Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun

American Studies

Boomer Anthems: "Sympathy for the Devil"

Sympathy for the Devil in all its variations represents the Boomers acme and epitaph.

I last saw the Stones perform this at Altamont, where it was accompanied by pool cue bludgeoning and a lethal stabbing. I sort of last my taste for it after that concert, but I check in on variations from the Stones' endless tours from time to time.

More and more the penultimate line,

"Just as every cop is a criminal /
And all the sinners saints"

seems to be prophetic of this Baltimore spring.

This particular performance is from 2006.

Lately it occurs to me that the most frightening thought is that the Rolling Stones might just outlive all of the rest of us.

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul to waste

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 13, 2015 3:11 PM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Leo the Lion's Plane is Missing

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In order to raise publicity for their productions, MGM toured Jackie — billed as "Leo the MGM Flying Lion" — across the U.S.

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For one publicity stunt in September 1927, the studio modified a Ryan Brougham plane (similar in design to the "Spirit of St Louis" but with a shorter wingspan) with tanks for milk, water and extra fuel, with a cage incorporated in the body to house Jackie.

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Five hours into the flight from San Diego to New York, after a takeoff covered by extensive media, the plane crashedin the Arizona desert. The pilot, Martin Jenson, left Jackie in the cage with the supply of milk, water and sandwiches before he went for help. After four days, Martin was found and taken to a telephone. He called MGM. Their first question was "How's the lion?"

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Jackie was rescued unharmed and earned the nickname "Leo the Lucky." He retired to Philadelphia Zoo in 1931 and died after heart problems in 1935.

-- Mashable Retronaut


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 25, 2015 7:48 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Sick Birch
Speaking of "Earth Day, this is the tale of a tree from Summer 2007: ""Like other things in this city, this country, and this era, "the solution" to "the problem" is not exactly crisp and effective, but it sounds nice and feels good."

asickbirch.jpgIn mid-July the tree in my front yard is losing its leaves. It's a weeping birch some fifty feet high. It doesn't so much shade the house as stand guardian to it. On its trunk the black and white patches have merged together and long ebony tendrils of branches dangle down festooned with dark forest-green leaves like emerald fireworks frozen above the lawn.

The shade pool from the tree covers my neighbor's yard to the north. He sits under it on his lawn on hot days. He's a quiet neighbor and a nice man. Speaks two languages and has a few political ideas which are a bit too socialist for my taste, but it's Seattle and he doesn't push them too hard so we live in harmony. He has a nice little house and spends a lot of time keeping it tidy.

The shade from my tree doesn't quite reach my neighbor to the south who admires it much more than I admire his fence, which is old and full of holes. Often time's he's told me how he wishes he could lounge in the shade, but he'd have to move his chair onto my lawn to do so. He's hinting about permisson. I suppose I could issue an open invitation for him to enjoy my shade, but given the way he keeps up his house and his fence I fear he'd soon be camped out on my lawn with a lot of friends and family. His whole operation is one step away from old appliances and rusted cars as lawn decorations. Then again I don't like cutting my lawn or weeding my garden, so maybe if I let him hang out under the tree he'll do the job that I won't do.

The tree began to shed leaves in early June. Just a few fell at first. A couple here and a some more there. I enjoyed their chance patterns on the grass and the flower beds. They were small and tan and had an almost Zen effect when seen among the blossoms; little bits of punctuation, small notes of color. The tree had so many leaves that the few that fell didn't diminish it. I didn't notice any thinning and I certainly didn't think the tree was ill. After all, it was a large tree and it had sheltered the house for a long time. The trunk was thick and strong. It's roots ran deep into the soil. It had been there longer than the house.

I went away for some weeks in June and into July and when I returned my lawn looked as if it was not high summer but late autumn. The grass was covered with small tan leaves, and even though the tree above was still thick with dark green leaves it was obvious that something was amiss. It was even more obvious when you walked on the lawn and came away with clots of leaves stuck to the bottom of your shoes.

I took my ladder from the garage and set it against the trunk. I climbed up to where the branches dangled down and looked closely at the leaves. They were dark green as always but had an unhealthy sheen to them as if they had become overheated and begun to sweat. Touching them left a sticky, unpleasant residue on my hands.

I looked more closely at the trunk and saw a host of small black bugs on the surface of the white bark and even more against the black patches. There didn't seem to be any of those bugs on the leaves that I could reach, but all those leaves were coated with the same tacky sheen. It had the consistency of the adhesive side of Scotch tape.

I'm no arborist. I didn't know what was making my tree sick but it was not thriving. Fortunately Seattle is a city where more inhabitants worship trees than worship God. I put a few twigs and leaves in one Ziploc bag and some of the black bugs in another and drove off to a nearby plant cathedral to ask one of their many priests.

He looked at the bags, ran his fingers over the outside, and didn't even bother to open them. "Aphids. Lots and lots of aphids. And since aphids are born pregnant you're going to have a lot more."

I looked closely at the bags. Very closely. I'd noticed a plant in the back yard that had been stricken with aphids in early June. Those had been thick colonies of lice sized insects. I carpet-bombed them with insecticide from an altitude of eight feet. They never knew what hit them. But I couldn't see any aphids inside the bag, just sticky leaves. "There's no bugs in there," I remarked to the priest of plants.

"Nope. The bugs are higher up in the tree. This is honeydew coating the leaves. A lot of honeydew. And that means a lot of bugs."

My far-too-literary mind immediately delivered the closing lines of Coleridge's "Kubla Kahn,"
"For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise."

I'd always thought those lines very evocative and alluring. "Honeydew?" I asked.

"It's what the bugs excrete after they suck out the sap from the tree," he said.

Score one more metaphor forever ruined.

"What do I do to stop it?"

"You have to get it sprayed or injected. Probably both. Spray and inject is probably best. That's what we do here. I'll give you the number of an eco-friendly tree care company. No toxins... biodegradable sprays... all that jazz."

"Is that the best way?" I asked and gave him a straight look.

He glanced about him to check that we were alone at the tree altar in the plant cathedral. "Not really," he said in a confidential tone, "but that's all the company allows me to recommend. Otherwise we'd have a picket line of eco-nuts in front of the parking lot in a twinkling and that would be very bad for business. You want anything stronger, stuff that will really get the job done, get out your phone book and... call around."

I felt like we were two guys whispering on a street corner about where to score "the hard stuff." I thanked him for the information, took the eco-friendly number, and left.

Back home I stood in the yard and gazed up at my sheltering tree. Then I raked the yard and hosed off the walkway. It took a long time since all the leaves were coated with the crap of "aphid honeydew" and stuck to the grass and the pavement. Nature's Super-Glue.

As I was finishing my neighbor from the south came out and strolled through the hole in his fence and across the lawn to where I was working. It was a hot day and he held an iced Corona. (He favors that brand but never offers me one, just kind of toasts me from his porch. If he wasn't obviously Norwegian I'd expect him to say, "Hola mano. Que tal?")

"What's up with your tree?" he asked. "Those leaves are falling all over my yard and they're a mess."

I told him the tree was sick. "There's an infestation of aphids high up in the crown sucking the sap out of the tree and dripping their crap all over anything below."

"Heh, sounds like a Bush/Cheny disease and that's always bad," he offered, leaning against his part of the fence that still stood while watching me rake and clean. (Nearly everybody in Seattle's Queen Anne is a Democrat and assumes you are as well -- it's an "innocent until stated guilty" place.)

"It is bad. I'll have to get an arborist in to spray it and inject it."

"Whoa. Be sure and tell me when that happens so I can close my windows. And be sure to use those companies that don't use toxins. They'll cost you more but you don't want to risk real poisons."

As usual my neighbor was more than happy to suggest any solution at all to my infestation problem that involved extra hassle and me reaching for my wallet.

"I'll let you know," I said. "I'll let you know."

I've made the calls and I've tried to be a good citizen. I got the arborist from "In Harmony" tree service to come by. She said it will take 8 injections and cost about $300. She gave me a brochure printed in bio-degradable inks on recycled paper too. It explains the benefits to the entire planet of their methods in somewhat fuzzy type. It doesn't explain why it costs $300 to give a tree eight shots. Like other things in this city, this country, and this era, "the solution" to "the problem" is not exactly crisp and effective, but it sounds nice and feels good.

Still, there's no question that the stately tree that shelters me is sick, sticky and a mess. I've got to stop the insects infesting the top from crapping all over everything below. Organic's too slow and too expensive by half. I think I'm going to have to start hanging out in the shadier places of the Seattle tree scene, trying to make a connection with people who can really "Git-R-Done!"


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 23, 2015 9:49 AM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Banality of Sedition

Communism is alive and well on the streets of Seattle....

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Illustration by RapierWitt

THESE DAYS its not often that you see a member of the Despairing Classes being seduced by classic Communism on a city street, but it does happen.

Sidewalk Snapshot: It's a warm Spring evening on Pine Street in Seattle. Lengthening shadows and brightening light brings everything into sharp relief including the random collection of lay-abouts, short-order poets, tattoo artistes, and students a decade between degrees that take up the tables outside the Cafe Laddro on Capitol Hill.

Capitol Hill is one of those neighborhoods in Seattle that compiles a mainstream lifestyle out of alternatives. Even though it is indeed a hill, it has suspended the normal laws of gravity and everything loose in Seattle rolls up to the top of it. That includes, on this evening, me.

I'm stepping out of your "one-every-block" Seattle espresso slop shop with my machiatto when I notice the odd couple at the table just outside the door. That's not too odd since odd couples, like spiked bright blue hair, are pretty much the norm on Capitol Hill. I notice them at first because the youngest is wearing a Motorhead t-shirt with the mantra "Everything Louder Than Everything Else" on it in that faux German Black gothic font that got old when Auschwitz was in flower, and so had to be made new again back when heavy-metal was a fresh idea.

Glancing over Motorhead's shoulder I note that the man across from him is giving him an ideological lap-dance complete with a whole raft of tracts, papers and books being brought out and waved about and placed, with a muffled thwang, one after the other on the thin black metal of the table: Trotsky's "Marxism and Terrorism," (thwang!); the ever-popular Marx and Engels "Communist Manifesto," (thwang!); Lenin's greatest hit "What Is To Be Done?," (thwang!), Gramsci's "Prison Notebooks," (thunk!), Zinn's "People's History of the United States,"(clunk!).

One by one, they come out of the worn back pack and pile up on the table. All in all, a larger pile of ideological dung would be hard to imagine, and harder to handle even with meat hooks and thick rubber gloves.

The man making his pile of "roadmaps to a more perfect world" is quite a bit older than Motorhead with a slim, somewhat furtive look to him. There's the vibe coming off him that you sometimes sense when someone old is trying to pick up somebody far too young for him.

In the intense light of the evening, you can see a faint cloud of dust motes rising from him as he keeps slapping the tracts down. Greying hair in moist ringlets covers his head except for a monk's tonsure on the back of his skull. He's got a mustache and a beard that, with a little care, could be brought to a Van Dyke point. He sports small round rimmed glasses in front of thin blue eyes. His eyes, although they never waver from his prey, carry within them a permanent 1,000 yard stare -- as if he's always looking outside of the present moment at something in the distance that never gets nearer. Overall the face reminds one, as these faces so often do, of a watered down Leon Trotsky, the Christ of Communism, crucified with an ice axe but still twitching in his tomb.

Trotsky is resurrect this evening on Capitol Hill though, and I linger at the table next to them writing down a few notes about their conversation. Except it is not exactly a conversation so much as a monologue as my Trotsky keeps, in smiling and soft tones, returning to the subject at hand which is the inevitable collapse of the evil American Empire ("Long past its expiry date..."), and the inevitable rise of world Socialism ("Everyone will have more than enough, but nobody will have it all.")

Trotsky's sporting, as all good Trotskys must, a collection of slogan buttons and a sheaf of free tracts and newspapers. The button that is the largest is pinned to his faded plaid flannel shirt and proclaims him to be a member in good standing of the ISO (International Socialist Organization, good Latter-Day Trotskyites all. )

He passes the tracts and newspapers over to his intended, "Free, all free," and points out the more salient injustices they outline: eternal racism, eternal slavery of women, eternal repression of the working man by capitalists, eternal imperialism by the United States -- the whole catastrophe. He underscores that the only escape is through the ever-imminent but forever delayed Rapture of the Left, The Revolution.

After several minutes of his soft chants, Motorhead is nodding like the drinking bird over the glass. He's looking a bit dazed. I wonder if Trotsky has slipped a roofy into Motorhead's machiatto and is just waiting for it to kick in.

Trotsky's tales are the sad sotto voce sagas that underscore all the old nightmares of the Gulag, the Killing Fields, and every other massacre done in the name of the Marxist Utopia. It's a litany proving, once again, that some lies lodge so deep in man's hopes they will not die, no matter the murders they require to live.

Today's fresh lie is that if only Motorhead will attend the "event" tomorrow, Trotsky will be pleased to take him to the exclusive "Cadre" meeting that follows so he can meet the "Comrade of Honor," one Ahmed Shawki.

In soft tones salted with a quick twinkling smile that comes and goes like the red queen in three-card monte, Trotsky continues his spiel, his seduction. Motorhead is "obviously a man of no little intelligence" -- even if his five facial piercings (ears, left eyebrow, lip stud and nose-ring) might make one wonder.

Motorhead "needs to live in a system where social justice is the rule for all, not just the rich." Given Motorhead's ripped black jeans, worn black boots and general air of someone not likely to be hired by any business whose work involves meeting the public, this is probably more true than either of them realize. Motorhead nods again to this last proposition, and observes that he yearns for a social order that is more just to his lifestyle than can easily be found outside the subcultural hamlets of Seattle.

Much has been made of Hannah Arendt's phrase, "The banality of evil," and I suppose I'm witnessing a small satori of that kind here on the sidewalks of Seattle. But it seems to me to be a more insidious event than that.

After all, there's nothing evil in speech that argues for ideas that have proven, without exception, to be evil. It is, after all, only speech and the strength of the American system is to protect all forms of speech, especially the idle blather of a coffee house revolutionary. There's nothing, really nothing, in this overheard conversation that threatens the existence of the United States. The mere fact that it can be had, five years into the First Terrorist War, underscores just how strong this nation adherence to its founding principles remains. Here on Capitol Hill dissent of even the most egregious sort, is not only tolerated but celebrated.

The conversation bothers me at the same time it fascinates me. It strikes me that what I am auditing is not so much "the banality of evil," but "the banality of sedition;" a banality we see acted out daily on our television screens and on the op-ed pages of our newspapers.

The banality of sedition is now so well established that it is, well, banal and goes forward without a great deal of remark or trouble. In the last few years, the phrase that has arisen to describe this phenomenon is "The Culture of Treason." I'm not sure who originated the phrase, but its use is proliferating across the Internet for the reason that all such phrases proliferate when the time is ripe; it somehow rings true.

Of late, it iseems that large sections of the better educated and the most privileged among us have decided that the Constitution is, after all, a suicide pact and have determined to preach this death gospel to us all:

"This way to the gas, ladies and gentlemen. Step right up into the van carrying you all away into the perfect freedom of the perfect world. Don't worry about those canisters of gas dropping in through the top. It's just to delouse you of your old, traditional ideas of what being an American is all about.

"In just a few painless minutes you'll all be, as we are now, citizens of the world. And in that world to which we are all going you'll forget the old dream of America. You'll forget, at the last, everything that was good about America. You'll also forget the true and the beautiful. In the end, you'll forget about God himself.
"All those old dreams and visions will fade into a gray sameness. And then you'll all be, at the last, perfect citizens of our brave new world. We've breathed deeply of this gas before you and find it is the perfect blend of platitudes, freshly roasted, for the killing of your soul. After all, you weren't using it much. So step right up. First ride's free."

The long evening light was fading down into a warm dusk outside the coffee shop on Capitol Hill. Motorhead, in a moment of awakening, said, "Well, I should probably get grocery shopping."

Having gotten Motorhead's assent to attend the "event," Trotsky the Comrade becomes Trotsky the Closer and skins twenty bucks out of Motorhead's wallet for Gramsci's "Prison Notebooks" ($14.95 at Amazon). The tracts and, of course, the newspaper are free. Such a deal.

The threadbare backpack is repacked with Trotsky's portable library. He and Motorhead set off up the hill and, turning the corner, move out of sight.

I fold up the scrap of paper on the back of which I've made my notes of their meeting. The front side invites all and sundry to a "Solidarity Gathering" at the 45th Street Overpass: "We Support the Rape Survivor at Duke... and the Countless Others Everywhere. Come and join us in solidarity to bear witness to this terrorism against women." I make a mental note to, somehow, manage to be elsewhere.

Walking back to the Century Ballroom, I notice a large flyer that announces the "event" that Motorhead has agreed to attend. Ahmed Shawki, editor of the International Socialist Review, will speak, it seems, on "Black Liberation and Socialism."

Shaki's image dominates the flyer and looks, for all the world, like a Malcom X returned to life. The look is, of course, a carefully studied one since black socialist saints are hard to come by these days.** The Clenched Fist logo is in the lower left hand corner of the flyer. There are other details but I have a hard time making them out. It is, I discover, hard to read a flyer that is lying in the gutter. Especially when the light has failed.


In "Celebration" of May Day, 2008. HT: Cynr who created the art.

**Written in April, 2006

"I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;"


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 18, 2015 1:47 AM |  Comments (75)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Totalitarian Mind Does Not Need a Totalitarian State to Thrive

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“I have never seen a more sublime demonstration of the totalitarian mind, a mind which might be linked unto a system of gears where teeth have been filed off at random. Such snaggle-toothed thought machine, driven by a standard or even by a substandard libido, whirls with the jerky, noisy, gaudy pointlessness of a cuckoo clock in Hell.

"The boss G-man concluded wrongly that there were no teeth on the gears in the mind of Jones. 'You're completely crazy,' he said.

"Jones wasn't completely crazy. The dismaying thing about classic totalitarian mind is that any given gear, thought mutilated, will have at its circumference unbroken sequences of teeth that are immaculately maintained, that are exquisitely machined.

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"Hence the cuckoo clock in Hell - keeping perfect time for eight minutes and twenty-three seconds, jumping ahead fourteen minutes, keeping perfect time for six seconds, jumping ahead two seconds, keeping perfect time for two hours and one second, then jumping ahead a year.

"The missing teeth, of course, are simple, obvious truths, truths available and comprehensible even to ten-year-olds, in most cases.

"The willful filling off a gear teeth, the willful doing without certain obvious pieces of information....

"That was how Rudolf Hess, Commandant of Auschwitz, could alternate over the loudspeakers of Auschwitz great music and calls for corpse-carriers -

"That was how Nazi Germany sense no important difference between civilization and hydrophobia -

"That is the closest I can come to explaining the legions, the nations of lunatics I've seen in my time.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night


aa-sideleft-george-orwell-who-controls-the-past-controls.jpgWritten by George Orwell:

"Fifteen years ago, when one defended the freedom of the intellect, one had to defend it against Conservatives, against Catholics, and to some extent — for they were not of great importance in England — against Fascists. Today one has to defend it against Communists and ‘fellow-travelers’....

"But however it may be with the physical sciences, or with music, painting and architecture, it is — as I have tried to show — certain that literature is doomed if liberty of thought perishes.

"Not only is it doomed in any country which retains a totalitarian structure; but any writer who adopts the totalitarian outlook, who finds excuses for persecution and the falsification of reality, thereby destroys himself as a writer.

"There is no way out of this. No tirades against ‘individualism’ and the ‘ivory tower’, no pious platitudes to the effect that ‘true individuality is only attained through identification with the community’, can get over the fact that a bought mind is a spoiled mind.

"Unless spontaneity enters at some point or another, literary creation is impossible, and language itself becomes something totally different from what it is now, we may learn to separate literary creation from intellectual honesty.

"At present we know only that the imagination, like certain wild animals, will not breed in captivity. Any writer or journalist who denies that fact — and nearly all the current praise of the Soviet Union contains or implies such a denial — is, in effect, demanding his own destruction. The Prevention of Literature - Wikilivres


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 14, 2015 12:47 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Code of the Left vs The Code of the West: Contrast and Compare

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"A man's got to have a code, a creed to live by, no matter his job." -- John Wayne

Once upon a time, there was "The Code of the West." [Original here] That was long ago, far away and in another country. Now there is only, "The Code of the Left." I've compared the two here. The Code of the West is in plain text. The Code of the Left is in italics because, well, it is just so damned important!

It's time for our biannual check in on how these two dueling codes are faring in America. When last we looked the Obama Banditos were riding roughshod over the people. Now, the Banditos seem to be in retreat and at our feet pleading a new birth of populism. But since the leftist Banditio is always either at your feet or at your throat it can't last. What's next? We're open for updates, additions, and deletions.

* Don't inquire into a person's past. Take the measure of a man for what he is today.

* There are no "people," only "social policies." Don't inquire into a social policy's past or that policy's likely consequences for the future. Take the measure of a policy by how closely it maps to the Socialist Utopia that has already killed and crippled hundreds of millions of people. Dream big nightmares.

* Never steal another man's horse. A horse thief pays with his life.

* Always look to steal another man's money with a "tax." Always ask your fellow citizen to reach for his wallet. All tax thieves are rewarded with a fat government pension and fatter health plan.

* Defend yourself whenever necessary.

* Do not defend yourself or the country under any circumstances. Killers are just grown-up kids who were abused. Terrorists are just people who haven't had their issues listened to with compassion. Make sure nobody else can defend themselves. Use only diplomacy to defend your country. Armies are raised only to place sandbags around towns about to be flooded for the fifth time. When that happens use government money to enable the fools who built them to rebuild them.

* Look out for your own.

* Look out, first, last and always, for any other people numerous enough to declare themselves an oppressed group (The minimum number is 3) - except if the group is an actual family, in which case seek to disband it by any means necessary.

* Remove your guns before sitting at the dining table.

* Ban guns. Anytime, anywhere. The Second Amendment is a misprint. Erase it in the original. Burn all copies.

* Never order anything weaker than whiskey.

* Never order anything stronger than a decaf double latte made with soy milk. Yes, that drink will shrink your testicles and/or ovaries to the size of peas, but you weren't using them anyway. Make it a double.

* Don't make a threat without expecting dire consequences.

* Threaten everyone and every behavior you think does not square with an organic, green, globally-warmed new-age life-style. They will fold. There will be no consequences. There never are.

* Never pass anyone on the trail without saying "Howdy".

* Never pass anyone on the street without muttering "Bush lied."

* When approaching someone from behind, give a loud greeting before you get within shooting range.

* When approaching someone from behind, try to determine if they are a Republican-Christianist before picking their pocket and denigrating their beliefs with impunity.

* Don't wave at a man on a horse, as it might spook the horse. A nod is the proper greeting.

* Don't wave at a blind man with a seeing-eye dog as it might confuse/abuse the dog. Lead them both into a disabled parking space and leave them there with a pocket full of kibble and food stamps.

* After you pass someone on the trail, don't look back at him. It implies you don't trust him.

* After you pass anti-Christian laws, don't look back. God will turn you into a pillar of salt and there is no salt tax.... Yet.

* Riding another man's horse without his permission is nearly as bad as making love to his wife. Never even bother another man's horse.

* Riding another man's wife or significant other is not only okay, but a qualification for high office. Gay or straight, you are allowed to have anyone you want without consequences to the family since soon there won't be any. Medicines for STDs will be free and will soon consume 92% of federal research funds (7% goes to embryonic stem cell research), dedicated to finding a sex vaccine so you can get back to the level of random sex with random strangers you enjoyed in the early 1970s.

* Always fill your whiskey glass to the brim.

* Always buy and carry the really big bottle of Fuji mineral water everywhere so people can know that while you object to Big Oil making windfall profits on $3.00 a gallon gasoline, you have no problem with windfall profits on $10 a gallon bottled water.

* A Cowboy is pleasant even when out of sorts. Complaining is what quitters do, and Cowboys hate quitters.

* A Leftist is mean and bitter even when in office. Complaining and turning small complaints into laws is what Leftists at all levels do. Leftists love making new laws from old whines.

* Always be courageous. Cowards aren't tolerated in any outfit worth its salt.

* Never exhibit courage when it comes to defending your country. Cowardice is a Leftist pre-requisite for running for office on any level. Your constituents are cowards to the core and don't expect any less from you.

* A Cowboy always helps someone in need, even a stranger or an enemy.

* A Leftist only helps those in need when helping them will condemn them to being in need for all eternity. Enemies are to be helped only if they will promise to first vote for and then behead Leftists. In that way both the need to rule and the need to expunge guilt can be satisfied.

* Never try on another man's hat.

* Never try on another man's condom or use his needle - without asking permmisson which will naturally be forthcoming. Free condoms and free needles are a basic right and will replace the present Second Amendment as soon as possible. Draft text: "An unregulated and unrestrained sex and drugs and rock and roll lifestyle, being the necessary opiate of the masses, the right of the people to free condoms and free needles, shall not be infringed."

* Be hospitable to strangers. Anyone who wanders in, including an enemy, is welcome at the dinner table. The same was true for riders who joined Cowboys on the range.

* Be hospitable to those who "wander" into your country illegally. Anyone who "wanders" into the United States, including an enemy, is welcome at the welfare table. This is especially true for those who will do the voting sane Americans won't - voting for you.

* Give your enemy a fighting chance.

* Give all enemies a really good fighting chance always. Make the Armed Forces fight with both hands behind their back. Roll back all arms programs to the environmentally sensitive bow and arrow era. Marines are to be especially despised for their general Gung Ho militaristic attitude. Make up rules of engagement that ensure all wars will be fought on the cheap and without weapons that are more lethal than megaphones. In war, Love is all you need.

* Never wake another man by shaking or touching him, as he might wake suddenly and shoot you.

* But if he does, pass more laws restricting guns and apologize to him before dying.

* Real Cowboys are modest. A braggart who is "all gurgle and no guts" is not tolerated.

* Real Leftists are the first to tell you what wonderful human beings they are. A Leftist who is "all gurgle and no guts" can be easily nominated for high office. See "Edwards, John."

* A Cowboy doesn't talk much; he saves his breath for breathing.

* A Leftist does nothing but talk. Talk is mother's milk without the annoying lactation. Leftist talk is a three-foot length of numbing rebar pounded down the center of your spine. A Leftist will save his breath for Yoga class.

* No matter how weary and hungry you are after a long day in the saddle, always tend to your horse's needs before your own, and get your horse some feed before you eat.

* No matter how weary and frustrated you are after a long day of lying and pandering on the campaign trail, always tend to your political machine's needs before your own. Get your machine some more money (cash if possible) for moveon.org or Media Matters. Don't skim more than 55% of the cash for yourself. Remember that if you are elected you can feed at the public trough for life, and earn millions for blathering after you retire.

* Cuss all you want, but only around men, horses and cows.

* Cuss all you want, constantly and without restraint, especially when you hear the obscenity-triggering words, "President Bush." Be sure to teach the F-word to your children early and reward them for using it.

* Complain about the cooking and you become the cook.

* Complain about earmarks unless they are your earmarks and remember to vote for all earmarks so that others will vote for yours.

* Always drink your whiskey with your gun hand, to show your friendly intentions.

* Always sip your chai with the pinky finger crooked, to show your rainbow intentions.

* Be there for a friend when he needs you.

* Be there with a handout for a voter when you think that you can pander enough and promise enough free stuff to buy that vote. Pander early and pander often. Offer $5,000 just for being born. Be sure you put that idea forward before a group of people with a history of getting (and an undying thirst for more) handouts. Always infantalize.

* Drinking on duty is grounds for instant dismissal and blacklisting.

* Drinking and smoking dope in office is grounds for instant lionizing, a safe seat, and a free pass should you drive off a bridge on the way home and leave someone who was giving you sex at the wheel behind to drown.

* A Cowboy is loyal to his "brand," to his friends, and those he rides with.

* A Leftist is loyal to the nightmares of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Fidel Castro - all of whom knew how to run billions of lives for the better. They may be gone but their song remains the same. Dance to it and make sure everyone else does too. Or else.

* Never shoot an unarmed or unwarned enemy. This was also known as "the rattlesnake code": always warn before you strike. However, if a man was being stalked, this could be ignored.

* Always smear a blameless or dangerous political enemy. Lying and innuendo is okay. Be the rattlesnake. Unless the man is stalking the same office you are. In that case smear early and smear often. Lie big and lie long.

* Never shoot a woman no matter what.

* Never seek to make love to a woman unless there are no other alternatives - including shrubs - or unless you are a woman.

* Consideration for others is central to the code, such as: Don't stir up dust around the chuck-wagon, don't wake up the wrong man for herd duty, etc.

* Being inconsiderate of personal God-given liberty is central to the code of the Left. There is no God, there is only the Party and the dream of a socialist utopia. Always stir up dust and regulations around the free market -- it can and does donate money to your opponents. Don't wake up those who depend on government hand-outs for everything. Promise more and keep them comatose.

* Respect the land and the environment by not smoking in hazardous fire areas, disfiguring rocks, trees, or other natural areas.

* Respect the small, endless fears of everyone in the environment by not smoking anywhere at anytime unless it is copious amounts of really righteous dope. Remember the first commandment of the Leftist: "Tobacco and Fox News bad. Dope and the New York Times good." Seek to have laws passed enabling everyone to smoke as much dope as they want. Then they will be too stoned to see through your insane plans. They will even think that more taxes on the rich means higher government revenues. Praise those who are disfiguring rocks, walls, and buildings with graffiti as "artistes." Return forests and farmland to their natural state -- especially if you can get them cheap via takings or public domain. Let the surviving population live like the sheep they are and eat grass.

* Honesty is absolute - your word is your bond, a handshake is more binding than a contract.

* Lies are your friend. Never let facts obfuscate falsehoods. Your word is only good for those your are speaking to at the time you are speaking. After you've promised something, forget about it. A handshake and a contract are simply lies waiting for laws to make them inoperative. If caught in a lie and under oath remember to always ask what the meaning of "is" is.

* Live by the Golden Rule.

* Live by the Rule of the Gold: If you run across anyone with gold, make them convert it to paper money and give 98% of that to the state or your re-election campaign. Require the other 2% to be donated to a charity of your choice for a tax deduction. Live the dream by buying your way into the government which will be, when that great getting-up morning arrives, the only thing on earth with any money or privilege.

[Note: I'm also looking to add to this list. The last time it came around we got this prescient statement in the comments:

West: "Never shoot a woman no matter what."
Left: "Unless she is the Republican Governor of Alaska. In which case, blast away. Be sure to remove her orange hunting vest afterwards so you can claim it was 'just an accident' and you mistook her for a caribou."]


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 9, 2015 1:19 AM |  Comments (32)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Obama Resigns

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Early morning television viewers were surprised to find their programs interrupted for an emergency announcement, during which the ashen-faced and possibly drug-fueled president spoke in rambling, frequently cryptic sentence fragments about "the sweet, sweet call to prayer," "dog-flavored shave ice," the merits of Titleist golf balls and, most puzzlingly, his declaration that "Mike is done pretending to be Michelle." He then told America to go (and we paraphrase here) fornicate itself, and capped his brief resignation with "Allah Akbar - I'm out of here, suckers!"

In a scene reminiscent of America's departure from Vietnam, Obama scrambled aboard a George Soros-owned helicopter hovering just about the White House roof. Newly appointed President Biden celebrated his unexpected promotion by rushing onto the White House balcony in his pajamas and firing a shotgun into the sky, before being tackled and disappearing under a pile of Secret Service agents. Sadly, the shotgun blast was thought to have done only minor damage to Mr. Obama's helicopter.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL - BREAKING NEWS BULLETINS!


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 31, 2015 10:46 PM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Punch, Brothers, Punch: The Original Ear Worm as Told by Mark Twain

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The poem "Punch Brothers Punch" (also known as "The Horror! The Horror!")was not composed by Mark Twain, but by a group of people in 1876.

It was the brainchild of Messrs. Isaac Bromley, Noah Brooks, W. C. Wyckoff, and Moses W. Handy. Bromley and Brooks, while riding a tram one night, had taken notice of a sign informing passengers about the fare:
A Blue Trip Slip for an 8-cents fare.
A Buff Trip Slip for a 6-cents fare.
A Pink Trip Slip for a 3-cents fare.
For Coupon and Transfer, punch the Tickets.

Bromley had reportedly exclaimed,

"Brooks, it's poetry. By George, it's poetry!" The two spent the remainder of their trip composing the poem, giving it its jingle-like character, and adding improvements such as the chorus. Upon arrival at the offices of the New York Tribune, they showed the poem to their friends, scientific editor W. C. Wyckoff and Moses Handy, who assisted them in completing it. They published their result in the Tribune, the same newspaper which Mark Twain had chanced upon. The poem gained popularity rapidly, taking over the minds of numerous people; it was assisted by Twain, who let it loose upon the world in his story.

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Will the reader please to cast his eye over the following lines, and see if he can discover anything harmful in them?

Conductor, when you receive a fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,
A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!

CHORUS

Punch, brothers! punch with care!
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!

I came across these jingling rhymes in a newspaper, a little while ago, and read them a couple of times. They took instant and entire possession of me. All through breakfast they went waltzing through my brain; and when, at last, I rolled up my napkin, I could not tell whether I had eaten anything or not. I had carefully laid out my day's work the day before--thrilling tragedy in the novel which I am writing. I went to my den to begin my deed of blood. I took up my pen, but all I could get it to say was, "Punch in the presence of the passenjare.

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 30, 2015 8:06 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The SPAM aisle in Hawaii

It's everything you hoped it would be....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 28, 2015 11:36 AM |  Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
When "Body by Fisher" Meant Body

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The Plexiglas Pontiac Deluxe Six "Ghost Car," which sold at auction a few years ago for $308,000, June 11, 1940. "General Motors exhibit at Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco. Transparent Car with Pontiac Chassis and Body by Fisher." -- Shorpy Historic Picture Archive


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 26, 2015 9:58 PM |  Comments (1)  | 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 Mar 17, 2015 1:25 AM |  Comments (49)  | QuickLink: Permalink
ESSAY OF THE DAY: What Conservatives Suffer in a Mad World Run By Fools

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"Imagine that you are sane. Now, imagine that you wake up one day, and almost all of the rest of the world has gone insane. Not 'wow things are crazy' but actually, clinically raving lunatics. They're mentally damaged - nearly everyone - and so many are so that they declare this totally normal.

"So now having mumbled conversations with yourself or your dog, seeing things, deciding you are an important historical figure and living that out, etc, that's all perfectly normal and the average person is this way.

"Now imagine you have to try to work and live among these people all the time. They argue down is up, that they are swimming in the ocean instead of driving a car, that they are a talking goose, that women are actually made of small bits of straw, that cats are the highest being and should be venerated and protected, pretty much every day some new insanity is insisted upon. Not just by a few people, but by many, in places of authority, education, entertainment, and in the news.

"These ideas aren't argued for, they are simply assumed, insisted upon, and forced upon everyone else. Movies and TV suddenly take one of these ideas and present it not just as normal, but so normal and right that anyone who differs is portrayed as not confused or wrong but evil, as a horrific person that must be stopped.

"Imagine that you're part of a small group that sees how crazy this is, how foolish the world has become, and all around you it keeps getting randomly and irrationally worse. That each day you wonder what lunacy you're going to have to deal with...."

That's only the beginning of a masterful essay by Christopher Taylor @ Word Around the Net: A MAD WORLD RUN BY FOOLS. If you are sane you will want to read THE WHOLE. It might not make you feel better but you will understand, more clearly, the roots of your suffering.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 16, 2015 10:12 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
PEWSLAG: The American Progressive’s Monopoly on the Seven Deadly Sins

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“We are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” -- Oscar Wilde

If you could pick up the Northwestern US by the southeast corner of Idaho and shake it, everything loose would roll down into Seattle. So many loose bipeds have rolled into town over the years that the city boasts not one angry and twisted little “alternative paper” but two: The Seattle Weekly and The Stranger. Of the two, The Stranger is the stranger, the more angry, and the more spiteful. Strangely, The Stranger -- in this age of Obama and “springtime for progressive Hitlers" -- grows more angry and peevish every week since the November elections. It no longer competes with the Seattle Weekly to see who can be more revolting. It won that dubious contest long ago. These days The Stranger seems to mostly compete with itself; trying every week to put out more slime and bile than the week before. Most weeks, it wins. This week was no exception.

No matter what the standard Democrat/Progressive line may be, it is never quite good enough for The Stranger. This may be because of it’s editor, one Dan Savage by name, a man who seems to live to reveal that for some, when it comes to being intellectually twisted, there really is no bottom. It may be because The Stranger’s infected bloodlines run from from the ancient wheezings of The Daily Worker, down through The East Village Other, and out onto the news stands of Planet Moonbat with classifieds courtesy of The Berkeley Barb. Or it may be because the editor is simply an awful person with a full load of obsessive-compulsive disorders.It’s difficult to know when it comes to this perfect storm of spit, spite, and smut.

All one can know is that, with The Stranger, you see deeper into the soul of today’s post-modern American quisling than any other “alternative” weekly. And what you see is the utter lock this mindset has on what once we called “The Seven Deadly Sins.” It is positive for all of them and takes no medication. Instead, it showcases them in order to effectively infect every freshman class that arrives in Seattle looking for an “education” in how to be fashionably depraved in worn fleece. I read the paper every so often to keep in touch with how dementia, depravity and degradation are progressing in progressive America.

These days it would seem that the 7 deadly sins are now the 7 cardinal virtues of the progressive left. As I shall demonstrate....

Indeed, the progressive left has cast off all pretense of “progress” and simply reverted to a rag-tag slop bucket brimming over with Americans that hate children, success, happiness, liberty, and life itself. All the local “progressive heroes” will sooner of later get their close-up in The Stranger. Their faces and their ever-extending list of physical and mental diseases will unfailingly reveal the state of souls that have committed to personal and social devolution. Along the way, they've bagged the seven deadly sins with the zeal of hunters, never knowing that it was themselves that was the hunted. Theirs is the socialist Utopian view of life fueled with poppers and propaganda.

Those who have the tragic view of life accept that all humans are flawed. We all, to a greater of lesser extent, have touched on all of the 7 deadly sins. It is in our nature. But those with the tragic view at least struggle against this and strive to leave the world brighter and better than when we came into it, not more depraved and darker.

I see this split and this struggle in myself and hold myself more guilty of the 7 sins than is perhaps strictly true, for I know that when you put yourself on trial the verdict is always “guilty.” At the same time, I think I struggle in my small way to overcome these tendencies in myself and if I do not succeed, I still struggle. What I do not do is revel in them and constantly seek to live out the more extreme expressions of the same. That seeking can be seen in almost every progressive position and policy of the last several decades. From the celebration of abortion and treason to the exaltation of perversion and penury, it seems that every step taken by the progressive strain of American politics over the last few decades has been to go deeper into the pit and to glory in the mire.

For most Americans, the 7 deadly sins are things we struggle against. For progressives, the 7 sins have become the touchstones of their plans and policies. So extreme has their dedication to degradation become that they have become proud in their achievements. We’ve long had to bear witness to the progressives' preening pride in their "achievements," from the slaughter of the unborn to the feckless squandering of the local, state, and federal purse. Now their goal seems to be to pull the rest of us down into the cesspit that they're in. As we saw in November, most Americans, when the choice is stark and immediate, decline to join them in the muck. But as we have seen since then, rejection at the polls does not dissuade them but rather energizes them to new depths of depravity. It isn't an accident that a popular cultural meme this season is that of Zombies, the walking dead who seek to feast off and then convert the living to their living death.

At one point the classical American liberalism might have avoided this cultural and ideological degradation, but that was before they left shame behind. Then it was full speed ahead. After all, once you’ve expunged shame from your conscious mind, Pride is what is left.

Pride, as we know, is the first and most deadly sin. It’s the one that makes all the others possible. When the self and it’s immediate needs have become the individual's brave new god, humility is impossible. Humility is, well, so human that the brave new gods of the Left cannot abide it. Instead the must worship Ego Uber Alles. Pride must take its place at the head of their lemmings' parade over the cliffs of nihilism into the waters of oblivion.

Long ago, there was a mnemonic for the seven deadly sins, PEWSLAG. In order it meant Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Lust, Avarice, and Gluttony. All of these are on display weekly in “The Stranger,” as they are daily across the nation wherever progressives have gained a voice or power. They prance about in the half-time shows at the Superbowl. They never fail to make the nightly network news or grace the editorial pages of our leading "papers of record." So common have the elements of PEWSLAG become in our time that they can no longer be considered as ‘The 7 Deadly Sins,” but rather as the PPAF, The Progressive Platform for America’s Future.

Let's review the PPAF in greater detail:

Progressive PRIDE: It’s no accident that this word comes up again and again in their writings. It is essential for the Progressive to internalize extreme amounts of Pride. Pride in the self is the single most important element the freed will needs to move God out of the universe entirely and Self into the center. Once Self is in the center and the feeding of Self the most important element of existence, there is effectively no limit on what the Will can demand for the Self.

We’ve seen how societies based on The Triumph of the Will sweep across the world in the last century. These Self and Will centered social experiments all seem to have the worship of a single man at their center and the word “Socialist” in their name. Their core concept at the apex of their terrible arc is a National or Group Pride in a single individual as an excuse for the most horrible crimes committed on citizens and other innocents. The words “Nazi” and “Communist” both slide nicely into the old slogan, “Say it loud / I ______ and I’m proud.” Wisdom tells us what comes after pride, but wisdom is not a progressive value.

Progressive ENVY: This is an ancient organizing tool that uses those with less than everything as tools against those who have, well, more. It doesn’t matter if “more” is an second goat, or an extra billion dollars. Thou shalt covet is the commandment here. For once you can convince a person to envy another there is no limit to what they will want to take since what they want is not a goat or a billion dollars, but simply and eternally “more.” In the final analysis, those who at some point refuse to give “more” will be required to give all, including life itself. Envy always ends in guns.

Progressive WRATH: All those who point out, even in the slightest way, that the Progressive plan for Utopian improvement never seems to arrive at an end point but is always seeking “more,” are sure to feel increasing amounts of Wrath directed against them. It begins in a mild reproach as the doubter is made to feel the chill from his or her closest associates, but it quickly escalates to anger if the doubter does not immediately lie down and become submissive. For those that stand clearly outside the Progressive circle of approved behavior, wrath is constant and unremitting and ever growing in its intensity. To test this all you need to do is to utter the magic words, “Sarah Palin” to a progressive. Better yet, utter them to a group of calm Progressives. Record the reaction.

Progressive SLOTH: One of the pleasures of being a Progressive is the one never has to actually produce anything of use in the form of innovation and invention. Progressives need only put in place things that impede innovation and invention in the form of excessive laws and continuing and complex regulations and false customs. It is remarkable in this century that one can spend a lifetime making these impediments to prosperity in the media, in academic life, in unions, and in a bureaucratic career, and only rise from reward to greater reward by making those and other careers safer for slackers and lay-abouts. In the process, the position of those that enable slackers is made ever more secure through increasing the dependency of the hard-core unemployable among us on the slacker state. While doing nothing is a waste of life, there seems to be no shortage of the non-abled among us that are dedicated to this as a career path.

Progressive LUST: As the progressives institutionalize and subsidize sloth, whole oceans of time open for the non-abled and non-thinking and non-feeling in the mass of the intentionally under-educated in the nation. What better way to spend the brief time between the progressive-worshiped states of unbeing than in the constant pursuit of the sating of the senses? For although there is a puritan stain that oozes from all Progressive alphas, the alphas have found that the best way to control, to placate, the betas is to let them live lives devoted to lust.

Hence there are endless fully-supported programs that enable sex without any chance of pregnancy and, should avoiding pregnancy prove to be beyond the mental capabilities of the betas, there are subsidized programs for terminating any inconveniences. Should the inconveniences seem to be convenient, there are programs to support and warehouse them. Should the lusts of the body lead to disease, there is no end of programs to cure or at least palliate them should they be resistant to a cure. In all cases, everything is done to enable and promote lust as the booby prize for the betas. The more rubble in the masses, the less trouble for the elites.

Progressive AVARICE: The old joke of the two line IRS form that reads,

HOW MUCH DID YOU MAKE? __________________.
SEND IT IN.

seems less and less amusing as it becomes more and more clear that Progressivism is merely the stalking horse for the complete control of private property and assets of the middle class. (Graduation to the “political class” aka “The Party” or “Politburo” grants you and your family a waiver.)

Progressivism in the United States has seen the truth of the Thatcher observation that “The trouble with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.” The solution, driven by the greed of the political class, is simply to get their hands on all the money. Once that is achieved, the pie can be doled out from the private-jet sky. The size of your slice? Well, as we know only too well, the Progressive plan is “From each according to their ability. To each according to their need.”

Unbridled Progressive AVARICE is the only way to overcome GREED "for the greater good." Only when the state has it all can the machinery of the state at last thrive. Only then can the endless compassion of the state come into play in a gentle redistribution in which no citizen has more than any other citizen, except for those citizens connected enough to get a waiver. The current state-of-the-players in the embryonic healthcare establishment is a testament to this.

Progressive GLUTTONY: A funny thing happened to the political animals of the sixties as they wormed their Progressive way into the national establishment in their dotage. These radical retreads discovered they liked to eat well and, at times, strangely. Hence we have the endless passions of the Progressive foodies for organic, for local, for “sustainable,” for ethnic, for vegan, for raw, for everything that can be eaten on the face of the earth combined with a catechism for the masses of the fast cheap food that is “bad” for them. It’s no accident that the biggest fetish for the Baby-Boomers that comprise the mass of the Progressive alphas is a food fetish. They like to eat... everything in sight. Unborn lamb today. The unborn tomorrow. Start with the stem cells and move up from there.

And their gluttony does not stop at food items, it extends to all other spheres of human behavior. They like to eat traditions. They like to eat values. They like to eat nuclear families. They like to eat real history. They like to eat real rights. They like to eat the Founding documents of the nation. They like to eat the rule of law. They like to eat the living. They like to eat souls.

The progressives are gluttons for everything and they will continue to eat everything until they are stopped. Until then, their platform and program, their PPAF, is summed up in the simple mnemonic, PEWSLAG, where Pride is the beginning and Gluttony the end of their endeavors. And the fruits of the Progressives’ Gluttony will always be that which is always emitted the morning after a long night of unrestrained feasting on the living by the zombies among us.


Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 15, 2015 12:34 PM |  Comments (34)  | 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."

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 12, 2015 4:10 AM |  Comments (74)  | QuickLink: Permalink
They’ve got nothing. Their model, the USSR, collapsed ugly. Their policies are failing. Making conservatives go third party(s) is their ONLY chance.

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The question of the moment is: "Are you going to LET them?"

Sarah Hoyt answers eloquently and correctly at Winter At Valley Forge | According To Hoyt

Excerpt:

For a hundred years, they’ve patiently been working. They took over one of the major parties. They took over education. They took over the mass media and entertainment and the arts. They had a whole wall of coordinated messages and it all imploded. Clinton? Don’t make me laugh. Should they manage to elect her, her disastrous incompetence will be obvious. Bill Clinton only had a patina of glitz because there was no internet, no dissident voices. Now? Pah.

Net Neutrality? Bah. Six months. Like their attempts at gun grabbing being squelched by 3-d printing and horse sense, give our bright boys six months and net neutrality will be circumvented. Built around, built under, ignored.

Their only hope is division in our ranks.

I say we don’t give it to them. I say we keep taking over the GOP. We’ve been at this for what? Optimistically 20 years. Not a fraction of their (at least) 100.

Yeah, we’ll eat live eels sometimes. Like, say, we couldn’t counter the veto on the Keystone pipeline. However the people claiming that as another reason to defect CAN’T be even “I’ll hold my nose and vote republican” people. NONE of the GOP defected on that. Not one. And some democrats defected to the GOP side. It is not a sign to despair, but a sign of hope.

As for those other democrats? The stooges of a long-dead system? Putin’s best buds? Yeah. We’re coming for them too.

And then, once we’ve pulled our ship off the rocks, once we’ve made the dems into a wreck, or alternately into an American party again, THEN we can have a grand fight Libertarians against Socons. I’m looking forward to it! I’ll be seventy or so, and if I run like my family, a little old lady scary beyond all reason.

But right now? Right now people are trying to destroy us, and our civilization and world.

In the end we win, they lose. Reality is on our side. But the “end” can be a long ways away.

The question is, are you going to cave into their games and let them destroy a third of the world and send civilization into the dark for hundreds of years or not?

I vote not. I understand your impulse.

But this is no time to get wobbly. Keep Calm and Keep Taking Over the GOP.

[The whole thing. Read it you will. At Winter At Valley Forge | According To Hoyt ]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 10, 2015 12:49 PM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Hard Men: "These guys were by no means exceptional or heavy-duty. They were just regular fellas"

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"Called "The Greatest Generation" and for good reason.

"What all these fellas had in common was morals, sense of community, honor, strength, the good old virtues. They vibed calm, deadly if necessary; do the right thing always, no speaking falsely, word is my bond. No showboating or colorful language tossed around just to hear themselves talk, no hey look at me how important I am sort of conduct.

"The Polack that ran the junkyard, he still dressed like a Polack even though he came home from the Pacific with a sack full of ears and a face full of shrapnel. "Wat? Wat? I went dere. I done some tings, I come home. Dat's it."

"These guys were by no means exceptional or heavy-duty. They were just regular fellas, living life and doing things the right way, same as all over the country, men of that generation, Americans to their last breath. What they didn’t do was talk like some kinda punks that had paper assholes. They didn’t have to. They knew their strength and were secure with it.

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"Do you think them guys back in the 30s, they worried about the cultural mix? As if what was happening in some yocky-dock country in the Balkans - ooh, the Muslims are this, the commies are that - as if that was gonna affect them having a roof over their heads and food on the table for their families?

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"If you didn't work you didn't eat. That's pretty basic. Didn't have to think about injustices to migrant workers or whether women were getting paid the same or whether queers could get married. They weren't reluctant about calling some folks deadbeats, moochers, parasites, like, gee, it's gonna hurt their feelings. People back then (including the women folk who were a hell of a lot stronger than the men sometimes) people had some clear understanding of morals, civic duty, work together-ness."

Posted by: chasmatic commenting on The Top 40: "Hot dog . . .this will bust ‘em wide open. Shove everything you can across!" -- Gen. Omar Bradley

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 9, 2015 2:57 AM |  Comments (23)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Never Happy

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When I lived in Manhattan, I never needed to know when winter officially arrived. I could count on one particular coworker to announce it. The official date changed every year, but he never failed to signify it by dropping by my office first thing in the morning, a Starbucks commuting coffee mug in his hand, and saying, "Boy, oh, boy, do you believe how cold it is? Damn!"

Having just peeled off watch cap, ear muffs, scarf, gloves, and a ten pound top coat, I could -- while watching the sleet moving horizontally across the windows -- say with some conviction, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do believe how cold it is."

With this exchange, the first of a daily ritual that would be repeated between us for months without variation, I knew that winter had been declared open.

In New York City, there are really only two seasons -- "Winter" and "Street Repair." Winter was cold and inconvenient. "Street Repair" was hot and inconvenient. My coworker wasn't happy with either. Yet he never failed to announce the beginning of "Road Work." The official date changed every year, but he never failed to signify it by dropping by my office first thing in the morning, his Starbucks commuting coffee mug in his hand, and saying, "Boy, oh, boy, do you believe how hot it is? Damn!"

He was a living, breathing, mind-numbing example of why the number two fantasy of people who work in offices is the ruthless slaughter of one or more of their coworkers. (The number one fantasy? I don't have to tell you. You know. And you should be ashamed of yourself.)

When I moved to southern California, this was one little daily irritation I was happy to leave behind along with "Winter" and "Road Work." Instead, I got only one season, "Traffic," but since you have to go to "Traffic" in order to be in that was okay. I no longer needed to kill my coworker, so that was a win.

In the hills above Laguna, however, I discovered another two seasons -- "No birds" and "Birds." That's otherwise known as "Not Spring" and "Spring." When the birds leave sometime around the Christmas holidays, you don't really notice it. At least I didn't until I passed a neighbor, a Starbucks commuting coffee mug in his hand, on his daily constitutional and he said, "Boy, oh, boy, do you believe how quiet it is? Damn! Sure wish the birds would come back."

He walked on but I stopped and turned slowly to look at him. Brief memories of fantasized mayhem washed over my mind until I shook my head and thought, "No. Can't be. Just your imagination," and went on my way.

But, of course, what couldn't be, was. Over the course of the next few months, I'd pass this neighbor on our overlapping walks and he'd invariably say, just to be neighborly, "Boy, oh, boy, do you believe how quiet it is? Damn! Sure wish the birds would come back."

In time, of course, the birds, as birds will, did come back. I noticed it one day when, just at dawn, a bird woke me with a Bachesque series of trills and calls. A day or so later, when passing my neighbor on the hill, he said, "Boy, oh, boy, did you hear that bird this morning? Terrific!"

But nature is not decorative no matter how much we might wish it would be. Where you have one bird, you get two. When you have two, you get ten. And ten is just the prelude to a hundred or even more, as Alfred Hitchcock knew.

About a month after the first return of the birds, I was awakened by a cacophony of bird calls hooting and screeching at the first crack of light. I shrugged it off and went outside to get the paper from the drive way. My bird-loving neighbor lives diagonally across the intersection. I picked up the paper to go inside when I heard the sliding door to his deck open. I looked across and saw him in his underwear stagger sleepily out into the rising and falling cloud of colorful bird calls, wipe the sleep from his sad eyes, and shout out into the pristine morning, "Shut... UP!"

Even in paradise it seems that some people are never really happy. Must be the traffic.


Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 5, 2015 12:49 AM |  Comments (32)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"150 years ago today, the greatest speech in the history of the world was delivered by Abraham Lincoln"

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"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." Abraham Lincoln: Second Inaugural Address. 1865.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 4, 2015 9:54 AM |  Comments (33)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Millennials Anthems: Here Come the Boom
Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 3, 2015 1:20 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems: "Fortunate Son"
Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 3, 2015 1:18 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Orbital
Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 1, 2015 11:41 PM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: "American Shokunin"

"A master doesn't retire. A master doesn't stop. They do it until they're dead."

Shokunin (Sho-koo-neen)

is a Japanese word used to describe an individual that aspires to become a master in their particular craft or art form. Ryan Neil falls firmly into this description, as he has been practicing the art of Bonsai for nearly two decades. In this short film, we get a glimpse at the broader thinking behind a professional American Bonsai practitioner, as well as some of the inherent challenges and aspirations that come along with the pursuit for bonsai mastery in America.
More at Ryan and Chelsea Neil's Bonsai Mirai

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 28, 2015 10:55 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"As I was saying...." The Human Waste Map That Is San Francisco

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San Francisco Debuts Human Waste Map What do you get when you visit San Francisco, the city with the highest tech and the lowest morals? If your answer is, "An online map showing block by block where the human excrement is", you'd be 100% correct! Every city has a crime map, showing block by block where crime is, but only San Francisco has a human waste map, showing block by block where to watch your step!
Catching up with me from years ago....
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San Francisco, the nation's leading open air exhibition of failed social policies, never fails to instruct one in the infinite disabilities of social utopianism. Although large sections of this city still retain their charm in the far or middle distance -- the swooping helicopter pan shot in from the Golden Gate; the brightly painted Cable Car cresting a backlit hilltop -- most soon lose all charm in close-up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 27, 2015 3:00 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Huckleberry Finn is 130 Years Old

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PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

YOU don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly -- Tom's Aunt Polly, she is -- and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


"As it relates to the actual body of text during the time of publication, Mark Twain composed the story in pen on notepaper between 1876 and 1883. Paul Needham, who supervised the authentication of the manuscript for Sotheby's books and manuscripts department in New York in 1991, stated, "What you see is [Clemens'] attempt to move away from pure literary writing to dialect writing". For example, Twain revised the opening line of Huck Finn three times. He initially wrote, "You will not know about me", which he changed to, "You do not know about me", before settling on the final version, "You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer'; but that ain't no matter."[14] The revisions also show how Twain reworked his material to strengthen the characters of Huck and Jim, as well as his sensitivity to the then-current debate over literacy and voting."

"Upon issue of the American edition in 1885 several libraries banned it from their shelves.[24] The early criticism focused on what was perceived as the book's crudeness. One incident was recounted in the newspaper, the Boston Transcript:


The Concord (Mass.) Public Library committee has decided to exclude Mark Twain's latest book from the library. One member of the committee says that, while he does not wish to call it immoral, he thinks it contains but little humor, and that of a very coarse type. He regards it as the veriest trash. The library and the other members of the committee entertain similar views, characterizing it as rough, coarse, and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating, the whole book being more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people."
Twain later remarked to his editor, "Apparently, the Concord library has condemned Huck as 'trash and only suitable for the slums.' This will sell us another twenty-five thousand copies for sure!"


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 26, 2015 4:32 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Pictures of the Gone World: Modern Amoeba, 1947

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Detail

Jan. 27, 1947. Where once the old one's shopped for their children's clothing.

"Kartch's, business on Main Street in Paterson, New Jersey. Interior, to rear." Witness to one of midcentury design's favorite mashups, the trapezoid and the amoeba. - Shorpy Historic Picture Archive

Full interior:

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 25, 2015 1:36 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Dick Dialogues

These panels taught me ... that the creative contextualization of a play like The Vagina Monologues can bring certain perspectives on important issues into a constructive and fruitful dialogue with the Catholic tradition. This is a good model for the future. Accordingly, I see no reason to prohibit performances of The Vagina Monologues on campus, and do not intend to do so. -- Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., President, University of Notre Dame

LIKE THE DISTINGUISHED, BEFUDDLED, AND OUTFLANKED Father above, I too -- in a fit of "creative contextualization"-- seek to bring "certain perspectives on important issues into a constructive and fruitful dialogue" here at American Digest. To further that mission, I hope I won't be telling tales out of school if I reveal that, of late, a secret evening of drama has been taking place in numerous undisclosed locations about the nation. We are all aware of the unstoppable chunk of mummery and flummery known as The Vagina Monologues, but few know -- and few deserve to know -- about the blowback (so to speak) that is "The Dick Dialogues."

This play is usually performed on the down-low in the basements of sports bars, carefully darkened car-repair garages, and the deepest forest amphitheaters of the Bohemian Grove. Attendance is strictly male and strictly invitation-only since in many states the mere thought of giving a performance of "The Dick Dialogues" would constitute a hate-crime.

Modeled on the successful NPR series "Car Talk," a typical episode of "The Dick Dialogues" consists of two men, traditionally named "Plick" and "Plack," slumped in Lay-Z-Boys in a nondescript Rec Room. Here they field calls on a speaker phone from a series of male and female and neuter voices. The actors, clad in the traditional garb of jeans, t-shirts, baseball caps and army boots, respond to the questions on the spot during an extended half-time at a fantasy football league's Super Bowl. The cost of admission is a donation that is suggested to be equal to one month of the attendee's child support payment.

Spontaneous, unrehearsed, and always faintly pissed-off, the "Dialogues" continue to gather fans and acolytes in the secret Royal Order of Meese (Named after the Sainted Ed Meese, blessed be his Attorney General's Commission on Pornography.) in cities here and abroad wherever non-gelded males still are to be found -- either in captivity or free-ranging.

Last summer I attended a performance of the Dialogues in the greater Seattle area. At first it was to be performed at a used fishing boat warehouse down near the locks at Lake Union, but the proximity of the locks to the University of Washington and its vast stocks of neutered males made this a security risk. So it was moved to a secret location in the model rooms at a Renton superstore with the code name AEKI. While waiting for the show to start, early arrivals were entertained with classic skits such as "If You Really Loved Me, You'd Buy Me a House," "Darling, You'll Never Guess How Much I Saved Shopping Today," "Please Pay Off My Credit Cards Again," and "What the Frikin' Hell Are 'Window Treatments' Anyway?"

The performance began at midnight with sacred de-estrogenation rituals involving the burning of large numbers of cigars, the consumption of local malt beverages, and ten choruses of Kumbaya topped off with a coordinated group belch.

I am forbidden to disclose the full text of that evening's Dick Dialogues, but one particular exchange does stick in the mind. Halfway through the evening, the phone rang in the "Rec Room" and a reedy, frustrated female voice asked:

While we're on the topic of Dick use and abuse, I've recently returned my vintage Dick to the general Dick pool, but find I still need one from time to time for the small chores and larger tensions of my life. I'm reluctant to buy a new Dick outright in this market? Do you know where I can rent one? Or would leasing one be a better deal?

The evening's official Dick Dialoguers rolled their eyes, did a Jagermeister shot, popped open a Bud, took a big hit off Ghengis Bong and answered as follows:

Plick: "Lady, Dick rentals-- especially in Seattle and other major cities -- are chancy at best. While this was once a very dependable option, these days you need to know where and by whom your Dick has been rented in the past before you rent. Outside of the extremely high-end dicks that don't get a lot of traffic, like, say, the Paul Allen, rental dicks are rented to all sorts of people who tend, like bad horse trainers, to ride them hard and put them away wet."

Plack: "Yeah, and don't be taken in by all the propaganda coming from the big Dick rental firms, especially Hurts, about Pre-Owned Pre-Certified Dicks. Certification of safe rental dicks are extremely suspect these days, what with corruption being so rife in City agencies charged with certifying your that rental Dick is clean, responsive, fully fueled, and comes with a functional airbag."

Plick: "Right. I even advise that, should you decide to really blow some cash and rent the high performance dicks, you should deploy the airbag before starting it up."

Plack: "Even then, you have to bear in mind that certification is a flawed policy in any event. In this era of 'Don't ask. Don't tell.' full disclosure is a sometime thing.

Plick: "He's right. Your rental Dick can be certified in the morning after it is returned from, say, a fully fanatical fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton... "


Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 24, 2015 10:36 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
23 February 1945: U.S. Marines raise the flag on Mount Suribach

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First Iwo Jima Flag Raising. Small flag carried ashore by the 2d Battalion, 28th Marines is planted atop Mount Suribachi at 1020, 23 February 1945

"The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal was coming ashore on Iwo Jima at the moment when this flag went up. It was just a speck in the distance but he immediately recognised its symbolic significance, telling General Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, who was accompanying him:

Holland, the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.
It was then decided that a larger, more visible, flag was needed on the summit. The occasion would be photographed not just by the Marines but by the international media as represented by the Associated Press. However the photographer, Joe Rosenthal, had not been especially well prepared for the event:
Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene. That is how the picture was taken, and when you take a picture like that, you don’t come away saying you got a great shot. You don’t know.
The photograph that he took has gone on to become probably the most reproduced photographic image in history. " -- WW2 Today

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 22, 2015 10:27 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Gotham City / San Francisco

Gotham City SF // A Timelapse Film from Toby Harriman on Vimeo.

Meanwhile... across the Pacific... Tokyo... in dense fog.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 22, 2015 9:38 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Stock Oscars

Dissolve celebrates movies and their makers in these recreations of 13 movies that have won those shiny gold trademarked statues. How many can you name?

Created entirely with Dissolve stock footage.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 21, 2015 1:53 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Half Wits

Long ago. Far away. Still funnier than anything currently broadcast.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 20, 2015 1:43 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
If We Believed in Omens....

A 500-Pound Meteor Generates a Very Bright Fireball Over the Eastern United States as It Crashes to Earth


NASA reports that early Tuesday morning a meteor illuminated the sky over New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania with a very bright fireball as it came crashing to Earth. The meteor, with an estimated diameter of two feet and a weight of 500 pounds, was traveling at about 45,000 miles per hour. During its descent, which was captured on NASA cameras, the meteor flared brighter than a full moon. NASA believes fragments of the meteor are likely scattered on the ground east of Kittanning, Pennsylvania.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 18, 2015 11:36 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems: "The Times They Are A Changing" and "Chimes of Freedom" Originals and Variations

What can I say? We had nice ideals.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 17, 2015 10:06 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Cremains of the Day: Items Still on the Obamatrons' To-Do List

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Many befuddled Conservatives and Republicans, drenched in so much angst they might as well be in a wet T-shirt contest for the morbidly obese, are asking, “What difference can another few years of Obama make? The damage has been done. It can’t get worse.”

To which we Ancient Ones respond, “Really? Are you new? Were you just born beneath a banana leaf? We are dealing with Obamatrons here and with these alien life forms the ruling rule is always: “It. Gets. Worse.”

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Obamatrons of America have been making a list and checking it twice since George Orwell was a zygote. Here area few items still left on their to-do list and when the Obamatrons list a to-do they mean to do it. To you.

Can they do it to you? As their twice elected Dent has said, “Yes, we can!” Just lie back, relax, think of the country you once had and say to yourself, as disappointed wives have said since time immemorial, “Beige. I think I’ll paint the ceiling beige.”

1. Abortions R' US (also know as "MA1.5"): Mandatory Abortions after 1.5 children (MA1.5) for everybody except special congress people and high-net worth Democratic donors who can buy one or two more kids with every election cycle. To make it easy and cheap to obtain this service, all Democrats in the House and Senate will receive funding to open abortion clinics in their own official offices throughout their home state. Supplemental funding will be attached so that every abortion also comes with a free turkey dinner and fill up the the constituents EBT card.

1.a. Eco-rider to "Abortions R' US " (MA1.5): To better conserve the scarce resources of our eternally-endangered Planet, all aborted fetuses will be harvested into artisanal beer coolers, packed with small-batch dry ice, and dispersed by means of surplus FBI, IRS, CIA and NSA Lear Jets to Federal tissue and organ banks for the future use of important Americans such as politicians, film-stars, social media moguls, dot-com billionaires, and their heirs and assigns in good standing with the DNC. More stored "sustainable" abortions means a better chance of a perfect match should members of these groups pack in their livers, kidneys, brains, or sexual organs with booze or drugs. If this had been done 40 years ago Walt Disney, Ted Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter would still be alive.

2. Stemcell Winding in Our Time: In keeping with the MA1.5, and other green programs to harvest and recycle all US, Canadian and Mexican medical waste to make those crude cakes of herb scented soap you see in Farmers' Markets on Saturday, stem cells will be harvested as well. These vast Petri-dish collections will be dispersed to the newly created Federal Stem Cell ("FedStem") Laboratories, Fat Farms, and Day Spas in all the 50 states plus American Samoa.

All Obamacare mandated "FedStem" labs will be fully-funded so that they can better muck about with the basic building blocks of life. Before being dispersed, all “FedStem” stem-cell harvests will be clearly labeled as to their genetic makeup so that the stem cell's membership in an endangered-victim group can be noted and Federally-mandated affirmative-victim quotas can be forever fulfilled. Stem-cells found to be associated with any majority or Republican group will be returned to the point of origin for termination and incineration along with the donor.

It is hoped that the harvesting of Mandatory Abortions (MA1.5) will create enough stem cells to supply all the experiments that FedStem can dream up, but if the supply falls short mandatory stem cell collection will automatically be instituted via midnight raids on gated Republican communities and other heterosexual redoubts for "People of Pallor".

3. The Better Americans Through Extra Diversity Bill (BATED): Let's face it, too many Americans, when it comes to marriage, are still sticking to their own kind and even, in some extreme cases, the opposite sex among their own kind.

BATED solves this phenomenon via forced marriages for the diversity-impaired. This bill, which requires all Americans to register their race, color, creed and national origin at birth, will give a much needed high-colonic to the presently stalled "Coffee Colored Compromise."

Good Democrats know well that the natural leanings of love often make mistakes (as opposed to the unnatural leanings), but with good Democratic government the mistakes that the normals make can always be rectified. Because some critics have referred to this as "eugenics," the BATED Bill will rectify this problem by mandating that it be called "newgenics."

With full-funding and draconian enforcement (which may or may not extend to mass sterilizations), the Democrats have no doubt that they can create the new Americans volk, the UberUniRace, within a decade -- especially if they offer free-sex weekends to selected teenagers during the school year in the gym. To ensure an optimum mix of breeding stock, bussing will be employed between such areas as Beverly Hills and South Central. To ensure that "race-neutral" breeding takes place as scheduled, fully-qualified members of the National Teachers Union will be paid double-time to oversee and instruct these "Prom" replacement festivals.

4. The Dynamic Diversity Extreme Blowout Bill (DDEB): Here we would take a privilege previously reserved for the Democratic Hollywood elite and extend it to the Democratic Party masses via 3rd world baby adoption with a tax rebate. With two 3rd world baby adoptions in a year, you would get a five-year tax holiday. With three you would get egg roll.

5. The Be-Kind to Border Jumpers Bill (BKBJ): To replace the millions of Democratic voters sadly culled by the D&C’s of the MA1.5 bill, illegal aliens, regardless of country of origin as long as they are south of the Nordic belt, will receive a Diversity's Kidz Wavier (DKW) that requires them to have 5 to 12 children, and pays them a monthly bonus of 5,000 Obamabucks per baby.

6. The Family Uberesteem Conjugal Klan Statute ("FUCKS" also known as "On Beyond Rosie O'Donnell"): As the Democrats' definition of "Family" expands to encompass everything on the North American continent up to and including the caribou herds roaming the Alaskan tundra, it will be important for them not to just legislate animals but to educate them as well.

After a long-overdue purge of local school boards and National Teachers Association recidivists, this act mandates hands-on kindergarten sex education from trained professional molesters who have previously been forbidden to live with 2,000 yards of a school.

In order to bring pride back to the millions of single mothers of five under the age of 20, the word 'bastard' shall be expunged from all dictionaries and literature, to be replaced with "village child."

Circumcision will be defined in said dictionaries and literature as "child abuse, no religious excuses, get over it." Previously circumcised citizens of the demonstrably male persuasion who feel cut off from their foreskins will be given, upon signing a pledge to vote Democrat, $250,000 grants to have replacement foreskins regrown at the FedStem tissue banks and reattached through the miracles of microsurgery. Should the procedure cost less, the grant recipients may either elect to spend the money on a boy-finding trip to Brunai or have a couple of extra inches tacked on.

7. The Comprehensive Anticipatory Child Care Act (CACCA): Given the well-known levels of stress and undue expense involved in raising a child, any parent may, upon application and proof of a solid Democratic voting record, have the child removed from the home and stored in a government approved "Foster Child Care Farm."

These institutions shall be established in the homes of or on property confiscated from, any American shown to have voted Republican -- federal, state, or local -- since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

8. The Dress for Survival Act (DFSA): "Stop that running! You'll put your eye out! Don't play in the street! Watch it! Watch it!" Who among us has not felt compelled to crush our child's spiritl with this kind of unfeeling and emotional criticism? And yet, children continue to be killed, maimed or get a boo-boo every day. With the passage of the DFSA this will come to a halt as all American children when exiting the bed will be required to don full-body Eddy Murphy-certified fat suits to prevent any injury whatsoever. The cost for this program will not create any new personal taxes because it will be funded by a 120% tax on oil-company profits.

9. The Four Non-polluting Wheels for All Program (FNPWA): Bicycles? Two wheels? You've got to be kidding. Millions of accidents waiting to happen. With the onset of FNPWA all bicycles will be confiscated and placed into our newly un-dammed ("Free!") rivers as fish habitats. Every American, at birth, will be issued a quadracycle (with basket) for their errands. The quadracycles will also involve no new taxes as they will also be funded by a second 100% tax on all oil-company revenues left after the previous tax on 120% of their profits.

10. The Traditional Family Readjustment Act (TFRA): In keeping with the goals of "The Family Esteem Statute," the words "mother" and "father" and their derivatives in daily speech are to be replaced by first names of parents (if both are known) or, “Hey, you, yes, you asshole” if unknown. In addition, the Fifth Commandment shall be expunged from all present and future Holy Books, as will all similar religious references to "Honoring thy father and thy mother" unless found in the Koran .

11. The You're Not the Boss of Me Bill (YNBOM): Criticizing, looking sternly at, correcting, or in any way reducing a child's beautifully natural self-esteem from infancy to 35 years of age shall be a misdemeanor. Touching a child with corrective intent shall be a felony. As a bonus, this extends to any handling of the child's feces. Both will be subsumed under the new law informally known as "No Child's Behind."

12. The Universal Marriage of Everything to Everything Act (UME): Men, women, dogs, cats, goats, or Barbra Streisand in that hideous Focker movie. We don't care. If you can fondle it you can marry it. Complaints or whining about this fundamental fundamental will be punishable by summary execution, the better to cull the herd.

13. The Divorce with Benefits Act (DWB): Except upon proof of the murder of a spouse, all Divorces shall be no fault, but must be adjudicated as no-fault to a minimum of $50,000 in legal fees to be paid in the absence of any work whatsoever so that Trial Lawyers’ feelings are not hurt by this ruling.

Gay divorces, should one ever actually occur, are exempt from the monetary awards of this act, but all window-treatments shall be divided equally along with the Spode China -- so buy the 12 place set. For the first five years of this act, all gay divorces (should any ever actually occur) will be required to be done on a TV reality show so that Judge Judy not profit from this act.

Upon hetero or bi-sexual divorce, being declared officially to be no-fault on the part of any individual no matter how many people shall have been in the marriage, any male involved in the divorce shall be required to pay to any designated female involved in the no fault divorce (should there actually be any females in the marriage in the first place), a minimum of 60% of his before tax income calculated backwards to the date of the first kiss in the relationship that would later become marriage.

Should 1.5 children have arisen from the Union before the mandatory abortions kicked in, the father shall pay a total of 40% of his before tax income to towards the care of those children until they reach the age of 35.

Should the female remarry and bear any children to the next husband, the husband of the first marriage shall be required to pay 10% of his before tax income to the children of the second marriage since the female never would have had them if he hadn't been such a bastard in the first place.

Alimony and support provisions shall be waived of any couple, or pairing of species, that shall have split up without being married since the circumstances of their birth and ancestry doubtless compelled them to live in such a way.

Any children fathered out-of-wedlock in the United States shall be considered for inclusion, at the mother's whim, in a Foster Child Care Farm (see above) and endowed with a trust-fund of no less than $3,000,000 from the moment of conception at the expense of taxpayers with no knowledge of the child whatsoever.

Until they reach the age of consent, now reduced to 10 years of age, all the interest from said trust fund shall be paid in monthly installments to the birth mother. At the age of consent, the principle of the trust fund will be passed to the 10 year old child to do with as he or she or it sees fit, while the birth mother shall receive a one-time balloon payment of $500,000 tax-free.

Nothing in these bills shall be construed to represent an attack on Marriage, which the Democratic party still holds to be a sacred union between any one warm-blooded multi-cellular life form and another, regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, gender (assumed or assigned) and species. Mammal to fish, reptile to insect or Michelle Obama to banana marriage is still outlawed under these provisions because you simply must draw a line somewhere.

14. The Spiritual Revivification and Normalization Constitutional Amendment (SPANCA): To eliminate all future arguments about "The Family" and other contentious questions about which religion is "best," all children born after the passage of these bills will be sent to one church and one church only, "The First Unitarian Church of the Agnostic Atheist." Only Muslim children will be exempted this necessary adjustment to their spiritual psyches since, well, they have suffered enough.

Please review these still-outstanding items on the Obamatron to-do list and prepare yourselves. Lock and load or lubricate. The choice is still, for the moment, yours.

[7/31/13]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 13, 2015 12:11 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Religion of the Left

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There is a world dimensional
For those untwisted
by the love of things irreconcilable.

--Hart Crane

I've written elsewhere that one of the "things you can't say about the First Terrorist War" is that it is, at bottom, a war of two religions. So it is with the culture wars in America today. It too is, and you are not supposed to say this either, a war of TWO religions.

Then again, that is not quite right. Try it this way.

We are fighting a war of two religions in which only one side is allowed to be designated as a religion -- the Right. "The Right" in these terms is always code for "The Religious Right", which is, in turn, code for "Christianity." This is sometimes, by the legion of scribblers ready to push out the party line at the drop of a hat, modified for form's sake into "Christian Fundamentalism." But realistic observers of this game are not fooled and know it to be the same sort of bearded shorthand by which "Islamic Fundamentalism" is made to stand in for Islam, pure and simple.

In whatever form the attack takes, we have seen -- and will continue to see -- an attack on Religious Americans by another group of Americans that previously identified themselves as "secular," but who lately are trying to wrap themselves in the raiment of religion to a greater or lesser extent. I am expecting a plethora of punditry soon that includes the phrase, "Some of my best friends are Christians, but...." at every opportunity.

But this tactic will, in the end, not suffice. It will fail because those of real faith easily see through those of false faith. And to profess a faith is worse than to remain simply agnostic. Still, it will be tried because bare atheism reveals that the Religion of the Liberal/Left is not a religion of the people, but of those who would be master. In the coming years, the acolytes of this Religion may attempt to don the fleece of the flock, but the Shepherd will always be able to tell between the quick and the dead.

The real disaster for the Liberal/Left in the last 8-years was not that George Bush was religious, but that Bush's religion was not the Liberal/Left's approved religion; the Religion of the Self. They now have their new apotheosis in Obama, a man whose professed faith is plain to see -- through.

The Religion of the Self is the most ancient religion. Indeed, many faiths were created, revealed, and promulgated to contain the Religion of the Self. I say "contain" because real faith is always a struggle to contain the Religion of the Self in the hopes of a more transformative life and a closer approach to God.

In the age of myth, the Religion of the Self first arose in the Garden as a result of a persuasive conversation between Eve, Adam, and a Serpent. As we know, but still have not learned, it did not work out well for Eve or her husband, and humanity has been struggling to get back to the state of the Garden ever since; a state that, without true faith, will forever recede beyond its grasp.

The Religion of the Self does not rest upon selfless service but upon ego, even as the ego calls upon selflessness in others to boost it to power. Today's Religion of the Self spends a good many cycles advocating that others should serve its endless causes; that others should obey its endless requirements; that others should recite only its approved catechism. Above all it demands that others should reach for their wallets to pay for it all.

The Religion of the Self elects candidates to high office that promise equality and deliver obscenity. The Religion of the Self is composed of many millions of believers whose primary aim is their own glory at someone else's expense. It is little wonder that the high priests of the Religion of the Self are today known as "celebrities," and that the highest state sought by members of this religion is to be, themselves, "celebrated."

A poet, who was taken for many decades to be one of their seers, but who has recently revealed he merely used them for his own,deeper purposes, once wrote of them:

"But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody...."

And they agreed as long as it was clear that the somebody they were to serve was always going to be the Self.

The Religion of the Self teaches, as its first and last precept, that there is nothing in this world greater than the self and -- beyond this world, out beyond even the unimaginable edges of the universe -- there is... well... nothing at all;

"purposeless matter hovering in the dark."

After all, there was, in our young, ignorant and still stumbling science, no proof or evidence anywhere they looked -- out to the edges of the cosmos or down into the stringed heart of matter -- that appeared to echo the Biblical. All was merely the blunt physical, the unbearable heaviness of animated meat. They simply cannot imagine a God that exists, but is "sufficiently advanced such that we couldn't identify him for another 1000 years." This possibility does not appear in their primitive equations and insufficiently sensitive instruments, even as our advanced cosmologists are beginning to see the faintest glimmers.

The only thing these "Believers" could sense that partook of the spiritual was the Self and the Self alone. Thus they made the Self into their golden idol and set it on the altar of their brief lives. Obsessed with embellishing this idol many spent large sums and long periods of introspective analysis with professionals that were paid handsomely to confirm to them, at all times and in all places, that the grim visage of the Self reigned supreme, and that only the Self and only this life in this world could be validated.

It did not matter, or it somehow escaped their otherwise sharpened intellects, that all men and all worlds dwell within a miracle and a mystery so deep and so far beyond the understanding of the human mind that we simply lack the senses to perceive it -- except through the ancient embedded sense of faith alone. Indeed, relying on the fact that "faith" is not obviously tied to any single sense organ, they would deny that it is a sense at all. And the more you deny the sense of faith in yourself, the weaker and more vestigial it becomes.

Had they looked closely at the infinitely little that is now known at the outward edges of cosmology and quantum physics they might have dimly sensed that the exercise of the power called "faith" was actually the only exercise that would allow them even a glimpse of the glory behind the material manifestation. But the worship of the Self not only obscures all dimensions outside of it, it demands their obliteration.

The reporting of and affirmation of faith by billions of human beings was to the worshipers of the Self only ancient superstition. That which was known for aeons as wisdom was to them mere myth. And the things that myth, wisdom, and faith pointed towards and revealed were all foolish because at their center they denied the primacy of the Self; reduced the Self to a small clot of cells, a few insignificant cubic centimeters of brain matter. This diminution cannot be tolerated because the Self is the most jealous and wrathful of all the gods. The Religion of the Self, preaching toleration as a central tenet, cannot tolerate faith.

For what faith does, among many other things as it reshapes a human life, is the reduction of self to its proper scale; to remove forever the capitalization of self, and render it as it is in the vaster scheme of things as they are. This reduction also means the diminution of all that the self holds dear, the sense of "I" above all, of Ego Uber Alles. Faith silences the infernal music of "Me" that the grace notes of existence can at last be heard.

This song of the self is a song our current believers learned in the cradle or, if not there, on their way into the upper realms of higher education. It was a song that needed to be sung for the proper matriculation of the budding intellectual into the material world. And this matriculation was important because, for all the protestations; all inane bromides of spirituality; all the endless bland pseudo-theologies that asked not for faith but for mere affirmation; all the ballyhooed new-age cults, psycho-babble and boutique spirituality... all these were nothing but paper-mache puppets dropped over their souls to disguise what The Believers of the Self really were -- material boys and girls on the make in a material world.

And being of that world, like religious fanatics throughout history, the members of the Religion of the Self would not be content until all others joined with and affirmed their Religion as the way, the truth and the light.

Those that voted against the Religion of the Self were seen not just as citizens who preferred to be left to their own devices, but as heretics and apostates and, worse still, unlearned and ignorant. After all, all those who were of the Religion of the Self were secure in the certain knowledge that there was but One Way; theirs. That this way did not lead to great light but only down into the pit was something they would learn, if learn they could, only at the moment beyond the very last moment; that moment when -- at last -- the self is at last expunged from the universe and yet - mirabile dictu- Creation endures.



A variation of this essay was published December 5, 2004


Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 13, 2015 12:01 AM |  Comments (45)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Updated: There's No Stopping the Brian Williams Testimonials Now!

A lie which shall live in infamy!

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By our Infamous commenter Mumblix Grumph

[
HT top vid: Never Yet Melted]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 9, 2015 12:31 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
So you think you -- distantly and vaguely -- understand just a smidgen of what is going on in this society?

Think again and pay your Neptune Society membership in full.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 4, 2015 6:20 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"This Buds [Not] For You:"Attention Organic Sustainable Artisan Hipster Beer Brewers! Sit Down and Shut Up!

"Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale, we'll be brewing us some golden suds."

On an impulse I ordered a Budweiser with a burger just last week for the first time in years. Crisp, clean, smooth, simple, thirst-quenching, and surprisingly good.

Plus they got the Clydesdales.

And they also have puppies.

Better still they have Clydesdales AND puppies, and great 60 second stories....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 2, 2015 12:21 PM |  Comments (23)  | QuickLink: Permalink
School Daze: Then and Now

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[In email this morning from one of my tireless correspondents, this lovely comparison of the way we live now versus the "bad old days." You decide.]

1. Scenario: Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.

1957 - Vice principal comes over to look at Jack's shotgun. He goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.

2015 - School goes into lock down, and FBI is called. Jack is hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

2. Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fist-fight after school.

1957 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up best friends.

2015 - Police called. SWAT team arrives. Johnny and Mark are arrested and charged with assault. Both are expelled even though Johnny started it.

3. Scenario: Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.

1957 - Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the principal. He returns to class, sits still, and does not disrupt class again.

2015 - Jeffrey is diagnosed with ADD and given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a learning disability.

4. Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1957 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2015 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is placed in foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself, and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.

5. Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1957 - Mark shares aspirin with principal out on the smoking dock.

2015 - Police called. Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. Car is searched for drugs and weapons.

6. Scenario: Pedro fails high school English.

1957 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.

2015 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given a diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

7. Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a red ant bed.

1957 - Ants die.

2015 - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Homeland Security, and FBI called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism. The FBI investigates parents; siblings are removed from home; computers confiscated. Johnny's dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

8. Scenario: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Heather. Heather hugs him to comfort him.

1957 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2015 - Heather is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces three years in state prison. Johnny undergoes five years of therapy.

Johnny sues Heather and the school, settles for $2.5 Million.


Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 2, 2015 8:34 AM |  Comments (14)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Who are the liberals? by James Panero on Dec 02, 2005

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Just take James Burnham’s simple test. The test, which appears in Burnham’s Suicide of the West, comes by way of Roger Kimball, who wrote on Burnham last year for TNC. Answer these 39 statements yes or no; information on scoring after.

1. All forms of racial segregation and discrimination are wrong.
2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.
3. Everyone has a right to free, public education.
4. Political, economic or social discrimination based on religious belief is wrong.
5. In political or military conflict it is wrong to use methods of torture and physical terror.
6. A popular movement or revolt against a tyranny or dictatorship is right, and deserves approval.
7. The government has a duty to provide for the ill, aged, unemployed and poor if they cannot take care of themselves.
8. Progressive income and inheritance taxes are the fairest form of taxation.
9. If reasonable compensation is made, the government of a nation has the legal and moral right to expropriate private property within its borders, whether owned by citizens or foreigners.
10. We have a duty to mankind; that is, to men in general.
11. The United Nations, even if limited in accomplishment, is a step in the right direction.
12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong.
13. Wealthy nations, like the United States, have a duty to aid the less privileged portions of mankind.
14. Colonialism and imperialism are wrong.
15. Hotels, motels, stores and restaurants in southern United States ought to be obliged by law to allow Negroes to use all of their facilities on the same basis as whites.
16. The chief sources of delinquency and crime are ignorance, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.
17. Communists have a right to express their opinions.
18. We should always be ready to negotiate with the Soviet Union and other communist nations.
19. Corporal punishment, except possibly for small children, is wrong.
20. All nations and peoples, including the nations and peoples of Asia and Africa, have a right to political independence when a majority of the population wants it.
21. We always ought to respect the religious beliefs of others.
22. The primary goal of international policy in the nuclear age ought to be peace.
23. Except in cases of a clear threat to national security or, possibly, to juvenile morals, censorship is wrong.
24. Congressional investigating committees are dangerous institutions, and need to be watched and curbed if they are not to become a serious threat to freedom.
25. The money amount of school and university scholarships ought to be decided primarily by need.
26. Qualified teachers, at least at the university level, are entitled to academic freedom: that is, the right to express their own beliefs and opinions, in or out of the classroom, without interference from administrators, trustees, parents or public bodies.
27. In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.
28. The national government should guarantee that all adult citizens, except for criminals and the insane, should have the right to vote.
29. Joseph McCarthy was probably the most dangerous man in American public life during the fifteen years following the Second World War.
30. There are no significant differences in intellectual, moral or civilizing capacity among human races and ethnic types.
31. Steps toward world disarmament would be a good thing.
32. Everyone is entitled to political and social rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
33. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression.
34. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
35. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.
36. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security.
37. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.
38. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions.
39. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Scoring--

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 31, 2015 11:06 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Hive and the Town

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During my years in the cities, returning to New York by air at night mezmerized me during the long approach. Sliding down over the Alleghenies from the west, curving in over the Atlantic from the South, or throttling back and easing off the Great Circle Route from Europe, the emergence of the vast sprawl of lights that defined the Hive always enraptured me. On moonless nights, after the humming hours held in that aluminum cylinder hoisted into mid-heaven, you saw the long continents of dark water or land dissolve into shimmering white-gold strands connecting to clusters of earth-anchored constellations that merged to expanding galaxies of towns, suburbs, and cities until all below was a shimmering web of man-made stars.

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

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

I loved the Hive across all the long years I lived within it. It was at once exciting and exasperating, densely communal and achingly lonely, empowering and eviscerating, inspiring and degrading. It never stopped coming at you and, on those days when your mental defenses were weak and your emotional shields wavered, it could splatter your soul. The same random evening stroll through downtown that would show you six people ambling along dressed as gigantic baked potatoes (complete with a pat of butter, gob of sour cream and chives), would also show you a wizened bum so diminished that he would drop his trousers, squat, and defecate in the middle of the sidewalk as bond traders in bespoke suits and handmade English shoes stepped carefully around the spectacle seeing nothing, nothing at all.

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

But Hell has its charms no less than Heaven; more it would seem than mere Heaven for how else does it hold so many in thrall for so long? Did not Milton, who being blind saw so deeply, declare, "Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven?" In the Hive as in Hell, there's always someone lower in the ranking than you, until, of course, you become the defecating bum or another one of the soul-gutted homeless set out randomly on the streets as both warnings and talismans of what can happen should you fail to toe the line, talk the talk, and walk the walk that the Hive demands in exchange for your small but continuing prosperity.

These small skills of toeing, talking and walking I mastered early during my time in the Hive. I continued to deploy them with some modest success. I say modest since, just as there was always no shortage of those beneath you in the Hive, so too did the heap of souls piled there rise far above you. Exactly how far their relative altitude was above yours was always measured only by the cold metric of gold. And if the Hive is long on anything, it is gold. Except of course that no matter how gold much you acquire, you only have a little of all that there is to be had, a fact that keeps people in the Hive long after there's any real human need for being there. In the Hive there's always more gold to be had. The only thing asked for in exchange is time, of which the Hive never has enough since to be in the Hive is to squander your time at a greater rate than you realize until you turn around, three decades are gone, and at last you know you're running low.

Soon it will be three years since I left the Hive and I've no inclination to return. It's easy to say that my love affair with that life ended in fire, smoke and ash on the crisp and clear morning of September 11, 2001, but that's only a convenient peg on which to hang the more complicated dissolution of an unwritten pact. It more probably began in a car northeast of the city some ten years before when my first wife decided to redefine the word "normal" for my 11-year-old daughter.

Or perhaps it began in a hundred other equally mundane moments. In truth, you are either growing into a thing or growing out of it and towards something else, some other phase of this long series of repeated lessons handed out by existence for what you hope is some purpose, although what purpose that might be is always obscure. No matter. As the early Portuguese explorers knew, "It is important to travel. It is not important to arrive."

By the time I left the Hive, whatever had once bound me to it had long since frayed away. The upward pace of a "career" seemed more and more like a pointless marathon, a mere job. Long days spent striving to "exceed corporate goals" came to resemble a game of pick-up-sticks played with cows. Efforts to save an enterprise that one didn't own came down to admitting that the enterprise had no intrinsic worth other than maintaining the vulgar lifestyle of an aging monomaniac who could no longer reason his way through two and two to four. Add to that the compulsion to continue connections with past friends and present family that only seemed to use and never to give, and it all combined into a vast fog of disappointment that obscured the plain and simple fact that while government employees were working 24 hours a day printing more money, nobody anywhere was printing more time.

And so, at last, you've got to go.

Yes, as Jack Kerouac, Bard of the Road, wrote "Man, you gotta go." Then he went home.

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

Today, for a week or so, "here" turns out to be a small town up on the northwest edge of the nation. In size and composition, architecture and attitude, it is just about the exact polar opposite of the Hive. Where Central Park in the Hive is a large, long oblong of struggling overused green in the center of an immense slab of asphalt, steel and concrete, the central park of this town is about 15 yards on a side. It's a pleasant patch of cool grass studded with picnic tables and ringed with oaks that drape it in a shawl of shade. At the east end is a brick and cedar bandstand where banjos, guitars and fiddles sing out on odd afternoons and evenings. You'll hear some country and some rock, but mostly you'll hear the strains of bluegrass brought down out of the old Alleghenies and carried far west to these higher, more distant and demanding mountains.

On the west side of the park is a five-foot by three-foot marble faced granite slab in the shape of two tablets donated and erected there by the local chapter of the Eagles. Carved into the marble face in polished script are the Ten Commandments, King James version. It would seem that whatever local chapter of the ACLU exists in these parts has chosen to ignore this blatant eruption of the Christian tradition in the secular town park. One might suppose the ACLU has done this simply because it hasn't gotten around to it. It would, however, be much more likely that the organization is aware that in this town an ACLU suit to remove the Ten Commandments would be answered not with a five year legal argument, but with 30 rounds of semi-automatic rifle fire into the offices and automobiles of those seeking its removal. Since, for all its posturing, the ACLU has devolved into a refuge for moral and physical cowards with law degrees, it's not difficult to see why this stone, largely unread and unnoticed, has been given a pass.

This is a heavily armed part of the nation and, as a result, it is a very civil and polite part as well. The local army surplus store, called "Army Surplus," offers a selection of 40 MM artillery rounds (disarmed) to those locals who collect vintage ammunition or simply to those in need of a paper weight with authority. The local classified bargain hunter newspaper ("Nickel's Worth – One Copy Free") offers free rabbits (with hutch), free pigs (no accommodations included) and free kindling ("2 cords U haul"). One the same page you're offered such amusements as a 50 pound keg of black powder ($75.00) and a pistol grip pump-action Mossburg shotgun with a short 20 inch barrel ("Used twice, like new, make offer.") There are rumors that some folks outside of town own used Army tanks, but these are not listed in the paper although large tanks for storing diesel and gasoline on your land are, along with military level first aid kits. Just the thing for a sucking chest wound.

As I get up and walk away from the shaded picnic table where I've been writing, a man sitting on the bandstand with a lunch sack and a large bottle of Mountain Dew smiles and asks, "Are you vacating that table?" Like I said, when the people are well armed people are very polite.

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

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

If you had any doubt of this, a haircut at the local barber shop ("The Last Male Outpost") would trim your notion shorter than a Marine flat-top. Although sporting a red, white, and blue barber pole outside the shop boasts a Confederate Stars and Bars barber pole on the inside. Taking a seat you can leaf through vintage copies of "Field & Stream," "Guns & Ammo," and the long defunct "The Mother Earth News" ("Build a Compost Tumbler from Your Hot Water Tank!"). There's no New-Age elevator music here, but an always on police scanner so you can be among the first to know "when it all goes down." If you listen while the clippers are whirring in your ear, your barber will tell you that what all women secretly and shamefully want is the one thing they can't have, "The natural power of the male." He'll also reveal that he's trying to get this power working on his third wife.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Following close behind this influx of aging tomb-boomers you'd see the proliferation of shops specializing in giving an antlered, worn-pine, Indian blanket, Western feel to the $500,000 vacation condos and the $2,000,000 lakefront McMansions with floating boat docks sporting 25' Sea Rays. Driving just beyond the town limits, you'd find the immense alien landing sites of Home Depot and Wal-Mart, which haven't managed to kill off the local merchants. Yet. And in all of this you'd rest secure that once in town you'd never be more than five minutes from a Starbucks since, once in town, you're never more than five minutes from anything. Walking.

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

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

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

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

August, 2005. Sandpoint, Idaho


Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 29, 2015 3:54 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Attack of The Food Eroder

Or, "The Ninja Nibbler of the Night"

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As a friend of mine recently pointed out, "Women shop. Men resupply."

Too true. Whenever I find myself in one of our current Cathedrals of Food (AKA: "Whole Foods -- Why Pay Less?"), I don't buy meals, I buy components. Though I've lived alone for some time, I buy like I'm supplying a small tribe. I've tried to control this by selecting the "little" cart. You know, that half-pint shopping vehicle, that grocery Miata, that let's you believe you're not really buying as much as you are. It doesn't work. I come home, unpack my "kills" -- at about $69 a bag -- and mumble, "Who's going to eat all this?"

House guests are the God's answer to "Who's going to eat this?" They are. That's okay. I love to cook for people. I'm good at it and it gets boring cooking for one; expensive too since I loathe leftovers.

Problems return when your house guests are stealth eaters. You know who I mean. Yes, you. Stealth eaters never, ever overeat -- except on the sly. They are the Merrill's Marauders of the post-midnight refrigerator.

Ordinary stealth eaters can be dealt with because the damage done by their pillage is obvious. You had half of a banana cream pie in the frig at sunset but by dawn it is gone. Vanished. Evaporated. Kaput. Never to be heard from again. Not so much as a ransom note, just a crumpled tin husk folded and stuffed down the side of the garbage bag beneath the camouflage of a crumpled milk carton.

Not pleasing, especially when you were planning on banana cream pie for breakfast. Still you suck up your sorrow, move on, and resupply.

No so with the worst sort of stealth eater -- the dreaded food eroder.

The food eroder is so stealthy he or she can even conceal their eating from themselves. The food eroder wishes to eat but not be seen eating nor to be known to have eaten. The food eroder can make your entire refrigerator into a Potemkin village where you think you have a LOT of food, but actually have almost none. A food eroder deals in cuisine disinformation.

Case in point:

Some weeks back I had a house guest. This house guest was a very careful eater -- someone cognizant of the fine points of nutrition; someone who knew the calories in a twice-baked potato down to the last bacon bit swimming in a dollop of sour cream. This nameless but shameless someone also had a finely tuned economic indicator and never met a leftover that was not loved, caressed, and consumed -- even when the original meal was lost to recorded history.

I once had a kind of grudging respect for this guest who was so much more disciplined about food than I could ever hope to be. But that was before I discovered -- after the guest's departure -- that I had been sharing my home and sacred refrigerator with a food eroder, a late-night Ninja nibbler.

You see, in order to fulfill my male mission of re-supply, I need to know what supplies are actually on hand. With a food eroder, this cannot be known since -- if you do not actually hand inspect every item in your larder -- you can never be sure of the quantity. What you can be sure of, I now know, is that a food eroder will guarantee you have less than you think.

The clearest example of this is -- as I have discovered today -- the most often decimated target of any self-respecting food eroder, ice cream.

About a month ago I noted that the house had no ice-cream in the freezer. This is not good -- especially should an after-midnight-ice-cream emergency break out while watching, say, "I Got the Hook-Up."

To prepare for such an emergency, and thus avert an ice cream crisis, I resupplied the freezer with a full half-gallon of French Vanilla. Since my house guest was looking a bit peckish at the time I offered to make a couple of sundaes (carmel sauce, shaved almonds, etc.). My guest gracefully accepted and the half gallon of ice-cream supply was reduced by perhaps a pint overall. This left around three pints. Such was the state of the ice cream three weeks ago at last check. Need for resupply? Negligible.

Fast forward to today when I was suddenly stricken with an ice-cream-emergency (While watching, yet again, "I Got the Hook-Up.") and staggered to the supply in the freezer. As I removed it I noted it felt strangely light for a container that should have contained about three-pints. You can only imagine my shock when upon opening it I discovered that it contained only about a half-inch thickness of ice cream covering the now far distant bottom.

But that was not the worst of it.

On closer examination, the surface of that razor-thin level of ice cream was scored by a series of small parallel grooves across it from side to side. It was as if somebody had gone back and forth over the ice cream with a teaspoon like a lawn mower.

I knew then I had been hit by the food eroder. I knew that, over several nights, my ice cream had be hit again and again and again.

Just a little this time. Just a little more that time. Then a bit again when the compulsion struck. And all, it was clear, in a shameful and furtive way as I slept.

This degradation probably went on and on until the food eroder could no longer avoid the terrible truth that nearly a half a gallon of ice cream had been consumed whilst standing at the refrigerator with spoon in hand. At that point shame overcame the eroder and the container was placed carefully back in the refrigerator so that it would appear to be undisturbed.

The food eroder escaped without ever having to face the shame. I'm off to resupply and thus avoid a post-midnight ice cream crisis. My only solace is that I know that the food eroder, now back home and faced with a refrigerator stocked only with the desiccating remnants of cantaloupe and celery is still having to walk an extra two miles every day in penance. Ice cream giveth, but ice cream doth not taketh away.

Meanwhile, my stock is back to normal. But I am taking steps to avoid future shock. I'm installing a state of the art motion-sensing alarm on the refrigerator instead of my previous sign that said, "Too late. Already here."



[Republished because..... because.... because.... The Food Eroder has returned. This time with teeny-tiny storage units. ]
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Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 27, 2015 12:39 AM |  Comments (29)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Road Tales: Where the Buffalo Roam


Proof -- Dateline: Moab, Utah Taken at Site

He'd hunted big game for years all over the United States. Hunting was a way of life to him. But, in all those years, he'd never shot a buffalo. He'd put his name in for the lottery that gave out yearly licenses to shoot buffalo, but year after year the winning number had eluded him. As he failed, again and again, his need to add a buffalo, an American bison, to his life bag grew to obsessive proportions. Finally, he could stand it no longer. He determined that he would buy a couple of young buffalo, raise them, and then shoot them. It seemed like a plan.

When the buffalo purchase was completed the question arose about where these buffalo were to be raised. He wasn't a rich man and the cost to two baby buffalo maxed out his credit cards. The only viable option was to raise them on his front lawn in Moab, Utah. Accordingly, the buffalo were delivered and put out to pasture, or "out to lawn" as the case may be.

Besides grass the lawn also contained, courtesy of his kids, a couple of soccer balls. Shortly after the buffalo became his lawn ornaments, he was out walking among them when one of them discovered a soccer ball and butted it over to him with its nose. Without thinking he kicked it back towards the other buffalo, who passed it to the first buffalo who butted it back to him. An hour or so of passing and kicking the soccer ball between man and buffalo ensued.

When he went out on his lawn the next morning, they were waiting for him. One seemed to be playing midlawn while the other hung back by the water trough which had become some sort of goal. The forward buffalo butted the ball towards him. Without thinking he returned the kick over the head of the forward. No good. With a speed belying its bulk, the defensive buffalo moved quickly and butted it through his legs to the porch. When it bounced off the barbecue, they seemed to do a brief victory prance. The game was afoot.

Day after day, week after week, the strange lawn ritual with the soccer ball went on and on. In truth, he had long since pulled far ahead of the buffalo in goals, but what do buffalo know about keeping score?

In time, however, the hunting season came around. He looked out of his house on the first morning and saw the buffalo waiting for him, the soccer ball in front of the forward, the defensive buffalo pacing slowly back and forth by the water trough. It came to him then that he could never shoot them. It would spoil the season -- and the soccer season, in the deserts of Utah, is never really over.

On a hot afternoon soon after, he looked out his window and discovered, much to his delight and his neighbors' shock, that the two buffalo on his lawn were indeed male and female.

Now it is two years later and he has four buffalo on his lawn. He doesn't hunt anything anymore. Says he's lost the taste for it. His old hunting buddies come by every so often and razz him about the buffalo.

"You started with two and couldn't shoot them," one said. "Now you got four, and next year you're gonna have five. What are you going to do then?"

He went to his garage and came back with a basketball.


Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 26, 2015 2:35 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Rich and Strange: The Sensorium of B. H. Obama

Obama: "We are Americans but we are also brains connected to various sensory input sources..... And that was it. He never made it back to the White House.

"Meanwhile, Michelle Obama was busy hosting Let's Move Annual Hide and Go Seek Week."

Published on Jan 16, 2015
Friar Edgar's Globe of Wonders (FEGOW.com) invites you to feast in the Globe's premiere wonder: a look back at Year 7 of the Obama presidency, presented by the award-winning documentarians of "America Past." In the early months of 2015, a young United States President named Barack Obama made a fateful decision. Frustrated by the endless pressures of his thankless, dead-end, white-collar job, Obama delivered his State of the Union speech and disappeared-- to America's heartland - Lawrence, Kansas - where he began the great work of which he'd always dreamed. But with the lamestream media and the forces of Washington politics-as-usual hot on his tail, could this plucky POTUS deliver the change he believed in?

Contact Globe of Wonders researchers Dr. P. Van Koughnett and Dr. P. Davis at FriarEdgars@gmail.com.
Learn more about the legacy of Friar Edgar of Taunton at FEGOW.com .


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 23, 2015 11:09 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"North is at the bottom:" Once Again We Learn That the Map is Not the Territory

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A 16th century view of North America in the Vallard Atlas

The scene above shows the second American map, which is of the East Coast of North America, and is one of the most significant of the Vallard Atlas. It is again oriented to the South and has the latitude markers and distance scales in the left and right margins. In the Atlantic, almost in the center of the map, is one beautiful ship, partially surrounded by compass roses, exuding rhumb lines.

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But what makes this map particularly important is its display of the geographical information brought back from the New World by the expeditions of Jacques Cartier in 1534, 1535-1536, and 1541-1542. Detailed are the Gulf of St Lawrence and the St Lawrence River and some of the wilderness beyond them, discovered and explored by Cartier in search of the elusive Northwest Passage to the Orient and who gave Canada its name. The meticulous representation of the coastlines with their numerous inlets underscores Canada’s potential for fishing and trade. He also reported fully on the Indians of the many tribes that he encountered. Shown in the forests of the mainland in an exquisite, almost late Medieval manner are Cartier, his well armed explorer-colonists, and the winter fort of Sainte-Croix. The Indians, who clearly are overshadowed by the Europeans, also are present observing them, hunting deer, and warring with each other. In addition to the deer, other fauna such as dogs, bears, and possums or foxes are present as well.

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Video about the Vallard Atlas and larger map if you

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 22, 2015 11:04 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Keeping You Up to Date on Advances in Lawn Chair Aviation

Impressive but a mere shadow of the balls of the original Lawn Chair Aviator:

"Lawrence Richard Walters, nicknamed "Lawnchair Larry" or the "Lawn Chair Pilot", (April 19, 1949 – October 6, 1993) was an American truck driver[1] who took flight on July 2, 1982, in a homemade airship. Dubbed Inspiration I, the "flying machine" consisted of an ordinary patio chair with 45 helium-filled weather balloons attached to it. Walters rose to an altitude of over 15,000 feet (4,600 m) and floated from his point of origin in San Pedro, California, into controlled airspace near Los Angeles International Airport. His flight was widely reported."

The Larry Waters Story:

"Now let me tell you about Larry Walters, my hero. Walters is a truck driver, thirty-three years old. He is sitting in his lawn chair in his backyard, wishing he could fly. For as long as he could remember, he wanted to go /up/. To be able to just rise right up in the air and see for a long way. The time, money, education, and opportunity to be a pilot were not his. Hang gliding was too dangerous, and any good place for gliding was too far away. So he spent a lot of summer afternoons sitting in his backyard in his ordinary old aluminum lawn chair - the kind with the webbing and rivets. Just like the one you've got in your backyard.

"The next chapter in this story is carried by the newspapers and television. There's old Larry Walters up in the air over Los Angeles. Flying at last. Really getting UP there. Still sitting in his aluminum lawn chair, but it's hooked on to forty-five helium-filled surplus weather balloons. Larry has a parachute on, a CB radio, a six-pack of beer, some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a BB gun to pop some of the balloons to come down. And instead of being just a couple of hundred feet over his neighborhood, he shot up eleven thousand feet, right through the approach corridor to the Los Angeles International Airport.

"Walters is a taciturn man. When asked by the press why he did it, he said: "You can't just sit there." When asked if he was scared, he answered: "Wonderfully so." When asked if he would do it again, he said: "Nope." And asked if he was glad that he did it, he grinned from ear to ear and said: "Oh, yes."

"The human race sits in its chair. On the one hand is the message that says there's nothing left to do. And the Larry Walterses of the earth are busy tying balloons to their chairs, directed by dreams and imagination to do their thing.

"The human race sits in its chair. On the one hand is the message that the human situation is hopeless. And the Larry Walterses of the earth soar upward knowing anything is possible, sending back the message from eleven thousand feet: "I did it, I really did it. I'm FLYING!"

"It's the spirit here that counts. The time may be long, the vehicle may be strange or unexpected. But if the dream is held close to the heart, and imagination is applied to what there is close at hand, everything is still possible.

"But wait! Some cynic from the edge of the crowd insists that human beings still /can't really/ fly. Not like birds, anyway. True. But somewhere in some little garage, some maniac with a gleam in his eye is scarfing vitamins and mineral supplements, and practicing flapping his arms faster and faster."

-- From Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

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Waters, July 2, 1982

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 21, 2015 8:51 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Constitution Free Zone

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The Government's 100-Mile "Border" Zone - Map | ACLU
"This is what it means to me: Look for Waco-like events

followed by a cascade of smaller operations; show trials of prominent dissidents and Breitbarting of others; a blizzard of draconian regulations; confiscation of weapons and wealth; and rule through intimidation and Soviet-style terror. Expect successive waves of state-sponsored urban riots, deflation and inflation and revaluation, price controls, closing of international borders; internal travel restrictions, closing the internet to civilians, a fully captured news media ... Think Martial Law, Executive Orders, UN involvement. And that's the optimistic part. I don't think people understand what they're up against. Chasmatic @ Spillers of Soup: CONSTITUTION-FREE ZONE


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 20, 2015 10:33 AM |  Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Wyeth's Women: Betsy, Christina, Siri and Helga

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Betsy, "Maga's Daughter," 1966

"On Andrew Wyeth’s 22nd birthday he ventured to Cushing, Maine to meet the artist Merle James but instead met James’ 17-year old daughter Betsy. Instantly smitten, he asked her to show him around town and she was more than happy to oblige. She thought “I’ll show him a real Maine building” and as something of a test took him to the Hathorne Point home of her friends Christina and Alvaro Olson.

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Mrs. Andrew Wyeth 'Corner of Woods' 1954

"Throughout his life Andrew had a rather contentious relationship with women; indeed with anyone who didn’t in some way directly support his painting, but on that day in July 1939 he met what would become two of the most important women in his life.

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Christina, 1967

"Christina Olson, who had an undiagnosed neuromuscular disease (likely polio) was reduced to crawling and urinating on stacks of discarded newspapers. Andrew however felt that “she was so much bigger than all the little idiosyncrasies.” and found her a symbol of fierce independance - an extraordinary conquest of life. The result of this friendship was Christina’s World, one of the iconic paintings of the 20th century.

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Christina's World, 1948

"Christina’s death in January 1968 deeply affected Andrew and marked the end of a seminal two decade long period in his painting.

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Siri Erickson

"Faced with a blank canvas – as it were – it was time for a reappraisal of his art. It was then that he met Siri, the daughter of the Cushing farmer George Erickson. Siri was exotic, untouched and had an electrifying effect on his work. “A burst of life,” he later said, “like spring coming through the ground, a rebirth of something fresh out of death.”

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Siri, Sauna, 1969

"Wyeth painted Siri for ten years, until Betsy – worried that their relationship had turned sexual – put a stop to it. She told Andrew “If you do this again, don’t tell me.” Her request would have rather far-reaching consequences because Andrew had just met Helga."

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Helga, 1972

-- Text from Codex99// Betsy, Christina, Siri and Helga

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Marriage, 1993

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Andrew and Betsy Wyeth, October, 2008.

The great men [ Thoreau, Goethe, Emerson, Tolstoy] forever radiate a sharp sense of that profound requirement of an artist, to fully understand that consequences of what he creates are unimportant. Let the motive for action be in the action itself and not in the event. I know from my own experience that when I create with any degree of strength and beauty I have no thought of consequences. Anyone who creates for effect—to score a hit—does not know what he is missing! Letterto Andrew fromhis father, the great illustrator N.C. Wyeth

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 18, 2015 6:15 PM |  Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
DEATH IN THE GULF STREAM

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Hemingway and the Cocktail

Ernest Hemingway (21 Jul 1899 – 2 July 1961) was, among other things, a war correspondant, bullfighting aficionado, American expatriate, novelist, cat-fancier, fisherman, sub-chaser, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner and, for our purposes here, a rather serious drinker. Ernest, or Papa, began drinking as a teenager in his cub reporter days and continued, unabated, throughout his life. Toward the end of his life he was reportedly drinking the equivalent of a quart of whiskey a day.

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DEATH IN THE GULF STREAM

Charles Baker, in his 1939 classic The Gentleman’s Companion included this drink prepared for him by Papa during a Jan 1937 visit to the author in Key West. Hemingway described it as a “picker-upper” Baker writes: “It’s tartness and its bitterness are its chief charm.” In other words – a typical Hemingway cocktail.
2 oz. Lucas Bols Oude Genever
4 dashes Angostura
1 lime
Add crushed ice to a thin tumbler.
Lace the ice with 4 dashes of Angostura.
Add the juice and crushed peel of 1 lime.
Nearly fill the tumbler with Genever.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 16, 2015 4:36 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
MAP: The United States Of Alcohol

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Map via VinePair

Larger image if you choose to....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 16, 2015 4:24 PM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"My Little Old Sod Shanty on the Plains"

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The Chrisman Sisters, 1886: Lizzie Chrisman filed the first of the sisters' homestead claims in 1887. Lutie Chrisman filed the following year and the other two sisters, Jennie Ruth and Hattie, had to wait until 1892, when they came of age, to file.

One of the most striking features of these photos is the pride the homesteaders show.

Many of those photographed were the first landowners in their family. Homesteaders often lined up their most prized possessions in the photos to show the scope of their ownership.

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One woman, reportedly embarrassed by her sod house,

requested that the family be photographed with her pump organ instead. They dragged the organ out into the yard — farm animals and wagons can be seen in the background — then dragged it back into the house after the photo was taken.

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Ned Dunlap, known as Kearney, Nebraska's only real cowboy, 1902.

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The Shores family, near Westerville, Custer County, Nebraska, 1887. Jerry Shores was one of a number of former slaves to settle in Custer County. He took a claim adjacent his brothers’, Moses Speese and Henry Webb (each had taken the name of his former owner).

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Sylvester Rawding brought his family to Nebraska in the 1880s. In 1886, they brought their lunch outside on a muddy day so that photographer Solomon Butcher could capture the family on film. Sylvester was a Union Army Civil War veteran, wounded during a skirmish near Mobile, Alabama.

More images at The Week - America’s pivotal move West

"Oh the hinges are of leather
And the windows have no glass
While the board roof
Lets the howling blizzards in
And I hear the hungry coyote
As he slinks up through the grass
Round the little old sod shanty
On my claim"


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 16, 2015 9:05 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"The Pleasures of Merely Circulating"

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The garden flew round with the angel,
The angel flew round with the cloud.
And the clouds flew round and the clouds flew round
And the clouds flew round with the clouds.

-- Wallace Stevens

A clear day and a long road running south out of Nelson in British Columbia towards the US border. Lakes loom on the left embraced by the forested mountains that rise up displaying more greens than can be counted. The air, as it slips by the window, is crisp even in July. Somewhere up past the first two ranges of mountains, snow lingers. It's a perfect day and the road goes on forever.

We come over a rise in my red Mercedes 560 SEL and see curling out before us between the forests a rolling S-curve of smooth asphalt arcing down the valley and then up and over the hill far beyond and gone. My passenger, skilled in racing very large motorcycles very well, looks at it and says, "That's the road motorcyclists dream of. Perfectly banked and perfectly curved with a long, long sight line and no oncoming traffic."

I nod and give it the gas. The turbocharger kicks in. The car leaps forward with a growl. The forest outside becomes a green blur. We sweep down and around, up and over the hill.

We pin the speedometer.

And we're gone.

I pity the future for a lot of reasons, but I really pity that future that will no longer be able to know the pure pleasures of personal speed. As Jack Kerouac knew,

"Man, you gotta go."

Say what you like about our poor beaten-down gas guzzlers, they've given us over a century of thrills for everyman.

I pity that future that won't ever experience the sweet feeling of motoring in a vehicle with a large internal-combustion engine running on heavy fuel. A vehicle with a glutton's diet of pure petrochemical byproducts. A car that turns the sunshine that fell to Earth on some antediluvian day 500 million summers gone into a surge of pure speed on this fine July afternoon.

I pity my descendants who will never be able to look out at some sweeping mountain road, perfectly curved, perfectly banked, with no oncoming traffic and just "Give it the gas."

"Give it the photons" just doesn't have the same cachet.



HT to The Dipso Chronicles: Literary Antacid for bringing this back.


Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 14, 2015 2:22 PM |  Comments (28)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Sleepwalkers

The enemy told the Sleepwalkers, in escalating words and deeds across decades, that his goal 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.

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 glowed in a horrible dawn. 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. That was someplace later.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 9, 2015 1:22 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Lincoln on the Rise of the Ambitious and The Silent Artillery of Time

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. -- Matthew 16:18

In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American people, find our account running under date of the nineteenth century of the Christian era. We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them; they are a legacy bequeathed us by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed, race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves us, of this goodly land, and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; 'tis ours only to transmit these—the former unprofaned by the foot of an invader, the latter undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation—to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.
How then shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.

....I know the American people are much attached to their government; I know they would suffer much for its sake; I know they would endure evils long and patiently before they would ever think of exchanging it for another,—yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come.

.... There are now, and will hereafter be, many causes, dangerous in their tendency, which have not existed heretofore, and which are not too insignificant to merit attention. That our government should have been maintained in its original form, from its establishment until now, is not much to be wondered at.

It had many props to support it through that period, which now are decayed and crumbled away. Through that period it was felt by all to be an undecided experiment; now it is understood to be a successful one. Then, all that sought celebrity and fame and distinction expected to find them in the success of that experiment. Their all was staked upon it; their destiny was inseparably linked with it. Their ambition aspired to display before an admiring world a practical demonstration of the truth of a proposition which had hitherto been considered at best no better than problematical—namely, the capability of a people to govern themselves. If they succeeded they were to be immortalized; their names were to be transferred to counties, and cities, and rivers, and mountains; and to be revered and sung, toasted through all time.

If they failed, they were to be called knaves, and fools, and fanatics for a fleeting hour; then to sink and be forgotten. They succeeded. The experiment is successful, and thousands have won their deathless names in making it so. But the game is caught; and I believe it is true that with the catching end the pleasures of the chase. This field of glory is harvested, and the crop is already appropriated. But new reapers will arise, and they too will seek a field. It is to deny what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion as others have done before them.

The question then is, Can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot. Many great and good men, sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found whose ambition would aspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or a presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion or the tribe of the eagle. What! think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon? Never! Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored. It sees no distinction in adding story to story upon the monuments of fame erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves or enslaving freemen.

Is it unreasonable, then, to expect that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time spring up among us? And when such an one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.

Distinction will be his paramount object, and although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm, yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.

.... At the close of that struggle, nearly every adult male had been a participator in some of its scenes. The consequence was that of those scenes, in the form of a husband, a father, a son, or a brother, a living history was to be found in every family—a history bearing the indubitable testimonies of its own authenticity, in the limbs mangled, in the scars of wounds received, in the midst of the very scenes related—a history, too, that could be read and understood alike by all, the wise and the ignorant, the learned and the unlearned.

But those histories are gone. They can be read no more forever. They were a fortress of strength; but what invading foeman could never do, the silent artillery of time has done—the leveling of its walls. They are gone. They were a forest of giant oaks; but the all-restless hurricane has swept over them, and left only here and there a lonely trunk, despoiled of its verdure, shorn of its foliage, unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a few more gentle breezes, and to combat with its mutilated limbs a few more ruder storms, then to sink and be no more.

They were pillars of the temple of liberty; and now that they have crumbled away that temple must fall unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason. Passion has helped us, but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason—cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason—must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense. Let those materials be molded into general intelligence, sound morality, and, in particular, a reverence for the Constitution and laws; and that we improved to the last, that we remained free to the last, that we revered his name to the last, that during his long sleep we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place, shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our Washington.

Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." -- Abraham Lincoln The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions - An Address Delivered Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Ill. January 27, 1837


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 7, 2015 1:35 AM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Marilyn at the Beach: Thy Eternal Summer Shall Not Fade

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Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 6, 2015 9:07 AM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Crazy Place: "Sexual derangement, Shooting of daughter, Smallpox, Snuff" 125 reasons you'll get sent to the lunatic asylum

Once upon a time, any of these would be reason enough to send you to the Crazy Place for life:

Amenorrhea, Asthma, Bad company, Bad habits & political excitement, Bad whiskey, Bite of a rattle snake, Bloody flux, Brain fever, Business nerves, Carbonic acid gas, Carbuncle, Cerebral softening, Cold, Congetion of brain, Constitutional, Crime, Death of sons in the war, Decoyed into the army, Deranged masturbation, Desertion by husband, Diptheria, Disappointed affection, Disappointed love, Disappointment, Dissipation of nerves, Dissolute habits, Dog bite, Domestic affliction, Domestic trouble, Doubt about mother’s ancestors, Dropsy, Effusion on the brain, Egotism, Epileptic fits, Excessive sexual abuse, Excitement as officer, Explosion of shell nearby, Exposure & hereditary, Exposure & quackery, Exposure in army, Fall from horse, False confinement, Feebleness of intellect, Fell from horse, Female disease, Fever, Fever & loss of law suit, Fever & nerved, Fighting fire, Fits & desertion of husband, Gastritis, Gathering in the head, Greediness, Grief, Gunshot wound, Hard study, Hereditary predisposition, Ill treatment by husband, Imaginary female trouble, Immoral life, Imprisonment, Indigestion, Intemperance, Interference, Jealousy, Jealousy & religion, Kick of horse, Kicked in the head by a horse, Laziness, Liver and social disease, Loss of arm, Marriage of son, Masturbation & syphilis, Masturbation for 30 years, Medicine to prevent conception, Menstrual deranged, Mental excitement, Milk fever, Moral sanity, Novel reading, Nymphomania, Opium habit, Over action on the mind, Over heat, Over study of religion, Over taxing mental powers, Parents were cousins, Pecuniary losses: worms, Periodical fits, Political excitement, Politics, Puerperal, Religious enthusiasm, Religious excitement, Remorse, Rumor of husband’s murder or desertion, Salvation army, Scarlatina, Seduction, Seduction & dissappointment, Self abuse, Severe labor, Sexual abuse and stimulants, Sexual derangement, Shooting of daughter, Smallpox, Snuff, Snuff eating for two years, Softening of the brain, Spinal irritation, Sun stroke, Sunstroke, Superstition, Suppressed masturbation, Suppression of menses, Tobacco & masturbation: hysteria, The war, Time of life, Trouble.
Today they merely make you an "interesting individual" and electable.

Haunting History at an Old W.Va. Hospital - Washington Post

Doug pointed out the thick metal ring embedded deep in the wall, to which a patient would have been shackled so nurses could attend to him without fear of injury. He had me test the heavy metal mesh of the inner door by pushing against it with all my might. I couldn't budge it. Then he ever so subtly stepped slightly aside, and it was clear from his stance I was meant to step inside. Like the clueless blonde in all the slasher movies, I did.

Weston State Hospital

Imagine constructing a building with 9 acres of floorspace and a clock tower two hundred feet tall. With 921 windows, 906 doors, and 1,295 feet long. Imagine building this structure that is covered with three and a half acres of slate roof, uses fifteen miles of steam pipe, and twenty miles of telephone wire. Now imagine it is 1858 and you must build this new hospital from the ground without power tools, without machines, and without modern technology. All you have is man power, rock from the area, wagons to haul it, and strong determination.

Weston Hospital in Lewis County, WV, officially named the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane upon completion of the facility shown here in 1880, was typical of the many that were established throughout the country. Its design reflected the Kirkbride plan in action. This design called for long, rambling wings, that provided therapeutic sunlight and air to comfortable living quarters so that the building itself promoted a curative effect, or as Kirkbride put it, “a special apparatus for lunacy.” 125 reasons you'll get sent to the lunatic asylum | Appalachian History

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 5, 2015 8:01 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
1915: The Past Is Prologue

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"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

January 19 Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube for use in advertising.

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WWI: German Zeppelins bomb the coastal towns of Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn in England for the first time, killing more than 20.

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Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 31, 2014 6:51 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
What is Christmas All About?

"And that's the fact, Jack."

HT: Big Fur Hat


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 24, 2014 10:11 PM |  Comments (10)  | 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 23, 2014 8:57 PM |  Comments (30)  | 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 23, 2014 1:44 AM |  Comments (68)  | QuickLink: Permalink
In America Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Overdoing

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



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

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 14, 2014 7:40 AM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"On any street in any town / In any state if any clown"

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

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

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

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

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

Blow your harmonica, son!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featuring:

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

And they know that we know that they know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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via neo-neocon

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

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

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Meanwhile, back at the Roman Forum....

CASCA Speak, hands for me!

CASCA first, then the other Conspirators and BRUTUS stab CAESAR

CAESAR Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar.

Dies

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

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

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

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


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

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Today’s Truesbury |


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

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

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

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


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

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

-- Bob Dylan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What year is it, sir?"

"It's 2014," he replied faintly.

"What month is it, sir?"

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

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

"Four," he replied.

"And who is president of the United States?"

"That SON OF A BITCH!"

Prognosis today for a full recovery? Excellent.


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

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

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

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

Jimmy Webb discusses famous lyrics in 'MacArthur Park':

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

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Muse Then

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

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Muse Now

The song consists of four sections or movements:

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

Harris's version

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

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

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

Third, the definitive Donna Summer Version....

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

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

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

To see the full still life....

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

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

Elsewhere:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

-- Keats, Ode to a Nightingale

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Dylan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Eliot, Four Quartets

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

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

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

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

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Axed Up Body @ Fright Catalog, Inc.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

History of this traditional American folk song.

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

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

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

Bob Dylan stated,

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

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

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Number One

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

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

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Number Nothing


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

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

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

Thunder. Enter the three Witches

First Witch
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

Second Witch
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter Barack Hussain Obola....

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the thing is under the boat.


[Republished from November 2011]

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

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THE "Red Death" had long devastated the country.

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You'd miss a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Elbert Guillory: Mary Landrieu is Not Helping Blacks

HT: The Zman


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

paul_fuerst__der_doctor_schnabel_von_rom__hollaender_version_.jpg

"Dress for success!" 1656

Plague doctors in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of his texts was this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cue The Eagles:

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


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

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

Ringtone: "Hello."

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

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

"It got more elaborate."

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

"More 'elaborate' huh?"

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

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

"And?"

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

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

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

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

"And?"

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

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

"And?"

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

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

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

"What did she say to that?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Did you score?"

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

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

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

"More elaborate, right?"

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

"Not easily forgotten, true."

"So I rented the cake."

"And?"

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

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

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

"Memorable?"

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

"A church has to have some standards."

"Maybe, but these are Unitarians."

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

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

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

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

"Honest?"

"Swear."

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 22, 2014 11:04 PM |  Comments (27)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Go-Bag: "What does one wear to a truly stunning natural disaster?"

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

It all started in Laguna Beach when something went BUMP!

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

We looked!
-- The Cat in the Hat

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

Everything except me.

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

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

"You feel that?" I asked.

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

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

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

"You feel that?" he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"There's a thought."

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

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

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

Which was when I remembered Mandel's car.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 19, 2014 2:21 PM |  Comments (18)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Kids Today

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

I, of course, am a churl.

Hence my only thought on hearing this statement was

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

Not sure? Let's review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

-- Carl Sandburg: The People Yes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


First published March 2006


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

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

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

Chico, CA: Early September, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 15, 2014 11:20 PM |  Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Magic of Childhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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The Flag at Fort McHenry

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


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


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

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Sep 9, 2014 8:32 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Back to School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 9, 2014 2:29 AM |  Comments (34)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Gun School

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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