The Rough Beast, Slouching Towards Destination Unknown

Adrift without a map, we are, in the sea of current events. Especially after this last week, which brought us a ground war in Gaza and the shoot-down of a passenger airliner over Ukraine; both situations a little out of the depth of the past experience of Chicago community organizer, even one who spent his grade school years in Indonesia. Quite a large number of the blogs and commenters that I follow have speculated over the last couple of months – at least since last year – have predicted disaster. They know not the day nor the hour, but they have read the various augurs according to their inclinations, suspicions and particular expertise, and gloomily speculate on the odds of various events occurring. There is something bad coming, the air is thick and heavy with signs and portents, never mind the cheery cast that the current administration and it’s public affairs division attempts to put on it. It’s like a makeup artist, plying the art on a six-months-dead corpse; it’s just not working.

The list of possible events speculated on begins with some kind of dirty nuke on a major (or even a relatively minor) American city, or other terrorist act, sustained racial riots in inner cities leading to violent resistance when the rioters spill out into the fringes, an epidemic caused by the recent accession of thousands of Central American illegal aliens and the administrations energetic dispersion of them everywhere, violent resistance to any number of ham-handed actions on the part of the federal government spiraling out of control as in the BLM-Bundy Ranch scenario, complete devaluing of the currency to the point of a ten-dollar bill having the value of a used bus ticket – I can come up with any number of issues which might potentially provide a flashpoint, and commentators likely can come up with as many more, even as we grimly acknowledge that the ignition point might be one which we won’t even see coming.

Today, Governor Perry of Texas announced plans to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border area – an area which has always been about as porous as a wet sponge, but which troubled no one much beyond those law enforcement in border counties, and residents whose ranch properties were essentially highways for the human traffic. The trickle of illegal immigrants (take THAT, PC Police, they’re illegal immigrants!) has become a gusher in the last year or so, and many on the conservative-libertarian spectrum suspect that it has been deliberately engineered, in an effort to Cloward-Piven our national borders. Darker prognostications have it that this is an attempt to stuff the ballot-boxes with sufficient voters to ensure a Democrat Party majority for the foreseeable future, to destroy the working- and middle-class – who have the ungrateful habit of independency and a disinclination to do as their so-called betters order them – and replace them with grateful serfs who will obediently do as they are told. How better to dissolve the people and replace them another?

There was a protest scheduled last Friday and Saturday – at the Mexican Consulate in San Antonio. It was a rather small one, when I passed by on Friday afternoon, and if the protest continued as scheduled on Saturday, I can find no evidence for it – but then, seeing how frequently the establishment media organs function as the public office of the Obama administration, I wouldn’t have been surprised to know that the protest was continued, and with more protesters – just that the local news coverage was of the “close your eyes, cover them with your hands and hope it will all go away” variety. One thing I did notice on Friday was that the protestors were raising the issue of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who inadvertently crossed over into Mexico at a particularly confusing San Diego freeway interchange earlier this summer. He had his personal weapons in the trunk of his car – and has been in a Mexican jail ever since, accused of smuggling guns into Mexico. I imagine that the Mexican authorities are feeling the schadenfreude, on account of Fast and Furious, but I haven’t seen much enthusiasm on the part of our State Department on getting him out of durance vile, Mexican-style … so every little bit of street theater may help.
Discuss.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz.net)

It Was One Of Those Days

We wanted a bit of a holiday, and to get away from the house and the usual jobs for a bit. My daughter wanted to hit up Herweck’s in downtown for some specialty paper for her origami projects. Herweck’s has a lovely stock of interesting papers; in large sheets, which may be cut to size for her origami art projects. I wanted to take some pictures downtown, and we both thought positively of a late lunch at Schilo’s Delicatessen and then … well, to whatever curiosity took us. We were tempted at the outset by a ere was a huge anime convention going on at the HBG convention center, which counted for the large numbers of … interestingly dressed people wandering around. As my daughter somewhat cuttingly remarked, after observing a herd of costumed anime fans, “Too many freaks, not enough circus.” Still, having acquired a taste for this sort of thing when we used to go to the science fiction convention in Salt Lake City when I was stationed in Utah, we thought we might check out the convention, if the price of entry was not too much out of budget. It was too much, as it eventually turned out, and neither of us was into anime sufficiently to properly appreciate the experience … But after walking back from Shilo’s along Market Street, we happened upon the Briscoe Western Art Museum, which was housed in what used to be – so we were assured by the young woman manning the desk – the old downtown public library building.

This was a wonderful construction of 1920s Moderne, newly spiffed up, and the foyer was marvelous. This was a two-story confection with a deeply coffered carved wood ceiling and a band of designs resembling the buffalo and Indian-head nickels around the walls just below the ceiling – all marvelous and detailed. A visit to a building like this once again reminded me of how much I detest and despise the horrid brutality of modern design for public buildings – lean and spare and square, with windows that can’t be opened, no ornamentation of any sort at all, save a stark open square with a concrete turd in a fountain in the middle of it. No, my detestation of modern architectural design of the Bauhaus steel-and-glass-box or concrete-n-glass variety remains undimmed and burns with the white-hot passion of a thousand burning suns … and as it turned out, the entry fee to the Briscoe was a relative pittance, and further reduced by a veteran discount. So – there was a far more economical use of funds and time.

The art on display is of course oriented to the west – lots of scenic vistas, longhorns, cowboys and the like, but leavened with a series of Curtis photographic portraits of Indians, some scenic vistas of border towns, and of the construction of Boulder Dam. As for big-name Western artists, the Briscoe has a small C. M. Russell bronze, and a couple of minor pieces by Frederick Remington, which to my mind is not very much at all, as far as the classic Western artists go. Most of what is there is in the way of art seems to be on loan from local donors and collectors – and it is a rather newish museum after all. Many exhibits are – not strictly speaking – art, but rather historical relics; a classic Concord stagecoach in one gallery – and a renovated chuck-wagon in another. The third-floor galleries had the most interesting items – antique saddles, including one adorned with silver rattlesnakes; once the property of Pancho Villa, and another which once belonged to the Spanish Viceroy in Mexico City. There is also a gallery dedicated to the Alamo – which is only to be expected. It is dominated by one of those elaborate models of the moment when the Alamo was overwhelmed by General Lopez de Santa Anna’s forces – about which I had a small quibble, and another item which raised more questions than the duty guard could answer. (The poor chap is probably curled up in a corner somewhere, quivering.)

This item is a Victorian hair brooch, one of those peculiarly Victorian things – a small lock of hair, made unto a piece of jewelry – usually woven into a pleasing pattern, and preserved under glass in a small setting. They were most often done in order to memorialize a deceased loved one … and this one was supposed to have been … well, the card next to it was singularly uninformative. OK, first of all – was it James Fannin’s hair? Several different alternatives; yes, his – a brooch left with a dear one, after his taking up the position of commander of the Goliad in late 1835. Likely. But his, post-mortem, after the massacre of his company and done after his body lying where it had been left for weeks and weeks? Ooooh – no, don’t think so.

Anyway, we had an interesting time discussing this with the duty guard; it’s true that docents and guards often know rather interesting things about the galleries where they are stationed, often because everyone is always asking them, and being able to give a good answer must be a kind of self-defense. Apparently, he and some of the other guards believe that the Alamo exhibit room is haunted. My daughter says that if any object in that room has the ability to haunt, it would be the gigantic iron 18th century cannon, which was supposed to have been in the Alamo, although if it had any part in the siege, no one knows. It looks like an 18-pounder, and was found buried on private property sometime in this century, so the guard says; the man whose property it was just set it up pointing at his mailbox. We speculated for a while on how it could have finished up buried in the ground, a thing which would have taken at least three ox-teams to move. At the time that the Alamo was the main Spanish presidio in Texas, it was supposed to have had the largest collection of artillery west of the Mississippi and north of the Rio Grande. After Santa Anna’s defeat at San Jacinto, likely the Mexican garrison left to hold the place bugged out with everything they could carry with them. We thought it likely that this particular cannon was dumped, either immediately or after a short distance. The information card at the exhibit offered very little detail – so we had our amusement from speculation.

And that was my bit of a summer holiday – yours?

Farewell, Riverdale

Can’t say that I ever really got into comic books – about the only time I ever really encountered them was at the shoe store, the venerable establishment where Mom used to take us to get our shoes, which was also the place where she and Uncle Jimmy had also been taken in the 1930s to get their shoes. Yes, it was that venerable – and one of the practices of this venerable establishment was to present very small children and babies who had gotten new shoes with a balloon on a string, and the older children with a comic book, each. Otherwise, the only regular graphic publication which really interested us as we grew was Mad Magazine – bought at the dime store news stand as issues appeared.

It was different for my daughter, who cut her teeth on Asterix and Obelix, and much later – when she learned to read – the Archie comic books. The adventures of Archie, Veronica, Betty, Jughead and the rest of the gang had been going on since the early 1940s – so talk about venerable establishments! They were timeless and gentle stories, perennially stuck in high school, and I believe Blondie was pretty well convinced that the Riverdale that we drove through between Hill AFB and South Ogden (an otherwise indistinguishable suburb) was the Riverdale of the Archie stories.

So, eventually one outgrows the comic books of youth – I know that Mad Magazine stopped being the last word in amusing to me about the time I finished high school, and Blondie experienced a similar evolution when she moved on to Dragonlance novels. But still – one retains a distant fondness for childish things, as well as distaste for seeing them changed out of all recognition. Indeed, one can almost see such changes as desecrating a shrine … so, reading about an adult Archie being gunned down by an assassin going after his gay friend – a politician – and having gun control worked into it was … well, the mood varied between horror and discombobulation. It was kind of like discovering that Laura Ingalls Wilder really grew up and became a lesbian chanteuse in Paris and dallied with radical politics.

Anyway – just thanks to the publisher for wrenching a mild and uncontroversial traditional set of characters, beloved by kids of a certain age for the last sixty years and more, into the trendy cause of the moment. I know the desecration will have been complete, if it turns out that the assassin was a Tea Party type.

TWANLOC

The inestimably acute and prolific blog-commenter Subotai Bahadur coined that acronym and has propagated it across the conservative-libertarian corner of the blogosphere ever since. It has achieved the status of an entry on Acronym Finder, for whatever that is worth. It is shorthand for “those who are no longer our countrymen” – itself an abbreviation for a slashing denunciation of those American colonists who were in sympathy with the wishes of Great Britain in a speech by Samuel Adams on American independence, delivered in a fiery stem-winder of a speech at the Philadelphia Statehouse in August of 1776 –

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

Sam Adams was a bit of a fire-eater, and the speech must have been magnificent to listen to, for certain of the phrases sound like a tocsin, a war-alarm on the ear. “Ye love wealth better than liberty,” “The tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom,” and “Crouch down and lick the hands that feed you,” which reminds me irresistibly of the establishment media as represented currently. Not to speak of “May your chains set lightly upon you,” – and “forget that ye were our countrymen.”
Yes, that’s the phrase that slashes like an old-fashioned straight-edge razor; clear and cold and across a couple of veins. “Forget that ye were our countrymen.”

Me – I have now had the experience in several different theaters of realizing that certain people, politicians, media, intellectual and entertainment figures of note, or even the establishments they work for – are no longer our countrymen. In fact, those certain people and their establishments deeply despise us ordinary, moderately-conservative, content and hard-working middle class citizens. They hate us, indeed – with a passion that convulses their souls, and drips in their every word like corrosive acid. They hate that we are individual, un-biddable, independent and proud. They hate it even more ferociously that we are not humble in the manner of the 19th century lower class Europeans in the face of nobles and bureaucrats, and they despise everything that we honor and relish, from church membership, to where we choose to shop, to adorn our homes and what we do for hobbies. They hate it that we have the franchise and exercise it, too – and even assume that it is our right and duty to be politically-involved; most recently with movements like the Tea Party. (Which, inter alia, shook and is still shaking the current ruling class down to it’s bones – hence the viciousness of the reaction to it, from the media, to popular entertainment and to the long-established political parties.) Most of all, I think – they despise us for not giving a damn what they think particularly, and rejecting practically everything that they tell us to do – ride public transportation, move into urban stack-a-prole housing, give up eating meat (or much of anything else), and continuing to believe that we can raise our own children and sort out our own lives without self-elected nannies breathing down our necks 24-7. Very likely the well-manicured and delicate hands of the new ruling class itch for a whip to give us all a good thrashing for our temerity. Indeed – they are no longer our countrymen in spirit, any more than the Tory sympathizers who departed the American colonies two hundred years and more ago are.

The most galling quality of the TWANLOC ruling class is how they constantly preen themselves on being so cultured, so tolerant, intellectual, competent and so very, very non-racist … unlike the ordinary rest of us; the veteran, the blue-collar working stiff, the stay-at-home-mom, the cashier working at the local grocery store, the owners of companies large and small. Alas, nine out of ten, the TWANLOC ruling class is not particularly cultured, tolerant or intellectual. Nine out of ten, the most vicious bigotries and stereotypes drop from their lips and into their narratives … and yet they remain blissfully unaware of their own faults and shortcomings.

So the division has widened and deepened over the last decade or so. Now we stand at a point where our international standing has never been lower, we barely have any border security at all, a number of cities which once were manufacturing power-houses are all but ruined, federal bureaucracies have been corrupted and weaponized against generally-law abiding and tax-paying citizens, the economy – despite increasingly desperate-sounding news releases to the contrary – is seemingly on the verge of tanking entirely. The anger at the TWANLOC ruling class who appear responsible for bringing this about is building. When it will come to a full boil – in that the anger will be expressed in more than comments, editorials, blog-posts and radio-call in shows – and in response to what kind of provocation is anyone’s guess. The tinder is everywhere, and the gasoline is poured. All it lacks is the spark; something like the stand-off at the Bundy place earlier this year, someone responding with a weapon to being the almost-victim of a knock-out game, a spontaneous local protest blockading a place where illegal immigrants are being processed, as in California in the last few days … that will light the spark. Likely TWANLOCs will be surprised. Likely they will excuse themselves of any responsibility for creating the conflagration. But we won’t.

(Cross-posted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

Tending the Home Fires – And Stuff

This is what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks – tending to home, and to the business, and wrapping up two of the three current book projects. The two authors involved are thrilled to bits with the work done for their books, and both of them – marvelously – have each a follow-on project which will come to me by the end of the month. Hopefully, the third follow-on project will be completed by then. The visual elements for that book are … well, the author is one of those who has to see the completed project before deciding if it is satisfactory, or not. Anyway, the business is paying nicely, and so I can afford some more home renovations and repairs.

Last month’s home renovation project was a complete revamp of the kitchen pantry – basically, a small closet, 25 inches wide, and about 27 deep. The original builders put in five or six wooden shelves, which ran the full width and depth of the closet … and basically made anything shoved to the back of the shelves unfindable and irretrievable. Unless you emptied everything out. Last month we hit Peak Exasperation with the whole thing – that is, the point where the hassle of doing anything constructive about about the problem is less than the hassle of continuing to put up with it. So – emptied everything into cardboard boxes, knocked out the shelves, repaired the various small dings in the drywall, repainted to cover the patches … and applied about $140 worth of wire shelving from Lowe’s, an assortment of square bulk storage containers from the Container Store, and mirabile dictu, now we can find everything easily.

This month, the project was – where to store Blondie’s inherited vintage Chambers stove, and all of the gear we need to do the various markets, especially around Christmas; the tables, the pop-up, the dolly, the chairs and all. The garage is packed pretty full with Blondie’s household goods already, and so … it came to us – a shed. A nice, tidy little shed in the back left corner of the yard; for the stove, and all the market gear, and various gardening tools, the home-brewing and canning things – which take up an incredible amount of space in a small house … any way, whatever we decided on would have to be fairly attractive, because the windows at the back of the house look out on that patch of garden. Function and beauty – as William Morris’ dictum has it, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

All the wooden sheds that I really, really liked the look of were way too expensive, even if we put them up ourselves – and I am just not interested in that kind of construction any more. The inexpensive ones – Rubbermaid makes them, and I seem them all over the place – do not age very well at all. We compromised on a metal version – temporary and portable – the salesman assured us, but built to order. It was a bit more than I had thought to spend at first – but we wanted one that had the appearance of a small porch with an overhang at the front, although the porch is really more of a wide step. It has one little window, and a door, rather like a kindergarten drawing of a house … and two carpenters from the company came to install it yesterday. It had to be assembled on site, but the four walls were already pre-fabbed, so they only had to build out the foundation, slide it into the most advantageous position, put the four walls on it and nail them together, and then do the roof. It only took half a day – Blondie thought it would be more than a day, but they were quite terribly efficient.

So – the project for the holiday weekend is to fit out the inside with shelves, move everything intended to be inside it to them, paint the bare wood of the support posts and balusters to match the color of the trim (dark green) and to re-accomplish the landscaping around it so that the shed itself presents an attractive appearance. We’ve promised a couple of pictures to the company, of course. And that was my chief concern – Blondie’s is how to go about moving the Chambers stove from the back porch into the shed. I think we’ll appeal to some neighbors for help on this.

Blondie’s Inheritance

It was delivered this afternoon, by a pair of muscular and sweating young men from a local moving company. No, not what you might think and get your mind out of the gutter – the main inheritance is a relatively lightly-used and mostly complete vintage Chambers stove, which item had occupied the kitchen of Blondie’s employer and my business partner likely since it was first installed and brand-new. A Chambers stove is apparently the American equal of a British Aga – and Blondie had always admired it. Alice didn’t cook – although her second husband did – and so the stove is the next thing to mint-condition, having the accessory pots for the thermo-well and just about all the accessories save the folding cover that went down over the stove-top when not in use. It has a built-in griddle – which I also had always admired, since the house where I lived in Ogden had a stove-top griddle and I have always wanted another like it. There don’t seem to be any big chips in the exterior enamel, or degradation of the chrome fittings, although the back and sides, and the various compartments are somewhat less than pristine. I foresee a lot of elbow-grease and de-greaser in Blondie’s immediate future.

Alice had no children, you see – although she had a living younger sister, and a number of fond nieces, and grand-nieces and nephews. In recent years, since she and I went into partnership in the Tiny Publishing Bidness, Blondie was her housekeeper, main home care-giver, chief Girl Friday and errand-runner. She did Alice’s grocery shopping, took her to routine appointments, sorted out all kinds of household and computer matters. They had a very comfortable relationship; Blondie observing on more than one occasion, that Alice was the grandmother that she wished she had. Alice, knowing this, was actually pretty chuffed at the compliment… and knowing that Blondie loved the Chambers stove, said that she could have it when she was gone. Her house is being cleared out by the family; I had already gotten all of the books and records necessary to carry on the business. Her library – including a comprehensive collection of Texiana – has been sold entire to a book dealer, the sister and nieces and other family have taken the furniture and memorabilia which was to be theirs – and Blondie has the stove. The gas to Alice’s house was turned off last week. I suppose that the house will be sold soon, although it was such a strange and eccentric concoction, added onto in such weird and awkward ways, without central air and heat – without any charm to the yard and plantings, and in a slightly marginal area – that any new owner would be best advised to demolish the whole thing and start again from scratch.

And the Chambers stove has been delivered – sitting now under the overhang of our back porch. We likely will have to redesign the entire kitchen to accommodate it, as it is very definitely an odd size, and I have no idea if there is a gas line in the kitchen anyway. I would have to scoot the present electric stove away from the wall to ascertain this, and right now that seems like too darned much trouble. And locate some kind of instruction manual for it on-line. Chambers stoves seem to be very popular items among aficionados of vintage kitchen appliances. Well, now we have one.

A Summer Day in Bosnia-Herzegovina 100 Years Ago

This weekend marks the hundredth anniversary of the incident which was the spark that set off the cataclysm of the First World War. Which wasn’t, strictly speaking, the first world-wide war; it could be argued that the Napoleonic Wars were, and the interminable European war between France and England which spilled over into those colonies in the North American continent could also be considered a world war.
The spark was seemingly a simple thing – almost a non-story as it appeared in the English and American newspapers; the assassination of an Austrian noble and his wife by a barely competent yet very lucky Serbian amateur terrorist. This was an appalling tragedy for the family of the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand and his beloved spouse, Sophie, the Countess Hohenberg, who left three living children to be raised by the Archduke’s best friend. The assassination was perhaps an inconvenience more than a tragedy to the the court and administration of Franz-Ferdinand’s uncle, the Emperor Franz Joseph. The Archduke, who but for the accident of birth would have been a rather quiet and dutiful nonentity, devoted to gardening, architecture and the hunt – was not a particularly popular man at the time of his death, either with his uncle, his fellow aristocrats or the Viennese public. He replaced the popular but suicidal Crown Prince Rudolph as heir, and had insisted on marrying for love, instead of merely making Sophie his mistress. They were eventually permitted to marry with the assurance that Sophie and her children would not have the standing or rights of succession. Sophie – lovely and well-tempered, conventionally pious, and well-educated – was usually treated pretty shabbily by Viennese society and by the imperial establishment on those official occasions at which the Archduke was expected to be present. Franz Ferdinand did play his part dutifully in official ceremonies and events, without any particular appearance of enjoyment. What started as a personal tragedy, and a national crisis for Austria-Hungary was merely the first fall in a train of dominoes.

The war which raged between 1914 and 1918 unleashed a whole cornucopia of horrors, being that they were waged between powers that had been fully or almost fully industrialized. It came after a hundred years of relative peace, prosperity and progress in the Western world. With the exception of the Franco-Prussian War, and the American Civil War, such wars as there had been were colonial wars, fought by small professional Western armies against relatively primitive foes. Many, especially in the educated classes in the late 19th century firmly believed that total, all-out, balls-to-the-wall war was something that the advanced nations of the West had moved away from, that the economic consequences would be so dire that the powers-that-be just wouldn’t allow it to happen. Meanwhile, European military planners moved briskly ahead, paying little attention to the main lesson to have been drawn from the American Civil War – that technology had moved far ahead of established tactics. The pump had also been primed by a series of little-recollected international crises at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th, which flamed up regularly in a sort of international patch of eczema, usually involving France, or Germany, England, Russia or Austria-Hungary or any combination. The crisis would be soothed by the hastily-applied salve of diplomacy … until the next time.

The one thing in common was that the great powers were jockeying for position, sometimes straight out, and sometimes through proxies. The author of the War That Ended Peace outlined how England and Germany came to stand against each other, having been allies more often than not in their previous history. Great Britain, a navy/sea power if there ever was one, gradually began a policy of more engagement in Europe among the great powers. Germany, a quintessential army/land power (and only unified into a single nation within living memory) developed the intention of having a serious deep-water navy.

And so they drifted into enmity. Once that first domino toppled, then all the rest came as a matter of course over the next four blood-soaked years. Treaty obligations and mobilization of the reserves imposed an iron rule. When the dominoes finished falling in 1918, three noble ruling houses had been cast down and a whole generation of of German, French, British and Russian men were gutted. The unwieldy empire to which the archduke had been heir-presumptive broke into its’ constituent parts, and all the bright promise of the modern world as seen by Europeans at the turn of the century before the last was reduced to a nightmare … and left us with wreckage that we are still sorting out, even after a hundred years. The past isn’t dead. It’s not even over.

More Science Fiction Fan Follies

I don’t know if I can really claim to be a science fiction fan – I am not hard-core, at any rate. I have had my moments with particular authors in the genre, I’ve been to a couple of cons (Salt Lake City and Albuquerque – the con here in San Antonio costs too much at the door for my budget) – I have all of Blake’s 7 on VHS tape (taped from broadcast on Salt Lake City’s public TV station in the early 1990s), most of Babylon 5, and I have purchased every on of Lois McMaster Bujould’s Vorkosigan novels when and if they present themselves in paperback. Oh, and I really enjoy Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, but they’re not really science fiction – more fantasy with a wry twist. I watched Star Trek when it was originally broadcast – but who of the age that I am now didn’t, unless their parents were Luddites who wouldn’t have a TV in the house?

And Dad worked as a scientific sub-contractor for NASA, now and again. Something to do with circadian rhythms and space travel might possibly affect them, either positively or negatively, so –yes, science!

I guess I can say that I’m a kind of casual sympathizer; it’s not my own genre as a writer, but I dip into it now and again, and I have a writer friend or two of the online-variety who are a great deal more serious about science fiction. Because of this mild interest, I have been casually aware of the great SFWA bru-hah-hah of recent months, mentally crossing myself and thanking the deity that at least those who scribble historical fiction seem to be much less prone to epic fits of politically correctness and inclined to go off on witch hunts directed against those who offend. Or maybe they do – and I just don’t know; the only professional writer’s association that I belong to is the Texas Association of Authors – and they seem to be more about … well, promoting books, authors and local events. Whatever the current active leadership of the SFWA are epically pearl-clutching about, the TAA doesn’t seem to give a damn. But it’s a state organization, in a state which seems lately to be more focused on economic and societal realities, not every politically-correct momentary interest that appears, dancing across the intellectual horizon.

Anyway – (Yes, I do have a point and I am getting to it) following on the latest round of Savonarola-like fiery cleansing of those determined to be unclean from the holy halls of SWFA membership, there is a new and rather painful issue arising. Of course, I can appreciate the double or perhaps triple-strength irony of an organization which raised the holy banner of anti-sexual harassment and feminine empowerment on high, and whose members went on what amounted to a kind of Stalinist internet show-trial against those held to offend the most mightily … now discovering that Marion Zimmer Bradley – one of the most respected and feminist science fiction authors in their pantheon was complicit in child sexual abuse – by her husband at best interpretation, and herself at worst.

And that it was one of those weird open secrets among insiders and common knowledge among the inner circle – apparently – but just now breaking into the wider world of fans and readers. The freak-out is epic, and to me, rather personal. I very much enjoyed the Darkover novels, when I first discovered them in the early 80s, after coming off a tour in Greenland; cold, dark and very, very isolated – yes, I could relate to that. I even scribbled some fan-fic and submitted it for one of her anthologies. (Without any luck, I might add – she had stopped accepting fan-fic by the time I got around to it.) There is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance here, you would understand; a writer whose books I rather enjoyed and who had a good reputation for mentoring younger writers is revealed as having conducted herself in a manner quite the antithesis of the public persona. I am pretty certain that if I went back and re-read those books of hers which are still on my shelf that I would not enjoy them now nearly as much. Mind you, I don’t demand that writers whose books I enjoy have a perfectly blameless personal life and innocuous political opinions – but I do draw the line at child abuse.

Finally, there is the element of hypocrisy involved, one which I watch with a certain amount of glee – schadenfreude, even. The Social Justice Warrior element within SWFA, who went all Savonarola on Larry Correia, Vox Day, Orson Scott Card, and Sarah Hoyt, among others, for politically incorrect thought-crimes, ought to be just as righteously steamed about reverencing and/or enabling a pedophile and sexual abuser of their own child. Correct? No? Well, then – please explain why it’s bad when someone who disagrees with you on certain social or political fundamentals, but perfectly okey-dokey or at least excusable when someone whom you do agree with commits serious crimes. Ah, yes – another spectacular SWFA melt-down, resulting from the violent collision between reverencing a past honored member of the in-group, and application of their own rule-book.

I still haven’t made up my mind, though – if I ought to get rid of the Bradley books entirely. Maybe I should just put them in a box in the garage until I do make up my mind.

War on Women – And Other Hillary Clinton Musings

I believe now that the battle royal has been joined, between Her Inevitableness and the forces of … well, not darkness, exactly – but sort of café au lait darkness, in the person of the current resident of the presidential mansion … which I hesitate to call the White House, seeing that the current resident and his spouse seem to maintain a certain resentment-level regarding those citizens of these somewhat united states who are of a Caucasian pallor.
No, the current resident of the presidential mansion does not much care for those of us of pallor, or those of us of the working middle class, those of us who maintain small businesses – those who are not profitable enough to afford lavish donations to his eternal campaign and who take the principles of a traditional Judeo-Christian upbringing fairly seriously. I am also pretty certain now – especially after a scan of recent political headlines – that Her Inevitableness and the Current Resident do not care much for each other, either. In fact, I am convinced that they hate each other with the white-hot passion of a thousand burning suns, and we would observe open proof of this enmity at some point. I had supposed that the dirty laundry each had on the other would be aired later rather than sooner. Like, closer to the 2016 primaries.

That each party has dirt on the other goes without saying – and I always thought that Hillary was the ice-cold and manipulative intellect of the Clinton partnership; a Lady MacBeth as it were; Bill Clinton was the one with the charm, the gift for schmoozing, of being personally likeable and liking others in return – and if not, then of being able to mount a convincing facsimile thereof. There have always been grumblings from the military staffers, the Secret Service and those who worked in various low level staff positions in the Clinton White House of how horrible she was to … indeed, back in the dark ages of blogging (say around 2001-2003) the original founder of this blog was a humble AF maintenance tech for the Presidential aircraft at Andrews AFB. He once remarked that the only two members of the Clinton administration who rated flights on AF-1 or AF-2 who appeared to be genuinely nice people, and respectful of the staff who served on them were Louis Freeh and Tipper Gore. Just about everyone else they regularly flew were … well, apparently non-disclosure agreements were in force.

So is Hillary becoming less and less Her Inevitableness? Damned if I know how the low information voters see her – but I was pretty revolted by the revelation of how she defended a pedophile rapist by painting the victim as an unbalanced fantasist, and chuckling in self-satisfaction over her own skill as a defender. Look, every accused has the right to competent legal representation in a court of law, and the lawyer involved has a right to be proud of a good job well-done, but doing it by trashing the reputation of a barely teen-aged girl, and chortling about it in a video interview? That’s nauseating. Way to go about being the righteous defender of all womankind, Your Inevitableness. As a die-hard Tea Partier and libertarian-conservative, I eagerly await the upcoming revelations of horribleness – from both parties.
I’ll fetch some more popcorn in the interval. Something tells me I should see if Sam’s Club carries it in 25-lb bags.

Dense Pack Incoming

I honestly do not know if all of last weeks’ horrific headlines and those of the week before are a cunning plot to serially distract the body politic and public by dropping everything on us all at once, without a chance to analyze or begin fighting back, or if it indicates that the wheels are coming off the Obama administration once and for all. Either way … there is a lot to write about, just at the time that I don’t have the time or inclination to muse upon it all at leisure in a way which would give my venom full justice; all in good time, my one or two regular remaining readers. Among other things, I am fighting a god-awful summer cold and cough, a return of the chronic cough I had last year, which took about eight months to throw and on several occasions had me coughing so hard that I threw up. And another thing of a personal nature; Alice, whom I bought the Tiny Publishing Bidness from early this spring, passed away early in June. She was tended by her family and Blondie, and a series of very professional and compassionate home-hospice-care nurses for the last three weeks before that. She had been given six months last October when she was proscribed aggressive chemotherapy … but she detested chemo and refused it after two rounds, and lasted for three months longer than forecast at the time. She actually did pretty well, with Blondie doing her housekeeping and errands … until the last three weeks.

Just as all this was happening, of course I had two books projects to juggle, and Alice’s last book for an old friend of hers, a local poet who brings out a small chapbook of his writings every year or so. She kept his most recent book back from the sale, intending to work on it herself, but her memory and her health was failing catastropically, and so I inherited it as well. So – three books to juggle at a time; isn’t commerce grand? And I still have two books of my own to work on (The Golden Road and Lone Star Sons), plus reviews, four websites (three of them being my own) and little chores like the garden, housekeeping, walking the dogs and cooking regular meals.

By the way – we found another dog this week; a small boxer-colored female, who may be part lab, possibly boxer with a bit of small pit and Wiemeraner, as she has rather lovely golden-green eyes. She looks, if anything, like a quarter-sized version of Calla-puppy, my daughter’s Boxer mix. We are resisting the allure of keeping her, but caved on turning her into the county shelter. She is very people-oriented and very, very affectionate. Onward with the chore of finding her a permanent home and not with us; anyone in the South Texas area want a new dog; 25 pounds, about half-grown that we can tell, just having cut her permanent teeth, still catching on to that house-breaking and obedience thing, but tolerant and affectionate, and OK with other dogs and cats. Let me know in comments – we can provide pictures and delivery within reason.

I did a book event in Sisterdale, the first weekend in June – and it was born upon us that we need a shed in the backyard, first for the garden tools and supplies, and second for the various items that we have acquired for doing events … like the pop-up pavilion. You may say, as Mom did, ‘But you have a garage!?’ Alas, it is full of Blondie’s furniture and various other gleanings from yard sales, against the day when she has an establishment of her own, or I have my Hill Country retreat/country cottage. We can not fit another blessed thing into the garage, or find it if we did … so. Shed; for the storage of items of professional gear in – the pavilion, the tables, the weights, the display racks, et cetera; likely we will go with a local small enterprise which does bespoke tin sheds for a price competitive with the big box places. The backyard being so small, the shed must and will be attractive, since we will be seeing it from the back porch and two of the three windows at the back of the house.

And that’s what I’ve been working on, these last two weeks, but I promise that regular vicious commentary will resume as soon as the bile reservoir has replenished itself.

Mosul Musings

I always thought that overthrowing Saddam Hussein and assisting the Iraqis in setting up something that kinda-sorta-resembled a western-style democracy was a gamble, but one worth taking. Taking out the Saddam trash – especially a gangster régime which had gleefully made regional and international trouble for decades – and replacing it with a strategically-located sort-of-ally … better than allowing him to remain in place, anyway. His sons were even viler; if possible, than he was, and after ten years of air patrols in the no-fly zones, protecting the Kurds in the north … we were very close to being worn thin. The situation couldn’t last much longer … anyway; I thought Iraq had a good chance of eventually turning out like a kind of Middle East South Korea. After a few decades, they’d be able to handle themselves. We’d keep the odd base or two, lurk meaningfully in the vicinity.

Only, our Fearless Leader, the Golfer in Chief, decided to bag any kind of SOFA (status of forces agreement) declared that Afghanistan was more important, and then that Gitmo should be closed and that everybody would like us then.

So, it is most depressing to look at the headlines this week – especially the decapitated motorists, the lines of refugees streaming south out of Mosul and Tikrit. Thanks, Obama – thanks for throwing it all away.

Secrets and Open Secrets

It has amused me for years, how ordinary civilians, media figures and scriptwriters for movies and TV shows can believe so strongly that the military is one big monolithic secret-keeping machine; something which happens on a base, post, or on the front lines will never, ever see the light of day in the larger world and that the military commands can keep something quiet for years or decades. If it is something tippy-top secret, and know to only a few – well, yes, in that case. But quite often something – a program, a wild idea, a mission—remains unknown largely on account of lack of interest on the part of the larger world or the establishment news media organs. The military is actually far from being the big monolithic secret-keeping machine, once you get away from the deliberately highly-classified, ultra-secret-squirrel stuff.

During George Bush’s second term, the reporter Seymour Hersh was given to go around giving lectures to anti-war audience claiming that all kinds of horrible massacres were being perpetrated by American troops; massively violent stuff on the order of My Lai in the Middle East, involving scores of victims and whole companies of U.S. Army and Marine troops. Bodies stacked up by the bale, according to Mr. Hersh, who was at least careful enough not to commit these incredible tales to print. Mr. Hersh, I think, has the monolithic military secret-keeping meme on the brain. The atrocities which he was alleging to have happened among front-line troops in Iraq just could not have happened, not without a lot of personnel inside of the military family knowing. The truth is that the possibility of keeping something out of general knowledge in the military world expands geometrically with the number of people involved, directly or peripherally. And nothing much happens in the military world stays secret for long; yes, the knowledge of certain matters may not seep out into the ken of the greater public and the news establishment professionals – but that’s because military members are routinely briefed about OPSEC (operations security) and they don’t spill to outsiders, much. Something that may be common knowledge to those inside the family, as it were, may go for years without attracting undue attention or interest on the part of those outside of it.

Mr. Hersh and other fantasists might well have had an easier job in peddling incredible stories of military malfeasance in pre-internet days; it would take months and years for allegations to make the rounds and for those inside the military family to even become aware of them and respond – and then, of course, it was already over. History had been engraved in stone, as it were; set there by being repeated over and over. Any debunking was too late and too little. But the internet and a generation or two of tech-savvy and social media troops have tightened the OODA loop considerably. It took a good few decades for many of the established memes regarding Vietnam veterans – sullen draftees, drug-abusing, unstable, baby-killing losers – to be debunked by researchers like B. G. Burkett, and even now that meme refuses, zombie-like to lay down and die. It twitches now and again, over the last ten years or so, but refreshingly, military members and veterans today are instantly aware and more than willing to swing into social media action to debunk sensational accusations and to unmask fraudulent veterans – or even to speak out when there is a controversy such as Bowe Bergdahl’s status as a POW or as a deserter. Which brings me around to the thing about secrets. Among the milblogs like Blackfive there was no secret about there being something hinky regarding the circumstances of his disappearance from his duty station in Afghanistan. It wasn’t a big thing, but it came up now and again; one of those open secrets among the milblog family and commenters. Very likely, everyone that he served with and under knew that he was a flakey, unmotivated soldier, and after he went under the wire, a deserter as well. But it was one of those open secrets – which, because the Obama administration didn’t care to look before they leaped into a deal, a distraction and a show and tell in the Rose Garden, has now come back to bite – heavily.

Couldn’t happen to nicer people, I would say; except that whatever does happen next, in the wake of freeing five upper-level operators from Guantanamo, will very likely not land on the Obama administration or it’s high-level flunkies. Most likely, it will land on the rest of us, starting with those in the uniformed services.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz.net)

Wag the Dog?

I know, it was a bitterly ironic move, and the novel it was based upon was even more bitterly ironic (Trust me, I read the darned thing –eh – moderately funny, but I fear that the only thing that the move took away from it was the premise) but what we may have here *assuming Strother Martin voice* is called a failure to communicate. I mean the imbroglio with returning Bowe Bergdahl, the only recorded POW from the war in Afghanistan to the bosom of his family, after languishing in durance vile for five long years. Continue reading

The Tiny Publishing Bidness @ Half a Year In

It actually hasn’t been exactly half a year since I bought out the founder of the company, contract signed and witnessed and the major down-payment made, but it has been about six months since she – her favorite niece and executor rather forcefully backing her up – suggested that the time had definitely arrived for me to step up and formally and officially buy her out, website, client files, and all. Alice had always intended that I would take over, eventually. We were both cranky and independent spirits, and tired of working for other people or enterprises. Since I had been carrying just about everything to do with the firm for more than a year at that point, I didn’t have any argument. A nice chunk of the savings that I had from sale of the California property went to buy the Bidness – which we are pretty certain will be earned back – I have three projects working at present, two of them with repeat projects … plus a number of other repeat clients who may come up with re-orders at random intervals. The Bidness is a going concern, with nice local word-of-mouth among authors who would prefer to go independent, and a some profitable repeat clients.

Alice, who founded the company some three decades since, had spent some weeks in the hospital last year, eventually being diagnosed with cancer in the upper lobe of one lung, and being successfully operated on for it … but alas, it seemed that it had begun to spread, insidiously. She tried out chemo, lasted two rounds and then essentially said, “Sc**w that and the horse it rode in on.” They had given her six months with chemo, which made her miserable and even sicker… but even with giving up chemo and feeling temporarily much better, she was not up to much. Her insurance plan paid for home hospice care (not for nothing had she worked in the days when she worked for other people, at an insurance company!) and the regular nurses came every couple of days since she bagged chemo. We accepted this – so did her family. Blondie went to her house two and three days a week, to keep house, run errands and drive Alice to required appointments. Alice herself plodded on, much as she had always done, plagued by fits of exhaustion, forgetfulness, and inability to navigate anywhere without a walker. She told Blondie several times that she wouldn’t in the least mind if Blondie appeared one mid-day, walked into the house and found her dead in her chair with a book in her lap. What better way to go? She hated hospitals – another thing we had in common.

Any kind of work at editing gradually became hopeless, and what was the worst part – she knew and was exasperated at how her steel-trap mind was painfully rusting shut. She was, in her seventies, an early adopter of computers and the internet, but that went by the wayside. Over the years when we were in partnership, I would get up in the morning and find a half a dozen emails or forwarded, from her in my yahoo.com account – but not in the last few months, when she spent most of her waking hours in an easy chair in the living room, reading. She was one of the very few people I know in real life who possessed more books than I do – with the added fillip of having edited and published a good few of them, or at least had been acquaintances of the author. In mid-May she urged me to take any of the reference books that I wanted and would need – I came away with two bags full of books. I think that was the last time that I saw her, still fairly fit and able to go into her home office.

The final spiral came two weeks ago, and in one terrible rush. I went to see her again, when she was not able to get out of the hospital bed they had brought in; her one old-friend client, whom she had held back upon sale of the company, had a book that she was working on, in fits and starts. She handed the project on to me, I searched out the files and went home with a couple of letters from her friend. I’ve basically had to start the project paperwork all over, Excel worksheet, contract and all. A week ago, Memorial Day weekend, her sister called to say – not going well. We hurried over, dodging rain all the way, which only seemed suitable. She was not conscious – I don’t think ever became really conscious again. She passed away about mid-day last Saturday.

So, that’s what I have been up to, for the last couple of weeks. Real life, and all that.

For Memorial Day

American Cemetery at Chateau Thierry (Picture by Sgt, Mom, August, 1985)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

(from Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen)

Found Objects

You know, now and again I wonder if the habits of frugality ingrained by almost fifteen years of living pretty close to the poverty line have turned me into my grandmothers – especially Grannie Jessie who was reputed to pinch pennies so hard that a booger would come out of Lincoln’s nose. I have never had a brand-new car, a totally-new-to-me house, and only occasionally a new piece of furniture or major appliance – the last two such items have come from the Scratch-and-Dent Store. Now and again I do have a brand-spanking new minor appliance – usually freebies from Amazon Vine. There was an electric kettle, gotten for the price of having to write a review of it. The same for the shop-vac, a great clumsy thing and no prize for appearance, but by god, it will suck the paint off a Buick fender. The usual small appliances though, are lightly second-hand; there was the once-top-o-the line Zojirushi bread machine, from a vast community-event garage sale, almost untouched and in the original box for $5. My most recent favorite small appliance toy was the vacuum-sealer, also bought at a yard sale for $5 – and also once top-o-the-line as well as also being barely used. Now, though – I think I have struck some kind of nadir, as far as slightly-used kitchen appliances go. But there is a bit of a back-story.

My kitchen is a small one; storage space at a minimum, you see – and I have a constitutional dislike of kitchen gadgets which only do one thing, and one thing only. Not for me an item like the electric waffle-maker that I remember that Mom had in her kitchen; about twenty-two inches square and eight or ten deep and which only made waffles. These appliances that I give shelf and counter space to ought to be good for more than one task, or amazingly, dazzlingly efficient at that one task … and for extra points, small and easily stashed away. I bought a KitchenAid stand mixer, yea those many years ago, precisely because it had multiple useful attachments, many of which I also purchased.

The current stove does not have a griddle option. (Once we lived in a rental house which had one, and I loved it.) Such things are, apparently, only an option in the high-end gas stoves these days, which is fair enough. One can make do with any number of electric griddle appliances, and there … there is where my multi-tasking option comes in. We have a small electric Delonghi indoor grill (bought at Williams-Sonoma when they were on sale and I was working at one of the reliable but deathly-boring corporate jobs) and a Toastmaster electric griddle, gotten through one of my daughter’s employers who intended donating it to a thrift shop. Both of them are quite adequate to the tasks required … but I had a hankering for something that would neatly combine their various functions … two, two, two in one! And maybe even more … I saw information on-line about a Cuisinart multi-griddle which would do all this and more; it could be a Panini-press, fold out and lay flat to be a griddle, or a grill, and had any number of different dish-washer safe plates, which could be swapped out … yes, that would be exactly the ticket! I put it on my Amazon wish-list, and some months ago, I spotted the exact same multi-griddle for an enticingly-reduced price at an HEB-Plus supermarket. Yes, I’d have to do a bit of finagling; including going halfsies on it with my daughter … but we put it into the shopping cart, and continued through the produce section. There we were approached by a middle-aged woman and her husband who asked most politely if we were going to buy it. I answered yes, I had been looking at and thinking of buying one for months and it all seemed providential … and she launched into her tale of woe. Yes, she had one, had been given it as a Christmas present from her husband … and to make a long story short, it proved to be a total disaster. The handles and catches for the interchangeable plates melted, it didn’t work anything as advertised, bits and parts had been replaced by the manufacturer, it still didn’t work anything like it had been represented to … and. It’s kind of more personal than reading a one-star review on Amazon, when a total stranger comes up and tells you that the item is a total dog. She advised us very strongly to give it a miss.

Which I did, sneaking it back onto the shelf from whence it came, with considerable regret; yes, it was a bargain, compared to the original price, but not at the price of the hassle involved. My daughter and I concluded that maybe Cuisinart was going to come out with a new and improved model soon, which would fix many of the problems, and that was why this one was on sale. I’d wait until the new and improved model to be available. There’s always time.

This week, though – when I was doing the early-morning jog that my daughter insists that we ought to do, in the interests of our health and well-being – I joggled past a house in the neighborhood where the residents had put out a stack of stuff on the curb. Look, I pay attention to this sort of thing, especially at bulk-trash pickup time. We’ve scored no end of useful elements for the garden, this way. We know the family in this house to speak to, since they put out some nice things on the curb before. Paring down the possessions, they said; a relatively-newly-wed blended family. (These days, two adult persons marrying and merging their once-separate households usually have two of everything … so, yes; good and usable stuff extraneous to current needs being put out on the curb. I can totally understand that.) Among the items extraneous to need was a bright red George Foreman grill – the model with a number of extra and interchangeable plates. We took it home, plates and accessories and all, carefully detailed the main unit, ran the washable items through the dishwasher, looked up and printed the owner’s manual, and gave it a test run … and yes, it works beautifully. It’s only lacking one of the grill plates, and they are available for a small sum.

It’s not quite what I had in mind – but if it works out very well, I might later get one of the later models which does open up all the way to offer two flat surfaces for grilling or griddling. But most importantly … the price was right.

Checking Privilege

Oh, not to worry – I had my privilege topped up last week. Full of privilege I am, and ready to go … I assume that this is the ephemeral white privilege that these undergraduates-of-excruciatingly-top-drawer-non-state-uni muppets are referring to? Is this the female privilege, the veteran privilege, or the mainstream religious privilege, or even the privilege of having been brought up by a relatively well-adjusted heterosexual married couple in those benighted times when it was possible and even laudable for a male to go out and earn a living, while the spouse (usually referred to as a help-mate) stayed at home, raised the children, organized the housekeeping and the meals, the education, clothing and schooling of those children, the social sphere in which she and the pay-check winning spouse moved, and volunteered in the community where they lived … that must be it. (Hey, I’ll swipe my privilege card through the dispenser, just in case I have burned through some of my previously-deposited privilege.)

Here’s the thing, though. It’s been at least fifty years since in-your-face racism was socially acceptable and possibly even longer in some places and spheres … at least, open and totally unvarnished, un-self-censored racism displayed by people of non-color towards everyone else. The matter of open, totally unvarnished and un-self-censored racism displayed by certain ethnic groups of color towards practically everyone else is another matter entirely. The guardians of privilege seem to have no problem with that stripe of racism. See: We’ve had affirmative action, we’ve had ‘insert your ethnicity here’ history month, week or day, and we’ve had endless consciousness-raising and social actions-mandated training of one sort or another for at least that long. The unlooked for and annoying result of all – as I see it – is that those who have ground out a living or a career from raising everyone’s level of consciousness now have to work harder, and harder, and look for the tiniest of tiny incidents which might be construed as racially-based aggression on the part of those of no particular color towards those of color.

This is reaching the point of ridiculousness, considering the various affirmative action programs in effect when it comes to institutions of higher learning, doing business or being hired by federal, state and local government agencies, getting hired by MSNBC, in spite of being barely literate and incoherent in public speaking, at least as it is judged by those of us who are really literate and accustomed to speaking publically and being understood by the greater majority. (Yes, looking at you, Al Sharpton, although this could extend to other notably dim-witted media affirmative action clones, such as Melissa Harris-Perry.) To recapitulate – irredeemable white racism exists, but it lives in a trailer park in a low-rent district in the hinterlands somewhere. On the other hand, black racism has a nice media gig, a mega-church pulpit, academic tenure, or is – ironically – a media star with a house the value of which computed by a single square foot equals the value of my entire house with contents and both cars, White House residency or an enduring gig as political representative of a majority-minority Gerrymandered safe district. (OK, missed any particular sub-set of the grievously and professionally racially-annoyed? BTW, hearing that fabulously wealthy celebrities of color – who have gotten to be fabulously wealthy by appealing to largely audiences of non-color – are bitching and moaning about racism and prejudice is getting … well, pretty tiresome at this stage of the racial game as it is played in this century in America.. Word to the wise; n’est-ce pas? )

So, what really-o-truly-o emerges from this whole ‘check your privilege’ thing is a two-fold message. The first and almost inadvertent is that home schooling is a good thing, as it spares your children from being mind-f**ked by a bunch of trendoid quasi-Marxist educators leaping on the latest intellectual fad.

Second and most important; this has and will continue to do a number on the minds and barely-formed intellects of the impressionable school-age youth of all colors. For the so-called advantaged and privileged class (that is, those of non-color, or pallor) it will destroy any rightful confidence and pride in their ethnic heritage – because it’s all reduced to ‘white’. Never mind about any deeds of valor, intellect, or simply decent striving to better ones’ self. Nope- sorry, you are automatically privileged and henceforth morally damned … even if a quick look around to the real life around you gives you plenty of personal observations countering that supposition of superiority. For those children of other-than-pallor, the implicit message is every bit as malign, as damaging to the self-image – which is ‘there is nothing you can do, can strive for – because white privilege trumps all! Yer a looser before you ever start, kid! Because of that nasty privilege thing! And your darker epidermis! You poor dear child of color – you are doomed, I say–doomed to un-success and oh, yeah-BTW-blame it all on those evil-nasty-people-of-non-color!’

Essentially, that’s what the message is, when parsed down to the lowest level. Look; when there are abusive pervs willfully and energetically destroying the self-image and confidence of a single child-that’s a reason to call CPS and press charges. What therefore, is our response, when it is a whole generation of kids, systematically abused by the establishment? What then, oh wolves?

(Crossposted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

RIP, Mary Stewart – So Long And Thanks For All the Novels

From the temple of Poseidon at Sunion, Greece

From the temple of Poseidon at Sunion, Greece

I see from a link from a Facebook friend that author Mary Steward has passed on to that great and ultimate publisher in the sky. (Facebook links and Twitter posts – I swear, this is how we find out news of a relatively minor nature these days.) She was well into her nineties, and the books that were her mega-popular best-sellers were all from several decades ago. (Including The Crystal Cave – the first of a five-novel retelling of the Arthurian cycle; these are the ones which most readers remember.) I, on the other hand, remember finding, reading and adoring her earlier books – the romantic-suspense-mystery ones. Yes, because they not the least bit risqué, no bad language or anything more sexually-explicit than a fond kiss or a close and comforting embrace – I recollect that I first encountered them in the library when I was middle-school age and no one burst any blood vessels over me reading them. I might even have read them first in the Mount Gleason Junior High library, at that – since the movie that Disney had made from The Moonspinners was shown in the school theater over summer. Although I was a bit disappointed when I looked up the book and read it after seeing the movie. Everything was different, just about! But for the setting and … well, the setting; I did get to appreciate the books, later on – as the memory of the movie faded. Especially those of her books with a setting in Greece; My Brother Michael, (Delphi and environs) and This Rough Magic (Corfu), especially … and then I had a soft spot for her very first book, Madam, Will You Talk? – which was set in southern France. I never did get to check out Corfu – but I did visit Athens and Delphi – and Provence, as well – motivated in large part because of the beautiful way that she had of establishing a place and the character of it.
Never mind about the romance and all … dumpy and rather plain fifteen-year-olds, cursed with glasses and metal braces – still have a wistful affection for romance. Even if the prospective hero is at first meeting grumpy and impatient – even slightly mysterious. Someday, my fifteen-year old self hoped – I would go to Greece, or the South of France, although the romance part was perhaps a little bit too much to hope for.

And I did – but that is another story. At any rate, she and Rosemary Sutcliffe were among the first writers that I came back to, over and over – because of the way that they wrote about a place; every leaf and tree and flower of it. I would like to think that I have taken some lessons from them, or at least had their very good example before me when I began to write about specific places.

Continued Musings on Upstairs, Downstairs

We have carried on with watching Upstairs, Downstairs – warming up to it every evening with a half-hour palate cleanser of Blandings … which reminds me, I must steer my daughter towards those copies of PG Wodehouse which I have on the shelves, and my volume of the collected works of Saki, otherwise HH Munro … a writer of short stories only equal in my estimation to Rudyard Kipling … whose collections I also have on the shelves. Yes, HH Munro died in WWI, and so did Kipling’s only son, John. One was in his forties and over-aged for the military combat duties, the other seventeen and a trifle young for it … but they both rushed to join the forces, such was the tone of the time. (Munro turned down a commission and served in the ranks, John Kipling’s influential father wrangled his near-sighted son a commission in the Irish Guards.)

This once-proud and forward-thinking world and it’s brutal disillusion is reflected in the current series of Upstairs, Downstairs – first, the tenor of the time, of optimistic patriotism, outrage at German brutality in Belgium and France, the honestly-felt obligation to serve King and country … and then shading into war-weariness and despair, as the casualties mounted, up and up and up. England, France, Germany and Russia were gutted of a whole generation of men – some time in college (or maybe it was a grad school course) there was reason in one of my textbooks for a couple of tables of statistics for males by age in certain Western European countries. There was a considerable divot when it came to the male population of certain countries who would have been of an age to serve in WWI. That was statistics on a page; brought home now and again by the local war memorials in various towns all across Britain, France and Germany – a small stone obelisk in a corner of the town square, or a panel let into the side of a wall, with fifteen or twenty names on it. Heartbreakingly – especially in smaller places – there would be a couple or three identical surnames. Brothers, fathers and sons, cousins … the only wartime losses in the US to equal the English toll in WWI had happened fifty years before, in the Civil War, when local companies went down in sheaves like wheat under the scythe, in a storm of shot where the minie balls came down like hail, and there went just all about the fit men of age from some small town in Illinois, or Virginia, Vermont or Ohio, in some contested field – a sunken road, a wheat-field, a peach orchard or an angle of trench.

In Upstairs, Downstairs, this carnage all happens off-stage. It was a television program after all – and even if by Season Four it was a winner in the popularity stakes, additional budget largess went to more scenes set on location, rather than the studio set, and rather better costuming for the female characters. I have not noticed so many eye-blindingly awful selections with obvious zippers up the back as there were in the first two seasons. It is telling, though – that the fashion for rather more practical and shorter skirts for every-day wear is quite obvious, although the older generation, exemplified by Lady Pru resolutely keeps to toe-length, and Mrs. Bridges holds on to the old-style of dress, apron and cap. The sun will never set on Mrs. Bridges in a hair-net and a knee-length dress.

James is a total and self-centered jerk … but there must have been something to him, else why would Hazel ever have seen something to him, and stuck around? Perhaps she was just out of her mind for a couple of months in 1912 or so. Poor Rose missed her chance of domestic happiness – kick and scream as she must, she’ll be the rest of her life in service. Hudson still holds up his end – although as blind as a bat himself, he had a go at volunteering for the Army. And there we stand, with four or five more episodes and the final season – the one which I never actually saw, since I was in the military myself and overseas when it aired on PBS the first time around.

The Advent of Her Inevitableness

I guess that the over-under bets are already being taken that Hillary Clinton, AKA Her Inevitableness, the former Secretary of State, Mrs. Bill, or Wonder-Cankles will sweep in and scoop the Dem party nomination in 2016. Meh – and I’ve always been ‘meh’ about the former First Lady; even more ‘meh’ since she didn’t kick her conniving horn-dog of a hubby to the curb upon exiting the White House … or even before. I am sorry – but in my judgement, a woman of worth does not tamely swallow the humiliation of hubby being a serial sexual adventurer several times over, capped by several rounds of widely publicized Dirty Games With Interns. No. Just … ick. I prefer to respect women who will not put up with humiliation, although I will not go as far as lauding Lorena Bobbit’s method for responding to serial marital humiliation. I would respect Her Inevitableness rather more if she had at least deposited him adjacent to said curb and gone out and done something on her own. But that’s not the way it goes in this nepotistic new America. The American version of Evita is all the rage in the corridors of power, and the spouses and spawn of the wealthy, well-placed and political are well-positioned to scoop up gold rings galore. Tell me again how Americans rejected patents of nobility, back in the day. Obviously that is one of those racist things, an invention of old white men who didn’t have the advantage of 21st century intellectual sensitivities.

It has been long-established that being the son or cousin of a former president or senator is a gateway drug to nomination for presidential office; now it appears that being the spouse of one is no bar, either – even if the resume is a bit thin on the accomplishment side of the ledger. That doesn’t seem to have hampered the career of the current presidential incumbent … but moving on. Benghazi; going on two years this fall and still considerable of a mystery, how a US ambassador and three others got themselves killed by a violent mob and what they were even doing there in the first place. The explanations offered by the Obama administration at the time and ever since have been unconvincing, to say the least, and as the Secretary of State at the time, Her Inevitableness must bear at least some responsibility, and afford us all a more convincing explanation for what went on in Benghazi, and a rationale for delaying any kind of rescue until too late.

As a veteran myself of several tours overseas, I can just about guarantee that any American serving overseas as a member of the military or the State Department now is looking around and wondering now exactly what their lives are worth to this administration. It used to be that you could be certain that if you were asked to risk it, than the mission must have been considered worthwhile. Now, it’s a certainty that being caught up an event that might be embarrassing or inconvenient for the administration to respond to … well, then, suck it up, hard-charger. They will write off your life and the lives of your comrades without another moment’s thought, if doing anything substantial will have the effect of being misinterpreted, or potentially disastrous. Loyalty is a one-way street to our would-be aristocracy; ours is owed to them, they owe less than nothing to us peons, and this has been demonstrated often enough in the last six years to make it pretty plain.

Finally, over and above everything else, the thing that I do resent most about Her Inevitableness is the casual assumption that just because I am a woman of certain age that of course I will support her, just because … woman! Which is infuriating in the extreme, especially when it comes from the same people who joyously took part in trashing Sarah Palin.

Dear America, I Miss You

Remember when the “norm” after a disaster was for your people to pull together and rebuild (ala Joplin, MO) and not to stand, helpless and scared, waiting for the feds to “solve” everything? The free people of your country rebuild, on their own, competently and together; the people who’ve been re-enslaved by Democrats sit, wait, become the victims of violence and their own lethargy. It’s really sad. Whole neighborhoods were destroyed by Katrina . . . and are still destroyed all these years later. Look, too, at Hurricane Sandy. Again, these people depend on the feds. They are, of course, ill-served, even mocked by Christie. Americans, real Americans, don’t sit around waiting for the feds; they get to work and rebuild, they thrive.

We used to know this, America.

The whole essay is here at Fuzzy Logic – found through a comment at The Diplomad.

The Well-Stocked Pantry

Taking it into consideration that costs of various foodstuffs appear to be going everywhere but down these days, my household is considering several different strategies as a means of keeping level. Oh, some items have not gone down in price, but the size of the package or the can they are in has certainly … shrunk, and don’t you think we haven’t noticed. I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night, not by any means. The garden for seasonal vegetables is one front in this campaign, the ongoing effort to home-can any number of pickles, preserves, pie-fillings and relishes is another. Planting some small fruit-trees along the perimeter of the back fence of Chez Hayes is another. Buying fresh fruit and veg in season, when they are at rock-bottom price per-pound is one more, and buying dry staples and cooking oils in bulk is yet another. At the first of the month, we hit Sam’s Club; restaurant-sized packages of frozen vegetables – we vary the vegetable-type so as to ensure that we always have a good selection in the freezer, since there are always packets left over from the previous month. We keep bulk stocks of staples like twenty or thirty-pound bags of rice, beans, flour and sugar, restaurant-sized bags of macaroni and gallon jugs of cooking oil. We also buy case-lots of the canned goods that we use often; mainly tomatoes, tomato sauce and Rotel brand tomatoes and green peppers. A good few pounds of tea, at any one time – the Wagh Bakri international blend, at the local Asian food store is what we like. It makes a morning cuppa strong enough – as Grannie Dodie used to say – strong enough to trot a mouse over. All this somewhat reduces the cost per unit, which is pleasing … and there’s always something on hand to make an appetizing meal from. This makes my inner Explorer Scout very, very happy.

And bricks of cheeses – again, slightly varying every month. What I like to have a stash of in the fridge is enough different varieties to make just about anything that I would like to make for supper which has cheese as an ingredient; bricks of cheddar, mozzarella, jack, feta, smaller bricks of Emmenthal and parmesan … sometimes we made the dinner decision on the spur of the moment. Butter, cream, sour cream and yoghurt also figure prominently on the refrigerator shelves. We have also tried to establish the habit of hitting Granzin’s Meat Market in New Braunfels at or around the beginning of the month, and laying out about thirty or forty dollars each for hefty quantities of what we know we will use during the month; chicken breasts and quarters, hamburger in the five-pound family pack, beef ribs, ground turkey, pork chops and an assortment of Granzin’s made-in-the-store sausages. Granzin’s is an old-fashioned kind of place – yes, they do have groceries, but the meat counter is about half-a-block long, everything is superior in quality and at a good price. We also have plenty of meat left over at the end of month. Yes, that’s deliberate, too. The prices of beef and pork are likely to go up, although if the power ever goes out for a week we will be so screwed!
One of the other food-stashes is my daughter’s particular interest; from cruising the marked-down shelves at the grocery store, where they sometimes have bottled sauces, or mixes of faintly exotic items that we wouldn’t have bought at full price. Usually these are items nearing their ‘best-if-sold-by’ date … it’s an eccentric assortment, but handy for added-on seasoning. Note – best if sold by does not come anywhere near equal to ‘best if consumed by.’

Other items on hand in the well-stocked pantry? Seasonings, of course; herbs, spices and flavored vinegars. Many of the herbs come out of the garden, but there are always back-ups in small sealed jars in the pantry. Vinegars – an assortment of them, in quarts and jugs and small bottles; everything from pickling vinegar to the best syrupy balsamic of Modena. (Yes, a handy score from the marked-down shelf, and lovely stuff it is, too, measured out by the drop.)
Of course, there are still some items we should add to the bulk foodstuff inventory; honey, for one, and perhaps some more sealed containers of dried milk and emergency water. But at the moment, we cruise pretty finely through meal-times – and the side benefit is that we only rarely have to hit the grocery store upon considering the dinner menu. Right now, it’s for fresh vegetables and fruits only – and when the garden begins to bear, that chore will be reduced even more. In some ways, I think we are approaching a rather more 19th century frame of mind when it comes to putting by … just in case of that hard winter or zombie apocalypse or something.

Letting It Burn

As a matter of interest as an independent author, with some affection for science fiction … (principally Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, and once upon a time for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series, both of which explored in an interesting and readable way, a whole range of civilizational conceits and technologies with a bearing on what they produced vis-a-viz political organizations, man-woman relations, and alternate societies of the possible future … oh, where was I? Complicated parenthetical sentence again; science fiction. Right-ho, Jeeves – back on track.) … I have been following the current SFWA-bruhaha with the fascinated interest of someone squeezing past a spectacular multi-car pile-upon the Interstate. Not so much – how did this happen, and whose stupid move at high speed impelled the disaster – but how will it impact ordinary commuters in their daily journey, and will everyone walk away from it OK? So far, the answers to that are pretty much that it will only matter to those directly involved (although it will be productive of much temporary pain) and yes – pretty near everyone will walk away. Scared, scarred, P-O’d and harboring enduring grudges, but yes, they will walk away, personally and professionally. Some of these are walking away at speed and being pretty vocal about why.

The crux of the matter in this particular instance, is that the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America – hey, what happened to the ampersand and the second F … guess the domain name was already taken or something) – got overtaken by the minions of the politically correct. The SWFA is, or was – a professional association of writers of science fiction and fantasy materiel (traditionally-published writers only, BTW), intended as a kind of support group, to lobby with publishers on behalf of wronged writers, and provide professional services, like health insurance. Sort of like the AARP … only for science fiction and fantasy writers. Alas, it seems that the minions of the politically-correct now appear to insist that to be members in good standing and to be considered for various book awards (and this is the short version) one must write glum and politically-correct bricks of sensitivity, emphasizing obedience to all kinds of shibboleths regarding race, gender, et al. Never mind about writing a cracking good story … the glum gruel of a liberal arts curricula at an expensive university is what the Social Justice Warriors at the SFWA have said we should have, and that readers deserve to get it, good and hard. Through a tube down the nasal passage, apparently, if all else fails. Naturally, being a somewhat cantankerous and creative provider of popular amusement, many of the existing membership has sad ‘no’ and not just no, but ‘no, with bells on.’ It seems from various discussion threads that many of the long-standing, better-selling and more popular creators are bailing out of SFWA, or at least, warning caution.

The organization may survive – or not. From the viewpoint of someone passing by the tangled wreckage on the Interstate, it’s of only academic interest. But I began to meditate on it all – another once-thriving and valued establishment, overtaken by the grand Gramscian march through our social and political establishments. Sure – they have taken them over, but at what cost? Yes, the politically correct, the Social Justice Warriors in every theater and establishment … they HAVE taken them over – and many others besides the SFWA, but at what cost if what they have is just a wrecked and hollow establishment?
So, this leaves me to wonder, whither SFWA? If the popular writers, with an existing or a soon-burgeoning readership leave, what then as far as the future of the organization is concerned? Indeed, what then, o wolves?

What then, of the many institutions, taken over and hollowed out by the Social Justice Warriors, or their Gramscian ilk? Most of them are bigger and more influential, then a little pool of writers perpetrating science fiction and fantasy … and yet they also appear to be ridden by factionalism, if not teetering on the edge then cratering economically. Just a few and from off the top of my head – the Episcopal Church, old-line print publications like Newsweek and Ladies’ Home Journal (and possibly very soon Time Magazine, too), and broadcast networks like CNN and MSNBC. Instapundit often points out how colleges and universities are staggering, and how more and more people who can are choosing to home-school their children. I can just barely remember the last Oscar-nominated movie that I went to see in a theater, (The King’s Speech, BTW) and the TV audience for the Oscars is plummeting also. Mainstream publishing is fragmenting, as independent writers go out on their own, cable television is also fragmenting. Just as the long march through the institutions is nearly complete … the institutions themselves crumble. They are run into the ground, as the audience, consumers, and genuinely creative flee in all directions.

There is talk of a non-ideological organization to replace the SFWA; likely the disaffected refugees from the establishments and organizations listed above (as well as many, many others) will form new associations. Creative destruction at work? I’d like to think so. Discuss.
(cross-posted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

Give Me Land, Lots of Land

This would appear to be the new theme song for the Fed-Gov’s Bureau of Land Management – that bane of ranchers like Cliven Bundy – as well as a whole lot of other ranchers, farmers, loggers, small landowners, and owners of tiny bits of property on the edge of or in areas of spectacular natural beauty, west of the Mississippi and between the Mexican and Canadian borders.

Yes, indeedy, folks – the maw of the Fed-Gov appears to be insatiable, although it is veiled over with the rationale of wanting to protect endangered species – many of which do not seem to be endangered so much any more – and miles and miles of unique old-growth Western forest. Some of these old-growth forests are so well-protected that they have burned down to the roots in catastrophic fires of late, as local environmental groups went into fits of spastic pearl-clutching, at the very suggestion that … well, pine-bark-beetle and drought-killed trees needed to be cleared away, and so did the duff and accumulation of flammable trash-brush. (The nature of many Western ecologies meant that being burned over every couple of decades was required for the good health of the ecology generally. Well-meant intervention seems to have made the situation worse. But never mind, say the environmentalists…)

This raises the natural suspicion among those of us who have been paying attention, as well as those who have had to make a living in parts of the West lately, that quite a lot of the endangered-species, famously-unique-old-growth-forest, and spectacular-unique-bit-of-landscape legislation which was passed a good three decades ago are now being used for other than their stated purposes. That they are being misused in the service of some international plot (Hello, Agenda 21!) to move us all into urban concrete Stack-a-prole apartment blocks where we can be observed and controlled by the functionaries of the Outer Party, 24-7 … well, I am not quite ready to order my tinfoil chapeau … but I am to the point of becoming concerned, shading to somewhat worried. I can see – rather clearly – that the ostensible care of establishment environmentalists has been used – and the degree of knowledge and malice aforesaid may be debated – in order to close off public lands to any economic use at all, even recreational use, if it is the wrong sort of recreation and by the wrong people. This has all has the whiff of a royal forest being established, for the use and recreation of the small numbers of the anointed, and the lesser orders – the ranchers, hunters, hikers and campers (or cabin-owners) being strictly forbidden on pain of death.

I cannot begin to guess how serious this latest threat to land along the Texas side of the Red River from the BLM is. Likely it will not go very far, now that the Texas AG has drawn a line in the sand. Maybe it is just a feint or even a campaign strategy by Mr. Abbott … but given recent history, and the resentments of all kinds of small-property ranchers and land-owners it’s a shrewd one. The state of Texas, in a handy turn of fate retained ownership of public lands upon becoming a state, instead of the Fed-Gov taking over and retaining vast tracts of wilderness. To this day there are only a couple of national parks within Texas, plus military bases – and for the BLM to even think of appropriating privately-owned lands on the Texas side of the Red River – is breathtakingly ill-conceived. If the BLM is serious in doing so, I guarantee that they will be resisted, furiously. It would make the brouhaha at the Bundy ranch look like a kindergarten playground squabble. It appears at this point, though, that the BLM has backed away, piously disavowing any such intent. For now, anyway, say I, cynically. Five years ago I might have written such a step up to ignorance rather than malice. Five years ago I wouldn’t have thought the IRS would be turned loose to harass political opponents of the Dem Party machine, either.

(Crossposted at www.chicagoboyz.net)