Outsized Perceptions – Twice Natural Size

When I first read of the survey (one story on it linked here) of how members of the public consistently overestimate the percentage of gays in the general population, I was not terribly surprised. Dismayed, yes – as it appeared that the younger cohort estimated the proportion of gay to straight at almost a third, which I thought would have run slap up against that cohort’s observation of the world around them. The actual percentage is round and about two percent, which tracks with my own real-world observation – but I can hardly blame the kids for assuming a much higher figure, knowing how many media creations prominently feature gay characters. Looking at TV shows, movies, books, games, the celebrity culture … one might very well assume that ‘gay’ constitutes a much larger portion of public space than they actually occupy, on a strictly numerical basis. The various media reflect ‘gay’ at several times their normal size. Like my neighbor’s basset hounds; it’s not that there are many, but the bassets are so very loud, a casual observer might assume that there are many more, based on the racket.

Anyway, I was briefly amused by the whole matter at the time – of media-cultural perception at odds with observed reality. But in the last few weeks, what with the continuing protests regarding the deaths of black men in altercations with police officers, I’ve begun to wonder if there isn’t a whole ‘nother cultural perception at odds with reality, only this time it is the reality that isn’t observed, just the perception covering it over it in a particularly opaque veil.

I ought to start off on this particular thought-train by noting that I have lived in South Texas now for a little less than twenty years; likely I am affected by the same kind of cultural veiling, in that I don’t really see ‘Hispanic’ as the ‘other’ when I look at a crowd of people here; I’m not mentally breaking down that crowd into racial/cultural components. Spoken Spanish and Spanish surnames, conjunto music and bright colors, hot pepper salsa and the Virgin of Guadalupe are all just a part of the background white noise as it were; comfortable, appreciated, and expected. Even going up into the Hill Country, where the common surnames tend to be Germanic and Anglo rather than Hispanic – it still appears pretty homogenous – and also pretty pale to medium-tan colored to me. The occasional doom-laden and/or gloating-at-the-prospect forecast that ‘white’ people will be a minority in these here United States which appears now and again in discussions of racial categories seems pretty laughable, when I look around where I live. Not saying it wouldn’t happen, of course; but consciously or unconsciously, as humans we tend to base assumptions about the relative unknown on what we do know and observe around us in real-life, real-time.

And I wonder, when considering the near-riots in Ferguson, and the principally black protests – especially in cities with a large black population – I’ve begun to wonder if the urban black population doesn’t see themselves at several times their normal size. A combination of self- or economic isolation in particular neighborhoods, media saturation, the results of affirmative action in hiring for everything from federal jobs to high-profile media personalities, half a century of media, intellectual and political stroking … has all this and more given African-Americans an unconscious self-visualization of themselves at several times natural size? When the average African-American thinks of themselves as part of the American public, are they thinking of themselves as a much larger and more influential part of it then they really are? Discuss.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz.net)

Market Forces

My daughter and I have emerged, breathless, exhausted and muscle-sore from two months and a bit of schlepping heavy items back and forth between shed and Montero, and Montero to venue every other weekend, or every weekend. If it wasn’t my books, then it was my books and her origami art. This last weekend in Boerne was the last of our winter event schedule. We won’t be breaking out the hot-pink pavilion with the zebra-striped top until spring … unless it will be to set it up on a sunny day this week to dry it all out. Which we should have done on Monday, except that there was too much else to do … empty out the car, decorate the bay-laurel tree in front of the house for Christmas, pay attention to some basic housekeeping and laundry – the sink and the laundry baskets both overflowing – and to carry out a couple of items to the curb for the yearly bulk trash pickup.

Our contributions to bulk trash comprised a pair of cruddy computer speakers, a flat-screen monitor which had developed some pretty distracting areas of damage, a short ornamental garden pedestal of poured plaster, and a metal and fabric lounge chair/foot-stool combination which my daughter brought home from the Marines. It was one of those inexpensive, ugly and futuristic – but surprisingly comfortable items – which had been passed around the Cherry Point enlisted barracks until my daughter snagged it and brought it home, where it took up altogether too much space. I suspect from the distinct whiff from the cushions that the cats and maybe one of the dogs had taken to marking it with their very own essence. So, out on the curb it all went, and – mirabile dictu – all these items promptly vanished, although the enormous city collection trucks have not yet appeared – although the junker trucks have been rotating like turkey vultures over our neighborhood for days.

The plaster pedestal was pretty well decayed by use and weathering. An elderly couple in a very nice late-model station wagon pulled up, even as we were unloading the car of our gypsy-market materials, and the husband asked through the driver-side window, if it was very heavy. Blondie said it was not, and loaded it into the back of their car, as we confessed that … we had actually collected it from the curbside some years ago, when it wasn’t nearly so decayed. Amusingly, a fair number of the pots and ornamental elements in our garden were scrounged from the curbside. Our own haul from the neighborhood curbside this year included a pair of barely-used dog beds and one of those folding Oriental black lacquer screens – a rather nice item, once the hinges were replaced by stout brass hardware and longer screws and assorted dings and scratches repaired by various means. The dog beds were washed in blazingly hot water, of course. They are already popular with the one doggle who had prized the barracks chair.
As for the markets – they have all been so-so, this year. There are a number of possible reasons for this, which may make another blog-post. Still, one way and another, I have come home after some of them with bargains: this weekend, it was a whole cowhide.

No, don’t laugh – I have a set of Colonial-reproduction ladder-back chairs in the dining room, which I bought as kits from a very reputable mail-order catalogue yea on some decades ago. These chairs were designed and supplied to be finished with woven rush seats – that kind of rush made from brown paper, woven in diminishing squares to finish the seats, then varnished to finish. And I wove the rushing seats, and varnished them … but what with one thing and another, the cats just viewed them as handy scratching posts and tore them to shreds. I must refinish the darned things … again … but am just exasperated, contemplating ordering the necessary coils of rushing and reweaving the seats of five chairs for the third, or maybe the fourth time. A few weeks ago I had an inspiration – why not do the seats in cowhide, for a rustic Western look? The more I thought about it, the better I liked the idea, although tanned cowhides looked to be darned expensive, and the brown and white spotted hides would look kind of kitschy … but one of the other vendors last weekend had a booth full of cowhide rugs, runners and hangings – either pieced together, or straight as they came from the cow. Among them was a plain creamy-tan hide … and the vendor and I struck a deal for it. Business was slow at the market, the plain cream hides are not as popular as the more obviously spotted and dappled ones, and he was just tickled to death at the thought that I would be doing something so outrageously creative with it, and explained to me the best way to do the seats, with staples and ornamental nail-heads over a plywood base and a bit of foam rubber. The hide is enormous – the cow it came from must have been as big as a mastodon. There’ll be plenty of hide to do seats for all five chairs and a good bit left over. So – that will be my particular project over the New Year, now that the market events are done.

It may also lead to having to repaint the dining area in a color better calculated to match the cowhide, but that will be another project entirely.

All Apologies – Christmas Edition

It’s one of those months; the book publishing business thrives and so does the care of those clients associated with it, which has sopped up all of my writing time and energy these last few weeks. I also have to attend to the Worlds’ Tallest ADHD child – a sometime employer who is the absolute epitome of the old-style Texan gentleman, whose word is his bond but cannot remember how to download an email attachment and save it to the proper file in his computer to save his life and believe me, I have gone over and over this with him … Anyway, he has some good ranch property deals in the offing. Over the years he has been a good employer; sometimes I have worked for him on spec when he had had a dry spell in the ranch real estate business, and sometimes when he was flush with cash from a multi-million-dollar ranch sale and I was skint, he advanced me a salary so that I had to cash for immediate expenses and work it off over time. Ofttimes in the last decade or so, I have despaired of his facility for tap-dancing along the tight-rope-line between financial insolvency and economic sufficiency … but being at the age he is, I have to conclude that he must like it and be accustomed to living that way … and anyway, he has a multitude of old friends prepared to indulge him in this. Including a long-time on and off girlfriend who I wish would marry him … but as I said … on and off. He’d share his last crust with a friend, and I am in the friend zone, having zilch interest in ranch real estate, aside from an acre or two of it of my own.

Anyway – Blondie and I have our own interests and issues this year; that of making an appearance at the local gypsy markets, either for my books, or for my books and her origami art combined. These events take a considerable amount of energy. Even if it is just my couple of tubs-o-books plus the items to display them and facilitate sales, it still involves packing the car and a long or perhaps a short drive. We have one more market appearance to go – In Boerne this weekend. The last weekend was in Goliad, which was OK, as it was a free (aside from the gas for the Montero) venue, thanks to the sweet lady who has run it forever and ever. Alas, the event before that – for which I had paid a table fee for two days – I barely broke even, making only less than about half what I have in previous years at the same venue. This coming weekend is the last of our Christmas market events for this year; a two-day extravaganza on Boerne’s Town Square. Alas, rain is forecast for Saturday.
The book publishing business toddles on – I am juggling four different book projects for four different clients, three of them being repeat clients, so as soon as we are done with the gypsy marketing, I’ll be working full-out on the fourth project, and angling for another high-profile book publication.

Complicating all of this is another family crisis: Mom took a horrifically bad fall last week, bad enough to do permanent damage to her spine and resulting in paralysis. She was alone in the house at the time, and it took almost a day for neighbors to become worried. The damage is bad enough that the best outlook is confinement to a wheelchair in an assisted-living residence. Remaining in the house is out of the question. We had all been worried about this ever since Dad died, but Mom wouldn’t consider leaving the place until now. Mom came to grips with all this almost at once: the house will be sold, funds from the sale put into a trust, et cetera. Pip and Sander are scouting out the right sort of place in Pasadena, or close by. Blondie is going out to California in January to help as she can, just as I went out for a month after Dad died. So that’s how it all stands at this moment. I likely won’t write very much more about this in depth: Mom is a pretty private person, and did not like it at all when I did what she considered over-sharing.

Saturday in the Book Corral

(Hey, anyone still here? Got a post for ya – Sorry for the absence … work and all that, and somehow not being particularly moved to write something. It’s just a mood – it will pass, I promise.)

Santa arriving in Goliad, Texas, last Saturday - mounted on the customary longhorn. With a spare mount, of course. It's a long way from the North Pole.

Santa arriving in Goliad, Texas, last Saturday – mounted on the customary longhorn. With a spare mount, of course. It’s a long way from the North Pole.

Another weekend, it must be another book event. And so it was last Saturday, so it will be this coming weekend. Last Saturday it was Christmas on the Square in Goliad, a place which I hold in affection – because it is a pleasant small town, full of nice people who all know each other and are connected by one to three degrees, has some claim to historicity, but is otherwise relatively unspoiled by excessive tourism and what my daughter calls the YA contingent. Which doesn’t stand for Young Adult, but ‘Yuppie *sshole’ – that variety of well-to-do and socially conscientious arriviste who roar into some unspoiled little country locale, en mass, and gentrify the heck out of it; the kind of people who love the country and farms and quaint friendliness, but who promptly turn it into upscale suburbia, can’t stand the smell of cows or the noise of agricultural pursuits at odd hours, and condescend to their neighbors as being hicks from the sticks. This also raises the prices of everything from property, rents, and everything else from a sandwich and cuppa coffee on up. Given the chance, I would take up a place in a nice little Texas country town like Goliad, renovate a little house and live there quite happily – but I would keep very, very quiet afterwards. I don’t think I am a snob or even a reverse-snob, particularly – but I always liked the remote little suburb that I grew up in precisely for the lack of pretense and the low-key, working-class friendliness.
The weather was wonderful on Saturday, there were enough vendors to make a double-line of booths along one side of the square, my daughter was persuaded not to bring home any of the cats on display from the local animal shelter, and gratifying number of shoppers and fans fell upon my books – especially Lone Star Sons – with cries of happy joy.
Anyway – what brought that these musings about class and neighborliness? Fondness for Goliad, the fact that they have laid out the streets in the old part of town to bypass certain huge old oak trees, some say they never lock their doors at night, and that semi-rural begins very close – within a block or so to the Courthouse square in some directions – and that the authors at the event fell into two distinct groups, and another author and me. As a repeat author to Miss Ruby’s Book Corral, I readily recognized them, although some were new to me. The first group were academics – they occupy a perch at the local branch of UT, or A & M, or one of the community colleges, and they all had books out which touched on local history in someway or another – at least two of which I was tempted to buy because … I need more microscopically local references because that’s where I get my best ideas! (Blondie talked me out of it … since … hey, I hardly have any more room on the bookshelves anyway.) One or two of them talked to me as we were setting up, or during the course of the day – but since I am cheerfully PhD-less (pronounced fid-less) and a dogged amateur historian, I barely count in the grand academic scheme of things. They clustered together, bought lunches and chattered amongst themselves: I’m not certain that they sold much, between them. This may have been more of a social occasion for them. The second group in the Author Corral were authors who were personalities in the local media – writers and columnists who already had a local following for their books. They were the ones that I mostly knew from other events; I know that they did a brisk business, especially the ladies with the cookbook, which seems to be enormously popular. The single other historical novelist and I shared a table, although my collection of nine separate books very much overwhelmed hers of two – and in hardback and paperback. I eventually sold her a copy of Lone Star Sons and The Quivera Trail purely because she was so intrigued overhearing me talk about them to people who came to my half of the table.
And that was that – for last week. This weekend, it’s Boerne, and on Saturday the market will continue until 7 PM. We have been told to bring a couple of strings of lights for the outside of the pavilion and some kind of spotlight for the inside. I think it will be actually rather lovely, at night – with the music and the lights and all. See you there, perhaps! We’re in the pink pavilion with the black-and-white-zebra-striped top.

State of the Disunion

Here we are, in the first week of the last month of 2014, and by way of good cheer, I can say that things haven’t descended quite so far into the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse territory – pestilence, war, famine and death – as I had feared some two or three months ago, when Ebola was all the rage in news. People are still falling sick to it, of course, but curious that such news is no longer in the News, capital-N News, run by the professional news-gatherers, whose motto and mission does seem to be comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted. Funny old world, that.

Still, certain elements of the current scene do give cause for alarm. Not new alarm, but just the same old abiding fears which spurred me to begin writing books to persuade readers of the virtue of the grand American experiment and to refit the kitchen pantry closet to allow storage of mass quantities of staple foods. At the age of 60-something, I appear to be turning into my grandmothers, one of whom conserved a box of Ben Hur brand cayenne pepper over several decades until it was nothing more than some rusty-red dust, and the other of whom had a two-year supply of on-sale-purchased canned food stashed in the garage. I am trying to advance on my grandmothers’ example, though – since I have a vacuum-sealer and freezer. I do wish that I had somehow managed to get ahold of the ancestral can of cayenne pepper; it’s probably valuable now as an antique for the container, if not the rust-red pepper dust therein. Enough for pestilence and famine – what about those oldie-but-goodie standbys, War and Death?

They seem to have taken up residence, or at least, renewed the lease on a number of different places in recent weeks, most notably in Ferguson, Missouri – a somewhat … what’s the word? Struggling? In Transition? Pre-Gentrifying? Anyway, a relatively urban suburb of St. Louis. Which, to judge from the google-maps and the various businesses involved, is not entirely unlike my own very dear suburb as far as retail establishments go. Though it would appear that Ferguson is tilted a more towards the career-welfare-benefits-recipient person of color side of the scale as far as the general population goes, whereas San Antonio tends heavily towards the military retiree side of the scale.

In reading various reports of what is going on in Ferguson I am simultaneously troubled and reassured – troubled in that the mayor, governor and federal administration, at least as much as the established media – seemed to be going out of their various ways to pour more gas onto a bonfire. The various free-lance civil-rights ‘activists’ and sympathizers seem also to be doing their bit. Fortunately so far, their bit seems limited to terrorizing Christmas shoppers, alienating rush-hour drivers and pro football fans, reducing children’s Christmas-carol singing choruses to tears and otherwise alienating many of those who otherwise might rightfully entertain second thoughts about aggressive and militarized policing. The usual urban thug element have concentrated their energies on burning and looting various small businesses along Ferguson’s main drag, undeterred by any feelings of racial or community solidarity, in that a good few of them were owned and operated by persons of color living in Ferguson or nearby, and contributing to the assault and murder of incidental passersbys who just happen to be of the wrong color skin…

Frankly, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if those local businesses cut their losses and relocated elsewhere … but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see that many decided to hang in there. People tend to be stubborn about their home community, and to give up on it with reluctance and only when there is little choice left. I am reassured reading reports of go-fund-me campaigns to raise donations benefitting those businesses which have been harmed, like Natalie’s Cakes, and that local men banded together to protect a Conoco station, whose white owner had been a friend to and employed many of them. It is also reassuring to read that members of the St. Louis Tea Party are working on ways to effectively assist residents and business owners, and that volunteers from the Oath Keepers are volunteering to guard Ferguson businesses. At a guess many of the go-fund-me contributors, Tea Partiers and Oath Keepers willing to weigh in are decidedly white, which would or should argue against the cause for wide-spread white racism in America, if we had an intellectual or a news-reporting establishment with any brains, nerve, or sense of independent inquiry. We might be safe from race-war and racially-motivated death for a little while longer, not that the establishment intellectuals can take any credit for this.

It is curious that the agitation in the wake of Michael Brown’s death is even more frantically focused than that following after Trayvon Martin. There is no doubt that it is being deliberately fomented, and finding a ready audience in the community of the professionally offended, which slightly overlaps that of the black community. I have seen a couple of different reasons suggested for this – one of them being that an all-out balls-to-the-wall race war would be to the advantage of many, not least to this Administration – but the most compelling to me is that Barack H. Obama was presented to the black community as all that and a bag-o-chips, the light-bringer, the wonder-worker, the anointed one, the champion of the racially-oppressed, who would make everything better. Six years later, it’s clear that he has made things worse, and most especially for the black community which turned out for him, heart and soul and votes. All this agitation is a kind of massive psychological displacement: they can’t blame themselves for being fool enough to believe the promises of a sweet-talking charlatan telling them everything they wanted to hear, or blame him because he is (sort of) black and is The First Black President-Evah! The anger has to go someplace. And so it goes to Ferguson. Discuss.

(Cross-posted at www.chicagoboyz.net

Feminists – Doing it Wrong

I have to say this about the sh*tstorm over what is being irreverently termed shirtgate – it’s the final and ultimate straw in moving me away from ever calling myself a feminist again … at least, not in mixed company. Ah, well – a pity that the term has been so debased in the last few decades. Much as the memory of very real repression and denial of rights in the persons-of-color/African-American/Black community has been diminished, overlaid, generally abused and waved like a bloody shirt by cynical operators (to the detriment of the real-life community of color/African-American/Black-whatever they wish to be called this decade), so has the very real struggle for substantive legal, economic, economic and social rights for women also been debased and trivialized. Just as the current so-called champions of civil rights seem to use the concept as an all-purpose cover for deflecting any useful discussion of the impact of welfare, the trivialization of marriage, and glorification of the thug-life-style in the persons-of-color/African-American/Black community, the professional and very loud capital F-feminists seem to prefer a theatrical gesture over any substantial discussion of the real needs and concerns – and even the careers of ordinary women. Women whom it must be said, are usually capable, confident, tough, and love the men in their lives – fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.

The self-elected spokeswomen for feminism certainly do seem to pop up over and over again – they must take up a good few cards in the average main-stream media reporter’s Golden Rolodex. If it’s to do with reproductive rights, the harpies of professional feminism will be there, center stage and hogging the microphone. For a particular palette of similar issues, they will also be there, likely wearing vagina costumes, tampon earrings, and screeching about the patriarchy. It appears that capital-letter Feminism is now an excuse to be a man-hating, vengeful, and easily-provoked harpy. They also seem to have a nice line in bullying those – male and female alike – who do not agree with them in every jot and tittle. For the nastiest and most prolonged episode of this in recent history, I give you Sarah Palin; a woman of intelligence and considerable political skill (acquired without marrying into a political family or being the spawn of one), monstered enthusiastically by the professional feminists, and some whom I had originally thought were above that kind of doctrinaire intellectual snobbery. (Yes, looking at you, Peggy Noonan.)

In this most recent case, the target of the professional feminists has been a youngish scientist who was part of a team responsible for landing a probe on a moving comet. This has been compared to a sharpshooter with a perch in a helicopter flying over New York aiming at and hitting a humming-bird who will be hovering over a particular flower five minutes from now in Wyoming. And the big takeaway which the professional harpy feminists took away from it? A blogger/writer at the Atlantic, one Rose Eveleth (whom I have never heard of before this; yay, chica, you’ve made yourself famous!) took one look at this stupendous achievement and decided to cry ‘sexism’ over the shirt that the scientist was wearing in televised interviews. An ‘aloha’ style short-sleeved shirt made from fabric with images of busty and space-blaster-armed women, taken from old science fiction illustrations. Apparently in Ms Eveleth’s mind, such images are harmful to women, and make them feel unwelcome in STEM fields. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion – and mine is that having a public conniption-fit over a shirt with old pop science-fiction images of women on it is too Victorian for words. This mentality is akin to the legendary delicacy of putting drawers on piano legs. Frankly, my dear – if you can’t handle such horrid sights, you might be better off keeping yourself housebound, laying on a fainting-couch with a perfume-drenched hankie over your fevered brow, rather than pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or medicine.

Strong and confident women are not threatened by the sight of such a shirt, or much else, come to think on it. Which reminds me of a small incident very early in my own career in the military; when a new bulletin board went up in the AFRTS breakroom of the station at FEN-Misawa, and some of the guys threatened to post pinups of scantily-clad women on it. My friend Marsh and I did not faint dead away, or break into tears, or threaten to sic the social actions office on them. Nothing of the sort; we simply got a copy of Playgirl, removed the male pinup from it, applied a discrete paper fig-leaf to the page, and added it to the bulletin board. Whereupon one of our male NCO colleagues (balding and a titch on the heavy side) looked at it and said, “What’s he got that I haven’t got?” and I said, “More hair and about fifty pounds less.”

And then we all laughed, and were friends, and all the pinups came down. That, young Rose, is how it is done by real women in the real world – not by coercing an apology through a hash-tag storm and public demonstrations of irrelevant outrage.

Arrived!

The first definitive day of fall/winter has arrived, and never been more welcome than here in South Texas. It has actually been cool to chill … and even more welcome … rain. It’s been raining more or less constantly since about 9 PM last night; from sprinkles to drips, to heavy downpours and back to sprinkles and drips again. I presume that the plants in my garden are reveling in the abundant moisture, after a good few weeks – or maybe it has been months – of a little grudging moisture alternating with day after day of bone-dry. The arrival of this happy moisture and chill coincides with a good few days of us not having to go anywhere, after a solid week of long-distance trips to Killeen in one direction and Brownsville in another. And I have a book project to work on for a Watercress client, another (a reprint of an existing book) to shove out the door as soon as possible, a third waiting for the client to review and for me to request the art-work for – all so that I can clear the decks for yet another client, the one with an extensive autobiography with lots and lots of pictures to incorporate … Alice would have been so happy to know of this project, and of the other potentially big one, coming up. (Also involving a lot of pictures and a complicated lay-out and a generous budget.) All the better that I have this week and most of next week to concentrate on it all.

The kitchen as it stands - a black hole of clutter

The kitchen as it stands – a black hole of clutter


My daughter is adamant about using some of the profits from the big projects to renovate the kitchen. Not in any way complicated, or involving extensive rebuilding, but incorporating more efficient cabinets and a nicer countertip. The kitchen in the house is relatively tiny – about 9 feet by 9 and U-shaped – and it has always annoyed us that the two corners on either side of the stove are wasted space. The original builder just whanged in some relatively narrow rectangular cabinets at right angles to each other, slapped some cheap laminate countertop over the null space in the corners and called it a day. Everything in the kitchen was basic contractor grade stuff, and brought into the development by the box-car load, and now it is more than twenty years old. I repainted the doors, and the fronts of the cabinets more than ten years ago, which made it look at least OK, but it didn’t help the basic bad layout any. So – researching means of upgrading to something more useful and visually attractive, and for a fairly reasonable price, as these things go. I am working on that as well, running out to the kitchen with the tape measure every now and again, to see exactly how far (to the half-inch) the windows, the pantry door and the plumbing stack are from everything else.
We are tending towards some elements from Ikea – like an archaic looking range hood, and a country sink – and maybe some of their cabinets or countertops. I think that assembling such cabinets is within our abilities, and hiring some local handymen who have redone kitchens in the neighborhood is within the realm of possibility. Or buying some quality cabinets already assembled from an outfit like Kitchen Resources Direct may also be doable. It’s not like we’ll be needing a whole lot of them anyway. Get the knobs and drawer pulls from a local place we know, organize the countertops from one of the big-box stores which has a nice selection. We did consider going to them for the whole thing, because of the veteran discount, but we made the mistake of showing up and asking for a consult after walking the dogs and working a bit in the garden, and I think the consultant took one look at us and figured that we weren’t a good prospect at all. The lack of enthusiasm and interest was thick enough to cut into slabs, even though we had a whole raft of necessary measurements. Ah well – cut-rate place here we come.

Another Long Saturday Drive

This one not as long as the trip to Brownsville on Monday/Tuesday, which was more in the interests of Watercress business rather than a book event – but anyway, it was long enough; to the main library in Harker Heights, which seems to be a bedroom slipper to Killeen. We zipped up there in the wee hours of Saturday morning, with a tub of books and some freshly-printed postcards, on the promise of about eighteen other authors, and a very popular local event – a book sale to benefit friends of the library. Alas for us – the event was one of those which ask $1 for hardback books, .50 for paperback, and no one staggering away from the main event with a bulging bag of books and change from a $20 bill seemed inclined to pay full price for any of ours. But I handed out a lot of postcards about my books, and talked to other authors, and on the way back … we decided that we would stop in Round Rock and enjoy the Ikea experience.

The fabled Swedish meatballs of Ikea

The fabled Swedish meatballs of Ikea

Well, not enjoy as one thoroughly enjoys something like a clever Disneyland ride … This was more like a Teutonically-organized forced march through an endless household goods warehouse, following the arrows on the grey linoleum pathway which took you through precisely every department, even the ones you weren’t interested in. Ve Haf Vays Of Making You Shop!

There are shortcuts available – but they are not obvious, and seem to be a secret held only by the employees on the floor. They will cheerfully point them out to you, upon asking … but still, this is not a store where you can run in and pick up just one or two small things and run out again in fifteen minutes. No, this is an expedition which requires a significant degree of planning, most of an afternoon … and a certain amount of money. Not terribly that much of that though; to be absolutely fair, even if someone setting up a whole house of Ikea-sourced stuff must be prepared to write a large check. This must be where the yuppies who turn up their nose at Walmart but haven’t very much change to spare come to shop. To be honest, the goods on offer were of good quality, attractively designed and priced very fairly. They were the sort of thing that my daughter and I remembered very well, from seeing them in Europe when we were stationed there. But by the time we had staggered three-quarters of the way through the store – after looking at kitchen cabinet options and stuffing ourselves on a most-welcome lunch in the Ikea cafeteria – we were moaning, “I’ll buy anything, I promise – just let us out!”

We did escape, eventually – discovering the cash stands at the end of the long trail winding – and a small deli-grocery store on the other side of them, where they stocked all kinds of Swedish delicacies – including the lovely small Swedish meatballs featured in the cafeteria. And they were scrumptious. We came away with a family-sized bag of them, frozen for later use … for when we don’t feel like driving up to Round Rock …

Annals of the Tiny Bidness

So – how to begin the story of how I became a business owner? I suppose that the very beginning came about when I realized that I was sick to death of working for other people, answering to sometimes erratic bosses, metaphorically (and sometimes in reality) punching a time-clock or logging my hours as an admin/office-manager/executive secretary or whatever the temp agency sent me to perform. I had also realized that I was good at writing, wanted to write professionally, and was on the cusp of transforming the amateur word-smithing into a paying job. I was encouraged in this ambition by a number of early blog commenters on the original Sgt. Stryker site who basically said I was very good at the writing and story-telling thing and they wanted more – mostly in the form of a printed book – while some other bloggers with slightly more extensive and professional writing credentials also said I was very, very good and ought to consider going pro myself… and then there was one commenter who didn’t have internet at home, and wanted to read my posts about my admittedly eccentric family – so he inquired after my mailing address, and sent me a box of CD media, so that I could put an extensive selection of early posts about my oddball family on it – one for him, the note said, and the rest for any other readers of the Sgt. Stryker site who wanted a such a collation. I swear unto all, this was about the first time that it ever occurred to me that yes, I had an audience, and one willing to pay money, or at least, for a box of CD media.

Eventually, I did produce a book – a memoir cobbled together from various posts about my family, and growing up – and there it all rested, until another blog-post sparked my second book and first novel. Again, a blog-fan encouraged me to write it, and one thing led to another, resulting in To Truckee’s Trail. About two and a half chapters into the first draft I was let go from a corporate job – a full-time job with which I had become increasingly dissatisfied. On many an afternoon, walking through the duties expected of me, I kept thinking of how I would rather be and home and writing. It was a small shock being fired, actually – but I kept thinking Whoo-hoo! I can go home and work on the third chapter! I was oddly cheerful throughout the actual firing process, totally weirding out the HR staffer in charge of processing my dis-engagement from the company involved.
I went home and worked on Truckee. Which, scout’s honor and all, I did market to traditional publishers through the established route; find an agent who would be dazzled by my brilliance, and market Truckee to an establishment publisher, et cetera, et cetera. I gave it a go, for a good few months; I did have agents interested, one of them so enthused that he asked for the whole MS. Alas – although he loved it, and said many complimentary things, he regretted that it just wasn’t ‘marketable’ to the establishment publishing trade. Historical fiction was a hard sell, he said. Especially if it was about an event that hardly anyone had ever heard of – which I thought would have been a selling point, but what do I know of the New York publishing scene? He did give some good advice overall, so the experience wasn’t wasted. The other agents that the MS was submitted to said very much the same thing on a shorter sample … and at that point I realized that I already had a nice, solid readership and fan-base, so I ran a fund-drive to publish and print Truckee through the same POD publisher which had done my first book. In the meantime, I worked the odd week or two, or even a day, through various temp agencies, and for an old friend, Dave the Computer Genius, who had his own Teeny Bidness in computers – as in teaching, repairing, de-bugging and general installation of same. Dave paid me to work two days a week in his enterprise; marketing and keeping his accounts was the most of it, but he also taught me to build websites and started me off by helping me set up one for my own books. Working for him wasn’t so much a job so much as it seemed like hanging out with a cool high-school friend. This marked a line, though, in the way that I thought of myself. I wasn’t an admin/office-manager/executive secretary who wrote on the side.

After that bright and defining line, I was a writer who worked as an admin/office-manager/executive secretary or even the ultimate professional hell – a year in a corporate phone bank taking hotel reservations – as a means of supporting my writing. I will never publically say anything bad about that one firm, BTW. I had racked up a fair number of paid holiday hours during that year, which I never took. For some months after I had turned in my notice and walked away, they sent me a check for those paid holiday hours which I never took and which I had pretty much written off. So, yay, corporate America – some promises are delivered on.

And there I was – two books out there, and another one – subsequently three – in the formative stages. After giving the two-finger salute to the corporate phone bank, I never worked in another ‘regular’ job again. I had met up with Alice G., who had founded the Teeny Publishing Bidness some twenty-five years previously, after having decided that she also would rather work for herself. We had a mutual good friend in Dave the Computer Genius; Alice was one of his regular clients, and he mentioned now and again that I ought to go hook up with her and learn publishing. He thought we would get on very well … but such plans as I did have for doing so came to an end when Dave died of a sudden heart attack. It was six months before I thought that maybe I ought to give Alice a call … and Dave was right. We did hit it off, something which I hope amuses Dave, wherever he is now. Alice was in her eighties, and considerable of a night-own: Dave was under orders never to call her before 2 in the afternoon. She did her best work at night, and slept during the day. Likely being a night-owl was another reason for being an independent business owner.

Alice and I went into partnership; first with a 60-40% profit-sharing arrangement. She had made a living for years with her Tiny Bidness, publishing specialty books for a variety of fairly well-off local writers, producing as many as six books a year, or as few as one. She contracted out things like layout and cover design, printing and binding, but she did editing herself, and part-timed for another slightly larger local publisher. She was absolutely one of the best and most exacting editors around; likely I will never be in her league, even with the aid of certain software functions. We used to joke (especially to prospective clients) that she had been married three times; twice to mere mortals and once to The Chicago Manual of Style. The books that she produced over the years are all beautifully done, to the highest standard. One or two of them are works of art in themselves. Such does not come cheap, though, and although Alice was well-connected in the community, business was slowing to a trickle. I thought it very likely that we were losing business to the various POD publishing houses which had sprung up to utilize digital printing – which is ideal for small print runs, rather than the traditional lithographic printing, which requires a large print run (north of 250) to be profitable. I suggested that we start doing POD books as well, setting up an imprint to print and distribute small runs of books through Lightning Source/Ingram. She was not especially keen on it, since the quality was a titch less than what she was accustomed to produce as a final product. But I finally convinced her that we had to compete, and that clients able to spend $10,000 to $15,000 on their book project were going to become mighty thin on the ground, given competition from Booksurge, Author House and the rest … as well as the economic situation overall. Finally she told me to go ahead – and for the last year that she was active in the business, the POD imprint provided most of our publishing projects.

Alice had no children, and none of her nieces, or grand-nieces or grand-nephews were interested particularly in the business. It was expected that I would take over the running of it all – and eventually the business itself. When her health began to fail, about a year ago, I had already been shouldering most of the work. By March, Alice’s niece and executor, who is a CPA for a fairly high-powered firm in Austin, suggested that the time had come: I should buy out Alice, for a sum which I could just about afford, since I had funds from the sale of some California real estate. Alice’s niece and I disentangled the various files and projects, sorted out the business bank accounts, and worked out what I had to do to get a DBA and open new accounts in my own name. I wrote a check, brought home the three shelves of Watercress-published books and several boxes of files and took over paying the hosting fees for the Watercress website. It turned out that we did this just in time, for Alice’s condition worsened rapidly over the following two months. Still, I was able to tell her that there are are some promising prospects on the horizon; people and establishments who want very much to work with a local publisher they can meet with, face to face, and not a website with an 800-number on the other side of the country. I’ve inherited the relationship with the local printer and bookbinder, quite a lot of the local connections – and there we are, since I am going to train up my daughter in what is essentially a small family business.

There Was a Lady…

There is a Lady, sweet and kind
Was ne’er a face so pleased my mind;
I did but see her passing by…
Thomas Ford 1580-1648

Her name was Lottie, probably short for Carlotta, and she was a lady. She was usually described as a gorgeous red-head, who arrived in the wild frontier ‘ville that had formed around the military outpost of Fort Griffin, west of Fort Worth, in the years after the Civil War. She was intent on making a fortune for herself … but not in the way that bold, pretty, enterprising and unescorted women usually intended to earn it on arrival in a wide-open frontier town. Or anywhere in the barely-tamed far West, come to think on it. She was not an investor in some chancy enterprise, a mail-order bride or an enterprising whore or brothel madam. She stopped clocks and hearts … but never a poker game.

That was Lottie Deno’s profession – and supposedly, she was good at it; very, very good, with ice-water in her veins instead of blood. One legend has it that one night in the saloon in which Lottie was at the poker-table (likely skinning a green-horn, an unwary cowboy, soldier or drummer of all the coin and valuable property on him) when a sudden exchange of lead civility broke out, and everyone not immediately involved hit the deck. When they rose up from the floor, it was to see Lottie, calm and perfect to every curl of red hair and ruffle on her elaborate dress, saying, “Gentlemen, I came to play poker, not roll around on the floor.” She came by the alias she was best known by after an evening of marathon poker matches in which she had won every hand, when an appreciative and well-likkered-up onlooker with a command of Spanglish whooped, “With winnings like that, you otta call yourself Lotta Dinero!”

She was the older of two daughters of an imperishably respectable and formerly well-to-do Kentucky family named Thompkins, educated in an Episcopalian-run academy for young ladies. Her father had business interests in farming tobacco and hemp … and breeding and racing fine thoroughbred horses at his plantation at Warsaw on the Ohio River. Mr. Thompkins traveled widely – to New Orleans, mostly but also north, to Detroit and apparently to Europe at least once. He reveled in those pleasures of life available to a man of wealth – including gambling, at which he was immensely skilled – or lucky. And for some reason – perhaps because he had some inkling that the future was uncertain and that his daughter might just need a useful skill or two – he taught Lottie to play cards, and to play them very well. Or it just may have been that it amused him to have an able opponent on those evenings at home, before television and the internet.

When the Civil War broke out, Lottie was 17. Kentucky, a border state with strong ties to both North and South remained in the Union. But within a short time, her father had volunteered for service in the Confederate Army and fallen in battle. The fortunes of the family declined precipitously, along with the health of Lottie’s mother. Neither Lottie, her mother, or her younger sister seemed equal to the task of running their property or the late Mr. Thompkin’s business interests, especially not in the middle of a war. The solution as the Thompkins relations and advisors saw it was that Lottie should marry a rich and able man to take on that responsibility – and she was dispatched to Detroit, three hundred miles north of Warsaw, accompanied by her maid and former nanny – a tall and formidable black slave named Mary Poindexter – to achieve that end. Perhaps Lottie was not very keep on the idea to start with, perhaps she ran out of money, or maybe the man who she did strike up an amiable friendship with in Detroit – a man named Johnny Golden, who had ridden her fathers’ horses as a jockey – was unacceptable to her remaining family. Johnny Golden was also a gambler – and within a very short time, Lottie and Johnny, with Mary Poindexter as an attentive chaperone, duenna-and-body-guard combined – were working the professional gambling circuit. Another legend has it that a brash young Union soldier accused Lottie of having cheated him in a game on a riverboat. He started for Lottie, but Mary Poindexter stepped in, and launched the soldier overboard into the river.

Before the war ended, Johnny and Lottie had split up … and Lottie, with the ever-vigilant Mary in attendance … went west. Some say she told her mother and sister back in Kentucky that she had married a wealthy cattleman. Lottie and Mary arrived in San Antonio in 1865, and Lottie took up a job as a dealer in an establishment called the University Club. She was immediately popular, even though the permitted no drinking or cursing at the poker table over which she presided – and Mary Poindexter sat on a stool at her back, just to remind the punters of the respect due to her mistress, who was always elegantly dressed, cultured and the very soul of Southern belle-hood. Very soon she was known as the Angel of San Antonio. The University Club was owned by a man named Frank Thermond; soon, he and Lottie were in love, and Mary Poindexter had soon decided to go her own way. When Frank got into a fight with another gambler and killed him with his Bowie knife, he had to leave town fast. He wound up in New Mexico, while Lottie worked as a professional gambler in various raw settlements in West Texas, where she earned her reputation as the queen of the paste-board flippers.

The end of the story? Not quite what you’d expect. By 1882, she and Frank Thermond were reunited – and married – and living quiet respectable lives in Deming, New Mexico. He went into business – real estate, mostly – and was vice-president of the local bank. Lottie also was an upright pillar of the community, helping to establish an Episcopal church in Deming. She died in 1934, outliving her husband by 26 years, but not a certain legend. It is commonly said that she was the model for the character of Miss Kitty, in the old Gunsmoke radio and television series.

Retail Therapy n’ Woes

With so many other bad and dangerous things hanging over us like a Damocles sword – an Ebola epidemic in the US, ISIS setting up a new and brutal caliphate in the middle east, the final two lame duck years of the Obama administration, and the anointing of a minimally-talented yet well-connected legacy child like Lena Dunham as the media voice of a generation – and the upcoming marathon of holiday markets and book events in front of me like so many hurdles to be gotten over in a frantic two-month-long dash – where was I?

Crazy Texas BootsOh, yes – amidst all the impending gloom, doom, and Bakersfield (that’s a California joke, son) my daughter and I are coping with the rather minor tragedy of a friend of ours loosing her job. Minor to us, of course – but not to our friend, a vivaciously charming English lady of certain years whom I shall call Kay, whom we met when she managed a thrift shop to benefit a certain well-established local charity, in a preposterously wealthy outlaying town within driving distance from San Antonio. When we first met her, the thrift shop was on the main drag in the historic part of town, and benefited from an enormous amount of walk-in traffic because it was on the main drag – although in a cramped three rooms and a teeny bathroom which doubled as an overflow storage room. But Kay was a pro when it came to management, coordinating unpaid volunteer workers, in attracting wonderful donations, and she used social media like a champ … I swear, many of the most enticing donations which came into the shop were pre-sold almost at once. Yes, a charity thrift-shop, of which there are are already a few in the town of which we speak, but this particular one stood head and shoulders above the competition. The goods on display were often of an amazingly-superior quality and the pricing was reasonable. It’s a truism familiar to those of us relatively-poor people with high-end tastes; the very best pickings are to be had in charity thrift-shops in upscale locations. When my parents went to re-fit their own retirement house—burnt to the ground in the 2003 Paradise Mountain Fire—my mother often preferred shopping in such thrift stores. They could pick out things roughly similar to what they had lost; of superior quality and lightly used, at a reasonable price. Such things fitted their lifestyle and pocketbook; where is it written that those on a budget must settle for cheap cr*p, anyway?

So we loved the little shop which Kay ran, and brought home many fine things for a mere pittance – items like my vintage Ariat cowgirl boots, and a set of unused quality bedding – matching bed-skirt, quilted coverlet, pillow shams and boudoir pillows that originally retailed for nearly $1,000 all told. Alas, after five years of operation, the shop had to close around mid-summer. The historic building which housed it was being renovated – and the three rooms which housed the shop were no longer available to the charitable organization, nor was any equivalent premise available at a price which said organization was willing to pay. Still, we rejoiced with Kay was hired to run another charity shop in the same town, benefiting yet another and somewhat similar charity. Superficially, all was as it had ever been and at first seemed like even better; the shop was now in a larger space, a quaint Victorian cottage where there was now more room to suitably display the wide range of items which Kay attracted from the same kind of donors. Alas, there were two flies in the new pot of ointment; the cottage was a little off the beaten track when it came to walk-in traffic – and never underestimate how miserably hot it can be in a Texas summer, even in the Hill Country. But Kay’s regulars and volunteers loyally followed her to the new place, and when the monthly open market was held – there was a good turn-out. With the coming winter, and a number of special events in the town where the shop is located, there was a hope of business returning to something like the same level as in the old location.

The other fly was the peskier one; Kay now answered to a manager – an absentee manager in another state, who had very definite ideas on what the shop should accept and market – ideas which turned out to be a radical change. The take-in from the shop was unacceptable, said the absentee manager. It was simply not enough. So, henceforward, the absentee manager dictated, the shop would only carry collectables, high-quality jewelry (costume and otherwise) and original art. Everything else – shoes and clothing, household items, knickknacks and sports equipment had to go, immediately. Items should be labeled with a little price tag on a string, and be priced competitively – and none of this accepting just any old donation. Only quality stuff in a few limited categories, even if it had to be obtained from estate sales and auctions … no word on how this kind of activity would be funded, or who would be doing it, or researching the market-value of the select inventory. And the town of which I speak is thick with antique shops, collectable shops, and art galleries, most of which seem to be run by either entrepreneurs and paid professionals. At this juncture, Kay handed in her two-week notice. They let her go after a single week – and now, apparently, the shop will be run entirely by volunteers.

So, without knowing any of the economics – how much was the lease on the shop, how much it actually cost to run vis-à-vis the intake, and how much Kay’s personal connections with the donating and volunteering community contributed to the shop – I can only look at it from the outside, and what it all looks like to me as a consumer. Essentially, this one shop dominated the retail niche it occupied. It was open every day but Mondays – which put it ahead of the other shops, and Kay’s on-line marketing through social media made out-of-town shoppers well-aware of what was available. The goods were attractively and tastefully arranged by a professional. Oh, sure, some of them were the usual sort of junk which gravitates to Goodwill and the Salvation Army, but taken overall – it was a far superior shopping experience, in quality and aesthetics. And now, under the dictates of the absentee manager, it will be just another boutique in a town full of them. My daughter and I agreed – we likely won’t be able to afford anything in it, and it will only last about six months before the charitable concern running it pulls the plug.

It Never Rains …

American Gothic - Texas-style

American Gothic – Texas-style

But it bloody pours. Here I am, starting the marathon of book events for my own stuff and for Blondie’s origami art, which runs from early October until well into December, (Lord willing and the Ebola don’t rise) and suddenly all the Tiny Publishing Bidness clients who have been languidly considering their potential books – some of them from last year or this summer and one of them from out of the clear blue sky – want to move ahead with their projects. Now, if not a day or so ago. It should have been a warning to me that the business bank accounts were all at low ebb … that’s when something happens to fill them all up again. It never fails – something always appears, just in the nick of time. There was the written-content job of so many chapters for a publisher of study guides who found me through the milblog; they wanted someone with military experience who could also write to order and somehow stumbled onto little ol’ me. That project upheld the lifestyle at Chez Hayes for nearly half a year; I was in two minds about committing to it, but closed my eyes and plunged in away. Then there was the document transcription project … again, good for maintaining the lavish Chez Hayes lifestyle for most of a year, when taken in together with the other writing projects and sales of my own books.
I had a lovely book event in Fredericksburg early this week – a local book club contacted me through my website; would I come to their social, and more importantly – do a guided tour of the spots in Fredericksburg which featured in the Adelsverein Trilogy? One private tour for the club members, and another the following day for the general interested public? As it was mapped out, the tour comes out to a shade less than three miles, to cover it all – from the town cemetery and that little church building which served the black community in the mid-1840s, all the way to the Marienkirche, which served the Catholic community from the earliest days. Good thing I suggested that everyone wear comfortable shoes … and that there were plenty of stopping places with shaded benches, and that at the point of two-thirds into the tour we were at the old established town square, where there is a very clean and well-maintained public lavatories and some picnic tables in the shade. The ladies of the book club were enormously welcoming, and hospitable, having secured us a room for one night at the Sunday House – which we fell upon with gratitude, being completely exhausted by the tour and the evening meeting. Yes, I will try to come to book-club meetings which have read the Trilogy or any of my books, as long as such are in a commutable distance from San Antonio. I am not such a big-name author that I can be snotty about such invitations.
Fredericksburg was blissfully uncrowded on a Monday, and Tuesday morning, and a two-hour long walk, plus some evening socializing let us catch up on all the local gossip, and note some changes in the town: a wonderful and theatrical 1920s Spanish Colonial style house on Austin Street has been torn down, to the regret of all; an apparent victim of black mold and extensive termite damage being found upon a new owner commencing renovations. But a classic German-Texas style house on Adams – which was under renovation for as long as I can recall has finally been finished very charmingly as a day-spa. There are now little bed and breakfast accommodations all over the historic part of Fredericksburg, tucked behind old houses; one of the club members told us that there were 350 B&Bs in town now, not to mention several good-sized hotels. And there is a new museum going in – a Ranger museum, next to historic Fort Martin Scott. That makes four museums in a single small town, which must be some kind of record. Alas, the yearly Comanche pow-wow used to be held on the land where they are building the museum – and the pow-wow is banished to the Gillespie County fairgrounds.
Kenn Knopp, the local historical expert who was a considerable mover and shaker in Fredericksburg and was kind enough to read the Trilogy in manuscript and approve of it all with extravagant enthusiasm passed on last year. I had kind of expected something had happened to him, as he was not in the best of health the last time we were in touch, and he dropped off Facebook entirely … still, I wish that I had known in time to go to the memorial service.
Finally – one of the walking tour participants told me that the corner plot which I allocated in fiction to the Steinmetz family was actually his family’s town plot, and that they held onto it until the 1940s, when they sold it to the church which presently has their activity center on the site. He’s a Luchenbach, and an old friend of Monroe Behrend, the master of the fast armadillo. Small towns – you have to love them, but also be careful, because everyone knows everyone else, or they are related to everyone else. So, that’s my week – and I’ve written this between doing up a couple of contracts and estimations for the new projects.

And The 2014 Winner for Sycophantic Drooling Is ..

obama-drone-paltrow-sabo(You know, I thought I might loosen up before a weekend of book-stuff by taking aim at Gwyneth Paltrow, a legacy movie actress who I have always suspected to be close to a total blithering moron in real life, but now know it for sure, in addition to being one of B. Obama’s the most appalling sycophants. Gwynnie, sweetie, I suspect that your acting career – at least in enormously popular blockbuster movies – is now at and end. I’d have done a right proper Sgt. Mom rant, but commenter Drumwaster at Protein Wisdom beat me to the punch with this blast of ranty goodness.)

Gwyneth? Gwynnie, hun? I know you aren’t ever going to read this, because it is neither a script with a multi-million dollar-paycheck made out to you (and your agent), nor a fan magazine story kissing your cellulite-laden heiney, but maybe someone who cares about you will read it to you…

Pay attention, now.

SHUT THE FUCK UP, YOU HYPOCRITICAL BINT. You are an example of everything that is wrong with Hollywood and none of which is right with this country. You are the spoiled brat scion of worthless parents who brought you up to believe that Fame – Wisdom, and have surrounded yourself with people who believe the same thing. That is no way to go through life, dearie.

Your Dear Leader had two years of damned near veto-proof majorities in both Houses, and the only thing he managed to get passed were trillion-dollar deficits and the ruination of the Health INSURANCE industry, while doing absolutely nothing at fixing the problems with the Health CARE industry. Not to mention the elimination of any kind of real credibility the US might have once had before he took office, any kind of Full Faith and Credit the American citiznes might have once had with their government, what with abusing the IRS to punish “his enemies” (who were also American citizens, remember), the NSA to spy on the rest of you, gutting what protections the Constitutional Amendments may have once offered (such as the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Fourteenth, et alia), selling guns to the drug gangs south of the border, refusing to admit there actually IS a southern border, abandoning our allies, encouraging our enemies, and demolishing what little value the currency has left.

He may be “so handsome”, but he is as worthless as you are, with the added fact that he can’t even deliver a valid speech without a teleprompter, while you have the (not-at-all-rare) ability to memorize words written by people better and smarter than you. So if you really want to make the world a better place, take the money you would have given him, add in all the money you get from selling all those fancy clothes, expensive cars and that craptacular box you live in, and donate it to the nearest actual charity. If you need a place to live at that point, go rent an apartment and live paycheck to paycheck like all of the people you say have it easier than you do with those “14 hour days” you work. (ProTip: You wanna know what the rest of us call a “14 hour day”? Normality, but without the chance to get a do-over when a mistake is made.)

So It Begins

… I think. My crystal ball is out for re-calibration so I cannot be absolutely certain, but I’ve been expecting a crisis or bundle of intersecting catastrophes for some time now. There have been murmurings for the last year regarding the probability of Ebola spreading out of Africa. And now it has happened – a person sick with it has exposed lord only knows how many other people on his way back to Dallas from a visit to Africa. Which is horrific enough, but just getting started. Meanwhile, an enterovirus which attacks the respiratory tract and in some instances has an effect very like that of polio has been here for some months, sickening children – especially those who have respiratory difficulties. It has already killed five – this ailment which was rare in the US heretofore but apparently fairly common in Central America. The supposition is that it was carried into the US with the government-assisted influx of child illegal immigrants earlier this year. Were I the parent of a school-aged child in a public school and exposed to this virus – as many children doubtless have been – I would be furious, or even more furious than I am; that third-world diseases are being casually dispersed throughout communities in the United States for some .deliberate purpose; a Cloward-Pivening of the system, to pack the Democrat party voting rolls, undermine the labor market, or perhaps just to crash those local communities where the illegals have been parked. (Yes, illegal immigrant – I’ll say so and be damned, sir!)

For two years and more I’ve been expecting race-riots in those American cities hardest hit by the double-blow of single-party machine politics and the complete inability of the Obama administration to actually meet any of the sky-high expectations of him held among the black underclass. So, they got to feel good about themselves for a couple of years, before realizing they are worse off than ever. Can’t be Obama’s fault, of course; it must be all that white raaaaacism. St. Louis looks to be ground zero – again – at this point in time. The race card is about played out with me, having known too many good, hardworking and patriotic citizens of color – but I am about to the point of getting that bumper sticker that says, “I wish my ancestors had picked their own damn cotton.” Of course, my American ancestors didn’t grow cotton, and were in fact fiercely abolitionist Quakers. I suspect even the most racially tolerant among them would be loosing patience with the black thug underclass these days. I know now that many of those who comment on various blogs – about the only source on incidents of the knock-out game or flash-mob lootings – are loosing patience as well. So much for content of character, rather than color of skin.

And the Middle East is well-afire now, with ISIS/ISIL/The New Caliphate gleefully pouring more gasoline on the bonfire, and posting regular videos on social media of beheadings and mass executions, recruiting wanna-be-jihadis from across the United States and from Europe. Meanwhile, the Kurds and the Israelis stand nearly alone, while it seems that it is more important that American troops be sent to Africa, either to assist local governments in fighting the Ebola epidemic or to catch it themselves and bring it back to the stateside military units and their families. Hard to tell what the intent of the Obama administration is, these days; one hesitates to attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence or stupidity.

One is reduced to eying the actions of the federal government with wary suspicion these days. After this – and other actions, to include Fast and Furious, the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, the NPS deliberately barricading national monuments and the ongoing disaster that is Obamacare – who besides those who serve, enable and benefit directly from it can claim with a straight face that our federal government is not motivated by greed and outright malice towards us?

Discuss.
(Cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)

Gypsy Retail in the Autumn

My daughter and I spent almost all of last Saturday at our booth in the parking lot of a local Beall’s, in the heart of what would pass as the new downtown of Bulverde, Texas – if Bulverde could be said to have a downtown of any sort. There is a sort of Old Downtown Bulverde, at the crossroads of Bulverde Hills Drive and Bulverde Road, where the post office is (in a teeny Victorian cottage covered with white-painted gingerbread trim) and around the corner from one of the original settler’s farmsteads, complete with an original stone house and barn – now repurposed into an event venue. There is a small airfield nearby, and astonishingly enough, Googlemaps show a polo ground. But the landscape all around is that of the lowland Hill Country – low rolling, patched scrubby cedar, and occasional stands of live oaks. Everything – including a perfectly astounding number of single family housing developments are scattered unobtrusively here and there among the hills, the cedar and the oaks.
Stock - 2
This includes New Downtown Bulverde, not quite so unobtrusive, and a few miles farther north at the intersection of Hwy. 281 and FM-46 West. This is where is where the schools are, as well as the fire department – newly built and lavish, the shopping center with a huge HEB Superstore. Bulverde is what my daughter terms as one of San Antonio’s bedroom slippers – once distant and separate communities now in commutable distance from the big city. The other bedroom slipper is Boerne, which boasts a more definable, scenic and historic downtown. Physical evidence of a wealthy yuppie demographic contingent is strong in Boerne – wineries, gourmet grocery stores, chichi designer boutiques retailing everything from country furniture, clothing, jewelry, baked goods and coffee – not so much in Bulverde. Boerne has a monthly community market; Bulverde has them twice yearly, spring and fall. Boerne’s is on the historic downtown public square, or what our readers in England might call a common – a half-acre square of lawn, edged with mature pecan trees and adorned with a Victorian-style bandstand. Bulverde’s community market is – as said – in the parking lot of Beall’s, in New Downtown Bulverde and organized by the Bulverde/Spring Branch Chamber of Commerce. A friend of ours, who was part of the planning committee, told us that every single slot was filled – all 135 of them, a substantial increase over the spring market in May. But of course, Christmas is coming.

Our day began at 5:30. Not to beg any pity over that, but we did have to eat breakfast, scroll though our regular news sites and email accounts, walk the dogs and water the garden, before pulling out for the half-hour drive to Bulverde. We had already packed Blondie’s Montero SUV the night before; the pop-up pavilion, the necessary weights for it, the tables, folding chairs, the necessary racks and display items – and of course, the plastic tubs with all the stock; my books, her origami art. Blondie calls this exercise ‘Automobile Tetris’ – packing in everything which we will need. The bulkiest item is the wheeled rack to display her origami earrings – a repurposed and repainted soft-drink rack. The heaviest is the pop-up pavilion, which takes both of us to carry – and to put up. We had to be set up and ready to go before 10:00, when the market opened – and hopefully before then, for the Montero had to be out of the way and parked in the designated vendor lot. Having the pavilion, the chairs and the tables saves us a fair amount of money – some other market venues offer them for rent for vendors. The practice is for regular vendors to have all their own market furniture – not just the pavilion and tables, but things like display racks and signage – and a trailer to haul it all around. One little local boutique maintains a vintage Airstream trailer as their portable premise. Many of the regular stalls in local markets are run by hobbyists who have a full-time regular job and do gypsy-retail on weekends; artists in metal, beadwork, fabric, wood and pottery, small truck farmers and producers of small-batch soaps, candles and skin-care products, or artisan gourmet foods. Sometimes they scale up to a permanent location, or already have a permanent location and do the local markets to build awareness of their products. Our immediate neighbors, by the way, were a crafter who did bead jewelry (we remembered her from the spring market) and Miss Scarlett’s Texas Homegrown – organic produce. Which was quite good, and reasonably priced, too; Miss Scarlett’s owners are a young couple with a two-acre plot in rural Bulverde, where they intensely cultivate a wide variety of vegetables – and bees. We came away with half a dozen yellow squash and zucchini; he runs the farm, she does the weekly markets.

Blondie has a unique inventory – origami paper jewelry. She does mostly earrings; miniscule cranes and tulip flowers, which astound people for their tiny size, with a side-line in hair ornaments, pins and magnets. The crane earrings were a particular hit at this market, since they are priced to be readily affordable, and in practically every imaginable color. There was a lot of foot traffic, pleasingly constant for all the six hours that the market was open. That there was a good retail turnout is reassuring, in the light of current events. The day was fair, clear and warm, with a regular cool breeze that beat back the heat until about 3:00. Blondie had more sales than I did, dollar-wise, but many people took away information about my books – another thing to keep in mind for something like this: business cards and postcards. Quite often, there is an uptick of sales of my books on Amazon in the week or so following an event, from having handed out information. For both of us, the more that we are out and about at the markets – the more shoppers know about us. This is much more important for Blondie, since it may be harder to sell her origami items where people can’t actually look at and handle them in real time. I had a nice time, and several nice talks with readers; especially with a young student, all of eleven years old named Lorena, who picked out To Truckee’s Trail when I said it was the book of mine most suited for her age – although Lone Star Sons is intended as YA, it’s not available until mid-month and the only copy I have was for display.

This was our booth at the spring market - everyone wanted to know where we got it - Amazon, of course.

This was our booth at the spring market – everyone wanted to know where we got it – Amazon, of course.

The last hour of a market usually drags; the numbers of shoppers begin to drop, and while the vendors are committed by agreement with whoever is managing the market to stick around until the official closing, there is usually some surreptitious packing-up going on leading up to that point. Everyone is tired, bored as the crowds diminish, and more than ready to pack up and go home. The Chamber asked that we take down and pack up completely before bringing our cars and trucks into the area, which is a reasonable request – the gridlock is horrific, otherwise. We had everything broken down and packed in the Montero in twenty-five minutes, and were dropping with exhaustion by the time we got home. We’ll be doing this or something like it almost every weekend until mid-December – Ebola, or not.

Home Grown Jihad

I think that I shall never hear a phrase more heavily loaded with skeptical sarcasm than the bromide of “Islam is a religion of peace.” It’s even more heavily loaded than the Soviet-era convention of client states calling themselves the “People’s Democratic Republic of Whatever.” I also will never see anything rhetorically speedier than those self-elected community Islamic community leaders who briefly note some horrific and murderous act committed by a member alleged to be in good standing in their community and then commence to whine about how they will be hurt (Hurt, I say, deeply hurt!) by the resulting (nearly always non-existent) anti-Islamic backlash on the part of the general public. Strong word – whining, but no other expression quite hits the spot when it comes to self-centered self-involvement. The implication which comes across is that blowing off the legs of runners at the Boston Marathon, knocking down the Twin Towers, opening fire on a bunch of Army troops at a post processing center, or beheading a middle-aged female office worker while screaming Allah Akbar is more wrong because it makes Muslims look bad, not because it is mutilation and murder, mass or otherwise.

This whole ‘anti-Muslim backlash’ concept is richly ironic, considering how militant Islamics in the Middle East and in Equatorial Africa (by whatever name they go by) are working overtime with the social media, in putting out pictures and videos of beheadings, mass executions, mass kidnappings, boasting of these and encouraging adherents to greater efforts. Islam would seem to need very little help in looking bad, brutal and murderous.

Now – after a summer of very well-publicized beheadings of Westerners in the Middle East, we have the beheading of a Westerner in the middle-west, although bless their hearts, the mainstream media combine is doing their very best to call it workplace violence, stamping their tiny feet and squeaking “Workplace violence! Workplace violence, I tell you!” By an ex-convict jailhouse convert, who had just been sacked for proselytizing and scaring the heck out of his coworkers, who immediately went to the administrative offices of his workplace with a big knife and where he would expect to find – not burly warehouse workers and truck drivers – but female office workers, and where he expended a great deal of effort in beheading one of them, all the while screaming Islamic slogans, until righteously dropped by a company c-level executive who happened to be a reserve deputy sheriff. Meanwhile another self-identified Muslim in Oklahoma has been charged with a terrorist offence in threatening to behead a co-worker – at the very least, bad timing, and very bad taste if meant as a joke, as the co-worker apparently first thought it was. Alas, it seems that we are all loosing our sense of humor regarding the “religion of peace.” Are we now at the point where we begin to play cowboys and Muslims?
Discuss.

(Cross-posted at chicagoboyz.net)

The Last of her Ilk

I was going to write about another mildly notorious woman – an imperishably ladylike and competent professional gambler who was a figure of note in her day on the Texas frontier – for today, but I noted the departure of Deborah, known to her family as Debo, the last of the notorious Mitfords, from this mortal plane. Yeah, it was in the Daily Mail website, but they had a number of lovely archive pictures of her, taken throughout her life – which through no particular fault of her own – was spiced with notoriety. Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire – which sounds like a made-up title for one of those horrible regency romances – was privileged and burdened, I think – in about the same degree.

That she bore that burden with a fair degree of graceful competence – and added to that – wit, insouciance, and that indefinable quality called ‘class’ and remained stalwart under it for all of her life – is something that bears contemplation. She was home-schooled, as it seems, eccentrically under the rule of a very eccentric father. She and her sisters were only expected to marry well, into the peerage if it all possible, and be ornaments to their husbands various careers, much as Englishwomen of their class had been schooled to do since time immemorial. But unexpectedly, she and her sisters – all attractive, intelligent and charming – also turned out to be fairly strong-willed and wildly independent in thought. In the hothouse of the 1930s, that meant political thought. This led three of her older sisters down some very strange political and social paths; two into notoriously enthusiastic sympathy verging on the treasonous with the Nazis in the lead-up to and during WWII and one – a dedicated Communist – into eloping with her second-cousin and going with him to report on the Spanish Civil War. One older sister became a writer of considerable note, penning historical biographies and several popular novels based on Mitford family life, the dedicated Communist sister ventured into journalism and civil rights, while another married into relatively respectable obscurity … just as Deborah herself did in 1941, to Andrew Cavendish, the younger son of a duke. Likely they had also expected lives of relatively respectable obscurity, although that could not entirely be depended upon, due to their bonds of kin- and friendship with any number of newsworthy people on either side of the Atlantic.

Such expectations were shattered by the wartime death of Andrew Cavendish’s older brother, the expected heir to the honors and property, along with the responsibility and the crippling tax burden. Within another handful of years, they took it on; the huge, crumbling stately manor of Chatsworth, which had been neglected for many years. Together they worked to open it to the public, to restore and revive an architectural and cultural treasure. It took, according to the linked account, nearly a quarter of a century to pay off the death duties on the Devonshire estates. She and her husband were also keen gardeners, and the grounds of Chatsworth are at least a much of a work of living art as the house itself. Always a prolific letter-writer, and with the example of two of her sisters to inspire her, she also turned to writing books – chiefly to do with Chatsworth, but also a memoir of her husband, her own memoir of growing up Mitford, and a collection of letters between herself and Patrick Leigh-Fermor. Many of the comments attached to the linked story mentioned encounters with her in person; a gracious, charismatic and quietly formidable woman, and one of a sort that we will likely not see again.

Tommy In Service – Conclusion

(Wherein I meditate upon the relationship between military members and veterans, and the commander-in-chief – present and most recent last.)
I was not a voter especially enamored of establishing a ruling class, so I was not all that enthused about Bush 2. In the 2000 elections I was considerably annoyed that it was an unedifying choice between the scions of two long-established political families. I thought it was not a good omen, redolent of hereditary politics and an established aristocracy – and that there was not that much to choose between them. At this point Al Gore had not displayed anything of his hypocritical and self-serving fixation on so-called ‘global warming’ – and I basically flipped a coin. But as it turned out, post 9-11, my daughter’s commander in chief was Bush 2, and as it also turned out, his respect and consideration for the troops in wartime was a rock of constancy. To quote the line from the TV series Sharpe’s Rifles, “There are two kinds of officers, sir: killin’ officers and murderin’ officers. Killin’ officers are poor old buggers that get you killed by mistake. Murderin’ officers are mad, bad, old buggers that get you killed on purpose – for a country, for a religion, maybe even for a flag.” Bush-2 was the second sort – he might get you killed, but it would have been for a serious purpose. (Since this is a discussion of how our presidents appear to, or appeared in the past to relate to successive commanders-in-chief, I will not be drawn into a sidebar discussion regarding the wisdom of making war in Iraq or Afghanistan in 2002.)

My daughter and I both had the same opinion of Bush 2 with regard to the military; one of affectionate and mutual respect, which he has carried on in his private life. I suppose one of the best examples of that was on the occasion of his surprise visit to Baghdad in 2003 – when he appeared, the roar of applause and cheers was unforced and spontaneous. (No, it was not a plastic turkey.) One still reads now and again of Bush 2 and Laura B. still quietly coming to meet returning troops at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, or hosting disabled soldiers at private events and marathon mountain bike rides at the ranch, and mention is made now and again of their quiet and relatively unpublicized visit to Fort Hood after the Hassan shooting spree.

Which brings us to the present commander in chief, a man who has perfected the fine art of returning a military salute with a Styrofoam coffee cup in his saluting hand. I’d join in the outrage over this, but really – the man is only behaving in the manner that we have come to expect from him in regards to the military. He appears to like the perks, the toys such as drones and Air Force 1, the deference and being able to whistle up a uniformed rent-a-crowd at any moment, but he doesn’t possess the least particle of understanding of or respect for military tradition. One gets a sense that it’s a perfunctory effort – and that military people really aren’t quite real to them; just automatons, all dressed alike, to be dispatched to Africa because of an Ebola epidemic, to Benghazi to not defend the consulate, or to hold an umbrella … whatever. While he has bestowed honors for valor on individuals at White House ceremonies, and Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden have now and again made a stab at a show of support and concern for dependent family members, the sense is inescapable that the Obama administration is just going through the minimum motions required for a favorable photo op.

Although Obama has made a superficial good showing with military-oriented events, they seem to be scheduled less and less often. I suppose it is a bit of a thrill for the junior troops come through a base and have a meet’n’greet with them. As indifferent as I was to Jimmy Carter way back then, I would have appreciated a visit from the commander in chief – I might even have been rather thrilled to do an interview for FEN, if it had been allowed. More telling, I think is the reception that Obama got, at a speech last month before attendees at the American Legion convention. That was an audience of veterans of all vintages – and the largest portion of them all but sat on their hands and listened with stone-faced courtesy. One might almost feel sorry for a speaker whose presentation meets with such a cold reception, but … well, his is the administration whose Department of Homeland Security head had to walk back from a report which painted disgruntled veterans as likely recruits for terrorist organizations, and was reported to have briefly considered John Kerry, of Winter Soldier anti-Vietnam war protest fame as Secretary of Defense. That such a nomination was even considered sufficiently enough to make it into the Washington paper of record should be proof enough of the veiled contempt in which this commander in chief holds for the larger part of those citizen-defenders who make up the US military.

Tommy in Service

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees! – R. Kipling

I started my first stretch in the military as Jimmy Carter was elected and sworn into office. I did not think anything of him, particularly – either pro or con, although being a bit of a snob, I did think it was distinctly juvenile of him to be known as Jimmy, rather than James. Boys are called by the diminutive; men ought to go by their proper names. The one big issue that I did hold against him for most of my first hitch in the military was when he declined a military spending bill which would have provided for the rebuilding of the Misawa AB high school, which at the time of my assignment there was housed in three pre-WWII buildings which had once been Imperial Japanese Army stables. On hot days, those buildings still smelt faintly of horse, and the students had to use the base gym for their PE classes. I recollect that there was grumbling resentment among the senior NCO cohort (and likely among the officers , too) whose teenaged dependents attended the school, to the effect that that Amy Carter did not attend classes in 70+ old shacks that smelled of ancient horse-shit. The Iran hostage situation and his limp-wristed response to it didn’t develop until later. And Carter – that bundle of mind-numbing sanctimony and anti-Semitism – was gone by the time I was done with that first tour, having pretty much disappointed everyone who assumed that having been a wartime Naval Academy graduate and serving USN officer would have been good for something when it came to being a commander in chief.

There was Ronald Reagan. Whom, I must confess, I did not at the time totally appreciate. The massacre of Marines in Lebanon weighed on us all, and the whole Hollywood-B-movie actor thing was a bit of am embarrassment. Not as much as the election of a dilettante Chicago community organizer would be, but then I am getting ahead of myself. So– save for that one incident – RR pretty much left the military community unscathed, if I recall correctly. He made all the right gestures and speeches, and a fair number of what we only later came to recognize as smart moves. He appreciated the military, in a rather understated way. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 – that unforeseen miracle was in a large part his doing. The cold war menace seemed to dissolve, like mist in the morning, and everyone in the military heaved a sigh of relief. I’d guess there were at least two generations, maybe three, who had expected to see the Russian Army come through the Fulda Gap, and had standing arrangements to see their dependents evacuated from Western Europe in that event. I was one of them.

And so we came to Bush One; a comrade that I served with in Korea had come straight off the White House/Presidential protection element. He adored the senor Bushes, especially Barbara, and to hear him tell it, the senior Mrs. Bush was a fond grandmotherly figure to the agents. She even called him “Timmy” – rather rich, considering that he was one of those six-foot tall built-like-a-concrete-traffic-bollard guys. It turned out that peace did not descend at once, although bases in Western Europe closed right and left. Bush One – he struck us generally as a decent old stick, a for-real combat veteran. I guess that we could say that he did well by the military, as my friend Timmy could attest.

So – on to the Clintons; Timmy good a good look at the whole clan early on, thought they were trashy, and applied for a reassignment. There were stories in print and through the grapevine that Hilary was snotty beyond belief towards the uniformed military. The original Sgt. Stryker – who worked as maintenance crew on the presidential flights during the Clinton administration – allowed on one occasion long afterwards that the only two people associated with it who appeared capable of gracious courtesy towards the Air Force-2 staff were Tipper Gore and Louis Freeh. I myself never had the privilege or pleasure of coming anywhere near Washington DC, or the Pentagon during my time in active service. I had retired the year that the Lewinsky scandal broke, but I was still in touch with friends who still were on active duty. Most of those friends –mid-to-senior NCO ranks, and a handful commissioned officers – were all disgusted; more than disgusted – embarrassed and simmeringly angry. I recollect reading a story in the Air Force Times regarding a number of senior officers being reprimanded for commenting on Bill Clinton’s sexual morals – or lack of same – at a dining-in. A person of senior rank having a sexual relationship with a very-much-younger subordinate would and has gotten a good few military members disciplined or sacked. Seeing the commander in chief get away with it … well, nothing more calculated to drive home the lesson that there is one set of standards for the ruling class, another for the ruled. And in this present time, the military of whatever rank are the ruled.

(to be continued with Bush 2 and the current C-in-C. Also – crossposted at chicagoboyz.net)

O Tempora O Mores

Early this month, my daughter and I clubbed together and bought a DVD collection of Mel Brooks movies for our evening TV-watching pleasure. I think we already had Blazing Saddles on DVD, and maybe The Producers and Young Frankenstein on VHS – but the plain fact is that we didn’t have any of the rest, and I only dimly recalled seeing many of them on original theatrical release, most usually at tiny AAFES movie theaters in various overseas locations. Seriously, it took years to get over expecting to stand up for the national anthem before the main feature, along with the usual wits shouting “Play ball!” as soon as the last strains and the flapping flag in slow-mo mistily faded from the screen. My daughter hadn’t seen any of them, save the aforementioned two, and so … we’ve been happily entertained, by working our way through the collection. It’s often noted, by no less than Mel Brooks himself that Blazing Saddles probably couldn’t be made today. Oh, let me count the ways, from the non-stop use of the n-word, gleeful use of national stereotypes, the campfire scene, the breaking of the fourth wall, the campy and screamingly gay movie director… yep, the professionally aggrieved would be screeching to high heaven.

Young Frankenstein doesn’t hit on quite so many social sore points as Blazing Saddles … but History of the World Part 1 certainly does. That’s another one which probably would send the professionally aggrieved on fire. As for Silent Movie, that was kind of a one-joke sketch fattened out to feature movie length. My daughter didn’t know that Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft were married, or that Burt Reynolds and Paul Newman had ever looked so very young. High Anxiety was funny enough, as a pastiche of practically every movie Alfred Hitchcock ever made. So – on to The Twelve Chairs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights in the coming week. Don’t know how those two will manage to offend the easily offended, but I have hopes. It is kind of dispiriting, when I remember funny, slapstick and anarchic humor like Mel Brooks, or those movies like Airplane and Top Secret! Produced by Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, or mockumentaries like Spinal Tap and confections like Ghostbusters … and then consider at the great earnest blocks of concentrated dullness coming out today. There are comedies still being produced of course … this is a list of what is currently available on Netflix, but scrolling through it, I just don’t fell much like watching any of them. Quite honestly, most of them just don’t seem like all that much fun.

9-11-2001+13

This year is not one of those significant anniversaries – the year-marks that end in zero or mark a quarter or a half of a century, but for a couple of reasons, this one seems to weigh more heavily on me than any of the others, save possibly the one-year-after mark. It had only been a year after a perfectly shattering, unimaginable event, quite the equal to me of what Pearl Harbor had been to my parents. Without a whisper of warning – oh, if you had an abiding interest in the matter, or were a particularly imaginative secret squirrel, you might have seen it coming – a fissure the size of the Grand Canyon suddenly split the normal, day-to-day world, and after it, everything was different. On September 12, 2001, the world looked superficially just as it had two days before, save for maybe a few more American flags, and having to get to the airport hours before your flight, not to mention the gaping hole in the skyline of lower Manhattan. But it was the new normal, and kids in middle-school or starting high school have never known anything else. What I recall from ‘before’ is as remote and faraway to them as the Dust Bowl, or the splendors of the Edwardian era. That was then, this is now.

This is the now, with ISIS, or ISIL or whatever they wish to call themselves, recruiting volunteers across Europe and the Middle East, to establish a new Caliphate in the Middle East. What our armed forces bought in blood in Iraq has been essentially given away by this administration as carelessly as if it were a no-longer-fashionable shirt put into a plastic bag and dropped off at Goodwill. The southern border is made of wet tissue paper – and this administration has essentially contrived to swamp working-class communities with illegal aliens … who at the very least are innocent of the ability to speak English, and at worst are unrepentant gangsters. It can also be assumed that just about all of them are unvaccinated against diseases both common and uncommon which are also extremely communicative. Yes, well done.

Those same borders are also open to Islamic terrorists of the same stripe as those responsible for 9-11. It is likely only a matter of time before an atrocity every bit as horrific strikes a major American city … just as it is only a matter of time before certain of our inner city black underclass breaks out in city-killing riots. The present of Detroit may very well be the tomorrow of certain other cities. The working and middle-class flee, and if the city is glamorous enough, the rich and the very poor remain behind. If it isn’t glamorous enough, only the very poor remain. Many of our cities seem to be hanging by a thread – especially the older, old-industry ones. It is only a matter of time …

And so, we wait for the other shoe to fall. And it will fall – there is no doubt on that, just as there is no doubt regarding this current administration’s ability or willingness to rise to the occasion.

Under the Radar

I guess it must matter to the elite class who seem to manage and report in our established American national main-line media – that no one notice the very ugly and violent racial war which is breaking out. Unless, of course, it is a case of a white, or nearly white, or almost-sort-of white in a confrontation with a member of the black thug class; there, I said it – the black thug class. This is a totally different class from the striving and generally hardworking and patriotic black middle and working class. And this I know very well, as a veteran, and through residence in a working-to-middle-class Texas suburb; a fellow military veteran once quoted to me something which one of his military comrades had said – “There is black and there is white, and then there is just trash.” The comrade was black, and he was quoting his grandmother, a lady of certain years – years sufficient to permit a degree of blunt honesty regarding matters racial. There is black, and there is white, and then there is trash.

The elite class appears to believe that anyone of Anglo pallor who points this out must therefore be a racist, especially if in reference to the unsavory, thuggish habits of the black variety of trash. As if looking away and keeping silent would make it all go away. But the trouble is, there is just too much of it, too many incidents before and after the Zimmerman case, the riots in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, flash mobs or small groups or individual black youths playing the knock-out game with random innocent citizens, elderly people attacked and robbed in their homes and cars … it all makes the local news for a day or to, websites and blogs for a day or two more, and then such reports and the racial makeup of the perpetrators and victims are dropped like a dirty Kleenex … until the next time.

The statistics of black-on-white, black-on-black and white-on-black crime paint are skewed to the complete opposite of how such occurrences are covered in the mainstream media. The relatively few incidents of white-on-black murder or rape are national headlines for weeks, whereas black-on-black and black-on-white violence is quickly shuffled away from the front pages and the lead story. It’s almost as if the national media is embarrassed by such occurrences, and considers them unseemly. As a commenter at Samizdata remarked, in relation to the Rotherham abuse scandal, it’s as if they don’t want to say anything for fear of setting off white riots, or something. Which is a pretty insulting assumption, and does no one – black or white or otherwise – any favors at all. Existing pathologies in the black culture which glorifies and rationalizes thug behavior cannot be dealt with, if it isn’t even open for discussion by anyone. The white victims of black criminals – or their next of kin – are left to simmer at being relegated to being non-persons, or insultingly lectured about white privilege. And the establishment press and media dribbles away a little more credibility, every time it tempers coverage of a story depending on the colors of the perpetrator and the victim. Discuss.

(Cross-posted at chicagoboyz.net)

One Thing After Another

As the garden looks on Labor Day weekend

As the garden looks on Labor Day weekend


It seems that Autumn, that taunty b*tch, is determined to delay her arrival in South Texas until the last possible moment. She might rightly collide with Winter in the very same weekend, but … well, this is the place that I have chosen to live, and anyway as long as it isn’t cold enough to kill the vegetables in pots, I am satisfied. I’d love to be able to shepherd the peppers, the eggplants, the okra into another season. But as always – I still desire to turn off the AC and open the windows to casual breezes and night-time temperatures in the 60s. Even if it does put nothing aurally between me and the basset hound next door, who can hear a mouse fart in a high breeze three houses away, on those nights when he is outdoors. And yes – his owner does know that Chester can be a noisy PIA … but the owner is a good neighbor to us, and Chester ensures that no perv will ever be able to climb over the fence into the backyards on our street without about half the neighborhood knowing … and considering that you could likely fit out the army of a small European country with the arms-related contents of this neighborhood alone… well, we are inclined to be indulgent about Chester. He is either an early-warning system or a discourager-of-pervs.
I’ve been sorting out the remains of heat-killed plants, and moving those things which have survived and thrived in pots to cluster around the steps of the shed, or the newly-reclaimed back porch. No, I will not have to get new pepper, okra or eggplant starts next spring. I swear that one of the things that the garden shops deliberately keep from backyard gardeners is the fact that pepper plants are multi-seasonal. If the darned things don’t get frozen, they will go on bearing, bearing and bearing, summer after summer. The garden presents a rather pleasing aspect, given that the pepper plants are doing very well with their second wind, and I will get a nice crop from them; banana peppers, hot red cherry peppers, cayenne and jalapenos … that is, if I can beat back that wretched rat who also has a taste for peppers and their leaves…
The Back Porch - Reclaimed

The Back Porch – Reclaimed


But enough about my garden and weather woes; I have about four projects for Watercress coming up, but not until late this month or into October, so I have taken the opportunity to finish off the book for this year – the YA collection of adventures which were inspired when I tried to figure out a way for the Lone Ranger franchise to recover itself. The more that I thought about it, the more fun that it seemed, especially as it seemed to me that what was key to a ripping good yarn depended on bagging the whole mask, silver bullets, noble white steed tropes, and the generic cardboard setting of the post-Civil War west. Just about everything to do with those is heavily copyright protected, of course. But wrenching the whole concept out of the standard and threadbare conventions, starting all over with the two characters – a young volunteer Texas Ranger and a Delaware Indian scout, setting it in the Republic of Texas years – which were stocked plenty with fresh and unused concepts and characters … I scribbled out the set-up adventure and five more episodes, leaving scope for a good few more, and that’s my book for this year, just in time for the Christmas marketing season. It’s a totally YA and male-friendly adventure, by the way; Blondie has pointed out that the middle-school-age male of our species has been left sadly underserved since the conclusion of the Harry Potter cycle. All that is left to them in popular literature are sparkly vampires in the forest and dystopian fantasies … why not go for something positive, affirming the cowboy way?
Why not, indeed? As soon as I have the cover near to final, I’ll be taking orders – and Blondie and I have been working at sorting out the calendar of our fall and Christmas marketing events.
New phone. Complicated. This is why she is my personal assistant.