Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun
Just Like Vietnam, Except

A RESPONSE TO DANIEL HENNINGER'S :"Ghost Busters" in the Wall Street Journal:

"Iraq is just like Vietnam except: We occupy Hanoi. We've captured Ho Chi Minh.
The North Vietnamese have just held a free and democratic election. The North Vietnamese are working on a new constitution. Yes, Iraq is just like Vietnam." -- Art Fougner - Flushing, N.Y.

Pointer from The Anchoress.

Posted by Vanderleun May 26, 2005 5:51 PM | Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Backstage: Thanks for the 2,000,000 Visits

AT SOME POINT THIS WEEK, my trusty Site Meter will register 2,000,000 visits to this page since June 9, 2003. This point will be reached about a fortnight short of the second anniversary of American Digest. I don't really understand 2 million anything other than, while it is not a lot of money any longer, I could certainly use the dollar version in order to devote the rest of my life to finishing my decades long argument with Dante. (Don't ask. You don't want or need to know.)

A previous version of this page -- ( American Digest - Dispatches from the New America) was begun in early 2002 in reaction to the events of 9/11, but the only extant pages from that in the at the Way Back Machine date from May of that year. It is


Posted by Vanderleun May 23, 2005 8:05 PM | Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Unremitting Stupidity of 21st Century "Civilized" Man

THERE'S REALLY NO ESCAPE from the abiding stupidity of what currently passes for "Western Culture." We have, it would seem, crossed some ghastly Rubicon of sensibility in which many among us have no frame of reference by which to measure evil. Instead these stunted souls seem determined to wallow in the banal and the trivial, asserting that only these tiny concerns have any meaning. It is the zero-sum "philosophy" of moral relativism branded into actual lives. And the afflicted seem to enjoy running the red-hot iron of nullity into their brains over and over. An addiction to absolute zero that no drug other than Nihilism can sate.

Today's exhibit #1 of our decline in which our fellow Westerners seem to rejoice is the utterly fabricated hue and cry over some snapshots of a monster in his underwear.


Posted by Vanderleun May 21, 2005 6:20 PM | Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Naked and the Senile Dementia

HAVING ONCE SEEN THE AGED NORMAN MAILER NAKED, any subsequent appearance by the befuddled sage of Brooklyn Heights brings that image back and causes my brain to cringe. It's hard to take a once admired writer seriously after a glance at the wreck time has made of his body, but usually the wisdom that comes with age overcomes the multiplying flaws of the decrepit container.

Alas, as we have seen often in the past, and now again in the present, wisdom has not seen fit to visit Mailer, the aging hipster. Instead we are reminded again of the dreadful toll taken on the old by creeping senile dementia. How else can we explain Mailer's dreadful tour de drool on the execrable The Huffington Post? Long gone is any effort to


Posted by Vanderleun May 21, 2005 8:09 AM | Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Durbin: The Very Model of a Modern Major Democrat

In which it is demonstrated the Dick Durbin is not an exception, but the rule.

OVER THE WEEKEND it was impossible to miss that, with Michael Jackson on extended leave in his own private Thailand, Dick Durbin had become the current media boy-toy in America. This because of a simple statement he made. To wit, or sans wit if you will, it was "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime - Pol Pot or others - that had no concern for human beings."

That simple statement has been parsed from here to eternity so I'll spare you the footnotes. Simply put, as an American today, you either jump into Durbin's rhetorical mosh pit and root about in the muck with him and his fans, or you stand on the heights above and wonder why you don't have some hefty boulders to heave into it. It's a love it or hate it kind of thing.

But whatever it may be on Durbin's part, it is not a mistake, an error, a foolish quip, or a prematurely senior moment. It is, in short, nothing less than a politician doing what politicians do best: following the lead of his masses.

There's been some huffing and puffing in Washington and elsewhere in what is left of the amazing shrinking Democratic Party. This blather usually takes the form of 'the Durbin statement really does not reflect the immense regard and esteem in which the Democrats hold the American troops.' But that's all rank nonsense.


Posted by Vanderleun May 20, 2005 9:28 AM | Comments (37)  | QuickLink: Permalink
On the Move

FOR REASONS OBVIOUS AND NOT SO, I'll be moving to Seattle in September. Quite a change from my perch here high above the Pacific in Laguna Beach, and not without its drawbacks -- moving itself, for starters. Still, this beach idyll, if you don't ride the wild surf, is not without its drawbacks and I'm yearning to find myself back in a Hive of sorts. Those who know Seattle know its shapes and attitudes and lifestyle. For those who don't, here are a few "Postcards" by my friend, Robert Fulghum, who knows the city in a broader and wiser way than most.


Posted by Vanderleun May 17, 2005 9:28 AM | Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
King of the Combovers Disappointed in Katrina Death Toll

Wolcott:"Bring out your dead! "

THE DIM DEVOTEES OF James Wolcott gnawed today on a fresh chunk of gristle from their master of disaster as he drove onto his website in his Blue 1968 Huff. After several days of quoting from others, Wolcott squeezed off one of his own -- if a bit early. In doing so he established once again that it's safer to point than to pontificate.

The hurricane-worshipping Wolcott is clearly disappointed that his hopes for a floating abattoir in New Orleans are not likely to fructify. In the self-referentially titled From Blame Game to Numbers Game, Wolcott bemoans the fact that we are not, after all, going to see deaths from Katrina on or above the levels of 911. Why? Because if we had, Wolcott surmises, we would be shaken from the deadly spell that the RoveBushCheney wizards have had us under for four years.

"Casualty figures are often high-ranged at the outset, dropping as the smoke and water clears. But any number substantially higher than 3,000 dead presents a political and symbolic dilemma for the most avid advocates of the War on Terror (or World War IV, if you're a Norman Podhoretz devotee)."

Stepping quickly around Wolcott's Stop-Me-Before-I-Reference-Again slight against Norman Podhoretz's correct estimate of the situation, its clear that Wolcott's Upper West Side dinner parties are going to be in deep mourning for the thousands of Americans that didn't die in New Orleans.

"If only," they will say, "some of those poor, black people could have taken one for the team and cast themselves into the sewage for


Posted by Vanderleun May 12, 2005 2:41 PM | Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Right War, Wrong Name

SEPTEMBER, 2005: MARK STEYN notes in Terror war all but forgotten on home front

"Four years ago, I thought the "war on terror" was a viable concept. .... Of course, since then we've had the shabby habit of presidents declaring a "war on drugs" and a "war on poverty" and, with hindsight, that corruption of language has allowed Americans to slip the war on terror into the same category -- not a war in the sense that a war on Fiji or Belgium is a war, but just one of those vaguely ineffectual aspirational things that don't really impinge on you that much except for the odd pointless gesture -- like the shoe-removing ritual before you board a flight at Poughkeepsie. The "war on terror" label has outlived whatever usefulness it had."

OCTOBER, 2003: AMERICAN DIGEST notes in The First Terrorist War

"To say we are "involved" in a "war on terror" and to repeat this phrase ad infinitum extends our decades old infatuation with euphemism


Posted by Vanderleun May 12, 2005 8:43 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Free Prayers at the Beach

ACROSS FROM MAIN BEACH IN LAGUNA BEACH is a coffee shop with outdoor tables. They are the best places in town to have coffee in the afternoon. Lots of people think so and come to the shop for coffee and stake out their tables.

One man and his mission are there daily. His is the table with the sign "Bible Answer Stand, How May I Pray for You?" I think about that question and decide to ask him for a SpeedPrayer.

"Okay," he says, "I can do that. What do you need?"

"I'd like you pray that, soon, I get a call from God. I'm waiting by the phone but he doesn't call and he doesn't write. If you get through, tell him it is okay to call collect.


Posted by Vanderleun May 10, 2005 5:14 PM | Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Und Zen You Vill Be Shot, Mr. Prezident!"

FILE UNDER "Our Pals, the Peace-Loving Germans" Minister: Bush must be 'shot down' - CNN Sep 8, 2005 : "A conservative German minister in a southern state has caused uproar by saying U.S. President George W. Bush should be 'shot down' for his handling of the crisis in hurricane-struck New Orleans."

It's always nice to know that under stress, the Germans still like to unwind with a little shooting spree. You would have thought that their last little experiment with der shooting of der political opponents and other unsavory sorts, having turned out badly for them, would have cured them. But, as we see, the virus -- once it finds traction in the host -- is almost impossible to root out.

If I were the Germans today, I'd be conserving my ammunition for threats a bit closer to home. Hamburg, for starters.

Now I know there are many good Germans who do not favor shooting the President of the United States for not waving his magic wand and making the Wicked Witch Katrina melt at the moment she was spied off the coast of Florida. There are many good Americans who also suffer from this mental disconnect from reality. Still, this should not blind us to the real potential of the German nation, as demonstrated twice in the last century, to go from Good to Goblin in a thrice whenever they feel their sausage is threatened. And, with their growing inability to buckle down to work, and their seeming inability to reproduce, coupled with the large influx of Muslims they've let flood their country to "do the jobs that Germans won't do," (Sound familiar?) it's only a matter of time before that "pacified" nation begins to feel a wee bit threatened.

The last time they felt threatened, in the wake of World War I and the Depression, the Germans had a bit of a problem in anger management and acted out. Could that happen again? Why, of course not. Everyone knows that the Germans take great pride in keeping everything under control and under surveillance. After all, they're the only country in Europe to invent and install toilets with little inspection shelves in the bowl.

Like I said, they like to keep "everything under control and under surveillance." With the single exception of their politicians. Still, what harm could that possibly do?

Posted by Vanderleun May 9, 2005 3:22 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
To the Full Horror, the Answer is, "Yes. Yes! YES!"

THERE IS NOTHING NOT TO LOVE ABOUT Newton Emerson'S Ill wind may not blow to the Whitehouse. Funny, furious and spot on, here's a sample:

As the full horror of Hurricane Katrina sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if this is the end of George Bush's presidency. The answer is almost certainly yes, provided that every copy of the US Constitution was destroyed in the storm. Otherwise President Bush will remain in office until noon on January 20th, 2009, as required by the 20th Amendment, after which he is barred from seeking a third term anyway under the 22nd Amendment.

As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if the entire political agenda of George Bush's second term will not still be damaged in some terribly satisfying way.

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided that the entire political agenda of George Bush's second term consists of repealing the 22nd Amendment. Otherwise, with a clear Republican majority in both Houses of Congress, he can carry on doing pretty much whatever he likes.

As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if the Republican Party itself will now suffer a setback at the congressional mid-term elections next November.

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided that people outside the disaster zone punish their local representatives for events elsewhere a year previously, both beyond their control and outside their remit, while people inside the disaster zone reward their local representatives for an ongoing calamity they were supposed to prevent. Otherwise, the Democratic Party will suffer a setback at the next congressional election.

There is, you will be glad to know, more at the link.

Posted by Vanderleun May 9, 2005 1:11 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Van Gogh's Ear, Best World Poetry & Prose, Vol. 4


To all those readers who have praised Gerard's writing and wondered why doesn't he do something more with this formidable talent?

Well, the answer is, he is. He has. And he will continue to do so.

What is expressed on this website is but a shard of what the man has to offer. I know.

He's too modest, surprisingly, to mention, so I must, that a poem he wrote was included in the highly revered anthology, Van Gogh's Ear, Best World Poetry & Prose, Vol. 4, published by French Connection Press.

Sandwiched between John Updike and Francois Villon, Gerard's moving and haunting Victims of the Plague is an homage to former mentor and friend Thom Gunn.


In the '90s, Gerard co-authored the amazingly prescient, for its day, Rules of the Net: On-Line Operating Instructions for Human Beings.


A few years ago, The Quotable Sherlock Holmes was published, edited by Gerard Van der Leun with a particularly engaging introduction by "John H. Watson III."

You'll find more biographic information about Gerard at the website I created for his photography exhibit, New York Life Images, Images After the Fall.

Finally, this is my favorite picture of my husband, taken in San Francisco, September 2002.


I love my husband, as I always have, perhaps more than ever, and I couldn't be more proud.

Compulsively Missing an Opportunity Shut Up

A TOUCHING PLEA: "You know, some people are stealing and they're making a big deal out of it. Oh, they're stealing 20 pair of jeans or they're stealing television sets. Who cares?... Maybe those people are so poor, some of the people who do that they're so poor they've never touched anything in their lives. Let them touch those things for once." -- Celine Dion


Posted by Vanderleun May 7, 2005 9:24 AM | Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Vampire Sucks Anne Rice's Brain Dry

YES, FEARLESS VAMPIRE MULTIMILLIONAIRE AUTHOR Anne Rice seems to have had her brains Hoovered right out of her shrinking skull. Or perhaps she's been caught by the intellectual black hole of the New York Times Op-Ed and pulled over the event horizon and out of the universe all together.

After a banal 3rd grade history of New Orleans and a list of reasons to save New Orleans it in Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans? Rice reveals that she has absolutely no grasp or knowledge of the immense private and public relief efforts going forward second by second:


Posted by Vanderleun May 6, 2005 6:11 PM | Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Math of Their Worst Nightmare

2 (Supreme Court Vacancies ) + 3 (Years Left for Bush )= 5.

Posted by Vanderleun May 4, 2005 4:02 PM | Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Love Gone Missing

ABSENT BEING IN A COMA IN A CAVE somewhere on a high mountain in the middle of a cypress swamp, you cannot escape "The Runaway Bride." She is the plat du jour of our blighted age and the story of the decade so far this week. Now that she's back she'll be parsed and probed, drawn, quartered and eviscerated by the rapacious media until she's little more than a damp spot on some surgical sponge.

I hated The Runaway Bride from the first moment it was revealed she was safe and had simply freaked out and taken the geographic cure by getting gone to Vegas. Sane people have to hate Las Vegas too -- a place that advertises that when you do freak out, it is the psycho's vacation destination of choice. A pathetic reason for a town to exist, but cheap and low places need to work with what they have. After all, nobody would mistake Vegas for Vatican City until, of course, they build a 1/3rd scale model of Saint Peters and slam six thousand slots into the basilica -- something I am sure is in the planning stage.

Still Vegas is the perfect place for The Runaway Bride to select as the terminus of her


Posted by Vanderleun May 4, 2005 10:51 AM | Comments (14)  | QuickLink: Permalink
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