≡ Menu

Of Donations: Recalled to Life

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Since the inception of this page some seventeen years and 30,000 items ago, I have never aggressively pursued donations. Because this page was started in Manhatten within a week of 9/11 as a memorial it never seemed quite right to me even after it diverged far from those dark beginnings. As a result, I have never really pursued the path of, as they say, monetizing the page.

I’d like to say that was because I was noble but in the last few days I have learned, yet again, that pretty little lies are no way to go through life and to see oneself.

The truth is that I have never been either very smart about or interested in “monetizing” anything. [click to continue…]


Excerpt from – The New Neo

Here’s a video of a father driving away with his two sons. There are many other videos, but this one made an especially deep impression on me, perhaps because of the family dynamics. The sons, whose ages remain unspecified, demonstrate two different personalities. One seems to manage for the most part to stay relatively calm and optimistic, the other is more doubtful and fearful. Their father is a hero, and somehow remains wonderfully reassuring as he drives through a nightmare landscape in flames (this was taken in the middle of the day). Stick with it till the end for the final question the more fearful boy asks: [click to continue…]


Nurse escaping wildfire: I told my husband I was going to die. There was no oxygen in the air. The fire was consuming all the oxygen. Then I touched the side of a fire truck and the handle was melted but they pulled me in and they called for air support and it wasn’t coming and they said otherwise we weren’t going to make it…”

Take some time at start at around 3:14 and hear one of the most terrifying and amazing and inspiring tale of terror and salvation from this Nurse.

If this essay pleased or informed you DONATE HERE with my thanks.


In My Mother’s Small House Are the Mansions of Memory

[Note: Burned out of Paradise I have moved in with my mother in Chico. Yes, I have become that “72-year-old man who lives with his mother.” It’s not so bad. Not so bad at all to live with an active and sharp and sardonic and sweet mother as she enters her 104th year. ]

In her 104th year, this happenstance kitchen collage of my mother’s life is growing both richer and deeper. The image above is of what once was a bulletin board. It is kept in my mother’s kitchen in her apartment to the rear of an unassuming but decent collection of apartments in the small city of Chico, California.

It’s too bad the image of it is so small here on the page. But no matter how much I might enlarge the image of it, it could never be as big as what it represents. Although small in scale it is larger than the lives it chronicles. It is the sum of all love.

You’d miss that. If I could show it to you in real time and at its actual size, you’d still miss it. It would remain much as you see it here — just a jumble of clips, slogans, photos, handicrafts and images. Aside from its complexity, it wouldn’t mean all that much to you. These icons of other people’s private lives never do.

And yet, if you have anything that even resembles a functioning family, there’s a bulletin board like this somewhere in the various dwellings of your family. If you’re lucky, there’s more than one. You don’t know what this one means, but you know what yours means. You know it all — for better and for worse.

Still, to know the worst of the stories that lie behind these images you not only need to know the lives these commonplace icons chronicle, you have to be looking hard for the worse and, in the end, dragging it out of your own memory. If you work at finding the worst in people, you can always locate it.

But if those who keep these family altars are like my own mother in their dedication to them, you won’t see them displayed. There will be no shadows there that you do not supply yourself.

My mother only adds the things of love to this board, never the things of disappointment, failure, heartbreak or betrayal. To do so would be a betrayal of the trust that keeping this board brings with it, and, to my mother at least, a waste of life.

My mother does not waste life.

In my mother’s home not a scrap of love — however faint or distant now — is ever discarded. Everything that does not meet her measure is tossed away without pause or regret. If something comes her way that she deems special — be it an out-of-focus photograph, a clipping from a far-away newspaper, a small note of thanks, or a pipe-cleaner figure made by one of the second graders she acts as a teacher’s aide for — it gets promoted to the bulletin board. Once there, as you can see, it stays. If something comes to her that’s a downer, out it goes.

That’s why my mother has two piles of scrap in the kitchen: one for recycling and one for the shredder. She gets a warm feeling by recycling, but she gets a real kick out of running things through the shredder.

At age 104 she’s tiny but sharp. Strong in will but delicate as a bird. Quick to empathize and quicker still to laugh. Playing tennis several times a week kept her on her game — until 95.5 when her knees quit — in more ways than one. So does bridge and working as a teacher’s aide with small children. She’s wise that way but without pretense. If you ever told her she was wise, she’d shrug and ask you if you’d like another German pancake, this time with lemon juice and powdered sugar. She hasn’t missed breakfast for nearly a century, which shows you, if you had any doubt, just how wise she is.

Years ago, after she sold her rooming house for college girls and moved into her apartment, she decided that the kitchen wall was perfect for a bulletin board that she could use to keep track of her busy schedule. Somewhere under everything else on the board we think there are things that pertain to schedules in the late 1980s, but it would take an archeological team to excavate them. Instead, one photo got put up, and then another, and then a clip of this and a note of that and, over time, it became the raucous riot of bits and pieces you can see here.

Babies and friends, present and past wives, can all be found. Girlfriends long let slide still peek out. Birthday parties and christenings, weddings, vacations, and graduations…. all the private triumphs and moments of personal happiness glisten and shine, one fit atop, against, behind, or aside the other as life rushed on and curved away, ebbed and then surged back again, brighter and larger than before.

If you knew all the pieces here as I do, you could review them and see the tokens of a life that begins before the end of the First World War and rolls along right up until today. It’s a very big life to be contained on such a small board in such a small apartment, but my mother’s genius when it comes to this collage is that, no matter how full it gets, she always finds room to add one more moment.

We don’t know how she does it. It’s a gift.

If this essay pleased or informed you DONATE HERE to help me recover after being burned out in the Paradise fire with my thanks.

[Republished from 2007/2010 because…. well… because I like it.]


Of Paradise: There Was An Old Lady Who Lived by a Brook

[Written February, 2017] When the fog forms in Paradise all my ghosts come out, moving like wraiths behind the mist, believing no one can see them. But I do. Everywhere in this small town in northern California in which I was a young boy and to which I have returned as an old man, I often sense that boy and those long ago moments.

This morning the fog was thick here on the ridge as I returned from an errand down on Lucky John Road; a road I had not been on for over 60 years. Even before I came over the crest of the hill and started down the far side my back brain told me there was a brook at the bottom. And sure enough, in a moment, my car passed over the brook as it flowed in a culvert from one side of the road to the other.

Today there were a number of tidy cookie-cutter contractor-built homes on either side complete with their gardens, garages, and water-features. The once forest-thick pines were thinned out to garden specs.

The little old lady’s ramshackle homemade house was long gone to landfill… as was the little old lady herself. Still, as I pulled the car over in the fog and looked around, they appeared. Ghosts moving behind today’s new morning; a kind of Balinese shadow puppet epic projected on the far side of the atmosphere by the lantern of memory.

The last time I had been to the brook I was 11 and I walked. I walked from my house on the canyon’s edge half a mile to where the brook meandered out of the pines and under Lucky John Road. I did it because my father told me to do it. I did it because my father had decided that at 11 it was time I had “A Job.” My father believed in boys having A Job and having one as soon as possible.

One evening shortly after my 11th December birthday he called me aside. “There’s an old lady named Miss Helen over the hill who needs help,” he told me. “She’s getting on and she has no family. She needs help chopping wood for her heat and other chores.” (“Dad, please.”) “No backtalk. I’ve already told her you’d be there tomorrow afternoon.” (“Oh come on, dad.”) “Did I mention she was going to pay you.” (“Please, dad…. Oh? How much?”) “Four or five bucks a week….” (“When can I start?”)

This would have been 1956 and my allowance at the time was a royal fifty cents a week which kept me in bubble gum and comic books. Barely. The sum to be paid was an expansion of my cash on hand to levels beyond the dreams of boyhood avarice. The next afternoon my Keds crunched through the thin sheets of ice formed in the puddles next to the stream as I reported to Miss Helen driven more by greed than duty.

Thinking back Miss Helen’s place was more of a hut than a house. It had a tin roof and was very small, consisting of a small sitting area just inside the door, a kitchen behind that, and a sleeping alcove behind that with a curtain that was always closed.

The hut sat on what were probably cinder blocks on a sort of islet around which branches of the brook actually made a babbling sound over the mossed rocks. There must have been some electricity since I remember a refrigerator and a radio, but there weren’t any electric lights, only kerosene lanterns that required me to trim their wicks. Her water was drawn from the stream and stored in a large tank just on the other side of the kitchen wall with a pipe that came through the wall to a small metal tub she used as a sink. One of my primary tasks was to carry buckets of water to the tank and fill it.

This job began in the winter and the only source of heat Miss Helen had was a standard issue wood stove that she also used for cooking. The stove took a lot of wood and the old lady’s wood came from a large pile of logs on another islet behind her hut. They were far too big to fit in the stove and my main job was to take a maul, then an axe, then a hatchet, and transform the each log into a pile of kindling that the old lady could use. It wasn’t that bad a job except when it snowed or rained, which, since this was winter in Paradise was pretty much every other day when it was not a continuation of the snow and rain from the day before.

At the start it made me ache but by the end of two weeks I didn’t mind it much. I went to school. I took the bus home and at the bus stop instead of going down the dirt road to home I walked over the hill to chop wood and carry water. When I was done I would walk home. Tired.

Miss Helen was both little and very, very old. Or as old as a person in their late 60s appeared to a boy of 11 in 1956. She was small, stooped, with almost translucent hands, and as roly-poly as my paternal grandmother. She wore thick stockings and heavy shoes. It seemed to me that she wore only hand-sewn dresses that could have been fashioned from large print tablecloths. Over these she always had an apron on. These aprons always had a pocket and from that magic pocket, every Friday, she’d take a clasp-closed leather change purse and count out four silver dollars with their satisfying clack and clink.

Once I got home my father had me hand over two of the silver dollars so he could demonstrate the miracle of compound interest in a savings account he made me open.

“So,” he’d ask every week as he relieved me of half my cash flow,”how do you like going to the job?”

I’d make some kind of half-hearted response to which his response was always, “You don’t have to like the job, but a real man always goes to the job.”

I’d nod and dream of all the extra Fleers bubble gum and comic books my residual two bucks were going to get me down at the Feed Store. Sometimes I’d splurge and get a nickel Coke and read my comics lying on bags of feed with their dusty burlap smell.

And so I went to the job with the little old lady who lived by the brook. For months I chopped wood and carried water for Miss Helen, and saw how even the very old and the very poor still carried on their lives with dignity even when all they had was miserable, mean nothing.

Then, one day, I came home on the school bus and found my father waiting for me at the stop. “You don’t have to go to work today. Miss Helen’s left.”

“Left? Where’d she go?”


“When’s she coming back?”

“She won’t be. But she left this for you.” He reached into his wallet and handed me a ten dollar bill. At the time it was the largest bill I’d ever possessed. “It’s like a two week notice. She wanted you to have it.”

I took it feeling good about having it but disappointed that Miss Helen would leave without so much as a goodbye.

But of course she didn’t leave. She just became a ghost; a ghost my father wanted to spare me. Hence, she just went away. Until this morning when, sitting in my car near the brook on Lucky John Road, she came back.

She came back out of the fog; small, translucent, in her hand-made dress with her apron and her worn change purse fat with its silver dollars.

Which is when, after 60 years, it hit me.

Miss Helen was a very, very poor woman. In 1956 four silver dollars a week would have been a serious sum of money to her. Very serious. Unless she had some sort of secret stash of silver dollars. Which I was pretty sure she did not. In fact I’m pretty sure a secret stash of pennies would have been beyond her means.

On the other hand, my father really liked silver dollars and always kept a jar full on his dresser.

“You don’t have to like the job, but a real man always goes to the job.”

When the fog forms in Paradise, all my ghosts come out.

If this essay pleased or informed you DONATE HERE to help me after the Paradise fire with my thanks.


The Name in the Stone

On Living with the Loss of a Son in Wartime. Written and first published on Memorial Day, 2003

My name, “Gerard Van der Leun,” is an unusual one. So unusual, I’ve never met anyone else with the same name. I know about one other man with my name, but we’ve never met. I’ve seen his name in an unusual place. This is the story of how that happened.

It was an August Sunday in New York City in 1975. I’d decided to bicycle from my apartment on East 86th and York to Battery Park at the southern tip of the island. I’d nothing else to do and, since I hadn’t been to the park since moving to the city in 1974, it seemed like a destination that would be interesting. Just how interesting, I had no way of knowing when I left.

August Sundays in New York can be the best times for the city. The psychotherapists are all on vacation — as are their clients and most of the other professional classes. The city seems almost deserted, the traffic light and, as you move down into Wall Street and the surrounding areas, it becomes virtually non-existent. On a bicycle you own the streets that form the bottom of the narrow canyons of buildings where, even at mid-day, it is still cool with shade. Then you emerge from the streets into the bright open space at Battery Park.

Tourists are lining up for Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. A few people are coming and going from the Staten Island Ferry terminal. There are some scattered clots of people on the lawns of Battery Park. Everything is lazy and unhurried.

I’d coasted most of the way down to the Battery that day since, even though it appears to be flat, there is a very slight north to south slope in Manhattan. I arrived only a bit hungry and thirsty and got one of the dubious Sabaretts hot dogs and a chilled coke from the only vendor working the park.

We were in the midst of what now can be seen as “The Long Peace.”

The twin towers loomed over everything, thought of, if they were thought of at all, as an irritation in that they blocked off so much of the sky. It was 1975 and, Vietnam not withstanding, America was just about at the midway point between two world wars. Of course, we didn’t know that at the time. The only war we knew of was the Second World War and the background humm of the Cold War. It was a summer Sunday and we were in the midst of what now can be seen as “The Long Peace.” [click to continue…]


“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down…..”

Saturday 5 AM: I am back online now it would seem and need to make this brief since I find I have no briefs other than the pair I wear.

Things. Things are gone. Serious things of memory never to be replaced. Things no longer needed and things never needed. And trivial things one needs to get through the day. I no longer have these things. All have gone into the smoke of the world as, in the end, do we all.

Our Savior Lutheran Church in Paradise

Today I have to start to replace the basics. The inventory of needful things and obscure objects is long and spotty. As I said above, no briefs have I. Nor spare socks. Nor toothbrush. Nor corkscrew. Nor any one of a thousand trivial things that form the tools of life and the shell of the self. Nor things like the photograph of my one daughter when she was small enough to rest there along my forearm. Losses one shrugs at and losses that make me weep here in the dawn.

What I do have is the love and the generosity of my cherished friends and readers. It is more wonderful and more widespread than I ever could have imagined. I will be weeks thanking all but my gratitude is deep and abiding.

What I do have is this small unknowing black cat sleeping curled at my side after our ride out of the fire.

What I do have is my mother sleeping quietly in the next room, her breathing soft and low as her life is fine and bright.

What I do have is my mother’s warm and settled apartment she has lived in for nearly 40 years. Others are sleeping in shelters, churches, RVs, and tents.

At the end of things we can, I think, come yet again to know  — as we know and forget and   know and again forget so many times — that Paradise is not a place that lasts forever here on Earth, but something that exists in the hearts of good people that hold their holy light within and, when that light is called forth, let it shine through.

I see this light shining forth from all here on this small page and all in this small city of Chico here at the top of the great central valley under the dense pall of smoke that falls from the burning ridge above, the smoke that comes, quite literally, from the pyre of Paradise.

If this essay pleased or informed you DONATE HERE to help me recover after being burned out in the Paradise fire with my thanks.


Full Screen. Speakers up. At 00:50 you see the backside of the Welcome to Paradise sign seen below [HT: daily timewaster: The fires in Paradise]

UPDATE 1 — 23 NOW FOUND DEAD IN CAMP FIRE: Just released at this evening’s press conference by the Butte County Sheriff that the body count in the Camp Fire now stands at 23.

Given what I know about how this community is structured there will be more. Perhaps many more, Lots of folks live off the grid down dirt roads and are either retired, housebound, or very poor with little avenues of communication.

The fire is still a very large and very deadly thing. If it starts to come towards where you are in a SERIOUS manner get out.

UPDATE 2 — BUTTE COUNTY SHERIFF states in a press conference at this hour that the number of people reported missing is over 500. This DOES NOT MEAN that 500 are dead only that people cannot as yet locate the 500.

If this essay pleased or informed you DONATE HERE to help me recover after being burned out in the Paradise fire with my thanks.


Not close to Paradise, Ca now but it has turned the morning sky orange and filled the air with a wisp of smoke. No evacuation orders here yet but that may happen at any time. Getting my bug-out bag ready just in case. More later.

And I am outta here.

If this essay pleased or informed you DONATE HERE with my thanks.


“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” — Ecclesiastes


Very advanced, very tuned-in people learn about, and learn how to use, new Apple features by watching them being demonstrated onstage during Apple keynote events. Then there’€™s everybody else.

I believe it’s possible that elephants have all the cognitive and emotional capacities it takes to be persons. I’m not claiming they belong to the species Homo sapiens, obviously: rather, I mean they might have the potential to deserve the label ‘person’ in recognition of their particular status or identity. Along with many philosophers, I think that being a person involves something different to being a living organism with human DNA.

This is what the Scholastics predicted when they considered the arguments for democracy: that while it looked plausible enough on paper, it could only lead to gang warfare, pulling apart each nation where it flourished. They could not, however, imagine the contribution of mass media. They were more concerned with the effects of politicization on the individual human soul, thus instinctively defended Church and Crown (or Republic, so long as it was not democratic). Unlike us, they cared about freedom; but about “equality,” not at all.

DOS EQUIS (XX) lager has announced it is officially transitioning for the modern era   and will now self-identify as EQUIS I GRIEGA (XY). The new lager will include an additional ingredient of testosterone hormone that will give it a deeper taste of toxic masculinity, yet retain its effeminate aroma. [click to continue…]


Midterms: The Cake’s Been Baked for Over a Week

Sometime between Kavanaugh and The Caravan, the cake was popped into the oven. The nature of the cake itself may not be known until after, maybe well after, tomorrow.  The only real question is whether or not America’s left her cake out in the rain.



[A recent exchange about the progressive feminism that infects publishing put me in mind of a series of items I wrote more than 30 years ago about the state of book publishing when I was the Senior Editor and Director of Paperback Publishing at Houghton Mifflin. I went to the online attic where a lot of these things are kept and managed to pull a few out of the old dusty packing crates and smuggle them past the ghosts. A few struck me as still germane to today’s publishing environment — even more so because so little has changed — except the names of the usual suspects. Don’t think it’s dated. This is probably a whole lot like what will happen this year.]

One of the favorite cities for the American Booksellers Association (ABA) to hold a convention is Washington D.C. This city of hard-core inept government somehow attracts one of the most inept businesses in the private sphere. It somehow calls them home. Perhaps it makes publishers, by contrast, feel smart and efficient. I don’t know. It is a city of large examples of neo-Federalist and Fascist overbuilding nestled next to one of the worst black ghettos in the nation; a city where the very streets and tempo speak of a certain benighted mindlessness; a city careful to close all its museums and most of its shrines on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend; and now a city of thousands of dazed bookstore owners pulling shopping carts along the streets as they head towards the annual show of most of the 57,000 books we will publish this year. Yes, this year. 57,000 brand. new. books.

The mind reels, then pauses, then leaves the body as it enters the convention center, pushes past the large banners proclaiming this to be “The Year of The Reader!’ Hope, always hope. Give us a reader, any reader. We gots the books if you gots the time. And thirty dollars.

But where are the books?

Not really that visible. Simon has a lot of videos, a lot of failing audios, and a lot of covers blown up glued down to plexiglass and backlit. These are supposed to be the stars, the big books, the ones all America is dying to read. Hard to make out the titles. They blur.

Pick up a catalog and move on.

All around you are booksellers with full-size shopping carts jamming every freebie they can get their hands on. Posters, buttons, stuffed animals…..Simon is publishing CATMOPOLITAN, a slavish bid for the cat market, a send-up of some magazine, and booksellers can duck behind a large six-foot blowup of a cover, stick their faces in a hole and get a free Polaroid of themselves as the cover cat of Catmopoliton. A thrill, a real thrill! There’s a line.

Morrow’s booth…swarming with people but to no discernible propose. Get a catalog. Try to focus on titles. Useless. No books in evidence. No nothing in evidence. Turn the corner. It is Zebra books…the walk-away winner for high schlock…this year a bit down from their usual high marks for real tackiness. They’ve installed a guy dressed in Louis the 14th duds playing classical guitar. Not at all the cheap Jackie Susan stuff we’ve come to expect from Zebra. Ignore catalog, walk on.

Very few real books visible. Tucked away behind the banners, the free offers, the catalogs and order forms, the video monitors showing Dan Rather commenting on Ernest Worell who’s got a calendar, got a commercial, got a movie coming out, got a special on HBO, buy his book, please? Dan Rather on a loop repeating an inane report over and over again for four days.

“Seen any books here?”

“Yeah, saw one two rows back. Probably gone now.”

 Grab a catalog, shake a hand, move on. Down endless rows. Some booths crammed with people. Other’s next door with only a woebegone and terminally bored rep sitting on a chair wondering why they got into this book business when there was big money to made in air-conditioning repair and maintenance.


Catalogs. Catalogs.


Booksellers flooding in now, shopping carts in tow. Filling up.

Can’t breathe. Can’t see. Can’t think.




He packed the trunk of the car with his catalogs and drove north. Along Pennsylvania Avenue, he saw a sign saying “Vietnam Veterans Memorial”.

He parked the car and walked into the park. He walked slowly down the ramp with the lists of the dead rising over his head on their marble slabs like some infinite tide that would never go out.

He thought he was a tough guy. He thought he had all his feelings from those years locked away in a trunk in some unvisited attic of his mind that he never had to enter again.

He was wrong. They were right below the surface and, as he went down into the monument, they came to the surface like demons suddenly released, and he found himself weeping as he saw what the war had cost.

There was a pair of worn combat boots left beside one column of names.

An elderly couple found a name. She touched it while he took a picture of her touching it. Then he touched it and she took a picture of him touching the name. Then they walked away.

Further on there was a small piece of notepaper lying limply over the rail of stone at the foot of the monument. He knelt down to read it:

“To my buddies of the 102nd.
I’m sorry I’m not with you.
I should be with you but God had other plans for me.
I still don’t know what but I know I miss you badly.
You were the best friends I ever had.”

There were 50,000 books in Washington that weekend, but that was the only thing he found that was worth reading.

25 May 1987


No More Prefaces. No More Apologizing for Anything.

Me? I’m REALLY not sorry….. but if I was I would use…

“I’m sorry too, Dimitri. I’m very sorry. Alright! You’re sorrier than I am! But I am sorry as well. I am as sorry as you are, Dimitri. Don’t say that you are more sorry than I am, because I am capable of being just as sorry as you are. So we’re both sorry, alright? Alright.” — President Muffley on the phone with Premier Kissoff in “Dr. Strangelove”

I begin by noting that at present, as so often in the past, I’m sorry. Yes, I am very, very sorry. It was all my fault and I am sorry for it all.

I am sorry, as always, for what I said. It was thoughtless and rude. It wasn’t really what I meant or felt in my heart. Many have taken my remarks to mean other than what I said. So true. Even I   meant them to mean other than what they meant when I said them.

Well, the damage is done and I can’t undo the past.

All I can do is stand here strapped in the pillory of the present as all those whom I have so wrongly and without malice slandered cry like the little girly-men they are; yes, even the girls. Their pain is now my pain. I cringe to see them writhe with the bleeding agony as those raw wounds I ripped open by my harsh and unconsidered remarks are keel-hauled through ten cubic feet of table salt mixed into a horse trough of vinegar. I know that’s gotta smart.

I feel really bad about this. I feel even worse that I, through my abject failure to realize how deeply the dull hatchet of my speech would chop into them — even, yea, down to the living blue-veined bone — that I simply stood by and allowed the searing acid of my senseless scorn to pour without limit into their raw and festering souls. I am, as I said, deeply sorry — and feel bad besides.

Also, should the forensics prove unhelpful to my case, I would like to say for the record, that I did not know the gun was loaded.

I have listened to America whinging. I have heard the rising torrent of justifiable outrage at every rising bubble of flatulent un-pc remarks breaking beneath the body politic; the howls of those whose most sacred, festering and inane ideological beliefs I have eviscerated with the chain-saw of my words. I have heard the skin-shuddering shrieks of those who have been sliced into bloody gobbets of flesh by my razor keen remarks. Though I am unworthy to feel that pain, I feel it still as if it were a red-hot 3/4 inch Makita drill bit driven into the base of my skull and left there set on “Wash-Rinse-Repeat.”

To these wounded souls I offer, in deep and abject humility — since I am, because I spoke those hurtful, hurtful words, lower than a cockroach’s stool stuck to the bottom of a homeless hermit’s shabby sandal in the storm drains of Las Vegas — I offer these tender buttons, these delicate little bunnies, my most sincere if unworthy apology.

MORE AT So Sorry: My Boilerplate Apology to Demented Americans I Have Offended, Am Offending, or Will Offend – American Digest


The Suicide’s Note

I should prefer another Life–
An Aeon past or fore —
Where bodies bronzed with Calcinite
Are sealed beyond stone doors,
That Time’s slow tricks would emulate
Pure placement by pure chance,
That when my past became my fore,
I need not choose the Dance.

I should prefer another Skin —
One worn bone smooth with Age —
That Youth should wear as recompense
For posturing on Life’s stage,
That Life pay twice for having once
Set this Bright Being free
Within the light upon the stairs
Which rise up from the sea.

I should prefer another Night —
Not this Sphere strung with stars —
That in that Dark would –Luminous —
Fold the Near into the Far.
Then such a Path would never need
The knowledge of Braille to Know,
But harvest light from the Sun’s Rose Heart
Until the forgetting of the Snow.


How Trump Plays the Media


China Rising: “Serve the People!”

Spanking new and looking nice. They should since we paid for them.

‘Prepare for war’, Xi Jinping tells military region that monitors the South China Sea, Taiwan “It’s necessary to strengthen the mission … and concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” Xi said. “We need to take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly. We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war.”


My Sad Captains: Mel Ramos 1935 – 2018

Sacramento-born artist Mel Ramos dies at 83   From 1958-66, Ramos taught Art at Elk Grove High School and Mira Loma High School in Sacramento. After two brief college teaching assignments, he began a long career (1966–97) at California State University, East Bay, in Hayward, California, and then served as Professor Emeritus. He was Artist in Residence at Syracuse University and the University of Wisconsin.

One of the many miseries that one must withstand upon getting older is that your address books and yearbooks start to fill up with dead people.

Mel Ramos was my first art teacher back in the summer of 1962. I still remember the moment when he looked at my insane adolescent daubings and said, “What saves you, Van der Leun, is your innate sense of color.” He said that drenched in sarcasm. He said a lot of things with sarcasm, but his paintings boasted butt-naked wimmenfolk with really big hooters so because we were teenage boys we wanted to study with him for his insight, for his technique, for the models. And maybe, just maybe, for a cigar at his studio.

Ramos’ class was the first time in my life I saw, in my befuddled teenage way, that art could not only enhance your life, but it could also get you laid. This was a powerful lesson for a teenager. In many ways, Ramos sparked the long arc of what became known as “my career” (even though a career is only a job.) From his class, I went on to more art classes and an entire summer spent poring over even art book in the Sacramento State University in the mornings and “helping out”an amazingly wonderful and immoral college girl with her ceramics and her paintings and ample hooters in the afternoons. Without Ramos, I don’t know where my life would have led, but it wouldn’t have been to Penthouse Magazine and New York City in the last glorious days of the Mad Men era when we were all Princes of the City. [click to continue…]


“If there was any excuse to be a Marxist in 1917 (and both Dostoevsky and Nietzsche prophesied well before then that there would be hell to pay for that doctrine) there is absolutely and finally no excuse now. “

First, you defend your homeland against the Nazis, serving as a twice-decorated soldier on the Eastern front in the criminally ill- prepared Soviet Red Army. Then, you’re arrested, humiliated, stripped of your military rank, charged under the auspices of the all-purpose Article 58 with the dissemination of “anti-Soviet propaganda,” and dragged off to Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka prison. There, through the bars of your cell, you watch your beloved country celebrating its victory in the Great Patriotic War. Then you’re sentenced, in absentia, to eight years of hard labor (but you got away easy; it wasn’t so long afterward that people in your position were awarded a “tenner”—and then a quarter of a century!). And fate isn’t finished with you, yet—not by any means. You develop a deadly cancer in the camp, endure the exile imposed on you after your imprisonment ends, and pass very close to death

Despite all this, you hold your head high. You refuse to turn against man or God, although you have every reason to do so. You write, instead, secretly, at night, documenting your terrible experiences. You craft a personal memoir—a single day in the labor camps—and, miracle of miracles! The clouds part! The sun shines through! Your book is published, and in your own country!

It meets with unparalleled acclaim, nationally and internationally. But the sky darkens, once again, and the sun disappears. The repression returns. You become (once again) a “non-person.” The secret police—the dreaded KGB—seize the manuscript of your next book. It sees the light of day, nonetheless; but only in the West. There, your reputation grows beyond the wildest of imaginings. The Nobel Committee itself bestows upon you its highest literary honor.

The Soviet authorities, stripped of their camouflage, are enraged. They order the secret police to poison you. You pass (once again) near death. But you continue to write: driven, solitary, intolerably inspired. Your Gulag Archipelago documents the absolute and utter corruption of the dogmas and doctrines of your state, your empire, your leaders—and yourself. And then: that is printed, too! Not in your own country, but in the West—once again—from copies oh-so-dangerously hidden, and smuggled across the borders. And your great book bursts with unparalleled and dreadful force into the still-naïve and unexpecting literary and intellectual world. You are expelled from the Soviet Union, stripped of your citizenship, forced to take residency in a society both strange to you and resistant, in its own way, to your prophetic words. But the power of your stories and the strength of your morals demolish any remaining claims to ethical and philosophical credibility still made by the defenders of the collectivist system that gave rise to all that you witnessed.

Years pass (but not so many, from the perspective of history). Then? Another miracle! The Soviet Union collapses! You return home. Your citizenship is restored. You write and speak in your reclaimed homeland until death claims you, in 2008. A year later The Gulag Archipelago is deemed mandatory reading by those responsible for establishing the national school curriculum of your home country. Your impossible victory is complete…   – RTWT AT Quillette

Live with a steady superiority over life—don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don’t claw at your insides. If your back isn’t broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes see, and if both ears hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart—and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. — The Gulag Archipelago, vol. I

Let’s Review 133: From Tardigrades to Wabi-Sabi

The Morning Rant  Hi, there. Perhaps many of you don’t know me. I’m what your scientists have called a tardigrade. Pretty creepy looking, aren’t I? You can click on me if you’d like to see a larger version. I’d be a lot more frightening if I were the size of, say, your dog, but actually, those of my kind are water creatures who only grow to just over 1 mm, on average. So we’re real tiny. But here’s the kicker: we’re almost impossible to kill. We can also withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water. We can cope with ridiculous amounts of pressure and radiation, and we can live for more than 10 years without food or water. We can even survive the hard vacuum of outer space. So go ahead and kill each other with wars are nuclear bombs and the like, but we’ll still be around. Even if this planet gets a courtesy call from the Sweet Meteor of Death and all living things are completely wiped out, we’ll still be here. And we’ll still be voting for Democrats.

“The article threatening us with running out of stars in the sky is coming next week.” Never Yet Melted » We All Know the Only Way To Run Out of Sand is to Put Government in Charge of the Sahara

“I curse Tretia Maria and her life and mind and memory and liver and lungs mixed up together, and her words, thoughts, and memory; thus may she be unable to speak what things are concealed, nor be able…nor….” We Will Curse You 

Did You Know the World Map You Grew Up With is Wrong?

Art Contrarian: Richard Lack: American Classicist and Symbolist [click to continue…]


But of course it is not the end, but only the beginning. Here’s what happens with Trump when the media is not around to tell you what happened.

Trump thanked by Pittsburgh hospital staff – MSM remains silent

As an aside watch the hospital video above again counting the number of Secret Service guards (I make an even dozen) in close proximity to the President. Then watch again but pay attention to how the guards nearest the group thanking Trump watches the outstretched hands and the other people behind the front rank of the staff. Very, very serious people these Secret Service types.


Halloween Night at American Digest

Now that there are two editors at the Digest we can have wild office parties.  Given the genetic makeup of Olive it was only a question of time before the necessary costume was airlifted in.

The Minions of Motus send: “I’m forwarding this, courtesy of CoolBrew, in case you failed to line up an appropriate Halloween costume for your new editor. I think she’d look stunning in it plus it would serve as a reminder of who’s in charge now.”


IT Abides: The Ancient Evil In 5,000 BC

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. — Ephesians 6:12

Whether thou art a ghost that hath come from the earth, or a phantom of night that hath no couch… or one that lieth dead in the desert… or a ghost unburied… or a hag-demon, or a ghoul, or a robber-sprite, or a weeping woman that hath died with a babe at the breast… Whatever thou be until thou art removed, until thou departest from the body of the man, thou shalt have no water to drink. Thou shalt not stretch forth thy hand… Into the house enter thou not. Through the fence break thou not…

So begins an incantation that started life on the lips of a Sumerian sorcerer six or seven millennia ago, before being penned into a clay tablet in the seventh century BC by an Assyrian scholar and then placed in the great library of his king, Ashurbanipal, at Nineveh. When the Babylonians sacked Nineveh in 612 BC, they consigned the library and its 30,000 tablets to the dust.

To live in ancient Mesopotamia, the book suggests, was to contend with a frightening variety of supernatural adversaries. From the heavens, godlike devils descended to “ride on noxious winds, spreading storms and pestilence”. From the underworld, ravenous Ekimmu rose up, desperately dissatisfied with their diet of dust, mud, and insufficient libations from family members. They would approach a hapless traveler in a haunted place, fasten upon them and torment them until an exorcizing priest intervened.

The Utukku, also risen from the underworld, would lie in wait in the desert, mountains or graveyards, inflicting evil with a mere glance. The half demon, half human Alu were equally terrifying. Usually lacking mouth, limbs, or ears they hid away in dark corners, haunting ruins, and deserted buildings and “slinking through the streets at night like pariah dogs”, before at any moment emerging to envelop you like a cloak. The Alu were also said, in a rather frightening embodiment of insomnia, to stand over the bed of a victim and threaten to pounce if they dared close their eyes, stealing away all hope of sleep.

Spells Against the Evil Spirits of Babylonia (1903) – The Public Domain Review


There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

“I had had something kicking around in my head. I wanted to write something about the kids that were on the line over in Southeast Asia that didn’t have anything to do with the device of this mission, which was unraveling before our eyes. Then we came down to Sunset from my place on Topanga with a guy – I can’t remember his name – and there’s a funeral for a bar, one of the favorite spots for high school and UCLA kids to go and dance and listen to music.

[Officials] decided to call out the official riot police because there’s three thousand kids sort of standing out in the street; there’s no looting, there’s no nothing. It’s everybody having a hang to close this bar. A whole company of black and white LAPD in full Macedonian battle array in shields and helmets and all that, and they’re lined up across the street, and I just went ‘Whoa! Why are they doing this?’ There was no reason for it. I went back to Topanga, and that other song turned into ‘For What It’s Worth,’ and it took as long to write as it took me to settle on the changes and write the lyrics down. It all came as a piece, and it took about fifteen minutes.”

[click to continue…]


One creative who recently pulled out all the stops is a father and uncle who goes by the name Griddlock Cosplay. For the “ultimate daddy-daughter costume” he created an incredible Mechwarrior costume that requires both an adult and child to wear it.