Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun

American Studies

Saturday Night at Graceland with the Holy Relics of Elvis

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The Holy Remote of Saint Elvis

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The Holy Golden Beretta of Saint Elvis

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The Holy TV of Saint Elvis

Photos by Henry Leutwylers

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 24, 2016 1:37 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Liquid Mountains of Lake Erie and The Witch of November

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"I chose to focus on Lake Erie at a time of year when the Great Lakes often act more like oceans than lakes.

With the warm, sunny, beach days of summer behind us, it is during autumn's darkest, coldest and windiest days that the Great Lakes are transformed into wickedly wild and treacherous bodies of water. Masses of cold, arctic air push southward and collide with the warmer air above the lakes. This creates the perfect conditions for massive wind storms. These conditions are often referred to as "The Gales of November" or "The Witch of November." The waves at this time of year can be an amazing display of Mother Nature's power and a photographer's dream to capture. I can best describe the scene like a giant washing machine. There is no pattern to the waves: they move and explode in unpredictable ways, often colliding into one another and creating spectacular explosions of water. With winds reaching speeds of 70 mph (Category 1 on the hurricane scale), these powerful winds generate waves that reach heights of 20'-30'. These movements of water are large and powerful enough to send ocean freighters to a watery grave at the bottom of the lakes......

- Photographs and text by Dave Sandford | LensCulture

In a rustic old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 24, 2016 1:00 PM |  Comments (0)  | QuickLink: Permalink
In the 60s we used to ask, "Hey, what if we put LSD in the water supply?" In 1934 it was laughing gas into the atmosphere.

Betty Boop Cartoon Banned For Drug Use 1934.

Laughing Gas, or nitrous oxide, has been used as an intoxicant since about ten seconds after it was first synthesized by Joseph Priestly in 1772. That, however, does not mean that by the 1960s laughing gas was regarded as passé. Au contraire since you have to remember that in those days people were trying to dry, roll, and smoke the inside of bananas. In those days, nitrous was just another established "fun" recreational drug. In those days you could buy a tank just by saying you needed it for underwater welding. Yes, underwater welding.

A friend I knew in those days discovered that taking a hit of nitrous "helped" him with his creative writing. In a way he was right. He did create very clever and interesting short stories when he'd had a few whiffs from the tank. Indeed, in the spirit of the 60s drug counter culture in Berkeley an San Francisco, he became convinced that if any drug was worth doing, it was worth overdoing. (A common American attitude that persists to this day.)

He was 24 years old and impatient for fame.

In pursuit of more and more "creative push" from his tank of nitrous he designed a mask that would fit over his nose and mouth and be held there by some complicated elastics so he could type with both hands while whiffing from the tank.

It worked pretty well and I recall noticing that his writing did indeed get better and more interesting. Right up to the morning when they found him slumped dead over his typewriter with the mask fixed firmly over his nose and mouth, and the tank still hissing away.

He was 24 years old and impatient for fame.

He left behind two binders with his writings in them. The stories were good and full of promise. I still have the binders somewhere. I think.

If not they are mouldering in a sub-sub-basement of a Brooklyn Heights brownstone on Pierrepont Street.

He "lived fast, died young, and left a good-looking corpse." And two forgotten binders of "promising" work.

Too much heavy, heavy fuel....


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 17, 2016 7:35 PM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The 70-Mile-Wide River

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'Historic' Louisiana Flooding Affects 40,000 Homes, Governor Says

About 40,000 homes in southeastern Louisiana have been affected by days of devastating flooding, which Gov. John Bel Edwards today described as "unprecedented" and "historic." At least eight people have died, he said, adding that authorities remain in emergency search mode in many parishes. Edwards said that over 20,000 people have been rescued and about 8,000 were in shelters Monday night....

Yes, it's bad but hardly "historic." It's been worse. Much, much worse.....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 16, 2016 10:56 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
A People's Cube Classic: "Women's Progress Backwards: The Tale of Two Burkas"

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This is a rearranged version (mostly to fit the viewable area, plus the title) of a series of photos by a female Yemeni photographer Boushra Almutawakel, who received her education in the United States.

"Having studied in America, Ms Almutawakel has returned to live and work in Sanaa in Yemen. Controversial among Yemenis, her photographs seem designed mainly for a Western audience. See an interview with her here.

Contrast it with the pink Vagina Burkas of the leftist "women's rights" radicals of Code Pink, who, when they are not dressed as vaginas to pursue collectivist identity politics, are often cuddling up to Muslim theocratic dictators.

Code Pink's strategy is the opposite of the Yemeni photographer's: controversial among Americans, their stunts are calculated to reach anti-American foreign audiences.

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Intentionally or not, the message sent by their costumes reduces the woman's existence to a single physiological function, stripping her of an individual mind, spirit, and character - a view not very different from the fundamentalist Islamic idea of a woman as merely a veiled reproductive organ. This is hardly coincidental: two militant collectivist philosophies are bound to converge at one point or more.

MUCH MORE AT Women's Progress Backwards: The Tale of Two Burkas


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 14, 2016 4:41 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: The Last 2 Minutes of the Last Howdy Doody Show

If you were raised on this ancient afternoon series of televised myths and tales [1947 to 1960].... and you grew too old for this last look, all you have to know is.... Clarabelle speaks his first and only line in the history of the program.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 9, 2016 6:29 PM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Black Hole of San Francisco

Homeless_Depot.jpg"These days, the streets of San Francisco resemble the streets of Calcutta." -- Cinnamon Stillwell "Homeless by the bay"

San Francisco, America's top open-air exhibit of failed social policies, never fails to illuminate the lies of social utopianism. Although large sections of this city still retain their charm at a distance -- the swooping helicopter pan shot in from the Golden Gate; the brightly painted Cable Car cresting against sunset -- most soon lose all charm in close-up. Instead, strolling through this city has become like taking a long walk through an endless parking lot at The Homeless Depot.

Scene: A clear and crisp dawn in a small side street near Laguna and Hayes. Plantings in all the window boxes on fussily painted facades. A few very small 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 notice a man who has obviously slept rough for at least 200 consecutive days. He is, like some haggard Tai-Chi dancer, turning in a slow pirouette and gazing intently at the ground. Then he lowers himself delicately down into a squat between an Audi and an SUV.

Seeing no real reason not to stroll past, I do and see that the man, pants to his ankles, is slowly relieving himself onto the curb. I note that he has no plastic bag which dog owners use to deposit the deposit. I was to see this behavior twice more 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 San Francisco, this scene was only the most unhappily memorable of a series of disturbing snapshots. Perhaps they only disturbed me 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 usually pales as nostalgia takes its toll. Knowing the nostalgia effect you are prepared, at the least, to be disappointed. Feeling that the past is preferable to the present is a common human instinct. Revisiting old haunts you're prepared to be disturbed. After all, you've read and heard about the degradation of San Francisco for a long time. That said, there's nothing like a few people crapping on the sidewalk to remind you that the San Francisco of the present is probably past redemption absent another earthquake.

The extent to which the homeless, the hard-core unemployed, the drunk and the addicted, the whores of all three sexes, and battalions of shabby panhandlers infest San Francisco is something to bring even the most hard-core liberal from elsewhere up short. For decades myriad policies and millions man-years of effort funded with untold millions have only created a free-crap zone.

That and extreme compassion fatigue.

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 exposure these human disaster zones just fade into the background body count, one more item of the city's detritus -

  • the sudden sirens and worried whoop of ambulances caught in traffic,
  • the litter shuffled about in the sidewalk's grime by the wind,
  • the hysterical graffiti of ranting political spite
  • the crass billboard ads and signs announcing yet another source of 24 hour lap dancing,
  • the corner gangs of schizophrenic pan handlers,
  • the doorway leather queens touting afternoon sling sex in the Castro.

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 many millions of public funds being compulsively shoved at this problem. Where have the money, the time, and the good intentions all gone?

The best that can be said is that the limitless toleration of homelessness 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. Although it is commonly preached 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 HISF ( "Homeless Industry of San Francisco)", which recently merged with the Free Schizophrenics Movement (FSM), exists not to curtail suffering but to relentlessly 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 could 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 could 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 working citizens to continue rather than solve homelessness.

But I am not that cynical person. At least not today. I see hope in the small things, the little signs on the streets of San Francisco that not all the homeless wish to suck on the city tit forever; that some of them still possess the classic American entrepreneurial spirit.

Example: At night on the same day as 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 panhandling 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.



Bonus link: A tour of 16 Crappy Places -Mapping San Francisco's homeless haunts

Bonus bumper strip solution to problem:
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It's a joke.... I think.


Posted by Vanderleun at Aug 5, 2016 12:26 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Donald, You Ignorant Slut: Joe Bob Briggs Writes the Best All-Purpose Trump Article Yet

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NEW YORK—All over America IKEA futons are groaning with the restless insomnia of journalists—tossing, turning, cursing the impotence of their melatonin capsules—burdened with the future of the Republic. Long nights of torment, and then . . .

Morning resolve! Before they’ve even microwaved their second Jimmy Dean Sausage Sandwich, they know that this will be the day of reckoning. They will fire up the Kia Sedona and take the long way to work, giving them more time to think about the epic 1,500 words that will make the difference between chaos and civilization.
Yes, they tell their wives, It’s time for my “Donald Trump is a Dickwad” column.
Let me make it clear here that I’m not talking about lesbian-rights vegans who organize fair-trade coffee boycotts at Maxwell House and agitate for medical marijuana in The Nation. Nor am I thinking of tweed-jacketed professors of sociology at Montana State submitting articles to the Journal of Spanish-American Diacritical Marks. Think-tank analysts at the Institute for Pan-Arab Non-Alignment are most certainly churning out white papers on why Donald Trump is a dangerous threat to the Maghreb treaty on fish hatcheries, but I’m not discussing them either. I’m not talking about intellectuals or activists or experts.
No. I’m talking about the guy who enrolled at McNeese State in the nineties and fell into deep reverence for Professor Rusty Naugahyde, the legendary teacher whose Newswriting 312 workshop was almost as inspirational as Lou “The News Is Sacred” Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Our starry-eyed undergraduate buys a safari jacket, takes an oath of objectivity and resolves never to be a member of a political party. After that it takes years of struggle to become the lead Metro columnist at the Lotus Tree, Kansas, Daily Arapaho, days spent chronicling the brutal fights over county bond issues needed to repair the Lost Frenchman Bridge. But now that he’s a 32nd-degree Mason and chairman of the Little League committee on maintenance and parking, he knows that it’s his responsibility, and his privilege, to tell the people of Lotus Tree that Donald Trump is a narcissistic disagreeable soulless callous rude arrogant authoritarian vicious egotistical vulgar braggart and megalomaniac, possibly a lunatic, definitely a psychopath, perhaps a fascist....

[Much, much more. Read the whole thing at Taki's Magazine]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 2, 2016 2:51 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Gearhead Heaven: A Flathead V-8 Rebuild

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The Shade Tree Mechanic is not extinct. He's moved inside and gotten an air-conditioned shop with serious power tools.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Aug 2, 2016 9:31 AM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
YE OLDE AMERICA: "The American Look" and the Design of the 1959 Chevrolet Impala


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 23, 2016 12:47 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
PokemonGoing Crazy: Pokemon Go Crowd in Bellevue Downtown Park

T.E. Lawrence: So long as Americans play PokymonGo, so long will they be a little people, a silly people - greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are.

Venture capitalist Chris Dixon has a line I like.

"The next big thing will start out looking like a toy," he says. Welp, Pokémon Go looks like a toy. Hell, it is a toy. But it’s also the first widespread, massive use case for augmented reality — even though it’s operating on smartphones that aren’t designed for AR. So what’s going to happen as the hardware improves, the software improves, and the architects learn to use these more immersive environments to addict us more fully?

About a year ago, I tried the Oculus VR, and it blew my mind. I had thought we were a long way from inventing virtual reality. But as I stood in a flat, bare room, only to have the headset flicker on and convince my body and brain I was teetering on the edge of a skyscraper, I learned I was wrong. As I jumped back, I realized we’d already invented VR. Now we’re just perfecting it, making it cheaper, better, more addictive.

How far are we until your VR life is far more interesting, far more pleasurable, than your real life? Not that far, I bet. Maybe 10 years. How far are we until your walk to work is better with augmented reality than without it? Well, Pokémon Go suggests we’re already there. I’m not much for sci-fi dystopias — I don’t think the robots will kill us all — but the world of Ready Player One, in which the future has devolved (or evolved) into people escaping a grim existence by living inside their VR consoles, seems perfectly plausible to me.Pokémon Go isn’t a fad. It’s a beginning.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 16, 2016 2:01 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Booker T. Washington: controversial then, controversial now

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"I pity from the bottom of my heart any nation or body of people that is so unfortunate as to get entangled in the net of slavery. I have long since ceased to cherish any [spirit]] of bitterness against the Southern white people on account of the enslavement of my race. No one section of our country was wholly responsible for its introduction, and, besides, it was recognized and protected for years by the General Government. Having once got its tentacles fastened on to the economic and social life of the Republic, it was no easy matter for the country to relieve itself of the institution. Then, when we rid ourselves of prejudice, or racial feeling, and look facts in the face, we must acknowledge that, notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, the ten million Negroes inhabiting this country, who themselves or whose ancestors went through the school of American slavery, are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally, and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe. This is so to such an extend that Negroes in this country, who themselves or whose forefathers went through the school of slavery, are constantly returning to Africa as missionaries to enlighten those who remained in the fatherland. This I say, not to justify slavery — on the other hand, I condemn it as an institution, as we all know that in America it was established for selfish and financial reasons, and not from a missionary motive -- but to call attention to a fact, and to show how Providence so often uses men and institutions to accomplish a purpose."

Interesting perspective from a man who was born in slavery. It can be found in his autobiography Up From Slavery, published in 1901.

[HT:neo-neocon]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 14, 2016 11:55 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Paul Harvey " The Policeman "
He must make an instant decision which would require months for a lawyer to make. But...If he hurries, he's careless; if he's deliberate, he's lazy. He must be first to an accident and infallible with his diagnosis. He must be able to start breathing, stop bleeding, tie splints and, above all, be sure the victim goes home without a limp. Or expect to be sued. The police officer must know every gun, draw on the run, and hit where it doesn't hurt.He must be able to whip two men twice his size and half his age without damaging his uniform and without being "brutal". If you hit him, he's a coward. If he hits you, he's a bully. -- Full Text
Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 12, 2016 10:27 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Black lives do not seem to matter much to black Americans

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A powerful heart-felt comment from police officer Jay Stalien:

As time went by in my law enforcement career, I quickly began to realize something. I remember the countless times I stood 2 inches from a young black man, around my age, laying on his back, gasping for air as blood filled his lungs. I remember them bleeding profusely with the unforgettable smell of deoxygenated dark red blood in the air, as it leaked from the bullet holes in his body on to the hot sidewalk on a summer day. I remember the countless family members who attacked me, spit on me, cursed me out, as I put up crime scene tape to cordon off the crime scene, yelling and screaming out of pain and anger at the sight of their loved ones taking their last breath. I never took it personally, I knew they were hurting. I remember the countless times I had to order new uniforms, because the ones I had on, were bloody from the blood of another black victim…of black on black crime. I remember the countless times I got back in my patrol car, distraught after having watched another black male die in front me, having to start my preliminary report something like this...
Suspect- Black/ Male, Victim-Black /Male.

I remember the countless times I canvassed the area afterwards, and asked everyone “did you see who did it”, and the popular response from the very same family members was always, “Fuck the Police, I ain't no snitch, Im gonna take care of this myself". This happened every single time, every single homicide, black on black, and then my realization became clearer.

I woke up every morning, put my freshly pressed uniform on, shined my badge, functioned checked my weapon, kissed my wife and kid, and waited for my wife to say the same thing she always does before I leave, “Make sure you come back home to us”. I always replied, “I will”, but the truth was I was never sure if I would. I almost lost my life on this job, and every call, every stop, every moment that I had this uniform on, was another possibility for me to almost lose my life again. I was a target in the very community I swore to protect, the very community I wanted to help. As a matter of fact, they hated my very presence. They called me “Uncle Tom”, and “wanna be white boy”, and I couldn’t understand why. My own fellow black men and women attacking me, wishing for my death, wishing for the death of my family. I was so confused, so torn, I couldn’t understand why my own black people would turn against me, when every time they called …I was there. Every time someone died….I was there. Every time they were going through one of the worst moments in their lives…I was there. So why was I the enemy? I dove deep into that question…Why was I the enemy? Then my realization became clearer.

I spoke to members of the community and listened to some of the complaints as to why they hated cops. I then did research on the facts. I also presented facts to these members of the community, and listened to their complaints in response. This is what I learned:

Complaint: Police always targeting us, they always messing with the black man.

Fact: A city where the majority of citizens are black (Baltimore for example) …will ALWAYS have a higher rate of black people getting arrested, it will ALWAYS have a higher rate of blacks getting stopped, and will ALWAYS have a higher rate of blacks getting killed, and the reason why is because a city with those characteristics will ALWAYS have a higher rate of blacks committing crime. The statistics will follow the same trend for Asians if you go to China, for Hispanics if you go to Puerto Rico, for whites if you go to Russia, and the list goes on. It’s called Demographics

Complaint: More black people get arrested than white boys.

Fact: Black People commit a grossly disproportionate amount of crime. Data from the FBI shows that Nationwide, Blacks committed 5,173 homicides in 2014, whites committed 4,367. Chicago’s death toll is almost equal to that of both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined. Chicago’s death toll from 2001–November, 26 2015 stands at 7,401. The combined total deaths during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2015: 4,815) and Operation Enduring Freedom/Afghanistan (2001-2015: 3,506), total 8,321.

Complaint: Blacks are the only ones getting killed by police, or they are killed more.

Fact: As of July 2016, the breakdown of the number of US Citizens killed by Police this year is, 238 White people killed, 123 Black people killed, 79 Hispanics, 69 other/or unknown race.


RTWT @ - Maggie's Farm


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 11, 2016 12:35 PM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
America, you keep this up and I may have to get a new nation....

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 10, 2016 10:06 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Vague Food Found Inside the Food Lion

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

"Vague?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a series of small satoris. Here are some items that caught my attention. None of these things are on my current diet.

First up was this mercifully seasonal offering from Starbucks:

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In this one offering we see a grand harmonic convergence of everything that has gone terribly, terribly wrong for Starbucks over the last few years. To get an abomination like this on the shelves means that hundreds of people at the company are working overtime to put it there. But before that can even get started you need a small group of executive marketing bozos sitting around trying to justify their phony baloney jobs.

"Okay, here's what we'll do. We'll take some bad coffee extract, dose it with some cheap chocolate syrup, and then lace it with peppermint!"

"Sounds suitably disgusting. How do we get people to buy it?"

"We'll tell them that it's available for a "Limited Time Only."

"Fookin' genius!"


Of late I note that some 300 jobs at Starbucks' headquarters in Seattle were eliminated. One can only hope these soooper-geniuses were not only among them, but rowed out into Puget Sound and put into the water with chains wrapped around their legs.

The next things not to make it into my shopping cart were the musical Tuna Medleys:

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 9, 2016 9:50 AM |  Comments (56)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Shine Perishing Republic by Robinson Jeffers

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While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity
Heavily thickening to empire,
And protest, only a bubble in the Molten Mass, pops
And sighs out, and the mass hardens,

I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make
Fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances,
Ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste, haste on decay: not blameworthy; life
Is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than
Mountains: shine perishing republic

But for my children, I would have them keep their distance
From the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lies at the
Monster's feet there are left the mountains.

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


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 8, 2016 2:55 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Buy American!" Snorkeling in the National Election Septic Tanks

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Major Political News Outlets Offer Interviews for Sale at DNC and RNC Conventions FOR HIGH-ROLLING special interests looking to make an impression at the presidential conventions next month, one option is to pay a lot of money to a media outlet. Lobbyists for the oil industry, for instance, are picking up the tab for leading Beltway publications to host energy policy discussions at the convention, including The Atlantic and Politico.

And for the right price, some political media outlets are even offering special interviews with editorial staffers and promotional coverage at the convention.

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 7, 2016 12:45 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
How Beautiful We Were

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A short list. In no particular order.

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody liked our movies and loved our television shows.

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

We did Levis.

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

We saved Europe twice and liberated it once.

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

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

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

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

We invented Jazz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We gave everybody the vote.

We built Disneyworld. Just for fun.

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

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

We electrified the guitar.

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

We had some middling novelists.

We had some interesting painters.

We had some pretty good poets.

We had better songwriters.

We ran our farms so well we fed the globe.

We made the automobile and the airplane.

We let you get rich. Really, really rich.

We didn't care who you were or what you were or where you came from or who your parents were. We just cared about what you made or what you did.

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

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

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

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

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


[First published 2007]

Continued...
Posted by Van der Leun at Jul 3, 2016 1:41 AM |  Comments (88)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Looking Back at Helen Gurley Brown

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Somewhere back in the day Helen Gurley Brown said that after a certain age the only thing a woman could rely on to improve her appearance was good posture and expensive jewelry.

At least that is my recollection, though I no longer recall the exact source or context. The gender specificity, the whiff of doom in the goal, the daft simplicity, the conciseness, the candor, and the plausibility caused it to stick in my head (although my most recent earrings were bought for three dollars from a street vendor). Perhaps this is because everyone who already has their ears pierced and pricked for this kind of suggestion is tired and looking for quick, pithy advice—especially, it is assumed, women, around whom a many-tentacled advice industry was fashioned long ago, with its golden age perhaps corresponding to the golden age of magazine publishing, suburban housewifery, and leisure time—again, somewhere back in the day. That men—both gay and straight—were once a considerable audience for these women’s magazines, unacknowledged in the official target demographics, is another topic entirely though I will mention it here in passing.
I also recall once getting in the slowest grocery store line so I could flip through Brown’s Cosmopolitan in order to discover what “5 Things,” advertised on the cover alongside its monthly, near-taxidermic décolleté (who can recall the faces perched above?), were sure to “Drive Men Wild,” but not finding them anywhere and having to put the magazine back.

Read the rest of this review/profile/autobiographical confession atA Very Singular Girl by Lorrie Moore | The New York Review of Books


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 1, 2016 3:16 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Once Upon a Time in America: Hailing a Cab in New York City. 1956

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jul 1, 2016 2:52 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Hand in the Pocket

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Washington, D.C., circa 1911. "National Photo Co. post card shipment." A very young-looking Herbert French on the left with his associate "Artie" Leonard at their H Street studio. 8x10 glass negative.

Daily life, as recorded on 8x10 glass negatives fromShorpy Historical Photo Archive :: The Young Entrepreneurs: 1911, is often seen in more detail than our faux-vintage Instagram age.

One of the persistant pleasures in very old photographs is that they hold a lot of detail if you but care to look; details that tell you the things behind these images lived. I went into this -- in some detail -- myself in The Summer of Our Content. I notice it again here in one telling detail from the photo cited above from Shorpy. Only this time it is a detail in the hands of the men pictured. With the man on the left, his left hand casually grasps a claw hammer as he strikes the casual pose of a man taking a brief portrait break.

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This is not at all that remarkable. Hands holding tools are common in all photography of the men from a time when men actively built the nation. But if we look closely at the man on the right we can see the small confirmation of this lost moment in time in Washington DC over a century past. We see this:

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It's by way of this kind of detail that these sections of times lost beyond recall hold their fascination. That momnt when time had a stop and we can see down into the marrow of things; into the weight and the heft of the fabric of trousers stretched over the knuckles of a now long dead hand. For all the trillions of images that we capture now, we won't leave that much of mark.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 25, 2016 11:32 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Faux-Utopian Propaganda Never Stops

Family Hallucination Not Included:"The Home is a small round gadget with microphones and speakers that's always listening for your questions and commands.... **"



Your entire life. 24/7/365
That’s how long you’ve been subjected to this creepy political propaganda.

It’s like the air you breathe by now.

You’re a rat trained by electrical shocks to not believe its lying eyes; remarkable if you still insist 2 2=4

From the moment you wake in the morning until you lay your head on the pillow at night, the Big Lie is screamed at you - newspaper, book, movie, workplace training sessions!… it’s the subtext of all political speech, the buried premise of schoolbook & classroom lesson

It goes on until “everybody” knows “diversity is our strength” - perhaps the most bald-faced oxymoronic whopper ever crafted. HappyAcres


** ... It will plumb into home automation, including Google's own Nest, and it will broadcast video and audio to Chromecast sticks; this is all driven by an always-listening voice interface.

Google's conversational assistant is in the same vein as Cortana and Siri. Google Assistant will be on phones and wearables, too, and Google says that it will be better at picking out the context of what you're doing than any of its competitors. For example, when standing near Cloud Gate, better known as The Bean, in Chicago, you can ask Google Assistant "Who designed this?" Based on your location alone, Assistant will understand that you're probably referring to the large shiny sculpture in front of you and answer "Anish Kapoor."

Voice won't be the only way you can use Assistant. Google showed a textual conversation with Assistant in its new Allo chat service. Assistant can answer questions and perform searches, and it also supports some games.

Initially, Google says that it will not be creating APIs for Assistant and Home and that as such, any integrations with services and other devices will have to come from Google first. This approach is a contrast with the Echo, which is designed to be extensible.

The Home will be available later this year, though no pricing or availability have been announced yet."

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HappyAcres

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 24, 2016 6:11 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Covert Classics: "I'm Your Worst Nightmare. I am a BAD Republican."

monopoly-man%20%281%29.jpgI like big cars, big cigars and naturally big racks. I believe the money I make belongs to me and my family, not some mid-level governmental functionary with a bad comb-over who wants to give it away to crack addicts squirting out babies.

I don't care about appearing compassionate. I think playing with guns doesn't make you a killer. I believe its called the Boy Scouts for a reason. I think I'm better than the homeless.

I am not the real Slim Shady, so I think that I’m gonna stay seated right here in this damn comfy chair. I don't think being a minority makes you noble or victimized. I don't care if you call me a racist, a homophobe or a misogynist. I am not tolerant of others because they are different. I know that no matter how big Jennifer Lopez’s toilet gets, I’ll still want to see it.

I don't celebrate Kwanzaa.

I believe that if you are selling me a Big Mac, you do it in English. I like my porn without silicon. I don't use the excuse "it's for the children" as a shield for unpopular opinions or actions. I want to know when MTV became such crap.

I think getting a hummer is sex, and every man is entitled to at least one extremely sloppy one per month. I know what the definition of is is. I think Oprah's eyes are way too far apart. I didn't take the initiative in inventing the Internet. I thought the Taco Bell dog was funny.

I want them to bring back safe and sane fireworks.

I believe no one ever died because of something Ozzy Osbourne, Ice-T or Marilyn Manson sang. I think that being a student doesn’t give you any more enlightenment than working at Starbucks. I’ve never mourned a dead goldfish.

I don’t want to eat or drink anything with the words light, lite or fat-free on the package. I believe everyone has a right to pray to their God or gods, while I pray that the test results come back negative. I think the Clippers should play in the WNBA. My heroes are Abraham Lincoln, Orson Wells, Ronald Reagan and whoever canceled Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

I think creative violence makes movies more interesting and ISIS more dead.

I don't hate the rich. I don't pity the poor.

I know wrestling is fake, but I still think The Rock could kick my butt.

I think global warming is junk science.

I’ve never owned or was a slave. I didn't wander forty years in the desert after getting chased out of Egypt. I haven’t burned any witches or been persecuted by the Turks and neither have you, so shut-the-f-up already.

South Park still makes me laugh. I want to know which church is it exactly where the Rev. Jessie Jackson preaches. I think explosions are cool. I don't care where Ellen puts her tongue. I think the cops have every right to shoot your sorry ass if you’re running from them. I thought Spinal Tap was great, but Rob Reiner can still kiss my backside.

I worry about dying before I get even.

I like the convenience of buying oranges while I'm waiting at a stop-light, and I'm pretty sure the Latina midget selling them to me is glad she no longer lives in a refrigerator packing carton outside Ensenada.

I figured out Bruce Willis was dead midway through The Sixth Sense but enjoyed it anyway. I think turkey bacon sucks. I want somebody to explain to me exactly why it's wrong to point out that when I watch a freeway chase, I know the losers the police eventually pull out of the car are gonna be a gang-banging hommies or vatos.

I believe that it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes a parent. I think tattoos and piercings are fine if you want them, but please don’t pretend they are a political statement.

I like hard women, hard liquor and a hard bowel movement first thing in the morning.

I'll admit that the only movie that ever made me cry was Field of Dreams. I didn't realize Dr. Seuss was a genius until I had a kid.

I will not conform or compromise just to keep from hurting somebody's feelings.

Sometimes I throw my soft drink can in the trash, even when the recycle bin is just a few more steps.

Making love is fine, but sometimes I wanna get laid.

I'm neither angry nor disenfranchised, no matter how desperately the mainstream media would like the world to believe otherwise.

Yes, I'm a bad Republican. And I vote... even if it rains.



Who wrote this? It's not clear. George Carlin 'Bad American'.....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 23, 2016 8:24 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Against Compassion

sentient_beings_are_numberless_i_vow_to_save_tshirt-p235527916675852797q6wh_400.jpgOutside the ancient offices of the Cosmoangelic Book Publishers that I once worked in at 2 Park Street in Boston, an old lady stood with her back to the old bricks on every working day. A square yard of sidewalk was her office. Eyes behind thick glasses were watery-gray. She stood hunched in a permanent flinch like some dog who'd been struck too many times for nothing. She dressed in clean, shabby, but not too shabby, clothing -- warm enough for the winters and cool enough when summer came around at last. To all who passed by her office she repeated her Bostonian-inflected mantra:
"Spare a quarta?"
"Spare a quarta?"
"Spare a quarta?"

She stood to the left of the entrance for part of the day and to the right for the remainder. You didn't know when she'd shift, but she always seemed to be in your path as you came out of the building.

Going for some coffee?

"Spare a quarta?"

Going to lunch?

"Spare a quarta?"

Going to skip out on the afternoon and catch a matinee?

"Spare a quarta?"

I once spared her a quarta and went into the Boston Commons with a newspaper and watched her work at her job.

"Spare a quarta?"
"Spare a quarta?"
"Spare a quarta?"

She asked everyone. It was the secret to whatever success she had. Since Park Street led from the Park Street MTA stop to the Massachusetts capital building and other large skyscrapers several thousand people a day had to pass by her and hear "Spare a quarta?"

She got a quarter out of about every fifth person. I once estimated she made about $75 a day, tax free. That worked out to a take homeless of $18,750 a year in 1983. Not bad when you considered that she had zero overhead.

No matter how you look at it old "Spare a quarta?" was doing all right and, to tell the truth, I contributed my share. She looked like what everyone fears their mother might become if she fell on hard time, but she wasn't scary. And she had perfect pitch. "Spare a quarta?" was slightly sing-song but never too whining. Just always said with an uplifting lilt right at the end of the opening note of desperation.

If you can't be really good at anything without 10,000 hours of practice "Spare a quarta?" had put in her time and paid her dues in full.

As beggars go she was "The Fantastiks" of street hustlers. Her performance ran uninterrupted and packed her pockets with quarters for years. She's probably long gone to her reward -- be that in Potters Field or in a small house in the hinterlands that she bought for cash. But I like to think that she's still there as the busy people of our era bustle up and down Park Street still shelling out to the refrain:


Try to remember the kind of September
"Spare a quarta?"
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
"Spare a quarta?"
Try to remember when life was so tender
"Spare a quarta?"
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
"Spare a quarta?"

I remember that in those days I had two things for her and those like her, compassion and a quarta. These days I'm fresh out of the former and I never get asked for just a quarta.


On the streets today they've decided they've got to entertain; that they've gotta have a gimmick and if they're gonna bump it, they're gonna bump it with a trumpet." They offer me stories, crazy ramblings, scrawled signs of despair, signs that mock their begging ("Checks No Longer Accepted from These People"), vague threats and mumbles. They sell poems scrawled in a methadone daze, or make blunt demands for smokes now that smokes are half a buck.

I once gave to all who asked. Now I give to none. Once a year I write checks to funds for widows and orphans of police, firemen, and soldiers killed in the line of duty. Beyond that, I find I can no longer spare a quarta. And when I hear, in the back of my mind, the old Depression anthem "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" I find that although I can spare it, I no longer want to give it.

It has taken decades of ceaseless hectoring but at long last my compassion account in the Bank of Human Kindness is overdrawn. I'm tapped out. I still try to care but I find, if I am honest, I couldn't care less.

I suppose this makes me a bad person. In the land that is more and more ruled by those eager to cadge money from me or pick my pockets "for the common good" I'm just no damned good to any of them. It doesn't bother me any more. I have become, as the song says, "comfortably numb."

I've been told, so often and so stridently, to feel this and to feel that and to feel for the downtrodden of the world, that I find I no longer feel anything at all. I don't think I'm alone in not caring. I think caring and compassion, now that it has been institutionalized enough to demand caring and compassion, has finally found its limit.

In a world dimensional, a world of limits, caring finds itself flummoxed by its own best impulses. If we could inhabit any one of the endless utopias proposed to us by the dreamers and schemers among us, all would be well and all manner of things would be well. But we live in the world of sun, rain, dirt, steel and flesh where all that is needed for evil to triumph is that good men remain distracted by snake-oil hallucinations of perfection. And that they follow the instructions of their betters to feed these hallucinations of perfection in the fond hope that these toys of the mind will become real. The only thing that becomes real when you reach for Utopia is that those few who crave power over many become perpetual seekers of indulgences.

These indulgences of wish would remain harmless and essentially admirable as long as nothing more imperative or noble calls us. That which calls to us is not the world that may be, but the world that is as we make it day by day. We may, from time to time, be able to spare a quarta only so long as all our quartas are not constantly demanded of us. Quartas to spare can only come from surpluses.

Of late, those surpluses have been converted by events and history into deficits. Put simply, we can, at the present time, no longer afford to fund our ever expanding compassionate state. Compassion can never be made compulsory and cash-flow positive at the same time. Whenever and wherever compassion has been made compulsory the people soon find they no longer have care or quartas to spare.


Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 17, 2016 1:25 AM |  Comments (54)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Extraordinary Popular Political Delusions and the Madness of Crowds ...

Oh the gangster looks so fright'ning
With his Luger in his hand
When he gets home to his children
He's a family man
But when it comes to the nitty-gritty
He can shove in his knife
Yes he really looks quite religious
He's been an outlaw all his life

Me, I'm waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I'm just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

- - Rolling Stones - Jig-saw Puzzle

Here lived the terrorist who took 49 innocent lives

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The property for terrorist "oozing normality," writes Aftenposten US correspondent for the visit to the apartment of Omar Mateen.

You try to get your mind around it, but it's no go. You've seen the photos of the blood-sloshed killing floor from the Paris concert hall, blood waves smeared over high velocity spatter onto the floor like some sloppy imitation of a second-rate Jackson Pollack. You've seen that and you should be able to at least partially envision the aftermath of the atrocity, where the dead are frozen in place and the soon to be dead move fitfully as the a hundred or more cell-phones' ringtones make a pop-cult cacophony no DJ mixmaster can hope to emulate... now that the wall is breached and the survivors removed and the shooting is finally, finally stopped and then you read, in the first fitful reports of the last texts coming out of the phones...

"Call them mommy
"Now
"He's coming
"I'm gonna die

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.... and so yes you try to get your head around this -- to get , at least, the faint sense of an echo of what this horror must have been like for those trapped with such implacable evil and you try to understand this, to at least, to somehow get your head around it but like trying to find an end to this sentence it is no go....

[This was the beginning of something I wanted to say about how this year and this world is shaping up; something about how the Madness of the Crowd has suddenly this summer come upon us all -- a shared nightmare from which we struggle to escape. But it is late in a long day and I will have to try to return to this tomorrow. Or perhaps the next day. Or perhaps the next decade.]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 14, 2016 10:10 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
What Pisses Me Off About The Orlando Terrorist Attack

Stefan Molyneux rants for me.The "official narrative" and the unending progtard propaganda is getting to me. Again.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 13, 2016 8:58 AM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Winter is not endless – it might seem so, and this time it might outlast me, and most of you, but it is not endless.

In the depths of winter, work towards spring.

In any way you can, keep building, keep the idea of freedom alive. Stay true to what true liberty is. Remember that what these people are doing in curing socialism with socialism is no part of America. It is an European thing, where both sides of the “political spectrum” are socialist. (In the ROJIVYV, their colour stops at red. You can have any color you want provided it’s pink, red or crimson.) Remember the constitution even when honored in the breach. Remember we are the fruits of a radical experiment, and in radical experiments there are set backs. Work. Believe. Create. Form community. Teach your children well. Winter IS coming According To Hoyt


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 10, 2016 3:48 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Do you live in a bubble?

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There exists a new upper class that’s completely disconnected from the average white American and American culture at large, argues Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist and author.

Take this 25-question quiz, based on a similar one published in Murray’s 2012 book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010,” to find out just how thick your bubble is.

Do you live in a bubble? A quiz

[For the record, I scored 43]

It’s a turnaround jump shot
It’s everybody jumpstart
It’s every generation throws a hero up the pop charts
Medicine is magical and magical is art
Thinking of the Boy in the Bubble
And the baby with the baboon heart

And I believe
These are the days of lasers in the jungle
Lasers in the jungle somewhere
Staccato signals of constant information
a loose affiliation of millionaires
And billionaires....

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We'll be as happy and contented as birds upon a tree.
High above the mountains and the sea.
We'll bill and we'll coo-oo-oo
And sorrow will never come,
Oh, will it ever come true,
Our room with a view?


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 9, 2016 11:41 AM |  Comments (23)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Fence in Laramie, Wyoming, June 2016

He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors.
"
-- Frost

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 7, 2016 12:01 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: "Smoke and Flame" Artisanal Firewood

Slowing down. Putting in the time and the craftsmanship to make a quality, quality product....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 3, 2016 12:57 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Small Flags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published Memorial Day, 2007]


Posted by Vanderleun at May 30, 2016 12:35 AM |  Comments (67)  | QuickLink: Permalink
In my town this is one of the ways they celebrate Memorial Day

Every Memorial Day (and other patriotic holidays) Paradise California puts out the Parade of Flags all along the main street through town.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 29, 2016 12:12 AM |  Comments (19)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Next Stop, Niketown: 1908

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"No doubt some of your chums are already enjoying this fast-paced sport. Why not give it a "shot" to-day?"


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 25, 2016 7:19 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
One of the Good Things About Living in the Outskirts

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In the outskirts, after living for decades in the cities, it may seem like less is happening around you, and it is, but this is not at all a bad thing.

Since there are fewer people, the people that are living near you in the outskirts, be it town, village, or hamlet are more vivid. This is especially true if they are vivid in the first place such as those sporting full body tattoos and/or long, very long, passages of scripture tattooed across their breasts, around the back, and evidently down the spine. Like I said, vivid.

At the same time there is a strong normality so bland, so low-key, that one would flee from it if it weren't so restful and so reassuring and so honest.

Case in point: Purchase a bag of almonds at a street market. A simple transaction over in a moment. Getting home you take our the almonds and notice the printed tag that seals the bag of "Queen of the Valley Chili & Lemon Almonds." On the back of the tag is a short message from the family the owns and sustains the almond orchard. It's signed, "Marie, Joseph, Emily & 'Lil' Marie" in a plain and simple manner with no smear of green pretense nor taint of some corporate marketing department's focus-grouped palaver.

A family, an orchard, a product. By Us, "Marie, Joseph, Emily & 'Lil' Marie" Life among normal people here on the outskirts. A good deal.

I pity the cities.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 20, 2016 2:17 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
[Bumped] The Meltdown on the Right or "Oh my, whatever shall we do with the Donald?"

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Dear Brainiacs, I've been down this road. I've seen things get old. Time to get control, and start again. I shouldn't have to tell you this, but in 2016 voting is simple.

You ponder all the as usual shabby and vile candidates offered by the major parties;

you feel your gorge rise;

you feel your brain writhe as you are forced to remember, and not for the first time, just what an evil and soul destroying system the current system is;

you shiver with the very natural and enduring repulsion, and then....

You vote for the one who is the most to the right.

Always.

Without fail.

"But I have my principles!"

Fuck.
Your.
Principles.

This is not a kindergarten ethics period just before milk and cookies and a long dirt nap.

We're playing with live ammunition in 2016.

Man up, grow a pair, and vote for the candidate who is most to the right.

You might hate him.

You might loathe him.

Me. Too.

And I don't care what his name is.

Trump.
Dump.
Bump.
Lump.
Stump or
Hump.

You might want him to be executed by a belt sander on pay-per-view.

Me too.

Does.
Not.
Matter.

"But.. but... he can't win!"

Not if you sit home in your eternal dorm room muttering small talk at the wall while I'm in the hall, reliving your visions of political purity, and tossing your brain salad with mixed nuts.

"But... but... he makes me feel bad."

Me too.

Fine. We get it that you have feelings. We get you feel bad.

Take your feelings back to your dorm room and sob into your pillow until you're finished. Don't get any on you. We'll bring you a box of Kleenex or a hot towel, okay? You done? Good.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 18, 2016 7:49 PM |  Comments (35)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Cicero

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“Long before our own time, the customs of our ancestors molded admirable men, and in turn these eminent men upheld the ways and institutions of their forebears. Our age, however, inherited the Republic like some beautiful painting of bygone days, its colors already fading through great age; and not only has our time neglected to freshen the colors of the picture, but we have failed to preserve its form and outlines.

"For what remains to us, nowadays, of the ancient ways on which the commonwealth, we are told, was founded? We see them so lost in oblivion that they are not merely neglected, but quite forgot. And what am I to say of the men? For our customs have perished for want of men to stand by them, and we are now called to an account, so that we stand impeached like men accused of capital crimes, compelled to plead our own cause. Through our vices, rather than from happenstance, we retain the word “republic” long after we have lost the reality. ” – Cicero, De Re Publica


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 10, 2016 10:43 PM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Naked Fat Black Crippled Dykes Are Hard to Find"
Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 9, 2016 8:40 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Looks like we're in for nasty weather": Blackhawk, South Dakota, back on June 1, 2015

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 5, 2016 3:39 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
'Nuff Said: The single biggest political lesson from Trump to date in one sentence.

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A guy just won the Republican nomination for president by spending no money, hiring no pollsters, running virtually no TV ads, and just saying what he truly believed no matter how many times people told him he couldn't say that. - - Ann Coulter , And Then There Was One

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[Full column if you...]

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 5, 2016 9:32 AM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Why Al Qaeda Fears the "Genius of the TSA"

Oh yes, the dreaded and vicious and cunning and ever vile TSA! Fighting terrorism with their fat asses.

Catching a Flight? Budget Hours, Not Minutes, for Security

Last month, Denver Airport advised travelers to get to the airport as much as three hours before their flights. Still, people waited for more than an hour and a half to clear security.

Airport workers walked up and down the line with therapy dogs and handed out bottled water and candy to travelers, according to one report. The airport accused the T.S.A. of providing an inadequate number of screeners on what was an average Saturday. American Airlines said that the slower security lines had forced it to delay flights and rebook passengers who had missed connections. For instance, in a one-week period in mid-March, the airline said, about 6,800 of its passengers missed their flights after being stuck in T.S.A. lines too long.

“T.S.A. lines at checkpoints nationwide have become unacceptable,” said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for American Airlines. “Lines grew in January, February and March, and now in April, too. We are really concerned about what happens in the summer.”

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 2, 2016 8:02 AM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
PUDDY: The Gift

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And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

        -- Eliot

Last Sunday in Seattle I was still sitting with my morning coffee when the phone rang. It was my old friend, the constant urban explorer, who lives a few blocks away. "I want to give you a gift," he said, "but I can't bring it to you. Instead, you've got to go to it." This man's gifts are not lightly chosen (Except for the inflatable Sarah Palin love doll -- but he's getting that one back when he least expects it.), so I listened.

"Write this down. Walk to the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in your neighborhood."

"Oh..kay....."

"No. No. You'll be glad you did. Then go in the main entrance and stroll along the road on the west side."

"Right."

"Look to your left for a large white stone with two benches on either side of it. The name carved into the stone is 'PUDDY.' "

"Got it."

"Sit down on a bench and look around. That's your gift. Talk to you later. Oh, you'll want to take your camera."

I wondered for a moment if this could be some sort of geocaching joke. At the same time I knew it wasn't. He's a man with little use for the latest techno-ephemera. He values time, his and others. Sleeveless errands are not his style. It was a bright, somewhat cool, Indian Summer Sunday in Seattle and the cemetery was only a few blocks away. I suited up and out the door I went. In a few minutes I was walking into the cemetery and looking around.

Mt. Pleasant is fine cemetery as cemeteries go. Quiet and expansive without being overlarge. You can be buried with your own kind if you are Asian or Jewish, or you can just be planted helter-skelter in the great Seattle diversity plots that make up most of it's area. I've written about this place before in Small Flags, a meditation about loss and war, but the cemetery tells, as all cemeteries do, more than one kind of story if you settle your soul down and listen.

At first I was a bit disoriented inside the gates since the one-lane road winds hither and yon around the grounds and the office with the map to the grave sites is closed on Sundays. By and by, however, I spied off to my left and over near the wall of trees and bushes and chain link fencing that is the western border of the cemetery a large white stone with two white stone benches on either side. I went over and read:

PUDDY

Come sit with us awhile and share our sorrow. Though you weep share the joyful memories too. Look in your heart: In truth you mourn for that which has been your delight.

For Joy and sorrow are inseparable.

I sat and looked north to the outer edge of the large plot that, so far, had only one grave. And there they were.

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I've taken this ride in winters past. I've taken it as a child with my mother and father and brothers. I've taken it one New Year's Eve in New England by myself. Right into a tree and the emergency room for thirty stitches. I've taken it as a young adult under the moonlight on the banks of the frozen Red River in Fargo racing my cousins to the bottom and out onto the ice. I've taken it as a father in other winters past. It's a great ride while it lasts; one that -- barring impact with a tree -- makes you want to get up, pull the sled back up to the top and go again. One that makes you want to race your sled against the others. One that makes you want to see how many can pile on and go down, embracing the others and whooping all the way to the bottom where you all tumble off into a laughing heap.

You can take lots of rides in this life, but a full sled careening down a hill of fresh snow is the closest to a ride of pure joy as you can get. You'll find it near the top of my list of "Best Moments in This Life." It's probably on yours too. If you've never done it, move it to the top of the Bucket List now.

The man buried here died in his 45th year: R. Scott Puddy

On the morning of June 18, 2002, Scott perished doing what he loved: practicing aerobatics in a Yak-52, in the mountains of Brentwood, Calif.
He was survived by his parents, his sisters, and his daughter.

The dark secret fear lurking inside you when you are a parent is that your children will die before you do. That fear came true for this family. All parents can imagine their grief, but all choose not to do so. But they did not choose, as so many do, to be utterly undone by grief. Instead they chose to balance grief with joy, "For Joy and sorrow are inseparable," and place upon this grave a bronze symbol of all that is best in this life and in this world.

It's a gift to their son, R. Scott Puddy, and a gift to any in the world who chance upon his grave. It's a gift outright.

If you ever happen to be near Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Queen Anne, Seattle, go see it. Take your camera. Send your friends. Sit a spell and leave a token, stone or blossom or leaf. When it comes to gifts like this, the gift must move. Pass it on.


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Young boy in pilot's helmet and goggles

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"And down we went. / In the mountains, there you feel free."

[This is back from last October because Puddy's daughter came by and left a comment on the anniversary of his passing.]


Posted by Vanderleun at May 1, 2016 12:40 AM |  Comments (37)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Conservative Media and the Microphone

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"It’s not like we didn’t know this was coming. Megyn Kelly is already talking about leaving Fox News.

In recent interviews, Kelly is triangulating against her employer, snarking about the “brain damage that comes from the job” of working at Fox. She’s openly speculating about bailing on the company when her contract runs out because she doesn’t feel the company has backed her sufficiently against the evil sexist Donald J. Trump.
Trump’s attacks on her are the best thing that could have happened to Kelly. Before, she was America’s Sweetheart, a center-right pundit with flowing blonde locks ready to calmly tell you how it is. Not a bad position to be in, but no one important would take her seriously. Now, Megyn Kelly scowls at us from the camera with her angry woman haircut, covering the really critical issues like the “assault” on Michelle Fields.
....
Few people involved in what is absurdly called the “conservative media” want to shift the Overton Window to the Right or view themselves as activists. Instead, their goal is to carve out a niche, secure the loyalty of a certain market, and then push products to that market. If you are Jim Bakker (back and bigger than ever) or Glenn Beck, it’s buckets of food or packets of “survival seeds” so you can survive the End Times. If you’re some girl on Fox News, you want some subtly suggestive picture of yourself on the cover; what you are actually writing about is beyond the point. If you are Bill O’Reilly, you’re pushing a particular fantasy about “greatness” to aging white men who know the country’s best years are behind it. If you are Mark Levin, you’re offering Talmudic and convoluted knowledge about the Constitution, with Levin acting as a kind of rabbi bestowing ancient secrets on the uneducated goyim.
The point is to secure ownership of The Microphone to guarantee access to that market. The business model only works if the Narrative is predictable, the talking points are the same, and the supposed solutions are things people are used to. The recent report Erick Erickson, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck are being paid to attack Trump isn’t some amazing revelation. It’s just business as usual....""
- - Gregory Hood: RTWT


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 28, 2016 6:52 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Don't Fence Me Out, Bro

Secret Service Plans to Raise White House Fence by 5 Feet

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Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down. I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself.
-- Frost

Here endeth the lesson.

I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences
And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 28, 2016 6:50 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Trumpening Becomes The Reckoning

Make no mistake. It's not revenge they're after.....

And now, the word according to Milo:

"Dear #NeverTrump: It's Time To Get Behind Daddy - "So, #NeverTrump haters and losers — it’s time we had a little talk.

Now, I know Trump and the alt-right hurt your feelings by relentlessly undermining the anointed heir to the Royal House of Bush, as well as that flamboyant, permanently dehydrated ADHD junkie from Florida, but it’s time to let bygones be bygones. So, by all means spend a few days in a safe space blowing bubbles and eating oatmeal raisin cookies like your feminist compatriots to recover, but after that it’ll be time to face reality: Trump is going to be your party’s nominee. It’s not so bad, honestly. If you get behind Trump fast enough, your betrayed base might forget comments like “we decide the nominee, not the voters.”

"Those weren’t just any old voters you were alienating, by the way. They include the next generation of conservative firebrands, who are currently gravitating to Trump, the alt-right, and me. Unlike most right-wing writers, my biggest demographic is 18-34 year olds. Your supporters will be dead or retired in ten years. Ours won’t. It’s pretty simple, really. Either you want your party and movement to die, or you don’t."
"The GOP establishment are keen on flooding the country with cheap workers. Backing Trump just means your party will be flooded with cheap voters — you don’t have to bribe them this time; Trump will make them come for free! And they aren’t even Mexican gang members — just disgruntled blue-collar Democrats and independents. You own the beltway, and you’ll always own the beltway. So why not come together with the unwashed masses, behind Trump? Don’t forget, you need the base to keep funding your lavish lifestyles. Look, the Inner Party of Oceania in 1984, which you’ve modeled yourself on so well, was adept at the idea of doublethink. It’s perfectly acceptable to both hate Trump and tell the proles to vote for him. Stop letting the hate cloud your vision and act in your own best interest, like you normally do."
"Some of you are convinced that Trump will lose to Hillary, hence your support for the eminently electable Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)97% and charismatic people’s champion Jeb Bush. And it’s true that Hillary currently beats Trump in the polls. But Trump hasn’t even started exposing all the skeletons in her closet yet — assuming the FBI don’t get there first. Remember, this time last year, Jeb Bush was ahead in the polls. Look how that turned out! Oh, sorry, I shouldn’t have reminded you. Here, have a box of tissues."

Meanwhile, as Cruz throws his Hail Carly Pass well out of bounds, Kasich heads off into the Elephants' Burying Ground mumbling coulda-been-a-contender the Trump breaks out the dreaded teleprompter, and the heads of the Whole Thing ask themselves the burning question of the moment,


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 27, 2016 11:07 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems: Wooden Ships

I can see by your coat, my friend
You're from the other side
There's just one thing I got to know
Can you tell me please, who won the war ?
....

Go, take your sister then, by the hand
Lead her away from this foreign land
Far away, where we might laugh again
We are leaving, you don't need us

And it's a fair wind blowin' warm
Out of the south over my shoulder
Guess I'll set a course and go


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 25, 2016 11:20 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Limits of "Control:" 12 Points by William Burroughs

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"There is simply no room left for 'freedom from the tyranny of government' since city dwellers depend on it for food, power, water, transportation, protection, and welfare. Your right to live where you want, with companions of your choosing, under laws to which you agree, died in the eighteenth century with Captain Mission. Only a miracle or a disaster could restore it." -- William S. Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night (1981)

I
There is a growing interest in new techniques of mind-control. It has been suggested that Sirhan Sirhan was the subject of post-hypnotic suggestion, as he sat shaking violently on the steam table in the kitch of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles while the as-yet unidentified woman held him and whispered in his ear. It has been alleged that behavior-modification techniques are used on troublesome prisoners and inmates, often without their consent. Dr. Delgado, who once stopped a charging bull by remote control of electrodes in the bull's brain, left the U.S. to pursue his studies on human subjects in Spain. Brainwashing, psychotropic drugs, lobotomy and other, more subtle forms of psychosurgery; the technocratic control apparatus of the United States has at its fingertips new techniques which if fully exploited could make Orwell's 1984 seem like a benevolent utopia.

II
But words are still the principal instruments of control. Suggestions are words. Persuasions are words. Orders are words. No control machine so far devised can operate without words, and any control machine which attempts to do so relying entirely on external force or entirely on physical control of the mind will soon encounter the limits of control.

III
A basic impasse of all control machines is this: Control needs time in which to exercise control. Because control also needs opposition or acquiescence; otherwise, it ceases to be control. I control a hypnotized subject (at least partially); I control a slave, a dog, a worker; but if I establish complete control somehow, as by implanting electrodes in the brain, then my subject is little more than a tape recorder, a camera, a robot. You don't control a tape recorder - you use it. Consider the distinction, and the impasse implicit here. All control systems try to make control as tight as possible, but at the same time, if they succeeded completely there would be nothing left to control. Suppose for example a control system installed electrodes in the brains of all prospective workers at birth. Control is now complete. Even the thought of rebellion is neurologically impossible. No police force is necessary. No psychological control is necessary, other than pressing buttons to achieve certain activations and operations.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 24, 2016 10:07 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
6 Minutes of Adam Carolla on Donald Trump's Popularity: "We Were Tired of Guys Who Looked Like Chicks Pretending to Play Instruments."

"Over the last eight years in this country.... we've been seeing all this trumped up insanity.... All the stuff, a lot of it racial...; And basically heterosexual white males who have to go to work all day say, 'Hey, you know, fuck this.' All the earners are tired of apologizing and they don't like where this thing's going.... The people who go to work, that pay the taxes... they've had enough."

{HT: -- Five Feet of Fury}


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 23, 2016 10:36 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Some Guy with One Song People of a Certain Age Vaguely Remember Dies and the Popped Out Pop Culture Loses It's Little Mind

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"The Bullshit is strong with this one."

As Sippican notes in Sippican Cottage: The Genuine Article, "I prefer my lugubrious fuzz-wah guitar playing to be accompanied by good singing, thanks."

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 22, 2016 1:16 PM |  Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Trump as Public Servant: The Early Years

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How could Trump possibly believe he can fix government?

The developer Donald Trump (right) poses with New York City’s Park Commissioner Henry Stern holding a pair of ice skates that are intended for use at the Wollman Skating Rink Central Park in New York, August 7, 1986. Trump offered to rebuild the long-closed rink at no profit to himself after the city’s renovation effort went through five years of delays and more than double the original cost estimate. The rink reopened on November 13, 1986. 30 Years Ago: A Look Back at 1986 - The Atlantic


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 21, 2016 6:39 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Atom Bomb: One World or None | The Nation August 18, 1945

"Hey kids, let's give control of nuclear weapons to the United Nations!" This was one week after Hiroshima/Nagasaki in 1945.

Atom Bomb: One World or None | The Nation August 18, 1945

At the very minimum, the United Nations must be made trustee of the atomic bomb. Otherwise the idea of collective agreements to keep the peace may as well be abandoned.

But this minimum is far too small to provide any serious measure of safety. For the San Francisco charter is itself a collective agreement based on power. As Edward R. Murrow said the other day, the big nations have "created an organization and made laws from which they are exempt." In other words, there is no rule of law to which all nations are equally subject. The authority of the United Nations rests in the coalition of great powers which form its core. How much value can such an organization now have even if the control of the atomic bomb should be vested in it? It cannot dominate the world, for a single nation, small or large, possessed of the facilities to make the new explosive, would have as much power to threaten peace and terrorize other nations as did one or all of the Big Three–or Four–or Five. And any one of the large nations, ruled by a new Hitler, could reduce the world to slavery–or to dust. In the space of a single day the World Security Organization grew from childhood to senility. Now it must be replaced.

If we are to survive our new powers we must understand their full meaning. We shall have to move fast, both internationally and within each country. No longer can we afford a world organized to prevent aggression only if all of the great powers wish it to be prevented. No longer can we afford a social system which would permit private business, in the name of freedom, to control a source of energy capable of creating comfort and security for all the world’s people. This seems self-evident, and so it is. But it calls for changes so sweeping that only an immense effort of will and imagination can bring them about. A new conference of the nations must be assembled to set up a World Government, to which every state must surrender an important part of its sovereignty. In this World Government must be vested the final control over atomic energy. And within each nation the people must establish public ownership and social development of the revolutionary force war has thrust into their hands. This program will sound drastic only to people who have not yet grasped the meaning of the new discovery. It is not drastic. We face a choice between one world or none.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 20, 2016 12:45 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Ship of State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the thing is under the boat.


[Republished from November 2011]

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 19, 2016 11:17 PM |  Comments (26)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Irrational Hatred of Donald Trump #NeverTrump

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Question: “From our observations, Ted Cruz is receiving significant support from the Objectivist online community.

Some say they support him because, while flawed, he's still the most principled pro-freedom candidate available. Others explicitly support him only because he's not Donald Trump. This is coming from a community that has historically identified religion as the gravest threat to the culture, to the point that key Objectivist intellectuals endorsed voting Democrat in 2004 and 2008. Yet now that the Republicans have a viable non-religious candidate, Trump has morphed into the new gravest threat to America.”
“The mental gymnastics we've seen to justify this position have been truly astounding and suggest some visceral emotion is driving the anti-Trump/pro-Cruz response. As long-time Objectivists ourselves, it's disturbing to us to see this coming from a community with a professed commitment to reason. What do you think is the root of this response to Trump, and what does it mean for the hope of turning the culture toward true commitment to reason?”

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 19, 2016 11:12 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
States of the Union: A Small Core Sample of America

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The Ferris Wheel, lit in long stripes of searing red and blue and green neon like some whirling sketch of an earth-bound star, pirouettes into the night sky above the slate waters of the Pacific at the end of the Santa Monica pier. Below it, the old seafood restaurant now serves Mexican food where gang-bangers herd their Saturday night dates around the bar, and the loud murmur of Angelino-accented Spanish rises above the waves that lap the pilings driven deep through the slow Pacific swell and into the sands below.

In a dark hollow somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, the first winds of winter hiss around an old dance hall where hundreds of white people and one black man stomp the boards in a contra dance. Dressed as vampires, wolf men, fairies, cowboys, and a host of other laughing fantasies, the dancers welcome the day of the dead to fiddles, guitars, pianos and drums as the caller makes the long lines of whirling people into stars and boxes, and a new girl is spun into your arms, flirting and bobbing, with every change in the ancient pattern of the dance, only to roll away with a half-sashay.

Outside the lights from the hall catch the flying drifts of gold and red leaves the wind is tearing from the trees, pushing them across the stars, and rolling them up in long drifts of crisp shadows against the wheels of Willys jeeps, old bangers, and brand new SUVs of every make and model. After the dance, Waffle Houses along Route 26 will fill up with costumed, exhausted dancers, their endorphins convincing them that, for this night at least, they are probably immortal.

The long wave laved beaches of the Isle of Palms outside of Charleston reinforce the new rule that no poor -- or even middle class -- people are now allowed to live by the ocean in America. The lots on which the endlessly elaborate houses that look out on the sea stand now cost between three and four million dollars each. If you bought one and immediately burned down the four to six bedroom three-story house, the cost of the lot would still be three to four million dollars. The house is, in essence, free.

Offshore, even on a dank day with large winds pushing in from the Atlantic, the bright scoops of kite surfers soar and pull their riders up off the crest of the waves high into air before gliding down to slide on the surface of the long breaking waves, and into the sands where the plastic pails of the nation's fortunate children are abandoned just above the reach of the waters.

In the Detroit airport, visitors to the United States stand in line to check into the country via a networked series of touch-screen computers. Above them, those too weak, too obese, or too lazy to walk a block or so can ride the glossy red new monorail from gate to gate, or rather from food court to food court.

Las Vegas, "What? Can't hear you!," Las Vegas is still not finished. After all, it still has a vast waste of desert all around it in which to ooze, even if it is bumping up against the Red Rock on one side. Road rubble and fenced off tracks of hard pack frame the Eiffel and other towers of pure fantasy blotching the night with a collection of illuminated signs that form their own Louvre of lighting.

Inside the outside-of-time casinos, the lights and the beeping clang of the slots still form their own eternal sound tracks as the glamorous and the ugly, the meth-skinny and the morbidly obese all take their turns on the wheel of misfortune. The only sound missing in the Hard Rock Casino these days is the clatter of coins dropping from the slots. Instead, there's the faint staccato as the machine prints your ticket when you "cash out." The barely clad money girl is only too happy to turn your winnings into money and see you on your way with the now standard secular blessing of the United States, "Have a nice day," at the stroke of midnight.

The Strip is like New York's Fifth Avenue at Christmas. There are so many people shuffling between fantasies that you can't walk down the wide sidewalks without getting stuck behind pedlock and fleets of electric Rascals moving those who have been far too long at the $5.00 Buffet. A nice new touch is that, should you require one, you can rent your Rascal at the airport, and all the big buffets have portable defibrillators.

After the casual and lightly populated Carolinas where everyone is slow and polite and easy, there are far too many people happening in the Happy World of Las Vegas. So you rent a car that rides like taking your sofa out for a drive and comes complete with 300 radio stations, and move out to where there will be, surely, not very many people at all, ever: Death Valley.

In the midst of an arid nothing on which 95 North is drawn like some temporary hash-mark on the land, your own personal communicator beeps. It's a friend calling from somewhere far away over the mountains and the vast land sea of the plains. He's driving at high speeds through savannahs. You're driving at high speeds over the desert where not even Joshua Trees make the effort to live. His voice is as crisp as if he was sitting beside you on this mobile sofa: "Death Valley? I went there once. It isn't really there. Not as a destination. It's not a place, it's a region. Gas up and keep going once you get there. You want to see nobody, that's the place to be."

Hours later I swoop down the long descending road to the spot on the map that is the lowest part of the country. Hundreds of feet below the level of the sea, which was once here, and, in time, will be again. At the cross roads at Furnace Creek, cars are being blocked by a Highway Patrol SUV and over the road come hundreds of people on horseback out of the desert to mill around in the parking lot by Furnace Creek Inn. After this mob of cowboys and cowgirls clears the road I drive on about a half a mile to where several thousand people have set out lawn chairs, umbrellas, and coolers by the side of the road waiting, it turns out, for the parade.

It's 49ers weekend in Death Valley and the RV culture has shown up in their multitudes. Across the road and on up the slope of the rise, thousands of RVs bake in the sun as their occupants – mostly all older and "retired but not tired" make for the parade and the barbeque and the beer. In the main it looks a lot like the streets of the Las Vegas strip, but without the neon and Elton John. In the store at Stovepipe Wells, the hottest place in America, I get my choice of popsicles and Dove Bars and at least twenty different kinds of beer, all, of course, ice-cold. This is, after all, America and nothing, but nothing, is going to roil our very Happy World.

Until further notice.

A clear, calm dawn in Bishop, California at the top of the vast Owens valley. The Sierras rise to the West with Mt. Whitney white at the top beyond the brindle hills. There's gold and rose in the meadows and trees here just as there were in the trees around the barn dance in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Yesterday, at a fishing retreat at around 10,000 feet in the bright sun small snowflakes blew into my face for a minute or so, spun down from the mountains high above as fly fishermen cast off into impossibly clear and bone-biting cold streams. It's been a long autumn and now winter is falling down from the mountains towards this town.

Later today, I'll drive south through the Mojave and into the wedged and irritated environs of Los Angeles. I'll probably take a room somewhere near the beach in Santa Monica. Tonight I'll go for another ride on the star-lit Ferris Wheel on the Santa Monica Pier. I once lived, briefly, above the Merry-Go-Round at the end of that pier and made moonlight love on the damp sand beneath the boardwalk. But that was in another time and in another world with a girl whose name has faded into the smoke of the world.

Ferris Wheels and Merry-Go-Rounds. Lots of circles in life. It clears the mind to ride our metaphors in the real world from time to time. It lets us see where we stand and where we've been and where we might be going. Even if it is only to "arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

For some weeks now, and mostly without meaning to, I've been taking a core sample of the United States. Over the decades I've done this from time to time. The first time was a college trip in the early Sixties when some friends and I went 9,000 miles in 9 days in a Volkswagen. The last time before this was when I fled New York and went west with marriage on my mind. This time was less intentioned and worked out better. This time there wasn't a plan or a destination, only a route that emerged as I went.

It's a commonplace to say that the states of our nation are now so diverse that we are a deeply divided country. I've come to see that that old saw is a dull old saw, useful for pundits and prognosticators, but much more false than true. It's the view that arises when people are pent up in the cities far too long, and fall far too much in love with their own voice and views; their own set and setting; their own media-mirrored visage.

What all our media mouthpieces assert is happening in America, is happening -- it turns out -- almost completely within in their sealed and secular Happy World. It is not what's happening in the core of our states where the whirr and the buzz and the blather of the coasts come through only faintly, like screams heard through walls and quickly fading.

Out here, there's a different drum sounded and different dances danced. And, if you could, as I did yesterday, look out over the Owens valley and coast down into the small town of Bishop and watch the men come out at dusk to furl the American flags that line the sidewalks by the hundreds, you'd know, beyond a shred of a doubt, that the states of our union are still strong, and will survive, no matter what happens in the Happy World of our coastal cities, our capitols of culture and corruption, into which, in the course of the decades, everything cheap and corrupt and loose has rolled and congealed.

What happens in those cities may matter in the news of the day, but out here it is the news of the decade that matters. Here is where what we were and are and will become is finally and irrevocably decided. Everyone who thinks they know what the country is and where it is going needs to take some time out every so often and take their own personal core sample. This, for now, was mine.

[First published 2006-11-12]


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 16, 2016 1:39 AM |  Comments (21)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Kids Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I, of course, am a churl.

Hence my only thought on hearing this statement was

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

Not sure? Let's review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 13, 2016 5:35 PM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: The Journey of 230,000 Miles Starts With the First Step Up

The view from Apollo 11's Saturn V Launch Camera E-8 on July 16, 1969 9:32 AM. Next stop, the Moon.

This clip is raw from Camera E-8 on the launch umbilical tower/mobile launch program of Apollo 11, July 16, 1969. This is an HD transfer from the 16mm original. Even more excellent footage is available on our DVDs at our website at http://www.spacecraftfilms.com The camera is running at 500 fps, making the total clip of over 8 minutes represent just 30 seconds of actual time.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 12, 2016 8:13 PM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
World War Trump: The Truth About The Colorado Delegate Controversy | Donald Trump vs. Ted Cruz

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 12, 2016 1:02 PM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Burning Issue: "Goodbye GOP. I Will Not Be Forced to Vote for Somebody I Don't Want. You're Toast. To Hell With the Republican Party"

Proving once again my ancient adage:

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

"Dangerous to pass through."The daily drift towards political suicide on the part of the "professional" Republicans is really quite remarkable. It's amazing to watch the loss-loving leaders and media pump-puffers of "The Grand Old Party" bleed themselves to death in the grip their self-willed mass dementia. If they had vented all their raging #NeverTrump froth at Obama he would have needed a sputum snorkel years ago. But to take on that target they would have needed something akin to real political courage. There are no Profiles in Courage to be written about the last ten years of Republican "leadership." Instead the best that could be written would be something along the lines of Profiles in "Gee-Whiz We Just Don't [Have the Senate Have the Votes Have the Votes to Pass the Measure] Have the Votes to Override the Veto.

It's as if the Republican establishment all value their rice bowls, no matter how small, or their "influence," no matter how insignificant, over their voters. It's as if the Republican Walking Dead, in some strange and perverted zombie fornication festival, have all decided to eat their own brains. Watching the gobbling at this vile buffet it would seem the current Party Line comes down to:"We love our internal democratic primary process more than anything else, except when our internal democratic primary process keeps electing someone we don't like, in which case we'll just flush that old and in the way democratic primary process and invent some new way of counting the votes our way, or, in the case of Colorado, the non-votes." Short form; "It's 'The Grand OUR Party' and don't you forget it, plantation slave." This after decades of "We're the party of free Americans and not the plantation slaves of the Democrat party. Besides, all our darkies are white and all the Democrat darkies are gay."

The rationalization for this goes something along the lines of:"Well, the real nomination process is a complicated and subtle process. Most people voting in our primaries just aren't focussed enough to understand how our "voting" process really works. But hey, that's our private real "democracy." Now shut up and let us get on with nominating who we really want. Which at this point is anyone except Trump. Even Cruz. But then again maybe not Cruz. Not really. We'll tell you later who to vote for."

And did we tell you the name of the game, boy? We call it Riding the Gravy Train. -- Pink Floyd

These insightful "sooper-genius" Republican "leaders" seem to have forgotten that the mass of ordinary Republicans, like all ordinary Americans, have a much more basic understanding of democracy, i.e. "One person. One vote." Out beyond the beltway everyday people don't do "deep thoughts" on the political process. Their brains are not beltway bulimic. They don't have time to do it and they don't care to do it. They decide who they like and the vote for that person. It's what they learn in their first American civics class and it sticks. To them democracy is really JUST. THAT. SIMPLE. When the "leadership" starts to play with this simple, easy to understand, concept.... that's when the things that set fire to other things start to appear.

For all their blathering about Realpolitik these insightful "sooper-genius" Republican "leaders" and their apparatchiks seem to have forgotten that in real Realpolitik the simple mechanisms of "democracy" is how parties and states handle and control the one thing that can destroy parties and states: The Mob. (And I don't mean a gang of Italian extraction.)

In general, Realpolitik democracy gives The Mob, at the very least, the illusion that The Mob matters; that it has some control over the party and the state. The Mob values the illusion of self-government very highly. When you take that illusion away, The Mob will go to increasingly greater lengths to get that illusion back. The Mob loves the myth of democracy. It needs the myth of democracy. This is why the most totalitarian states usually have "Democratic" somewhere in their names. The myth mollifies The Mob. And The Mob is what a sane State most wants to mollify.

The Mob can cripple economies. The Mob can shatter nations made of united states. The Mob can turn and then command the allegiance of the Military. The Mob can turn or kill every member of the Pretorian Guard surrounding the Ruler. The Mob can put bullets into the skulls of every last member of the current ruling elite. (And their families too.) The Mob can burn The State to ashes. That individual people can be hurt and killed in the process does not matter to The Mob.

The Mob is a terrifying thing to have loose in a state. It can begin with the bitter burning of party registration papers, such as the gentleman above, and it can end in guns, tumbrils, the Terror, and the rise of a Caesar or a Napoleon. The State can overcome many enemies, but it cannot overcome The Mob.

The Mob is ancient reason why "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

The sort of silly-buggers being played by the Republicans (And also, to be sure, by the Democrats.) this year is not yet at anything like that level. But at the same time the nation and the world are in a very unbalanced, constantly agitated, and overheated state. Those of use who were born in the ashes of the last great global conflagration, and who have seen how history tends towards disaster, cannot be too sanguine over the choice by both parties to poke sticks into the cage of The Mob. It's almost as if, deep down, both parties share the same dementia and are determined to share the same fate. The difference will be that, if The Mob is set loose upon the nation, the Democrat leadership will just be shot, but the Republican leadership will be guillotined face up.

What's that? You think The Mob that prevails will be either Democrat or Republican? Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids. The Mob cannot be controlled that simply. Robespierre thought he could control The Mob. He was one of those The Mob guillotined face up.

Still it is quite strange to watch the Republican party and its hyperventilating promoters morph into a kind of Animal Farm agitprop in which "All Republicans are equal but some Republicans are more equal that others". One expects the Democrat apparatchiks to trot out this "Central Committee Knows Best" kind of pseudo-communist cant, but it is quite interesting to see that all it takes are some unforeseen victories by an outsider to cause the Republicans start purging themselves, first of conservatives, then of independents and then, at last, of Republicans like the gentleman burning his registrations.

Once upon a time, the Republican party had some nice ideals and was clearly the more American of the two parties. Now their best and brightest worst and dimmest are spending all their time, coast to coast, exposing themselves as a bunch of cheap, cheating, lying and power-crazed demagogues willing to roll out any rationalization, break any rule, and run any political scam in order to maintain their daily dwindling "power." Very much like... well... like Democrats, only not as clever about it.

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There won't be any trumpets blowing

come the judgment day

on the bloody morning after

One tin soldier rides away


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 11, 2016 1:04 AM |  Comments (30)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Oy vey ist mir! Ted Cruz's Excellent Adventure at the Bupkes Bakery

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Bupkes Bakery -- the Bagel Drive

The public has enjoyed Bupkes baked goods for generations — rye breads, rolls, bagels, strudel, rugelah, and particularly our special buttery hamentashen. Poppy seed, apricot, and prune. Baking is what the Bupkes family does. Even in the old country. In fact, Bupkes have been baking in Bialystok for as long as the town has kept records! According to legend, it was a Bupkes who suggested let’s skip the leavening just this once and get our tuchuses out of Egypt already. Bupkeses are not dawdlers!

Meanwhile, it would seem that in order to keep up the ancient American tradition of pandering for the Jewish vote once every four to eight years, Ted Cruz dropped by to help make the matzoh for Passover, 2016 (April 22 - April 30). And,oy, such a matzoh he made already!


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 8, 2016 8:48 AM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Bad Thoughts

braininjar.jpgYes, it is true. I have "bad" thoughts. Bad thoughts of all kinds and in all colors and at all levels. Bad thoughts that are, in their naked essence, very much like your "bad" thoughts.

Until recently, "bad" thoughts were fairly well understood among humans. You thought about things that were "bad," but you didn't voice them, and if you acted on them, trouble followed swiftly in one form or another. These "bad" thoughts were usually in the realms covered, quite nicely thank you, by the 10 Commandments. It was very seldom, down through the ages, that someone was evil enough, venal enough, and morally dead enough, to add to the categories of "bad thoughts." The nature and extent of "bad" thoughts was pretty much a Trouble Ticket marked "Closed" in the filing cabinet of God.

Alas, since God has been on his sabbatical studying how to make a better platypus, humans (as usual when He takes a break) have been back at their old game -- expanding the realms of "bad" thoughts. This is primarily done by digging up a "bad" thought that has been killed and buried, slapping a lot of rouge on the corpse, fluffing it up like a flat pillow, propping it up at your dinner table, and pinning a brand new name tag on it. It's not pretty, but a lot of us are making a good living at intellectual corpse fluffing these days.

If you should take a look across the mashed potatoes and remark that your uninvited "guest" resembles an extra out of Night of the Living Dead, the corpse fluffers will label you as "insensitive to the real issues of this rotting corpse." The favorite name tag slapped on these fluffed-up corpses these days is, "Ye Olde American Racism." This is the Mother of All New Bad Thoughts. And from this one reeking corpse at America's dinner table all others are cloned. You've had it to dinner before. It will be back.

But the fact that "Ye Olde American Racism" is actually a dead "bad" thought tarted up to look fresh and perky is not the "bad" thought I was having today when I took a break from being a sensitive and caring American prepared to feel any pain of any other no matter how much they hated me, or tried to kill me after picking my pocket. No, it was a very specific "bad" thought, and, like those who feel your pain, I am not going to be shy about sharing it with you.

My "bad" thought came about on Saturday when, with a friend, I took a walk down the streets of Seattle in what is called, with no sense of irony, "The University District."

There is, indeed, a University in the Seattle University District, even if big business is bugging out of there, and a lot of other areas in Seattle, as fast as they can. The University District is pretty much like all the other college and university districts in medium to large American cities today. It provides a living to a small faction of genuine scholars, as well as work space and research facilities and salaries to a host of useful scientists and necessary engineers. But more and more, the main function of our University Districts from coast to coast is to provide a safe-haven for the homeless, the useless, the addicted, the soul-dead, and the politically perverted of all stripes. In addition, the university at the center of these districts currently provides employment for, and benefits to, a host of latter-day hippy professors whose twisted politics, depraved morals and incessant dreams of the destruction of America would make them each persona non grata in most American communities outside of "university districts."

Saturday was an especially good day for seeing the University District as it really is. It was Street-Fair Saturday and, as I remarked to my friend after strolling a couple of blocks, the streets had been transformed into what can only be described as an open-air Moonbat Mall.

Here in the bright light of a perfect day causes of all sorts and flavors jousted for your attention with the scents of a dozen different countries' street food and offers to rub your skull with copper wires. They were still selling and buying tie-dyes that Jerry Garcia wouldn't be caught dead in. You could get sculptures made of polished bones, or you could get sharpened bones driven through your nose while you wait. Parents abused small children openly by paying insane clowns to paint what could be flowers on the faces of the kids. At one point, three generations of goth womanhood walked down the street under parasols; daughter goth, mother goth, and an older woman in deep goth wearing a t-shirt that proclaimed her to be "Fairy Goth Mother." (I had a very brief "bad" thought on reading that, but stuffed it back in the Bad Thought Bag.)

The crowds swirled about us in all the flaky ancient types we've all come to know since, well, 1968. Nothing new about them and, even when confronted with someone with a spider web tattooed on his face, holes the size of silver dollars thought his ears, a couple of dozen piercing in his face and limbs, nothing particularly shocking. All rather common to tell you the truth; just blandly ordinary for the University District. I had a brief moment of shame when I realized that back in the 60s and 70s I had played a small role in inventing all these types, but it passed upon the purchase of a corn dog.

What didn't pass what the deep sense of ennui and inertia that comes over one when you are exposed, for the Nth time, to all the causes and manias that have festered without change in our University Districts for decades. The only real change is that where these causes once seemed to lean forward into the future, they now seem to sink steadily into the past. They're like a variation on the old joke about what you get when you play country music backwards; only in this case you don't get your job back, your wife back, and your dog back. The promise here in these cherished liberal/left/green causes is that if you just believe in them as you once believed in fairies you'll get your high taxes back, your September 10th vulnerability back, and your recumbent bicycle back.

Where do these insane yet indestructible ideas come from? How do they replicate themselves over and over, and still find new brains in which to gain traction like some Birdbrain-Flu virus that cannot be eradicated by either fact or experience? The answer is that they are kept alive and communicable in the Petri dishes of our universities and colleges, and implanted deeply in each new freshman class.

This is obvious to anyone who has been paying attention to the degeneration of the "liberal arts" in higher education into the "liberal hegemony" of higher education. But still, seeing the Moonbat Mall red in tooth and claw, I had to wonder why we allow this all to go on.

It was then I had my "bad" thought which, to make myself pure again, I must confess here to all the world. It is this:

"The reason we continue to maintain and fund our institutions of 'Higher Education' in America today is grounded in sensible and prudent American traditions of social control and economics.

"Having passed through and enacted all the liberal ideas of the last few decades when it came to handling the insane and unhinged among us, we have foolishly allowed a population of delusional schizophrenics to expand into our streets and cities and towns until we are up to our hips in Moonbats. Tragically, the Moonbat population among us is now so large that -- even if we wanted to -- it is no longer possible to build enough institutions to house them all. We simply can't afford that many new loony-bins.

"While this would be a crisis in a less innovative society, we have solved this problem in a very American way. We have decided to let the bizarre among us simply be institutionalized in place in the single network of American institutions capable of sustaining them, the University District. We have even employed the worst offenders and most deeply disturbed among them in the Universities themselves.

"Think about it. Would you like to have a Noam Chomsky or a Ward (How) Churchill showing up and wandering about in your neighborhood, hanging out with your children, lurking in back of the 7-11 with a Little Red Book, a case of Colt '45 Double Malt, and a bag of Slim-Jims? I think not.

"No. You live in a nice town and you value the rising equity in your home, as well your children's intellectual, not to say moral, safety. The very thought of a Chomsky or a Churchill scampering about the neighborhood clad only in ideological Speedos would cause any normal person's' teeth to burst into flame. Mine are feeling a bit sparkish just writing about it.

"No, it is better to have these sorts of people and their "support" groups safely sequestered in the University Districts of America. Think of these not as 'hallowed halls of ivy,' but as Red Light Districts for the Intellectually Pornographic. At the very least, the existence of the University District allows us to know where most of our Moonbats are, even at night. Especially at night.

"But the real upside of maintaining and sustaining the University Districts of America is, alas, the baddest part of my "bad" thought.

For if there ever comes a time when we will have to get our Moonbat population under tighter control, well, we will 'know where they live.' Indeed, it is my understanding that the administrations of all our Universities keep detailed records of names and addresses. And the NSA doesn't even have to ask."

I know that's "bad," but it's just a thought.



2006-05-23


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 7, 2016 9:53 PM |  Comments (44)  | QuickLink: Permalink
A Kinder, Gentler Time

Submitted for your approval or at least your analysis: this video from a 1971 nothingburger of what was then known as an "underground film." It opens in a garbage pit somewhere in the early 1970s scumbucket known as "the Lower East Side." The main "action" Takes place on what seems to be "The Avenue of the Americans" [Known by real New Yorkers as "6th Avenue."] It's an episode, albeit a psychotic one, called "Kill for Peace" taken from Wilhelm Reich, The Mysteries of the Organism.

At the time the whack job known as Wilhelm Reich was thought to be a big deal by the more demented intellectuals of the academic/beat/hippie fringe. Don't ask why because nobody cares to remember, but it had something to do with getting laid often and with great screaming intensity.

The "star" of this demented scene was one Tuli Kupferberg, hack beat poet, and founder of a demented group called "The Fugs." Now mercifully forgotten, The Fugs grabbed their 15 minutes with such non-charting songs as "Slum Goddess from the Lower East Side," "Coca-Cola Douche," and "Nothing," of which nothing need be said.

The interest here is not in the film itself but in the vision of a drooling idiot in a helmet, rags, and a "not-so-obviously-toy rifle" chimping about the streets of Manhattan with nobody seeming to give the slightest damn.

Could the same scene be replayed today with such studied non-reaction by the New Yorkers standing around watching this idiot chanting "Kill for Peace?" Somehow I think he'd be taking on about a pound and a half of high-velocity lead in 9mm increments in the first 30 seconds.

But I could be wrong.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 7, 2016 6:29 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
West Exit

Every day it does not rain, and many days when it does, this man walks three miles to the Pike Street public market in Seattle to play long alien notes on his Chinese instrument.

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You walk by him on your way to the Athenian Cafe in the market. He's got a couple of bucks and change in his begging cup so you toss in a couple more. When you come out of the restaurant an hour or so later, he's got what he had, what you gave him, and a couple of quarters more. Almost everyone is ignoring him. He plays on.

Seattle is a second-level city mostly famous in popular culture for a second-rate rock band who did not so much invent "grunge" as simply show up on stage playing and wearing it. The band and its lead singer have been in different stages of dead for decades now, but their style lives on in Seattle like the galvanic twitches in the corpse of a frog long after it has been pithed. Seattle's left with a zombie pop culture whose only hope for survival is feeding on the brains of the bovine young. That's thin gruel for a zombie, but Seattle's "cultural scene" is eking out an undead living with inspirational shows such as this:
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Lest you misunderstand, the names on the portable outhouse door are band names. If you attend this venue of "cutting-edgy" and oh-so-transgressive "creativity" you can hear hymns to little monsters, excrement, liquid excrement, maimed animals, and vague apocalyptic rumors. If you are fortunate your ears will not bleed as part of the "fun." Make no mistake about it, the names of the bands will be the best thing about them. In fact, the poster itself tells you so in no uncertain terms.

I don't think the old Chinese musician in the market will get into this club, unless it is to make five bucks for scraping the roaches, rubbers, and lost drugs works off the floor, and to mop out the toilets. It's pretty much how "youth culture" rolls in this second-level city.

Postmortem effects. The twitching of the pithed.

But of course that's just "pop" culture and it's pretty much drained of the new, the beautiful and the true everywhere. There's always "haute" culture to turn to, isn't there?

Let us go then, you and I.... to the acclaimed and recently redone Seattle Museum of Art. It's just a couple of blocks from the old Chinese musician in the market. It's recently undergone one of its relentless expansions under the watchful gaze of Bill Gates mom. The entrance is vaulting. Vaulting enough to have room for an extremely awful sculpture of five or six bad cars hanging from the ceiling with sticks of lights spurting from them in a vague pattern. What does it all mean? Well, in the words of R. Crumb's Mr. Natural, "It don't mean shit."

But wait, surely with the Gates family doing the heavy fund-raising lifting, this cathedral to high art in the 21st century is light years beyond the grunge and excrement of the pop culture music scene? It just has to be, doesn't it.

Of course not. Here's what you see enshrined in the dead center of the main exhibit floor of the Seattle Art Museum:

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Yes, that's a museum quality ceramic toilet by one of my old art teachers, the late Robert Arneson. I studied under him for a couple of terms at the University, and he was an amazing man, and not a bad sculptor, but still second-level when confined to his era. He'll be virtually unknown in another 50 years and this particular piece will be part of the reason. Even though it gets pride of place in the Seattle Art Museum, it is -- to say the least -- one of the worst Arneson's around and he has many. Still, a third rate collection in a second level city has to take what it can get.

On the wall to the right is, as it happens, another third rate work by another of my instructors, the painter William Wiley. Wiley can be an interesting and amusing, if obtuse, painter, but the one seen here gives you no more close-up than it does as a smudge in this photograph. It fits right to the collection of SAM though. It's a museum where many artists are represented but none well. The museum seems to buy the names but not the quality. Deep down, it's shallow.

The single area in which the museum excels is the one area, of course, that is given short schrift; the totem poles, lodge carvings, masks, and ceremonial costumes of the Native American tribes of the Northwest Coast of North America. The collection, so I am told, is vast and world-class. Hence SAM hides most of it away so that more toilets of clay can be exhibited.

It's to be expected since in culture high and low these days, we are it seems a country half in love with easeful death and half in love with excrement.

Long ago, the natives of Seattle wore clothes like this:

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Today, the descendants of those same tribes wear clothes like this:

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Just the gear for a great night out at The Funhouse listening to "Shit Gets Smashed" and "The Hershey Squirts."

When I went back to the market to catch the bus I passed by the Chinese musician again. He'd made another couple of bucks from putting the music of a thousand years ago into the streets of the second level city of Seattle. When the bus finally came, I was encouraged to see that there was even more haute culture coming our way:

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First Published: 2009-05-04


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 2, 2016 1:41 AM |  Comments (41)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Doctor StrangeTrump or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Don

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Narrator: For more than a year, ominous rumors had been privately circulating among high-level Republican Cucksuckers that their ridiculously named Chairman Reince Priebus had been at work on what was darkly hinted to be the ultimate weapon: a fixed and bogus convention in which millions of Republican voters were to be mercilessly gang-raped -- while still allowing the staff of the National Review to keep Cucksucking on their gilded kneepads for the next ten decades, or until Rich Lowry's penis exceeded two inches, which ever came first. Intelligence sources traced the origin of the top secret Cuckservative rat copulating project to the perpetually fog-shrouded skull of Joe Biden in Foggy Bottom. Why these Cucksuckers were preparing to destroy their own party, and why those plans should originate in such a dumbass democrap no one could say.

Still, being such pansyasses as the "leadership" was, did they have the resolve to go ahead with their plan while knowing that, if they did, some disgruntled voter or voters would spend a long, long time looking to put a .338 Lapua Magnum round into their pointy little heads at 1,000 meters?



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Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 1, 2016 10:25 PM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Bungee Dating in New York City

abungee.jpgNo, not "blind dating" where the danger is in the dated one, but "bungee dating" where the danger lurks in the date itself. "Bungee dating" because one finds oneself jumping into a situation that is 100 feet deep with a bungee cord that extends to 101 feet.

Thus it was with this sorry pilgrim, this old and true friend, who called my West Coast retreat from New York this morning, tattered and battered from his bungee date of the previous evening, telling his tale of testosterone-powered urban woe.

He will be distressed that I have related it here, but it is for the greater good I do so. Men, take heed. Ladies are advised to avert their delicate eyes.

* * *

So I'm having this telephone relationship with her, see? You know, the kind of relationship where you're doing this long dance to the tune of "Getting to Know You," and its going pretty well.

I mean, I like it the way it is. We don't see each other a lot because of jobs, errands, New York yadda-yadda, and all that sort of thing. But also its neat, unusual, to spend hours on the telephone just sort of chatting away.

I *never* talk on the phone this long with anyone, but she's clever with questions and sort of keeps me blathering away. I don't feel weird about it until after when I notice that she's winkled all this information about me out of me, but I still don't know a lot about her.

She's a reporter type. I keep feeling I'm getting my notes taken, you know. But still I like it. I mean, hey, it's all about me so who wouldn't?

Still, we are really not having enough face time. She's getting all these weird ideas about me -- which just aren't true. Or maybe they are and I don't like being in such total disclosure with a telephone relationship.

Anyway, she's been under a lot of stress -- job, sick loved ones, hangovers, insecurity, the whole mini-catastrophe. She's sounding fried on the phone and I'm getting the 'let me help you' impulse big time. So when she mentions how uptight her body is, I say, utterly innocently, "I know just how you feel. We need a spa night with major shiatsu massages. That'll tune us up."

The next thing that should have gone through my mind was a dum-dum bullet wrapped in raw bacon, but sadly that did not happen.

Instead she picks up on it. Starts to go through the Yellow Pages seeing what's available on a Friday night in New York City in the way of massages.

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 30, 2016 4:31 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Florida: The Fool's Golden State

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The beauty parlor is filled with sailors.
The circus is in town.

-- Bob Dylan | Desolation Row


The frozen rain that would not stop drove me out of Seattle a few weeks ago. I took shelter at a friend's house deep in the Florida Keys. No rain. No chill. Turquoise waters. Long bridges and longer sunsets. A half an hour north from Key West. Fish sandwiches, large flocks of snowy egrets, Tiki bars specializing in Rumrunners with a dark rum float. Hammocks and sunshine. Powerboats and new yachts and boat drinks and running up on plane past Little Palm Island and out into the Gulf Stream with twin Cats putting out a perfect wake.

In a word, "Paradise." Right?

Yes. If you don't track in for the close-up.

Because, as much as the boosters of Florida want you to believe it, Florida is no longer "ready for its close-up." Florida is still pretty from the air and also in the middle-distance. But a close up examination of Florida, in the Keys or elsewhere, is like a close-up of a once beautiful woman that time is beginning to dissolve into age lines, lank hair, and too many calories in too many visible places.

Like that fabled great beauty, Florida is going to great lengths to keep anybody from noticing. The brochures have increasing amounts of make-up slathered on in the form of retouching. The flab is being trussed up in Spandex or draped with new clothes cleverly cut for the "ample." Most of all, the fact that large sections of the Keys and the Florida coastline are really quite dead is being hushed up at every opportunity, and new shades of rouge are being applied to the corpse to keep the money rolling in.

But close up, the truth is still visible. Very, very visible. Even in the soft and lambent hues of yet another Tequila sunrise it can't be hidden. In the words of one man gazing across the bar to the person walking in from the beach, "No way I can drink her to a 10. Can't even get to 3."

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 30, 2016 2:42 AM |  Comments (37)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Okay, Break's Over. Everyone Back on Their Feet!

I got a little mix tape here I'd like to play you.....

"We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
Cause your friends don't dance
And if they don't dance
Well they're no friends of mine".....


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 26, 2016 9:51 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"It Was Twenty[One] Years Ago Today...." A Report from the Stone Age of the Internet: THE TWILIGHT ZONE OF THE ID, 1995

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[From my back pages: TWILIGHT ZONE OF THE ID Published @ TIME MAGAZINE Wednesday, Mar. 01, 1995 By Gerard Van Der Leun Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.]

The joint is called #hottub (pronounced "pound hot tub''), and it's open almost all the time. I've been soaking in it for two hours with "Bubbles,'' "Hard Charger'' and "Lush Lady.'' Charger and Lady are, shall we say, flirting heavily, while Bubbles is trying to get my attention. But s/he's a notorious transvestite, so I'm keeping my distance. People float in and out of this hot tub, which is open to all comers, but no one ever gets wet -- just a little damp sometimes. If you fancy someone, and he or she fancies you, it is possible to go private and exchange sexual fantasies until you're too exhausted, or bored, to continue.

This steamy place doesn't exist in the physical world. It is a "channel'' on Internet Relay Chat (called IRC among netheads). IRC consists of a series of real-time discussions on the Internet. Think of it as CB radio that you type instead of speak. Any number can play. And lots do.

A maze of steamy places that don't exist makes up the warp and the woof of sex on the Net today. The fact that virtual sex happens on the Net upsets a lot of people. Unfortunately, sex on the Net turns on a lot of people too. I know. I've been covering sex on the networks for nearly 10 years. Strictly as a professional, of course. I've seen things that would make William Burroughs blush and send Catharine MacKinnon into cardiac arrest. I've had a chance to order whips and chains by the gross, drop in on group sex and download more explicit pictures than are displayed in a decade's worth of Hustler. In one day, I've read more intimate confessions than are found in a year's worth of Penthouse letters. All this as an objective journalist, mind you. I report on cybersex, but I don't give it my essence.

Today online sex is as wild and far-ranging as the human imagination -- a real Twilight Zone of the Id, which causes one to reflect on whether or not the human race is indeed an evolutionary cul-de-sac, until you remember that cybersex has been going on since humans received the gift of imagination. Cybersex is, at bottom, simply old sexual fantasies in a new electronic bottle. As with all other new mediums, online draws its energy from the same two timeless topics: radical politics and sexual fantasy. They are the first uses made of any new means of communication when it becomes popular, widespread and affordable, and they recede as the medium matures. The printing press has a long history of revolutionary tracts, such as Tom Paine's The Rights of Man and Jefferson's Declaration of Independence -- along with what are now erotic classics, such as the Marquis de Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom.

In the 19th century, photography gave us historic images -- pictures of Abraham Lincoln -- and naughty photographs, sold under the counter. You can be sure that the first obscene telephone call was placed not long after the Bell Telephone Co. connected the first network. As for the first phone sex? That was probably the first obscene phone call in which the recipient didn't hang up. When The Birth of a Nation was released in 1915, the erotic film A Free Ride was circulating through the men's smoker circuit. The explosion of VCRs coincided with the release of videotaped versions of such porno classics as Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door. Sales of video cameras didn't explode just because people wanted to tape their holiday celebrations and stupid pet tricks. As Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly recently reaffirmed, lots of videotape is recorded in bedrooms.

Now computer networks are the hot new medium, and, like all those launched before, they rely on radical politics and sex as primal energy sources. In cyberspace there is an ever-expanding menu of places to visit and sexual material from which to choose. Some people roam the networks collecting massive amounts of what, in its more sophisticated versions, is termed erotica. Most of it, frankly, is smut.

There are endless text files describing sex with strangers and strange sex. There are photos and films and sounds (Girl in Cage, Women in Wet Clothes) to download that are usually found behind the curtain in the back of mom-and-pop video stores. There are personal ads of the ilk published in the back of swingers' magazines: WANTED TOPLESS MAID CLEVELAND AREA. One can order sex toys of the inflatable and battery-driven varieties, available via 800 numbers and direct mail. There are costumes (men's black leather harness with silver studs) and condoms, leather and rubber goods, the full catalog of kink -- if, of course, you are a consenting adult with some room left on your credit card. The price of ordering the John Wayne Bobbitt video, Uncut: $49.95. Many people like to have this electronic sex in real time and become fixated on "chat'' -- a kind of phone sex pecked onto a keyboard. Chat on the major online systems has been a dependable cash cow for nearly a decade, and, at rates from $2 to $12 an hour, it is easy to understand why.

Others use the medium as a pickup bar and a place to set up real assignations in the no-tell motels of America. The real cybersex conquistadores employ the networks to seduce distant lovers and keep a kind of score of their "hits.'' Not everyone who does this is male, by the way. Indeed, recently on America Online, a woman with the handle "Stolen Kisses'' became the object of many others' fancy after she wrote an article in Penthouse magazine titled "Confessions of a Cyberslut.'' While it was once the case that women willing to engage in erotic give-and-take on the networks were in short supply, they are becoming much more prevalent as the medium expands.

Yes, it's also true that lots of people fall in love over the Net, meet, get married, have children and go on to live decent lives as upstanding members of their community. But most who venture into the explicitly sexual arenas of cyberspace do so for the freedom it affords them. One of the benefits of cybersex is that you get both to meet and to be new people every day. If you learn how to use the anonymous-posting programs that are proliferating, you don't even have to reveal your real name or location. You can be utterly untraceable. Another benefit is that since no one can see you, you certainly don't have to look your best. Yet another plus is that you can, to a certain degree, experience and understand life-styles that you would never dream of trying in real life. And, of course, the safety of virtual sex is unparalleled. The only viruses that can be transmitted in cyberspace are computer viruses. While annoying, they tend to let the users live.

The downside is that, especially on the Internet and the adult bulletin- board systems, many people are going to see, hear and read things that are intensely pornographic. Some are not going to like it. Just knowing that this is going on will drive lots of people, including ambitious public officials, to "do something'' about it. Another problem with cybersex is that it can be addictive and chew up large amounts of money. And it tends to leave a lot of things lying around in your computer that you surely wouldn't leave out on the coffee table. I mean, face it, how many people brag about the collection of X-rated videos in the back of their bedroom closets? There is no life- style, life-form or item of furniture in cyberspace that does not become -- sooner or later -- part of some cybernaut's sexual fantasy. Some of the most popular alt.sex groups carried on the Internet provide lascivious text, images and sounds for the wired world, all day every day. Three of these such groups are alt.personals.spanking.punishment, alt.sex.fetish.fashion and alt.sex.strip-clubs.

Is this kind of thing good or bad? That's an argument that's probably been going on since the first crude painting of a naked person was drawn on the wall of a cave. Does cybersex conform to community standards? The idea of community standards starts to evaporate when the "community,'' like the Internet itself, is global. The large commercial online "communities'' like CompuServe and America Online expressly forbid the posting of any explicit sexual material. Since, by popular demand, they are providing increased access to the Internet, however, they do allow you (after many disclaimers) to add the alt.sex groups to your personal inventory of Usenet newsgroups. Besides, the "private'' chat rooms on both these services are notorious cyber-fleshpots. In fact, the most unnerving encounter I've ever had took place in the CompuServe adult-chat area. I won't go into it in these pages, and I shudder to think about it. To this day, I'm not even sure about the genders or species of the people involved. I dimly remember the names "Michael,'' "Lisa,'' "Pee Wee,'' "Jo Jo,'' "the Bong'' and "Elvis,'' but after that, everything is a blur.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 24, 2016 9:33 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
When I Lived in Brooklyn Heights This Was My Favorite Bookstore

In the beginning it was one of those wonderful bookstores; a jumbled cornucopia of the mind and spirit ruled by the goddess Serendipity.

On the weekend days when Court street was fine for strolling to the butcher and the baker, you could wander by and glance at the "Buck a Book Bin," or dive deeper into the shop itself and browse the long afternoon away. I once found a catalogue to a long forgotten show of paintings by John Denver in that buck book bin and bought it. I sold it later on Ebay for over $900 in the wake of Denver's death to a fan with more money than restraint. I still cook from the elegantly produced Classic Home Cooking by the brilliant and wonderfully named Mary Berry. At least a hundred other volumes in my library came from the labyrinthine aisles and niches of this endlessly quirky store.

But as the years went by, the mania that catches many old booksellers set its talons deep into the the owner. He began to buy books at a greater rate than he could sell them. It became an uncontrollable compulsion until the shop contained towering cliffs of odd volumes threatening to collapse at any second and bury you in a mound of remainders and the rat-nested remains of remainders. It went from being an inviting jumble to a horrorshow of hoarding. You might spy, somewhere in the stacks around you, a volume that called out to you. Taking it from that stack was like playing a game of giant Jenga. You never knew if removing the volume was going to bring the whole thing down on your head; as from time to time happened to the hapless customer.

In due course the shop went from diamonds and rust to cobwebs and dust. The owner drifted in that direction as well. I often thought he had no home but just lay down in the aisles at night after closing and then got up in the morning to open the store and have himself hosed off up along Warren Street.

And now, like so many other bookstores run by bibliophiles, it has folded in on itself, and will be gone in May.

All things must pass....

This is its bookmark.

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 24, 2016 2:28 AM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
I don’t support any candidate for President of the United States because THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NO LONGER EXISTS.

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Wherein I Comment On "Electoral Politics" - - It's Professional Wrestling Without the Wrestling | Ann Barnhardt

"The United States WAS a Constitutional Republic.  This monstrosity is in no way, shape or form a Republic, under the Constitution.  It is a straight-up oligarchy.  The country I was born in NO LONGER EXISTS.  And since I am a person who ACTUALLY BELIEVES WHAT SHE BELIEVES, when you ask me, "Who do you support for President?", in order to be INTELLECTUALLY CONSISTENT, I can only respond with another question:

"PRESIDENT OF WHAT???

"Further, as I have been screeching for going on eight years now, all of this political stuff, especially presidential politics, is totally, totally fake.  It is Kabuki Theater.  It is scripted theater designed to "entertain" and mollify the class of people whose IQs are 15-20 higher than the people watching Ballroom Dancing with Honey BooBoo or whatever the hell is on TeeVee these days. And to make enormous amounts of money for the oligarch players and their toadies.

"It occurred to me a couple of days ago what it all is.  It's EXACTLY the same business model as Professional Wrestling.  EXACTLY.

"It was all scripted. It was pure entertainment for children and low-IQ adults. In the adult category there were the adults who were smart enough to know it was fake, but enjoyed the spectacle and the soap-operaesque storylines. Then there were the adults who were so stupid that they truly believed it was real. And there were a BUNCH of those. I remember one of the Wrestlemanias filled the Pontiac Superdome. And I remember the reportage on how much money the then-nascent Pay-Per-View paradigm would rake in for the WWF as people would pay fifty bucks to watch Wrestlemania live on Pay-Per-View. It was a massively lucrative business model.

"So here’s a YouTube of a WWF wresting show from the 80s. I was struck by the similarity of the “news desk” set that Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon sit behind, with their fake, scripted antagonism and bickering (they were actually extremely close friends offstage). And then there are the segments where the Candidate, er, excuse me, Wrestler delivers a monologue, and then there are the debates, er, excuse me, I mean MATCHES, which are, again, 100% scripted and choreographed. I look at this and I think, “My gosh, they have templated all of this political entertainment off of the Pro Wresting model.”

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 22, 2016 11:41 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
When Life Gets You Down Just Remember The Bob Lamonta Story


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 22, 2016 10:51 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Trump is A Flashlight

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Trump is Hitler.
Trump is a demagogue.
Trump is a racist.
Trump is a liberal.
Trump is a KKK sympathizer.
Trump is Charlemagne.

Trump is none of those things. Trump is a flashlight. Trump shines a light on forgotten truths. Trump also reveals the disgusting frauds within our punditocracy and political elite. He does not wash away the sins or clean up the garbage, but he shows you that it exists. He ends up revealing the truth behind people’s motivations, directly or indirectly. Sometimes he does not even have to do anything, and the other side just gives up the charade and reveals their true form or beliefs. MORE HERE @ RADIX


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 21, 2016 7:22 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
What can men do against such reckless hate?

Théoden: "So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?"
[The Uruk-hai keep trying to break the door.]
Aragorn: "Ride out with me."
[Théoden turns to face Aragorn.]
Aragorn: "Ride out and meet them."
Théoden: "For death and glory?"
Aragorn: "For Rohan. For your people."
Gimli: "The sun is rising."
[Aragorn looks up to the window as the sun rises.]
Gandalf (voiceover): "Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East."
Théoden: "Yes. Yes! The horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the deep, one last time."
Gimli: "Yes!"
[Gimli climbs up to blow the horn.]
Théoden: "Let this be the hour when we draw swords together."
Théoden: "Fell deeds awake. Now for wrath. Now for ruin. And the red dawn!"


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 21, 2016 2:05 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Dilbert Creator Scott Adams on Donald Trump's "Linguistic Kill Shots"

Donald Trump has a way with words—and with people.

Yet despite his popularity, he has been a mystery to the media, which have mostly derided his campaign as consisting of nothing more than random insults and ignorant bluster.

Scott Adams, prolific author, blogger, and creator of the massively popular comic strip Dilbert, has a different theory. He tells Reason TV's Zach Weissmueller that the media are being trolled by a skilled manipulator, or in Adams's parlance, a Master Wizard. So exquisite does Adams believe Trump's skills to be that he predicts The Donald will go on to win the presidency.

"What I [see] in Trump," says Adams, is "someone who was highly trained. A lot of the things that the media were reporting as sort of random insults and bluster and just Trump being Trump, looked to me like a lot of deep technique that I recognized from the fields of hypnosis and persuasion."

One such technique is what Adams describes as a "linguistic kill shot," in which Trump uses an engineered set of words that changes or ends an argument decisively. According to Adams, when Trump describes Jeb Bush as low energy, Carly Fiorina as robotic, or Ben Carson as nice, he's imprinting a label you already feel about these people. They're not random insults, but linguistic kill shots that you can never get out of your mind.

Similarly, where the media see random insults, Adams sees Trump creating a significant polling gap between those who attack him and those who compliment him, resulting in chilled aggression from his opponents. Trump, says Adams, uses "anchors," which are big, visual thoughts that drown out any other argument. Think, for example, of the billionaire's florid descriptions of a Mexican border wall.

Adams also describes Trump's use of "linguistic Judo," vagueness, and a carefully developed persona to defend himself against attack and promote the image he desires. "You see apple pie and flags and eagles coming out of his ass when he talks," says Adams.

About 8 minutes.

Scott Adams' Blog is Here.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 19, 2016 5:22 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Annals of The Marching Morons: Who is the nation's capitol capital named after?

If, after watching this, you just want to go out and inject a half a quart of Seconal directly into your brain through your pupils I quite understand the impulse. Remember that all you see being interviewed here graduated, at least, from high school. The moron at 1:26 is especially illuminating.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 17, 2016 6:39 PM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
On the Return of History

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

-- Carl Sandburg: The People Yes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


First published March 2006


Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 16, 2016 9:10 PM |  Comments (50)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Kute Korner Krack Dealers: They're Baaaaaaack!

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

[]Yes, it's that time..... again!]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Samoas."

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Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 15, 2016 4:10 AM |  Comments (83)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Clear History

lincolnheader.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As humans, we prefer that our "things" define us. It is always easier to explain ourselves through things than to explain ourselves outright. If mistakes are made, well, "Things didn't work out."

Of course, during these intellectually eviscerated times we can look back on the clockwork universe of the Enlightenment as a time when giants walked Europe's Cathedrals of Thought; Newton, Descartes, Voltaire, Montaigne, Kant, Hume, Jefferson.... the list is, as you know, still dominant though it be mainly male, all dead and very white. They all rose up in the age of clocks but they, in a real and metaphorical sense, wound the clocks. They "had" time and they would never "Clear History."

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 14, 2016 10:04 PM |  Comments (27)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Let’s Say Nice Things About Detroit Again

aadetroitartmusue.jpg

DEWEY FROM DETROIT sez: "I guess since Detroit now boasts three 7-Elevens and one Whole Foods (on the far northern border of the city, with armed security) we could declare victory and leave. Except there’s the matter of the area’s 10.4% unemployment rate, the highest property taxes in the nation, the utterly failed school system and the continuing demise of Michigan’s manufacturing base which has decimated the middle class.

"The natives (micro-aggression alert) are finally figuring out who is to blame for this 50 year debacle. Sadly, the committedly ignorant tried to fix it yesterday by voting for the socialist instead of the designated hitter, Hllary. Because you know, nothing fixes rot like equalizing incomes.
"Butt it seems that once again the Blue Dog Democrats found their voice; they chose the Republican ballot in Tuesday’s open primary and voted for Trump." - - Michelle Obama's Mirror:


Bill Whittle's latest video on the shame of Detroit.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 10, 2016 10:15 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
So. You Think You Can Punctuate? The 19th Century in One (Very Long) Sentence)

cushingbiggshassell2.jpg
Cushing Biggs Hassell who says, in passing, among many other things:

"... of the young members who, having no spiritual life, cannot partake of spiritual food, and for the raising of money for pretended religious purposes—such as strawberry and ice-cream festivals, oyster suppers, concerts, burlesque hymns, comic songs, amateur theatricals, Sunday School excursions, and picnics, and banners, and emblems, Christmas trees, Easter cards, charity balls, and " church fairs" (with their rafflings or gamblings), rightly termed " abysses of horrors," mingling* sham trade with sham charity, obtaining money under false pretenses, teaching the selfish and thoughtless patrons how to be " benevolent without benevolence, charitable without charity, devout without devotion, how to give without giving and to be paid for ' doing good'..."

Got it? Now try the whole sentence on for size: Running On from Futility Closet

Cushing Biggs Hassell’s thousand-page History of the Church of God (1886) is notable for a single sentence — this one, on page 580, beginning “The nineteenth is the century …” It’s six pages long, with 3,153 words, 360 commas, 86 semicolons, and six footnotes. Many regard it as the longest legitimate sentence ever written in a book.

Weak minds would just give you the link to History of the church of God @ Google Books. But we are not that forgiving. We're giving you the whole enchilada. Take a deep, a very deep, breath.

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 7, 2016 9:11 AM |  Comments (31)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Night Fishing In San Francisco

StreetsOfSanFrancisco_title.jpg

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.

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 4, 2016 5:25 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Citizen Trump on Citizen Kane

In the same way that history doesn't repeat but rhymes, so Citizen Kane rhymes with Citizen Trump; the former now myth and the latter now becoming mythic as we can see.

And Citizen Trump knows it. In fact he made a video about Citizen Kane. Some time ago as you will see.

Prescient? Perhaps. But we shall see.


Bonus featurette: The Bizarre, Low-Budget, Last-Minute and Utterly Off the Cuff Original Trailer to Citizen Kane as shown in theaters as one of the Coming Attractions if you choose to....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 2, 2016 10:06 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Bigger Tents: On Rebranding "CONSERVATIVE" and "REPUBLICAN" with "AMERICAN"

[On the eve of this year's Trumpian Super Tuesday it might be good to look back at my 2014 suggestion for rebranding....]

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

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

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

I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's dump both brands.

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

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I AM AN AMERICAN.

Always have been.

Always will be.

Nothing less.

Couldn't be anything more.

To call me a Conservative is to miss the point.

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

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

Came from the hills and mountains, 

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

And some too wild to tame.

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

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

Americans.

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

Let's rebrand ourselves from this point forward:

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

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

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

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

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

a_anamerican.jpg

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

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass [1855]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 29, 2016 11:38 PM |  Comments (22)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Wanted: A Man of Four Qualities

aa_washington_crossing_the_delaware_by_emanuel_leutze_mma-nyc_1851.jpg

Richard Fernandez in Through a Cloud is looking for specific talents in the next President: The point is that the problem of "who will make a good president in 1990" is not quite the same as "who will make a good president in 2017." For the sake of discussion, let me suggest that only four things matter in selecting a man to face a challenge whose present dimensions cannot be predicted. For purposes of debate, let these four qualities in descending order of importance be:

1. An ability to face the facts, however unpleasant they may be. The most important quality of the next president should be a lack of self-deception and a willingness to see things as they truly are, even if he or his ideology wish them to be otherwise. This is so important that it trumps the next item.

2. An unswerving patriotism. This is not the same as a sincere feeling of love or empathy for America, though that is good. In this context it means the willingness to share the fate of the principals of which he is an agent. It means no personal survival apart from the survival of the nation; no personal greatness except as it reflects the greatness of the principal. It means there can be no separate peace; no side payoff from the crisis he is to face. Perhaps the lines which best capture this patriotism comes from a movie script depicting a commanding officers commitment to his men before a battle. "I can't promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God, that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off, and I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me, God."

3. Nerve. This is the quality of grace under pressure who no one, unless he has the misfortune to be tested, can be sure he possesses. To a certain extent heroes are born and not made, a phenomenon sometimes called the "Ace Factor. There is no known test which can detect its presence a priori; you just have to wait for the day. A Yale psychologist once used the example of "Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of the aeroplane that was successfully landed on the Hudson River" to illustrate the problem. One can fly an airliner thousands of hours without ever finding out what you will do if your engines flame out 3,000 feet over New York with only six minutes left to live. Of which of the candidates can we say: well he can face that live or die moment?

4. Intelligence. This is important, because it determines basic competence. But it surprisingly the least important attribute in this list. Intelligence, though rare, is not nearly as hard to find as the 3 characteristics above. You can find staffers who can give you intelligent advice. You cannot find staff to give you a character that you do not possess.

RTWT @ Richard Fernandez in Through a Cloud


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 19, 2016 9:12 AM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
10 Years Ago @ American Digest: The Man Who Carried the Dark Lantern

adarklantern.jpg

The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead. -- Proverbs 21:16

WATCHING AN ANCIENT DEMON RETURN to take control of someone you love, and begin to kill them slowly with euphoria is a hard witness to bear alone. Watchng someone you love return to the addiction they left a decade before with all its insane compulsions and obsessions and destructiveness is confusing and disorienting. They'll all tell you you have no power to stop it, but that cannot be true.

Surely somewhere in the mountainous library of studies written about the Demon there's a magic spell, an incantation, a potion, a pill, a recipe for rescue. You find yourself, as you always have, turning to books where, most certainly you've told yourself, all answers lie. But this particular library is, you will find when you go there, vast, unmapped and illuminated in the manner of Milton's Hell,
     A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
     As one great furnace, flamed; yet from those flames
     No light, but rather darkness visible
,
and the card catalogue has long since been ripped from the drawers and scattered madly about the floor by others seeking the same secret. Still, I stumbled about blind in this dark place which held no braille, nor could I have read it if it had.

Like untold millions of others before me, I became disoriented deep in the towering labyrinth of stacks obsessively organized in perfect manic randomness. At some point I reached out and plucked a book at random from this chaos, but since I held no light it could not be read, and I probably would not have understood its language could I have seen the text.

Useless, I dropped it as so many others before me had dropped their randomly grabbed books. It didn't matter, in the end, how many books were dropped or thrown onto the heaps, there were always more being written and tossed in from all sides. Each, in the dark, as useless as the centuries of books that had come before.

In a short time, I became utterly lost. Then I could neither find what I had gone into the library for, nor could I find my way out. In my frantic quest to save what could not be saved, I had gone deep into the far corridors far beyond any faint glimmer and lost the way back.

I felt the fear that cavers feel when, in a tight space far below the surface, their helmet lights fade and die and the weight of absolute darkness presses hard all around their bodies. What I needed then was not The Book with The Secret -- somewhere in those endless shelves it may well exist -- but a guide to get me out. And for a reason I do not yet comprehend, but hope to, a guide was sent.

He was one of the rough, hard working men of America and he held a dark lantern -- an ancient device in which the light within is either concealed or revealed by means of a sliding panel. He did not know me at all, but he did know himself as he walked out of the night in a small town up by the Canadian border. He didn't know my story but he did know his story and that, at rock bottom, it was not that different at all from mine.

His dark lantern didn't light up the place where I was lost in some shattering burst of illumination, but instead -- by sliding the panel back and directing what little light he held towards the exit, we were in time to find ourselves outside the black library and sitting in that most common of American spaces, a small town coffee shop where I could, at last, see what he looked like.

The waitresses all knew him. It seems he's been guiding people out of the dark for some time in this town, and the ladies understand what he's doing when he shows up with yet another shattered pilgrim like myself. They put us in a booth at the back, refilled our mugs for free, then went away and let us talk far past closing time.

He was a carpenter by training and by trade. About my age but without any of the soft edges that I've either always had or more recently acquired. His hands were scarred and had the flattened nails and tips the fingers get from too many encounters with boards, hammers and the other daily hazards of the job.

You could see that his face, when angry, would have been sharp, vulpine and cold, but he no longer had any anger in him. That had been burned out long ago or stored in a vault over which he kept a careful, constant guard.

His hair and mustache had faded into almost complete gray and his skin and body had the look that decades of working outside in all weathers gives you. He was a man's man and a good man. But, as he was about to tell me, that had not always been so.

First he sat and listened long to my sad little pathetic story as he had I'm sure listened to hundreds of others. I won't bother with the details of that story now, but save it for a time when it no longer seems so ordinary and boring to me as, at the end of this week of telling it over and over, it does now.

Instead, from the hours of talk that followed, I'll try to give you a sense of his story and the path that led him to the small town coffee shop deep into that April night. Listening to him tell it was like watching him work his dark lantern. A panel would slide aside and the light would come out for a bit and then it would slide slightly back dimming the details. I only heard it once and I didn't get it all. As a writer I should have made notes, but I wasn't a writer in that night, just someone grateful to have been guided out of a labyrinth. What I remember now is...

He'd always had a hardscrabble existence from a childhood that, if it wasn't in the logging town we were in, was in some other place where logging was scattered all around and the railroad trains never stopped moving over the rails in the center of town. His family all had the Demon inside them because that was, in the end, what they had if they didn't have God. Sometimes they had the Demon right alongside God in the primeval co-existence that's furnished the human soul since the beginning. They lost no time in making sure, by hook or by crook, that he got his own personal Demon as a present from his town and his family along about the time he entered puberty.

Because everyone around him had and liked their Demon, there was no reason for him not to like it. Indeed, his Demon, it seemed at the time, was a lot of fun and the fun just got better as he got older.

True, he saw other members of his family and his friends in the small town go down under the Demon. Their lives went to the standard stops on the road -- fist fights, knife fights, job loss, crime, rehab, jail, prison or, at any time and age you might care to imagine, death by natural or unnatural causes. Lots of friends and family members went down over the years, but he was, he told me, always a bit tougher, smarter, cagier, sharper, quicker, more charming, and more ruthless. He was "the special personal exception" and he rode the Demon. It was never going to be the other way around. Until, of course, it was.

It rode him long before he knew it. It always does. By the time he knew that it had reversed roles and taken the saddle, he'd become used to being ridden and so he galloped on ever deeper into the darkness.

By that time it had been 20 years of life with the Demon and all its assorted friends. One Demon is never, it seems, enough if others are around. When they were, it was no longer just the Demon and him, but a party in his body.

Other bodies came in and out of the party over the years. Some he used and some used him, but it was always a using. They used him for fights and for other things of even lower degree. He got so it was not a question of how low he would go, but if he could find a way to go lower.

He moved the slide aside on the dark lantern:

"I don't remember everything because I either can't or it was so horrible God has, with His grace, removed the memory from me. I do remember some things. I remember lying on a filthy bed somewhere in Mexico. I had a bottle of Cuervo empty on the table next to it and another one full and ready to go. I had my pistol on the floor. There were a lot of lines of coke still waiting to be snorted. There was an old whore working me on one side while my other arm cradled my infant daughter. I'd wedged a chair under the knob of the locked door so I wouldn't be interrupted. I hated interruptions."

He moved the slide back and closed the dark lantern.

He told me other things, the full catastrophe. About how he lost it all -- house, job, money, business, health, love, freedom. About how his family either left or took on a Demon or two from him. He told me about some jail time. He indicated but did not tell me about worse things.

He told me about the women he'd been with, about the Demons they carried and the dark places they'd been ridden. Down, always down, under the relentless riding and the unremitting tug of the heavy gravity that the deep realms of degredation always emit. He told me how he'd learned to spot the ones that wanted to be used the most, and that he'd take them up on it, and be sure to take them deeper than they thought they could go. The slide on the dark lantern moved often as he talked.

"It's easy to go to these dark places around here," he said. "When winter sets in there's nothing else to do. But I've also found it's just as easy to go there in Chicago, so what do I know?"

He was a strong man and his Demon used every bit of it until to pull others into Its thrall, until at last it used him up. As It often does, the Demon took him at the end of the ride down towards an ugly death, the kind that happens in clapped-out broken trailers, or cheap hotel rooms with a bare light bulb. Not exactly where he found himself, but close enough. At which point, he was -- for no good reason that he could ever think of -- saved and slowly returned to life.

"Some one backed the Demon off me when I'd proved to everyone and myself that what I really needed to do was die," he said. "I didn't know then Who'd done it and it didn't come quickly or easily and I turned back dozens of times. But one day, I guess when I prayed to God to just kill me, He didn't. Instead, He led me back.

"I'm not going to tell you how because I'm not here to sell you a Bible. I'm just going to tell you that He did and as close as I can figure it, the reason for His Grace is so that I can, in this town, every so often come and talk to a man like you that has the Demon, or has someone he loves that has the Demon.

"Sometimes it seems to help and sometimes it doesn't and sometimes I never know. What I do know is that while I'm far from free of It, when I come home from work sore and aching, I get in my hot tub with the Bible and some ice tea and I keep reading through it. It took me two years to get through the Old Testament and I'm glad and happy to be starting on the New. In between, I wait for the phone to ring and when it does, I go out and listen and talk to the person calling no matter how tired I am, no matter what time is it, no matter how long it takes."

He seemed then to close the slide on his dark lantern and set it aside.

"My life's still not really right. Not really right at all. Given what I've done it probably never will be right. The family is still fighting the Demon just like me. Trouble still comes when you expect it least.

"I'm still upside down with money. I was down so deep I'll probably check out before getting it straight. I go to meetings when I go and I take my church seriously. But I still don't know what purpose I have. So I just do this because it seems to be what is given me to do. I can't do much in the way of spiritual work like the preacher can. I'm just a carpenter. But I can do this."

We parted then and he walked out into the dark early morning. The waitress, who had waited long past closing, locked up with some relief. "I don't mind staying at all when he comes in," she said. "Sometimes people just have to talk to other people."

I went upstairs and slept for a few hours, waking at dawn and walked through the tiny small town three blocks to the Catholic Church where I'd learned there was a meeting, not for me but for those that had the Demon. He was there, looking tired but ready to go to work for the day. Others, rough men and women all, were there too bringing with them what they had to bring, taking away what they chose to take, and leaving, if they could, some of the Demon behind.

When it was over he said, "Come to breakfast with us."

And so it was I found myself riding along in a carpenter's pick-up over the sand and snow scoured roads of the town to a local hash joint of ancient vintage by the side of the road. By the time that was over, I'd managed to meet many more good people in this town in one morning than I've met in the two years in Laguna Beach where I know hardly a soul.

On the way back to my hotel, we stopped off at a job a young man was doing for him. Tearing down an old ramshackle garage to put up a new for an elderly couple who needed it done. As far as I could tell it was being done for free because it could be. He spent a few minutes talking to the kid and advising, but not telling him, how to do it.

Then we drove back to my hotel and shook hands and said goodbye. He turned left at the corner and was gone.

I went back to my hotel room to pack for the drive to the airport. My phone rang. It was the person I had come to see calling to ostensibly thank me for the dinner and the talk from the night before, but also to be sure I was indeed leaving and would not be appearing suddenly at a function that night. It wouldn't do for a part of their old life to suddenly appear in the middle of this "clean break," this "fresh start" at living with the new-old Demon. As we talked I began to understand that I would now always be speaking with two whenever I spoke to this person and would be required to remember that as hard as it might be.

In truth, it was clever to ask. I had thought of doing just that the night before. Checking out of one hotel and checking in to another just to spring up and see what else was being hidden, concealed and kept secret from me as it had been for such a long time. Instead I began to accept that whatever I could imagine was either true or was going to be. I was tired of the game even though I knew I was not done with it, and there was -- if I looked at it coldly -- really nothing left to keep me where I didn't want to go in the first place. So I just gave assurances that I had a long drive and had to be going. Things became warmer after that and we said goodbye. I drove out of town and, at last, towards my home.

I'm back home now and am, as is the sad state of our times, finding myself sitting in rooms filled with bromides, slogans, cliches, isms, and the other people broken by the people who let the Demon ride them. Just another one of the remaindered souls set out on the bargain shelves.

I'm already loathing my story and shocked and frightened by some stories I hear that are, so far, much worse than mine. I've never been a man who spoke the truth without first being asked, nor have I been one who could listen, but I'm trying to learn that when you don't listen the only interesting story in the room is yours. And you're sick of it first.

They say that all of life is a series of lessons that will be repeated until you learn them. At which point you will be given a new lesson. I don't think I asked for this particular lesson, but I'll take a shot at learning it since that's the lesson that has arrived.

I've talked to the man with the dark lantern on the phone a couple of times since the night he took me out of the black library. He's still wondering what his purpose can be and working on getting through the New Testament. I'm not a religious man and I'm no expert on the Bible, but I think I know an apostle when I meet one.

Me? I've no idea what I'm going to do and even less about what my purpose can possibly be. God knows I've chosen wrongly up until this point every time. So for now I'm just writing down what happens to me as clearly as I am given it. It's my way, I imagine, of learning how to make my own dark lantern.

First Published 2006-02-05


Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 18, 2016 1:59 AM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Typecasting and Other Ancient Marvels at Arion Press

Anthony Bourdain & The Balvenie head to San Francisco, California to meet with Andrew Hoyem, master typographer and printer of Arion Press.

" One of the last of its kind, Arion Press has only a handful of members on its staff, all fellow craftsmen dedicated to this age old process. Each works meticulously to create the books in multiple parts, from the typecasters, to the proofreaders, to the printers and the bookbinders. All of these hands build a work of art through a process that must be seen to be believed, and can only, truly, be described as magic."

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 8, 2016 10:42 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Ronald Reagan was not unappreciated at the end, far from it. But he was at the beginning.

Happy 105th Birthday, Mr. President.

President Ronald Reagan.jpg
"Whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears: to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way."

-- President Ronald Reagan, 1992

"I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith."

-- Timothy 2:4:7



"His story was classically, movingly rags-to-riches; he was a nobody who became a somebody in the American way, utterly on his own and with the help of millions.

"He was just under 10 when the Roaring Twenties began, 16 when Lindbergh flew the ocean; he remembered as a little boy giving a coin to a doughboy leaning out a window of a troop train going east to the ships that would take them to the Marne and the Argonne Forest.

"Ronald, nicknamed Dutch, read fiction. He liked stories of young men battling for the good and true. A story he wrote in college had a hero arriving home from the war and first thing calling his girl. Someone else answered. Who is calling? "Tell her it's the president," he said. He wrote that when he was 20 years old.

"Many years later, in middle age, he was visited by a dream in which he was looking for a house. He was taken to a mansion with white walls and high sparkling windows. It was majestic. "This is a house that is available at a price I can afford," he would think to himself. And then he'd come awake. From the day he entered the White House for the first time as president he never had the dream again...." Read the rest at Thanks from a Grateful Country - WSJ


Excerpt from Jacob Weisberg's new biography, RONALD REAGAN: The American Presidents Series: The 40th President, 1981-1989

Surrounded by a Wall of Light

MOST OF NEWSWEEK'S WASHINGTON BUREAU was on vacation in late July 1987. That meant an opportunity for the summer intern to cover the president on an out-of-town trip. I remember Tom DeFrank, the magazine’s longtime White House correspondent, giving me my brief. I’d have a turn at pool duty, which meant flying in the rear section of Air Force One and typing up a report for the larger share of the press, following in a second plane. The assignment was “body watch” coverage: I was being sent along, at considerable expense, on the unlikely chance of something bad happening. In the event of an assassination attempt or accident, Tom told me, I should ignore the urge to run for the phone, and instead stay close and record every detail.

The visit to Wisconsin was Reagan’s last trip before departing for his usual twenty-five-day vacation at Rancho del Cielo, his retreat near Santa Barbara. I remember bits of the day distinctly: the dawn arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, the preloading of the plane before the president got aboard, and the executive splendor of Air Force One. In the galley, there were pens and writing tablets and decks of playing cards emblazoned with the official seal of the president of the United States. In the bathroom were baskets of candy, toiletries, and packs of cigarettes, in presidential slipcovers, free for the taking. No one fastened a seat belt as the plane took off. The reporters got off the rear of the plane first, so we could watch Reagan wave as he came down the front stairs and greeted the local receiving committee, before we hustled into the motorcade and sped down closed highways to his speech.

His first stop was the floor of a factory in Hartford, Wisconsin, that manufactured hoods for kitchen ranges, where he addressed the workers. He made two more speeches after that, one at a Rotary Club luncheon and another at an outdoor rally in the pretty Lake Michigan town of Port Washington. All along the way, there were flags and banners and balloons and people cheering. Reagan made his case against the big spenders in Congress, who were fencing with him over the budget. At each stop, he promoted what he called an Economic Bill of Rights, which was a repackaging of his wish list: a balanced budget amendment, a line-item veto, and a supermajority requirement for tax increases. The more immediate political purpose of the trip was to establish that, amid the drama of the congressional Iran-Contra hearings and the embattled nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, he was still relevant.

A larger theme was Reagan’s renewal of his bond with the American people. These were the kinds of midwestern places he knew from his childhood. “I grew up in a town with people like you, just across the border in Illinois,” he reminded his audiences. He quoted Yogi Berra and Will Rogers and told one of the anti-Soviet jokes he collected. He said government spending was like the grass that grows in the cracks on the sidewalk, citing the example of a mass transit system so expensive that it would have been cheaper to buy every rider a new car every five years. (He didn’t say where that costly transit system was.) The day ended with a patriotic rally in the town square of Port Washington, which glowed in the afternoon light. “America is number one, and we’re going to stay that way!” the president declared. Thirty thousand people were chanting, “Reagan, Reagan, Reagan” and “USA, USA, USA.” (“It was a humbling feeling to be greeted with such warmth & affection,” Reagan wrote in his diary that evening.) From a corral on the tarmac, reporters shouted questions about Bork and Iran-Contra as the president ascended the stairs of Air Force One, turned, and waved, either choosing not to hear or, more likely, unable to hear above the engine noise. He was back home in time for supper.

I came back with souvenirs and stories. But spending a day around people who loved Ronald Reagan only deepened the difficulty of comprehending his popularity. Like a lot of those covering him, I pegged Reagan as a disengaged dullard with a simplistic view of the world and a superficial understanding of policy. A few months earlier, he had acknowledged bewilderment about his own role in the arms-for-hostages swap. For any of his predecessors, such an admission would have amounted to a confession of lying. Reagan’s present-but-absent quality made his confusion plausible, and a little pathetic. He was too vague for a villain, but surely an embarrassment.

Few of my friends in those days would have predicted that Reagan would be remembered as a good president, let alone a great one. Yet it was at that very moment that Reagan was making contributions to the end of the Cold War that would stand as his signal accomplishment. A month earlier he had spoken in Berlin and declared, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” His negotiations with the Soviet leader, which had broken down at Reykjavik the previous fall, would change the fundamental dynamics of the world I’d grown up in: the threat of nuclear annihilation, the Communist threat, and a domestic politics built around these threats.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 6, 2016 12:24 AM |  Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"My Dad:" State of the Art Contemporary Corporate Propaganda from Hershey

High marks to Hershey's for hitting all the obvious PC diversity buttons in this bit of soppy sentiment aimed straight at the Hallmark Card Heart of 2016 Progressive America. {Or-- as one of my more astute readers just said -- "Virtue Signaling Bukake."}

We open with the ambiguously gay/straight/bi dad working from a suspiciously motherless home with, in the background yearning for attention, is the ambiguously gendered "daughter" with pixie cut.

Add-ins en route;

+ the elderly disabled on her scooter,

+ the use of the bus/public transport,

+ street hockey played with boys and girls and featuring a boy with long curls,

+ random Asian neighbor peering out of window,

+ videoconference meeting with "presenting female executive" with, of course, one admiring white beta male bracketed between two black males -- lest anyone think white men are in charge of anything in this Alternate Universe America where everyone chants the U2 Hymn, "I believe in the Kingdom Come / Then all the colors will bleed into one"

And then, at the end, the soft sweet sell: Wrapping it all up with the ultimate AlternateAmerica snack, The 'Smore, where black, white, and brown all bleed into one fine tasty American treat. It might have been called "The Moonpie" but that's a bit Southern and hence a raaaaacist snack.

Hershey just wants you to know that this expensive chunk Hershey propslush is just its chocolate kiss to the world.

All in all a well-crafted bit of contemporary Government/Corporate propaganda.

Look for it to scroll past at the Super Bowl for several million bucks down the drain.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 5, 2016 10:39 AM |  Comments (15)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"I'd like to find your inner child and kick its little ass:" If Trump Wants a Campaign Song, This Would Be a Candidate

I turn on the tube and what do I see
A whole lotta people cryin' "Don't blame me"
They point their crooked little fingers ar everybody else
Spend all their time feelin' sorry for themselves
Victim of this, victim of that
Your momma's too thin; your daddy's too fat

Get over it
Get over it
All this whinin' and cryin' and pitchin' a fit
Get over it, get over it

You say you haven't been the same since you had your little crash
But you might feel better if I gave you some cash
The more I think about it, Old Billy was right
Let's kill all the lawyers, kill 'em tonight
You don't want to work, you want to live like a king
But the big, bad world doesn't owe you a thing

Get over it
Get over it
If you don't want to play, then you might as well split
Get over it, Get over it

It's like going to confession every time I hear you speak
You're makin' the most of your losin' streak
Some call it sick, but I call it weak

You drag it around like a ball and chain
You wallow in the guilt; you wallow in the pain
You wave it like a flag, you wear it like a crown
Got your mind in the gutter, bringin' everybody down
Complain about the present and blame it on the past
I'd like to find your inner child and kick its little ass

Get over it
Get over it
All this bitchin' and moanin' and pitchin' a fit
Get over it, get over it

Get over it
Get over it
It's gotta stop sometime, so why don't you quit
Get over it, get over it


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 25, 2016 11:12 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Snow? Whaaaaat?: Coming Right Up, The "Storm of the Century" As Usual


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 22, 2016 6:57 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Spare Change

achangewererich.JPG

They are found in trays on the dresser, jars in the kitchen, bowls in the bedroom. They are the small bits of cash detritus, the left over fractions of a dollar, that collect in our pockets and purses on a daily basis, and often consigned to the change cups of America.

Most people have one. I have one. Mine is a white ovenproof ramekin and it slowly fills with pennies, dimes, nickels, and -- mostly -- quarters. Indeed quarters are what most change is made of in these days of prices set to end in .99 at work with various state and local sales taxes of 3 to 9 percent.

Every day I dump whatever is loose in my pockets into the ramekin. In the beginning it's just a couple of quarters and a smear of pennies. Dimes and nickels are uncommon but not yet rare. In the fullness of time the ramekin fills up with an untold amount of money much like William Devane's safe.

When a small mound of change forms at the top of the ramekin I know it is time for one of my favorite shopping trips: “FREE GROCERIES!” And to do that I bag up all my coins and head off to my favorite “FREE MONEY MACHINE!,” the big green Coinstar to get some.

After all, change is just the drippings from money already spent; the sawdust from your logs of liquidity. Few would be willing to separate the coins and pack them into tubes as was the case in the Ancient of Days. Fewer still maintain their own change counting machines. It’s just not worth it since the dollar became the new quarter sometime between 2008 and now.

Coinstar is the answer. For a mere 10.9% of your money it will convert your change into a strip of paper which can be redeemed for groceries and real currency at the cash register. Coinstar is also a very entertaining store machine, one of the few that gives you back something for your effort. It’s a kind of reverse slot machine (with similar sound effects)in which you win every time, minus 10.9%. In addition it shows its work on the screen. You tilt up the slide and let the coins shuffle in to a satisfying series of clinks, clunks, and clacks, interrupted every so often with a clunk as the Coinstar spits out an item it cannot accept. In front of you the screen shows the actual ascending numbers of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half-dollars (rare), and silver dollars (hunted to extinction). Then you get your voucher and off you go to shop with.... “FREE MONEY!”

Because I am easily entertained I love those trips. Yesterday I noted that my love for Coinstar was due to be consummated once again. I noticed that ”Lo, my change cup runneth over,” and poured all my change into a Ziplock bag. It's heft felt like around two pounds. My change cup was, obsessive-compulsively and blissfully, empty again.

I set off for the town Safeway and poured my change into the coin slide on the Coinstar. It went through its satisfying series of clunks, clinks, clanks,clacks and counting and came up.... at the end of it all... with...

$24.00.

Yes, a round dollar amount completely at random. This is, for those like me who suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive disorders, equal to “the perfect pump.” (When, in filling the tank at the gas pump, you watch the rising total and snap-release the handle and get a round dollar amount. So satisfying!)

Armed with my free money voucher in the sum of ...

$24.00.

I began shopping. I picked up some milk, which I needed. I picked up some oranges, which I also needed. I passed on the cream-filled fresh-baked Bundt cake, which I really, really, really do NOT need. I picked up some meat on sale for 50% off even if I don’t really count 50% off $18.80 as a bargain. I picked up some of this and some of that and then went to the Express checkout to see how many public school educated citizens in front of me were unclear on the concept of “15 Items or Less.”

When.... at long, long last.... it was my turn I handed my Coinstar voucher to the cashier. She pulled my “15 Items or Less” across her scanner. The total?

$23.75.

To my right the change dispenser at the pay station spit out into its buff metal cup.... one single quarter. I picked it up, slipped it into my pocket, and took it home.

I tossed it into the white ramekin. It made a nice crisp clink as it hit the bottom of the empty change collector.

There it sits this morning, all alone with a small tuft of pocket lint, waiting for others in its mildly diverse family of money to join it.

And the great circle of life begins again.

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 20, 2016 9:56 AM |  Comments (21)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The State of the Union In One Image plus Essential Equipment If You Accidentally Listen to It

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Plus Obama's special guests
who will be introduced and lauded between rote applause from Congress:

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 12, 2016 10:54 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
On Assault Rifles -- A Guest post by B. Chandler

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As a preface I will note that I was in high school in 1996 when our laws came down, and at that time owned no guns for anyone to pry from my cold, dead hands.

The common conception of how an assault weapon ban will pan out in America usually follows the same inscrutable logic. The Feds will ban the weapons and the citizens will revolt. Truth, Justice and the American way will be restored. The end.

I would offer an alternative. It's less patriotic, there's no swelling crescendo of "from sea to shining sea", and there's no happy ending. Thus it's completely impossible. I offer it none-the-less.

After some run of the mill atrocity "that happens nowhere in the world but the USA" the Feds manage to pass a law banning "assault rifles". There is a generous buyback included, paid for by the federal money spigot. They know only a few guns will be handed in initially so it's more than affordable.

A thousand legal battles will be launched but they will take time to come to fruition and the government is not bound to wait until the result comes out in the wash.

Meanwhile there will be a groundswell of protest. People will march in the streets with their ARs and AKs. No matter. The buy-back amnesty runs for six months. Nobody is breaking the law. Meanwhile other more important factors are coming into play.

Immediately noticeable is the disappearance of online trading in the banned articles. The guns themselves. Magazines for said guns. Etc. Companies like Cheaper Than Dirt can be easily bankrupted by court orders to cease and desist trade. They will not martyr themselves. Gun ranges, also typically being business entities, will no sooner allow you to arrive with banned assault weapons than they would allow you to bring in a pound of cocaine. "Just give the courts some time work it out, Joe", they'll say. Some ranges will shrug off the rules. Nothing will come of it. Not until later.

Similarly, larger companies that manufacture such guns are now either forced to go back to building bolt action rifles or go to work for the government. Back room deals will be made. Nobody will be out so much as a dollar. "Just go along quietly. After all. If the American people want freedom then it doesn't fall to Remington to drag them to it kicking and screaming."

The months will tick by. The protests will start to dwindle in number and attendance. The amnesty is still in effect and many are starting to wonder how this thing is going to go down. After all. Nobody has started shooting so far, at least as far as the mainstream media is saying, and can you really trust those Alex jones types?

boxcuter.jpgJoe Average is starting to wonder if he really wants to bury several thousand dollars of guns. After all, they're fetching top dollar in private sales. Consequently many Joe Averages divest themselves of any skin they had in the game. In any case, they still have their deer rifle and their .45, and that's enough to fight tyranny, right?

The hour draws nigh. The amnesty is drawing to a close. Finally, federal tyranny will have to bare it's teeth and be put down like the monster it is. The protests fire back up. Cold, dead hands, etc etc!

The amnesty is extended for another three months. The cycle begins anew. By the second extension of the amnesty the assault rifle owners have become quite drawn and haggard. Nobody is kicking in their doors and they're getting tired of perpetually attending protests or talking tough on the internet. By the time the final extension peters out the protests are lackluster.

True enough, there are still a LOT of assault rifles in circulation. The majority of them in fact. Many have since been buried. Many sit by bedsides or other handy locations, awaiting the inevitable jack boot of tyranny to come stomping. Their owners grimly await a valiant death in defense of liberty.

They are left waiting.

Protests continue, albeit on a smaller scale. People photographed at such gatherings with illegal weapons start to lose their jobs or their contracts. "Can't be seen to associate with people flaunting the law, you understand." No crackdowns required.

Meanwhile trade in the guns and their parts is closed save for the black market. What breaks or wears down has to be replaced by hand or not at all. Internet forum moderators studiously ban all talk of such things. They can be shut down easily if they were seen to be aiding and abetting lawlessness. Videos on Youtube and other video hosting websites that contain footage of the weapons in anything other than a blatantly historical context are removed, "just to be on the safe side".

Only a few brave bloggers are left to post such content as they are able, and they will later be rounded up by their internet service providers as would be someone caught posting risque pictures of children. No top-down federal tyranny required. The SWAT teams continue playing cards to pass the time.

By this stage the various cases have wound their way through the Supreme Court. If the ban is overturned then a few words in the legislation will be tweaked and it will be passed again. The slowing of momentum would require sophisticated equipment to detect. In any case, no company is going to bet the farm on retooling to ramp up supply of guns that might be illegal in another six months.

As time ticks by we will see an all too familiar story recurring across the nation.

An anonymous call from a concerned neighbor will have the police knocking on Joe Average's door at 3 in the morning. "Domestic dispute", they'll say, "you have to let us in".

"I live alone", he might reply.

"We have to verify that", they will counter.

The rest is inevitable. Either Joe has hidden his gun(s) exceptionally well at short notice or he's going to find himself dead to rights. Maybe he's buried his guns in preparation for the day when he get's the memo from the ghost of Guy Fawkes instructing him to dig them up and RSVP for the revolution scheduled for Tuesday-week. Those guns thus buried will be fodder for future archaeologists.

Most likely, Joe will long have come to hate that gun. It will burn in his presence like the beating of Edgar Allen Poe's Tell-tale Heart. Chances are he'll toss it in the river or sell it to some shady character down at the bar, if not by his own determination then by the insistence of his wife.

"Anonymous tip leads to discovery of illegal weapon cache" will be the mainstream media cliche for a decade. The inference will be that the person in question is either a terrorist or a gang member. Their life will be turned upsidown. If they plead guilty then they get to go home and live out their lives as a convicted felon with a suspended sentence.

The few that try to fight the charges will end up in federal prison as an example to the rest. Their fate will be lamented by internet patriots for five minutes per occurrence, during which many will tout the fact that they'll never give up their deer rifles, such being the necessary tool to defeat Federal tyranny.

Others will shrug their shoulders.

"We may not like it, but it's the law...

We live in a democracy...

Yadda yadda yadda..."

By the 20 year mark a new generation will come of age wondering how it was ever possible for people to legally own such deadly and dangerous weapons.

The odd AR or AK will turn up in grand-dad's wardrobe after he shuffles off this mortal coil and the lawful ownership of such weapons in the USA will end not with a bang but with a whimper.

Nobody has a crystal ball but you can reliably bet that while you have clean(ish) water, electricity, beer and television that the second amendment will only be diluted further. Ask the typical infantry grunt back from Fallujah how much of his kit he'd be allowed to legally own off-base without special federal permission slips.



Postscript:
It was not my intention to impugn the gun owners of America as cowards or fools. My intention was only to give an example of how the fight you expect is not always the fight you get. If I were to add anything it would be this:
Americans, as with all people of formerly free Western democracies ought to prepare for the possibility that their back will never be put against the wall en masse. That there will be no great peril that makes brothers in arms of those who were formally mere neighbours and acquaintances. That no definable moment will tip the scales or "cross the line".

Edmund Burke said "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

Every militia, every army and every nation can trace its history back to a single point in time when two men looked each other in the eye and agreed not to fall "one by one". Then two became four, four became eight, and so forth.

Start associating. Because by the time you're waiting for them at your doorstep it's already too late.


[HT: Ol' Remus and the Woodpile Report. Republished by kind permission of the author.]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 5, 2016 12:11 AM |  Comments (21)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Sleepwalkers

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Their enemy told the Sleepwalkers, in escalating words and deeds across decades, that the endgame was to convert and kill them all. They heard these promises only as faint susurrations saying he simply wanted to be left alone with his "peaceful" god. He offered them death by fire and decapitation and they were lulled and responded with "What is wrong with peace, love and understanding?"

This bankrupt mantra or one of its infinite variations was repeated and repeated from multiple sources without and within the mass of the sleepwalkers until many actually began to believe its soothing promise and drift back into their trance of "if only..." and "What can we give them to make them leave us alone?" It was, after all, a drugged sleep.

Meanwhile, the enemy's preparations for the sacrifice of one of the Sleepwalkers' cities continued with only minimal disruption and delay. At home, a quisling leadership elected on "hope and change" did all it could to give the enemy hope that it could change the nation into a nation enslaved with shariah from coast to coast, and yet remained strangely invulnerable to patriots' efforts at replacement or blunt removal. Instead of watchmen alerted at home, all eyes were trained abroad, Europe or the middle-east, since few Sleepwalkers could muster the courage to look about them. All believed that the sacrifice would happen, but most could not bear to contemplate it even as a few traitors actively looked forward to it as final proof of the corruption of the nation that had nurtured in them the freedom to despise it.


The enemy's preparations for the sacrifice of one of the Sleepwalkers' cities continued with only minimal disruption and delay.


To aid in this they worked actively to dissolve whatever border security was left.

The instruments of war that would be used to kill the city were either already hidden on the Sleepwalkers' shores or stored within one of the surviving nations hostile to the Sleepwalkers' existence awaiting transhipment to the target.

The Sleepwalkers' enemies' programs to purchase or manufacture other weapons of mass destruction continued around the globe at an ever faster pace, hidden behind a screen of the usual international commissions and a bodyguard of fresh denials heaped on the mountain of yesterday's lies.

The Sleepwalkers' enemies' dispersed cells of suicidal agents continued to thrive within our cities, protected and sheltered by their relatives and fellow travelers that the Sleepwalkers had graciously assumed to be "moderate," even loyal. They moved among us, clad in their false histories, secure in the knowledge that our own institutionalized rules of decency decreed that having the appearance of a suspect group was the surest protection against being investigated as an enemy.

The Sleepwalkers' enemies' efforts to recruit those among them that hated them increased as his chief organizing tool, his "religion," was welcomed into the Sleepwalkers' prisons, and allowed to flourish by those assigned to administer the prisons as a means of keeping those prisons quiet. And it did, as any place which men undertake the serious study and planning of wholesale death becomes quiet.

Outside of those prisons the enemies recruitment and organizational centers were draped in the vestments of "places of worship" and allowed to thrive. Many were even funded by the Sleepwalkers' own government. In all it was a nightmare in which many rolled in the long, long night before the light of an incinerated city with all the men and women and children had been converted to human torches and crisp statues of ash dissolving to dust in a dawn rain. The Sleepwalkers did not know the name of the nightmare's city but they would learn it in that dawn.

All these things they knew. All these things they saw. They did not awaken the Sleepwalkers. They would only awaken later, in the final hour. And they would awaken into nightmare.

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 27, 2015 1:22 PM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Creche by the Side of the Road

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

--Eliot, Journey of the Magi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Republished from December, 2003 ]


Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 21, 2015 8:57 PM |  Comments (29)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Gift of the WalMagi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[First published.... last Christmas]


Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 20, 2015 1:44 AM |  Comments (72)  | QuickLink: Permalink
High Plains Drifter from Mordor

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"Imagine a man whose father’s and mother’s cultures are profoundly irreconcilable, who was raised with exposure to competing religions,

whose childhood playmates sometimes classed him as one of this group and sometimes as one of that; whose parents eventually separated, whose remaining half-family was visibly different from him in appearance, and whose frustrations found release in mood-altering drugs. He matures into an identity which is always-other, always “not what you think”, always as Hermes-like as the chameleon. He comes from one side but can move easily to the other. He somehow migrates from a mediocre college to an Ivy League institution: the details of his admission are unknown. He succeeds famously at said institution… except that his “fame” is ex post facto: no one remembers ever seeing him in class. He directs a prestigious student publication and receives his degree… but nothing that he himself authored has ever been found (including a “ghost-written” bestseller from years later), and his college transcripts were apparently printed with water on the wind.
" He is all things to all men… and yet, he is not really one of any of them. He belongs to the night, the shadows. Just when you think you’re closest to grasping him, your hands are most full of thin air. You thought he was here to help you—but he’s really here to roast you. His name is No Man; his name is Revenge."

Read it all at Intellectual Conservative « Obama's Personality Disorder HT:Happy Acres

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 18, 2015 6:24 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Chairman at 100

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Frank Sinatra was now involved with many things involving many people

-- his own film company, his record company, his private airline, his missile-parts firm, his real-estate holdings across the nation, his personal staff of seventy-five -- which are only a portion of the power he is and has come to represent. He seemed now to be also the embodiment of the fully emancipated male, perhaps the only one in America, the man who can do anything he wants, anything, can do it because he has money, the energy, and no apparent guilt. In an age when the very young seem to be taking over, protesting and picketing and demanding change, Frank Sinatra survives as a national phenomenon, one of the few prewar products to withstand the test of time. He is the champ who made the big comeback, the man who had everything, lost it, then got it back, letting nothing stand in his way, doing what few men can do: he uprooted his life, left his family, broke with everything that was familiar, learning in the process that one way to hold a woman is not to hold her. Now he has the affection of Nancy and Ava and Mia, the fine female produce of three generations, and still has the adoration of his children, the freedom of a bachelor, he does not feel old, he makes old men feel young, makes them think that if Frank Sinatra can do it, it can be done; not that they could do it, but it is still nice for other men to know, at fifty, that it can be done. Frank Sinatra Has a Cold - Gay Talese

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 12, 2015 9:21 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Day We Killed John Lennon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 8, 2015 1:30 AM |  Comments (72)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Buster Keaton - The Art of the Gag
Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 4, 2015 2:34 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"This is where your ice cream comes from..." If you are not interested in seethng Unicorn-based dementia...

You will not .....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 1, 2015 2:47 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
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