Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun


On the Porch by Ghost Sniper


Sat on a friend's porch yesterday and watched a charm of hummingbirds, maybe 15-20 , buzz bombing each other with pit stops at the many feeders to reload on sucrose.

It was hot, dry, and the shade was nice. Sometimes we'd speak but usually not, just look and observe and think.

My friend's two big dobermans, Kai (male 165 lbs) and Riley (female 130 lbs) stretched out on the cool deck boards. In front of the porch there is maybe 100 feet of green well-manicured lawn ending in dense, lush forest and who knows what beyond. The house is 1/2 mile off the road so the couple vehicles per hour of traffic was barely heard and never seen.

It was time to go so I reached in my pocket and drew out a cookie for Kai and another for Riley. Then I walked the 3/4 mile downhill to our house.

I sat in my desk chair and my own Shannon came to me. She wanted a cookie too and she got one. She smelled the neighbor's mutts on me and was not jealous, just curious. I hit the send and receive button and an email from my neighbor said that 5 minutes after I left Kai dropped over dead from a heart attack. He'd been doing poorly for the past month but seemed chipper when I came around. Before I left I knelt down on the deck and stroked Kai's enormous head and looked into his yellow eyes and saw his soul. I told him he was a good boy and to stay well. Then I left, and so did he.

Later we used the Kubota to dig the hole and lowered Kai into it wrapped in his favorite blanky. The wife and 8 year old son weeped. I said a few words and walked home, plopped down in my porch chair and just sat there.

The birds, the squirrels, the chipmunks, the pileateds, the raccoons and the bunnies did their floor show but I was lost in thought. Out here there is little difference between our 2 legged and 4 legged friends. When one leaves a void is left. It starts filling with memories but there is no satisfaction . In time the memories and dissatisfaction will fade but never disappear. Across the way I hear the great horned owl emerging.

Posted by: ghostsniper in Window gazing is best done with music in the background.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 12, 2017 12:28 PM |  Comments (20)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Three Poets On the Effect of Changing One's Politics in MidLife

"A second time? why? man of ill star,
Facing the sunless dead and this joyless region?
Stand from the fosse, leave me my bloody bever
For soothsay."

And I stepped back,
And he stong with the blood, said then: "Odysseus
Shalt return through spiteful Neptune, over dark seas,
Lose all companions."
-- Ezra Pound: Canto I

"So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years,
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate -- but there is no competition --
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."
-- T. S. Eliot: "East Coker"

Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row

Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the doorknob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no more letters, no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row
-- Desolation Row Bob Dylan

Posted by Vanderleun at Aug 27, 2015 1:50 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink


In a hidden valley in the foothills of Utah's La Sal mountains, my old friend and I sat on his stone porch in the fading light and watched the sun disappear behind the soaring red rock of the Moab Wall ten miles to the west. As always from this perch along the fault line between basin and range, the view revealed four different American landscapes: desert, farmland, rolling ranch land and high mountains.

In the pasture to our right, the wranglers were bedding down the ranch's horses for the night. Up along the pine dotted cliffs on our left the last hunting hawks were circling. In front of us the impossible burnt orange of a Moab sunset swarmed up the side of the western sky.

As we sat there, cigars burning low and the Metaxa in the stoneware cups sipped slowly, our conversation ebbed into the long silences that wrap around you when the world puts on its very best end-of-day displays.

Then from very far away over the mountains behind us a faint, rising whoosh arced high overhead. Leaning our heads back we marked the contrail of an airliner slicing across the sky.

Through that still air the line of flight was marked from somewhere far to the east (Chicago? New York City? Further still?), and slanted down the slope of the sky towards somewhere far to the southwest (Phoenix? Los Angeles? Far beyond?). In the following moments while the night rose over the mountain behind us, more contrails appeared from the east arcing down behind the tinted thunderheads that moved towards us from the desert. Just before full dark we'd marked over a dozen, and they lingered, gradually expanded and then dissolved across all that empty sky.

"One of the things I remember about Seattle in the days following the Eleventh." my friend offered as the day faded out, "was the emptiness of the skies. No planes. For the first time I can remember, days with no planes."

"In New York," I replied, "we had planes. Fighters cut across the sky at all altitudes. You'd hear their sharp sounds slice through the air above you at all hours. You were glad to hear them. You slept better when you slept at all."

"Still, it was sort of peaceful in Seattle during those days," he replied. "Peaceful in an unnerving way. No noise from the air. No contrails."

He paused as the last light in the valley faded and the contrails high above still marked the sky like broad smudges on a blackboard.

"Well, they're back now," he said as the stars came on.

"Yes," I agreed. "They're back. For now."

Posted by Gerard Van der Leun at Sep 15, 2014 2:58 AM |  Comments (19)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Alexander Pope May 21, 1688


Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall:
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides;
Go measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old Time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th'empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule--
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!

-- Poets' Corner - Alexander Pope - Essay on Man

No fool Alexander Pope, born on this day in 1688, but rather the scourge of fools. A man who would be as much at home on the Internet today as he once was at Bartholomew Fair:

The melting, sweating, human tide was swept this way and that wreathed in the smell of roast pigs and burnt crackling, old clothes and foul breath, tobacco, coffee and ale, its ears assaulted `with the rumbling of Drums, mix'd with the Intolerable Squeakings of Cat-calls, and Penny Trumpets, made still more terrible with the shrill belches of Lottery-Pick-Pockets, thro' Instruments of the same Metal with their Faces'. The cries of nut-sellers and fruit-vendors fought with those of showmen whipping up an audience for waxworks, rope-dancing and music booths, conjuring tricks, acrobats and drolls. Once inside the booths, the impatient fairgoers, sitting on rickety benches or at trestle tables, crunched walnuts and damsons, handed round baskets of plums, pears and peaches, flirted and joked and heckled with cries of Show, Show, Show, Show!' until the players arrived....

Laughter and humiliation, illusion and reality merged in the flesh. Bearded women, Siamese twins, giants and dwarfs, 'monsters' and freaks mingled with the costumed devils and heroes of the plays, the attenuated moral emblems of medieval religious drama. The old play of The Creation of the World came complete with Noah's Ark, flying Angels, Dives rising out of Hell, and -- in 1702 -- 'with the addition of the Glorious Battle obtained over the French and Spaniards by the Duke of Marlborough'. The Fair was present and past, dream, desire and trickery, its pickpockets cunning as its conjurors, its audiences dupes to both. It could itself become the stuff of a morality play...

Not at all unlike the morality play acted out daily within the world of blogs .... discussion boards ... and other online destinations.

Indeed, if Pope were alive today he'd no doubt be posting from a page called

Posted by Vanderleun at May 21, 2013 1:13 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Mondegreen Moments

hearthook.jpgThis week I have been bedeviled by the tricks of the hooks and the hearts of popular music. I keep telling myself that most popular songs are not written to be true, but glib; that they run on what's call 'the hook.'

Distracted by numerous lyrics that all seemed to sending me a secret message, I decided to investigate the functioning of "the hook" and came in my Googling to a song by Blues Traveler from their album "Four."

"Four" is an album I've had for many years (A memoir of a brief, but doomed, May -- September romance some eight years back.) which has a song on it called "The Hook." Looking up the lyrics, I saw -- for the first time -- what the refrain actually says:

"Because the hook brings you back
I ain't tellin' you no lie
The hook brings you back
On that you can rely."

It's a common problem with the lyrics to pop songs that they are often misheard by the listeners. These ear blips are called mondegreens. Neo has written about this in an illuminating manner @ neo-neocon: Mondegreens

I have a old friend who has bought apartments in New York City by exploiting the phenomenon in books. Mondegreens are commonly explained by the facts of loose recordings, production choices, and the volume at which all the instruments play and the singers sing. It is more simply explained by the fact, as noted by my old friend Ethan Russell about Mick Jagger many years ago, "Well, you know, he does slur a lot."

And he does, and they all do. Singing words requires, as we learn in the sacred book of Bob Dylan, that you bend and shape the words to the measure of the music. Success in pop music is found, after all, in the singer not the song.

The other thing that drives the hearing of a song is the mood of the listener. You hear things in songs that aren't ever there just as you see things about your house that are long gone. In each, what we hear and see in down times is essentially the ghosts of ... love, etcetera. And coming or going, love has a lot of etcetera attached to it that it pulls along behind it like the chains on Marley's ghost.

All of this is a periphrastic way of coming to what I had heard sung in the refrain to "The Hook" for many years. I never heard the word 'hook.' Instead I heard the word 'heart,' as in:

"Because the heart brings you back
I ain't tellin' you no lie
The heart brings you back
On that you can rely."

I've listened to that song, with attention or just as background, probably around a hundred times over the years. I've even been to a Blues Traveler concert in New York City that had it on the set list. In all those iterations I've never heard 'hook,' but always heard 'heart.' Now I know the truth of the lyric, but frankly, I'd rather not have known.

Seen whole the lyrics to 'The Hook' are all about the plight and pain of being a pop star. One of thousands of such screeds in which our celebrities bemoan the curse of wealth and fame their rise has brought to them -- the endless angst of those who fear they had to 'sell-out' in order to 'buy-in.' I try, but somehow I just can't feel this pampered pain.

"Heart over hook" is one of the many lessons of the Susan Boyle phenomenon that stormed the world this week. In the end, we really don't want the hook to bring us back. We want the heart to bring us back:

"Because the heart brings you back
I ain't tellin' you no lie
The heart brings you back
On that you can rely."

It might be a mere mondegreen, but it makes a much better song.

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 24, 2012 2:38 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Richard Fernandez in Prose Plus Video

Any intelligent person who absorbed even a smidgen of the near-decade's worth of essays by Richard Fernandez of the Belmont Club would conclude the man's talent verges on genius. He's a Swiss-Army Knife essayist with no subject seemingly beyond his ken. To list the number of essays he's written that engage and enlighten and entertain all at the same time would be beyond most readers' capacity to scroll.

In the last year or so, Fernandez has also added the ability to include embedded videos not just as illustrations of his points, or keynotes from which he writes, but as integrated portions of the essay without which the essay itself would be incomplete. The latest of many examples is found in today's Belmont Club » Revolt on the Left. Here's the end of the essay where the video keys directly off the last sentence and takes the essay and the possibilities it suggests into whole new realms. Read it through and then play the video and you'll see what I mean.

Fernandez is one of those rare talents who can take an ossified form (in this case the essay which has been around since well before Montaigne) and suddenly make it new. Worth learning from.... if you ask me.

"The trend and worldview Obama represents is deeply embedded by now in America. If Bill Clinton thinks he can blast it out of the Democratic Party, remove the growth that has been yearly increasing since 1968, then good luck to him. But Clinton represents demographic forces too, dating back from before the sixties and born of normal expectations every year. They are the kind of Democrats of whom Limbaugh said: they "may have problems with this country, but don't want to see it destroyed."
"It is far from clear who will emerge victorious in the Clinton vs Obama wars. What is certain is that the low-income Democrats will not, not while the struggle for the party remains between the elites. In Trotsky vs Stalin, to use an historical parallel, Ivan is never a candidate. Whoever wins, it won't be Ivan. How can they put him on the ballot? Answer: with great difficulty.
"Whereas tea-party type movements can easily spring up among politically inactive conservatives working mostly at day jobs, spontaneous movements are harder to organize within the left because the grassroots channel is already pre-emptively filled and watched jealously by professional militants, from labor union operatives to community organizers to advocacy groups. Tea Parties in conservative populations arise at need among a yeomanry in a relative vacuum. Tea Party groups arising on the left must struggle to survive in a Darwinian ecosystem of activism.
"Still the seeds of discontent are there. If the Clinton challenge to Obama emerges openly it will momentarily legitimize all kinds of insurrectionary initiatives. In that hiatus the ordinary guy in the Democratic Party will have his chance; start to rethink his party, examine alternatives, independent of factions. It will be clear when that instant comes. While it is not here yet, the struggle of the Democratic grassroots to chart a future independently of their main factions isn't hopeless. Once it gets started all kinds of unanticipated, almost emergent events are possible. Suppose there were more than two possible outcomes in a political alignment. More than Brand Clinton and Brand Obama? Suppose, for example, there were 216? Now suppose there were millions of possibilities."

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 29, 2010 10:47 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Heat of Hot Air


I WOULD LIKE TO GO ON RECORD as asserting that I only watch Michelle Malkin's new videoblog Hot Air for the content. And I say that as a man who was an editor of Penthouse for decades.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 5, 2006 10:00 AM |  Comments (14)  | QuickLink: Permalink
People Worth Reading

DAVID WARREN on the State of the War "Many still argue that the war is a figment of the Bush administration’s imagination. How I wish they were right."

NEO looks at the Questioning of authority liberal commandment "...the kneejerk questioning of authority and the reflexive suspicion of all institutions of government...."

DOCTOR BOB attempts to install Windows XP with predictable results -- Outcome: Disaster. Unmitigated. We'd like to "feel his pain," but we have Macs.

MICHELLE'S fresh out of compassion. "Where's the sympathy for innocent, law-abiding citizens who have lost their lives at the hands

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 26, 2006 8:03 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink


WHAT CAN ONE SAY except that Michelle Malkin is red hot when delivering "news you can use" via her new venture, Hot Air . Added to that, this new online video report underlines that she has not only the look but the tone of voice necessary to be highly effective in this medium. But you knew that already, right?

Today's debut program turns the heat up on China and its fellow travellers, Bill Gates, Yahoo, Google and Skype. Couldn't happen to a skeevier bunch of guys.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 24, 2006 11:23 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
On the Air with Tammy Bruce

Tammy Bruce: Why You Never Outgrow
Your Need for Brunettes

SITE NOTES: I just spent an extremely enjoyable half-hour chatting with Tammy Bruce on her always scintillating radio program. As I said to her at the time, I am always more than pleased to speak with someone who is "clearly in the tradition of the sharp and funny Bruces of America."

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 12, 2006 10:00 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Saturday Spent in My Pajamas Media

Aussie Dave at Israellycool wants you to guess what this is:

Really? Shame on you. For the answer click Here

DAILY KOS DEFINED: Frank @ IMAO nails it: "MySpaces for Moonbats."

WHEN THAT ECO-DAZED NEIGHBOR GETS HIS ELECTRIC CAR your electric rates are going up. It's simple small supply vs. bigger demand according to A Blog For All's It's Electrifying - It's Stupifying.

ACE FINDS HE CAN NO LONGER BREATHE in the vast clouds of smoke blowing out of Andrew Sullivan's commodious nether regions: "Of course that interests you, you narcissitic little shitheel; that's the one goddamn thing you got right, so plainly that is the most important datum in your nonsensical rant, as far as you're concerned." Ah, we love the smell of flamewars in the morning.

JAZZ WITHOUT A HOME: Amy Alkon @ Advice Goddess reports: "More news on Gary Musselman, a talented artist who happens to be homeless, and does his artwork out of the Santa Monica Starbucks at Hill and Main." (Examples of Mussleman's art at the link.)

HUNTING THE "Stephen Harper Eats Babies" HACKER: Steve Janke @ Angry in the Great White North thinks he has a line, several lines, on the identity of the hacker who took control of a Toronto train's advertising to assert strange dietary tastes of the part of Canada's conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper .

The hack was first reported @ Gerry's Blog with Railroading Harper, and Janke has been following up in a ruthless manner. He's now narrowed it down to one potential suspect, (a student at Sheridan College in the Telecommunications Technology program) 'Joshua,' "So is Joshua our electonic vandal? ," Joshua asks. "I'll reserve judgment, but "dani elle" seems to think so." And so the noose tightens....

IN RELATED NEWS, Stephen Harper, between babies, has been busy Instructing the ever-loathsome and increasingly insane Cindy Sheehan to micturate vertically on woven hemp.

BACK IN MANHATTAN, OUR HARD-BODIED SUPERGIRL PAMELA @ Atlas Shrugs notes that: "Americans are becoming more informed about Islam, and about the nature of the global jihad, and with that knowledge comes the realization that in the face of various aspects of this immense, life-and-death challenge, our leaders are responding either improperly or not at all."

GREAT BIG GOBS OF GREEN GRIMY FOOTBALL POSTS: LGF Statistics Update In April, Little Green Footballs had nearly one and a half million unique visitors. We're approaching three million comments.

CRAZY LIKE AN IRANIAN FOX: Austin Bay looks at bastions and even more dangerous possibilities in the Straits of Hormuz with : Iran’s nuclear mullahs and the UN: closer to sanctions?/A look at the Strait of Hormuz. "A sub bastion is an undersea area surrounded by mines and sensors, usually located in coastal waters. The sub hides inside the “bastion” — waiting to take a shot (with torpedoes or anti-ship missiles) at ships approaching the bastion or attempting to sweep the mines."

SHOW ME THE MONEY SHOW FIRST! Fausta mourns the passing of Louis Rukeyser in Thank you, Lou and confesses, "In my unmarried days I wouldn't go out on a date until after Lou's show was over."

STRANGE BREWSKIS FOR STRANGER MOVIES: Great Beer Movies @ Balloon Juice. And Cole should know.

SPACE CASE IN OHIO: Brainster's Blog plays Whack-a-Mole on of Ohio's Democratic candidates: "Zack Space? Sounds like a "netroots" candidate to me."


Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 6, 2006 3:23 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
"Last" Posts Come in First

AT WOW The Council Has Spoken and awarded the laurels for the best essays of last week to:
  • Cassandra @ Villainous Company who asks and answers: "When was the last time the United States actually won a war?"
  • Dymphna @ Gates of Vienna for her moving personal memoir "The Last Boat Out of Liverpool"

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 5, 2006 9:23 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
All Things Birthday

Happy Birthday, Baroness

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 3, 2006 9:31 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Reynolds Wrap

Mining Instapundit for Pith

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 3, 2006 6:59 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Ten Years Gone

for Tom Mandel, 1946-1995

THESE DAYS NEW FRIENDS come more rarely and old friends begin to leave more often. Fate, accidents, God's will, and misunderstandings take them, as they shall take us all, as the years roll on. And as these years roll on the need to acquire light friendships pales before the deeper ones that still endure. But some end too soon, far too soon, and their leaving lingers as if the debt you owe to them is the debt of memory; one on which only the interest can be paid, never the principal.

Those that have left come back to the mind unbidden and at strange moments, moments unguarded and almost, well, casual. This morning I remembered, as I only sometimes do, Tom Mandel -- " the first friend I ever made before I met him."

At dawn I was watering the eclectic collection of potted plants out on my deck that looks far out to sea from the Laguna Hills. This morning the sea faded into a long blue-grey haze as the light from behind the hills slowly descended on the smooth surface of those waters., Behind me the random selection from the iTunes library chose, at that moment, to play a song I've been favoring this past week or so, Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying."

When it got to the lyrics,
I went skydiving.
I went Rocky Mountain climbing.
I went two point seven seconds
on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'.
And he said some day I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'.

He said I was finally the husband,
that most the time I wasn't.
And I became a friend,
a friend would like to have....

there was Tom Mandel standing slim, well-dressed, and sardonic in my haphazard memory palace. And I thought, before he faded, "Oh, yes. Tom. There he is. What a good man he was. I regret that I failed him in those last days. I should have been more courageous. But the past is the past and that was the least of the past. What matters now is that, every now and again, I think of him and what a good friend and what a good man he was. Died young. But did he? How long is a life anyway? Has it really been ten years since he died? Turn around a decade's gone."

Which seemed little enough to remember. Sort of slight and more than a trifle tattered, to tell the truth. But it did lead me back to something else I wrote years ago when his death was new and had not been, as all events are, faded under the unfolding detritus of our days. So I found it and read it over again after many years and thought, "Well, not perfect but it never is. Not too bad. It does hold something of who he was and what he could have been."

It went like this:


Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 24, 2005 10:55 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Support Michael Yon in Iraq Today

Photo by Michael Yon

IN OVER TWO YEARS, I HAVE NOT ASKED FOR ANYTHING FROM MY READERS. That changes today. Today I want you to do something right now.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 2, 2005 5:59 AM |  Comments (3)  | 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.

Being Not Here Now

THE ATTENTION GIVEN TO THE PLIGHT OF THE DISABLED IN AMERICA made me recall this essay I wrote last September: Visit to an Old Friend. More at the link. A part of it reads,

Be. Here. Now. Remember that phrase?

He's here but not here now. It's two decades, two wives, two daughters, and many more than two strokes later. He's here now in this residence hotel for the aged and the infirm in a San Francisco neighborhood doesn't change with the years. He's waiting for me in his wheelchair, in the sun, his brother by his side. He's only 59 years old with God only knows how many years ahead of him.

He might still want to play the piano, but his hands won't answer him any more. They can't it. They'll never do it again. The hands no longer answer when he calls them. He's learned not to call.

Now his hands can barely lift a spoon or maneuver a cup to his lips. His speech is slurred and slow. You can see the end of the sentence fade from his mind before he gets to the middle. Still, in fits and starts, in moments and sparks of expression, you can see him emerge from inside his prison and then sink back in. You find yourself looking for those moments. You glide over all the others.

We meet and we go for a walk and a roll with his brother in the San Francisco afternoon. We come back and take a table in the Indian restaurant under the series of rooms are now his last home. We work our way through the lunch buffet. And we talk, mostly about the past since the past is where he's most at ease.

The fence we built on his ranch/commune. The day the two dogs we owned from the same litter killed the chicken. The stoned, comic film we were going to make with large vats of spaghetti in the first scene. Wives we had and girls we knew. The old songs. The handsome collection of pot plants on the deck that was taken away by the local police. The concerts. The marches. All the old moments, more than we could say in the few hours we had.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 28, 2005 12:50 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink

ONE YEAR OLD: The Mighty Middle : "The real political fight in this country is not between the right and the left, but between reason and fanaticism; between the living and the brain dead."

If you go, be sure to click the banner and watch the video.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 27, 2005 2:44 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink

Beneath my sea, my tongue was tied by lies
That said I loved you not when love lay still,
And that false tongue denied your clearer eyes
That saw that love will always conquer will.
But now, as our first year in time has turned
To moments honed from diamonds, now I find
My love for you refracted and returned
In samite nights beside you in that blind
Dark within which only one light burns.
Which is your love, and in such love I sleep
The deeper sleep of one to whom Love turns
When, gasping like some being from the deep,
I first was flung upon your wave-smoothed strand,
And shown beneath your present sea my future land.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 19, 2005 9:03 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Dumping Out the Gods' Weather Bag

I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE who has had it up to here with the Seattle ("It isn't a normal") Winter. Robert Fulghum, a long time Seattle native, has a few choice terms as well in "Expletive Deleted":

For months now our town has had underwater weather. Cold, wet, windy, and gray. The unrelenting waves of dreary days have ground down even the cheeriest dispositions. Desperate people are driven to shake their fists at the sky and shout STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!

There was a small crack in the ceiling on Sunday. Just enough to get people outside. And then the weather gods got freaky, as if they had decided to dump the drag ends of everything left in their trash bag all at once: rain, wind, cold, sleet, snow, hail, fog, mist, lightning, toads, hairballs, leeches, virus, and great clots of unidentifiable phlegm.

He's right. If this keeps up, everyone here is going to stop believing in the unofficial motto of Seattle: With Fleece, All Things Are Possible

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 14, 2005 11:58 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
A-Team of the Blogroll

"For a blogger there is nothing like the feeling of having something you've written being judged "linkworthy" by another blogger. I've been linked by Instapundit, American Digest, Hugh Hewitt, Betsy's Page, Baseball Musings, NRO, Baseball Crank, Offwing Opinion,, and many, many more (each link of which I am extremely grateful for and humbled by)."

Drop by and humble him some more.

I am in El Paso, Texas. It took me THIS LONG to get here, but at least I am back in the States.

Perhaps it's better this bastard is still alive, at the moment. Perhaps justice is best served by letting him see the unintended consequences of his bloody savagery, and let him watch all his dreams die...

...before a US soldier drills a high-caliber round through his brainbox.

God will punish him.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 12, 2005 12:42 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Two Reasons to Read Varifrank


Imagine getting assigned to seat 22b, the dreaded middle seat, in the back of the plane, with no view, and your seat cannot recline.

Now, imagine that the flight is 80 hours long, and that you can't sleep at any point of the flight.

Now imagine that you're not just a passenger, but you're the pilot. And its not a well tested and understood Boeing 737, but a one time creation, made mostly out of plastic, and it doesn't have two engines, but one.

And no one has ever done what you are about to do. Fly around the world, nonstop, Solo, on one engine without refueling.

There's more and well worth it too.

Reason #2 Varifrank: I, The Jury

We have an adversarial political system in this country, but as a member of the jury, I do not "belong" to either of them, nor do I "belong" to any third politcal party. If I am to be a good citizen and fulfill my function in the jury box, I must listen to the case the Attorneys from either side put into evidence in the court to make their case.

For this moment in time, the Republicans a better case to the majority of the jury. This is not an indictment of the people who belong to the Democrat party or a prize to those in the Republican party, it is simply an indication of how well their lead attorneys on each side are doing translating the evidence of daily life into information that the jury can use to make its decision at the polls.

Wit, wisdom, and range. Who could ask for anything more?

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 1, 2005 8:43 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Roger Simon Gets Stoned

I am hereby calling for a web-wide [non-denominational, gnostic or ag] prayer circle for Roger Simon without regard to race, color, creed or URL origin.

On the advice of my doctor, I headed over to Cedars-Sinai Emergency, trying to tell myself I wasn't having a heart attack. I wasn't.

I had gallstones. I am now sitting in the hospital, waiting to have my gall bladder taken out -- a relatively routine operation. See y'all next week, when I'll do some stoneblogging, hopefully with jokes.

Or, as we learn from the Supreme Being in Time Bandits: "Dead? No excuse for laying off work. "

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 11, 2005 12:59 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Godwin's Law On Wikipedia

In the post below I pointed to Mike Godwin's new weblog Godwin's Law as much for its wonderfully retro design as for its content. Pointing makes you click and when I did I came across this wonderfully Godwinesque series of postings on the Wikipedia kerfuffle. If you'd like to get caught up on this debate with the aid of a good guide, here are some excerpts:

Godwin's Law - Thoughts on Wikipedia, Part I

The question ought not to be whether you should trust Wikipedia (for whatever value of "trust" you want to use), but why you should give your trust to traditional publications (where errors and distortions persist, when they occur, for decades and even centuries).
Godwin's Law - Thoughts on Wikipedia, Part II
My reaction when someone complains about an inaccuracy in Wikipedia is always this: Why didn't you fix it? Because, you know, you had the power to do so.
Godwin's Law - Interlude: the Larger Wikipedia Debate
Clay Shirky: "It's not that it doesn't matter what academics think of the Wikipedia -- it would obviously be better to have as many smart people using it as possible. The problem is that the only thing that would make the academics happy would be to shoehorn it into the kind of filter, then publish model that is broken, and would make the Wikipedia broken as well."
Godwin's Law - Thoughts on Wikipedia, Part III
Wikipedia, with all its flaws, is an amazing accomplishment, and it stands for the proposition that, whatever its vulnerabilities, most of us want to promote the truth, to share knowledge, to make it available for everybody else, and to make the world better.
Godwin's Law - Picky About Wikipedia
Most of us who have long been interested in the Cargo Cults will already have noted that hardly anyone ever tries to stir up fear, uncertainty, and doubt about them, because they're not perceived as any kind of threat. By contrast, various corporations (and the occasional affiliated foundation) sure keep beating the tribal drum about the general badness of open-source software, the free-culture movement, and entities like Creative Commons. Surely if the latter were really all that Cargo-Cultish they'd be so irrelevant that no one would propagandize against them.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 25, 2005 12:07 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
More of a Habit Than Using: The Beautiful Obsession of Paper Frigate

"I needed a book .... and for my sins they gave me one ..... when it was over I'd always want another."

One of the continuing pleasures of publishing on the web, is that you can, if you are lucky, encounter people who share your obsessions to a greater degree than you ever thought possible. It is always a relief to know that, no matter how obsessed with an area of life you may be, there is always somebody higher up the ladder. In that way, you can hope for a little warning when they start rolling up the network.

Like many who write for a living and for their own satisfaction, I've been a lifelong "constant reader." At times my credit card bill seems to confirm that the entire staff of Amazon must be on my personal payroll. Long Sunday shopping trips with my wife? No problem as long as the mall has a bookstore. Going somewhere where I might have to wait for more than 30 seconds? I've got two books in the backseat and a case of books in the trunk of my car.

I pour over the latest Levenger catalog like other men consume Sports Illustrated, Popular Science, and Outdoor Life. (I thirst for the Luxe Laplander, but it far too expensive an indulgence. I own two Flag Wallets [with refills] and I am manfully resisting The Annotation Station ), but I can feel my resolve fading.)

I compulsively check the "Where's My Stuff" page at Amazon, even though I've selected "Free Shipping" and I know the order won't even leave until next week. ( "Why? Why did you do that, when for just a few dollars more...." ) When the shipment does leave, I like to get the tracking number and watch it move towards my front door. I have done this so compulsively that one morning I refreshed the tracking page and saw "Delivered" just as my doorbell rang and there they were. Impressive or insane? You decide.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 25, 2005 11:01 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
In the Truck or Under It

I confess I'm not quite sure what Cobb is driving or driving at in The Vector but I have to admit I like reading the whole thing. Excerpt:

The difference between liberals and conservatives is that conservatives know the truck is always coming. They're looking for ways to escape - to get away clean. The liberals are trying to set up traffic lights and warning signs so that nobody gets hit. That's why liberals are so attracted to despair. They know the feeling, while trying to be nobody's enemy, of watching a fellow human splattered. Writings of despair could be shared by liberals and conservatives. Perhaps it is the proper nexus. It was despair that changed me.

I turned Republican when I realized that catastrophe is inevitable, and the only salvation is becoming

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 3, 2004 6:03 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Required Reading

Pardon my preening, but my amazing, omni-talented and beautiful wife Sheryl, has another article in today's Washington Post. I think you'll find it says, to quote Pope, "what oft was thought but n'ere so well expressed":

Indecent Exposure
When Did Cookware and Fly-Fishing Go X-Rated?
By Sheryl Van der Leun

So there I was, perusing the Perfex salt grinders at my local Williams-Sonoma store, when I overheard an excited thirty-something shopper exclaim breathlessly as she walked by the $1,999 Jura-Capresso Impressa S8 Super Automatic Espresso Coffeemaker, "Oh, this is pure kitchen-porn. Get me out of here...."
-- Indecent Exposure (

There's more on this full frontal assault on our traditional linguistic values. Take a look.

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 14, 2004 12:54 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Voices from the Front

Bookmark this link from Jeff at Beautiful Atrocities It holds a number of links from blogs being run by various members of the Armed Forces, many on the ground in Iraq. As Jeff notes:

One of the charges thrown around by the Left is that Americans are being 'shielded' from the reality of the war in Iraq. In fact, hundreds of American soldiers are blogging real-life, real-time accounts of their tours. Anyone who claims Americans can't get access to what's really going on either isn't trying very hard, or doesn't like what real American soldiers have to say. Here's just a small sample.
It is more than just a "small" sample, it's a portal.

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 7, 2004 6:56 PM | QuickLink: Permalink


Even though James Lileks' Senate career died aborning,there's nothing, absolutely nothing, that can stop his run for #1 at Amazon if even half the Blogsphere that thought a political life for him was a good idea weighs in.

Lileks' readers and supporters were heartened to note today that the master of regrettable food has now given the world regrettable homes @ Books: Interior Desecrations : Hideous Homes from the Horrible '70s

"Sweet smoking Jesus, what was the matter with these people?" pretty much sums up the book and the man behind it.

This deathless tome just made my "must give it to everyone that ever lived it" slot on our Christmas list. This means I got one for myself, my mother and 7 other people.

Since the royalties from this instant classic will go straight into the Jasperwood refurbishing and cigar fund, you can give the books with compassion and a clear mind.

Already at #79 on Amazon, I would think that a determined Blogsphere could easily knock Jon Stewart's America out of the top slot. After all, who really speaks for America these days, Jon Stewart or LILEKS, (James)?

Advantage: Lileks.

Link to this or post your own item, but I think we've really got a shot at winning this election too! If, to quote Dan Rather "the blogging machine which the White House and the Bush-Cheney campaign has used for any number of purposes over their four years" can put a President in office, Amazon should be almost as easy.

"I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed...."

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 3, 2004 4:14 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Meetings with Remarkable Bloggers

I've already forgotten what link took me there. I should have made a note of it and yet, as so often happens, I did not. There might be a trail of bread crumbs leading back through the labyrinth, but who has time to follow it. Suffice it to say that, from time to time, I come across a site, previously unknown to me, that strikes me as remarkable.

In the past, I've seldom pointed to these pages out of the feeling that "Such a fine site, surely tens of thousands of others must know about it." That's a common feeling that I know most share, but of late I've decided, "So what. It's new to me and that's what counts." From time to time, I'm going to point out one or two of these "New to Me" sites in the hope that what I value you might value too.

We begin today with: The Doctor Is In by Bob Finnerty a surgeon in Tacoma, WA. The "About Me" states:

The Doctor is In is a blog by a physician philosopher, dealing with medicine, religion, family, politics, current events, philosophy, pets, photography, the Pacific Northwest, software development, humor, and any other area of life worthy of passion and depth of consideration.
This site delivers on that promise. Elegant in appearance, thoughtful in execution, and informed by experience in the analog

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 11, 2004 10:21 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Visit to an Old Friend

Seated, second from the left.

While riding on a train goin' west,
I fell asleep for to take my rest.
I dreamed a dream that made me sad,
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had.*

Cruising in the bright August morning down Highway 5. California's great central valley, north of Sacramento, where the farm towns roll by, their blunt names like an old catechism of your life, "Willows," "Williams," "Orland," "Nord."

Rice fields shimmer in fives shades of green. Enough rice to feed the Orient with a bunch left over for the States. Old and new orchards in whirring diagonal rows. Roadside attractions promising 20 different varieties of olives. White egrets pacing in the irrigation canals. Yellow crop dusters banking and coming in low over the highway.

Heading south towards San Francisco; towards an appointment with an old friend trapped too early in a brain where all the furniture is fading, dissolving, melting into a blurred now and a bright twenty years ago.

The old story. You wonder about a friend you haven't been in touch with for a decade. You meet someone who knows someone who knows him. Or you run an Internet search and find an email of a person who once knew him. And you ask. Most of the time things are fine, but then there's that time when the news is not good. Not good at all.

How many a year has passed and gone,
And many a gamble has been lost and won,
And many a road taken by many a friend,
And each one I've never seen again. *

You get a phone number for his brother and you call. His brother fills you in on the details.

Several strokes stemming from a traffic accident twenty years gone and an operation on the brain five years later. First wife saw what was coming and cleared out, dumping the marriage to become a poet. Right.

He married again and, by all accounts, married well. Had some good years. Was back to his music and his songs. But then the strokes came, and came again, and his mind began to liquefy. The second wife couldn't handle all the care -- could you? -- and placed him, at last, in a home in San Francisco.

One daughter sees him often, the other daughter seldom, the second wife some times, the brother every six weeks, the first wife never.

And so, because of what was, and because you have to be, at the least, a witness to this part of his life and yours, your arrange a visit.

Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 18, 2004 1:45 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Will You Won't You Come and Join the Dance?

"If you do not join the dancing, you will feel foolish. If you dance, you will also feel foolish. So, why not dance? And I will tell you a secret: If you do not join the dance, we will know you are a fool. But if you dance, we will think well of you for trying. And if you dance badly to begin and we laugh, what's the sin in that? We all begin there. Come on."
-- Robert Fulghum

"The most important sort of disobedience is to write essays at all. Fortunately, this sort of disobedience shows signs of becoming rampant. It used to be that only a tiny number of officially approved writers were allowed to write essays. Magazines published few of them, and judged them less by what they said than who wrote them; a magazine might publish a story by an unknown writer if it was good enough, but if they published an essay on x it had to be by someone who was at least forty and whose job title had x in it. Which is a problem, because there are a lot of things insiders can't say precisely because they're insiders.

"The Internet is changing that. Anyone can publish an essay on the Web, and it gets judged, as any writing should, by what it says, not who wrote it. Who are you to write about x? You are whatever you wrote.

"Popular magazines made the period between the spread of literacy and the arrival of TV the golden age of the short story. The Web may well make this the golden age of the essay. And that's certainly not something I realized when I started writing this."
-- Paul Graham: The Age of the Essay

Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 7, 2004 1:46 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Belmont Stakes

The great British statesman, Benjamin Disraeli once said: "My idea of an agreeable person is a person who agrees with me." The inaptly-aptly named 'Wretchard' of Belmont Club certainly fills out that notion admirably.

But it is more than just mere agreement that makes The Belmont Club a force for good in the blogsphere as well as the world. The real drawing power of the Belmont Club is the author's almost flawless melding of scholarship with style.

Many in the blogsphere write well, but few write as well and fewer still better. The prose of Wretchard is, on a day to day basis, clean, clear and spare with just a soupcon of poetry thrown in -- not just in his frequent pointed quotations from the masters. It's a prose that illuminates not only the insights but the great range of his mind.

Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 2, 2004 6:00 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Mario Savios Speech Before the 2004 Democratic Convention

Forty years ago in a galaxy far, far way, I stood with many others outside Sproul Hall at U.C. Berkeley and listened to Mario Savio make a speech which in many ways launched the political upheaval of the 1960s and all that has come from that. Savio died in 1996, a man who in many ways peaked at the moment the speech was made and who lived the rest of his life in the shadow of it. Still, he was a brilliant man and perhaps, not certainly but perhaps, he might be inclined to make the following speech if he had been returned to life for the Democratic Convention.

"We have a MoveOn-ocracy which runs this party...."

Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 31, 2004 5:21 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Breakthough on the Newspaper Front

Not since Maudlin.

GOOD NEWS FOR THE GOOD GUYS SayUncle notes " Congrats to Cox and Forkum on their first newspaper gig. Here's to many more!

And so say we all.

The details from Cox & Forkum: C&F In Newspapers!-- "Earlier this week, The Detroit News published our recent Fahranheit 9/11 cartoon, making it the first Cox & Forkum editorial cartoon to appear in a large American daily newspaper -- approximately 200,000 circulation. Not only that, but there are plans to make our cartoons part of a new weekly feature. "Yaaahooooo!" doesn't quite express our high level of excitement."

We think that's some great news for some of the best classic editorial cartooning on the scene today. When Trudeau can get carried via sheer inertia and the disgusting Ted Rall still shipping out his tripe, it is utterly amazing to me that a team like Cox and Forkum continues to struggle.

A smart newspaper that wanted to attract readers back that it had lost would have this cartoon team in their pages on a daily basis, but as we have seen "smart" newspapers are not exactly a glut on the market. Tracking how many are willing to broaden and deepen their reach will probably use the inclusion of this team's great work as a benchmark.

Stop by Cox & Forkum , and let them know they are appreciated.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 24, 2004 9:27 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
And the Blogging Berger Award Goes to....

TOM GALVIN for linkage above and beyond in his "Lost at Starbucks.:


LOST: Really important papers, Really important

Hey, I was here several months ago with a few papers. Perhaps some of you saw me walk in here with them stuffed in my pants and socks. There were only a few pages, about 40 to 50, that I had with me that day. If you have a hard time remembering, I was the sloppy looking guy in the corner writing feverishly. I had lots of erasers, white-out, and black markers, too. Anyway, I went through a lot of grief to get these papers for my old boss. They sort of make him look really bad for not paying attention to some important stuff (long story). My former boss asked me to do a favor for him and hold on to these papers but I think I accidentally discarded them here, at this Starbucks. I've been auditioning for a job with another guy who my boss's wife really hates. Needless to say, I lost any chance of the new job because I can't find these papers. So, these papers are like really important. Everyone's mad at me. My old boss's wife said she knew I'd screw up sometime but didn't think I would be this sloppy about it. Man, she scares me. Anyway, if anyone finds these papers please call 1-866-272-6272. That's not my number because these papers are not even mine! So, as you can see, I'm in serious trouble. Actually, on second thought, you should call me. There is a reward. Whoever finds these papers will get tix to a really cool show. I promise, it'll be hilarious. By the way, if it's any help, the papers have coffee stains on them. Thanks.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 22, 2004 4:47 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Michael Yon: Iraq's Ernie Pyle

The Q

MICHAEL YON CONTINUES to emerge as the single best combat reporter on the ground in Iraq today with items such as "Welcome Aboard"

Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 5, 2004 9:12 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Victims of the Plague

(for Thom Gunn 1929-2004)

Perhaps our dances, in a thousand years,
will tattooed be as drums,
And our bright minds, forged by fate,
will in the musk of eons drown.

Our souls will all rise glorified
as a pod of whales weaves waves.
Our flesh, once firm, relaxed as stones
that serve to mark our graves.

Our pleasures seen as ancient rites
describable as dreams;
Our voices, in a million years,
insubstantial as starbeams.

Perhaps our minuets, in a billion years,
will as steel stiffened be.
Our arabesques as smooth and gestural
as drowned paintings of the sea.

Our nods but inclinations
of the folds beneath the eyes.
Our plans but vague intentions
of the wind beneath the skies.

Our breath, a transpiration
of dust immured in dust.
Our lives, a visitation
of a rush light drowned in musk.

All these, our words and scattered songs,
May come, in time, to less than naught,
As Mayan blocks of hard hacked stone
Embalm the skin we once sloughed off.

But now, like rattles kept within
A jeweled bone box, our hollowed skin
Is shaken in the rambles of the park
To frighten schoolgirls after dark.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 27, 2004 4:43 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Victims of the Plague

(for Thom Gunn 1929-2004)

Perhaps our dances, in a thousand years,
will tattooed be as drums,
And our bright minds, forged by fate,
will in the musk of eons drown.

Our souls will all rise glorified
as a pod of whales weaves waves.
Our flesh, once firm, relaxed as stones
that serve to mark our graves.

Our pleasures seen as ancient rites
describable as dreams;
Our voices, in a million years,
insubstantial as starbeams.

Perhaps our minuets, in a billion years,
will as steel stiffened be.
Our arabesques as smooth and gestural
as drowned paintings of the sea.

Our nods but inclinations
of the folds beneath the eyes.
Our plans but vague intentions
of the wind beneath the skies.

Our breath, a transpiration
of dust immured in dust.
Our lives, a visitation
of a rush light drowned in musk.

All these, our words and scattered songs,
May come, in time, to less than naught,
As Mayan blocks of hard hacked stone
Embalm the skin we once sloughed off.

But now, like rattles kept within
A jeweled bone box, our hollowed skin
Is shaken in the rambles of the park
To frighten schoolgirls after dark.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 27, 2004 4:43 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Yet Another Reason to Love Protein Wisdom
Film reviews in 5 words or less, #4 The Day After Tomorrow (2004) Directed by Roland Emmerich. Stars Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Ian Holm, and Sela Ward.

Five words or less review: Vote Bush and you'll die.

Bush Lied! The Gulf Stream Died!

Posted by Vanderleun at May 25, 2004 5:55 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Simon on The Skulkers of the Left

ROGER SIMON PUTS PAID to the cowardly choices made by the American Left in The New Reactionaries

I feel hugely sorry for the good people in Iraq like Mohammed, Omar and Ali and am deeply ashamed of my old friends on the left. Some of them quietly tell me, after reading this blog, that they... kinda... sorta... agree with me and that it's good that I have the balls to come out front on these things. Then they slink away. Well, I'll tell you something right now. I'm not so brave and I'm not so tough. I'm a big fat chicken, but I try to tell the truth as I see it. These people do not. They are worried about their jobs, being "thought well of" and being part of a club.

Meanwhile, the Zarqawis of the world are winning this war. And I can promise you one thing -- it's a lot more important than George W. Bush, John Kerry, anybody in Congress and the Media and any one single person. It's about civilization versus a death cult. Make a choice!

Simon forgets that for over a century the American Left has been making a choice. From Marx to Engels to Lenin to Stalin to Mao to Ho Chi Minh to Castro -- it's been having a love affair with Totalitarianism for decades -- it always chooses the death cult.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 22, 2004 5:01 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Blog Growth According to Technorati

J.D. LASICA reports on David Sifry's presentation with some interesting numbers in: Charting blogdom's rise

Sifry mentioned that Technorati started out on Thanksgiving weekend 2002 as an effort to find out "who was talking about me" in the blogosphere. Since then, it has begun charting an increasing number of blogs -- an average of:

- 3,000 a day in January 2003
- 4,000 a day by that March
- 6,000 a day by June 2003
- 8,000-9,000 new blogs a day by September 2003
- 10,000 at the end of 2003
- 11,000 to 12,000 new blogs a day today.

That's pretty incredible, and it adds up to 2.4 million total blogs that Technorati is monitoring. Not all are active. Of that number, about 45 percent have not been updated in the past three months. And he points out that 2.4 million blogs does not equate to 2.4 million bloggers, because many bloggers have multiple blogs.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 22, 2004 11:06 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Thinking the Thinkable

IN AN UNUSUALLY TERSE ENTRY, Steve den Beste admits to having 'bad thoughts': The High Cliff Syndrome

When I've read news reports lately about some kinds of obnoxious protests, I have mused to myself, "Perhaps it's time to issue shoot-to-kill orders to security guards." Perhaps if some people who made grandstanding protests ended up dead, it might cause others to start really thinking about the consequences of their behavior."

Obviously I don't think this should really happen. But it does seem to me that a lot of protesters are willing to do the things they do, and say the things they say, and advocate the things they advocate, because they suffer no consequences for it. They have license, but feel no responsibility. There are negative consequences, but someone else suffers the consequences, not the protesters. If such protests had negative consequences for the protesters then protest might become more responsible.

As I was thinking about this, I realized that there are severe consequences for them even if there are no shoot-to-kill standing orders. For domestic anti-war protesters who hate Bush more than they hate bin Laden, and foreign "allies" who fear and resent America more than they fear Islamic extremism, the result of an American defeat in this war will be death, destruction, poverty, misery, and tyranny for them. Their own best interests require an American victory.

I guess the difference between them and us is that we who support the war can see that, and they apparently can't.

No, they can't. They seem to have a few teeth missing in the gears that drive their morality. The tragedy here is not that this would be their fate, but that so many others would suffer with them.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 21, 2004 6:25 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Thom Gunn 1929-2004

Poet. Teacher. Mentor.

My Sad Captains
by Thom Gunn

One by one they appear in
the darkness: a few friends, and
a few with historical
names. How late they start to shine!
but before they fade they stand
perfectly embodied, all

the past lapping them like a
cloak of chaos. They were men
who, I thought, lived only to
renew the wasteful force they
spent with each hot convulsion.
They remind me, distant now.

True, they are not at rest yet,
but now they are indeed
apart, winnowed from failures,
they withdraw to an orbit
and turn with disinterested
hard energy, like the stars.

Thom (Thomson) William Gunn, poet, born August 29 1929; died April 25 2004....


No. Wait. Do not go.

A bracket of dates and life moves forward. If we were like the beasts that we keep that would be the whole of it. But we move forward carrying the past with us. It is true that age and the ever spiraling cascade of experience forces us to discard large files of memory along the way, but if we are wise we keep those memories that sustain us and let the rest pass.

It is 1967 and Im living with six other crazed young artists and hipsters in The Green House off Telegraph south of UC Berkeley. The Green House was not a special place for the time. It was, in that time and in that place, ordinary. The most ordinary place in the world. If it was neither real nor natural, it was fraught with a strange excitement, fecund with endless possibility. It was built of a metaphysic so loose that the most absurd accident could happen and it would only be a part of the Grand Design. It was a place where revelation and prophecy were daily events, the Second Coming scheduled for tomorrow after lunch, magic considered merely another, older branch of science, poetry an acceptable mode of speech, and caricature a widely appreciated attitude. As far as we know Rasputin, William Blake, St. Teresa, and Walt Whitman had never lived in The Green House, but they would have been welcome if they had wandered in.

Because theres a war on, Im trying to stay in school. But because theres a war on Im trying to leave school. Im also trying to become a poet for reasons that are now obscure other than it seemed like a good idea at the time. Off the kitchen in The Green House is a small mud room with a screened window. Nasturtium and morning glories have twined across the screen and late into the night I sit scribbling and typing one attempt at poetry after another only to abandon most of them at first light. Dawn always reveals a small pool of crumpled sheets filled with errors, false starts, bad endings, failed metaphors, forced similies -- all the detritus of trying to learn to use words.

It had not been my habit to throw anything away the previous year. Everything I wrote seemed to my young mind to be touched with light. Now I knew it had been garbage and had destroyed most of it. How did I know that? Because I had been fortunate enough to find myself in a poetry composition class taught by Thom Gunn.

How many teachers do we have during our formal schooling? Two or three dozen? Fifty at most. How many do we remember? I remember three. A science teacher and a drama teacher in high school, and Gunn. I dont remember Gunn because of how or what he taught, although that was part of it, I remember him because of who he was.

I remember the craggy, pitted face easily moved to laughter and a sensibility moved to kind despair when he was forced to experience a particularly bad line. I remember that the class was formed of about 12 students and that on any given day at least ten were baked to a crisp. But that didnt mean Gunn didnt get our attention. How could he not? He was not only an elegant poet, an inheritor of the Tennysonian tradition in English poetry, but he was an elegant man.

He commuted in from his other life in San Francisco on a powerful motorcycle in leather and Levis. Then, before taking up his duties as a teacher, hed change into what had to be bespoke English Suits and cowboy boots. It was a look that the students in his class mired in the hippy-regalia of the time could not hope to emulate. But it was a look that spoke of refinement and manliness at the same time. It was not too much to say that we worshipped the man.

Unlike other established poets Ive run into here or there over the years, the hours spent in Gunns class were never about himself or his work. We were always asking him to read to us from his work, but he never did. What we were there to discuss, he always reminded us, was our work and the work it obviously needed.

And work we did. Ive never pushed so hard on the craft as I did during that semester. Because that was what Gunn was about, the craft. Not your feelings or your petty psychosis, not the confessional spew so popular at the time. Gunn had little patience for that even though he was invariably kind about pointing it out. What Gunn was interested in teaching was the one thing he knew he could teach: the craft, the rhetorical shape and the internal beat, the way in which you could put words together to get a specific emotion back from the reader; the painting techniques of poetry; how to draw from life with words.

Most of the time, you failed at the craft since youd been taught that craft was a foolish tool and that emotions were all that mattered. But slowly, with his remarks in class and his reactions to the work you submitted, you came to understand that you were actually improving. In hopes of improving more, you bought his books and internalized his poems. I have all his books now, the oldest of which I bought in 1967. Ive read through and around in them many times and they never fail to enhance and expand my life.

Gunn was kind and unsparing with his criticism, but he held back his praise. Somewhere I still have a sheet of paper with his polished handwriting telling me how vivid and effective he thought it was. I kept it pinned in front of wherever I was writing for years. It strikes me now that Id really like to find it.

In time the class ended, summer came on, I left the University and fled to Europe. Several years passed and I was working in an office south of Market Street in San Francisco. I was walking back to the job when, waiting for a light, a motorcycle pulled up next to me at the curb. Black motorcycle. Helmeted rider. Bespoke English three-piece suit. Cowboy boots.

Recognizing me he lifted his visor and smiled that smile that made the day brighter. Held out his hand and we shook. The light changed and I said, just to be clever in the way that young men are, Man, you gotta go, a phrase that opens one of his motorcyclist poems, "On the Move." He laughed, nodded, hit the throttle and faded away down the long boulevard.

I never saw him again, but like all teachers and mentors that have touched our lives, hes never really been absent. More than once over the years, I wanted to seek him out if only to thank him for what hed added to my life. That always seemed beside the point. Now, to my regret, it is too late. Still, when I think of him or read his work as I will until my time arrives, Ill always carry the memory of those classes and the long nights working amid the growing pile of crumpled paper on the floor in The Green House. In the end, thats what the great teachers and poets leave us, the memories that live, the memories we choose to carry all our lives.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 5, 2004 9:24 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Small Moves, the Spirit of America, and Doing What You Can

But what can I do?
Do what God puts in front of you.

On the radio news at 3 AM this morning, the phrase "Camp Pendleton Marines today in Fallujah.... "

Its early and dark, but Im awake and sitting down with coffee when I hear those words. I hear them often these days. News of a brutal firefight in and around that forsaken city on the far side of the world is always attached to that phrase. Less often, but more distressing, the phrase includes ...were killed in action.

I always wonder if among those killed were any of the young marines I stood next to for a day last January. ( Small Moves ) It was a fine day and we helped the Marines pack up Spirit of Americas free school supplies and medical equipment for distribution to the people of Iraq. It was something I could do, so I did it.

I always think of those Marines whenever I hear the phrase. The private who asked me what I thought about God. The other who talked a lot about the big wheels he was planning to buy for his new Jeep. The ones who cooked us hamburgers. Brave men and, as always, very young.

Most of them are gone from Camp Pendelton now. Only a third of the bases compliment remain there. The rest are somewhere else in Fallujah.... They and their brothers in arms are always in my thoughts these days, as I know they are in the thoughts of hundreds of millions of other Americans. I wish them all God speed and a safe return home. And yet I know that not all will have those things.

Like millions of others I want to know what, in any small way, I can do to help their mission, support their sacrifice, and hasten the day when they can return. Like millions of other Americans, I am frustrated by the fact that whatever I can do or give is small and unworthy compared to what they are prepared to do and give. Still, I look for ways to help, as I think all decent Americans do now. And so today I found myself driving back to Camp Pendleton in Southern California.

The purpose was to attend an event in which Spirit of America would turn over some of the video equipment theyd purchased as a result of their amazing fund-raising activities of the past month. The idea was to raise money to equip a few people in Iraq with the basic means of creating and broadcasting their own television. A kind of grass-roots antidote to Al-Jazerra, the project suddenly, with the help of big medias Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henniger, took off. What began with a goal of $100,000 ended with a sum in the region of $1,500,000. As I write a loose coalition of bloggers is still plugging away hoping to add another $50,000 to the pot. As I drive into the entrance to Camp Pendleton, Im thinking that this has to be one of those small miracles you read about but seldom get to witness. Why am I here? Im not quite sure. Im just doing what God put in front of me. Lately Ive found thats not a bad route to follow.

Its a small group gathered at the main gate waiting for our escort back into the base to Camp Margurita where the event will be held. Jim Hakes, the guiding force behind Spirit of America is there with the usual suspects and more suspects still the way. Its a smaller group than last time because, frankly, there wont be that much to do. In time everyone arrives and we convoy back into the other America behind the hills thats the Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Oceanside.

The first thing you notice is that Pendelton is quiet these days. Training continues and the life of the base goes on, but at a lower level of intensity than last January . Everything seems emptier and it is. In January you could see the helicopters moving about in the near and far distance. They seemed to be everywhere. Today, only about four all day. In January, there was artillery practice visible against the hills and a lot of machine gun fire from the practice ranges. Today, just one range with small arms fire.

The barracks and the parking lots at the Camp are almost empty. The base Exchange holds, at 10 in the morning, just the woman assigned as cashier. Instead of patrols of Marines and platoon formations, you see Marines at most in groups of three or four. Theres activity here and there, but once off the main road its hard to avoid the feeling that the Camp is, for the most part, on hold --almost, but not quite, holding its breath. After all, considered as a town, Camp Pendleton is a town that gets very bad news every day. It has learned, long ago, how to deal with that news, but that doesnt mean that dealing with it requires more courage and heart daily than the comfortable suburbs that ring it on three sides use in a decade.

Our small convoy of about a dozen or so cars pulls into a virtually empty parking lot. We walk back behind the deserted barracks to the warehouse where a lot of the video equipment is being stored before shipment to Iraq. Down the hill and across the valley, a platoon or two is having small arms practice. Sharp popping bursts of fire punctuate the morning. Then as I walk into the warehouse, I have one of those strange moments weve all had to get used to in the last few years.

In the warehouse, the Marines on duty are pumping Pink Floyd into the speakers. Its an odd 21st century American moment. If I stand edgeways in the doorway one ear hears rapid bursts of gunfire in the distance and the other hears:
No navigator to guide my way home
Unladened, empty and turned to stone
A soul in tension that's learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try

I know it is best not to make too much out of a random epiphany, but there it is for what it is.

A friend of mine in who worked in rock and roll for years once told me its dangerous to listen rock too closely in emotionally charged situations because it will just come and get you. I think that I know now what he meant.

With the arrival of the rest of our group, the Marines turn off the music and we get on with the business of the morning. Unlike the January function with its packing and collecting, todays much more of a media event and, after putting a few Spirit of America stickers on boxes and equipment, theres really not that much to do.

Still, Im glad to be there. In a bit a group of about 15 school children show up. Four and fifth graders, theyre up for anything their day brings. What it brings them right away are Spirit of America tee-shirts and baseball hats. Bonanza! All the boys and girls put them on right away. A few minutes later group of five extremely cute girls are standing around talking among themselves and as I pass them I remark, Ah, you must be the Spirit of America Cheerleaders.

We are?, says one. Okay. Whats our cheer?

Im caught. Not prepared for that. I think for a minute and, in my befuddled state, can only come up with:
Were the Spirit of America!
The Spirit of America!
The Spirit of America!

Pretty lame. Until you see five small American girls doing it with real heart. Then it takes on a whole new dimension. It is, after all, the singers and not the song.

The boys, by the way, a busy chasing the Marines around and begging them to autograph their baseball caps. The Marines are initially non-plused by this, but politely comply to the delight of the boys who immediately set out to collect the whole set. The Marines do not disappoint.

Fred Brookwell of Greystone TV Productions got wind of the Spirit of America project via the Wall Street Journal, and has organized a full production crew to cover the event. In time other media, local and national turn up. Jim Hake handles the questions with aplomb, and the elegant Lady Doughan of Spirit of Americas umbrella organization Cyber Century Forum is lucid and charming and sharp as well.

Seeking to be vaguely useful I volunteer to go off and find some coffee, but driving through the base I just seem to pass one mostly empty barracks and deserted shop complex after another. Theres no doubt about it, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is not, for the most part, at home. I manage to find some coffee and return, but things are pretty much wrapped up. We chat about what more we can do and we all promise to carry the work forward. I say my goodbyes.

On the way out, though, it is clear that the Marines are not quite finished with me since, as the small arms practice continues, theyve gone back to Pink Floyd in the warehouse -- although at a lower volume. The last thing I hear over the gunfire is:
He's haunted by the memory of a lost paradise
In his youth or a dream, he can't be precise
He's chained forever to a world that's departed
It's not enough, it's not enough

On I-5 heading north out of Oceanside, you have to drive though a 20 mile stretch in which Camp Pendleton takes up both sides of the road. About five miles into this stretch you pass a group of airplane hangers. In front of the hangers is a large concrete wall about fifty yards long. On it, in large letters, are three words: DUTY. HONOR. COURAGE.

Thirty miles later Im home in the Laguna Beach Hills. From my deck I can see north to Long Beach and out to sea beyond Catalina Island. Its a good life. A safe life. A beautiful life.

And tonight, Im going to tune into the news and no matter where I turn Im going to hear Camp Pendelton Marines today in Fallujah....

And I have to think that no matter what I am doing to help, no matter what I ever manage to do, Im still going to hear:

Its not enough. Its not enough.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 29, 2004 4:40 PM |  Comments (14)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Robert Fulghum is Blogging from Crete

Embrace -- A painting by Robert Fulghum
Click to enlarge

My good friend and author Robert Fulghum is blogging. Well, he's a bit retro and doesn't consider what he's doing as "blogging," but rather as "NEW STORIES." No matter.

Lately he's been at the village he lives in when in Crete, and we've been getting semi-daily reports on bug racing, contessas of dubious lineage, and what he's reading. If you know Fulghum's writing, and many millions do, you might consider putting his new stories page into your toolbar favorites folder. You never know what you might find. Here's a sample:

April 19, 2004
Kolymbari, Crete, Greece
Written Sunday, April 18, 2004


"So what is it you do in Crete?" People often ask me that. As if to imply that it would be boring sitting on a beach in Greece doing nothing year after year.
A funny thought, since, outside, as I write tonight, it is cold and windy and raining. And the closest beach is too rocky to sit around on, anyhow. So what do I do?

Today, for example, after attending a funeral, I sat by a fire all afternoon reading the thoughts of Epictetus, the 4th century BC stoic philosopher. Born a slave, he became famous for his lectures, which were written down by his student, Arrian, and collected into a manual, The Enchiridion. That little book, by the way, has never been out of print in more than 2,000 years.

Sample: "Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not."

Sample: "Things and people are not what we wish them to be nor what they seem to be. They are what they are."

Sample: "We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them."

Epictetus was a Stoic. And as I age I find increasing favor for their point of view. If you want to read more, get a modern translation: The Art of Living, a new interpretation by Sharon Lebell, HarperCollins 1995. There is also the Loeb Harvard Classics two-volume set in Greek and English if you want all there is of Epictetus.

That's the serious side of today's endeavors. On the other hand . . .

Last night some silly friends and I drank a little too much wine and started the Bug Olympics. The first event is the Rolling Down Hill and Walking Away contest. Each one of us found one of those little fast-crawling armored pill bugs. We touched them gently to make them roll up into a ball, and then using a piece of paper, scooped them up, held them in line at the top of an inclined cookie sheet, and let go at the count of three. The bugs rolled down and out onto the stone floor. The first bug that got up and walked away was the winner. My bug, Manolis, won 5 times in a row. Gold Medal Bug. And no harm done to the bugs, I think. (Wonder what the bugs think?)

Tonight all Greece will shut down at 8:30. The two top soccer teams will go at it in Athens. Panathinaikos and Olympiakos Piraeus. If one is not there in front of the TV, one will not know exactly what happened. And one will have nothing to talk about tomorrow. If the Turkish air force attacks Greece tonight between 8:30 and 10:30, the prime minister will say Greece cannot come to fight now. But he will say that, in two hours, half of Greece will be really mad and ready to kill, so maybe the Turks should pick another day.

I wondered what Epictetus would say about such matters, being wise and all.
Sample: "Once you have deliberated and determined that a course of action is wise, never discredit your judgment. Take a stand. Don't be cravenly noncommittal."

With that ancient philosophical admonition in mind, I went off to the Argentina Taverna to support Panathinaikos! And tried not to step on any Olympic Bug competitors as I went out the door.

Afterward. Tuesday. A 2-2 tie. Satisfying to all in that the game was played hard and well. Epictetus would have been pleased. As he said, speaking of skillful ballplayers: "None of them considers whether the ball is good or bad, but only how to throw it and catch it. For where a man has proper reason to rejoice, his fellow men have proper reason to share in that rejoicing."
N.B. -- Since I have found that whatever Fulghum is reading is well worth reading, I added the Amazon links. Fulghum does many things, but he does not surf. Nor does he have email, so furgeddaboutit.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 27, 2004 5:41 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Some Give All, You Can Give Some


Spirit of America and The Victory Coaliton need you help and your dollars now. Unlike many charities, 100% of your donations go to the projects taken on by Jim Hake and the Volunteers of Spirit of America.

Right now a fund-raising drive is on to make this coming week one that will count in the battle to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis throughout that blighted country.

I've personally helped this fine organization at events such as getting school and medical supplies to Iraq. I can assure you that this is one group that talks the talk AND walks the walk. For every dollar you give, 100 cents gets to those in need.

Some give all. You can give some. Click on the banner above. Just do it.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 24, 2004 12:51 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink

Roger Simon continues his wordsmithing with: "Blogaganda "

"I think we need a new term for a kind of blog that is beginning to appear on the Internet, which does not solely represent the opinions of its "innocent" author. Perhaps someone will come up with a better one, but I am proposing the simple "Blogaganda" to describe the new blog by Mohammed Ali Abtahi, a Vice President (no less) of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
"Blogaganda" -- so let it be written, so let it be done.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 24, 2004 11:20 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
War Is Not Over If You Want It

This cogent observation just in from bitter sanity

The difference

Someone asked me the other day, "You compared building democracy in Iraq to the US experience with Germany and Japan after WWII. How come it's not going like that?"

People have come up with a lot of reasons - both before and since the fall of Saddam - why Iraq would not be like Germany or Japan: level of previous exposure to democracy, degree of international legitimacy for the effort, presumed cultural incompatibility of Arabs with democratic polities. Some are more plausible than others, of course, but most of them are quite subtle.

But there's one reason no one talks about, that's about as subtle as a neon sign: the war isn't over.

Imagine if, during WWII, we had tried to occupy and reconstruct France before defeating Germany. Imagine Vichy collaboraters being funded by German money and smuggled German weapons. Imagine German special ops units coming across the border periodically and blowing people up. Imagine the press telling us that all this proves the French didn't want us or our "liberation" in the first place and we should give up and go home.

Now imagine ignoring all this and doggedly proceeding with rebuilding French infrastructure, hoping all the problems will Just Go Away. Folly, yes?

In Iraq, we've got Iran funding an uprising and, most likely, sending in commandos under cover of the pilgrimage. In Fallujah, we've got a lot of old-line Saddam collaborators, and possibly Syria funding and providing military fighters, via Hamas. We've had Saudi-funded terrorists coming across the borders all this time. (Ask the Iraqis - they know Arab from Arab, and they know the people coming in to blow up Iraqis aren't Iraqi.) And we wonder why there are problems in Iraq?

There are problems because the war is still going on; winning one campaign does not conclude a war, and (media and politician nitwits insisting on locutions like "the Iraq War" notwithstanding) we ought to know better than to think it does. To whatever extent we succeed in Iraq, it becomes an ally in this war - and to whatever extent it becomes an ally, it becomes a target for the enemy.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 16, 2004 8:35 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Wars of the Roses

The infamous gardening expert from the Regan Nursery Dr. Leda Hortaculture has located the center of white heat and hate on the Internet:

"A recent study conducted by the Electronic Fearmongering Foundation reveals that the internet's most vicious flame wars are not waged over such hot-button issues as politics, abortion, gun control, or even the Cruz-Cruise breakup. No, the number-one foaming-at-the-mouth psycho-cyber controversy turned out to be whether or not the bud union of a grafted rose should be planted above or below the surface of the soil...."
Also recommended in this essay is her 5-Step Program for "Planting a Rose," with such helpful advice as "Establish a Hole." Handy thing for planting a rose, what?

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 13, 2004 10:30 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
David Warren On Civilization
Civilization is incidentally not something that exists primarily in external objects -- in art and architecture and books and music, which are only the external gestures of the thing; nor even in the graceful manners which reveal its presence regardless of outward dress. It is rather something that is carried within each of its members; forms of nobility that are contagious alike to savages and to our children. It is the creative power that builds all these beautiful things, and which, when it passes, watches the desert and jungle reclaim them -- watches the desert and jungle in turn reclaiming the heart of man.

It is everything -- moral, aesthetic, ethical -- but especially, civilization is moral. It turns men outward, lifts them above the animal contemplation of immediate need, and towards the requirements of God and our neighbour. And as we have chiefly forgotten today, it is in its very nature sacramental. It is the lifting up of entire peoples in a mysterious aggregative act of prayer.

-- Easter MMIV

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 11, 2004 4:48 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Weighing Anchoress

PEOPLE WHO APPRECIATE FINE BLOGS either know about, or should know about, "The Anchoress." Clear, consistent and always a pleasure to read The Anchoress [ <--New Location] has moved from the dreaded Blogspot to a new address at Blogs About. Either update your links accordingly or add her.

And if you have a blog stuck in the Purgatory of Blogspot, consider Blogs About as you next move. They'll get you off of Blogspot for free.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 9, 2004 1:49 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Roger Simon's Phrase That Pays

Blogmensch Roger Simon's Watching Condi or... "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Kerrey" contains a gem of insight and phrasing that I hope we'll be seeing more of in the near future. He opens with:

I have no idea what the pundits will conclude, but watching Rice and Bob Kerrey jousting at this precise second, I am struck by how our system is about The Politics of the Last Five Minutes. That is one of the great flaws in a democracy, perhaps an inevitable one that we must live with. That the situation in Iraq looks bad this precise week is informing all of Kerrey's questions. Is that good? Not to me it isn't because I don't know... and no one knows... what the real situation is in Iraq. We probably won't know for some time to come. So everything is skewed. [Emphasis Added]
"The Politics of the Last Five Minutes" is a brilliant phrase since it sums up everything that's going hairwire in this country during this election season in seven words. Little wonder since 'the news repeated every five minutes' seems to be the driving force behind how the electronic media reports everything that crosses its desk. And reports it again, and again, and again. Some themes have staying power: weird superstar child molesters, grisley slayings of mother and near-term baby, where this or that athelete, celebrity, politician chose to park his privates that was not sanctioned by marriage, Iraq -- Quagmire or Morrass?, Bush-- Liar or Prevaricator? and, the current favorite, "Unbuilding 9/11" aka "walking back the cat."

It belabors the well-know point that "in-depth" to the electronic media means a report that spans one commercial break. Nevertheless, one hopes that policy and decisions on a national and global level are somehow getting done outside of "The Politics of the Last Five Minutes."

Then again there's the old adage about "Hoping in one hand..."

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 8, 2004 10:19 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
One of My Favorite Things....

THAT LINKFEST LALLAPALOOZA growabrain has just racked up 1,000,000 visitors , and asks, "Won' t you tell everybody you know about Grow-a-Brain?"

Okay, I just did.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 30, 2004 6:06 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Reading Habits of Louis L'Amour

Louis L'Amour, Germany, 1945

Some fascinating details about the life and reading habits of a fine and underappreciated American writer:

Other than changing his name from LaMoore, L'Amour arrived at his Romantic formula honestly. He quit school in grade ten for two decades of worldwide "yondering" and an astonishing range of employment and adventure. He was lumberjack, dead-cattle skinner, circus-hand, boxer (51-8 record as a light heavyweight), seaman, and anything else that his hobo travels turned up. His great-great grandfather had been scalped by Sioux Indians, ancestor General Henry Dearborn was friendly with Thomas Jefferson, and for the love of story and the writing career he had planned, L'Amour would seek out oldtimers wherever he went: Dodge City Marshals, Texas Rangers, those who rode with the Dalton Gang or gunbattled Tom Slaughter, a 79 year-old wrangler who had been raised by Apaches and been on war parties with Geronimo, the woman who made Billy the Kid his last meal. His first book came at age forty-two; thereafter came three, four, sometimes six books a year -- all done by two-finger typing, and told by "a troubadour, a village tale-teller, the man in the shadows of the campfire." As prodigious as the writing was L'Amour's reading. In his memoir, Education of a Wandering Man (1989), he says that he read 150 books of non-fiction a year, even in his traveling days. Eventually he would have a library of 17,000 volumes in a room with sixteen-foot-high walls, covered in bookshelf panels that would swing out to reveal another set of sixteen-foot-high bookshelves behind. He prided himself on his research, whether for his novels or for fun -- an interest in genealogy, for example, uncovered the fact that Wild Bill Hickock's ancestors were tenant farmers on land owned by Shakespeare.

L'Amour kept records of his reading habit, and scoffed at those who said that they didn't have time for it -- one year he read twenty-five books while waiting for people. The memoir is full of anecdote: reading Wilde's "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" on a freight train heading west; reading the 18th century romance, Gil Blas around a campfire of mesquite root after a day skinning dead cattle, and then spending a week after the job was over taking three showers a day in his hotel room and reading The Rise of the Dutch Republic between times; ship-painting and rivet-bucking by day, then sleeping "in empty boxcars, on piles of lumber, anywhere out of the rain and wind" and reading Smollett's The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker; reading by coal-oil lamp from Plutarch's Lives, or of the decline of Hannibal's fortunes after his victory at Cannae, then going out to sit on the porch and listen to the coyotes howling at the moon, ". . . sitting there for a long time, thinking of what I had read and of the many wagons that had passed this way bound for California and Oregon." -- Today in Literature

L'Amour had what most men today can only dream about -- not "The Good Life," but "The Big Life."

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 22, 2004 12:03 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
"If...." @ Sharp Knife

is brilliant.

You will see I do not lie.

[HT: Eternity Road]

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 21, 2004 9:19 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Simon Sez: Drain the "Cesspool Under 44th Street"

New UN Placard

Roger Simon's been way out in front of the rest of the field (major media included) on the UN Food-For-Oil Scam for months now. Today, full drainage is his position. Let's see how long it takes for major media to catch up:

"That Kojo Annan, the son of the Caudillo (excuse me, Secretary General) of the United Nations, might be involved in this, as Rosset reports, is actually the least of it. Considering the rest of the deadly consequences of this behavior (starving Iraqis never getting the intended food or medicine), a little nepotism is small change. But it is yet another indication of the depth of the cesspool under 44th Street. It is high time that it be drained."
Given the geology and history of that particular part of Manhattan, it would not at all be surprising if the cesspools not only exist, but are still functioning.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 11, 2004 9:06 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
A Man, A Plan, A Font... Gleeburger?

James Lileks has a new site design and Im afraid it is time, once again, for a Goudy Old Style intervention.

One of the problems with fontaholics is that, like bears, once they get hooked on garbage, theres no cure.

Regular readers will know that I believe Lileks is one of the precious living treasures of the Net -- except for his, well, fonting problem. He as much as confesses to it with:

When you have thousands of fonts, and each speaks to you in a particular way, its hard to choose. To make it worse, no matter what font I choose, I have the most boring characters to work with: L and I.

I chose Gleeburger, a freeware font designed by someone named Etherbrian. His home page 404s, alas. Its a font taken from a 1950s LA coffee shop. Much different from the old retro script font I was using -- which was League Night, by House -- but its about time I retired that one. It shows up everywhere. Pottery Barn Kids used it for Christmas. Its on a Hello Kitty valentine Gnat got. I think Im alone my gleeburgery for a while. -- Confession signed: LILEKS (James) The Bleat
The shameful elements are all contained in that brief cry for help: the "thousands" to choose from each speaking to you; the view of the self as a bunch of boring characters; the association with people of low degree such as ether abusers; the desire to escape into the nimbus of nostalgia in a 1950s LA coffee shop; the rejection of basic and decent Pottery Barn and Hello Kitty family values (previously his trademark); and the desire to abuse his own special highly toxic font in solitude.

Im here to help. It is my hope that if people would download the following note to Lileks and send it to him at all known email boxes, he will, at the least, admit he has a problem with fontahol. Thats the first step. Lets help Lileks take it.

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 17, 2004 1:35 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Hope Forlorn

The elegant Belmont Club has yet to comprehend the depths to which political ambition drives men.

With the announcement that nuclear nonproliferation lies in ruins, America has entered a period as critical as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The whole world, not simply the United States, may now be in the age of the nuclear car bomb. The speed with which the crisis has descended has left political parties without a set response to the nightmare which they had deluded themselves into thinking would never happen. They will in consequence, temporize the way actors who have walked into the wrong play have done, by repeating snatches from other parts, however ludicrous, however inappropriate. No one is ever truly ready to face a diagnosis of cancer.

One hopes that lingering in the minds of partisan politicians is the realization that this is real, that they can die in a nuclear fireball too. Or that some memory of fellowship or love country, left over from childhood, returns to make its claim. If any of that still lives, let it come forth now. The hour is here.

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 11, 2004 8:21 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Novel As A Box of Art

Frontispiece for "Third Wish" -- A novel by Robert Fulghum

As a writer, Robert Fulghum knows a thing or two about telling a story. As an artist, he knows a thing or two about building a novel:

"The outside box is wooden - fine cedar - Japanese style. The inside of the box is lined with incense cedar - wonderful smell - and tanned leather - likewise a lovely smell. The wood is left natural - no stain or varnish."
To see the fascinating detail of how this novel-as-object was made look at: Robert Fulghum "Third Wish" -- a novel in a box.

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 10, 2004 2:04 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Fallen Star

Courtesy of: Cox & Forkum

In a moment like this, one must not focus for long on the negative. I am reminded of the words of the American hymn "Hail Columbia" by Joseph Hopkinson:
Let independence be our boast,
Ever mindful what it cost;
Ever grateful for the prize,
Let its altar reach the skies.

We stand wounded, but not defeated. One day, the flags our men and women carried with them into space will fly on the surface of Mars. And on that day, we will once again Hail Columbia.
-- Nicholas Provenzo
Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 1, 2004 1:52 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Pixie Dust and the American Left

Demosophia takes the recent broadcast of "Angels in America" and sees in it a revelation its creators did not intend: Wishing al Qaeda Away, with Pixie Dust

Andrew Sullivan describes Angels in America as a "leftist screed," but I don't think that's really accurate. There are only a few screed-like passages, at least in the Nichols adaptation, and their tone is self conscious rather than self righteous. Ignoring the dimension of homosexuality, which obscures what my personal revelation was about, the screen adaptation (because I never saw the play) is more a kind of documentary about how the left viewed itself, in the 9-10 era. My moment of self-revelation was about the fact that I know most on the left are good people. But I no longer think they're quite as good as they believe they are, nor do I think any longer that they're the only "good people." My views on that score have changed drastically, and I doubt that I'm alone....

Angels in America is an historical and cultural dramatization, but it's not about America. It's about a bygone era that was literally blown to bits on Sept. 11, 2001. So of course the issue isn't defeating al Qaeda, because its existence was never acceptable. The best remaining option is to wish it away. And any sort of pixie dust will do, because the substance is in the belief, not the quality of the dust. And that encapsulates the tragic descent of the left since 9-11-2001.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 1, 2004 11:06 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Condition of Cafe Society

Commenting on Michael Crichton's notable speech to The Commonwealth Club, The Belmont Club notes:

The fictional demon Screwtape once observed that lies become established where men are too lazy to think about the truth. Screwtape and Crichton forgot to add was that this error is more easily committed where people are sheltered from the immediate consequences of their mistakes. Misjudgements are unforgivingly punished in the primitive world, but they may persist unnoticed for years in cafe society, secure within its city, until the accumulated weight of folly, gathering like a dark cloud outside the circle of petty laughter, crashes inward to demand its due. One such moment came on September 11, and the injustice of it is not merely that it happened, but that those most responsible for perpetrating the blindness which made it possible are still exempt from account. The tragedy contained within Michael Crichton's observation that mumbo-jumbo trumps science is not just that it happens, but that it will happen again.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 1, 2004 10:54 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Must See TV

Tonight on Showtime, a five-episode marathon of Penn & Teller's Bullshit! . First up: Environmental Hysteria: "Here Penn & Teller explore the truth behind fears about global warming, air quality, water quality, acid rain, species extinction, and take a look at Greenpeace's activities."

And it is a good look. Dial it up, crank the Tivo, and pour yourself a frosty beverage.

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 22, 2003 7:44 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Paintings and Prints of Robert Fulghum


"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge --
That myth is more potent than history --
I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts --
That hope always triumphs over experience --
That laughter is the only cure for grief,
And I believe that love is stronger than death."

Robert Fulghum, Artshow

"The seven paintings are done in acrylic and gold leaf on canvas. Some of the work is representative and some abstract. Some of the canvas is stretched and some left soft and loose, like banners. The canvases are large - four feet square or six feet by four feet in the diptychs and four feet by six feet in the triptychs. The latter works are hinged together, with the wing sections folding out when hung on the wall. Most of the paintings have writing on them in several languages - too small to see on the computer screen - a dialogue between the painting and me. There is one photograph of the soft paintings hanging from the ceiling in a studio space."

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 16, 2003 11:00 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Robert Fulghum on Salt

The New Stories page from Robert Fulghum's web site continues to amuse, inform, and simply make you feel a little better and a little more human:


Common table salt is sodium chloride. One atom of sodium plus one atom of chlorine. It is the product of a reaction between hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide.

Uncommon, boutique table salt is the same stuff, just different in size and purity and additives. Simply said, it's all sea salt. Either mined below ground from deposits laid down by ancient oceans, or else collected from evaporation ponds -- with slight color and slight flavor differences depending on what is left in it -- remnants of soils and algae and minerals and stuff.

Still, salt is salt, chemically speaking.

So, then, you might ask why I have so many kinds of salt on my kitchen shelf? There's Kosher salt, fleur de sel from the Camargue region of France, black salt from India, fossil salt from Utah, and pink salt from Hawaii.

Answer: Poetry. Romance. Mental travel. A need for soul food.

Just this morning I shook a tiny spoonful of French sea salt harvested from the Mediterranean over my scrambled eggs. Made me think of a trip to Aigues Mort to watch the gypsy festival. Great memory.

In the same spirit I used brown eggs, not because they differ from white eggs on the inside, but because brown eggs are beautiful. The coffee beans I ground came from Ethiopia. And the water I used to make the coffee is Evian -- out of springs fed by French glaciers. The orange juice was squeezed from mandarins just in from Japan. Irish butter. Lemon marmalade from Spain. And a shot of seven-star Metaxa brandy from Greece.

Sitting at my breakfast table I traveled the world this morning. The ingredients were a bit pricey, but not by much, and it was cheaper than going out for breakfast. Above all, I set off into the dreary day in a lovely mood, digesting memories, salted away and preserved in mind and body.

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 13, 2003 5:56 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something to See

This morning before dawn I had drifted back for the third time to a series of disturbing dreams. Dreams always disturb when they take place in some distorted mindmap of Las Vegas -- even if you are winning, which I was not.

Then, drowsing in the warm dark, I sensed my wife bending over me and felt her breath on my cheek as she whispered, Wake up, theres something you have to see.

Groaning to myself, I rose and slipped on my robe to follow her down the stairs into the kitchen. Shed made coffee and stationed herself on a stool in front of the sink. She handed me a cup and turned towards the kitchen window. Out there, she said.

Our modest house is high on a hill overlooking Laguna Beach in Southern California. There are no street lights up here so we always have the town and the ocean spread out below us. We can see over the town and up the coast to the northwest. Outside are the hills beyond Laguna, the lateral shafts of towns extending out up to Long Beach, Catalina Island and scattered about like guardian lightships the flares and beams from the drilling platforms.

Above the sink is a small horizontal window common to kitchens made in the late 50s and early 60s. Its a small window but this morning it framed something extraordinary.

Overnight the full moon had curved down the dark sky until it began, at just the right moment and just the right angle, to catch the first light of the sun rising over the coast range behind the Laguna Hills.

At that time and in that place, the moon painted a long pale orange swath on the sea and hovered red gold above the coastline. Far below you could see the Pacific Coast highway as it rose up out of Laguna and carried the cars of people leaving early for work up the slope and out of sight, their red tail lights pulsing against the darker streak of the avenue.

And for a few instants, the window, the moon, the coast and the ocean and the avenue aligned so perfectly that you could believe that stream of cars commuting from the town to their unknowable destinations were rising up, commuting ever so gracefully to the moon.

Just once. Never again. Something to see.

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 8, 2003 11:03 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Blog Cheating Gets a Pass at Wizbang

Since there's no money in blogging, recognition is a big deal. And "recognition" means "awards" and "awards" mean "polls and rankings" which mean, pure and simple, cheating. But cheating that is never really, really punished only admonished. Which of course taints the awards but since recognition is the pay for blogging everybody just lets it slide. Last week, N.Z. Bear's blog ranking system was gamed. This week Kevin Aylward's Weblog awards were terminally tainted by cheating. But does that mean the contest is dumped as it should be? Not in Wizbang's Wide World O' Cheating:

Never prosper. I know who it is and it's been fixed.

If you think it will help your favorite site you are wrong. I'll be lopping off the cheaters votes. If I can't exactly figure out what the correct total should be I'll reset it to the last total I remember.

Let's read that again, very slow-ly.

1) The awards were tainted by wide-spread and high-volume cheating. You can't call for "do-overs" but you can "know who it is."
2) You can also assert, blithe spirit that you are, that "'s been fixed."
3) Since the initial problem with the contest was that 'it was fixed' from the start, the assertion that it has been fixed doesn't fill one with a warm, confident feeling.
4) Kevin asserts that he'll be lopping off votes on his own and that if he can't be exact he'll trust his memory of votes in numerous categories and numerous sites and use that number instead.

Am I the only one who believes that this whole charade has now ascended into the realms of fantasy? The right thing to do would be to take the whole thing down. But is that happening? Not right now.

As Kevin has no doubt discovered the only thing better for circulation than awards is a scandal about awards.

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 7, 2003 10:11 AM |  Comments (19)  | QuickLink: Permalink
3. "Brilliant New Writer Debuts in NYC"

It was with no little pride that I noted a fascinating article inTHE NEW YORK OBSERVER called 'Men in Aprons." Not only because it was fascinating (which it was), nor because it was beautifully seen and written (which it is), but also because it was by my daughter who has been a fine writer since the time she first picked up a crayon.

Men in Aprons

Five cute, smart, straight guys who like a good dinner party? All living in one place?

Welcome to "Iron Chef II," a cook-off held on a recent evening in a brick two-story Carroll Gardens house whose occupants are the aforementioned five- some. Modeled on the cult Japanese TV show, in which two world-class chefs no one has ever heard of compete by cooking meals centered on secret ingredients like swallow�s nest or electric eel, "Iron Chef II" had its Brooklyn beginnings with five men in their late 20�s and early 30�s who found themselves living in a house with two kitchens and had a generational fondness for almost painfully self-conscious irony....

Matt looked like he could be Conan O�Brien�s cuter cousin: 6-foot-4, with bright red curly hair and a handsome mug. The street was decorated with American flags and frog lawn ornaments. The F train rumbled overground in the distance. As the 40-odd corduroy-clad partygoers wandered in, Matt welcomed them with a wave of his huge arm.

This was the second time the men had done the "Iron Chef" thing�at the first one, the secret ingredient had been artichokes. According to Jerry, a blond financial journalist with a toothy grin, some of the judges�friends selected on the basis of whether they really liked food�were "over-served."

"Given that it was later in the night and some alcohol had been drunk, cheesy potatoes are just tasty," said Jerry. The night had ended in a tie.

This year, the secret ingredient was revealed early on. The guests recognized the intended humor, but didn�t seem too happy about it.

"It�s a d�b�cle," said Matt. "The ingredient is grapes."

I seldom actually tell people to "read the whole thing," but if anyone here fails to do so, I will hunt you down and haunt you.

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 4, 2003 3:38 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Another Democrat Declares for Bush

Orson Scott Card writes inThe Campaign of Hate and Fear that he's yet another lifelong Democrat who has had it with the party.

We are being lied to and "spun," and not in a trivial way. The kind of dishonest vitriolic hate campaign that in 2000 was conducted only before African-American audiences is now being played on the national stage; and the national media, instead of holding the liars' and haters' feet to the fire (as they do when the liars and haters are Republicans or conservatives), are cooperating in building up a false image of a failing economy and a lost war, when the truth is more nearly the exact opposite.

And in all the campaign rhetoric, I keep looking, as a Democrat, for a single candidate who is actually offering a significant improvement over the Republican policies that in fact don't work, while supporting or improving upon the American policies that will help make us and our children secure against terrorists.

We have enemies that have earned our hatred, and whom we should fear. They are fanatical terrorists who seek opportunities to kill American civilians here and Israeli civilians in Israel.

But right now, our national media and the Democratic Party are trying to get us to believe that the people we should hate and fear are George W. Bush and the Republicans.

I can think of many, many reasons why the Republicans should not control both houses of Congress and the White House.

But right now, if the alternative is the Democratic Party as led in Congress and as exemplified by the current candidates for the Democratic nomination, then I can't be the only Democrat who will, with great reluctance, vote not just for George W. Bush, but also for every other candidate of the only party that seems committed to fighting abroad to destroy the enemies that seek to kill us and our friends at home.

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 3, 2003 5:15 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Mr. Fulghum's Neighborhood

THIS JUST IN from Robert Fulghum's Secret Public Journal -- a host of Frequently and Not-So-Frequently Answered Questions


"I am afraid of Vikings and parrots."
That sentence was written in white chalk on the sidewalk two blocks from my house. Several blocks away I found another message: "I have three dead mittens." And in the street many blocks further one, these words: "My teeth sometimes leave my body at night."

So I bought some chalk . . .

Why not get into this person's game? Are they crazy or poetic or imaginative or looking for someone like them or just confused about the messages the world needs to be getting? I don't know. Maybe it's a secret code between members of a non-sequitur club or a message from an alien. Who cares? It would be interesting to know. Why miss the opportunity?

Ah, but what to write? Maybe some questions? This morning early I wandered around Queen Anne Hill on the standard walker's route and wrote close by the Unknown Chalker's statements, these inquiries:

Will I ever learn?

Whatever became of me?

If you love me still, will you love me moving?

Who knew?
There's more right here.

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 25, 2003 6:46 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Mother Questions

From the page that I call "Robert Fulghum's Secret Journal".

"What, in the name of God, have you done?"

This is one of three great "Mother Questions."

The second great question is, "What on earth are you doing?"

The third is, "And what will you think of next?"

Children know these questions have no reasonable answers. Any child who has half a brain will go mute, mumbling ,"Nothing, nothing." Or resort to pity-invoking snorking sobs protesting innocence, ignorance and helplessness. "I don't know, (snork) I don't know (snork) . . ."

Now, at some distance from childhood and parenting, I begin to understand that these "Mother Questions" are, in fact, quite profound. They are Life Questions.

I ask myself, at age 66, "Well, Fulghum, what on earth ARE you doing?" After all these years -- what? From a self-critical point of view I think it useful to enquire of myself regarding the quality of my existence and question my contribution to the commonweal.

Likewise, "What, in the name of God, have you done?" raises concerns about my actions on behalf of all that I believe and hold sacred.

Never mind what I say I believe. What HAVE I DONE?

And, finally, the question with ongoing relevance: "What will you think of next?" Excellent question. Is my mind a stagnant cesspool of worn-out notions or am I mentally active -- still exchanging archaic information for new and better ideas? Am I still thinking -- still asking -- still learning?

When my mother asked me those questions I hated her.

Looking back now I think what I really hated was knowing there were no acceptable answers. She wasn't really asking. She was declaring, in different ways, that I was a klutz, an idiot, and a pain in the ass.

I suppose I was, at least some of the time.

But, then, so was she. Some of the time.

Now I think better of her. And me. And the questions.

Now I finally understand the importance of the questions. Now I know how to answer the questions. Now I am asking me. And now I have some pretty fine answers.

With all this in mind, I hurried around the fence this morning to explain all this to the mother who had been whip-sawing her kid. The kid was gone. The mother was sitting in the car weeping and beating both hands on the steering wheel and talking to herself.

I remember those moments. Bad timing for the appearance of the Unknown Wise Man to explain to this vexed lady the deeper meaning of the Mother Questions. One of the things I also know now is when to mind to my own business. And I didn't want to have to answer another great Mother Question: "Just who the hell do you think you are?"

But, now that I think about it, that's another truly profound question.

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 23, 2003 10:53 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
P. J. O'Rourke on Iraq, Mobs and Fascism

In the current Atlantic Monthly, P. J. O'Rourke has written an extensive analysis of Iraq and Kuwait up until last April. In this Atlantic Unbound | Interview he gets a bit more up to date:

This mob mentality points to something I don't think has been given enough consideration about Iraq: the Baath Party is a Fascist party. It's like the Falange, it's like the Italian Fascists. I won't say that it's like the Nazi Party -- that's going too far. But it's got that same mass movement sort of thing.

The ideology is exceedingly cloudy. The purpose of it is entirely for the people at the top of the party to hold power. It's not like Marxism. It's a sort of omnium gatherum of watered-down modern ideas and Social Darwinism and garbage that's really all about power. Fascism is very much a mob movement. It's been very successful in Iraq. It has created a mob mentality and a mob nation.

This is one of the big problems that we're facing. That was a pretty benign mob I was looking at out there in the countryside out in Safwan, but obviously they're not always so benign.

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 21, 2003 1:17 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Robert Fulghum (TA-DAA!) Blogs

I admire this grasshopper in front of me. Not only
is he good at going up, he's good at coming down.
He lands well. That's the secret of getting high and going far.
Landing well.

-- Robert Fulghum

There's a long story I could tell about Robert Fulghum, but I'll save it for another time and another place. Actually, there are many stories about Fulghum, but not all can be told, not all should be told, and some, if told, would result in a visit from "Vinnie, Leg Breaker to the Stars."

No matter, the news right now is that Fulghum, author of "Everthing I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" (New, Expanded Edition Here) and numerous other best sellers, is online at :Robert Fulghum's Journal.

What's it about? It's about living and noticing life as you move on down the road. It is about: bumper stickers seen on the street, things overheard in line at the store, factoids and fantasies, the parts we play in life and our disguises, films seen and American icons... and all manner of things considered in a certainl slant of light.

Here's an excerpt about aging that is as true and as straight as they come:


I seem to have wandered unaware into the Era of Endgame Events. Invitations appear now for golden wedding anniversary celebrations, retirement dinners, big-number birthday parties, class reunions, funerals, and the placing of memorial plaques. All these events honor people who are my age. Now, I am not old. But there are people my age who are old. And I can see Old from where I am.

Others call attention to this fact in a well-meaning way. A child of a child of mine recently offered to take me for ride in her car. I remember doing that for my grandmother -- just to get the old lady out and about. Is it my turn in the passenger seat now?

My wife nudges me in the back at a theater box office when a senior discount is offered and I don't take advantage of it. Being both cheap and younger than I am, she sees me now as the front-man for a discount scam.

And there was that phone call in May. "Bobby? Bobby Lee?" Anybody who calls me that is calling from Waco, Texas. And I know why. Fifty years ago I walked down the aisle, across the stage, and out of high school and into whatever came next.

"Are you coming to the fiftieth class reunion?"

"I don't know. I'll think about it."

I was thinking about it when I was in Crete this summer. Hot. Humid. Still.
Hunkered down in a small patch of shade in an afternoon stupor, I was motionless and mindless. Out of nowhere a big yellow grasshopper landed on the sunlit stone wall in front of me, like a tiny circus acrobat suddenly leaping into the spotlight at center ring. TA-DAA! Then he jumped again -- about twenty times his length and about ten times his height landing further along the wall in front of me. TA-DAA. Amazing. I felt like applauding. He's very good at what he does. I wonder what it would be like to be able to do that. The equivalent for someone my size would be about 120 feet, reaching 60 feet up at the top of the arc. A leap over a five-story building. If I could do that I would want to think about it before doing it even once. Maybe once is all I would ever do it. I suppose I could do it. Take a running leap off a five-story building on the edge of a cliff. Nothing to it. The jumping, I mean. It's the coming down that would concern me. Landing.

I wonder how it was the first time for the grasshopper on my porch. Some grasshoppers can also fly, you know. I don't know about him, but, personally, I would want to be one of those. That would be nice. I imagine the novice grasshopper would suddenly feel the uncontrollable urge to push off. "WOW, I'm really up here! WOW, I can fly!" The grasshopper must have been pleased. I suppose there are klutz grasshoppers who fly themselves into the ground and land on their heads or who get so excited they forget to flap their wings. But I've never seen one. I would probably be one.

I admire this grasshopper in front of me. Not only is he good at going up, he's good at coming down. He lands well. That's the secret of getting high and going far. Landing well.

The day I graduated from high school my daddy told me that I was too young to know what I wanted and to not be in a hurry to decide. He said success in life is wanting what you finally get -- no matter what you think you want now or how far away or how high up you go. The goal is being satisfied with how you end up.

Fifty years from now I intend that my grandchildren shall say of their long-dead grandfather. "He went high, he went far, and he landed well."

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 21, 2003 10:03 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Every 11 Seconds A Person Creates A Weblog

...we've got to locate that person and stop him.

For the last few weeks I've noticed that Technorati has been crumbling, but I didn't know why. On my 3rd or 4th email to them I must admit I got a bit testy. But then I hadn't heard about what they were up against. Dave Sifry lays it out in Technorati Growing Pains:

Allow me to give you some growth statistics: One year ago, when I started Technorati on a single server in my basement, we were adding between 2,000-3,000 new weblogs each day, not counting the people who were updating sites we were already tracking. In March of this year, when we switched over to a 5 server cluster, we were keeping up with about 4,000-5,000 new weblogs each day. Right now, we're adding 8,000-9,000 new weblogs every day, not counting the 1.2 Million weblogs we already are tracking. That means that on average, a brand new weblog is created every 11 seconds. We're also seeing about 100,000 weblogs update every day as well, which means that on average, a weblog is updated every 0.86 seconds.
Fairly stunning numbers. I just want to say that I apologize for sending Dave a "What Is Happening!?" flame and promise to ease up on his servers by posting less. Except for this one which will now consume .86 seconds of update time.

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 17, 2003 8:00 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The All-Purpose Instapundit Posting

UNEMPLOYMENT IS DOWN, and employment is up -- by more than economists expected. Steve Verdon is happy. (And for God's sake man, scroll up for some interesting information on manufacturing jobs).

UPDATE: Michael Gersh thinks this is a big deal.

UPDATE: Darren Kaplan thinks so, too. So does Daniel Drezner.

UPDATE: Reader Aaron Hegeman emails me his resume.

UPDATE: Stephen Green comments on the baldfaced lies in Hegemans resume.

UPDATE: Michael Barone emails the entire membership of AOL a buylink to his latest book on unemployment.

UPDATE: A reader wants to know what digital camera I use to post unemployment figures.

UPDATE: Greg Burch has thoughts on unemployment based on his personal experience. He's optimistic.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Robert Tagorda has a roundup of reactions to a speech by some guy named Bush which might have been about unemployment.

UPDATE: Patrick Belton points out how The Guardian got it wrong back in May.

UPDATE: Donald Sensing notes that he pointed this out over a year ago. And he's quite pleased with himself about it.

UPDATE: Read this or I shoot the dog.

UPDATE: After injecting crystal meth into your skull, read this post on Europe, from PeakTalk, too.

UPDATE: Reader Doris Douthat thinks it's 1943. I cant help her.

UPDATE: Robert Tagorda discovers that the most people still unemployed are blogging.

UPDATE: There's more on how this is being treated here.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Perry De Havilland says that there's an important lesson for America's children in this: "The State is not your friend except if it wants to give you a checkup and a check."

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here are a couple of more representative resumes of the hardcore unemployed, one from the homeless and one from Al Sharpton.

YES, ANOTHER UPDATE: You can see the video here. And here's the home page for Unemployed Bloggers of America.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: You ARE COMMANDED TO SEE a short video clip that I took with the camera of my unemployed brother-in-law -- here.

PENULTIMATE ANOTHER UPDATE: And read this 2,187 page report, too, or else.

THE LAST ANOTHER UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg thinks unemployment will be remembered. His mother, in a first, has no opinion.

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 10, 2003 2:59 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Flare out

Video of Flare: Here

Tonight's the night when the lastest sunstorm is expected to hit the magnetosphere and produce auroras.

It's overcast here, and expected to get worse.

Meanwhile, here's on the event producing tonight's light show:

SUPERFLARE: Astronomers won't soon forget Nov. 4th, 2003--the day of the biggest explosion ever recorded in our solar system. The blast originated from giant sunspot 486, and on the Richter scale of solar flares, it measured X28. Smaller flares in the past have caused power outages and widespread auroras. The Nov. 4th explosion was not directed squarely toward Earth, and its effects so far have been relatively minimal. Even so, it was a flare to remember.

[Doc Searls]
Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 7, 2003 12:11 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Listening to...

Bob Dylan's Dream

While riding on a train goin' west,
I fell asleep for to take my rest.
I dreamed a dream that made me sad,
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had.

With half-damp eyes I stared to the room
Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon,
Where we together weathered many a storm,
Laughin' and singin' till the early hours of the morn.

By the old wooden stove where our hats was hung,
Our words were told, our songs were sung,
Where we longed for nothin' and were quite satisfied
Talkin' and a-jokin' about the world outside.

With haunted hearts through the heat and cold,
We never thought we could ever get old.
We thought we could sit forever in fun
But our chances really was a million to one.

As easy it was to tell black from white,
It was all that easy to tell wrong from right.
And our choices were few and the thought never hit
That the one road we traveled would ever shatter and split.

How many a year has passed and gone,
And many a gamble has been lost and won,
And many a road taken by many a friend,
And each one I've never seen again.

I wish, I wish, I wish in vain,
That we could sit simply in that room again.
Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat,
I'd give it all gladly if our lives could be like that.

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 5, 2003 11:32 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Lileks: It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

For those who don't know, there's more to Lileks than the bleats. If you haven't checked out the rest of this amazing site, get cracking. This timeless timely reminder is from The Advertising Archive of the Institute of Official Cheer.

Lileks: Now more than the day before.

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 4, 2003 11:35 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Roger Simon T-Shirt Fund

Simon:"Where are the Ches of Yesteryear?"

Roger Simon, blog sage and mysterious mystery writer has made many confessions of late, sometimes to the distress of the revisionist running rodents of political recidivism. But until now he had hidden the Proustian moment of his semi-religious conversion experience. It would seem that his re-visionary state stems not merely from a loss of faith in the god that failed, but from the loss of iconic underwear. Today he illuminates us when he writes:

"I don't have heroes anymore. They went the way of my old Che Guevara t-shirt that got lost in the laundry some years ago. ..." [Roger L. Simon]
I don't know about you, but when I read that, "Whap!" went my palm to my forehead and I thought, "Of course, of course, that explains everything!"

After much intense searching that involved hitting the 'I'm feeling lucky' button at Google, I've located Simon's madeline here. So, it is up to you. You can send Roger Simon this memory of his extended summer vacation in the realms of red, or you can hit the back button.

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 4, 2003 9:35 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
First Nerd

According everything I've been able to discover, the word "nerd" first appeared in 1950 in Dr. Seuss's If I Ran the Zoo:

Dr. Seuss's Nerd:
"And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo And Bring Back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo a Nerkle a Nerd and a Seersucker, too! “

From Nerd Corner: A Brief History of the Nerd

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 1, 2003 10:45 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
"Fat is Health! Bread is Death!"

JAMES LILEKS NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE. Sometimes it is as if he's some sort of omni-American channeling the culture through the Mall of America, Target, and now supermarkets. If you could package his internal links to American pop culture, you'd have a reference work for the rest of us. Take today's catch, mentioned just off-hand in The Bleat

* The other day at the grocery store I noticed an interesting contrast: delicious pancake mix for the happy proles: 89 cents. Atkins special lo/no carb pancake mix: $5.49. Oy. Then I noticed the Atkins logo:
I'd seen it before, and it always reminded me of something. Then I realized what I was thinking of. Just stand it on its head! Fat is health! Bread is death! Freedom is - well, you know the rest.

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 28, 2003 2:23 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Working on the ‘58 Willys Pickup

by Gary Snyder

The year this truck was made
I sat in early morning darkness
Chanting sutra in Kyoto,
And spent the days studying Chinese.
Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, French
Joys of Dharma-scholarship
And the splendid old temples
But learned nothing of trucks.

Now to bring sawdust
Rotten and rich
From a sawmill abandoned when I was just born
Lost in the young fir and cedar
At Bloody Run Creek
So that clay in the garden
Can be broken and tempered
And growing plants mulched to save water
And to also haul gravel
From the old placer diggings,
To screen it and mix in the sand with the clay
Putting pebbles aside to strew on the paths
So muddy in winter

I lie in the dusty broken bush
Under the pickup
Already thought to be old
Admiring its solidness, square lines,
Thinking a truck like this
would please Chairman Mao.

The rear end rebuilt and put back
With new spider gears,
Brake cylinders cleaned, the brake drums
New-turned and new brake shoes,
Taught how to do this
By friends who themselves spent
Youth with the Classics ?

The garden gets better, I
Laugh in the evening
To pick up Chinese
And read about farming,
I fix truck and lock eyebrows
With tough-handed men of the past.

Suggested by Mike Leihbold at Cool Tools

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 17, 2003 3:27 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
"Something Strange...:" A Footnote

" A strain of the disease, again inspired by the Counter-enlightenment, had slipped into the Middle East spawning first the Ba'ath movement (a second-rate version that merged T 2.0 and T 3.0) and a full-fledged Totalitarianism 4.0 in the form of Radical Islamism."

Last week, I wrote an item titled There's Something Strange in the Neighborhood which stimulated more than a few entries in the "Comments" section. Among these was one which caught my eye. It was not a comment as much as a pocket essay that corrected, expanded and deepened what I had tried to say. Written by Demosophia , its more than worthy of consideration when we think about what the future might hold for the political structures of this country.

The last time a new party was formed was during the events leading to the Civil War. It's difficult to establish a new, third, party for lots of very practical reasons. And it's also difficult for me to see a trend in the election of Arnold, because he's pretty much a one-off. But there *could* be a seismic shift going on, because anti-Totalitarianism might be the 21st Century equivalent of anti-Slavery.

Yes, the party is over and it ended with 9/11. My grandfather was an aircraft mechanic in WWII, when the German Counter-enlightenment became the guiding force behind Totalitarianism 1.0. What was happening is probably seen more clearly in the assassination of the Archduke by a group of Anarchists, than on the fields of Flanders, but the rebellion against liberalism had begun. And it eventually took the form of Totalitarianism 2.0 in Russia and Asia, and Totalitarianism 3.0 in Europe itself. And after WWII and the Cold War had eliminated both of those, we thought we were done.

But a strain of the disease, again inspired by the Counter-enlightenment, had slipped into the Middle East spawning first the Ba'ath movement (a second-rate version that merged T 2.0 and T 3.0) and a full-fledged Totalitarianism 4.0 in the form of Radical Islamism. Because outside of the Koran, the greatest influence on the writings of Sayyid Qutb was, again, the Counter-enlightenment.

So when the guns had grown quiet after Appomattox, and chattel slavery moved from the throne of evil to the topmost in the ash heap of history it was replaced by another, somewhat subtler evil. And suicide terrorism is, and has always been, one of the favorite strategies of Totalitarian movements that are either out of power, or on the verge of losing it. (The Japanese Kamikaze and the German Werewolf campaigns were not an accident.)

So if liberalism is ready to mature, and put a final end to the enemy that our grandfathers and fathers fought, then I can see that motivating a seismic shift to a new alignment in the US... one that isn't merely dedicated to Democracy (power of the people), but to Demosophia (wisdom of the people). And yes, I know that we don't have a "pure" form of democracy, but something closer to what Robert Dahl calls "polyarchy."

So, the shift would signal more power and more wisdom as well as a recognition that we are really fighting an old enemy, an evil that has been around a long time. But do you really think we're ready, on the basis of an election of a one-off political figure? I do have a sense that something has changed, and I just hope it's a further fulfillment of John Locke and not Totalitarianism 5.0. So I'll be pretty careful before I jump onboard the "next big thing." Because I think the maturing of Liberalism isn't a sudden event. It's a gradual process that may or may not suddenly appear. But I will admit that there is a mature liberal impulse that is expressed in the blogosphere, and by people like Andrew Sullivan and Chris Hitchens and others, that doesn't fit the old "conservative" image. But that has been building for a long time, and it may well be the final matchup with Totalitarianism.

Radical Islam seen as "Totalitarianism 4.0." That's a powerful concept. We need to make the most of it.

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 14, 2003 2:50 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
From your lips to God's ear

"I have never heard one of the Democratic candidates speak with passion of the thousands of unmarked graves, including children, we found in Iraq, only of absent WMDs. As I wrote elsewhere, this is like dismissing the discovery of Auschwitz because we didn't find any Cyclon-b."

--Roger Simon giving one of many reasons on why the Democratic candidates just aren't making it.

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 14, 2003 1:53 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Demosophia on When Good News Happens to Bad People

I must admit that Demosophia has a much greater tolerance for endlessly repeated nonsense than I have. Perhaps it is because, being younger, he simply hasn't seen the news repeat itself often enough. But it is more likely that, being smarter, he possesses the ability to make some sort of sense of it. I started to watch the MSNBC Chris Matthews' Grindhouse episode he writes about, but after about ten seconds I decided that things would be more enlightening over on the Home Shopping Network. (Scored another zirconium spatula!)

Still, I should have stuck it out just in order to see what one could make of the Nth recycling of the same old mindset: Iraq = Vietnam.

Alas, poor MSNBC. Two famous parents and it is still an intellectual basket case. You'd think that Bill Gates could put a little of his millions in educational grants into wising up the marks at this shabby excuse for a news channel.

At any rate, Demosophia sums up the commentators' major malfunction with:

But what really perplexes me is how the sort of disinformation campaign that Klein and O'Donnell are promoting can continue without eventually losing readership for their employers, especially if the responsible press keeps reporting things as they are, spurred by direct dispatches from the men at the front. Which reminds me: Isn't a situation where the frontline troops correct the press about being too pessimistic about as different from Vietnam as it's possible to conceive? Why isn't this a lead story somewhere? Or at least the subject of a well written editorial? It's a delicious and instructive sort of irony.

What's going on with the press has become a matter for social psychologists. I think what's happening is that the Vietnam generation is traumatized by the fact that we are rapidly leaving that era behind, and moving into an entirely different historical landscape. I think this is really about a sort of group or cohort psychological dependence on their "coming-of-age" experience. And it will finally come to a head in the election of 2004.[Emphasis added]

Those last two sentences I find really striking. Mostly because people like Joe Klein et. al. who prate about the Vietnam era are, in a very real sense, my people. They are all about my age. They've all been in and around the news and the media for three or more decades. They were all involved in or the victims of the kind of thinking that was fashionable in the late 60s and early 70s. And, at the time, I admit, that sort of thinking made a kind of sense.

But here they are, over thirty years on, and they are still ruled by it. It is as if nothing that has happened since has made a dent in their thinking, has changed their point of view about the world. They've been in some sort of universe that didn't branch with events but ground on in a steady state so that by now the deviation of their universe from the reality of this one gives their pronouncements and prognostications the same flavor as the back story for Carnevale -- a lot of boom and bluster, endless portents, shaken shibboleths and symbols all adding up to nothing other than a confused muddle. More and more the opinions of these "media masters," these go-to-for-meaning" Golums of cable news, seem to be phoning in descriptions of conditions on the Planet Mongo. People like Klein and Dowd and their ilk more and more seem like billboards for the concept: "A mind is a terrible thing to petrify." But at the same time I know that, at this point, they're all in it for the main chance. They're known to have a certain schtick and sticking to it. How else would the producers of cable talk shows know who to book for a predictable series of responses?

It is sad, really. I look at these commentators, some of whom I've known over the years, and I think about how quaintly historical they've become. I don't think, "God, what happened to you?" I think, "God, what didn't happen to you?"

And as for joining these representatives of my generation in their "cohort psychological dependence on their "coming-of-age" experience" ... well, include me out.

Update: Demosophia rightly takes me to task for assuming that he is younger than I am. I am properly chastened and will endeavor to make no more unwarrented assumptions.

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 12, 2003 2:45 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Making the Non-partisan Partisan

An email from our friend Jeanne A. E. DeVoto, states some obvious and not so obvious truths about the bipolar disorder currently afflicting the Democratic party:

Subject: What gets to me that, as far as I can tell from here, the recall *wasn't partisan* until the election was over and the Democrats started trying to make it partisan.

The recall wasn't a popular idea because Californians had suddenly gotten it into their heads that they preferred Republicans; it was because everyone in California wanted Gray Davis ground up and sold as fiber supplement.

I doubt one voter in ten voted along party lines in the replacement election, and Ahnold (for that matter) could have run just as credibly as a fiscally-conservative Dem candidate and I doubt it would have changed the overall outcome.

But. As soon as it became clear that their man had lost, out come the core activists, screaming at the tops of their lungs about how the voters are dumb, we're going to recall Schwartzenegger immediately, this is all Bush's fault, and so on.

Now that's one thing. Core activists are a little crazy, that's why they spend so much energy on factionalism. [emphasis added.]

But here are the Democratic party leaders and spokescreatures, and they're doing exactly the same thing. Bob Mulholland, Terry McAuliffe, that crack from John Vasconcellas about how voters who would do such a thing as elect a Republican don't deserve his service so he might not bother going back to the legislature, that crack from Sheila What's-her-name about how she doesn't think she'll bother going to the State of the State... because the governor's a Republican.

What kind of fool takes a non-partisan situation and makes sure the voters will see it as partisan, AFTER it's clear that their party will be on the losing side if partisanship comes into it? Do they not understand that the voters' feelings about Gray, heretofore not particularly directed at Democrats qua Democrats, are about to be? Do they not realize they are shooting themselves in both feet? --

jeanne a. e. devoto ~
What does not kill us makes us stranger.

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 11, 2003 10:24 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Mother of Mercy, Nine Years of Dave Winer!

I am saying that I have
something to say about how
to say what I have to say.

Uberblogger, Harvard Auditor, and self-confessed software genius Dave Winer celebrates nine years of all-Dave-all-the-time at: Scripting News in Manila

Nine years ago on this day I wrote my first DaveNet essay. This was the first of a rapid string of epiphanies that led to this one: I can publish my own ideas. I don't have to wait for anyone else to get it.
Nor wait for anyone else to edit it. At least, he didn't claim to have invented it.

His epiphany for today is:

"One of the things I miss most about living on the West Coast is the ability to call people on the East Coast at 5AM. "

Rumors a petition is being circulated in the Blogsphere to Recall Dave Winer are probably untrue.

Posted by Van der Leun at Oct 7, 2003 11:03 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Clue Left Off the Cluetrain

Doc Searls, who has to be one of our Living Internet Treasures, gives us one of those fascinating, to the side, insights in Reconstructive Journalism October 3, 2003

One of my theses that didn't make it into Cluetrain, because my co-authors correctly considered it off-topic, was this: You are where you come from. The second person singular I'm using here - - the you - - refers to the organizational as well as the personal personality. It's what I was talking about when I wrote the email to Dave that became Doc Searls on Steve Jobs. Apple always came from the Steves, but Jobs especially. It'll still be his company, even (should the company survive) after he's dead and his portrait is hanging in the lobby of the company headquarters.

Leaving aside the insight into the core nature of Apple (Who else would have put an otherwise perfectly good computer into a Lucite cube?), Searles is on target with "You are where you come from." How many times have we heard, "If you know where I'm coming from?" and nodded a vague assent even though we haven't the slightest clue?

Perhaps this argues for a more detailed use of the "About Me" page everywhere. (We could even laminate them and hang them around our necks on a lanyard for easy access at conventions and on the street.)

Newspapers and magazines are in the habit of including a "Where this writer is from" squiblet at the bottom of non-staff articles that sometimes give a slight clue as to where the writer is coming from. Alas this format often hides more than it reveals. ( "H. Beowulf Schniptule is a staff analyst at the Institute for Advanced Smegma Studies") More often or not you've got to google Beowulf, and then hop around their links to get even the hint of a clue. And when it comes to the staff of said magazines and newspapers, well, your impression of individual writers can only be derived from your impression of the magazine.

Perhaps, in order to know where pundits and reporters are coming from, we should develop an International Bias Symbol code similar to the driving symbols. Then we could just attach them at will to ops and to eds and gain a little more insight into where there be dragons in the increasingly large and uncharted infoseas of the world.

== == ==

BTW, just what were the other clues that didn't catch the Cluetrain? It strikes me that it is just about time to give that hoary manifesto another look.

Posted by Van der Leun at Oct 3, 2003 11:03 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
E.B. White on New York, 1949

Excerpts from "Here Is New York" by E.B. White who died on this day in 1985.

The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now; in the sounds of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest editions."

"All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm."

Posted by Van der Leun at Oct 1, 2003 3:11 AM | QuickLink: Permalink

Roger Simon asserts that this site is the the wittiest site on the Internet. Hes got my vote.

Here's a brief excerpt of the deeply inspired words of Allah direct from those party animals at Blogspot (I hope Google has those servers underground and under deep security.):

Many infidels are probably wondering tonight why, with hundreds of billions of dollars of Saudi oil money and limitless logistical support from Arab governments at their disposal, it took the mujahedeen five years to knock down two fucking buildings. Good question. Tell Allah something: Have you ever seen interviewed members of the Ku Klux Klan? How did they strike you? Did their white sheets and sputterings about "nigras" give off a strong aura of competence? Or did they instead seem "special," and more likely than not to smell of sweat and horses? Alas, kufr, there are many qualities that American and Arab Jew-haters share, and a strong presence in Mensa is not one of them.

Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 23, 2003 10:52 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Items in Passing

Photodude's Life and Times in a List with pix, of course.

A Day for Accounting - Anyone who really knows me also knows that lists, statistics, and counting are Things Reid Likes. The following was inspired by this from Crystal Lyn, and something that happened 45 years ago today.

Roger Simon's Sticking With Arnold.
So I guess I'm giving a rather apocalyptic vision of the California Recall Election... and yes it's probably excessive... but there are bigger issues than tax rates involved here (although not, I'm sure, to McClintock). Anyway, I'm sticking with Arnold because today, at least--it's the foreign policy, stupid!

DenBeste is at his best with an analysis of the Poster Girl for Human Shields.
The less-than-subtle message is that this is the beginning of the great Republicanazi crackdown on dissent. Fippinger is portrayed as being in legal peril because she opposed the war, and soon they'll come for all the other dissenters:
Supporters argue that she was simply exercising her right to freedom of travel and speech and accuse the Bush administration of trying to make an example of her.

And that, my friends, is baloney. It is not why she's in peril, and this doesn't represent the first stage of the long-rumored conversion of the US into a police state.

There's a deeper message in the BBC's article, and it's one which resonates in much leftist thinking: it's that intentions are more important that acts.

The Bush Lie is clear now to Donald Sensing:

"... when he did not say that Saddam was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, and in fact has denied Saddams complicity in the attacks, because 70 percent of Americans believe Saddam was complicit in the attacks and thats Bushs fault even though he never said Saddam was complicit and in fact has denied it, but his denial is a lie too, because we all know he misled the American people to believe Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks even though we cant point to a single statement Bush made that even hints that Saddam was involved, but it doesnt matter because Bush is a liar to begin with and even if he didnt lie about this, he wanted to and would have if hed gotten the chance and probably wishes he did because if hes going to be called a liar no matter what he says he might as well have actually told a lie for once."

David Warren takes his usually lucid look at the Satanic Legacy of Canadian Politics Today:
I have called this attack -- on Canada, on our freedoms, on moral order, on human decency -- the "Trudeau legacy". And yet that describes it too narrowly. It does not really explain one of the mysteries of post-modern Canadian history: that this most conservative and cautious and civilized of countries is now leading the attack on Western civilization itself.

Lileks, as usual, has one short kicker that sums up our fellow citizens in 2003 at his weekend roundup:
Thought of this story again while reading about the soldiers who were offered the chance to leave their post because of Isabel. They were guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington; this would have been the first time the tomb was unguarded. They said, in essence, sir no thank you sir.

You can break down the entire country into two camps, two reactions to the story:
1. Bemusement.
2. Gratitude.

Totten continues to try and save the Democatic Pary from itself: An Open Letter to the Party of Wilson and Roosevelt
An old left-wing slogan says Fascism Means War. Slap it on a bumper sticker. Now is not the time to retire it. Our enemies in the Terror War are totalitarian religious fanatics, everything liberals and the left despise. They killed and enslaved millions on the other side of the world. Then they attacked our country. They are not, as Franz Fanon put it, the wretched of the earth. They are the murderers and oppressors of the wretched of the earth.

Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 22, 2003 12:52 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Falling Man


"The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man's posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is, fifteen seconds past 9:41 a.m. EST, the moment the picture is taken, in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears."
Tom Junod, "The Falling Man" Esquire
Posted by Van der Leun at Sep 10, 2003 2:49 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Digiholics Unite!

Yes, I took this in a movie theatre. Should I be ashamed I can't stop?

If you or someone you know suffers the dreaded affliction of "digiholism" you owe it to yourself to read this hilarious analysis that rips the polite facade off this terrible disease that cripples millions of relationships a year.

Till Pixels Do Us Part (
By Sheryl Van der Leun

This past summer, I almost lost my husband, the man I love desperately. Not in a car crash. Not to SARS. Not to another woman, and no, not even to golf.

Tragically, I almost lost him to digital photography. I was just this side of becoming a digi-widow. Day after day, night after night, the camera was his de facto companion. He'd be out at all hours, his Nikon Coolpix 5000 strapped around his neck, lens cap dangling, hand intimately caressing the case, thumb ever-quivering above the shutter button.

In the old days, when it was just film, it was never this bad. Back then, he would take pictures like a "normal" person. A roll here. A roll there. But once he started dipping into pixels, well, it was like Fast Times at Digital High. .... (More here.)

And it was too. I know. I don't say this just because the author is my beloved and brilliant wife, but because I was there. Now, I'm in recovery. I think.

Posted by Vanderleun at Sep 9, 2003 8:11 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Sleep versus Memory

From the New York Post:

NEW YORKWith the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks only three weeks away, TV networks have planned nearly no special programming to commemorate the horrible events of that day.

From A Small Victory: no ordinary day

I want to remember. I never want to lose that memory of the smoky sky above Manhattan that I viewed from my office window. I want to remember Pete Ganci's wake and the sharpshooters atop my neighbor's house during the memorial service for Claude Richards, I want to remember the haunted look in my firefighter cousin's eyes and the look of despair on my father's face. I want to remember the chilling feeling of looking at a sky free of jumbo jets for days on end and the quiet, the unnerving quiet, that made those days after so surreal and chilling. I need to remember these things because to forget would be to spit in the face of every single person who died that day.

Posted by Van der Leun at Aug 29, 2003 12:39 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Lileks: Was It Something I Said?


A few days ago, in a moment of concern for James Lileks' mental stability, earlier this week I ever-so-gently chided him for his Soundtrack offerings.

"I've sampled his gift and all I can say is that, whatever other talents this man has, he won't be getting signed by DefJam records any time soon."
Today I read in The Bleat
Fire up Soundtrack and make another MP3? No, Ive learned my lesson. Youll get no more of those, youll be glad to hear.
The very first pop-cult reference that sprang into my mind upon reading those words was: "You may say to yourself, 'My God! What have I done?"

My next thought was, 'How can I make some fawning and obsequious apology in order to be forgiven, not only by Likeks, but by the untold legions of fans who were no doubt collecting his MP3s for a bootleg compilation titled "Gettin' Jiggy with BleatMaster?" I can see the plagiarized email now:

"You bastard! You vicious, heartless bastard! Look what you've done to him! He's moused his fingers to the bone to make his MP3s what they are, and you come in with your petty feeble quibbling and you grind his music into the dirt, this fine, honourable man, whose boots you are not worthy to kiss. Oh... it makes us mad... mad!"

Perhaps I could plead my long time devotion to his site, my wallowing in his Fargo pages since they reminded me of my long ago summers in Fargo with my grandparents and cousins. I could tell him that my Dad ran a filling station to and that my mother was raised in Fargo, that the McNairs are still there; that our shared roots go deep into the fine, rich mid-western loam. Pathetic. I might as well plead my belly.

Maybe I could pluck some art out of the deeper regions of his site and, by carefully cropping it, make it a kind of "homage." No. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt. He'd just sue me for compilation copyright infringement.

Knowing that Lileks views with deep suspicion anything with the word "American" in the title, I could let the site go belly up, donate the URL to Readers Digest and port everything over to LiveJournal. No, that wouldn't be enough. I'd still be hunted down by his fans and deathspammed.

No, there's no hope for me now. No way I can make amends. A promising musical career has been crushed and tossed aside by my thoughtless words. I must accept full responsibility. For my penance I have vowed to wear nothing but Dorcus Loungewear from now until the last ding-dong of doom, or until released by the better angels of Lileks' nature. Until then it is obvious I am under self-imposed house arrest. But I live in hope.

Author's Fate and a Cry for Mercy

Posted by Vanderleun at Aug 28, 2003 9:05 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
And Now for Something Completely Excellent...

I've noted before that Michael Totten is "the Swiss Army Knife of Online Commentators," but he really stunned me today by bringing out a whole new blade; a short story. And a brilliant short story at that. Making a clear departure from the usual content of his page, Totten takes you to South America in The Argentine's Ice Box

A wag on his comments board suggested that this might be the first example of "pundit-fiction," but I disagree. This is simply fine fiction in a new format. I know that there are short stories scattered about the Web but they are rarely readable. This one is.

The Argentine's Ice Box
A short story by Michael J. Totten

If you walk into a restaurant named Henrys and find a man sitting alone at a table who is from anywhere outside the Patagonian desert, youll spot him as an outsider even if youre an outsider yourself. Its in the eyes, the posture, and the set of the mouth.

So when I opened the door and saw Andre in the corner with his rumpled button-up shirt, scribbling in a notebook under a pair of reading glasses, I knew I had found my companion for the evening. The bartender and other patrons flicked their eyes at me, just long enough to peg me as a foreigner, but quickly enough to show indifference. A man throwing darts by himself sized me up as he threw a bulls eye. But Andre looked at me over his glasses and raised his eyebrows. It was almost like a plea.

Posted by Vanderleun at Aug 27, 2003 9:37 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Via Con Dios, Cowgirl

Died with her boots on at the end of a big life

Connie Reeves, a Cowgirl Until the End, Dies at 101

Connie Reeves, who was very likely America's oldest cowgirl, died in San Antonio on Aug. 17, 12 days after she was thrown from her horse, Dr Pepper. She was 101.

She was riding her favorite horse, a 28-year-old paint, on the morning of Aug. 5 when Dr Pepper threw her over its head. Her neck was broken, but she was not paralyzed, The Kerrville (Tex.) Daily Times reported. The Associated Press said she died of cardiac arrest.

Posted by Van der Leun at Aug 27, 2003 7:51 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
A Bleat for Help: Massive Web Intervention for Lileks Necessary

James Lileks in a Very Bad State of Mind

The Sensitive and Compassionate Bloggers of the United States of America ("SenComBlogUSA's") will recognize in James Lileks' latest Bleat a desperate cry for help. And we must, because we are Sensitive and Compassionate people, give it to him.

Yes, it is clearly a time for massive web intervention in order to save this living web treasure from himself.

The cause of his current "condition" is obvious: He needs to "spend more time with his family."

"The familys been gone since Thursday, and today was the first day it actually seemed like they were gone; this must be what its like when workaholics get fired and find out that the family they last remembered as a collection of vague faces around t he Christmas tree had actually moved away several years before. Explains why the laundry was piling up, I suppose."
Constant readers will know that Lileks is the uber-family man and any extended time spent away from the wife and the Gnat causes him to go slowly mental. I've been watching this process for several days and it is not a pretty sight. The degeneration is slow at first and then becomes increasingly frightening as the days drag on. The dishes pile up, the bed goes unmade, weeds sprout through the pavement at Jasperwood, the dog starves...

His condition is now peaking:

"Got to meet some charming people; spent the first part of the cruise hanging in the front with the popular kids. By the end of the ride I was tired and I had a jackhammer headache; shouting and standing in the sun and two vodka-tonics will do that to you."
Cruising aimlessly about. Seeking to hang with the popular. Sunstroke. Mysterious headaches. Alcohol. All the elements begin to add up, don't they?
"That night Hugh, Medved, [ .... ], the Giant Swede and the Crazy Uke came over for supper, and that was . . . well, it was just very cool. As the Uke said at one point, 'what happens in Minnesota stays in Minnesota.' "
Sigh. Strange companions such as radio talk show hosts, some dealer in strange meds, a bulky Swede, and another man so disturbed as to play the ukelele. All hunkering down at Jasperwood to, perhaps, indulge in alcohol and char slabs of meat over open flames before gnawing them down in large dripping gobbets. The mind shudders and the heart goes out to Lileks.

And then, in a single sentence, we see the collapse of a great mind:

"Yes, me an writer! And a gud one! The high point of the high point!

See what I mean? Ive hit the wall."

If only he had "hit the wall," but no, no....
" That night I watched a movie, but halfway through I got the itch to sample the dialogue and make another MP3 out of it all. My sad gift to you."
I've sampled his gift and all I can say is that, whatever other talents this man has, he won't be getting signed by DefJam records any time soon.

I suppose, like other men afflicted with the temporary loss of their family, Lileks is blissfully unaware of his slide into dementia. Because of this it is up to the "SenComBlogUSA's" to leave their screens and small rooms across the United States, spread out, locate and return his family to him as quickly as possible.

Our choice is clear. We can either rescue James Lileks from his summer vacation or we can turn the page.

Remember: The Bleat you save could be your own.

Posted by Van der Leun at Aug 26, 2003 7:28 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
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