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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19. December 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Luna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Give me a moment.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

03. December 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the linked story,

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

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

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

(Sorry for the lack of posting – I am trying to finalize A Fifth of Luna City, and Lone Star Glory — the follow-up to Lone Star Sons, and the days are just all too short. Herewith a rant about certain recent developments in pop culture for your weekend edification.)

Just to make it clear, I do not think that the NFL, or the So-Cal based movie-TV-media production industry usually described by the simple designation of ‘Hollywood’ are going to wither up and disappear in a puff of smoke and a puddle of goo like the Wicked Witch when Dorothy threw a bucket of water on her. No, likely the first will be diminished to relative insignificance over the insistence of many players to ‘take a knee’ during the national anthem, after a long train of other actions which increasingly put the well-reimbursed celebrity athletes of the NFL at loggerheads with the audiences in Flyoverlandia who watched games from the stand, or on TV, purchased season tickets, merchandise and premium cable service with the big daddy sports channel, ESPN.

By all the reports that I see, attendance at games is dropping at present, viewers are cutting the cable cord, and discovering other fun things to do on a Sunday, or even just other sports to take an interest in. Football hasn’t always been the most popular spectator sport in the US, not by a long shot; baseball, boxing, horse-racing all had their day, and may very well again at this rate. Patience with professional football players, and the management thereof, especially when they choose to play the race card, has run out among working-class whites, most of whom have frankly not seen much in the way of privilege accruing to their color, no matter how may academics specializing in ‘something’ studies yammer on about it. At this rate, the next Superbowl may be played for an audience of fifteen in the stands, not counting player entourages, and so few watching the half-time show that a sixty-second spot might be had for the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee.

And as for Hollywood and the growing sexual-harassment accusations, first against Harvey Weinstein, now against James Toback, and the murmurs of child and younger teen actors victimized by pedophiles in positions of power are growing louder. Mind you, the casting couch thing has been around since there was a movie industry in Hollywood, and frankly, if aspiring starlets want to get down in the mud and wrestle with a pig like Weinstein of their own will and ambition … just have the decency not to lecture and accuse the rest of us regarding abusive male patriarchy afterwards, ‘kay?
But it seems like Hollywood movie releases have had as lackluster a showing this season as has the NFL, as increasingly, people with an entertainment dollar to spend are not spending it at the multiplex on opening weekend. Do those movies generally just suck increasingly of late, is it the expensive multiplex experience which just sucks, or are audiences just fed to the back teeth with political correctitude and being condescended to by their inferiors and choosing to spend their time and money on another form of entertainment?

Those matters are being hotly discussed hotly behind closed doors in the expensive management offices of those enterprises most deeply concerned, in the media, across the blogosphere, and may as well be discussed here, too. Whither the NFL, and establishment Hollywood?

12. October 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Fun and Games, Good God, Media Matters Not, Rant

Accustomed as I am to contemplating matters more serious than the doings of the denizens of Hollywood, I can’t keep away from the current spectacle regarding the casting out of Harvey “Jabba the Hutt” Weinstein from all polite (hah!) Hollywood and Democrat political society, where once he strode like an unstoppable behemoth. (How seriously can you take a guy who cannot either grow a decent and serious beard, or learn to use a razor. Really.) It’s like one of those horrific multi-vehicle pile-ups on the internet super-highway, which leave vehicles teetering, smoking and crunched together in improbable formations – and all us normals out in Flyoverlandia left thinking thoughts along the lines of “what brought all that on?” and “he did what … into a potted plant?” or meditating upon the ghastly nature of the mass entertainment business, especially when it climbs into the sack with politicians, and begins the calculated roughing up of the establishment news media.

Because the existence of the show-business casting couch is a tradition of long duration, this shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone but the most sheltered. Yes, I am certain that antique sellers in Hollywood must have warehouses full of certified, vintage, and slightly worn casting-couches in inventory, broken down by studio, director/producer, and starlet, with documented authentication for each. Likely only the most fortunate, virginal, talented, and determined actresses escaped surrendering their virtue to get that part, back in the day, and I’d venture a guess that many who later averred that they had escaped with said article intact, did so with fingers crossed behind their back.

It has been no secret that Harvey “Jabba the Hutt” Weinstein was one of those taking full advantage of his position – in the prone, or perhaps standing position. I ought not to make fun of anyone’s physical appearance, though – not being a beauty queen myself. He might be, in person, the most charming and scintillating man in the world. Not that I’d be interested in finding out for sure – but still. It’s not the physical appearance of the man which raises my old-line feminist hackles; it’s rather that he appears to have been the most vicious and vengeful of bullies from a long time back. The Daughter Unit was an aficionado of a show-biz gossip blog called D-Listed, and Jabba the Weinstein’s proclivities were apparently common knowledge there, and in other venues … like all over Hollywood – to the point of having jokes made about it on Thirty Rock, and at the Academy Awards. So; Jabba the Weinstein was only carrying on an established tradition. Look – if it is an honest and willing seller, and an honest and willing buyer, delivering what has been promised; no problem, aside from the moral aspect of the deal. Not my world, not my circus, not my monkeys.

The unfortunate and unacceptable bit is when it involves malice against those women who do not want to go along to get along. (I suppose that we are all fortunate that Jabba the Weinstein appears to be sexually straight … otherwise, the vicious comment about that alternative writes itself.) His reputation appears to be that of a vengeful man, who got off from bullying the relatively powerless … indeed, demonstrating to the relatively powerless exactly how powerless they were, and deriving considerable and possibly sexual satisfaction thereby. Likely the ornamental potted plants in many locations could testify to this. As well as the various starlets who didn’t want to go along to get along, and thereby mysteriously vanished from public awareness.

The revelation, the testimony of dozens, the condemnations now flooding in … all started out of the clear blue by a story in the Esteemed Paper of Record (The NY Times, for the sarcasm-impaired) and followed by another in the New Yorker … all strongly-defended redoubts of the Ruling Class, as it is in this sad century … and in the brief matter of days, Jabba the Weinstein’s former friends are frantically denouncing him, his company has fired him, and the political powerhouses which were sufficiently fortunate to have his monetarily-expressed affection and support are now frantically denying that they ever knew that man. Even his wife has ditched him, and he has fled the country – apparently to seek sexual-addiction healing in some luxurious European locale, possibly the next VIP suite over from Roman Polanski …

All very curious for those of us inclined to think – as it is said of great scientific discoveries; “Hmmm. That’s odd.” Why now? He has been a sexual-exploitative scumbag for decades, it’s compressively documented. And he was a big Hillary-bundler, and such a dear, dear friend of the Obamas that they allowed their elder daughter to intern in his enterprise. Presumably the Secret Service lurked handily, and Malia isn’t really the aspiring starlet type, poor dear … but still. One does have to wonder, why is a major Hollywood bundler, a conduit of cash in such quantities that I couldn’t even think to earn through honest labor and royalties for my amusing scribbles the amounts of donations which poured in through Jabba the Weinstein’s labors as a donation bundler for the Clintons and other Democrat Party pals…
Has his usefulness just come to an end? And why as the National Establishment Media now cutting Jabba the Weinstein loose, to twist slowly and friendless in the wind? Discuss, if this kind of traffic-wreck amuses or intrigues you.

Of course, it’s a given that the cries for tighter gun control would become ever louder and more intense after the Mandalay Bay massacre of attendees at an outdoor country music festival. It happens after every such event … although I’m under the impression that such cries were fairly muted after the attempted assassination of Republican baseball team members two months ago by a disaffected Bernie Bro named … what was his name, anyway? Oh, yeah – James Hodgkinson. I had to look it up. Funny way that he went down the memory hole, wasn’t it? It was almost as if it never happened, and James Hodgkinson became an un-person in the eyes of the Establishment News Media. There are just some crises that just aren’t worth wheeling out the big anti-guns for, it would appear.

But I don’t have any problem bringing to mind Jared Lee Loughner. After he shot Representative Gabby Giffords, killed six people and wounded a dozen others, the great storm of protest about gun control arose, coeval with a twin great storm accusing eeeevil and irresponsible partisan rhetoric on the part of conservatives generally and Sarah Palin in particular of having inspired him. Well, it eventually developed that J.L. Loughner was inspired by nothing more than the voices in his head, being diagnosed by mental health professionals as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Us non-professionals just call it “bug-nutz crazy” and move on. Frankly, I’d rather have the discussion be about crazy control rather than gun control, but that is a much more difficult, complicated, and nuanced situation – the control of the bug-nutz crazy among us. Easier just to hyperventilate about gun control, and how gun owners are compensating for having small pee-pees or some such pseudo-scientific twaddle. It’s nothing more than a means of easy virtue-signaling for the ostentatiously virtuous members of the Bi-Coastal Ruling Class and their coterie of sycophants.
Returning to my original thought; the newly-energized voices of celebrities, celebrated anti-gunners, publicity-whoring politicians and freelance media likely will have no better luck this time around in demanding tighter and more controls, or even outright confiscation of privately-owned firearms. Riding rough-shod over the Second Amendment would take more juice than they have at present, or are likely to get.
Because … the example that springs to mind, out of one of many is the reaction of a now-ex top employee of the CBS legal department, one Hayley Geftman-Gold, who posted in a Facebook discussion thread that she was “not even sympathetic.’”

“If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing, “I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are Republican gun toters.”

Hayley Geftman-Gold, who is of such a nose-bleedingly privileged strata of the Bi-Coastal Ruling Elite that her wedding was noted in the social pages of the NY Times (the supreme chronicler of the doings of the Bi-Coastal Ruling Elite) basically felt OK with registering her dislike of a whole class of people and her indifference to their mass murder; a people of whom she ostentatiously knows nothing, and cares even less. The only surprise in this otherwise tawdry and routine spectacle is that she was fired by CBS before the end of the day. Well, obviously CBS had realized (belatedly) that writing off a good portion of the country as irredeemable deplorables, or bigoted, racist untermenschen is perhaps a bad business plan. After all, they want our money/viewership.
Alas, MS Geftman-Gold is not singular in her dismissive bigotry. She is only a minor voice in a mighty chorus, pouring disdain, contempt, and outright hatred on the working class of flyover country in general, and those who had the temerity to vote for Trump in particular and other conservatives in general. Which is a pity, since I would think that one whose nuptials were celebrated by a rabbi would be a leeeetle more aware of what results when a group of people are systematically “othered” by the ruling classes. We know now that we are hated, despised, marked out for … whatever fate dictated by the Ruling Class. And that is why the gun control that they urge will likely not go anywhere. Because we know that they hate us.
Discuss, if you can bear it.

The mass freak-out following upon the election of The Donald to the highest office in the land continues unabated to this very day and hour. It’s been a little more than ten months; you’d have thought that the Hillary fans and the Bernie bros would have gained a bit of perspective, even a soupçon of philosophical acceptance. All contests, except for those held for elementary school-aged children where everyone gets a participation trophy, have winners and losers. But the political loss of the Dowager Duchess of Chappaqua to Donald Trump would appear to be the very first time that her loyal courtiers have ever experienced a tragedy of that magnitude, and so animus against Donald Trump and the people who voted for him continues unabated; loud, proud, 24-7 and ever more unhinged. (I’ve written before about this, at Chicagoboyz and here at NCO Brief.) It’s kind of hard to tell who the Hillary-adoring glitterati, entertainers, intellectuals and bureaucrats hate more; Donald Trump or the regular Joes and Josies who voted for him. And it’s not just the Trump-hate, but the continuing, relentless social justice warrior posturing about everything from gay marriage, transsexual privilege, to members of the black urban underclass having an unfortunately terminal encounter with the forces of law’n’order. It’s all become quite exhausting, even keeping track of who is supposed to be outraged by what.

This kind of hate and uncertainty can’t be good for a person, you know, but I’ll leave those people consumed by such feelings to worry about the condition of their own souls. Nothing I can do, write or say about the unwise and rampant politicization of practically everything will likely have any long effect on them … but there is one manner in which my actions, and the actions of others may already be having noticeable effects – and that is via the pocketbook.

Yes, we do not have to watch their movies, TV shows, or football games, or listen to their radio shows. We do not have to purchase comic books, regular books without illustrations, their magazines or newspapers. We do not have to purchase the cable package with ESPN or any other specialty channel, pay tuition to certain universities, attend their concerts or sign up for science fiction conventions which have been consumed from the inside by such politicization. Increasingly over the last months, and likely, the last few years – ordinary consumers of the right-of-center political and social persuasion are doing just that; turning off and dropping out. Look at the drop-off in movie attendance. The push for comic books to be trendily ‘woke’ and diverse – that looks to be affecting the market and not in a good way. The long-established and once-respected Worldcon science fiction convention looks to be spiraling the drain after the Sad Puppies fiasco. And now with the whole NFL ‘taking the knee’ during the national anthem, which has opened a new front in the cold civil war, and may very well take down the NFL into irrelevance. The usual perpetrators of jamming political correctness into every possible smidgeon of an opening may go on insisting that it is just, right and salutary to do so, and that they aren’t taking a hit from the audience because of it.

But the point of the matter is – the large part of an audience for a sports event, a movie, a book, a tv series or a comic – just want a bit of amusement, an enjoyable escape from the mundane and are resenting the heck out of getting a lecture instead. Ordinary people do not live, eat and breath social justice or political causes twenty-four hours in a day. By these stories linked and others too numerous to mention, I suspect they are tired beyond toleration of being hectored, lectured and beat about the head by those who do, and are voting with pocketbook. Your thoughts?

Tattle tale tit,
Your tongue shall be slit,
And all the dogs in the town
Shall have a little bit! – trad. schoolyard taunt

How bizarre it is to come to a time in these sort-of-United States where certain people who might otherwise have been mistaken for grownups appear to take great pleasure in channeling their inner selves; that of a malicious, sneaky tattle-tale, running to the teacher to inform on their fellow students at every opportunity. We do not — yet — have the equivalent of the East German ‘Stasi’, where half the population eagerly and voluminously informed on the other half. I would have assumed that Americans, young and old, despised tattletales – the adult version every bit as much as the juvenile variety. But we have moved on, it seems. A certain kind of mentality seems bound and determined to sign up as informers even before such volunteers are requested by the authorities in various venues.
More »

Just when I had begun to think that those who hate conservatives generally could not possible become any more irrational and deranged; that they had dug them so very deeply into the pit of despair, loathing and frustrated fury – along comes the twin scourge of “pro-Trump Republicans are Nazis!” united with the push to remove monuments with anything to do with the Confederacy from public spaces on the grounds that the historical figures so honored were supporting, defending or enabling the institution of chattel slavery. Some of the more creatively deranged or misinformed parties demanding the removal of such monuments have also expanded their monumental loathing to include Christopher Columbus, Fr. Junipero Serra, and Joan of Arc – although it is a puzzle as to why a French saint burned at the stake two centuries before the beginning of European settlement of North and South America should be slated for demolition or removal. Deep confusion on the part of the person who demanded its removal cannot be ruled out, although as my daughter has pointed out (rather snidely) chances are that they are a graduate of one of New Orleans’ finer public schools.

Still, I admit to being rather blindsided by the sudden storm of demands to remove these statues and monuments on the part of the current ‘red guards’ of the American left, remove them from the places where many of them had been installed for at least a hundred years and often longer. As an amateur historian, I find this horribly depressing; the monuments for both Confederate and Union heroes and events were put up within human memory as ghastly and savage a blood-letting as we ever inflicted on each other to this date. The question of chattel slavery and states’ rights sundered families, friends, communities, established churches, military academy classes; for four blood-soaked years, North and South tore at each other without pity or remorse … and at the end of it all, the country was painfully stitched together by millions of grave markers and the grief and regret of survivors. Indeed, the dedication of monuments was seen often as an honoring of former foes, an acknowledgement of courage and conviction, and of deep sorrow that it ever came to such a slaughter – a gesture of reconciliation. This kind of purpose is perhaps too subtle for the BLM/AntiFa/Red Guards faction to grasp, raised as they have been in relative security and plenty, suckling the teat of carefully fomented racial resentment, informed by a Zinnified view of history, and enraged beyond coherent dialog by the fact that better than half the voters in the country do not agree with them … on anything and everything. The Confederate memorials are a handy symbol, something which the rage of the BLM/AntiFa/Red Guards faction has seized upon as the heights from which to make a proxy war on the rest of us. Useless to point out to them that there is a danger of sparking a very real war, as bloody and desperate as the war that the statues commemorate.

It is a kind of madness, I have come to think over the past nine months since the election of Donald Trump; an irrational madness very much like the Great Satanic Day-Care Abuse madness of the 1980s and 1990s. This was a panic which grew and grew, sparked by the fears and uncertainties of parents, fanned to a wildfire by unscrupulous child welfare professionals, ambitious public prosecutors, and a very credulous media. Even at the time, soberer commenters were likening it to the Salem witchcraft trials. The Great Satanic Day-Care Abuse madness took longer to burn out, although at the end of it, the accused and convicted were mostly dead, not just locked up in prison. But in all three cases – there is a purpose behind the madness, and a whole group of interested parties hoping to make something for themselves out of encouraging it. In the case of the destruction of the monuments, memorials and establishments which most ordinary Americans cherish and honor – I cannot see how the campaign to destroy them will burn out of itself.
Discuss.

There is an oft-quoted maxim generally credited to the late William F. Buckley to the effect that “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”  So it also appears to be the case with the corporate and academic diversity-mongers; who are all about diversity when it a matter of race, nationality, sex, sex-orientation, background and education level, but react like a bunch of screaming howler monkeys when what they have established as ‘conventional-think’ is transgressed upon or critiqued, even in a manner most thoughtful, The most current demonstration of this has been the Google-Diversity imbroglio, which was set off by a rather thoughtful memo (linked here) which ruminated on unconscious corporate assumptions, and suggested that there were other reasons than bias for a dearth of women in highly technical programming activities, and that Google’s own diversity culture was preventing discussion of effective means of remedying that lack. Oh, my … did that set off the Lords of Diversity at Google, as well as a number of female staff at Google and other tech industries … a reaction which I can only describe as ‘hysteria.’ The Google engineer who generated the memo has become the focus of one of those internet lynch mobs, thus fulfilling his own prophetic warning that there are some questions which are like the third rail in that one cannot touch them without being vaporized. Or as in his case, fired summarily. It is altogether likely that he will not be unemployed for long, or the recipient of a large settlement as the result of a suit filed for unjust termination by Google – very likely both. (More here at Ace of Spades, who thoughtfully posted the link to the infamous memo.

It is also likely that Google may feel a bit of pain from this; if not from pissed-off consumers choosing another search engine and email service, then from ideologically straight-jacketing those in-house techies thinking creatively about solving problems. If savvy thinkers know that that voicing speculative wrong-think about hard questions will impact them professionally … well, then, there will not be answers to those hard questions, and the Lords of Diversity will never know why.

Another takeaway from all of this is a powerful reinforcement of the notion that being conservative in a generally liberal workplace is a perilous professional situation – a situation that has become even more unstable since the election of Donald Trump. Yes, sensible conservative/libertarians are going to go on keeping their mouths shut and their heads down, unless among friends or in a safe space like this one. Even those of us who are self-employed, have their mortgage and cars paid for, or nearly paid for, and topped-up bank accounts are still vulnerable to a determined and malicious internet lynch mob … or even someone like the odious Lena Dunham, maliciously going to an employer, with a tattle-tale of a supposedly overheard conversation in a public place.

 

Discuss, if you can bear it.

I took it into my head to see Dunkirk in a movie theater on the opening weekend. I don’t think I have done since the early nineties (when we returned from Spain, where movies showed at the base theater six months to a year after premiering.) The last time I saw a movie in an actual theater, instead of at home on DVD or on streaming video was – if memory serves – The Kings’ Speech, in 2010, or it may have been The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in 2013. We saw the latter in an Alamo Drafthouse cinema, notable for being set up in a civilized manner to serve tasty adult beverages before and during the showing, as well as equally tasty entrees. They also have a positively Soup-Naziesque attitude about talking, texting, ringing cellphones and children disturbing the movie experience – an attitude of which I regretfully approve. One toot on yer flute, or on your cellie, and you’re oot, as the saying about the woman in the Scottish cinema with a hearing horn used to go. Adding to the charm of the experience – you can book a ticket for a specific seat and showing through their website, and pay for it online in advance. Print out your ticket on your home printer, waltz into the theater at the appointed time – and yes, this is one thing I do like about the 21st century.
Back to the movie. The necessary trailers for upcoming releases reminded me powerfully about why I have not been to a movie theater for a movie since 2010 or 2013, especially a trailer for a superhero concoction called The Justice League. No, sorry; so much my not-cuppa-tea that I wouldn’t more two feet off a rock ledge to watch it, or anything else there was a trailer for. Fortunately, the pre-feature features were few and relatively brief.
Then to the main feature, which began very quietly, with a half-dozen British squaddies wandering down a narrow street on the outskirts of Dunkirk, under a fluttering of German propaganda leaflets … which set the situation as it exists, and supplies one of the young soldiers, appropriately named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), with a supply of toilet paper. Tommy is a luckless lower-ranks Candide, foiled numerous times in his efforts to get away from Dunkirk, the first of three different yet congruent stories told by the director, Christopher Nolan. Some viewers may have difficulty in following them, as they weave and intersect with each other. I did not – although how daylight and tide conditions changed abruptly from shot to shot and episode to episode in the narrative may baffle some viewers. Tommy’s soggy epic journey (he damn near gets drowned three times by my account) alternates with two other narratives: an account of the civilian boat-owning volunteers – epitomized by Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) and his younger son, Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Peter’s school chum, George (Barry Keoghan). The Admiralty, under emergency orders, has begun requisitioning civilian boats for service shifting English and French troops off the beaches held in a pocket between Dunkirk and Bray Dunes.
This is historically accurate – the main harbor of Dunkirk was composed of an inner and an outer harbor. The inner was essentially unusable through German bombing by the time of the evacuation. The outer – a long sheltering mole-and-walkway – was difficult to moor large sea-going ships against, and hideously vulnerable to German bombing and strafing attacks, both to the ships and the ranks of soldiers drawn up to board them. Mr. Dawson’s substantial motor-sail yacht is one of those requisitioned to serve – because of their relatively shallow-draft – in taking troops directly off the beach to the larger ships at anchor in deeper water. (This character and account is clearly based on the experience of Charles Lightoller.) Mr. Dawson doesn’t want to turn his yacht over to the Navy and he heads out of the English harbor, (after ditching all the civilian accoutrements and taking on a load of life-preservers) with a crew composed of a pair of teenaged schoolboys.
The third element, after land and sea, is in the air; a pair of RAF Spitfire pilots, Collins (Jack Lowden) and Farner (Tom Hardy). They start on their mission to provide air cover to the evacuation, lose their flight leader even before they even get mid-way – and thereafter Farner, with a busted fuel-gage on his fighter-plane (which was top of the line in 1940) is on a tense countdown. Make his goal, achieve his mission of providing air cover for the evacuation before he runs out of fuel…
The countdown is one of the elements which makes this movie consistently suspenseful: the countdown of Farner’s fuel tanks, the countdown of Tommy’s ability to hold his breath, the arrival of the ‘little ships’ in time to do any good, the ability of Mr. Dawson’s crew to haul drowning soldiers out of the water before the oil from a sinking ship cooks off. This is punched up in the soundtrack, which is not so much music but the effect of a clock ticking, occasionally broken by a terrifying silence which means that the German dive bombers are about to attack. The soundtrack is mostly sound design, with very little music as we usually hear it. The only conventional and hummable bits are a version of ‘Nimrod’ from Elgar’s Enigma Variations in about the last five minutes. The acting is likewise impeccable from the cast, especially Tom Hardy, who as Farner, had the challenge of spending most of the movie with his face covered by his oxygen mask and goggles.
Those are the laudable elements – now the severely critical comments based on the various books on Operation Dynamo. This is one of the historical events that I was obsessively interested in as a teenager. The movie vision of the smoke column on the horizon is lame. From all reports and photographic evidence – it was huge. Really huge – as could be seen from across the channel, covering a good quarter to half the horizon as one got closer to the French side. The crowds on the beaches were also much more substantial, if the historical record is any guide. The long tracking shot in Atonement gives, I think, something more of an idea of how chaotic, crowded, and desperate the situation in the Dunkirk-Bray Dunes pocket must have been. I was also thrown out of the story a couple of times by how many times the ‘stuck under a barrier and drowning’ trope was brought out and inflicted on key characters. Really, do this no more than once per character a movie. A lovely shot of all the ‘little boats’ coming to the rescue; they all looked so pristine. It was a fantastic touch to use some of the real surviving Dunkirk ‘little boats’, but only a few were shown, out of 250 or so known to have participated. As a matter of fact, many were towed across the Channel to the evacuation zone, most of them crewed by Naval reservists (as was shown in the initial scene with Mr. Dawson’s boat), and they bustled back and forth from the shallows, ferrying troops out to the deeper-draft ships standing off-shore, rather than make the cross-channel journey independently and loaded with troops. (The largest portion of troops rescued from Dunkirk were transported to safety on destroyers – not on the ‘little boats’.) The bit about the British Army engineers kluging up a pier by driving trucks into the sea at low-tide to create a makeshift pier to load from at high-tide – that did happen. I do wish that the incident of one particular ship-captain deliberately grounding his own ship to serve as a temporary pier and floating it off again at high-tide had been included – but that act of desperate improvisation was one of many.
On the whole, Dunkirk is well worth the time and cost to see in a theater, especially this summer. Regarding the previews of coming attractions, though, it looks like it will be another four or six years before I bother going to the theater to watch another one.

Atonement – Beach at Dunkirk (2007) from Wagner Brenner on Vimeo.

12. July 2017 · 3 comments · Categories: Domestic

… In the ground, into which you pour money; that was Dave Barry’s definition of a house, which was a take-off on an earlier witticism about a yacht being a hole in the water into which you also poured money.

In my case, water and a house were both involved … in that the other night I went out to the garage to get a pan of home-made lasagna out of the deep-freeze, and noted with considerable interest that there was water everywhere. Two possible culprits – the deep-freeze itself (which spilled a considerable amount of meltwater into the garage the last time I emptied everything out and defrosted it) … or the hot-water heater.
The Daughter Unit has been suggesting that some maintenance and adjustment on the hot-water heater might be in order, as she is one who enjoys long showers. I’ve been putting off draining and refilling it, because of all the stuff piled up in the garage, stuff in the way. We had agreed to sort out the garage and take care of the hot-water heater when she comes home from California, but I had to get started on that last night, after calling the friendly neighborhood service company who sees to the HVAC unit – they have a plumbing and electrical department as well. So – carried out some boxes of extraneous stuff to go to Goodwill, and a couple of boxes of … why did we have boxes of ancient mail-order catalogs out there? I guess we forgot to put them in the recycle bin and lost track. Yes, the garage is definitely getting a once-over. The trash and the recycle bin are already filled to overflowing, and yes, we are getting a new hot-water heater.

It appears that I was mistaken, when I thought that the hot-water heater had been replaced by the previous owners just before I bought the house. No, the friendly plumber informed me; it was original to the house. Which means it has been performing heroically and without failure since 1984 – darned good, considering that the usual lifespan for such is about a decade. The Daughter Unit suggests that the old one go into a plumbing museum, if only as a curiosity.

Even more critically – and adding to the expense and hassle of replacing the hot-water heater is that the local codes have changed drastically. New installs must be on a stand 18 inches above the floor, have a drip pan – which I have to say, after mopping up the leakage last night and this morning – is a very sensible notion, a special electrical connection, and other stuff which I will have to read the paperwork to totally grasp. It is being installed this afternoon, so that life in Chez Hayes will continue without interruption, in the hot water supply if nothing else. And the best part is that my credit rating is so much improved that I qualified for fairly generous terms, instead of paying for the whole thing out of pocket, draining the savings/emergency account, or go without hot water for months.

But the garage is definitely going to be sorted, first thing when the Daughter Unit comes home.

09. July 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Critters, Domestic

Calla-Puppy; the model for Dog

As a writer whose household contains dogs, cats and chickens, it has amused me ever since my first novel to include some of those pets as characters. In To Truckee’s Trail, my daughter’s boxer-mix, Calla was dressed up somewhat with a size and intelligence to play the part of Elisha Stephens’ companion on the overland trail; Dog. Yes, his dog was named Dog – the character was not terribly imaginative. Dog makes her first appearance in the second chapter:

John looked down; not very far down at that, at one of the largest dogs he had ever seen, a huge fawn-colored mastiff bitch with a dark face. She sat quietly at his feet, regarding him with intelligent golden eyes. “Dog,” said the smith quietly, and made a quick gesture with his fingers. The mastiff bitch nudged John again, as if reminding him to be on his best behavior then, because she would have an eye on him, and obediently trotted away to settle herself underneath the wagon. From there she still regarded John and her master with those unsettlingly intelligent golden eyes. She had a clownish white splotch on her nose and another at the end of her tail. All of her toes on each foot were white, as if she wore dainty gloves.

My daughter brought Calla home with her, when she finished her second hitch in the Marines in 2006. Calla and Dog, besides having the same appearance, were both excellent travelers. Calla loved riding in the car, even on long distances, and guarded the car as zealously as she guarded the house, hopping into the driver seat and growling at anyone who came just a little too close. Alas, even though she was a mixed-breed and presumably had some hybrid vigor to count on, she was a large dog, and those breeds in her makeup were prone to age rapidly – she only lived to the age of 12.

Spike – the original inspiration for Mouse

The second dog of ours to make it into my books was Spike the shih-tzu, who came to the household as a puppy, from a couple who thought they wanted a puppy, and then decided the puppy was too much trouble to housebreak and socialize. Spike had attitude to spare, which was why we called her Spike, and adorned her with a small black leather collar studded with silver spikes. Spike was bred to be a lapdog and constant companion, and by the time we adopted her, I was already largely working from home. Her natural place was the space underneath my chair, or within three or four feet of wherever I happened to be. She was also a very good traveler, insofar as long stretches in a car; we made several long-distance journeys to California from Texas and back. She was not so agreeable to having her home routine disrupted, though: she distinguished herself by surreptitiously piddling on every one of the area rugs in my parents’ house. Spike was the inspiration for Magda Becker’s Pekinese (or rather series of Pekinese dogs) in the Adelsverein Trilogy:

There were six puppies, lively squirming little balls of fur; four of them gold like their mother, one black, and one piebald white with brindle spots. That one seemed to be more sedate, not as excitable as the others. Magda put her fingers around the pup—it was heavier that it appeared, no fragile little handful of bones and fur. It looked at her with curious eyes, as she said, “This one, Irina.”
“Very good,” Princess Cherkevsky nodded, regally. “That is a boy. Your son already brought a little collar and a bed and dish for you.”
“You and he plotted behind my back,” Magda exclaimed. She sat back on her heels, with the puppy cradled in her lap. “I know he loves dogs, but this is not a dog, it is more like a mouse!” And thus did the pup receive its name.

Spike also developed chronic health problems peculiar to dogs whose popularity leads to inbreeding. She passed away rather suddenly at a relatively young age; we think she ate some grass which had recently been sprayed with a powerful insecticide, and died almost overnight, even before we could get her to the veterinarian.


The third of our dogs to appear in my fiction is in blissful good health – and also quite firmly attached to me; Nemo, so called because we found him wandering the streets in our neighborhood. Someone had either dumped him, or moved out of a nearby rental house and left him behind. He was wary of humans, even us, at first; but since has been so eager to become one with a pack that he has even buddied up with some of the cats – to their horror and disgust. Nemo is some kind of coarse-furred terrier of no recognizable breed; black with a strange white mohawk on the top of his head. He was cast in my most recent historical, The Golden Road. as Nipper, the canine companion of the mysterious and slippery Fenian, Aloysius Polydore O’Malley:

The mule wagon was driven by a scarecrow of a man; of indeterminate years and put together in an untidy gangle of limbs, topped with a thatch of fading ginger hair. Fredi gawked at him, as he hopped nimbly down from the wagon-seat, for he was dressed in clothing which had once been fine, yet appeared to have been intended for a much shorter man. The sleeves of his coat, and the threadbare shirt underneath it barely covered his knobby wrists. He was also accompanied by a small black dog, which followed his master with equal agility; a short-furred dog with upright ears and tail, and what looked like a comical set of grizzled chin-whiskers fringing its sharp little muzzle. The dog promptly cocked a leg and pissed against the wagon-wheel.

Like Spike, Nemo is clingy – he sleeps in the dog bed under my desk during the day, at the foot of the bed at night, whines heartbreakingly if he can’t follow me and practically turns himself inside out with joy when I come back after being away for a couple of hours.

As for the cats – I have only put one of them in a story, so far – but that’s an entry for another day.

05. July 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Fun and Games, Media Matters Not

Just when I thought the national establishment news media had about reached the nadir of unethical, irresponsible and unprofessional behavior, here comes CNN, the bane of travelers stuck in airport terminals and hapless patients in doctors’ office waiting rooms everywhere. to say, “Hold my beer and watch this!’
I refer to the story percolating out over the Fourth of July holiday, over how the fearless newshounds at CNN tracked down the guy (with the nic of Han*ssholeSolo) who appears to have created the GIF of a pro-wrestling Donald Trump slamming an opponent – helpfully labeled CNN – which the president retweeted late last week, to the great amusement of an audience who appreciates unsubtle humor like that. CNN apparently does not appreciate unsubtle humor, especially when directed at them, and forthwith one of their senior editors, one Andrew Kaczynski, tracked down the possible originator of the Trump/CNN wrestling GIF, and demanded an apology from Han*ssholeSolo. Or else they would – in the charming manner which certain pestiferous and malicious trolls display when it comes to tormenting the objects of their ire – doxx him and allow the flying monkeys of the internet lynch mob get their jollies by making his life miserable. And make the lives of his family, his neighbors, employer, and anyone who could possibly be mistaken for him also miserable. The originator, Han*ssholeSolo, may or may not be a fifteen-year-old, and may or may not have had other more or less embarrassing materiel on his page – materiel which if unsavory enough likely gave CNN leverage against him in making demands in the first place.
So – basically, they coerced an abject apology by threatening to turn the white-hot spotlight on him now and in the future if he doesn’t obey orders to the satisfaction of CNN … and then went right out and proudly announced what they had done to the world. This Andrew Kaczynski, I was reminded, was the one chiefly responsible for siccing the flying monkey lynch mob on Justine Sacco, some years ago. That this whole disgusting matter can be construed as extortion doesn’t seem to have occurred to CNN, although it certainly has to just about everyone else.
And it is just possible that the video materiel of Trump and CNN which Trump tweeted may not be the original material created by Han*ssholeSolo anyway, if this story is correct.
Discuss. Practically everyone else is today, anyway.

Here we are, a couple of days past the middle of the year, and almost eight months after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency … and I swear that the lunacy has not died down in the slightest, but is now ratcheted up to eleven, or even twelve. (Gratuitous Spinal Tap reference.) The classical five stages of grief are supposed to be denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but it’s clear at this point that the Hillary and Bernie partisans are stuck fast at the ‘anger’ stage – and appear to be egging each other into higher, farther, deeper and more intense demonstrations of denial and anger. It’s almost … well, operatic. Like a spectacular ten-car pile-up on the interstate, one can’t even look away from the spectacle – especially the spectacle of establishment news media personalities and institutions losing their freaking minds over Donald Trump.

The reason for this insensate anger is another source of bewilderment for me. I mean – I thought he was one of them, a big-city, big-money and flamboyant-with-it guy, pretty much a moderate Democrat, sort of liberal socially, someone that establishment media figures in New York had palled around socially with for decades. Is it because he is an apostate in their eyes now? Or were they so invested in Hillary, so convinced that she had it in the bag, and that CNNMSNBCBS would carry her over the finish-line, and when it turned out that they couldn’t – this is the tantrum of a very sore loser? Is the media hatred caused frustration over having lost, by excessive and undeniable partisanship, all authoritative credibility with the flyover-country citizens? All that old black political magic that used to work so well – favorable press, celeb endorsements, polling, media appearances, a constant stream of paid political ads, huuge spending – couldn’t get Hillary into the White House, or budge the needle in a Democrat-friendly direction since. I don’t even want to get into the flat-out hatred boiling over on social media and in comment threads in various places, the hatred of liberals for conservatives of just about any stripe.

Is it as a commenter at Samizdata suggested, when one of the regulars there linked to a recent Sarah Hoyt post?

I have often considered that there are a lot more people who have degrees of mental illness out there than we generally realise. Most of the time they can function relatively OK, if surrounded by good people who try and keep them on the path of sanity, however if they are steered in the wrong direction … their inherent bias towards fantasy thinking will mean they go down the wormhole when a more sane person who stop and think ‘Hang on a minute here!’ I think the reason we are seeing more of the misdirection now is the internet – its all there on everyone’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, and 100% accessible to all, whereas in the past such people would probably never have been exposed to such twisted thinking. Now they are, and they lack the critical faculties to determine what is true and what is false.

Discuss, if you can bear it.