I always had rather a soft spot in me for Barbara Bush; the exemplary old-school upper-middle-class good wife, with her triple strand of pearls, and the way that she didn’t give a damn about going prematurely white. That was the way she was, and she didn’t give two pins. Class – that’s what she had, the class of a previous generation; a class now belatedly appreciated and mourned, now that the upholders and exemplars of it are almost now gone from between us. Among my transitory friends in Korea was a security policeman who had come off the White House protection squad at the end of the senior Bush administration: he adored Barbara, who called him Timmy – possibly the only person on earth besides his mother who did so, as he was one of these six-and-a-half foot tall human hazards in traffic, who looked rather like an Irish-Anglo version of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
So – I took brief note of her passing; yes, good to die at home, refusing anything but palliative care, among family, and those whom hold you in affection. I am certain that Timmy – wherever he is now – is riffling through his fond memories of his particular First Lady and drinking a toast to her. A good long life, well lived, a loving marriage, well-adjusted and successful children, and grandchildren; what more could a brief life on this earth offer? I also drink a toast to Barbara Bush, and convey my sincerest condolences to those who loved her, a circle which extends far beyond those of her blood family. (I wish, though, that she had not been so catty about Sarah Palin, but I guess she was just going along with the old-line Establishment GOP crowd.)

This appears to be a simple social courtesy too much for a certain professor of … something or other at a California State University. Oh – it’s the one in Fresno. Fresno – like Bakersfield, it’s own punishment. (Yes, I am letting my latent California snobbishness show. Yes, there are places in California too infra dig for words. Fresno is one of them, although it did feature in a hilarious and all-star parody of 1980s dramas like Dynasty and Dallas. I continue.) The tweets posted by this so-called professor (of what, pray tell? Oh, dear – of English.) Couldn’t prove it through the content of her tweets, which largely appear barely literate speak for themselves – mostly a narrative of vicious ignorance and malice.

Her name is Randa Jarrar, which must be 21st century speak for Two Ton Tessie, the epitome of a certain kind of female academic social justice warrior, like Trigglypuff. If her now-notorious tweets are what she puts on her social media feed, god only knows what she says to her students in the classroom – at a public and state-funded university, I might add. MS Jarrar is apparently a promising author of the kind of socially-aware preciosity that most of us wouldn’t read on a bet, unless it was to make riotous fun of. She appears to be a lukewarm American Muslim of part-Palestinian extraction, raised in Kuwait and Egypt, returning to the United States for good and all after the First Gulf War in 1991; her previous claim to fame was to have authored a widely-circulated essay on Salon about how she couldn’t stand white belly-dancers. On the grounds of cultural appropriation, apparently.

Among the items of cultural appropriation that MS Jarrar seems to have refused to partake of is the classically Latin truism about ‘speaking no ill of the dead’ – and the other, more American bog-standard, about ‘if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.’ Tragic, since she seemed to have graced UT-Austin with her presence, for a degree in Middle Eastern studies. Oh, well – Austin, what can I say? I would venture a supposition that her very personal animus towards the Bush family has roots in the Gulf War and Saddam Hussein’s brief occupation of Kuwait. If I recall (and I do, for I followed events, being on active duty at the time), elements of the Palestinians in Kuwait and in the Middle East generally were enthusiastically backers of Saddam Hussein. When Saddam Hussein was chased out of Kuwait – well, those Poor, Poor, Pitiful Palestinians were considered as collaborators, and treated in Kuwait rather as French Nazi collaborators were treated after Liberation. While not quite having their heads shaved and marched naked through the streets, they were definitely made unwelcome by the Kuwaitis. I recall that many self-identifying Palestinians did leave Kuwait in a hurry. Being a logical person, I suspect that MS. Jarrar’s family were among them.

And so MS Jarrar found herself, after many academic adventures, comfortably in a well-paid sinecure at a small-town public university in California. Tenure, baby – it’s where you can find it. Alas, she seems to be addicted to the drug of “Calling Attention to Yourself”, and in this case, not thoughtful of how she went about getting that required fix or considering the wisdom of what she would say to get it. Now she has that attention – and having done so on her personal Twitter account (I swear, Twitter exists for the sole purpose of revealing morons in 140 characters or less) she has reflected nothing good on her employer, and from reports of her other social media appearances, she has nothing good to say about the local Fresno community, either. She may very well prove toxic to the university itself, tenure or no – having also demonstrated that she has no firm hold on the axiom regarding not bringing discredit or public opprobrium on one’s employer. Discuss this latest social media/academic dumpster fire; will she be sacked, or retained? Place your bets, gentlemen, place your bets.

19. April 2018 · 1 comment · Categories: Domestic

While waiting to be put into the roofing/construction company’s schedule for the ‘catio’ and the new roof – which likely won’t happen until mid or late May at earliest, I have gone ahead and started work on the small bathroom renovation. The Daughter Unit was expecting this to be done while she was in California. I was also expecting to have Roman the Handy Guy start on the ‘catio’ before she even left, but he was in two minds about the project; an entirely roofed and screened-in porch was a bit more of a project that he wanted to tackle single-handed. So – I handed off the catio-porch element onto the professionals and asked him to tackle the small bathroom renovation. This is something more in his wheelhouse anyway.

The small bathroom project is a relatively simple one; rip out the vanity/sink and the toilet, scrape that nasty popcorn texture off the ceiling, tile the floor and the wall behind where the new sink will go, repaint the whole room, and install a set of built-in shelves and a new wall light fixture. The whole room is about 5 by 9, a third of that taken up by the bathtub across one end anyway. No big structural changes, no changes to the water or sewer lines, nothing to the electrical beyond replacing switch plates to match the new color scheme. Which will be white and a sort of grey-lavender-pinkish, to match a little vintage porcelain dresser set that the Daughter Unit picked up somewhere or other and wanted to use as the keynote design element. We plan to reuse the faucet set – since it was the one that I bought to replace the original construction-grade faucet about a decade ago, when I did my first redecorating pass through my little patch of suburban paradise.

So, yesterday we were at the local big-box home renovation store, picking up the replacement toilet and pedestal sink that I had ordered last week – both items packed in big boxes, which is why I had arranged with Roman and his pickup truck, rather than try and stuff them in the back of the Montero myself. While there, I bought the other material for the project; paint, floor and backsplash tile, the grout mix, lengths of baseboard stock, and lumber for a set of floor-to-ceiling shelves which will replace the storage space lost when the bathroom vanity is taken out. The bathroom is so small, the vanity takes up entirely too much of what little space there is – hence, replaced with a pedestal sink. Roman has a busy schedule for the rest of this week, so his part of the renew-work falls into next week. My part falls into the interim: scrape up the last of the paint on the concrete floor and clean thoroughly, so that the tiles adhere properly, take down all the stuff attached to the walls, patch the holes, sand, and otherwise prep the room for heavy redecoration. And that was my week – other than the trip to Houston, which I will write up anon.

Well, it’s somewhere, among the albums.

One of my internet guilty pleasures is perusing the website of the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper, both the US and UK sides. I know – in the grand scheme of things, the Daily Mail is about one half-step up from a tabloid. The captions and headlines often give evidence of being written by middle-school students innocent of any knowledge of conventional grammar or spelling, they employ the execrable Piers Morgan, editorially despise Donald Trump, and have this inexplicable and unholy fascination with all things Kardashian. In my early blogging days, I favored the rather more high-class Times of London, and the Telegraph, but they went all pay-wall and frankly, hard to read. In any case and against the above-listed foibles and more, the Daily Mail is a free and straightforward read. Start at the top and scroll down; no hopscotching around to the various menu headings, hoping to get lucky and find something interesting. They nearly always do provide some daily amusement, or horror, depending on tastes. And they cover American news without fear or favor – although, as noted, they have no abiding affection for The Donald. They didn’t have for The Barack, either, so I’ll take what I can get, for easy AM reading.
This week’s headline bruhaha made the American conservative side of the blogosphere develop that kind of nervous eyelid twitch demonstrated by Inspector Clouseau’s boss in the classic Pink Panther series: an elderly retiree in a distant London suburb surprised a pair of burglars who had broken into his house in the middle of the night with the intent of robbery and god knows what other kind of criminal mayhem. This being England, land of hope and glory and strict gun control, the thirty-something burglar (who had a comprehensive record as an honest-work-shy professional criminal) was armed with an assault screwdriver, with which he menaced the home-owner. Much to everyone’s surprise – including, no doubt, the professional burglar and his faithful sidekick – the elderly retiree succeeded in defending himself against a pair of younger and presumably bigger men. Indeed, one of the felonious pair was stabbed fatally with his own screwdriver, collapsing in the street outside, whereupon his faithful sidekick abandoned him, gunned their escape vehicle, and vanished in a cloud of exhaust. (The police are searching for him, at last result, although they have located the burned-out escape vehicle. So much for honor among thieves, and the ability of the London police force.) The assault screwdriver-wielding professional career criminal was found, bloodied and dying in the street, taken to a hospital, wherein he expired. Well, they always said that crime doesn’t pay, even though for him it seemed that the eventual bill was a long time coming. More »

Damned if I know, as my educated guess as a long-time milblogger is probably about as good as yours. I never had a Myspace account – too busy with the original milblog, I guess, to be aware of or want to participate in any of the original or prototype Facebook iterations. Never got into Twitter, although I do have a barely-used, and all but neglected account, which I am camping on, since there is another author Celia Hayes out there, who likely would scoop it up, as soon as I vacated that account. (Yes, I am, spiteful that way. That other Celia apparently never did a google-search, upon deciding to publish her contemporary rom-coms. There is such a thing as due diligence…)

See – I am a long-form blogger. There are those of us whose skill is witty epigrams, or slashingly vicious put-downs on a daily basis. Mine is not; I prefer to open up a document, meander at my own pace, and then hit “publish.” Tedious, I know, for those readers with the attention-span of a gnat, but my most intense literary influences where those of the Victorians, who wrote complicated sentences, some of them lasting for at least a quarter of a page, if not for longer. My sense of humor (as well as my tastes in architecture) was set in stone by the influence of a book in the parental collection: Osbert Lancaster’s Here of All Places, who was at least as good as a cartoonist as he was a wordsmith, if slightly ponderous and wonderfully dry.

When I began seriously scribbling on more than a weblog around 2008, I began connecting with other independent writers; the largest congeries of us assembled at first through an Amazon discussion group, swapping experiences, opportunities, and advice on marketing our books. A good many in the group had been on the fringes of traditional publishing in various editorial or technical capacities. Their experiences and insights into the dark heart of what I took to calling the Literary-Industrial Complex were invaluable to the rest of us.

In the light of recent events, one of those pieces of marketing advice has proven to be quite prescient: that is, utilize social media as you must – but don’t bet the farm on it. One should not put all of one’s hard-written content into a basket controlled by others; suck up the expense of your own website, mirror-post your content – because, if for some reason, the social media platform goes under, or takes against you, all your work can and will be lost. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter – all easy, popular, convenient … but when – when, and not if – the politicized and mostly left-of-center providers of the service decide to shadow-ban, demonetize or close your account, you will be stuck. I had a good three or four years’ worth of archive posts on Open Salon, which evaporated into the ether, when Open Salon had their plug pulled by management. Didn’t lose much, save for some of the connections, when that platform went down. I do have a Facebook account for myself as an author, and for several other of my enterprises – not that I post, connect to, or repost anything but the most neutral and anodyne materiel on them. I came into this internet game with a sense of probity already hard-learned, having as a military broadcaster to always consider what I said, wrote, and posted, from the public affairs point of view. Once what you have said on air – it’s out there. No reconsideration can draw it back or erase any line of it.

The social media oligarchs who control such venues have decided – for whatever reasons – to get in touch with their militantly liberal side, consigning better than half the country to perdition and obscurity. I have no idea why, although I can guess at a few possible motivations. Are they so thickly insulated in their bubble of the like-minded that they are genuinely baffled at the existence of conservatives of any stripe? Are they frightened; scared out of their wits at that straw-other built up in their own minds, and hysterically lashing out at the perceived threat by calling it hate speech, or terming conservatives a threat to the community? Or are the social media lords and the media nobility vengefully blaming half the country for not obediently falling into line and voting for Hillary, and punishing the outspoken for our lack of faith in Her Inevitableness?
And what action can we take in response? Can we switch to gab.ai from Twitter, MeWe from Facebook, post to Vimeo instead of YouTube, or explore other alternatives? Will a substantial shift to alternate social media platforms have any effect on oligarchs like Zuckerberg? Discuss.

(The historic WWI Battle of Belleau Wood is a part of the background in A Half Dozen of Luna City … and for your edification – an essay on it, which will feature in the latest Luna City chronicle.)

1918 was not the year that the 19th century died; died in all of its boundless optimisms and earnest faith in advancement of the human condition. For Europe – cynical, cultured, hyper-superior old Europe – that could be said to happened two years earlier, along the Somme, at Verdun, in the tangled hell of barbed wire, poisoned gas and toxic, clay-like mud, the burnt ruins of the centuries-old Louvain university and it’s priceless library, destroyed by German ‘frightfulness’ tactics in the heat of their first offensive. Perhaps the 19th century died as early as 1915. It depended on which front, of course, and the combatants involved, still standing on their feet, but wavering like punch-drunken, exhausted pugilists. One may readily theorize that only blood-drenched enmity kept them propped up, swinging futilely at each other, while the lists of casualties from this or that offensive filled page after page of newsprint; all in miniscule typeface, each single name – so small in print, yet a horrific, tragic loss for a family and community hundreds of miles from the Front.
All this was different for Americans, of course; sitting on the sidelines, gravely concerned, yet publicly dedicated to neutrality, and firmly at first of the conviction that Europe’s affairs were not much of Americas’ business. But softly, slowly, slowly, softly – American sympathies swung towards the Allies, even though there were enough first- and second-generation Americans among German and Irish immigrants to have swung American public opinion among non-Anglo or Francophile elements towards maintaining a continued neutrality. After all, it was a war far, far, away, and nothing much to do with us … at first. But events conspired; the brutality of the Huns in Belgium (documented by American newspapers), unrestricted submarine warfare which extended to American shipping (and, inevitably, American casualties), and finally, the publication of the Zimmerman Telegram – and in the spring of 1917, President Wilson formally requested of Congress that a declaration of war on Imperial Germany be considered and voted upon. Said declaration was passed by an overwhelming margin, and by summer of that year, American troops were arriving in France – first in a trickle, then a flood.
The Belleau Wood was a forested tract thirty or so miles northeast of Paris; a hunting preserve in a stand of old-growth European forest, the refuge of wildlife, and for those whose favored recreation was hunting them. At the northern edge of the forest was two-story octagonal hunting lodge; built of stone, it was a place to shelter hunters for a night, during momentary bad weather, or a hearty meal, mid-hunt. Until the spring of 1918, it had been relatively untouched by a war which had turned acres and acres of French and Belgian farmland into muddy, barbed-wire entangled wastelands – many of which are still poisoned and unsafe, a hundred years after the end of that war. That forest tranquility ended when the expected German spring offensive slammed into the Allied lines – lines which now included the Americans – and punched through to the Marne River. The Germans had hoped to break through before the sufficient of the American Expeditionary Force arrived to make a difference in the wars’ outcome.
Late in May, German forces reached the Paris-Metz main road – and if they managed to break across the Marne and reach Paris, that one last throw of the dice would pay off for Germany; perhaps in victory, or perhaps in a negotiated and face-saving settlement with the equally exhausted and embittered French and British.

An experienced career soldier, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing commanded the US. Expeditionary Force. He had rejected British and French demands that the Americans be parceled out piecemeal among Allied units, and essentially fight under the command of French and British officers. This would not do – likely Black Jack was polite yet forceful about it. (His nic came from him having commanded a troop of black cavalry early in his career as a young officer.) The AEF’s 3rd Division went into the line to counter the German advance at Chateau Thierry – the 3rd Division, which included a brigade of Marines, had initially been held in reserve – was brought forward in a hurry. The Marines were pretty much seen as a second-class by the Army brass, according to some accounts: good enough to do rear-guard and support duty, and only thrown into what was expected to be a quiet sector because every able-bodied American serviceman was needed, in the face of the German spring offensive. Checked by stiff resistance at Chateau Thierry, the German advance poured into the woods, where the 3rd Division had just arrived. Retreating French troops, exhausted from the fight to keep from being overrun, urged the Americans to do likewise, whereupon one of their officers is supposed to have riposted, “Retreat, Hell – we just got here!”
Of course, the newly-arrived American troops were keen as mustard; champing at the bit, as it were – especially the Marines, few of whom were of the career old breed. Many were recent volunteers. Up until that moment, the Marines had been a rather small, and somewhat specialized service; more inclined to security on board naval ships and at US embassies abroad, perhaps a small punitive expedition where American interests were concerned in South America and the Caribbean; a military constabulary, rather than hard-charging infantry. Still, it was a service that took pride in having been founded by an act of the Continental Congress in 1775, recruiting at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, beating the official establishment of the US Army by more than a decade. (Yes, there was a Continental Army during the Revolution, but it was more like state militias seconded for service in the colonies’ united cause. The US Army wasn’t quote-unquote officially established until the 1780s. Upon this kind of minutia are friendly service rivalries built.)

Throughout the month of June 1918, the Marines fought with bitter tenacity through the deathly woods; sharpshooting at first, with deadly effect, and eventually to point-blank, then with bayonet, knives, and hand-to-hand. They kept the Germans from moving out of the wood, and then fought them back, yard by yard, trench by trench. The trees in the forest, the boulders at their feet were shattered by artillery and machine-gun fire. The stench from the bodies of the dead – too many to bury, under the existing conditions in the early summer heat – revolted the living to an unimaginable degree. And still – they went on, clawing back the wood to Allied control. More Marines were killed in that single month than had been killed in action since their founding in 1775. The Corps would not face another butcher’s bill to equal it until the taking of Tarawa, a quarter of a century later, and half the world away. It was a special kind of hell, this fight in a 200-acre French woodland, fought by relatively untried young troops, motivated by pride in service, by devotion to comrades, and by the leadership – which in many instances devolved onto NCOs, and even individual Marines, like Sergeant Dan Daly, a scrappy Irish-American career Marine (who had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor – twice, for actions in the Boxer Rebellion, and then again in Haiti). In legend he is said to have rallied the troops with a shout of “For Chrissake, men, come on; do you want to live forever?!” (Or similar phrasing. The war correspondent Floyd Gibbons later wrote that he had heard a similar expression shouted by a senior NCO, and the legend attached itself to Dan Daly.)
In the end, the Germans were driven from the woods, at a horrific cost; 10,000 casualties among the Marines, including nearly 2,000 dead. There is no definitive record of German dead, although there were around 1,600 Germans taken prisoner. But the Marines had clawed back the deathly woods, blunted the last-ditch German offensive … and in November of that year, Germany threw in the towel. By agreement, it all came to a temporary end on the eleventh hour, the eleventh day, the eleventh month. Such were the enmities and resulting bitterness that the armistice held only for the time that it took for a baby boy born in that year to grow up and serve in his turn. The shattered forest was christened anew after the battle; since then it is called the Wood of the Marine Brigade and an adjunct to a American war cemetery. The American 4th Brigade was recognized by the French government by the award of a military honor, the Croix de Guerre. To this day, active-duty Marines serving in the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments are authorized to wear the French fourragere – an elaborate garnishment of looped and braided cords – on their left shoulder as part of their dress uniform, in honor of that unit’s service in the Deathly Wood, a hundred years ago. And to this day, successfully completing Marine Corps basic training means completing the “Crucible” – a 54-hour marathon march on short rations and little sleep, featuring grueling marches, obstacle course and team-driven combat-problem-solving exercise – some of which was drawn on the experience of the fighting in the deathly woods, a hundred years ago.

For me, the very first – although not the most momentous disappointment in the accumulated collection racked up throughout the Obama administration – was the realization that there would be no line drawn under the old bug-bear of racism with regard to those of us – as a friend of mine during my assignment to Greenland in the early 1980s put it – with the year-round dark tan. Yes, said friend was black, Afro-American, a person of color, or whatever the approved term is these days. (You kids, get off my lawn! Oh … I don’t have a lawn.) My friend was a totally middle-class young woman, the daughter of professionals, who like me, had grown up without ever personally observing much in-your-face unmistakable racial antagonism or prejudice. It was merely something that had happened to other people, a fair number of decades ago; at worst howlingly illegal, at best, rude. We were in the habit of walking together every Saturday, around the end of the Sondrestrom AB runway to the Danish side of the base, there to enjoy a cup of tea and a pastry in the SAS air terminal cafeteria.

North of the Arctic Circle, you take your diversions where you can find them; in this case, the air terminal cafeteria was A) away from the base, and B) actually had rather good food, since it was entirely run by Danes; masters of pastry and good solid comfort food. One Saturday, the cafeteria was empty save for a large party at another table, who stared at the pair of us in a manner most disconcerting. It freaked both of us out, as soon as we noticed. Had we each suddenly grown another head? Were we trailing toilet paper stuck to our mukluks? It wasn’t an American uniform – both of us were clad in the customary Sondy winter mufti, of jeans and plaid shirts, with the addition of dull-green issue parkas and mukluks – why were they staring at us? Finally, I ventured – “Is it because you’re black and I’m white, and they’re from South Africa or something, where it’s illegal to sit at the same table?”

She agreed that it must be something like that; it must have been the only explanation, and we returned to enjoying our tea and pastries, marveling at how things had changed so much for the better, from the times of violent civil rights demonstrations twenty years before.
At that point – and especially in the military – systemic racial prejudice appeared to be something from the bad old days. It was so far off the table, it wasn’t even in the same room. No one turned so much as a hair over a commander, supervisor, NCOIC being of another race, and if racial prejudice were a factor in the dating and marriage scene, it was one of the best-kept secrets since the Enigma coding device. So, twenty-some years after that tea-time in the airport terminal, I had some thin and comforting hope that the election of B. Obama to the highest office in the land would at the least put a dagger in the heart of the myth of the USA being Teh Most Racist Nation Evah! – even if he delivered on nothing else of note. And this, even after the “G*d Damn America” sermon stylings of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright came to light among the conservative side of the blogosphere. I’m at heart an optimist … surely the chances of a light-weight Chicago machine pol, with not much going for him other than a mellifluous voice (when reading from a teleprompter) and a slightly unusual personal background couldn’t do all that much damage … could he?

Ten years later, that answer is along the lines of ‘oh, hell, yes!’ Between the crazed indifference to the actual facts of the various ‘police on black thug’ shootings on the part of BLM (and the statistics on crime by black vs white perps generally), the curious rise of the ‘knock-out game’, an anti-Semitic race-mongering sleaze-ball opportunist like Al Sharpton achieving a comfortable sinecure and apparent social respect among Dems as a media commenter, American institutions of higher learning piously condemning ‘whiteness’, an earnest and involved group of citizens like the Tea Party partisans being routinely condemned by the establishment news and entertainment media as racist … all that is bad enough. But now it seems that Nation of Islam honcho, Louis Farrakhan – vicious, anti-Semitic, poisonously-hateful of whites in general, and all-around nut-bar – was on closer acquaintance with our former President than previously thought. Yes, presidents and rising pols need to rub elbows with those from whom a normal private citizen would otherwise run screaming, or at least murmuring polite apologies as they edge towards the door – but what are we to make of this? Trump is expected to apologize endlessly for having attracted the support of David Duke – but the support of a malignant hater like Calypso Louie is just – oh, well, one of those political things?

Sharpton, at least, gives off the vibe of being a particular sort of crass racial opportunist (aside from the anti-Semitic thing). Stoking racial animosity been berry, berry good to him over the years – but Louis Farrakhan? He comes off as a fanatic, and of a dangerous sort. Discuss, if you can bear it.

And why – in the wake of the latest horrific school massacre. What I mean is the banning of gun ownership in the US, or the abrogation of the second amendment, or the passing of so-called “sensible” new gun restrictions (which will be as little-enforced as the last set of so-called “sensible” restrictions). Not going to happen, no matter how emotional the demands by the ban-gun advocates scream, weep, stomp their feet and accuse gun-owners and organizations like the NRA of having blood on their hands. And no, we don’t much care how they do it in Europe, or Britain, or Australia. Weirdly enough, in the United States, the most violent cities are the ones with the most restrictions on personal firearms. Violent crime is generally the preserve of a distinctly urban racial sub-culture, which if omitted from the statistics, presents a very different picture when it comes to violent criminal activity in the US as a whole. That’s an anomaly and discussion for another time, although it does have slight bit of bearing on this one.

I’ve rather lost track of how many times we have been to the gun-violence rodeo since the Columbine school shooting. Now it seems like we go through this hyperventilating over gun control every six months or so. I do recall, though, the reaction being extraordinarily muted when Republican members of Congress and their staffs were shot up at baseball practice by James Hodgkinson last June. But muted, or loud and foot-stompy, the results are about the same. It comes down to demanding that innocent, law-abiding citizens, exercising their rights under the Constitution, must be punished for the deeds of a single criminal, or for the deeds of a small number of criminals; collective punishment, in other words. The realization comes – or a sensible person should realize – that screaming grief to the skies and demanding collective punishment is the easy, cheap, facile response. It’s a reflexive reaction – understandable in the case of the grief of the bereaved, people with normal feelings of empathy, or the demand of a media personality under pressure, dammit, to say something before the cameras and microphones. Easy, and pointless – which is why it happens every damn time. Actually going ahead, full-steam ahead on repealing the 2nd Amendment would not only be hard work, even enforcing a total gun ban might prove ultimately impossible, as discussed here.
Effective efforts at preventing mass shootings that come out of the blue at schools, nightclubs, office Christmas parties, midnight movie showings and at concerts and malls is hard work, hard, complicated, and not a one-fits-all solution – made harder when a law enforcement agency like the FBI totally blows off tips concerning worrisome behavior by individuals, as in the current case – or an organization like the military not passing the word about a violence-prone individual, as was the case of the Sutherland Springs church shooter.

A common element in the last two decades is – besides a member of the Religion of Peace going all jihadi with guns, knives, and homemade bombs – is the element of crazy. A young male, as is the sad case last week in Florida, possibly not wrapped terribly tightly, over-or-under medicated, whose’ behavior in real life or on social media increasingly gives those around cause for extreme worry. Sometimes local police have long been aware of erratic and dangerous behavior; at the very least, friends, neighbors, employers all have reason for serious concern. But at present – how do we, or should we go about containing the crazy before the point where the crazy flips out for good and all and leaves a trail of bleeding bodies? Safeguarding the community and the crazy for their own good is another one of those difficult projects; running straight into the conundrum of accommodating the civil rights of the crazy-accused … and who gets to decide, anyway. There are pitfalls down that route; namely the danger of it being too damn easy to declare someone a danger on account of their words or beliefs and lock them up. Shades of the Soviet system, anyone?

Yet another element, discussed last night at Conservative Treehouse – the policy of schools to keep law enforcement away from problem students in the interests of protecting racial minorities. And a final element, related to the above – the problem of boys growing up without a father in the picture, or even a suitable, authoritative father-figure, compounded with the professional feminists blathering on and on about toxic masculinity. Too many professional and elite toes would be trodden heavily on, in the process of ameliorating those situations. Not that it would be impossible, just a very long job, the work of decades and small advances by individuals in reversing the policies that lead us to this point.
The short-term solution may be to follow the Israeli example, as is being done in some school districts in Texas, to arm selected teachers. But that will also be a long and bitterly-contested process. Discuss, and contribute your own thoughts.

In two more years, the mortgage on my tiny patch of suburban paradise will be paid off. This is a consummation that I have longed for, especially when I tossed aside all expectation of working full-time for other people, about ten years ago, and resolved to make a living from writing, and from doing freelance publishing with the Tiny Publishing Bidness. I had an almost wholly unexpected bout of good sense when I purchased the house in 1995; which resulted in a) not buying into too much house, and b) ensuring that the mortgage did not consume more than a quarter of my total monthly income, as it then stood. Since then, the mortgage has been paid monthly, on the dot, even in months in which I just scraped past, economically, by the skin of my teeth. Something always showed up in time to rescue us from disaster; the sale of the California property allowed me to install a direly-needed new HVAC system, for instance.
The situation now is that I have sufficient income to make serious and concrete plans for fixing various things about the house. Alas, I have concluded that unless and until I get offered a bomb of money for film rights to Luna City, or the Adelsverein Trilogy, the vacation home/residence in the Hill Country is off the table. The rational course is to work with the house I have in the real world, and not the one in dreams, and so the plans have been mapped out in best Soviet Five-Year Plan style. The end of the month will bring about the first of them; the patio project – or more precisely, the ‘catio’ – a residence for the cats who we have inherited or have claimed us as their permanent servant class. We have designed a covered, screened shelter for the cats; full of climbing stands, ramps, platforms, hammocks – what Roman the Neighborhood Handy Guy terms “a Disneyland for cats!” This is Phase One. Honestly, I will be glad to get their litterboxes out of the house itself and have them – or most of them – living in a place that we can clean with a spritz from the garden hose. One of the cats we inherited from Mom has a dicey digestion, the other is willfully and deliberately incontinent … and I am just that tired of dealing with the mess, the smell, and the puddles of liquid or not-so-liquid matter.
Phase Two; a renovation of the guest bathroom, which is the one mainly used by the Daughter Unit. Easy peasy, relatively. The bathtub/shower is in relatively good shape, but the toilet and sink vanity absolutely have to go. It’s a very small bathroom, those two items are the original contractor-installed, and besides taking up too much space, they are ugly, and well past their best-if-used-by date. (We’ve seen other home-owners in the neighborhood put them out for bulk trash collection in the last ten or so years.) We plan to replace the sink vanity with a pedestal sink, a better grade of toilet, and paying Roman the Neighborhood Handy Guy to tile the floor with tiles which we got from a neighbor – leftovers from her own home renovation. Hey – the price was right, and there should be just enough of them to retile a tiny cubicle of a bathroom. Our plan also calls for tiling the wall behind where the vanity was with some nice bits of ornamental tile, which we will have to purchase, before Roman can install the new sink and toilet. Aside from that – Phase Two is relatively easy on the budget, although the Daughter Unit wants Roman to build a shelf-and-basket-drawer unit to go up the wall and replace the storage space lost with the vanity.

Phase Three: the master bath and dressing room. A bigger project, and consequently more expensive, although it is really two small rooms. One has the toilet and bathtub-and-shower, the other the vanity and sink. The bathtub is totally shot – and I had a go at refinishing it about fifteen years ago, which bought about another decade of life for it. No – it is beyond all salvage. Roman redid a neighbor’s bathroom – taking out the bathtub and converting it into a walk-in shower stall. He did wonderful work – and has promised to do the same for me. I buy the materials, he does the work. My plans proceed.
I want a neo-Victorian look for the master bath, or as much as I can get, utilizing the existing fabric of those two little rooms and not paying a bomb for the various elements. I can reuse some brushed aluminum elements that I bought from Crate and Barrel some years ago – which means that I am committed to that metal for everything else. Fortunately, brushed aluminuim seems to be a popular finish, even in retro-styled fixtures, if the searches on the internet are anything to go by. The necessary bits for the shower enclosure are available at the local big-box construction outlet … and some of the smaller items are on Amazon at a quite reasonable rate. I want hexagonal white tile on the floor, dark wood baseboards, blue and white toile wallpaper, and vintage-looking lights over the vanity. All those elements are available through the big-box outlets. The room where the vanity is supposed to go is a weird space – 55 inches. Upon looking at what is available – oh, deary me. The ones I really like are either too big and massively expensive. But I did run across an a number of articles about repurposing a small dresser to serve as a bathroom vanity … and I happen to have two such items out in the garage. The small oak dresser would serve very well, especially if I can obtain locally a slab of quartz or granite, with a hole for a drop-in sink custom-cut for it … yes, the master bath reno will sop up the summer extra income, but the resulting bathroom will be amazing! It may very well take at least three months to pay for the materials and for Roman’s expertise. But I don’t mind. The deplorable condition of the master bath has long been a thorn in the side of this home-owner.
Phase Four; replace the garage door. Of course, the larger part of this project means sorting out the contents of the garage itself. It would be darned nice to fit one, or both of the cars in the garage again, especially if we can do this by the time we gear up for the Christmas market season.
Phase Five – this project is variable, as it is even more huge than the master bath. The kitchen. I haven’t thought that far ahead, practically, although we found – on our visit to Goliad last week – the image of the perfect kitchen to serve as a model. All this, and a peninsula to serve as a workspace … I haven’t even thought this far out to make an estimation of the costs, although I did buy a book for Roman to study last year, about custom cabinetry. At some point between this phase and the next, new flooring throughout the house will be involved, once the kitchen and the bathrooms are done.

Our Kitchen Inspiration

Our Kitchen Inspiration

Phase Six will likely happen next year or the following; replacing the roof. In March of 2005, a violent hailstorm ripped through my neighborhood, putting the final kibosh on my own roof and practically everyone elses’. At that time, I was told that the shingles would be good for ten years, maybe a little longer, if we were lucky. So far, I have not seen the little granules washing off and piling up at the bottom of the gutter downspouts, as I had before. We’ve been lucky, as far as marble-sized hail goes – but this will not last forever. A couple of neighbors have gone and done standing-seam metal roofs, which are good for a lifetime and then some. So – metal roof, next year or the year after.
Following upon the roof will be replacing the windows, especially on the badly-weathered side of the house; likely that will also mean replacing some of the siding, which is also badly decayed in places. I had looked into doing new windows four or five years ago but didn’t have the funds to commit to it then. And that will wrap up the Five Year Plan, finally, to improve Chez Hayes.

In Iowahawk’s deathless phrase regarding the establishment press, “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.” Here it is a weekend and a couple of working days after the release of the notorious and long-awaited FISA memo, and the relatively conservative side of the blogosphere is still happily chewing it over. Doubtless the professional national media wishes the whole matter would just go away already, just because. Frankly, the whole matter reminds me of the swiftboat veterans and the matter of John Kerry’s service in Vietnam.

For weeks before the mainstream establishment media deigned to notice the whole kerfuffle, the blogosphere was a-bubble with discussions of how Kerry had gamed his tour in Vietnam and made his political bones afterwards by being prominent anti-war protestor – to the disgust of those who had served with him. (As an officer and gentleman, Kerry looks to have been an unlovely combination of Frank Burns and a grown-up Eddie Haskell.) And the establishment national media desperately put their fingers in their ears and sang la-la-la-la, no doubt wishing passionately that the whole thing would go away … but it didn’t. Eventually, they had to come to grips with the fact John Kerry’s comrades during his truncated tour of duty felt they had been maligned and insulted by his subsequent antics. The media did manage to twist the phrase ‘swiftboating’ into having another meaning entirely, but it didn’t win Kerry the White House, so we got off lucky in that event.

The corrupting of the FBI is a hundred times worse than John Kerry’s cynical attempts at burnishing his military service for higher office, in my opinion. He was, is, and remains a tone-deaf, clueless fool, notable for charmless ineptitude, a legend in his own mind. The weaponizing of a national crime-investigating agency against a political opponent is a far more serious affair. Here we have a shady oppo-research outfit, working up a bespoke but unproven suit of slime, paid for by partisan political interests, passing it surreptitiously to friends in the establishment media … and to the FBI, to use as justification for spying on a political opponent’s campaign. This is the kind of scummy political shenanigans which distinguishes Third World banana republics, where the president-for-life’s cousin owns the biggest newspaper/television station in the country, and his brother-in-law runs the national police force, and no one, by god, had better get in the way of the president-for-life’s stranglehold on the body politic. The parties who enabled this whole sordid farrago have got to be brought to account – and brought to account in a manner that stings, and demonstrates to the public that there are penalties to be paid for reducing this proud republic to the level of some third world hellhole.

As long as we are still talking about this, blogging about it, commenting on the mainstream media’s comment threads, passing around the word on social media, the issue is still on the table. The national establishment media may wish like hell that it would all go away, but as long as we still have the soap-box, the ballot box and the other boxes … we cannot let this matter pass. Discuss.

A discussion at According to Hoyt this last week developed from a long look the recent so-called “woman’s march”; an event which appeared to really be an open-air scream therapy session for a certain subset of the human population. They had the opportunity to mingle with others of their ilk, dress up in pink hats and vagina costumes and inform the rest of the world (yet again) of their acute unhappiness that Hillary, the Dowager Duchess of Chappaqua, formerly known as Her Inevitableness had not been able to win an election rigged in her favor, and that Donald Trump was currently the President of the United States. MS Hoyt speculated on what, exactly, the protesters were on about; what rights were imperiled, exactly? What did all the feel-good, content-free slogans have to do with anything in the lives of real, live women and men working for a living? And how did dressing up as an anatomically sort-of-correct vagina have to do with anything, in the real world. And in the long run, weren’t such pointless demonstrations of hysteria actually counter-productive, in that genuine misogynists would point to them as proof positive that women were too flighty, too emotional, to damn silly to manage anything, let alone their own lives.

Following on these ruminations, the comment thread wandered this way and that, as threads with three or four hundred comments (or even more) tend to do, until a regular commenter who goes by the nickname of “Kirk” posted:

“Go back and look at all the really base things which used to be said, and then compare that to the actual things going on today, and the behaviors endemic to many of the so-called minority groups. I swear to God, it’s like someone has sat down with a list, and said to their people “OK, we’re gonna make things look like those old-time racists and misogynists were absolutely right.”

In this bright, shiny, barely driven-off-the-car-lot new century, women are seen by the professional feminist class as easily-offended, fragile, put-upon delicate snowflakes, too fine, pure and noble to endure the rough and tumble of academia and the working world, and certainly too fragile to administer a withering rebuke when offended. Taking instant offense and cherishing grudges as if they were delicate orchids have been raised to a high art. This, if the women perpetuating this kind of thing stopped to consider the implications and possible outcome – will lead to nowhere good. (It likely already has led to nowhere good as far as the dating scene goes, for the girls who treat guys like dirt … and then complain there are no good men out there.) What intelligent person, male or female, will want to have anything beyond the bare minimum required to do with a hysterical, vengeful, grudge-nurturing woman in an academic or a business setting? Hire one of these women, or promote to a position of authority? Not if you are a sane business owner. As Kirk put it in another comment, “The feminists are trying to persuade the rest of us that women truly are too fragile and flighty to be out in public, and they can’t even grasp the final implications of their acts and goals.”

The professional feminist class mucking it up for women in general is bad enough, damaging enough, but the other part of what Kirk mentioned is something that I have wondered about for years; the racism angle. How damaging can it be for the African-American minority, that the black urban culture is everything that the most virulent 19th century racists accused Negroes of being; hyper-violent, sex-obsessed, ignorant, brutal, and incapable of being civilized. And here the same elements of violence, sex-obsession, willful ignorance, and brute force, are all glorified in contemporary black urban culture, in the name of ‘keeping it real.’ The KKK, or what is left of them, hardly have to bother with burning crosses or organizing lynch mobs any more, not when the urban black population has taken over donning their own chains. Your thoughts?

18. January 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

As a matter of fact, the pantry closet is for one, not lamentable. It’s about the size of an old-fashioned telephone booth, and my daughter kindly saw to sorting out several weeks ago while I was nurturing what I hope was a light case of the current flu. Yes, we have a decades-worth supply of bottled BBQ sauces and condiments, and an equally substantial collection of pastas and dried beans, all now neatly arranged on the shelves, not that pictures of the results would get hundreds or thousands of likes on Instagram from what seems to be a sub-culture of women obsessed with neat pantries full of things in matching designer containers.
Look, I go for function – if I can find what I’m looking for in my pantry without thirty feet of rope, and one of those safety helmets with a miner’s light attached – it’s good. And such is now the case, although I do wonder what on earth I was were thinking of, when we ended up with two bottles of Fisher and Weiser Roasted Blueberry Chipotle sauce. I guess we thought it would be as good as the raspberry version … but seriously, dark blue sauce?
It was the freezer which I kept delaying doing a good clean-out, until this week. It was packed, every shelf with … stuff. Those disapproving articles published or posted here and there, chiding Americans for wasting however many pounds it is of edible food that we are currently wasting? I just threw out my share this week. This is really the only aspect of housekeeping where I have always fallen short; raw kitchen scraps like potato and carrot peelings go to the chickens, used tea leaves, eggshells, and scraps like onion peelings unsuitable for the chickens go into the compost bin … but the freezer is where leftovers of cooked foods in Rubbermaid containers go until they are ready to be thrown out – freezer-burned, covered with frost, dried out or just plain unidentifiable. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Good thing it has been bitterly cold this week, so the unidentified frozen blocks of … whatever … did hot have a chance to ripen into a substance which would gag a maggot at fifteen paces while waiting for the CPS trash collection truck had a chance to come and carry them away.
So – herewith my belated resolution for the new year; to make a dedicated effort to freeze leftovers, and on the following day to vacuum-seal, label, and date them. The vacuum-sealer is a great invention, BTW – essentially, what this does is to transform leftovers or extra portions of things into a home-made ‘boil in a bag’ entrée; fantastic for things like soups and sauces. Other things, like enchiladas and mac-n-cheese, I can put into a plastic bag, freeze to shape in the casserole dish that they will eventually be cooked in, and vacuum-sealed after they are hard-frozen. Next week – if still cold; the garage deep-freeze, of which nothing much will need to be thrown out, as most of it is vacuum-sealed already. And that was my week, cleaning out the house freezer because it was too freaking cold outside. What about yours?

So, there has always been a tension existing between city folks and country folks; the tale of the city mouse and the country mouse being an example. Then there are all those jokes about the city slicker and the country bumpkin, the effete city dweller and the down-to-earth country folk, the books, movies and television series painting the city as a glamorous yet spiritually and physically unhealthy place, the country being dull, desperately boring, backwards, even a bit dangerous … all in the spirit of good fun, mostly. But now we have a new and malignant version, and there is nothing at all fun about it. Here we have the bicoastal enclaves, all drawn as the glamorous and fabulously wealthy, sensitive and with-it woke folks … and then you have the flyover country in between, filled with – as the bicoastal see it – with those hateful, stupid looser deplorables, clinging to their guns, and religion, and hating on all those with darker skins.

The example linked early this week by everyone from Rantburg to Instapundit is perhaps sadly illustrative, even though it does date from a year ago: Tech Founder: Middle America Is Too ‘Violent, Stupid And Racist’ For New Jobs. (As it turns out, the referenced tech founder is one Melinda Byerley, whose company seems to consist of a rather pleasant-looking yet cookie-cutter website, and her business may be just one of those one- or -two person consulting agencies.) Still, the hatred is rather jolting, especially when combined with the sheer bigoted ignorance on previous display. It looks like her original post has been memory-holed, which belatedly says something for Ms Byerley’s business sense, or at least her awareness that there have been a lot of enterprises and individuals who have, in fact, legged it from the cultured, cosmopolitan and tolerant bicoastal regions for the supposedly violent, ill-educated and bigoted hinterlands.

This is not a good development, this mutual loathing – and it has just gotten worse over the last year. It’s not in the spirit of the city cousin and the country cousin having a friendly joshing of each other; it’s outright hatred and condescension from the bicoastal, from their higher perches in management, government, the media and the educational edifices – sentiments heartily returned by the residents of Flyoverlandia. The despising by Flyoverlandites was not heard quite as strongly, perhaps because those sentiments were – with a single exception – broadcast at somewhat lower decibels; on blogs, and in comment sections, and reported only by those media experts sympathetic to their woes and grievances. The exception of course, was the unseen groundswell popularity of Donald Trump in the last presidential campaign, and his election to the highest office in the land – to the absolute horror of people like Ms Byerley and other bicoastal elites. In addition to being hated for all our other shortcomings, we are despised for having elected him – and for that, we likely will never be forgiven.
Just for fun – a pair of graphics – Trumpland and the Clinton Archipelago. Whither Trumpland, and the Clinton Archipelago, now? Discuss.

09. January 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Media Matters Not, Politics

“All Norfolk need do is sign that paper and treason will have been committed…”
“Then let him sign it, and let it all be done.” – from the movie Elizabeth

Every couple of days, I look at the Trump-bashing headline stories on various news sources that I follow, and I think … nah, they can’t possibly top this, for spittle-flecked, screaming, chew-through-the-restraints insane rage. Yet within days – yep; topped, and topped again. I have never seen such spittle-flying rage against an American president, and I am old enough to remember the animus against Nixon, and especially Johnson. I was only in my early teens, and a serious consumer of the LA Times (back when it was a substantial newspaper), yet the sustained abuse of Johnson on every aspect of his person and character (both real and imagined) was so unbelted that I actually rather felt sorry for the man. Knowing of his faults then and later, much criticism of him was richly deserved, but the especially vile stuff, I think we could have all done without. Honest criticism can be done without the spittle-flecked irrational rage, although in the Age of Trump such clinical detachment seems again to have dropped even farther out of fashion.

Where was I, before diverted into ‘60’s nostalgia? Oh, yes – the latest Trump Flapperoo; the book by one Michael Wolff, alleged to be an account of the chaotic goings on in the early days of the Trump administration, as observed by Mr. Wolff. Although his resemblance to Dr. Evil is about the most remarkable thing about him, Mr. Wolff is alleged to be a reporter, who taped hours of interviews and observed much during the time that he had extensive access to the White House. However, a substantial portion of those quoted do not recall ever saying anything like what Mr. Wolff has attributed to them, and dispute his accounts of other matters. As the linked story points out, “… the way that Wolff’s account is written makes it impossible for readers to discern if Wolff was actually there or is recreating conversations based on interviews with unnamed sources.” Or to put it bluntly – if he has just made stuff up.

The key thing is that much of the media and the desperately anti-Trumpers want to believe Mr. Wolff; fake but accurate, to resurrect the thinking during the great GW Bush/Texas Air National Guard memo fiasco. The more rabid anti-Trumpites wanted so badly to believe in the stupidity/insanity/malignity of Donald Trump that many of them fell, hook, line, and sinker for the Gorilla Channel spoof attributed to Mr. Wolff’s book. Just too delicious a tidbit to be skeptical, which raises the distinct possibility of much of the rest being just too delicious and conformational to be skeptical about.

And why did such a reporter have such far-ranging access to the White House anyway? Did someone at the highest levels decide – as it was put in the movie quote above – to let Michael Wolff and his allies in the anti-Trump run free and make credulous fools of themselves with shoddy and incredibly biased reporting? Has the Wolff book and it’s rapturous reception been an epic trolling of the establishment media? If so, should we crown whoever thought of this as the Lord Galactic Troll now … or wait a decent interval. Discuss.

03. January 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Literary Good Stuff, Luna

The next Luna City installment will be called A Half Dozen of Luna City – and herewith a snippet of one of the stories.)

Five Men and a Baby
“The whole thing came up at the last minute,” Joe Vaughn groaned. He sat at one of the picnic tables out in back of the VFW, while a mild spring breeze stirred the leaves of the monumental sycamore tree overhead. Sitting in a monumental car-seat/baby carrier/rocker set on the table top, the infant Little Joe sucked on his tiny pink fist and regarded those gathered for guest night with eyes which had already gone as dark as blackberries. “I’ve been subpoenaed to testify in a court case – Monday in San Antonio. Not in Karnesville, which would be a walk in the park. God knows how long the trial will drag on; guarantee I’ll be sitting on my ass in the Bexar County courthouse for a week, at least.”
“I don’t see what the problem is,” replied Richard, sitting across from Joe and nursing a very respectable ale produced by a local small brewer. Really, he reflected privately – there were subtle advantages to this place, which no one coming from the outside would ever have considered. It was guest night at the VFW; he was enjoying the ale, and the company of Joe, Berto, Chris, Sylvester Gonzalez, and Jerry Walcott.
Joe sighed, heavily for dramatic effect. “Baby-sitting, Ricardo. Jess is away at the Methodist women’s retreat as of yesterday – until next Sunday.”
“So?” Richard sank another satisfying draft of ale and ventured a friendly wink at Little Joe – who merely chomped again on his baby fist and scowled in reply.
“Everyone – that is, every one of our female kin is also on that same retreat,” Joe answered glumly. “Every single one of them. Even Miss Letty – she would advise me as to who would be a good fill-in. Pat and Araceli chose this weekend for a get-away to the coast for some relaxation, or I would ask them. Look, guys – this is Jess and mine own first-born child. Handing him off to strangers, or giggly teenagers for a week is just not an option.”
“Tell me about it,” Richard acknowledged in a morose tone of voice. Beatriz and Blanca were filling in adequately, as far as front of the house service went – between giggling, and Robbie Walcott helped out at the back – but dammit, this was a disruption to his routine! Richard did not welcome disruptions, or handle them gracefully when they occurred.
“What about your parents?” Berto Gonzales asked, in a tone of voice which suggested an attempt at being helpful.
“Off on a Caribbean cruise,” Joe replied, dolefully. “They flew out yesterday – not back until two weeks.” He fetched up a deep sigh, from the very core of his being. “Screwed, blued and tattooed, guys. I need a babysitter for Little Joe … else I am taking him into the Bexar County Courthouse every day, and giving him to the bailiff to hold, when I am called to the witness stand.”
“What’s the problem with that?” Berto asked, in genuine curiosity, and Joe sighed again.
“Look – the bailiffs aren’t there to do that job. And anyway – have you seen the stuff you have to take along with a baby? They search everything. It will take me half the day just to get through security at the courthouse alone. God – think of the bugs that he would be exposed to! Just from being in that old building, with all those people! He’s too young to be exposed to all those viral cruds; kindergarten is soon enough.”
“They’re so small,” mused Sylvester, dapper in his usual retro-nerd wardrobe – today a pair of classic chinos and a fetching short-sleeved aloha shirt printed with images of palm trees, surfers and pineapples. “Babies, I mean – but all their stuff! It takes up so much space!”
“Tell me about it,” Joe grunted. Under the table was a diaper and sundries bag the size of a small steamer trunk.
“We could take care of him for you, Joe,” Jerry Walcott was home in Luna City for the weekend; a gentle and competent late-twenty-something, who worked as a nurse at the Karnesville Medical Center. “Seriously,” Jerry added, in serene response to the skeptical looks on the faces of the other men at the table. “I did my last rotation in pediatrics. It’ll be a gas to look after a healthy kid. Serious, you guys.”
“I can help, Berto offered. “It’s spring break. I gotta help Papi at the garage during the day, though.”
“I’m done at the Tip-Top ‘bout half-past five every evening,” Chris ventured, thoughtfully. “And Ricardo – you’re free in the afternoons, aren’t you?”
“Well…” Richard temporized. “I’m busy at the Café from about five in the morning until after lunch.”
“We can do it in shifts,” Sylvester pulled out a small spiral notebook. “When are you done at the hospital, Jerry?”
“Six AM,” Jerry replied, and Richard protested, “Look, chaps – I don’t know anything about caring for infants. I’ve barely worked up to having a cat…”
“Nothing to it,” Jerry answered. “Bottle at one end, clean diapers at the other, keep them from being too hot or too cold…”
“A piece of cake, as long as I don’t confuse one end with the other,” Richard meant to sound derisive, but both Berto and Jerry were impervious to sarcasm, and in any case, Sylvester was already mapping out a schedule.
“Ok, five of us – we can cover the baby-sitting duties round the clock. Four hours and forty-five minutes each – no sweat.”
In the space of five minutes and another round of drinks, Sylvester had worked out a rotation, while Jerry gave a swift demonstration of applying a bottle to the appropriate end of Little Joe and a diaper (accompanied by hygienic wipes and sticky white diaper-rash ointment) to the other. Berto and Sylvester volunteered to spend their nights at Joe and Jess’s house for their shifts – “Hey, the kid can sleep nights in his own bed, ‘kay?”. At around 6:30, when Jerry got home from the hospital, he would take Little Joe for nearly five hours. Then – it would be Richard’s turn, for the afternoon, until Chris finished at the Tip-Top. The plan had Chris delivering Little Joe home to Sylvester and Berto after supper, to begin the whole cycle again. Still, Joe’s expression as he looked around the table, and regarded his offspring was one torn between gratitude and worry.
“I owe you guys,” he confessed at last. “But I dunno about handing him around like a hot potato. I mean, Jess will have a conniption fit…”
“Babies thrive on the stimulation,” Jerry said. “And doesn’t Jess take him with her, when does her client consultations?”
“Yes, but …”
“I don’t see the difference,” Jerry said. “If he’s used to it, he probably likes it.”
Richard had a feeling that Joe didn’t precisely agree – but in the face of a workable solution, he had no other choice.
“We’ll start on Monday,” Sylvester folded away his notebook, after writing down a copy of the schedule for everyone else. “Any questions?”
Richard briefly considered asking for release from the rota – but then he considered Little Joe, and his own long-term plans to inculcate an appreciation for good food into a younger generation – and really, how much younger could you get than a six-month old? This merited careful consideration, but when he asked it of the table, both Jerry and Joe laughed.
“At this age? Rice cereal, and not much of it,” Jerry replied, and Joe snorted.
“Mother’s milk. No – really. The fridge is full – Jess began stocking up weeks ago.”
“Moth – oh, I see,” Richard considered that he had already looked enough of an idiot in front of the others; best now enjoy the weekend, before flinging himself into the baby-minding rota.

He had nearly forgotten about it all – or at least, shoved the trepidations to the farthest and most neglected corner of his mental attic, when the Café’s door opened and shut to a musical jingle, and Jerry appeared, with the baby – a tiny pink-faced morsel dwarfed by a monumental stroller. Richard could verily swear that he had seen smaller motorcycle sidecars. The enormous necessity bag was stowed at the back of the stroller. With some difficulty, Jerry maneuvered it through the dining room and into the kitchen. Richard was there alone; Robbie and the girls having capably dealt with the with the most immediate pressing post-lunch-rush chores.
“Here we are!” Jerry announced. “Little Joe is all ready to spend quality time with Unca Richard.” He almost succeeded in concealing a yawn. “He’s already had his midday bottle – you’ll want to give him another just before five. It’s in the side pocket of his ditty-bag with an ice-pack to keep cold. Just warm it up before you give it to him. Blood warm is about the right temperature. Remember, how I showed you how to hold him for feeding? Yeah, that. Remember to burp him, when he’s done – and check his diaper, too – he’ll probably poop again, just to make room for the fresh intake.”
“What do I do with the little … little tyke until then?” Richard demanded. He had almost made himself forget his promised child-minding obligation.”
“No idea,” Jerry yawned again. “Talk to him. Play simple games, pay attention to him, stimulate his imagination. That is, when he isn’t sleeping, eating, or pooping. Use your own … sorry … imagination. See you tomorrow, the same time. Chris will take over from you at five-thirty.” Upon delivering this dispiriting intelligence, Jerry took himself out the door – the bell chiming musically. Little Joe and Richard looked at each other.
“Goosh,” commented Little Joe, blowing a spit-bubble. It sounded philosophical; neither hostile or overly-affectionate.
“The same to you, my little man,” Richard replied. Well, that took care of the social niceties. “Look, sport – you’re a little young to become a kitchen apprentice. And I’m told that … well, you aren’t quite old enough to start cultivating a sophisticated palate. How about just keeping me company while I prep for tomorrow?”
“Goob-gurgle,” replied Little Joe with perfect amiability.
“Right then,” Richard said, and fetched one of the three high-chairs from the front of the house, setting it up next to the big all-purpose table which served as prep-space. Summoning up all of his nerve and silently sending up a prayer to the heavens that he not inadvertently damage the little sprout in any way, shape or form – since Joe and Jess between them had the capacity and will to inflict horrific damage on anyone who harmed a single one of the barely-visible hairs on the head of their tiny offspring – he lifted Little Joe from the stroller and settled him into the high chair. Regarding his handiwork, Richard thought the infant was sagging a little too far to one side in the chair – which would accommodate a much larger child. A pair of small cushions wedged in on either side of Little Joe did the trick. The two of them regarded each other solemnly across the worktable, and Richard continued his prepping for the following day’s business.
“Cinnamon rolls,” Richard ventured. “It’s cinnamon rolls for tomorrow.”
“Goo-goosh!” commented Little Joe, and Richard was heartened. Didn’t Jerry advise talking to the little sprout? Stimulate his development, or some such child-rearing mumbo-jumbo. “They’re a mainstay at the Café, don’t you know – well, you should. I think your Mum had one every morning. So – here’s the dough for them. Been rising in the warmer for a couple of hours. Now, this is the mixture that goes onto the dough, once I have patted it out just so. Light on the flour, by the way…” he continued in this vein, as if he were explaining and training a new apprentice, as he worked the dough with the expertise of long practice, and the yeasty odor of newly-risen dough filled the workspace. Little Joe was even drooling a bit. “Pity you’re just not old enough for a taste,” Richard commiserated. “Never mind, young-chappie-my-lad; soon enough, soon enough.”

01. January 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Fun With Islam, Iran, Media Matters Not

Which, naturally, we are hearing little about from our Dear National News Media. This article explains why.

I see by another link on Insty Saturday afternoon that the United Airlines- Sheila Jackson Lee flap has not quite faded away – much as MS Jackson Lee, AKA ‘the Queen’ or ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee likely wishes it would. I surmise that this bit of congressional bad behavior is still rattling the newshounds and the commentariat for several reasons. The first of these is that ‘Cruella’ is one of the dumber members of Congress. (The honor of the dumbest must go to Hank “Guam Might Tip Over!” Johnson, of whom it might rightfully said – stealing a paraphrase from the late Molly Ivins about another spectacularly dumb career politician – “Lose any more IQ points, and his staff might have to put him in a pot in the corner and water him three times a week.”) But there’s more! ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee has been acknowledged hands down for many years as the rudest and most abusive boss on Capitol Hill.

For extra points, her award-winning awfulness is not reserved for members of her staff, but has been spread around pretty freely during her decades in public life and aimed at just about anyone who has the misfortune to draw her ire, judging by comments on the various stories posted about her, over the years. Abusive, rude, demanding, and free with accusations of racism are her calling cards; as well as true to form in demanding an upgrade to first class on the spot from United. As a frequent flyer between Washington and Houston, ‘Cruella’ has been notorious for appalling public behavior, a reputation dating to her very first days in Congress, according to this 1998 local article. My guess is that the United management sensibly wanted to avoid yet another ghastly public scene and took the easy way out, but with such resounding customer-relations ineptitude that they managed to make a potentially sticky situation several degrees worse.

Yes, booting another flying customer out of the seat she had paid for, with frequent-flyer miles rather than cash in hand, in favor of Queen Cruella, and then treating that customer in a demeaning and insulting manner – well, really, that does trip the trigger of flying customers everywhere. United rightfully should take some lumps for crappy customer service in this. Not many of the traveling public have experienced the indignity of sharing a Houston/DC or DC/Houston flight with Queen Cruella, but lots of us have had the experience of a stupendously bad airline flight. OK – so, flying now is like an intercity bus with wings. Crammed in, treated like cattle by security before the flight, treated like cattle during it, thrown a measly packet of pretzels or nuts, and a soft drink, perhaps the chance to pick up a cold sandwich on our way in … it’s become an unpleasant experience, which the public puts up with because a basic airline ticket is relatively cheaper than it was in the Golden Days of Yore when it comes to airline travel. That is the game, much as we regret the courtesies and luxuries available in the Golden Days of Yore.

We paid through the nose for those benefits then, and are still able to pay for an upgraded seat in First Class if we are still inclined, using cash or air miles. All to the good, having the means of obtaining a degree of lessened awfulness. A more comfortable seat, additional courtesy from the cabin staff, a higher- quality meal … and then to have that all yanked away from you, for no particular reason than one of the Ruling Class wants your paid-for-seat for their careless last-minute convenience? And then to be calumniated as a racist upon objecting for this high-handed behavior? Well, yes – given the generally miserable flying experience lately, no wonder that coverage of this otherwise insignificant incident has legs. I shouldn’t be surprised if an additional motivation is suppressed resentment bubbling up from underneath; resentment by white Americans at being unfairly calumniated as racists and then informed by handsomely privileged members of the ruling and media class – like Queen Cruella herself – that such disparagement is deserved somehow because of our so-called white privilege. Discuss.

All well, then for the closing out of the year? For a couple of years running, I had a list of ‘stuff’ to do, and would tally up at the end of the year what I had managed to accomplish on the list – what I had done, and what I had left undone. Most of those stated goals have been done and dusted several turns of the Earth ago. The main one left unaccomplished is my ambition to become the Margaret Mitchell of the Texas Hill Country, and earn sufficient from the book-writing to buy my very own little patch of valley – say around Sisterdale – and build a modest country dreamhouse bungalow on it. That is more of a dream than a readily-achievable goal, so my breath on this is not held with any great conviction. I should work more social media in marketing my various books, as I was able to do in November and December, but I had two books out in those months, and I would really like to take a bit of time and care with further historical installments … any way, as far as the achievable goals are concerned –
The main one is to renovate the back porch. We tore down the existing rather flimsy structure, with the aim of putting on a more solid roof, and screening in the sides with hardware cloth to make a ‘catio’ – where my daughters’ cats can live. And sleep, and eat, romp to their hearts content, and piss on stuff that doesn’t matter. We have a lovely design worked out, and Roman, the local handy-guy is keen to make it a veritable Disneyland for cats, with ramps, shelves, rope-wound columns for them to climb on, hammocks and hidey-holes … all of which can be cleaned off by a spritz with the garden hose. Roman has more business doing handy-guy stuff than he can shake a stick at, these days. He lives in the neighborhood himself, does splendid work and gets even more work by word of mouth reference.

The second goal is to do the patch of front garden to the left of the driveway – Miss Irene, our next-door-neighbor, an elderly and long-time resident of the neighborhood, now has a near relation (along with one of her grandsons) now staying at her house. Myron, the near relation, is keen to set up a small neighborhood yard-maintenance business. He wants to use the embarrassingly-neglected patch of my front yard as a sample garden and advertising for his business. It’s a piece about 15 x thirty, and it used to look nice, until the butterfly bushes all died, and a species of scraggly purple ruelia took over. It’s also right at a corner where practically everyone coming through the neighborhood stops and turns right to go farther into the neighborhood. We have a handshake agreement with Myron; I’ll buy or scrounge materials, he’ll do the same, I’ll buy or supply plants and come up with a design, and he’ll do the work.

I’m also doing his business cards and flyers, and when the garden patch is done, there’ll be a discrete little sign, referring admirers to his business. He and Miss Irene’s grandson are all gung-ho for this project. This will reap benefits for us both; Myron will have his perfect little patch of garden-services advertising, I will have a perfect little patch of suburban garden, and hopefully, Myron will be doing a ton of business on the basis of it. We have already introduced Myron to Roman, and they got on like a house on fire, being of much the same hard-working and perfectionist character. This is a neighborhood – our little patch of suburban paradise, which gets along perfectly well on the lubrication of personal acquaintance and references.

The third project will be to sort out the garage, and replace the garage door. At least a quarter of the sorting out was done when I had to replace the hot water heater, and throw out all the stuff that had been ruined by soaking in water leaking from the unit. But there is still stuff that needs to be sorted, and if required, pitched. Much of it is my daughters’- but the expense of replacing the door itself will be mine. I hope that at least two of these projects can be completed by next year – but not holding my breath on the third.

I swear, I have no idea why the denizens of celebrity-world are going nuts lately. The distinct possibility is that most of them were always nuts, and I – despite once having had a nice collection of subscriptions to publications like Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, and Rolling Stone, and a mild and mostly professional interest in the entertainment field generally – managed to not notice the frothing waves of insanity emanating from the world of popular entertainment … since … Well, I think some entertainment figures began to go nuts about a decade ago, but in the last year it’s been … OMG, are these people allowed out without a keeper?
And this was before Pervenado, and the revelation to the wider public that apparently just about every big producer, star, or media figure in a position of authority is a sex-crazed perv who cannot keep their nasty hands off lower-level staff or prospective employees. Well, it wasn’t like the existence of the casting couch was that big a secret, but still …

No, I speak this morning of the manner in which a wide variety of media personalities and performers who once appeared to know that sales of their movie tickets, their personal appearances, concerts – all of that, which were based on personal popular appeal, or at least, not kicking the larger audience in the teeth by bringing in matters political/social to front and center. It’s a sad thing for me, to recall that once I thought Rosie O’Donnell was funny and basically harmless. She had the single funniest line ever in A League of the Own which was a slam on Madonna – richly deserving of it in several ways, even back then. So was Janeane Garofalo, too – and a whole raft of other entertainment figures, until Bush derangement took them up to the edge. Now in the last year or so, sheer frothing Trump-hate pushed them over, and it is not a pretty sight at all.
Trump-hate has turned them deranged. Seriously – no other word for this quite fits. Seriously, I cannot figure it – because until two years ago, he was one of them! A grade-C celebrity, a buffoonish caricature, kind of larger than life, a bit (OK, a lot! )vulgar, seemingly pretty competent as a big-city real estate developer – but otherwise, one of them. He went to their weddings, was a habitué of the places familiar to the big-city celebrity class, appeared to be a pretty representative social liberal of the moneyed urbanite class … and yet now appears to be The Worst Person In The World.
Looking at the entertainment news headlines over the last decade, it appears that only a few
entertainers are of a socio/politically conservative bent, or have the wit to keep such opinions to themselves on the sensible grounds of not wishing to piss off a good half of their potential audience.
Rosie O’Donnell has become a special case, in the last few days, by offering (via her Twitter feed) what appears to be a bribe to sitting officials. (more here, thanks to Ace of Spades HQ.) This goes beyond trash-talking. This offer can be, if one is inclined to take it at face value (and not as a ‘joke’ as Ms. O’Donnell will doubtless claim that it is) construed as an effort by a person of wealth and standing to peremptorily override the votes of those elected to carry out the wishes of ordinary citizens. This is a serious business, as Ms. O’Donnell’s legal adviser may be reminding her over this weekend. Yes – us ordinary voters are extraordinarily humor-deficient when it comes to having our elected officials bribed and threatened by the wealthy and connected, miffed at not having their own political whims catered to. Discuss, if you can bear it.

19. December 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Luna

(This is … well, something of a sad story, which I began to write on December 7th. I drew on some things which my mother had told me, about her family’s saddest Christmas, in 1943, when her brother was posted as missing over Europe. The rest … well, I made it all up.)

Radio Silence
Adeliza Gonzalez-Gonzales – who was never called anything but ‘Adi’ back then – was just thirteen when her older brother Manuel – Manolo to the family, Manny to his Anglo friends – came to Papi and Mama and said to them, “Papi, I want to see more of the world than Karnes County, an’ at the Navy recruiting office, they say that I’ll get a paycheck nice and regular, and I can work on ship engines that are bigger than this house. Besides, everyone says if America gets into a war, then they’ll be drafting men my age, an’ I don’t wanna be a soldier, marching around in the mud and all that. The Navy lives good, and they say that the food is great. Can I have your permission, Papi?”

Mama got all pinch-faced and weepy, because Manolo was her favorite and oldest child. Papi sighed and looked solemn and grave, saying, “Manolo – mi hijo – if this is what you truly want, I will sign the papers.” To Mama, he added, “Do not cry, Estella, can you see your boy as a soldier, following orders?”

“But he still must follow orders – the navy is as military as the army,” Adeliza piped up, and Manolo jeered and replied, “Nothing like the same at all, Adi!”

So, Manolo packed a few things in a cheap cardboard suitcase, and climbed aboard the bus to the city, and in time over the next three years the postman delivered hastily-scrawled letters and postcards – letters with odd postmarks and postcards of splendidly colored landscapes and exotic places. Manolo came home on leave once, in the summer, splendid in his white uniform and round white cap, carrying a heavy duffel-bag over his shoulder with apparent ease, seeming to have expanded from a boy into a man. Manolo was greatly excited – his ship was being transferred from the west coast to the Hawaiian Islands. He brought presents for the family, a breath of fresh air and tales of travels in exotic far lands. He brought his little sister a scarf of silk gauze, printed with a map of the Hawaiian Islands and pineapples and exotic flowers. Adi put it in the chip-carved box where she kept her handkerchiefs and her most precious possessions. From that time on, a tinted picture-portrait of Manolo in his uniform sat in pride of place on the cabinet radio and Mama kept a candle burning before it always, a candle dedicated to Saint Peter, who had the particular care of sailors.

A winter Sunday morning, when the breeze from the north promised chilly nights, and the frost in the shade had not yet melted in the sunshine; Papa came to fetch Mama and Adi and the other children after morning Mass. Adi sensed that there was something wrong, even before Papi spoke. There was a particular grim expression on Papi’s face, a hush among the congregation scattering to their houses after Mass, a silence broken only by the tinny sound of the radio in Papi’s car.

“The Japanese have dropped bombs on the harbor, and our bases in Hawaii,” Papi said. “The war has begun, whether we wish it or no.”

“What of Manolo?” Mama demanded, her hands to her mouth in shock and horror. “Where is he? Is he safe?”

“I have no idea,” Papi replied, his eyes shadowed with fear. Adi said nothing. She was sixteen now, almost grown. She met Papi’s gaze with a silent nod of understanding.

Two days later a card came in the mail, from Manolo – on which Mama fell on with tears of joy. “You see!” she exclaimed. “He is safe – this letter is from him! All will be well, you will see!”

“Mama, the letter is postmarked the week before last,” Adi said, to Mama’s unheeding ears. A week later, a parcel bound in brown paper arrived, addressed in Manolo’s handwriting.

“Christmas presents!” Mama exclaimed, “From Manolo, of course. You see, he is safe – it is only rumors that he is missing, that telegram was mistaken.”

That Christmas and many Christmases afterwards were not happy occasions for Adi’s family – they were not happy until Adi married and had children of her own, to bury the memory of that first wartime Christmas.

“Yes, Mama,” Adi agreed with a heavy heart and a show of cheer, for the telegraph office messenger boy had brought that small envelope at mid-December. The telegram from the war office was followed in short order by Father Bertram, then the priest at St. Margaret and St. Anthony, who had seen the messenger boy’s bicycle pass the priest’s residence while Father Bertram was pruning the pyracantha hedge around the tiny garden. Everyone knew that telegrams meant bad news, now that the war had well and truly come to them, but Father Bertram’s intended consolation and comfort were misplaced, for Mama was not distressed in the least.

“In the government telegram, it says only that he is missing,” Mama insisted, over and over again. “Missing – not dead. In my heart, I know that Manolo is safe.” In the end, Father Bertram was the most sorely grieved of them all. He departed shaking his head and saying to Adi,

“Your poor dear mother – I can only think that the enormity of your loss has affected the balance of her mind.” Father Bertram’s Spanish was very bad, afflicted as he was with a very strong accent, reflecting many years as a missionary in the Argentine, so Adi was not entirely certain of what Father Bertram meant. She only smiled uncertainly. No, Mama had merely decided that Manolo was safe, and doing what he needed to be doing for the war effort, and would not hear any word to the contrary. Never mind that Manolo’s ship – the great battleship Arizona, whose engines Manolo had tended lovingly – had blown up with a roar that could have been heard half-way across the Pacific. There were pictures of the battleship, half-capsized in billowing clouds of black smoke in the weekly English newsmagazine. Poof! Like that, a candle blown out in a single breath and a thousand and a half lives snuffed out with it. It made Adi’s heart ache to think of this, and she wept, but not where Mama could see.

She did not even cry when Cousin Nando, and Cousin Jesus Gonzales and a half-dozen of the other teenage cousins came to Adi after Mass on Christmas Day, 1941, announcing that they had all sworn a blood-oath to avenge Manolo. Cousin Jesus had already had his orders to report to the Army, but the other boys were intent on volunteering for the Army, the Navy, the Marines even.

“So … we meant to ask you as Manny’ sister – if you would give us all a token,” Jesus Gonzales affirmed solemnly. “We pledge to avenge him by killing a dozen Japs each. Our solemnest promise, Adi!”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Adi snorted. Yes, of course she was angry at the Japanese – for killing her gentle brother Manolo, who only lived to get grease all over his hands and work on his engines until they were tuned and vibrated like the beating of a human heart. And they had attacked without warning, without a declaration of war, which to Adi’s understanding, was sneaky and unfair. But Jesus Gonzales, who was dark-eyed, lean, and handsome like a movie star, looked at her soulfully and begged again, until she relented.

“Give me a moment.”

She went into her parent’s house – the house in the oldest part of town, into her room, and took out the chip-carved box with her most precious small things in it, considering a sacrifice of the map of the Hawaiian Islands and the pictures of a tower and exotic flowers, and blue waves crashing on a white-sand shore, the scarf which had been a gift from Manolo. No, not that. She took instead another of her handkerchiefs, a pretty white cotton gauze handkerchief, printed with little blue flowers and green leaves, and the sewing shears from Mama’s sewing basket.

Out on the front porch, she met the cousins – dark-eyed romantic Jesus, hot-tempered Nando, and the others. “My token, that which you have asked for,” Adi said, as she crunched the scissor blades through the crisp-starched handkerchief; producing a dozen smaller squares, and struggled for something to say as she put them into the hands of that boy or this, thinking that this was absurdly like something from the old legends, or the movies on a flickering silver screen. She struggled for the right words. “Not in hate … Manolo didn’t hate, for he didn’t want to be remembered that way. But for the right, for justice and freedom, and for our people. For Manolo …” she lost the thread of her thoughts entirely, for Jesus and Nando reverently kissed the scraps of handkerchief as they were handed to them, and so did the other boys.

“Write to me?” Asked Jesus, at the last. “Promise, Adi!”

They all went off, in the following weeks, all with their small cheap suitcases packed, taking the weekly bus that was the only public transport then from Luna City to the wider world, and to the duty and colors which called them. Cousin Nando became a pilot, Jesus a cook with the Army, the others to service mundane or heroic as chance and temperament let them. Adi Gonzales was certain that every one of them took that little square of cotton handkerchief, printed with blue flowers.

Jesus Gonzales certainly did, for it was one of those small things which she found at the end in sorting out his things, after half a century of faithful marriage; a cotton scrap, discolored with age, so fragile that it practically fell apart in her hand as she took it out from his wallet.

But Mama … no, Mama never took it to heart that Manolo was gone from the world of the living. Against all evidence to the contrary – the telegram from the government, that Manolo never came home again, she insisted that he was alive and well, doing his patriotic duty for the war, still working in the engine-room of the battleship Arizona. Mama was first to the telephone – the telephone that was almost the first in Luna City in the household of Gonzales or Gonzalez, certain every time that it was Manolo calling, long-distance. The war dragged on, and even when it ended – and the next began – Mama smilingly assured Adi and the family, their friends that Manolo was fine and happy in his work. For she had seen him frequently – or his likeness, in pictures of sailors on one ship or another, on shore leave, or in the newsreels show in the theater in Karnesville. Mama did not allow the star on the flag which hung in the front window of their house to change from white to gold, and there was a wrapped gift under the tree for Manolo for many Christmas mornings to come. Now and again, Mama said that she had talked to someone who had seen Manolo. In her later years, Mama even insisted that she had spoken with Manolo, on the telephone. Even in her final illness, she had opened her eyes one afternoon, and said to Adi – perfectly clear –

“There is nothing to worry about, mi hija. Manolo has left insurance, to take care of us all.”

Some years after both Mama and Papi passed away, Adi’s first cousin Roman and his wife celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary with a trip to Hawaii. Roman and Conchita went to the Arizona Memorial, and surreptitiously left a bouquet of fragrant white plumeria flowers floating on the water – water still streaked with oil leaking from Manolo’s ship, iridescent streaks which the locals said were the tears of the ship, crying for her lost crew. Roman and Conchita also went to the Punchbowl Cemetery – they brought back pictures. Adi is certain that Manolo is buried there, among the unknowns from the Arizona. After all this time, it hardly matters, really. But she likes to think of him, the strong young sailor in his white uniform, with his hands and fingernails from which the oil and grime of working engines would never quite be cleaned. She likes to think of him, walking among the palm trees and the plumeria and frangipani scenting the tropic air, the blue water and white foam, crashing on a sugar-white strand.

Now and again, Adeliza Gonzales-Gonzalez, who has not been called ‘Adi’ in years thinks she has seen Manolo, in a magazine picture accompanying some story to do with the Navy, or a sailor half-glimpsed in a television newscast. She is very careful not to say anything about this, of course.

Well, this has been a festival of tantrums, has it not? What with ISIS/ISIL/Whatever is now huffing and puffing, threatening to blow our Christmas cottage down, and to execute President Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. Might have some luck with some sub-normally-intelligent specimen of Muslim humanity with delusions of adequacy walking into a public place with a badly-constructed pipe-bomb, but looking on the most recent fearless lone-wolf jihadi warrior, who only managed to semi-eviscerate himself in trying to blow up … which reminds me, have the usual suspects begun winging on about the anti-Muslim backlash which, miraculously, never seems to descend? I’ve been sick as a dog all week with a seasonal cold, so it might have actually happened, and I never noticed. Meanwhile, the Palestinians and their fellow-traveler-symps in the Western world have declared another day of rage with regard to President Trump following through on the ever-so-tentative concept agreed upon by how many previous administrations – that the US embassy in Israel should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Cue the day of pique, anger, rage, frenzy, furor, indignation, and bluster … any day which ends in ‘y’ will suit for the pathetic Palestinians, exploited by other Arab nations for seventy years. Look, Pallies, this is what happens when you and your badly-chosen Arab allies loose wars repeatedly, persistently and without fail pick the wrong side in a conflict, choose thuggish leaders who take the sweet, sweet internationally-donated lolly and stash it in a Swiss bank account… and then turn around and blame your self-inflicted woes on the nearest handy target. Nope, sorry – the well of sympathy in me towards the Poor Prosecuted Palestinians went dry sometime around 9/11, or possibly when in the depths of one or another of the intifadas – committing, enabling, excusing all sorts of terrorist atrocities – their spokes-feeb took a breath and whined that everyone in the West regarded the Pallies as terrorists. There is that concept concerning cause and effect, ya know. Gaza could have been a garden and beach-leisure spot, cheerfully raking in Israeli tourist dollars over the last seventy years, but no … better to marinate in poisonous resentment. Again – this is what happens when you a) pick bad allies, b) lose wars, and c) blame everyone else but yourselves.

Meanwhile, the Pervnado churns on and on and on, with the latest accused MCP being Russell Simmons. Has any powerful male figure in the national news media, music, the movies, or any other establishment not been a complete pig when it comes to conduct, professional or otherwise with women; women he worked with, interviewed, or who had careers which they hoped he would enable through being nice to him, or at least not slapping him into the next county for demanding sexual services? Boundaries, ladies and gentlemen – are nice things to have, loudly to publicize and faithfully to observe. Note that no one has been snickering at VP Mike Pence lately, for being a woman-hating prude, in never yet being alone with a woman not his wife.

And finally, kudos to Sarah Huckabee Saunders, she of the thankless job of daily wrangling the White House press corps – a body which for the most part increasingly resembles a class of bitchy middle-school mean girls, with her as their homeroom teacher. Looks like a darned nice pecan pie too. A note to April Ryan, and Rosie O’Donnell, too – a pecan pie is not that hard to make, even if you make the crust from scratch.

(Note: A Fifth of Luna City is now up in both paperback and Kindle ebook. Lone Star Glory is, as of yet, only available in Kindle – the paperback version won’t be up until around the end of the year.)

03. December 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

… Is never done. Yes, I have been trying to fill out the note entries on my enormous spreadsheet of the American Revolution, with attention towards events and possible characters for the next Serious Historical Novel … but damn, I have a cat in my lap who is interfering with my typing and page turning … and Big Princess is not even MY cat. She is my daughter’s cat. (Why, why, why does she want to sit in MY lap when I am working at my computer. Sayeth the daughter – Because she wooves you. Not helping, sweetie…)

Tomorrow I expect to hear from a potential client with some extra paid work to be done, transcribing handwritten notes into a usable file. Yes, the book project is all but in the bag, but I cannot term him a client until the contract is signed and return, and the initial payment for work has been deposited. I also expect to hear from an editing client with his clarifications to his manuscript, which I must apply to his manuscript before doing the final pass-through edit and asking for final payment. Fortunately, this client has given every evidence of being pleased as punch with my efforts with regard to his memoir of an eventful childhood, so I have that going for me…

Today was a bit of a holiday between the event yesterday, and the potential work of the week. Saturday I was a participant in the last book event of my somewhat truncated year – the Book Corral in Goliad on Saturday, which went very well, especially in comparison with certain previous years wherein it was so cold that shoppers decamped early, swiftly followed by vendors concluding that there was nothing to be gained from hanging on, save death from exposure to bone-numbing cold. We ourselves packed up from Miss Ruby’s Author Corral at about 3 PM, knowing that once the doggie Christmas costume contest kicked off, that nothing much would be happening elsewhere along the square. This year, the Author Corral was again established in the forecourt of the Mustang Cantina, opposite a lovely little brick building which is set to become a boutique hotel, when interminable construction work is completed. Yes, the shale oil bidness has been good to Goliad; the historic courthouse square is now much spiffier in appearance then it was, back when I first did the Author Corral. Was it 2010, or 2011 – swift consult of my blog archives is inconclusive. One of those years, anyway. I so wish that I had been able to purchase the tiny silver single-action Army Colt with the cow-horn grips that one of the vendors – who had a whole display case of small silver replicas of fishing and hunting gear – all beautifully detailed and many of them workable. Alas, they all a bit pricy, and I never saw him again at subsequent events.

But anyway – I connected up with a good few fans of the books, including the woman who had paid for an advance copy of The Golden Road, and then when I lost her order form the next weekend – left me owing her a copy of my Gold Rush novel. Oddly enough, this time around, we sold two sets of the Luna City novels, which is only fair, since Goliad is one of the prime inspirations for Luna City itself.

And when we packed up and went away to walk the Square vendors, for a bit of Christmas shopping, I inadvertently left behind the bag with the striped bustle dress in it – since it turned so hot late in the day that I simply had to change. When we were about halfway through the circuit of the vendors on the Square, I was bitten several times on my left knee by a stray fire ant – what the hell? And now my knee is red and inflamed, and I kind of hope that I have another day to do my own thing tomorrow…

Seriously, I am stuck for a reaction to the news this week that both Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor have both been let go, with appropriate force, by their employers for sexual conduct unbecoming and unprofessional in the extreme with women in their respective workplaces. Earlier in the week it was howls for the heads of John Conyers and Al Franken, giving the impression of those gentlemen holding on to their congressional seats by their bare fingertips, while Cokie Roberts confesses that ‘everyone’ knew not to get into an elevator with Congressman Conyers. Jeez Louise, is there anyone in the higher levels of show business, the media and the government who isn’t a total woman-mauling pig? Anyone? And is there anyone in the media specifically charged with covering show biz and politics who isn’t complicit in covering these matters – with a pillow, until they stop moving, in the deathless phrase of Iowahawk? Can we afford to wait until our fearless media fifth-column representatives are cornered like a rat and forced to ‘fess up to deliberately looking the other way? Oh, and thanks, Cokie – for sitting on that bit of intelligence regarding sexual abuse on Capitol Hill. Just couldn’t bear to tear yourself away from the sweet, sweet source of social power in Capitol City, and face the prospect of never being invited to the good cocktail parties again, could you? Between you and Garrison Keillor, I feel like demanding a refund of every single dollar in pledges I ever made to public radio and television. I will keep the Blake’s 7 tee shirt and the La Madelaine cookbook, though. (The tee shirt is trashed, and the cookbook is pretty well-worn.)

Granted, the accusations – so fair – aimed at the lugubrious king of live variety show public radio seem rather thin, but the roundelay of accusation is still young as far as Garrison K. is concerned. I ought not to be taking such unseemly and unchristian satisfaction out of his embarrassment, since there seem to be less than half-a-dozen accusers on record in his case, but he has been so ugly regarding Republicans, conservatives, citizens of Flyoverlandia, and small rural towns in general over the last twenty years (or more), that I am more than happy to point, laugh, and privately make scurrilous jokes regarding the size of his gut and his genitalia. But the print intifada regarding Mr. Lauer and his workplace practices seems to be exhaustively documented … again, I say, “Oh, my.” Between those who played along, those who ran silently screaming – and those who knew but preferred not to share with the general public … is there anyone at the topmost levels of the media, show business or the government whose hands are not dripping with …ahem, certain bodily fluids?

Of course, this whole farrago can rightly be compared to the Salem witch trials, or even the great 1980s Satanic Day Care Scare, in that public hysteria mounted up and up, and the whole thing took on a ghastly life of it’s own – never mind that most, if not all of the accused in those cases were innocent, which doesn’t seem to be the case here. Public hysteria is never a pretty sight; even – and especially – if those involved in the whipping-up eventually express remorse and regret later, over having been carried away. Likely it will prove the same with this current round of national public hysteria. But I must confess that I find the spectacle of national establishments and industries who have spent the last twenty years (or more) lecturing ordinary Americans about our various failings (political, social, sexual and racial) being so thoroughly shamed. Discuss, if you can stop snickering long enough.

19. November 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Good Stuff

The last two weekends of scheduled marketing events, in anticipation of the Christmas holiday season … no, strike that – the last two weekends, and the marketing events in October as well – have just not produced the sales figures that my daughter and I had expected, based on previous leading-into-holiday events. The October events were supposed to fund the November and December events, but those anticipated sales just did not happen; one of them fell to inclement weather, another to plenty of people looking, but darned little buying. So we could not venture into things like Dickens on Main in Boerne, as we had planned, and we were too late for another go at Johnson City for the courthouse lighting, as we did last year. I was even too late to sign up for Saturday in the Author Hall at the New Braunfels Weihnachtsmarkt, and had to make do with Friday instead. While we did at least, recover the table fees and then a bit, it’s a lot of work and energy for very little return.

This is not just our judgement, but in commiserations with other vendors; they also experienced the same bafflement – plenty of shoppers at well-established and well-advertised event, not over-pricing the goods, we worked the crowd and engaged with shoppers, instead of sitting behind the table looking at our Kindles and iPads … but with disappointing results. We speculate that perhaps we have worked the weekly market days dry, after having been profitable over the previous three years. My daughter wants to do more of the art events, specifically in San Marcos, and I’d prefer more book-oriented events and author appearances, where at least people are primed to expect to consider books. The one good thing about book events, is that I am at the point where doing an appearance brings invitations to do others (and bring books to sell!) which is not nearly as labor-intensive as an all day, or a two-day market.

So – a slight rethinking of my marketing strategy, as well as signing on to Patreon, and committing to producing good bloggy ice cream for patrons and backers, while I work on the next book – tentatively entitled When the Lanterns are Lit. Which, if you like, is kind of a circle around to how I went about funding publishing of To Truckee’s Trail – friends, fans and readers made contributions to cover the costs of publishing it through a POD house, when interesting a mainstream agent and establishment publisher in the manuscript for it fell through. What goes around, keeps on coming around, I guess.

Frankly, the kerfuffle regarding Roy Moore’s alleged dalliances with just barely legal teenage girls four decades ago smacks to this observer as a put-up job by out of-state media and out-of-state politicians of both parties who apparently regard his candidacy for national office as an affront to the Ruling Class. Suspect scribbles in an old school annual and Gloria Allred in full-throated accusatory mode are, as in the words of Gilbert and Sullivan’s character Pooh-Bah, “Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”

Mind you, he might well have displayed, as a young thirty-ish male, a liking for female company somewhat more than ten years younger; such female company being somewhat easier to impress than those closer to his age at the time. (In previous centuries, such an age gap would hardly have raised an eyebrow. This was pretty much the ideal for much of history: thirty-year old man, well-established in a good trade, able to provide for a young wife of prime child-bearing age.) Frankly, though – the man has been in local politics for thirty years. If this is the worst that can be said about him, and the good people of Alabama don’t appear to have any problems repeatedly voting him into local office … then why does the national Republican party leadership feel obliged to intervene? It’s as if they (and others) are simply outraged at the concept of people actually choosing a candidate who is not totally Ruling Party-compliant. “We’ll make the important decisions for you, you poor deluded peasants.”

And if he as a much younger man made persistent romantic overtures to very much younger women, it’s still a vast improvement on doing a Weinstein – that is, whacking off and depositing the results on an innocent potted plant on a regular basis.

Which brings me around to the great Hollywood Sexual Assault meltdown … I’m almost afraid to look at the headlines first thing every morning of late; someone else whose movies I never watched is going to accuse or be accused of sexual harassment; that is anything from being a rude and abusive a-hole, all the way up to assault or rape, involving the same sex, the opposite sex, under-age sex of either or however many genders there are these days, or of any convenient plant life. The up side to this is that too many of them are consulting with their lawyers (the guilty), or their supportive “Me-too” group (the offended against) to take time to lecture the rest of us about our disappointing shortcomings – our failure to vote for Hillary, our global-climate-change skepticism, our unashamed racism, our failure to surrender our personal weaponry, and to separate the glass from the tin cans and the paper when putting out the recyclables. The next Academy Awards is going to be a real hoot, I’m telling you.

Any bets on where it is going to be broadcast from? San Quentin, Folsom, or Pelican Bay? Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

14. November 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Working In A Salt Mine...

We clocked the end of a relatively satisfactory day on Monday, after a somewhat grim weekend. The craft market in Bulverde on Saturday worked out semi-OK for me, but the event Sunday evening New Braunfels was a reminder of why I aged out of the bar-hopping and clubbing scene a couple of decades ago — and intermittent rain which moved the event indoors did not help … but Monday and today made up for it, as far as things accomplished.

One – successfully returning Georgina the Friendly Husky dog to her family. (We found Georgina last thing on Friday afternoon, wandering casually through our neighborhood, innocent of a leash, or any identifying tags, and not recognized by anyone in our neighborhood.) Not able to take her to the veterinarian to be checked for a chip until this morning, but she was the most amiable of canine house-guests in the meantime. House-trained, relatively obedient to the usual commands, clever enough to figure out how to open the latch on the front door, sort of OK with the cats. It turned out that her real name is Elsa, she opened a gate at her house in the next neighborhood over … and wandered. Her relieved owner confesses that she is a really, really friendly dog, as well as a clever one. She is a beautiful dog, much admired wherever we went with her; a sturdy blue-eyed, black and white husky, wirh incredibly thick and plushy fur. If we had not been able to locate her owner, we already had a good home lined up for her

Second – our friend and neighbor, the Genius Handyman successfully cleaned and repaired a malfunctioning and dirty sensor on Blondie’s Montero, saving us the cost of a replacement item – at least, until the ‘check engine’ light went on again this morning. So, maybe a bit more tinkering, to ensure that the Montero is in fighting trim for next weekend market at Blanco’s old county courthouse — an outdoor market which necessitates use of the pavilion. Which does not fit into my car, although everything else does. If the Montero little problem cannot be fixed by then, I have a roof-rack for my car, onto which we can load the pavilion.

Someday, when the mortgage is entirely paid and I have sold a great many more books, my daughter says that she would like us to buy a panel van or a pickup truck to use as our market-transport vehicle. That project remains a dream, as the mortgage will finally be paid off in March, 2020 – a little more than two years hence.

I researched certain reports and items relevant as to how the h-e-double toothpicks that the company which does print fulfillment and distribution for the Teeny Publishing Bidness has not sent us a royalty payment for a seriously considerable length of time. Oh, yes — when I called on this matter before, I got the response of ‘returns, sales, clear-the-account-at-the-end of-the-year-blah-blah-blah.’ Monday, I spent time enough on the phone with a representative who went far and above beyond that. And seemed rather nonplussed at how long this state of affairs had been going on. I had to send documentation of certain payments, as attachments … but after spending about an hour on the phone, I do have hopes of getting this matter cleared up, although today I had to spend a bit more time explaining this via email to a higher level of customer service person. We are a Teeny Publishing Bidness, and they are a Huge Corporate Conglomerate, but according to my research, they owe us money, and I am just about irritated about this to keep on them like a junkyard dog.

Unchristian though it is to confess to such a feeling, I have been taking a very mean-minded satisfaction in the ongoing meltdown of both the NFL, the mainstream Hollywood establishment, and now the Democratic National Committee has come due for their share. Paraphrasing P.J. O’Rourke – just desserts, just hors de oeuvres, a just main course of crow! So, the NFL is continuing to go down the road to hell paved with social justice warrior good intentions, the list of male power-brokers among the Hollywood glitterati accused of sexually-exploiting women, other men, teenagers of both sexes and ornamental potted plants is expanding geometrically, and now it seems as if Hillary Clinton and her campaign advisers did quite the number on her own political party during the campaign which ended exactly a year ago. Even as Hillary Clinton toured the country, explaining “What Happened”, it seems that the former chair of the DNC, Donna Brazile has penned her own memoir of the campaign. I suppose that in the wake of a political upset of the magnitude we experienced last election day, everyone involved at the highest level is obligated to sing some version of the old song “If only they had listened to me.”

In the linked story,

“Brazile writes that she inherited a national party in disarray, in part because President Obama, Clinton and Wasserman Schultz were “three titanic egos” who had “stripped the party to a shell for their own purposes.””

So, if I am understanding this whole imbroglio correctly, Hillary’s people took over the national Democrat establishment after Little Debbie ran it into the ground, and diverted most all of the funds raised jointly by the DNC and Hillary into Hillary’s campaign coffers, thereby cutting out Bernie Sanders. I am not the least surprised at Sanders’ lack of fiduciary sense – the man barely scraped a living until he went into politics – still, I thought he had been in politics long enough to have learned something – like how not to get blindsided by avaricious scumbags. Well, at least he got a vacation house out of it all, so perhaps he did learn something.

The real surprise is that Donna Brazile is coming out swinging at Hillary – and even landing the crushing blow or two. Does this signify a fracture in Party unity? Is Hillary and the Clinton Machine being thrown out of the window and under the bus, and not a moment too soon? What have the fracture-lines been drawn, who has control of the Party now, and who among the Party faithful will be rewarded? Discuss. I’ll make popcorn – lightly salted and with real butter, not that orange-oil gack that they put on popcorn in the movie theaters.