There was a brief hiccup of indignation last week regarding the French police choosing to downplay the fact that the dead hostages taken by Islamist terrorists at the Bataclan music hall had been viciously tortured and their bodies mutilated. There was the same brief hiccup of indignation when it appeared that the German police likewise chose to downplay those instances of sexual abuse perpetrated on local women by so-called Syrian “refugees.” A commenter on one particular thread discussing this observed, acidly, that we were now well into Pravda and Izvestia country, where the published news stories must be carefully scrutinized and parsed to tease out the actual facts; what is released regarding certain occurrences is not meant to inform us. Instead, such reports are meant to appear as if we are being informed, but the actual intent is to conceal and not to offend those in political power.

I’ve begun to believe, though, that our establishment media and those elements of the Ruling Class (in the Anthony Codevilla sense) who control or collude with them are going well beyond simply obscuring current events – but are deliberately practicing a kind of mass-gaslighting on us all. Gas-lighting? Oh, yes; this is a definition, courtesy of the Urban Dictionary:

A form of intimidation or psychological abuse, sometimes called Ambient Abuse where false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory, perception and quite often, their sanity … A more psychological definition of gaslighting is “an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to, the victim – having the gradual effect of making them anxious, confused, and less able to trust their own memory and perception.

False information presented – making us doubt our own memories and perception of events. Systematically withholding factual information from us. Having the gradual effect of making us anxious, confused, less able to trust.

Yep – we’ve been gas-lighted all right; and some of us more than others. I’d say that the African-American community is being royally gas-lighted by the Black Lives Matter organizing cadre, and the Democrat party has also been gas-lighted in a grand scale into believing (or pretending to believe) that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified presidential candidate evah! Barack Obama takes the absolute prize, though – in having gas-lighted himself into believing that he is the very best US President in our history.
Discuss.

So, it looks like Her Inevitableness is tottering on the way to her coronation, attended by throne-sniffing, lickspittle courtiers like Chris Matthews of MSNBC, who most notably got bent out of shape last night by Patricia Smith (the mother of former SEAL Sean Smith, killed in the 2012 mob attack on the US consular office in Benghazi) calling Her Inevitableness a liar. Such “lese majeste!” harrumphs the egregiously offended Mr. Matthews, whom I assume followed up this with a demand that those kids get off his lawn.
But I am not here to thump Chris Matthews, richly though he might deserve it; I am here to meditate upon my present big fat Hillary problem. I say ‘present’ because way back when she was the First Lady, and for a brief time when she was a former First Lady, and warming a chair in Congress as a remarkably lackluster politician – I didn’t really care one way or the other. Frankly, I would have had a lot more respect for the woman if she had dumped her horn-dogging hubby as soon as they moved out of the White House over his sexual games with interns – but then I am a woman who does not suffer being humiliated in front of a national audience. And then my problem with Hillary, Her Inevitableness really developed.

This problem of mine sprang from two sources, starting around the beginning of the 2008 election season. One – which I shared with my daughter, who was at college at the time – was that suddenly, it seemed as if everyone assumed that because she was a woman … and I was a woman (my daughter being a woman also, although that should go without saying) that OF COURSE we would support enthusiastically and vote for her. OF COURSE we would support the First Woman President EVAH! And the other was how totally, cynically, Third World it was that the spouse of a former president should even be seriously considered as a viable candidate for that office herself on the basis of … really, not much. Sorry – as I said then and say now; this is still not Argentina and she is still not Evita, although the increasing resemblance to the first is more than a little disheartening.

And between then and now is the ghastly disaster that was Benghazi; four dead, including the ambassador to Libya – a disaster for which Her Inevitableness bears a large part of the responsibility, as the Secretary of State. She left her people in the lurch, and then lied over their dead bodies afterwards. And then there is the matter of electronic security over her email account, while serving in that office. Military people have been all but crucified over careless handling of secure communications – and high rank has offered no protection or excuse. Likely every secret service in the world has read her emails by now; I can only hope that they might leak them to the rest of us, so that we can find out what the hell went wrong in Benghazi after all.

In sum, this adds incompetence to the towering edifice of cynical entitlement and corruption that is Hillary, and no, I will not vote for her. Through the support of tools like Chris Matthews and massive vote fraud, she might very well be elected, too. From that I extract a small shred of comfort, in that she will be at ground xero when all the various disasters launched by the administration in the last eight years come crashing down to earth.

Discuss, if you can bear the crushing depression of contemplating Her Inevitableness being sworn in to the highest office in the land.

That is one of those military acronyms which everyone who has ever been in the military for longer than – oh, I don’t know – a couple of years? A single hitch in one of the armed services? Whatever; what it means in plain English is “operations security” – and what that entails in the larger sense – drilled in by basic training, refresher training, briefings, a constant dribble of AFRTS spots cautioning the same in 30 second bites, and occasionally by the direct intervention of a supervisor administering a stern reminder – is that you keep your mouth shut about stuff and treat classified material with every care. Even stuff that seems minor, inconsequential, trivial, and is not in point of fact, actually classified. Because a whole lot of little pieces put together by an expert analyst could reveal a pretty big picture; a big and possibly life-threatening picture to someone, or hundreds, even thousands of someones.

I performed this analysis myself in a small way myself, during the build-up to the First Gulf War, through the medium of casually listening to a whole lot of reader spots emanating from our lead station, and some chatter from friends, to the effect that they couldn’t get a reserved room in the casual barracks at that base, all of a sudden. And sure enough – a radio reader spot to the effect that there was limited availability of rooms in a particular transient facility. Another reader, to the effect of restricting automobile traffic on a certain road at that base; checking a map of that base revealed that road was the one in front of that very transient facility. And finally – a notice to the effect that mowing the grass in that particular area was delayed until further notice. Put that together with knowing that transport aircraft were stopping over in large numbers on their way downrange … why, yes; the aircrews were being billeted there, to catch up on sleep before the last long haul to Saudi Arabia. Unclassified? Heck yes – it was on the radio, for gosh sake. Significant information for someone who might want to disrupt the transportation conveyor belt into the theater of conflict? Very possibly.

In the larger sense, OPSEC means paying attention, and especially paying attention to that which is classified information. My own clearance and that of other broadcasters never went any higher than Secret, possibly because we were broadcasters and the powers-that-be feared and probably with good reason (see above) that we would inadvertently blab all kinds of indiscreet stuff into a live microphone. Even at that lowly level, I dealt later on with classified information as the security NCO. The production facility at Hill AFB occasionally worked with materiel which was restricted from general use; yes, we had a secure safe, and now and again I had to serve as courier, collecting classified scripts, video footage and other stuff which I did not actually know what it was – as it was all secured in a sealed envelope – meeting the arriving carrier at the gate at SLC airport, and taking it to the unit and securing it in the safe. I didn’t deal with this materiel often enough to become blasé through familiarity, and I was never in the least bit of doubt that loosing, or compromising classified materiel would have severe adverse effects on my so-called career.

History is chock-full of instances where a break in security – the intercepted message, the boastful bragging to the wrong person, or an outright traitor – spelled disaster and death. History is likewise full of instances where a strategic or tactical secret was kept through heroic efforts on the part of individuals or organizations, an effort rewarded with success. Knowing that people may die, and in job-lots, if you are not careful does tend to concentrate ones’ attention to OPSEC. And this is why that practically every retired military person that I have talked to personally, or commented through social media in the last couple of days, is incandescently furious that Hilary Clinton – for reasons of her own carelessness or convenience – flung down and danced upon every procedure on the books for keeping classified information secure. There are people who have had careers wrecked, been charged, served time for just a hundredth part of the lack of care that she demonstrated in her time as Secretary of State.

But they were none of them Hilary Rodham Clinton. To compromise national security on a grand scale is obviously one of those privileges which rank hath.

Some ironic fun on a Friday, found through the Passive Voice website.

05. July 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic
A selection of books from the PTA book sale, including some issues of AH

A selection of books from the PTA book sale, including some issues of AH

Well, that was a bit of a shock this morning, when I went to my bookmarks menu to look for an article I recollect reading ages ago about Theodore Roosevelts’ first wife – and the bookmark for the American Heritage website turned up … well, nothing. As in – nothing found. I used to use their archive to find articles in my vintage hardbound copies of American Heritage, a collection that I started to rebuild through used book sales, in an attempt to reconstruct the collection of them that my mother had. Mom was a subscriber from the very earliest days, when Dad was a grad student on a tight budget. This must have been a substantial expense for them – as she had a subscription to AH’s sister publication, Horizon. Both were hard-bound, without advertising – and the collection filled almost half a wall of shelves in the house that burned in 2003.

My own love of history and enduring affection for writers who make ripping good read out of writing it can be directly laid at the door of those issues of American Heritage which regularly arrived in the mailbox, and which I devoured. (I swear also that reading Horizon in similar fashion also greased my way through college, since – whatever the topic was, I had gleaned some interesting tidbits from those pages, like the derivation of the word ‘chauvinism’ which a professor dropped on us one day, in mid-lecture. I was the only one in the class who knew it, and the professor confessed in some awe that I was one of a bare handful of students he had taught in his time who did.)

Mom did keep up the subscription, when it went to a quarterly, softbound and chock-full of advertising, and I dipped into the later iterations for a year or two at a stretch, but the updated version just didn’t have the same … I don’t know – wide-ranging gravitas that the early, hard-bound versions had. Mom remarked once or twice that in the later versions, they didn’t seem to go any farther back in time than mid-20th century, whereas the older issues romped freely from early colonial times on. It turns out that she was correct on this, and it was deliberate editorial policy in the publication’s later years.

And so – I pretty much lost interest in keeping a current subscription, which turns out to be just as well, and it seems that those who did have a current subscription were left flat when American Heritage suspended print publication four years ago, without even refunding subscribers. Possibly around that time they stopped adding content to the website. Four years ago … and I never even noticed until now, which is pretty sad, considering what an influence Mom’s subscription to it had on me. Some things just end with a bang, but some with a barely audible whimper and then sink without a trace from the internet.

To: Ms Yvette Felarca

Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School

North Berkeley, California

From: Sgt. Mom

Re: Selective Application of the Right to Free Speech

 

  1. It saddens me that I must inform a member of the teaching profession that the right to free speech – with certain exceptions for slander/libel, incitement to break the law, and falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater – is inalienable. It is certainly not within the rights of you or your so-called organization to make decisions regarding the exercise thereof by organizations of which you do not approve. I know, this may come as somewhat of a surprise to you.
  2. It is also a misguided notion for you and your so-called organization to enforce your judgement by exercising physical, organized violence upon those expressing opinions which you have ordained as unfit. This establishes an extremely bad and dangerous precedent in the civic life of this nation. I would suggest that you review the political and social history of Weimar-era Germany, with special attention to the party-based brawling which led to breakdown of a sort-of-stable social situation and the rise of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, or acquaint yourself with this history, if such study has not been included in your previous education.
  3. By the way, do not assume from the tenor of this memo that I therefore approve or disapprove of Nazis, self-appointed social justice warriors, censors of any political stripe, the KKK, Donald Trump, freaks like the Westboro Baptist Church, or Twitter and Facebook mobs descending upon your employer threatening you, your employer and your students. I merely wish to emphasize to you and other community organizers what a horrifically bad idea you are endorsing.
  4. But having established the precedent that organized violence is an appropriate response to those whose political and social opinions you disapprove of, you have opened a particular dangerous can of worms; that persons who disapprove of your own political sympathies may respond in kind with perfect justification. As you deal, so will you be dealt with – and you will have no basis for complaint, having chosen to overturn a painfully-struggled for convention in American political life that violence against a political opposition is off the table. It is a slippery slope, this business of physically attacking other people, merely for exercising their rights.
  5. Hoping that you will consider these words carefully and take them to heart – although I am not holding my breath on that.

I remain, as always,

Sgt. Mom

27. June 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Luna

Yes, from the next Luna City Chronicle – an excerpt introducing Araceli and Berto’s cousin Romeo, who works in the oilfields and … well, things happen when he is around. Things involving broken hearts and occasionally smoking rubble...

Romeo

When Richard woke the next morning – having slept the sleep of the righteous in Superman sheets – he was alone in the Gonzales children’s bedroom, where mid-morning summer sunlight leaked around the edges of the roller blind that covered the single window. The bed opposite, neatly made with Disney princess sheets, was empty and Kate Heisel was gone; Richard was unsure if he was regretful over that, or not. In telling him bluntly that he was very much a celebrity back number and that no one in his old life seemed inclined to seek him out for any purpose; that was a comfort in one way, but a definite kick in the crotch to his ego in another.
His clothing from the night before was neatly folded and stacked at the foot of the bed where Kate had slept, his shoes next to them. Really, Araceli thought of everything. Richard dressed – his native good manners belatedly kicking into overdrive – and took his borrowed pajamas with him.
The smell of bacon frying greeted him out in the small kitchen, where a sleepy-eyed Patrick was scrambling eggs at the stove.

“Hi, Rich,” Patrick yawned. “’Celi said you were sleeping like a rock – and not to bother you until you woke up. She’s gone to work, the kids are at school – me, I’ll hit the sack myself in another twenty minutes.”
“What time is it?” Richard asked. “Thanks for the loan of the PJs. I was … not in good shape last night, but I am much better, now – thanks to yours’ and Araceli’s hospitality.”
“Half past nine,” Patrick answered. “Glad to hear it … ‘Celi said it was quite a ruckus last night. I’m sorry to have missed the excitement. But on the other hand – I might not have been near as polite as Joe was. Just put those in the laundry basket in the bathroom, and siddown for a bit of breakfast. You want some hot sauce on your eggs?”
“No, I’m pretty much a traditionalist when it comes to my morning eggs,” Richard replied, repressing a small shudder,
“You’re missing a thrill,” Patrick shrugged. “Everything goes better with a bit of siracha sauce.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Richard replied. They ate breakfast in companionable silence, Patrick stifling the occasional yawn. Richard, still feeling a little at odds through not having another day at work, decided that he would ride the bicycle home to the Airstream and spend a leisurely afternoon reading Larousse. The weather being temperate – cool autumn being welcomed after the searing blast of summer – he might even sit outside.

His bicycle was where he had left it the afternoon before, leaning against the stairs leading to the screened back porch. As he left by the front, where a low chain-link fence enclosed the front garden, he did note a single lonely news microphone covered with an enormous furry windscreen muff lying abandoned by the gate. It looked at first glance like a very large, very road-killed raccoon. A Basset hound with lugubriously drooping ears waddled over from across the road, cocked a leg and peed luxuriously on it, and looked at Richard as if seeking approval.
“Good boy!” Richard said. Gunnison Penn and his friends must have retrieved the rest of their jettisoned video gear under cover of darkness. He wheeled out his bicycle and set off, feeling as if he were on a bit of a holiday.

Coming up to the dirt road turn-off for the Age of Aquarius, he heard a truck behind him – slowing to make the turn. He took the prudent step of pulling entirely off the road and letting the truck pass him; a slightly battered but otherwise well-kept extended cab pick-up truck of the sort that half the working men around Luna City drove. There was a weathered twenty-foot Fifth-Wheel travel trailer hitched to the back of the truck – one of the plain bare-bones models without any of the bump-outs that increased the living space when parked. Trailer and truck alike were layered in dust, and alike bore North Dakota license plates. Richard let the dust settle, before he followed after; it looked like Romeo Gonzales had not followed the advice of his friends to just keep going.
Well, thought Richard – a social gain for him, in having company at the Age of Aquarius, besides the over-friendly goats and the annoying Canadian treasure hunter, Gunnison Penn. By the time he got to the campground field proper, the driver of the truck had deftly backed the Fifth-wheel into a parking place at the other end of the field from the Airstream. Well – since the place was all but empty for much of the year, they might as well give each other space. As far as Richard was concerned, Gunnison Penn could give them all the space of the entire county.

“I wonder how much longer he’ll be staying anyway,” Richard wondered aloud. He really hoped that Romeo would be a more congenial neighbor, in spite of Sefton Grant’s worrisome aside about Romeo’s propensity for attracting strange energies, and Araceli’s tale of how he was a particularly disaster-prone Jonah in the oil fields. So, good that his Fifth-wheel and pick-up were parked the length of the campground away. Richard propped his bicycle against one of the posts that held a metal awning over the Airstream and opened the door; he had adjusted so much to the ambiance of Luna City that he never locked door any more, either. He felt again the contentment of coming home, a feeling unknown to him since his school-days. When Romeo the walking disaster-area was done with settling his trailer in, he might walk over and introduce himself.
Some fifteen minutes later, a small yellow Jeep Wrangler appeared in the rutted and unpaved lane leading to the campground. Richard closed Larousse Gastronomique; Jess Abernathy; thirtyish CPA and championship barrel-racer, daughter of Martin the acting mayor, an Abernathy of the hardware store Abernathys, who as things went in Luna City were nearly one of the establishing old families. The Jeep bumped across the lumpy field and parked next to the Airstream, and Jess emerged from the driver’s seat.

“Hi, Rich,” she said, with an expression of relief. “Doc said that I should check on you today, although Araceli says you seemed to be OK this morning.”
“I’m fine,” Rich answered. “You needn’t have gone to the trouble.”
“No trouble,” Jess grinned, mischievously. “And I was coming out here anyway. When Doc heard about last night, he was pretty pissed-off. He considers you one of his personal projects, which is terribly patriarchal of him, but hey – consider him a product of his age and upbringing. He had his personal lawyer get ahold of the district judge and write up an injunction. Mr. Gunnison Penn is hereby instructed on pain of arrest to not approach within thirty feet of your person, your place of residence, the Café, or any private or public place where you happen to be.” Jess flashed a large manila envelope. “And the same with regard to Araceli and Patrick and their kids. I was charged with delivering copies of the injunction to Mr. Penn, since Doc was too angry to wait on the availability of a bailiff. Not an errand, but simply one of life’s little pleasures.”
“Ah – it seems this Monday morning has much to recommend it,” Richard was feeling better and better. “And your friend Romeo has arrived safely – is that him?”
“It certainly is,” Jess shaded her eyes. The distant driver of the truck with North Dakota plates was now busying himself with setting the braces to balance the trailer, and unhitch it from the truck bed. She looked amused and exasperated. “But we really aren’t friends, as it were. He was … oh, three years ahead of me in high school and our social circles didn’t intersect. He was a total jock … Around here, there is a sort of social pecking order, based on your sport. Did you play sports at your school, Rich?”
“Nothing brutal like rugger – I was on the rowing team, and on the school sailboat.”
“La de-dah,” Jess snickered. “Then you wouldn’t have rated at all, when it came to date-bait. Neither did I, back then.”
“I presume that you were a total swot … what you Yanks call a bookworm?”
“Glasses and braces both,” Jess nodded. “Romeo was always perfectly charming … but just a sort of male butterfly, flitting from flower to blooming flower. He usually didn’t bother much with the barely-open buds.”
“I was going to wait a while before I introduced myself,” Richard ventured. At that moment, Sefton Grant appeared from the direction of the Grant’s untidy yurt-based home site farther up the hill. He was carrying something over his shoulder – several very long slender poles, some of them tipped with … Richard blinked. Some kind of green glass insulating knobs, of the old-fashioned sort that used to be used to insulate electrical wires, and a heavy sledge-hammer in the other. “What on earth …”
“We may as well go say howdy,” Jess said, firmly. “And see what fresh lunacy Sefton and Judy are going to inflict on their guests. Mostly it’s the fairly harmless kind, although the LCVFD safety officer did have to warn them sternly about that sweat-lodge they built at mid-summer…”

As they passed Gunnison Penn’s RV with the fading Treasure Hunter International logo painted across the side, Sefton Grant had paced off the corners of the space surrounding Romeo Gonzales’ Fifth-wheel. He was setting a pole in each corner, plunging the end deep into the ground – which had been mercifully soften by a series of recent rains – and then pounding it further in with blows from the sledge-hammer. Each blow clanged like a bell; once well-seated in the earth, the second, glass-tipped pole was set into it.

Jess muttered something under breath about New Age crapola, and demanded, “Sefton, what on earth is this?” as soon as they came close enough to speak without shouting. Sefton Grant, who looked like a younger, fitter and less-run-to-seed version of Willie Nelson, hefted the sledge-hammer, and picked up the last set of poles.
“Judy’s idea,” he explained, somewhat abashed. “Something to bleed off the excess psychic energies before they build up. I’d explained it already to Romeo … hey, Romeo, you remember Jess Abernathy, don’t you? And this is Richard – he runs the Café now, lives out in the old Airstream. He’s from England.”
Romeo, thus addressed, wiped grime off his hands with a somewhat less dirty bandanna, tilted his straw cowboy hat further back on his head, and stuck out his right hand.
“Howdy, folks,” he drawled. Richard was momentarily nonplussed. He had never, in his life, either before arriving in Texas or after, observed anyone tilting their hat and saying ‘howdy, folks.’ “Jess! Good to see you, girl! You don’t say – England, huh? Man, I feel like I’ve driven from there, these last few days, instead of all the way from Missoula, Montana. Good to meet you!” he pumped Richard’s hand with the strength which can only come from a man who has spent the last fifteen years wrangling heavy tools and machinery. “I guess we’re neighbors, then!” Romeo added, with a cheerful and wholly openhearted grin.
“I guess that we are,” Richard said, after searching his mind for something to say.
“I’ve heard about you,” he added. Which he had; but one of those things he had not heard was that Romeo Gonzales was so very blindingly the winner in the lottery of good looks in a clan whose appearance clustered around a norm of ‘average’ to ‘pleasant’ with an occasional outlier of younger Gonzalez/Gonzaleses in the direction of ‘cute.’ Physically, he was tall, lean-hipped wedge of a man, with chiseled facial features, and pale blue eyes which contrasted to devastating effect with black hair and a tan not acquired in a salon through artificial means.
“Yeah, I’ve heard of you, too – you’re that chef guy, ‘Celi’s boss,” Romeo exclaimed. “Say – when I get settled, we ought to go out honky-tonking together! It’ll be a blast…”
“That’s what we’re all afraid of,” Richard thought he heard Sefton say, in a discrete murmur, and to cover it, he replied, “Well … I have the Café, and they expect me to be there very early most mornings, so my evening social life is … for the moment, pretty constrained.”
“No problem,” Romeo favored him with another one of those blinding grins. “I’m gonna work driving the wrecker for Uncle Jesus at the garage, so I’ve gotta be careful myself about staying out of trouble, I reckon.”

(To be continued of course. Luna City 3.0 will be out this fall, in time for Christmas, hopefully!)

26. June 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: European Disunion, Politics, World

If ever there was a nation-sized demonstration of the Pauline Kael intellectual bubble on the part of a national elite being caught with their metaphorical trousers down and their pale pasty behinds glowing radioactively for all to see … then the vote this last week for Britain to depart the EU at speed would be it. Here all the movers and shakers, the intellectual, social and political set were so certain in their own rectitude – and equally convinced of the stupidity, backwardness and flat-out racism of their fellow citizens … well, of course, I can almost hear the wailing from the Remainders all the way in Texas. Because – all the right-thinking people agreed with them; membership in the EU was a Positive Good, and the Way Forward, and the Wave of the Future, and such membership showered nothing but good things upon them ….

Well, it showered good things on the right-thinking people, but everyone else living outside the privilege bubble saw disadvantages up the whazoo, including the fact that basically, there was no appeal. Everything from the sugar content in jam to the proper curvature of bananas – and that was just the petty, annoying stuff – was all in rules written by some faraway bureaucrat who could never be sacked for cause, or voted out of office.

It was a transnational government without the consent of the governed. That absolutely has to get up peoples’ noses, having become accustomed for the last two hundred years or so of having some degree of input with regard to those in government, either through voting for them, or at the very least, being able to appeal effectively through protest and lobbying.

And of course, the absolutely crowning insult – after enduring the downside of EU membership, and being vocal about said downside – is a toxic combination of having your valid concerns not addressed in any meaningful fashion, but being disparaged as a racist, a nationalist, practically a Nazi, and a stupid old bitter clinger. Slapping down the race and xenophobia card is the last resort of those who actually have no concrete, defensible rationale for their actions, or are disinclined to defend them in a logical and rational manner: Shut up you stupid peasant, and let your betters make the meaningful decisions.

So in that sense, voting for Brexit was for ordinary Brits as much of an “up yours” to their establishment as backing Donald Trump is for ordinary, flyover country, working class Americans. (More along these lines from City Journal, here.)
Discuss.

24. June 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: European Disunion

…may I present a spot of Gilbert and Sullivan for your Friday morning pleasure!

20. June 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

Yes – we have books. And there was a long note and some discussion on this particular regular thread about places where there are no books, or even just fake books, or real books chosen for the color of their binding or the general richness of appearance … Yeah, my daughter watched some of those celebrity home shows, where there were huge rooms and endless lengths of shelves …
And no books, or anything much save a scattering of knickknacks interspersed with sports or performing trophies. It seemed a sad and desperate way to live, in a house or a mansion without books, or even magazines – although perhaps the internet and ebook readers are taking the place of corporeal books.

Still, not to have books at all … even my paternal grandparents, who were not bibliophiles, by any stretch of imagination, had a small case full of books, stashed away in the guest room, mostly – and Granny Dodie had a library card and used it. So did Granny Jessie. Her possession of three shelves full of books (mostly by turn of the last century lady authors with three names) marked out Mom’s family as the towering intellectuals of South Lotus Street.

Mom and Dad bettered either one of the ancestral collections, when they married and set up a household – which naturally included books. For a good many years, the bookshelves in the den – which contained the bulk of the collection – were of concrete block uprights with well-smoothed and varnished planks laid across them to serve as shelves. (Sensibly, I don’t think this unstable arrangement went higher than about three levels.)
I went out on my first overseas assignment with a box or two of my own favorite books, eventually adding to the collection through being overseas, in places where English-language bookstores were thin on the ground away from base, and the base libraries and Stars & Stripes bookstores were usually quite small. So – book clubs and mail-order catalogues were my friends, and it was a good thing that Amazon was a distant dream the whole time I was overseas, for I might have returned to civilian life with twice as many books as I did. (When we packed out from Spain, the packers had a bet going on how many boxes of books there would be. It topped out at 65, eventually, and I don’t know what the winner of the pool got. Bragging rights, maybe.)My working space - with the most often-referenced books

When she was in high school, my daughter managed to swing a good few term papers using our own book resources. And that was even before I started seriously writing myself, and acquiring even more books, specifically for research and reference. I’d say the collection of Texiana and for the 19th century frontier is pretty comprehensive – and if I carry through with the intention of writing another in the Adelsverein series, going back to how Carl and Margaret Becker’s Opa Heinrich came to America as a soldier of Hesse in the Revolutionary War … there will need to be another shelf at least.

I suppose that the most horrifying aspect of the Trump rally in San Jose last week was not that there were obnoxious and semi-coherent protesters outside the event, or even that they became violently abusive to those attending the Trump rally. It was that the San Jose PD, and the civil administration appear to have at best sat back and watched ordinary citizens be chased down and physically abused – and at the very worst, facilitated, enabled and afterwards blandly excused such attacks. The civil government of the city of San Jose apparently decided that it was okeydokey for the agents of law and order in San Jose to sit back and allow law-abiding citizens exercising their rights in attending a political rally to have the c**p beaten out of them … because they didn’t approve of the particular candidate.

Well, at least those police supposedly keeping public order after the Trump rally didn’t send for popcorn and cheer on the beatings, or participate in the active part of the thumping themselves, so I will give them props for a few lingering shreds of professionalism. But this is not a good thing – it is in fact, the second step on the way to a new civil war, or at least, to Single Party-Ruling Hell. It sends a very clear message, when thugs on one side of a political divide can routinely beat the ever-living-snot out of citizens exercising their right to be politically involved, or at least politically interested, in the face of a massive police presence … and the police just shrug and look away, while the local civil authorities essentially say in response to criticism, “NOKD and they richly deserved it.”

That was the Second Step. The First Step on the downward-leading path to Single Party-Ruling Hell is the routine “othering” of a political element, or a portion of the citizenry, on the part of not just an ambitious political class, but becomes especially noted when the political punditocracy and popular media join in the fun. This process has been going on for some time, but I noticed it particularly with regard to the Tea Party. Earnest, responsible middle-class (for the most part) good citizens, newly engaged in the political process, championing fiscal responsibility, fidelity to the Constitution and free markets … and for all of their efforts and evidence to the contrary, got painted by politicians, the punditocracy and the popular media as dumb, racist, stupid hicks. And this ‘otherizing’ stuck – I have the evidence of my own family to confirm it.

So, this “othering” was accomplished, and has proceeded at a break-neck pace with all the fuss about Black Lives Mattering (but only when they have been killed by a Policeman of Pallor), the academic ruckus about so-called White Privilege (which somehow never seems to accrue usefully to working-class and rural residents of fly-over country who happen to be of a pale or lightly-freckled pallor.) and by the animus poured on … well, non-coastal, red-state conservatives of every class. I had only to look at the comment threads on major news sources when they posted stories about the Bundy Ranch imbroglio, or about the stand-off in Oregon with regard to the Malheur location … as an aside to various liberal commenters on that matter – My god, people – do you comprehend how ugly you sound, when you urge the elimination of rural ranchers and their sympathizers? By whatever means possible?

So, Step One – the “otherizing” of those judged by the righteous and the good to be … beyond the pale. Infra Dig. NOKD (Not our Kind, Darling) They deserve what is coming to them, by the actions of the righteous and just. That has already been concluded, as far as I can see. Step Two – seems to be in train, by the example of San Jose and the Trump rally last week.

Step Three … ah, that is the use of civil law against those previously ‘otherized.’ Really, whichever law can be utilized. Step Three seems to be in the formative stages at this point. The motion in the California legislature to criminalize doubt with regard to global warming. Weaponizing the federal bureaucracy – the EPA, the IRS, ATF – against perceived enemies of the state has already been done, through selective investigation and enforcement of existing laws.

Step Four involves locked boxcars, and distant reeducation camps, and ordinary citizens looking away and murmuring things like, “Oh, too bad … but they had it coming.” And no, we really don’t want to go there, as much as leftists like Bill Ayers and his Weatherman friends fantasized over that very prospect, back in the 60s.
Discuss.

06. June 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?

We walked with the dogs on Saturday morning – as we do almost every morning; our two, Nemo and Connor, and the exuberant labradoodle belonging to an elderly neighbor. Penny, the labradoodle is a young dog, energetic, impulsive and quite strong; late last year, while walking down to the community mailbox, Penny pulled on her leash abruptly that our neighbor was pulled over and absolutely wrecked her shoulder/rotator cuff when she fell to the pavement. This meant several days in the hospital and weeks of therapy for our neighbor, who likely will never regain full mobility – and so, we walk her dog in the morning, and the children of another neighbor walk the dog later in the day; all this aimed toward exhausting the dog, who as noted, is young, exuberant and requires an extensive program of exercise which our neighbor is simply unable to provide, as much as she adores her companion-dog. So we do it – it’s what neighbors do.
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Texas Sized Rain GaugeThis being the first of the month, my daughter and I did our monthly major shopping today – beginning somewhat earlier in the day than we normally do. We had a heck of a thunderstorm blow in at about three yesterday afternoon; rain so heavy that it was blowing sideways and wind-gusts that were twirling the tree branches every which way. Our neighbor as a particularly large oak tree in her back yard, with two very long, heavy branches that reach over the roof of the back of her house. My daughter was so worried, watching the tree limbs bend, that she called the neighbor to advise her to stay out of the two back bedrooms until the storm finished blowing through. This morning, there were small branches down all over the neighborhood, and a family on the other side of Spring Creek Forest lost a fairly good-sized tree. It split in half, at the height of the storm, but apparently in a rather gradual manner. One half slumped onto the next-door neighbor’s garage roof without causing any damage to the roof that anyone could see, and the other half onto the driveway. This morning, the tree was well on the way to being sliced, diced and stacked. It looked like the main trunk was diseased and rotted out. We’re afraid that residents may lose more trees, as the ground is so saturated that a stiff wind could topple them over from the roots.

It may storm again this afternoon, so we wanted to be home well before it does. Hence – the early start; to Granzins’ for meats, to Tractor Supply for dog and chicken food, to Costco for laundry soap, cheese, and certain other sundries, Sam’s Club for certain others, and finally the big HEB over at Blanco Road for all the rest. Yes, we have worked out where to get the best for the least. We start out with a big ice chest in the back of the Montero, and stack up the bags of pet food evenly. Tomorrow I’ll get out the vacuum seal bags and process everything for the freezer out in the garage.

We had a very nice sales month for books in May; the Second Chronicle of Luna City did very well, and a fair number of readers also bought the first Chronicle as well. And there are some nice new reviews up on Amazon for both, and a reader in England who discovered both by accident left a very nice comment on the website page for the Chronicles – so yay! However, there has been a curious occurrence, in that there is another writer named Celia Hayes, who has written a single ebook comic romance … the reader in England who loved the Chronicles also loved the other Celia’s book, and found them in searching by name. I am not sure what, if anything, I ought to do about this. I understand that the writer Elizabeth Taylor had somewhat of the same problem, in that her name was also being used by another woman … who was rather more notorious than a simple scribbler of literary fiction.

As far as other book matters go, I have maybe three more chapters to go in winding up The Golden Road – which adventure has been a long time in development, what with being distracted by other writing projects, and then by the requirement to broaden my research field a little more, to encompass California in 1856-58. There were a lot of later important and/or interesting people there at that very time, including William Tecumseh Sherman, Edwin Booth and Lola Montez. Because the Luna City Chronicles are proving to be so popular, and let’s face it – my daughter and I are having a giddy and humorous time in writing them – I’ll have ago at doing the Third Chronicle over the summer, side by side with another set of Lone Star Sons stories. We’ll see how it works out.

Schedule-wise, we seem to have a book event every month for the next few; the Wimberley Book Festival on the 11th of this month, then the San Antonio Indy Book Festival in July – and this very day we received our invitation to the Giddings Word Wrangler bash in September! That community book bash is an absolute blast to participate in. No, we didn’t really sell all that much last time – but the community involvement made it all terrifically special; a gala the evening before, classes of school children being bussed to the library to meet the authors, and a wonderful luncheon the following day, as well as a ton of regional authors to meet and socialize with! Oh, yes! We’ll be there with bells on. (And me in my period costume, but that’s another story, entirely.)

29. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

(A brief account of Memorial Day in Luna city, from the Second Chronicle of Luna City, which we brought out at the beginning of May, in response to a chorus of pleading from readers who want to know how the cliffhanger at the end of the first Chronicle was resolved.)

Luna City is well-equipped with military veterans, as are many small towns in fly-over country – especially the old South. The draft is only somewhat responsible for this. After all, it was ended formally more than four decades past. But the habit and tradition of volunteering for military service continues down to this very day, with the result that veterans of various services and eras are thick on the ground in Luna City – while a good few continue as reservists. There are not very many pensioned retirees, though; Clovis Walcott is one of those few, having made a solid Army career in the Corps of Engineers, and then in the same capacity as a Reservist. He is the exception; Lunaites mostly have served a single hitch or two, or for the duration of a wartime mobilization. They come home, pick up those threads of the life they put aside, or weave together the tapestry of a new one. What they did when they were in the military most usually lies lightly on them, sometimes only as skin-deep as a tattoo … and sometimes as deep as a scar.

The oldest veterans among present-day Lunaites are from the Big One – World War Two, although that number has diminished to a handful in recent years. Doc Wyler, who served in the Army Air Corps is the most notable representative of that cohort. Miss Letty’s late brother Douglas McAllister, the eminent historian, was also in the Army Air Corps, and Miss Letty herself served in the European theater as a Red Cross volunteer. The greater portion of the Luna City VFW post, though, are Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans, with a younger cohort – to include Joe Vaughn, Sylvester Gonzales, and Chris Mayall – serving in various capacities in more recent operations in Africa, Afghanistan, and the Middle East.

There is not much need in Luna City for elaborate observances of Memorial Day; flowers and wreaths appear on the steps of the pale obelisk in Town Square which is the war memorial. The Abernathys’ display window has a pair of American flags with the staffs crossed, over a large vase of red, white, and blue artificial flowers, and a fan of those magnets shaped like loops of yellow ribbon with various patriotic and veteran-supporting mottoes on them. The notice boards outside of the various churches make respectful note of the day, but in the main, the most notable civic event marking Memorial Day is the late afternoon BBQ at the VFW post. This is more of an open pot-luck; the VFW members pass the hat for the purchase of brisket, pork roasts, sausages and chicken quarters … and everyone else brings salads, bread, chips, and relishes. The bar has been well-stocked with beer and soft drinks for weeks.

The weather is usually mild – neither hot or cold, although spring rain has threatened in some years – so the party spills out from the clubhouse, out onto the paved patio under the trees which line the riverbank. The air is rich with the good smells of roasting meats slathered with the spicy sauce provided by Pryor’s Good Meats BBQ. The veterans and their families and guests nibble on a bit of this and that, as they reminisce and gossip. Sometimes someone works up an impromptu flag football game, played on the mown grass out in back of the Tip-Top. Joe Vaughn, who had been the star quarterback for the Mighty Fighting Luna Months in his senior year, sits out the game with considerable regret. Three hitches of particularly strenuous Army service have blown out his knees; jumping out of perfectly usable aircraft or fast-roping down from helicopters in full battle-rattle will have that effect on mortal joints and bones.

The only thing which might strike a casual visitor as curious is that table set up in the corner with a plate and silverware for one, a beer mug empty and turned upside down, even as unopened bottles of beer accumulate during the afternoon and evening. There is a small square of black fabric draping this table, which is centered underneath the POW/MIA banner which hangs on the wall – the table set for those who are not able to return to Luna City for the Memorial Day BBQ at the VFW. Their friends buy them a beer, though. By unspoken understanding, the money paid for those beers goes into a gallon glass jar which once contained pickle relish and at the end of the evening the cans and bottles lined up on the black-draped table are put back into the storeroom. The day after the BBQ, the money in the pickle relish jar is forwarded to a military charity which sends comforts to those troops deployed overseas.
And that is Memorial Day in Luna City.

… or the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie Donald Trump.
Paraphrasing the motto across the front of a favorite tee shirt that I wore out years ago, “I used to be disgusted; now I’m only amused.” I’ll cop to being both amused and disgusted when Donald Trump first hove into sight as a potential GOP nominee earlier in this election cycle. The whole thing was a joke, and I was certain he was playing it as such, playing it for the laughs and as an ego boost. Yes, The Donald of the bright orange tan and hopelessly fake comb-over, a crass, loudmouth East Coast real-estate speculator, with vulgar and over-the-top tastes in everything from interior to exterior decoration, in the words of the writer at Zero Anthropology, a “mountain of Grade A Beef in a $10,000 suit,” significant other of one Marla Maples back in the day when he first became an enduring feature on the front pages of national tabloids – that Donald Trump did not strike me as likely presidential timber. Still really doesn’t, but then I never thought a no-name minor Chicago machine pol with precisely nothing on his professional resume save being the editor of the Harvard Law review and identifying as black was presidential timber either, yet the post turtle got elected to that high office twice.

I did, however, believe that Trump’s value as a potential candidate was that he demonstrated that there was no downside to speaking the unspeakable, and touching on the topic of the untouchable. He went out there, openly voicing unhappiness with the problem of criminal illegal aliens, with the Ruling Class inclination to welcome Islamic refugees, with closing down American industries and outsourcing jobs which had supported working class Americans, and with frankly and openly – even combatively – to critics. This had to count for something, in demonstrating to other potential nominees that there was no downside in going “there” and I hoped very much that more of them would have followed to excellent effect. Ah well – it takes considerable nerve to go against the habit and training of – if not a lifetime in politics, at last a few years in the “elect me-me-me!” game. So, here we are, us small-government, fiscally responsible, free-market enthusiasts, looking at and probably supporting (with varying degrees of un-enthusiasm) a nominee who has never given much indication of allegiance to those standards, or even two of the three; being in fact one of those reality TV stars, more famous for being famous. So – how come the political popularity?

At this point, I have to say that it’s a mixture of the blunt-speaking – and the fact that the Donald has collected all the right enemies. Not only collected enemies, but driven them into a fine frothing fury. Lefty intellectuals and activists, movie stars of more than the usual degree of political vapidity, media personalities and commentators, self-important writers … they are all going absolutely mad. And frankly – it’s as amusing as anything to watch, especially as many of them have been nastily condescending to ordinary, non-minority, working-class, flyover-country citizens for years.

Discuss, and add your own reasons for the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie Donald Trump.

26. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

And yes, there is freedom unimaginable in it – that bit of technology available since the last half of the century before last. A sewing machine, a pattern, a small degree of skill with them both, and personal fashion style is your oyster. One will never again be held hostage to the fashion trend of the moment, especially if said fashion trend is desperately unfattering, unfitted to make a good impression for the profession or occupation that you are in, otherwise unsuitable, and expensive. What brought this on was a discussion on another author website regarding certain fashion preferences, and a lamentation that it was so hard to find exactly what would be suitable, fitting, comfortable and all … and I am remembering how this was so not a problem for me, when I was working in an office and business professional was the order of my day and wardrobe. If I could not find exactly what I wanted – a black lightweight wool slightly-below-knee-length pencil skirt, to give one example – I could just buy a yard of suitable fabric and a seven-inch zipper, and go home and make it in an afternoon.

There’s an enormous freedom in being able to make exactly what I wanted, and make it to fit, and in a flattering color. Oh, usually it costs something to sew an outfit yourself, considering the costs for the pattern, the notions and the fabric – usually as much as just purchasing it off the rack on sale, but not near as much as full price from a quality outlet like Talbots’ or Neiman Marcus, and for a pittance in relation to having it tailored individually.

I have read that home sewing is one of those things that is just not done so much anymore, or not so much as was done routinely in past decades; certainly not for every-day clothing, when tee shirts and jeans are the backbone of every day wardrobes for most Americans. But there are still enough people doing it, enough people certainly to keep the pattern companies in business, and fabric and notions departments in mass. For special event clothes, costumes and crafts – I would say that there is still a good market in catering to the home seamstress or tailor. It’s just one of those once-widespread skills – like cooking – which is now more of a hobby than an every-day practice.
But still a darned useful skill to have.

20. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Fun and Games, My Head Hurts

Ah, the stupidities come so thick and fast of late. It’s like the rain here in Texas, which has been pouring down with such intensity over the last few days that all the usual low-water flood-danger locations have been – as any fool could easily predict – flooded and closed to vehicle traffic. It rained so hard on Thursday morning that for the first time in ages, we skipped walking the dogs. Looked out at the flooded street, the flooded front walkway, rain coming down sideways, and the sky so dark that it looked like twilight already; nope – not even the dogs were keen, especially Nemo the Terrier-God-Knows-What, who loathes and despises water with a wholly undoglike passion.

But social and political stupidities – what a rich buffet was laid before us this week, even apart from the gross stupidity of deciding that the ostensible civil rights and good-will of what may be .03% of the general population – that miniscule transgender portion of it – supersedes the rights of women and girls in a public restroom/locker/changing room to be certain they are not being letched on by a perv who has twigged to the fact that if he only declares that he feels female on that particular day that no one will want to firmly escort his perverted ass out of said safe space. Yes, the Kennedy Administration vowed to put a man on the moon, the Obama Administration has put a man in the Ladies’ Room and damned if the pervy wretch isn’t insisting that he has a perfect right to be there. Progress, y’all. While the perv element may have witless friends in the form of various celebrities ostentatiously declaring that they won’t be performing in *insert the location here* because hate/failure-to-socially-advance/toleration-eleventy!! I am brought to wonder if their concerts were significantly less than sold-out, and this is a handy means of cancelling an event and putting a convenient cover over the economic failure of it all. And I am also reminded of the way that mobs came out to eat at Chick-fil-A, in response to an announced boycott because the gaystapo getting all (you should pardon the expression) butt-hurt over the Chick-Fil-A CEO mildly expressing personal support for traditional marriage.

Moving on – to the massive idiocy reflected in this series of stories; that black people don’t want to go to national parks because of the trees! Treez! Eleventy! Because black people were hanged from TREEZ! And something should be done about Black Peeplez! not wanting to go out to visit national parks … which are full of those Nasty Hanging Treez! So it would seem that bringing out mega-busloads of urban Black Peeplez! to national parks to appreciate the lovely and bountiful scenery, the meadows, mountains and infinitely-varied landscapes isn’t really the solution to this urgent and lately-discovered social conundrum. It’s just another national-sized racial shakedown by the usual suspects. Yay. Another yawning and insatiable maw of racial resentment, on a national scale to be fed by … seriously, I hope that the American populace – which still tracks as about %75 white (or something that at a squint would rate at %75 white) would be exhausted with indulging these freaks at this point. I know that I am. Wait until they find out that in many of these parks, it snows in the winter, and the snow is white!

And meanwhile, Venezuela is in the throes of collapsing in about every way that a nation-state can collapse, after having been lauded by the social justice warrior luvvie set for years. The pictures of what various families have by way of food in their house is absolutely heartbreaking, even more so than the pictures of empty grocery store shelves. There is a lot of ruin in a nation. And yet somehow, after reducing a wealthy South American country to absolute penury, the heirs of the man most responsible for that ruin – are among the richest individuals in that country.

And finally – on to the mismanagement of a private liberal arts university called Burlington College, which apparently began as a small, fiscally-responsible place offering some specialty degree programs and a small student-to-faculty ratio to the more mature student, yet finished up by biting off more than it could chew economically, chiefly under the leadership of Jane Sanders, aka Mrs. Bernie Sanders. Intending to expand the physical campus, the endowment, enrollment, and degree programs. Unfortunately, acquiring a nice parcel of lakefront land with existing buildings from the local Roman Catholic diocese strained Burlington’s fiscal resources beyond the breaking point – and now the place is closing down entirely. Jane Saunders parted ways with Burlington College under the power of a hefty golden parachute sometime previous to this final debacle. While she and her husband are two entirely separate and distinct people, the fact remains that she as an administrator managed to make a bad but perhaps survivable situation infinitely worse and ultimately un-survivable. This tends to reinforce a feeling that the pair of them together do not have a very firm grasp on sound economic policies, since Bernie Sanders himself never actually managed to make a good living at all, until he got into politics.

I’m almost afraid to look at what will be in the news next week. Discuss.

Well, not quite everything, of course. I am speaking of the Edwardian-style suit that I was moved to construct, as something eye-catching to wear at an author – especially a multi-author event – of which I do have a few, coming up over the next months. The Second Chronicle of Luna City was done and put to bed – that is, uploaded, signed-sealed-and-delivered to LSI last week, and so I had a bit of time to devote to other-than-writing chores. I finished the suit, re-trimmed a flamboyant wide-brimmed hat to go with, a small bead and lace-trimmed hand-bag ditto, bought all the parts to make a small fake-fur tippet, of the kind that I used to see the elderly church-ladies wearing … although I still do have to make the tippet. It will be the kind made to look like a small furry animal biting its’ own tail.

This should amuse small children immensely – much as it used to divert my brother JP and I, seeing the ladies at church, with their menageries of furred stoles, slung about their shoulders, glaring at us over the back of the pews with their very-realistic glass eyes. The furry stoles, not the elderly ladies, I mean. Those stoles had glass eyes, little toothy jaws, and little black noses, and sometimes dangling paws as well. Yes, we were often horrifically bored during long sermons. Fancying that the little furry stoles were live animals, and might come bounding over the pews amused us at least as much as sorting out the various Biblical stories and parables limned in the splendid early 20th century windows of a church which was designed to look sort of like a minor English cathedral, inside and out. (Granny Jessie was a member from earliest days, Mom and Dad were married there, all of us were christened, and my sister married there and still is an active member. Supposedly, it was made in sections from poured concrete and supposed to be faced in stone, but the Depression put paid to that ambition, and eventually everyone agreed that the concrete had weathered so nicely, that why go to the bother and expense?)

The next event on my author schedule is a book festival in Wimberley, Texas, on June 11, at the Wimberley Community Center. There will be forty other writers there, so – standing out in the crowd is imperative. Then, following in July, there is the second annual San Antonio Indie Book Fest – this will be at Say Si, in downtown San Antonio on July 16th. There’s nothing set yet for August, and I have not yet heard anything firm about the Giddings Word Wrangler, in September. I’ll have a full supply of my books to carry me through the year, and am investigating the possibilities of drop-cards, so that buyers who want an ebook edition can buy the card from me. We have finished up all but a single one of the Watercress Press projects as well – so until a new one pops a head above the parapet, I’ll be working on my own books from here on out, for the foreseeable future.

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why the burning social question of the moment has to do with transgender persons and bathrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities, both those for the convenience of the public and those dedicated for the use of school children. First and foremost, I will not believe that there can be all that many genuine transgender persons of any age wandering around, outside of a few very limited locations; very few and those who have not taken the plunge entirely would, I believe, not be all that damned flamboyant about it. It is remotely possible that I might have been in a public facility at the same time as an undecided or a totally committed transgender and been unaware of it, but frankly, I believe that my personal chances of having done so and knowing about it are about on par with my chances of being abducted by aliens.
After all the recent sturm und drang with regard to the actual proportion of gays across the general population – give or take 2% of the whole, and I don’t CARE how high the representation is in certain neighborhoods or occupations, or how many gay characters there are in any given movie or TV show – gays are only about two in a hundred, and genuine transgender persons are considerably less than that. So the tender concern regarding them using the bathroom of choice is a tempest the size of Hurricane Katrina in a demitasse cup – and again; why? With all this talk about safe spaces, and a so-called “war on women” – isn’t facilitating the presence of male sexual predators in a female bathroom, locker or changing room a little – I don’t know – counter-productive? Is there a method in this apparent madness?

Is it, as some have suggested – a sort of Gessler’s Hat; an exercise in petty authority on the part of a petty and vindictive man, designed to remind ordinary citizens that they must and will obey the dictates of the ruler? There is an argument to be made in that. Our current president gives every appearance of one accustomed to snapping his fingers and seeing the underlings fall all over themselves to obey.

Or is it another salvo in a continuing effort to jam the controlling tentacles of a federal government vampire squid more thoroughly into the public school system – a system more generally controlled at a local, city and state level – under the extremely thin guise of being a matter of civil rights for an all but invisible minority? Could be; and I personally think this would be the likeliest motivation.

Is it a deliberate ploy to distract – chaff thrown out direct public and news media attention away from something else, something much more serious, and if so, what? Candidate Hillary’s problems with security, and bungling Benghazi? What other catastrophic failures is this a distraction from?

Or – could it be a calculated effort to goad us farther into open defiance?
Discuss.

14. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Geekery, History

I do wish they had paused long enough to look into some of the ground-floor shops, and into the church, too – but still, this is awesome.

Oh, yes – I’m still here. Finishing up work for a client, and the launch for the Second Chronicle of Luna City.

20. April 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Cry Wolf

… Must be the LGTBYTUVXYZ activist and alleged Christian minister who bought a specially-decorated cake from the Whole Foods store in Austin, and tried to claim that a disparaging message had been iced upon it. The shock, the horror and all of this devastating experience (Devastating, I tell you!) led him to post at length on YouTube, hire a mouthpiece and alert The Media! Very shortly afterwards. So shortly, I reckon it was done at something close to light-speed as the social media cycle goes these days.

Sigh. This in Austin, and at Whole Foods. I can only guess that an HEB bakery counter was just too infra dig, and any Christian-owned bakeries were just too damn far out in the suburbs, and like ick! Straight and white people cooties! Like – he would have to have driven simply miles to have found a commercial bakery outlet which would have delivered a product absolutely guaranteed to live up to all those sweaty social justice warrior fantasies. So pick on Whole Foods … where a video rundown of the staff likely would have looked like the sequence of Roger de Bris’ stage crew in the remake of The Producers.

Brilliant, guy – simply brilliant. And Whole Foods is going to sue; all props to them for not caving.

There may be real hate crimes being perpetuated in these somewhat United States, but anyone paying attention to news reports of them usually must conclude that if they have not been faked outright by the so-called victim, it’s some curious circumstance that has been wildly misinterpreted by hysterics. Discuss.

14. April 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Geekery, History, Literary Good Stuff

Coming up for air, after more than a week of … well, stuff. Firstly, Blondie and I decided to bring out the sequel to Chronicles of Luna City at the end of this months, rather than try and do three books all at once at the end of the year. I have the sequel to Lone Star Sons to write, and The Golden Road to finish – those last two got set aside in the rush to finish Luna City and Sunset and Steel Rails in time for the Christmas market season. Inspiration, OK? It strikes where it will. So – finishing that sequel and going through editing and layout, and devising new pictures for the chapter heads … and right in the middle of all that, my main computer chooses to not be able to internet. Seemed to be a purely mechanical thing – as in some connection in the innards not being able to connect – and I had some handy work-arounds, which were sabotaged by the wireless router crashing shortly thereafter. And then my daughter’s computer crashed utterly and irretrievably. Sigh.

This is why we have a spare everything, in boxes in the closet. Computer, monitor, router … and also why I back up everything to a thumb drive and an external hard drive as soon as I finish writing a chapter. And a laptop, which those generous people running the Amazon Vine program offered me earlier this year. I will never forget that horrible day around Christmas 2007 when I was just about ready to sit down and write that fifth chapter for Adelsverein: The Gathering – where Carl and Magda meet cute on the bank of a river when she is desperate and he is heroic – and the then-current computer crashed, taking all four previous chapters with it. My dear late friend, Dave the Computer Genius was able to sort out the crippling virus infestation after a couple of days, retrieve all my files (including the chapters!) and revive the then-current computer unit to serve for a few years more … but prepared is to be forewarned. Hence the redundant back-ups. And I also bought into some particularly effective virus-killing programs and have used them religiously ever since. This is my livelihood, OK?

Still, it does take some time to migrate everything to the new unit/units. It’s rather like a PCS – moving into a new space. There is some time required to settle everything familiar into the new location, get comfortable with the layout, locate the new electrical switches – especially because the new units and the laptop came already pre-loaded with Windows 10 … as well as some kind of leftover function that made me sign-in repeatedly, if I walked away from the computer or didn’t move the mouse or strike a key in one minute. Took two days to sort that one out, which tends to tell on the writing time, let alone re-installing certain necessary programs, which I was foresighted enough to have on original discs. (What is with this thing about paying a monthly fee to have certain programs available – a rant for another occasion, I think.)

Anyway, now settled into the new work-space and picking up those writing projects set aside, and thinking about new ones. What to work on when I finish The Golden Road? I’ve been toying with the thought of a WWI novel, since there are characters in The Quivera Trail and Sunset and Steel Rails of an age to have been affected by it. I may still do something of the sort, but writing about how the 19th century world came to an end in bloody mass-slaughter of men and empires, not to mention a certain degree of confident optimism … at this present depressing time, I don’t need any additional depression. I’m toying more energetically with the idea of an adventure set in the American Revolution; how the original Becker paterfamilias came to America as a Hessian mercenary, and deserted at the end of the war to stay behind, marry a local girl named Katerina, and set up a prosperous farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania. That would be more to my liking – picking up the circumstances briefly mentioned in Daughter of Texas, with a young Margaret Becker fondly recalling her grandfather; the wisest, kindliest and most humorous man of her acquaintance, who made certain that she and her brothers spoke proper German.

How careful he had been in speaking the old language, ensuring that she and Rudi said words in the proper way, so that Oma Katerina laughed and laughed, saying that the children sounded as if they had a broomstick up their backsides, so prim and careful with words and sounding like proper children of Hesse. Margaret had never thought that Opa had been sad about leaving his family, and his soldier comrades. The story of Opa and Oma had a rightness about it, the comfort of a familiar fairy-tale for children; of course young Opa Heinrich should stay in America and marry the young Oma Katerina. That was the happy ending which all fairy tales had.

That will be an interesting book to write, although I shall have to stretch my research library in a whole ‘nother direction; I do have some materiel about late 18th century America and life in the colonies – but more will be required.
And I will have to find the time to get out the sewing machine and start to work on my author-garb for the upcoming year – the Edwardian-style walking suit and a towering period hat to wear with it.

Curious indeed, to reflect that by the end of this year, I will have been out of the Air Force for as long as I was in it – but the time does fly when you are having fun. But twenty years in the Big Blue Machine does leave marks, as well as an exquisite sense of how the military really operates in real time, among the lower-ranking levels, close to the ground. This isn’t a sense readily developed from reading, although I suppose someone with wide experience, a strong sense of empathy and close personal associations with veterans can develop it by proxy.

This around-about way of explaining how all this last weekend, my daughter and I were wondering about a murder-suicide at Lackland AFB on Friday morning. A trainee airman had fatally shot his squadron commander, and then killed himself. Of course, it all came out in dribbles over the weekend; the trainee was an E-6, aged 41 and a student in the pararescue course … and had also resigned from the FBI as a special agent. Everything about this was curious, even unlikely; the Air Force para-rescue specialty is one of the most physically-demanding jobs the Air Force has. It’s comparable to the SEALS, and Army Special Forces, in that many are called, few chosen, and even fewer still graduate.

And an instant promotion to E-5 or E-6, Blondie and I agreed, must mean this man must had been prior service; Marine or Army Ranger, in order to waltz in without going through Air Force basic. But to have dropped from the FBI to enlist … curioser and curioser, Blondie and I agreed – and until today, there was nothing really reported which explained any of this … until I found a story from the L.A. Times. A reporter had actually looked at the anomalies, and reported thusly:

Bellino joined the Army after graduating from high school in 1992, training first as an Army Ranger at Ft. Stewart, Ga., then as a Green Beret at Ft. Bragg, N.C., according to his attorney, Daniel Conway. In 2002, he left the Army and joined the Army National Guard, serving with a special forces unit based in Ohio, according to Conway and military records. During his time in the Army and National Guard, Bellino served multiple tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Kuwait …From 2004 to 2007, Bellino also worked as a civilian contractor with a private security firm, the lawyer said. In 2011, Bellino left the military, went to work as an FBI special agent in the New York office but resigned after less than two years, according to an FBI statement. He then tried to reenlist in the Army or join the Navy, but eventually settled on the Air Force because it involved the least amount of red tape…

To recapitulate; ten years in the Army, then the Army National Guard for nine years, to include three years as a civilian contractor, then a mere two years as an FBI agent … and back to military service, as a trainee among people half his age. I’d venture a speculation that this extremely checkered career is an indication of certain personality traits; traits that made him a very bad team player and a huge problem for commanders and NCOs, all the way along. I’d also speculate that he looked good at first look, every time … but eventually the problem traits surfaced, and it was just less trouble for all involved to let him move on. Discuss.

30. March 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: European Disunion, GWOT, Politics

So, as I am devoting all my energy and time to finishing the first draft of another book, I have been following – with lashings of sorrow, pity, dread and the merest splash of schadenfreude – developments in Europe. Germany, which seems to be cracking under the weight of a full load of so-called refugees, Sweden, ditto, Brussels, where the concerned citizens appear to be too frightened to continue with a protest march against fear, and the governing authorities appear to be more concerned about the legendary anti-Muslim backlash than the certainty of Islamic terror unleashed in some European or English city.

The transnational progressive ruling elites have their concerns; you see … not the safety or well-being of their own native tribes, who appear to have been bulldozed by political correctitude into assuming the supine and unresisting position. Every bit of national pride and cultural confidence looks to have been kicked out of the native European tribes over the last half-century. Whether this cultural demoralization was calculated or unwitting is still up for grabs, I guess – but there you are; the enduring image is of powerless serfs, savagely disciplined by their overlords for any breach of discipline or expression of objection or dissent, only now the overlords don’t bear patents of nobility as did the old Ruling Class. The new Ruling Class may not boast of noble titles in the old sense and noblesse hasn’t obliged to anything but veiled contempt directed at those of their own countrymen lower down on the ladder than themselves.(The sense of towering entitlement and vicious social snobbery has carried on, so there is that tradition being maintained.)

So once that national pride and cultural confidence has been destroyed, what is to be next? Such qualities are intangible things, even if they were once powerful motivators of the native European national tribes. They lead to nasty things such as wars, which the transnational progressives can’t stomach, and which ordinary people aren’t that wild about anyway, and after two particularly nasty wars rubbished cities and gutted two generations of their best and brightest, why not set them aside and give peace a chance?  Or so I presume the reasoning goes.

The worrying aspect of the recent tidal flood of Muslim refugees into Western Europe is that in order to keep the peace between the migrants and the local German, or French, Danish, English or Swedish citizens, some things must be given up. In times before, it would have been the incoming refugees who would have been asked to give up; customs incompatible with the host nation for a start. In this topsy-turvy world of the new transnational Ruling Class, though – it appears so far to be the native Europeans who are being asked to give up; a sense of being safe in their own streets for a start, especially when it comes to unaccompanied women. In France and in Belgium, whole urban neighborhoods have already been given up to the rule of sharia. The matter of the Danish cartoons and Charlie Hebdo have pretty well proven to anyone paying attention that freedom of speech, or at least the right to poke fun at Mohammed and Muslims in general is being limited.  There is a plan on already for female-only railway coaches on German trains, and for woman-only hours or spaces at public pools. It has been spottily reported that groups like Sharia4Belgium actively campaigned at a street level for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to begin conforming to Islamic custom. Other sharia4 organizing groups appear to have something more than just an internet presence, in demanding that secular law be set aside in favor of sharia – religious law.

A few years ago, I read of traditional folk street festivals in the Lowlands, being broken up and participants attacked by Muslim men. I can’t find any trace of those particular stories now – they have sunk without a trace, but they all track in the same direction. Folk and religious custom, civil law, safety in the streets and on transport, freedom of expression … what next will Europeans and Americans be asked by the Ruling Class to put limits on, or to give up? And what will be the one thing which will finally set off an explosion of rebellion among ordinary Europeans? Forbidding the consumption of pork sausages, or public beer drinking in deference to Muslims, would be my bet, although your mileage may vary. Discuss.

It seems that there is a great social and literary kerfuffle going on in some circles about J. K. Rowling writing about the sub-rosa magical world of Harry Potter, and extending it into North America … and collecting a ration of butt-hurt thereby, over an interesting concept called cultural appropriation. She earned this through including Native American – as in Indian-with-a-feather rather than Indian-with-a-dot – legends and aspects of culture in her writing and world-building. In using the feather/dot descriptive extension, the Gentle Reader may gather straightaway that I care not for jealous cultural-claim holding, so if a wide-ranging and imaginative use of literary sources outside the one that a writer was born into offends thee, then retire to your fainting couch and trouble this noble company no longer!

Or attend to my gentlewomanly words … sorry, I seem to be channeling the idiom of the great English genius, William Shakespeare, who was and still often is accused of not possibly being the person that he seemed to be – a hard-working lower-to-medium-middle-class actor, playwright and greedy cultural-appropriator of every thing going and available to him in the 15th century – and also imagining the character and conversations of nobility and royals, of soldiers, lawyers, cutpurses and bawds, of innocent virgins and the not-so-terribly-bright lovers who loved them …

So – clearing my throat and waving off the last vestiges of the various cinematic Shakespeare romps that we have watched over the last several evenings – really? Certain tropes are now off-limits? Because … ohhh – those doing the writing and appropriating are not of quite the same matching color and culture of those doing the appropriating. Really?

Sorry, my own dear segregationist cultural warriors … won’t wash. First – if it is out there, it will be used by story-tellers. Full-stop. Oh, it is still frowned upon to outright plagiarize – but there is nothing new under the story-telling sun. To take an element, a character-type, a plot device, a trope – as it were, and run away romping with it in one’s own style … well, that’s pop-culture all over. I did a college course in Greek and Roman lit, back in the day – where the professor confessed that in all of Roman comedy there were only about three plots and half a dozen stock characters, which made it sound like late 20th century TV situation comedies, or possibly even classic commedia del arte.

So appropriate away – just for the love of the audience, make it good. Take those little Lego blocks of characters, tropes, plots, legends … and build something new and amazing. At the very least, make it interesting.

The tomato trees - just planted

The tomato trees – just planted

Here we are, a week or so to go until the traditional last recorded winter frost in this part of the world … which I do not think is going to happen, to speak candidly and openly. Two years ago, we had a sudden norther which blew in and dropped the outside temperature about thirty degrees in the space of twenty minutes, and went farther – from a mild and temperate afternoon, to a hard frost after sundown. And this, after a weekend spent in the garden, and a week after having planted the first of the beans, and the garden starts bought from the local HEB grocery store, which has them available at a good price at this time of year.

But this early spring has been – mild. Warm, even – to the point where we have had to run the AC on some late afternoons. The house is one of those mid-1980s cracker-boxes, without any air flow-through, with minimal insulation, and large windows across the western-facing elevation which catches the full fell blast of late afternoon sunlight. There are things which can be done to amend this situation, which are being done as fast as I can afford them – but this concerns the garden, spring planting and all.

Apple Blossom - Early March

A single pink and white apple blossom

Having the chickens – or the ‘whup-whups’ as my daughter calls them, for the contented noise that they make when they are happy – makes it necessary to rethink the yard as regards the potential for veggie growing. The whup-whups are death to most green and growing stuff. Plants must be either tall enough to escape their snacking habits, totally distasteful to them or out of their reach entirely. It’s just the way that it is. There are, apparently, lovely chicken-proof gardens that one can design, but I will note that a lot of these depend on keeping the chickens on a plot of land large enough to be fenced into segments – and to keep them out of the area where the ambitious back-yard farmer is trying to grow vegetables, in an area either large enough to where their depredations are not noticeable, or specifically fenced off from those plants most vulnerable to chicken-snacking.

This means that our veggie-growing area is either out at the front, out of reach of the whup-whups, or in containers suspended out of their reach. Like the patented tomato-trees that Blondie bought at amazingly-marked down prices a year or so ago. We planted them in tomatoes last season, didn’t have much luck, so we are trying again this year. Honestly, conditions change so much from one year to the next. Last year wasn’t so good for tomatoes, but the pole beans were champions. I’ve also managed to grow some interesting varieties of peppers from seed over the winter, so – I have hopes of a bounteous harvest of bell, jalapeno, cayenne and poblano peppers. There is also a large bed set aside for potatoes; last year wasn’t so great for potatoes; I think we got some fancy assortments from Sam’s Club that looked promising, but had sat too long on the shelf or something. This year I have a five-pound bag of seed

Pepper plants - grown from seed over winter

Pepper plants – grown from seed over winter

potatoes from Tractor Supply, who on the whole seem more … serious about things agricultural, and a goodly assortment of seeds bought in the fall from Rainbow Gardens. So – a promising start to the gardening season, I think – as long as it doesn’t become too hot. There are buds on the plum tree, a blossom on the apple tree sapling, tiny buds on the calamondin orange, on the lemon and lime shrubs, the Spanish jasmine is in full bloom, and the wisteria is about to go full-blast, so hope springs eternal in this particular back-yard gardener.

Honestly, that is the only way that I can account for the out-of-completely-left field popularity of Donald Trump. He is not a notorious small-government libertarian like the Koch brothers, or has any previous political interests of any stripe to recommend him particularly; not even any detectable small-government, free-market and strict Constitutionalist Tea Party sympathies to recommend him.  If anything, he has always appeared to me as one of those big, vulgar crony-capitalist, unserious reality-TV personalities; the epitome of vulgar architectural bad taste and in blithely using his money and influence to cheerfully run over anyone who got in his way. His campaign at first seemed to be a particularly tasteless joke – a grab for publicity on the part of a flamboyant personality who never seemed to get enough of it, in a bad or a good way. So – all props for having the sheer brass neck to start playing the game, and playing it with calculated skill.

My supposition at the first about Donald Trump was that his main value lay in speaking the unspeakable; that which dare not be said in the polite company of the establishment political elite and those in the media who are their obedient handmaidens. He was opening up the circle of that which would and could not be talked about in polite society. It’s quite Victorian, isn’t it? This whole range of things which we aren’t supposed to talk about, or even notice in polite society, isn’t it? Especially if we live in those places where the Ruling Class dwells and associates only with other members of the ruling political, monetary and intellectual elite ….

Now that he had brought it all out, and proved resoundingly that there was no downside in the polls or news coverage to talking about it – dragging the whole fetid carcass of open borders and a lot of other stuff into the open – then other prospective candidates for the highest office in the land could also talk about it. Skyrocketing crime, the bias of the press, the criminal misconduct of Obama administration functionaries like Hillary Clinton, replacing American citizen workers with cheaper labor, government agencies like the EPA, the Bureau of Land Management, the IRS, and the misbegotten security organization that is Homeland Security allowed – nay, encouraged to abuse regular citizens in job lot … all that and more have made ordinary Americans angry. Very, very, angry, angry with the fury – not the incandescent fury of a thousand burning suns, which most often is demonstrated by frenzied mobs burning down city blocks and random “others” having the snot beaten out of them and/or lynched.

This is that cold and calculating fury, just about one inch from becoming a black hole of anger.  (I wrote about this cold anger previously.) This is the cold fury of people who do not care much about Trumps’ personal and personality flaws, about his business dealings, his crudity, his morals, his taste in architecture, his political inconsistency in saying whatever hits home with the audience he is speaking to at the time, or really – anything of that. They don’t care. The thing that matters – to these working class and flyover country Americans of all ethnicities, orientations and colors – is that Trump is scaring hell out of the Ruling Class, as Angelo Codevilla described them. Backing Trump, cheering him on at rallies and in social media is the way to give the biggest middle finger gesture possible in the direction of the Ruling Class … that very class who added the insult of contempt to the injury of being a completely incompetent and bungling Ruling Class.