and all the other sexually vague vegans, when it comes to burning the $80 per pound kale chip producers at the stake, I'm not kidding. Somebody's got to draw the line in the grocery line.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 10, 2013 8:13 AM |  Comments (17)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Epidemic of Gold Digging Whores
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 30, 2013 10:46 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Steam. It's how we roll...." The Stanley Brothers in Their Steamer [BUMPED AND UPDATED]

The 1890s prototype:

"In 1899, Freelan and his wife Flora drove one of their cars to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire,[2] the highest peak in the northeastern United States. The ascent took more than two hours and was notable as being the first time a car had climbed the 7.6 miles (12.2km) long Mount Washington Carriage Road; the descent was accomplished by putting the engine in low gear and braking extensively.[2] The twins later sold the rights to this early design to Locomobile, and in 1902 they formed the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. -- La Wik"

"The identical twins Francis Edgar and Freelan Oscar Stanley both had teaching careers before beginning to experiment with photographic formulas for their younger sister Chansonetta, an accomplished photographer.

They perfected their emulsion, invented a plate-coating machine and formed the Stanley Dry Plate Co. in 1894. Their plates were good enough that George Eastman bought the company for a reported one millon USD in 1904. The brothers had rather wide-ranging enthusiams and dabbled in not only photographic plates but air brushes, drafting equiptment, steam engines and musical instruments. With their windfall from the Eastman sale they pursued their next interest and formed the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. to manufacture a stream-powered automobile nicknamed, appropriately enough, the Stanley Steamer. It became one of the first successful automobile companies and by 1907 they were building more than 750 cars a year." Codex 99

And it just keeps rolling along.....

UPDATED with this comment from American Digest reader Jimmy J.:

I actually met F. O. Stanley in Estes Park, Colorado in 1938. He built the Stanley Hotel (of "The Shining" fame) there in the early 1900s. My grandfather, W. E. Baldridge, was hired to do the electric wiring. After the hotel was completed, F.O. kept my grandfather in his employ to maintain the hydro-electric plant, which he built by damming Fall River just east of Horseshoe Park in Rocky Mountain National Park.

When I met him it was at his home, a stately Georgian style manor house, which was about a mile from the hotel and had a magnificent view of the Front Range. He was engaged in playing chess blindfolded. A pastime that he considered stimulating. (The man was a genius.) He had snow-white hair, a full beard, and was quite old. (I think he was 89 at the time.) He seemed very cheerful and encouraged me to "get a good education." He was also kind to my grandfather. He offered to pay for a college education for his three daughters. Only one, my Aunt Doris, took him up on it. But he paid for all her expenses through Wellesley College. At the time, in the small village of Estes Park, that seemed a very remote and grand place.

My grandfather told me many stories about Mr. Stanley and their relationship. Mr. Stanley was a large figure in my heritage. I would not have had the good fortune to be born and raised in Estes Park if my grandfather hadn't gone there to work for him.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 30, 2013 9:37 PM |  Comments (15)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Earliest Rockwell

This charcoal drawing, done when Rockwell was a student of 17, is his earliest surviving work and has never been reproduced until now. (Permanent Collection, The Art Students League of New York)

"Revealingly, his earliest known work portrays an elderly man ministering to a bedridden boy.

The charcoal drawing has never been reproduced until now. Rockwell was 17 years old when he made it, and for years it languished in storage at the Art Students League, which had purchased it from the artist when he was a student there. Consequently, the drawing was spared the fate of innumerable early Rockwells that were lost over the years or destroyed in a disastrous fire that consumed one of his barn-studios in later life.
"Not long ago, I contacted the League to ask if it still owned the drawing and how I could see it; it was arranged that the work would be driven into Manhattan from a New Jersey warehouse. It was incredible to see­—a marvel of precocious draftsmanship and a shockingly macabre work for an artist known for his folksy humor. Rockwell undertook it as a class assignment. Technically, it’s an illustration of a scene from “The Deserted Village,” the 18th-century pastoral poem by Oliver Goldsmith. It takes you into a small, tenebrous, candlelit room where a sick boy lies supine in bed, a sheet pulled up to his chin. A village preacher, shown from the back in his long coat and white wig, kneels at the boy’s side. A grandfather clock looms dramatically in the center of the composition, infusing the scene with a time-is-ticking ominousness. Perhaps taking his cue from Rembrandt, Rockwell is able to extract great pictorial drama from the play of candlelight on the back wall of the room, a glimpse of radiance in the unreachable distance." Inside America'€™s Great Romance With Norman Rockwell | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian Magazine

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 28, 2013 8:48 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Smallest World: "I have always liked little things."

Episode #14 of The Amerikans Who Lives There Filmed on location in Wellington, Ohio, Episode 14 shares the vision of Dawn Reese, miniature artist, dollhouse builder, and owner of Dolls and Minis: a store with over 20,000 miniatures.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 23, 2013 7:07 PM |  Comments (0)  | 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."

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 22, 2013 12:56 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
This Just In: Fact-Free News Reporting

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 22, 2013 11:12 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Grace in the Blue Ridge Mountains


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.


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.


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?


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.


[First published October 2007]

Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 22, 2013 1:21 AM |  Comments (58)  | QuickLink: Permalink
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