This would be the WWII novel, which concept came to me in a dream last July, at a point in the morning that when I woke up, I remembered the whole thing – the concept, the names of characters, the whole whackadoodle. So – nothing much else to do, what with the restrictions placed on us by the Commie Covid Crud… we actually had only two autumn and Christmas markets this last year, when we would otherwise have participated in at least half a dozen or eight. So, what better project to work on, than another book? I knocked it out in six months – about twice what it took for the first draft of Truckee, but that I was working on full-tilt for three months. I have heard of certain Golden Age of Science Fiction writers who could knock out a decent 70,000-10,000 world novel in a month, but that was out of pure necessity and they were under contract to a publisher and chained to a typewriter for about eighteen hours a day.

Frankly, I can’t really understand those writers determined to produce The Novel of the Century, and who squeeze out an exquisitely perfectly perfect sentence or two a day, over the course of ten, fifteen or twenty years. It suggests to me that if you have to pummel your writing wits that freaking hard for a decade and a half, maybe you don’t really have a gift for producing appealing content and should perhaps take up poetry, or maybe painting scenic landscapes on a grain of rice, or something. Writers write. Poseurs … pose.

Anyway, the novel is done – and having come up with no better a title than “My Dear Cousin: A Novel in Letters” – there you are. It’s not entirely in letters, though – this is an interesting and challenging conceit, most lately displayed in a best-seller like “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”, but it has a long, long history, dating from the original epistolary novel, held by most old-fashioned students of the English novel to have been the first pure novel – Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded, by Samuel Richardson. It has been noted, though, that characters in some of the more wordy and later epistolary novels must have spent so much time writing lengthy and exhaustively detailed descriptions of their travails that they must have hardly had any time to undergo them, what with having a pen and ink bottle in hand, twenty-four-seven.

I have a facility for writing letters in the period-appropriate voice of my characters. One of the beta readers for “Truckee” marveled at length over how I managed to perfectly replicate the period tone of the diary and letters, thinking that I had actually located and copied a period diary. “No, Dad – I made it all up,” I said.

So the book will be launched around and about the 20th. It’s not all in letters – there is a good chunk of straight narrative, as well. The general plot, as it will appear in various retail outlets.

When Peggy Becker married Englishman Tommy Morehouse in San Antonio in the spring of 1938, her cousin and best friend Venetia “Vennie” Stoneman was her bridesmaid. After the wedding, Peg and Tommy traveled across the Pacific to Malaya, where Tommy managed his family’s rubber plantation. There they expected to raise a family and live a comfortable and rewarding life among the British expatriates in the tropics, while Vennie returned to Galveston to continue training as a nurse.

The start of the Second World War changed those comfortable, settled lives: Tommy Morehouse became a prisoner of war, Peg barely escaped the fall of Singapore with her small son, and Vennie Stoneman was a nurse in the US Army Nurse Corps, tending to battlefield casualties in North Africa, Italy, and France. In Australia, Peg waits out the war, wondering if her husband will survive brutal captivity by the Japanese, and Vennie risks her own life as an air evacuation nurse. Throughout all, the two women write to each other, of their lives, loves, of Vennie’s patients and comrades, and Peg’s children and the woes of running a wartime household among rationing and rationings of shoes for her children.

There is something more – I’ve been quite a bit frank with regard to other topics. From the historical notes appended at the end:

In the interests of fidelity to history and racial attitudes of the 1940s with regard to the Japanese and to a lesser extent, the Germans, the current social climate requires me to add the following caveat; yes, the general attitudes of American and Australians towards the Japanese were by current standards, viciously and unrepentantly racist. However, this book is, as nearly as I can make it, written with an eye to fidelity to the historical record. I will not cut and tailor my fictional cloth in accordance with current fashion. ‘Presentism’, wherein the accepted fashionable attitudes and conventional opinions of the current day are retrofitted, however unsuited and historically unlikely, onto those characters living in past decades and centuries, is a grim transgression against the art of bringing a past era into life, warts and all. Writing a so-called historical novel merely by placing 21st century characters in different costumes and strange technological shortcomings is a disservice to the past, and a hampering to complete understanding. It’s the past – they did things differently, back then.

As for wartime feelings, Americans, Britons, Australians, Chinese and other participants, even the ‘inadvertent by reason of geography’ had no reason to think well of the Japanese who made bloody, brutal, and imperial war upon them and plenty of excellent reasons to think ill. A brief list of those reasons begins with the war in China, including the ‘rape of Nanking’ and similar atrocities, the attack on Pearl Harbor while diplomatic negotiations were underway, the opening of aggressive hostilities throughout the Pacific theater of operations, extreme brutalities inflicted on those with the misfortune of living in Japanese occupied countries, and the horrific treatment of interned civilians and captured military by the Japanese. The most charitable comment which one can make on this all is that at least they were ecumenical in administering barbaric treatment to all those unlucky to experience the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere at first hand. Americans are, or at least used to be, conversant with the Bataan Death march, but that was just one of the gruesome atrocities against Allied POWs during the war front in the Pacific. Even ghastlier than the Bataan forced march of POWs was the Sandakan Death March, a series of forced marches which took place towards the end of the war on Borneo. Internees and POWs were forced by the retreating Japanese Army to abandon a massive camp at Sandakan airfield and retreat 160 miles through the jungle with them. Of 2,500 British and Australian POWs at the start of those marches, only six men survived by escaping during the confusion. Ritual cannibalism, medical experimentation on living prisoners, mass forced prostitution of women, the deliberate sinking of the AHS Centaur by a Japanese submarine off the coast of Brisbane, massacres of medical personnel and patients at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Singapore, mass executions of native military there and in Hong Kong, the execution of civilian and military personnel on Bangka Island, the executions of American POWs at Palawan towards the end of the war when all seemed to be lost for the Japanese, the horrific treatment and the death rates of impressed civilian laborers and POWs on the Burma-Siam railway, the wanton destruction of Manila… All of these and even uglier accounts of Japanese brutality were publicized in the last months and weeks of the war, just as the reality of German concentration and extermination camps emerged earlier in 1945. Knowledge of these horrors was why contemporary opinion approved with mild reservations the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even if many were startled by the suddenness of the events, baffled by the science, and apprehensive regarding the implications of atomic weapons.

A further element had to do with knowing how fanatical Japanese resistance had been in New Guinea, on Guadalcanal, on Tarawa, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. An invasion of the Japanese home islands could only be much, much worse. And yet, planning for such an invasion went forward. Part of that planning involved a massive order of 1.5 million Purple Heart medals, in expectation of a huge number of American casualties. That backlog of medals was not drawn down sufficiently for another order until 2008; this after the end of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada and two wars in Gulf and the many pinprick casualties from random terrorism over the following seven decades. Knowing that the cost in blood and human lives would be almost unbearably high for a ground invasion of Japan, among the invading troops, the defending Japanese and the hapless Japanese civilians, the choice for atomic bombing was a necessary albeit cruel calculation. Japanese cities were being pounded unmercifully by American bombing, with destruction and death by many conventional bombs equal to a single atomic bomb … I’m on the side of those historians who believe that turning segments of Nagasaki and Hiroshima into radioactive glass saved lives. A cruel calculation, but one which saved the lives of Allied soldiers who would otherwise have died in an invasion, the lives of Japanese civilians who would have been thrown into the maelstrom and saved the lives of prisoners and internees all across the Japan-occupied territories who were about two weeks from being killed by starvation or hours and minutes of being murdered outright.

Imagine, if you will; how it would have gone if President Truman had let the invasion of Japan go ahead – with all the casualties; the massive deaths of soldiers, civilians, prisoners, and internees … and then finding out that all that torment could have been avoided by dropping two bombs on Japanese cities (cities already being systematically destroyed by conventional bombing). No, the use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was, as many of these historical choices come down to – the least worst choice of the lot. This is why practically everyone who would have had a real stake in this choice – their lives, the lives of those whom they loved and who would now survive because of it – heaved a sigh of relief at the outcome of a mushroom-shaped cloud over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A perilous choice and one with regrets attached. Because of that decision, they and the ones whom they loved – would live.

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. Thomas Paine, The Crisis No. I – December 1776

Frankly, it’s a time which try women’s souls, as well – not just being disenfranchised en masse, but having the Establishment News Presstitutes and the Tech Oligarchs gag all mention of conservative simmering unhappiness and discontent in the major media, and chopping off access to social media for designated so-called ‘thought criminals’ in response to a relatively benign – that is, relatively benign in comparison to what has been going on all year in cities that are prog strongholds – a massive protest at the US Capitol. I’m fairly certain that the ruling political oligarchs had the snot scared out of them last Wednesday, when protestors overran the Capitol building. Here’s my tiny violin to play “My Heart Bleeds For You”, and my dainty Victorian lace-trimmed linen handkerchief to sop up the tears. (And BTW, one of those protesters was shot, fatally, by … well, er, someone, whose’ identity is yet unknown, prompting the observation that if he were a regular policeman and shot a protester of color in a prog-run city he would have his identity instantly spread all over the Presstitute Media, along with his home address, his spouses’ employer and the name of the school that his kids attended. But never mind…)

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Yeah, I just deleted my Twitter account. More than past time, and I hope that Jack Dorsey goes back to living in a tent on the highway verge.

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05. January 2021 · Comments Off on The Twilight Zone · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun With Islam, History, Iran, Media Matters Not, Politics, Rant

Well, it appears that the mullahcracy in Iran is still steamed over the death of their military mastermind Quassam Soleimani, the chief of so-called Quds Force – sort of the Iranian SS, I have always thought. On the one-year anniversary of that momentous drone-zap (a consummation quite overdue in my opinion) the president of Iran directly threatened the life of President Trump. Talk is cheap, and Iranian threats of dire revenge are the equivalent of those teeny and nearly worthless Spanish 1-peseta coins, which were struck from aluminum in the early 1990s, about the size of a child’s fingernail and looked like nothing so much as doll money. But still … the militant Muslims of Iran are certainly dedicated and determined sufficiently to have racked up any number of lesser-known and less-protected hits, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this was something more than just tough talk for the benefit of their domestic audience and fans of Islamic mayhem in other countries.

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About those new house projects for this year – the main one now outstanding is the windows, and I hope to hear from the installing company sometime next week. I have already made a down payment on the windows, and the holidays are done, and all the holiday ornaments put away, so someday soon …

The thing is that the big window in the front bedroom will be knocked out entirely and replaced with a pair of French doors. Early in this new year I want to put a short run of privacy fence with a gate in it from the corner of the garage to the gatepost to my next-door neighbor’s yard – a gatepost which was built out of the same bricks as the brick trim on my house. I can only think that there must have been half a pallet of bricks left over from by house, and the original owner of my neighbors’ place had the builders use them for ornamental gateposts to their house. This would enclose a small private patio, opening from the front bedroom, which would about double the living space in the front bedroom – that is, when the weather is temperate. (Which it is, for seven or eight months in a year, Blue Northers notwithstanding.)

Because the window installers will be knocking out the wall underneath the existing window – well, what better time for us to take out the drywall all around that window and see about installing more bookshelves between the studs on either side and above the new French doors, as we did this last year in the hallway. This is a household of books – a great many books and a relatively small house, so efficient use of space is always appreciated. Although it’s an outside wall, the outside side is brick throughout – so, no biggie, insulation-wise. We’re interested to see how much is lacking as regarding studs on that wall, having tried to hang curtain rods over that window, and failed to find a stud at one corner to secure the curtain rod into. (We suspect there were corners cut in building this house. I have utterly failed to find any studs in the wall between my bedroom and the walk-in closet on the other side of that room. Yes, I did do a series of exploratory holes with a pin-hole sized drill, and never did find a stud … that wall is going to be another floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, eventually.).

You see, my daughter is going to give birth to a child in late May, or early June – a grandson, whose name will be James Alexander Page – Jamie, for short. Until my daughter has her real estate license and has done enough business to afford her own place for herself and Jamie, they will have to share that room, which is nice enough for a woman and baby – but the Daughter Unit has determined that she must have her own place by the time Jamie is kindergarten age. Until then, the front room and the little patio will be their space. Other families live quite happily in even smaller spaces, so we’re OK with this. We have a single bed and a nice crib already on the way. Since we’re committed to the French doors and patio, no better time to redo the whole room – cover the nasty popcorn ceiling texture with bead board and cornice molding, and the floor with a continuation of the vinyl flooring that we used last year in the hall. A project indeed. Maybe even repaint the whole room while we’re at it. Although since we’ll be working with Roman the Neighborhood Handy Guy, whose’ work schedule is erratic and subject to constant rescheduling, I suspect this project will take at least a couple of weeks.  

29. December 2020 · Comments Off on Anchorites · Categories: General

We are commanded by our so-called experts in this age of the Chinese Corona Crud, to live the enclosed life as a sort of secular anchorite, walled into our little singular cells, supplied by regular deliveries passed in through one narrow passage to the outside, and to spend our days contemplating the televised media worship of the narrative du jour through the window into the shrine of our authoritative masters. Or at least, those who call themselves our masters, although I am certain that’s not the term which they use for themselves. ‘Experts’, ‘scientists’ ‘elected* leaders’ – that’s probably how they term themselves, commanding us to stay at home, eschew social gatherings (although violent BLMAntifa protests are perfectly OK), church services, seeing a movie, getting sit-down dinner inside a restaurant, walking in a public park, hanging out on a beach … all through fear of the rampaging and almost-always-fatal Chinese Corona Crud. To add insult to the injury, those political leaders, to a man, woman and whatever, don’t seem to feel any need to observe their own dictates; traveling freely to their vacation homes, meeting up for holidays with family, going out to supper with friends to the French Laundry, getting haircuts, and omitting the wear of what I’ve begun to call the FFD (the F**king Face Diaper). Really, it’s as if they are getting their jollies out of flaunting their authority and privilege in our FFD’d faces.

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18. December 2020 · Comments Off on Daring Colors in the Neighborhood · Categories: Domestic

The outlaying suburb where I live began being developed from open land on the far north-east sector of San Antonio in the late 1970s or early 1980s, as nearly as I can judge – a rolling tract of meadows, dotted with oak trees – many of which still survive, and cut through with a small creek feed by small natural seeps and springs. Most of the older houses are small tidy bungalows, although one segment of older houses in the development are a bit larger, and on lots considerably larger than the bare quarter acre or smaller. Few houses are rentals – most are lived in by owners; a good range of small young families, working professionals and retirees.

The development went through several different development companies, or so I have been told – the last of them was still filling in empty lots when I bought my house in 1995; there were still two model homes, and a construction trailer parked on a lot at the top of the hill for some years after that. Given the natural run of things, a lot of the older homes have been remodeled; owners have upgraded from the original contractor-grade fixtures, and a violent hailstorm in 2006 or so ensured that practically everyone got a new roof. A handful of houses now have the metal roofs, which cost about two-thirds more than the usual run of asphalt tile.

But the main thing that I have noticed lately are the colors that houses are painted. The series of development companies seem to have had a pattern book of house plans for a vaguely neo-Palladian/mid-Victorian stick-built one and two-story houses with various degrees of brick siding, ranging from all the way around in brick to just a few ornamental pillars on the corners. There seem to have been about twenty or thirty basic designs, and about the same number of colors of brick … and most homeowners had the exterior of their house painted in something that match the prevailing shade of the brick trim. Which came down to a neighborhood palette of colors exploring the whole exciting and vivid range of off-white, creamy-beige, yellowy-beige, beige-brown, pinky-brown, plain old brown-brown, and various shades of grey. A few non-conformists ventured daringly into houses painted in various shades of blue, from navy-blue to a cheery Caribbean light blue with white trim. But the iconoclasts – ah, yes; we iconoclasts broke away decisively from fifty-shades of neutral beige conformity! Our houses are painted green; shades of green ranging from light green, through olive, and into leaf-green! And they look very nice, and stand out, making easy for strangers to locate them, too, although I have my doubts about the taste of the family who went with brilliant Kelly green and yellow trim.  

Who are you? What do you want? Where are you going? Whom do you serve – and whom do you trust?! – TV Series Crusade

I’m an American, of mostly Anglo-English descent, who mostly wants to be left alone to pursue happiness and a modicum of fame as a writer of historical or comic fiction. Frankly, if I am going anywhere, it’s slightly crazy, and as for whom I serve, my family, good friends and close neighbors, more or less in that order. As for whom I trust …

Not as many as I once did. One by one by one, the people and institutions which I once assumed to be competent, honest, and worthy of my trust and respect have revealed themselves to be corrupt, shallow, incompetent, partisan and cynical users of those ordinary American citizens like me.

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04. December 2020 · Comments Off on Net Novostey v “Pravde” i net pravdy v “Isvestihakh · Categories: General Nonsense, Media Matters Not

The bitter Soviet-era joke about the honesty and reliability of their major news organs translates as “There is no news in Pravda and no truth in Izvestia” – Pravda (Truth) being the official newspaper of the Russian Communist Party, and Izvestia (The News) was the official government newspaper. Teasing out actual tidbits of accurate and relevant information from those two sources may have been the most popular indoor sport for decades among Russians, after chess, depressing novels and drinking heavily. Pravda and Izvestia told the citizens of Soviet Russia only what the top-tier authorities wanted ordinary people to know about – anything contrary to the interests of party and government was deliberately omitted. Any embarrassing civic disasters with a high casualty count, sexual peccadillos on the part of the Party elite, and serial killers on the prowl – news coverage of that kind of event or development was firmly squelched, as things like that just didn’t happen in the perfect Soviet worker paradise.

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24. November 2020 · Comments Off on In Accordance With the Prophecies… · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, Politics

…the Schlichter prophecies, I mean, wherein the good Colonel Kurt S. postulated a political/geographic split of the United States along red-blue lines. In his bleak and blackly humorous vision, (carried out over a five-volume series) the middle portion of the States carried on with fidelity to the Constitution, free-range capitalism, and universal military service as an obligation for full citizenship. Meanwhile the east and west coasts as a so-called “People’s Republic” carried on under an increasingly deranged and erratic progressive principles, turning into a dysfunctional combination of Portland’s CHAZ/CHOP, any PC-addled university you could name, Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe and Venezuela at this very moment. The series is meant to be grimly entertaining, but I’m beginning to believe that the split has already happened – not in the neat geographic manner (with some violent hiccups) outlined – but in a slower and murkier manner.

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18. November 2020 · Comments Off on And Now For Something Entirely Different… · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, General Nonsense, Home Front, Military, Stupidity, Veteran's Affairs

Another horrific gaffe in retail marketing –  one which falls into the category of “grotesquely bad retail marketing decisions which will become a cautionary lesson in future marketing textbooks.” This spectacular gaffe involves a retailer of fashion-trendy and very colorful women’s athletic clothing, Fabletics – a company which started online in 2013 offering a subscription plan – somewhat controversial since the subscription charges were not always transparent, and branched out into brick and mortar locations. One of the founders is Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn, so there probably has been some advantages to a celebrity connection; easy to get that one-on-one with Oprah Winfrey, I presume. The company appears to this point to have been pretty savvy in a competitive field, marketing-wise, so all props to them. I’m not a customer of theirs in any case; the gym and the jogging track are not places where I go to show off my fashion sense. I’m old-school in that I prefer to work out in grey sweatpants and a baggy tee shirt.

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The Daughter Unit – who is an even more die-hard conservative than I am – and I have been coming to terms with what happened last week, in the wake of the election. Not to put too fine a point on it, we were distressed, disbelieving, and horrified at how that has gone. And then we were both deeply angry. It’s an anger that I have trouble quantifying, when all is said, considered and done.

Look, we’ve known for years about dirty deeds done with sheep and ballot boxes … especially the ones that show up out of the clear blue. LBJ notoriously got elected by a couple of those, early on. It’s also pretty strongly suggested that JFK got the 1960 election because of fraud at the polls, and Nixon didn’t want to make a big thing out of contesting it, because … reasons. Patriotic reasons, for which he never got any credit at all.

But this latest is just too obvious. Too blatant. Too ‘in your face, and what are you gonna do about it, you lying dogface pony soldier?’ The roughly-reported evidence of ballot boxes appearing out of the blue in the wee hours, of so-called “glitches” transmuting Republican votes to Democrat, of Republican observers told to go home it’s all over – while the fraudulent counting goes on in a closed room. Goes on, and on, and on …

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02. November 2020 · Comments Off on Set Piece · Categories: General

am increasingly convinced – especially over the last few months – that the national news media, with the assistance of a wide swath of academia and those in the business of providing entertainment, are and have been for years constructing a kind of stage set which in their minds represents America. Fake buildings, fake trees with plastic leaves, a painted sky backdrop, concrete boulders and buildings which are either three-fourths actual size or mere painted false fronts with curtains or blinds hung in empty windows. In front of these sets, between the fake trees and the concrete boulders, all sorts of improbable and gruesome things are happening – race riots, fiery car crashes, anti-capitalist social unrest, cartloads of dead from the Commie Covid Virus rolled through the streets, and meanwhile Joe Biden is an honest and upright long-serving member of Senate and former VP who never put a foot wrong, and Hillary Clinton is the most qualified and respected woman ever, Michelle Obama a glamorous and tasteful former First Lady, and meanwhile the whole United States is rancorous with race-hatred, and everyone who has ever attended regular religious services is panting to transform all society into The Handmaids’ Tale.

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21. October 2020 · Comments Off on The October Surprise · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, Media Matters Not, Politics

So the concept of an “October Surprise” in an election year is so hoary a notion that pundits have evolved that name for it; a planned last-minute revelation before an election (usually of the presidential-variety) of something so scandalous and disreputable that it upends the expected campaign win of the candidate the ‘Surprise” is aimed at. The Rathergate – Texas Air National Guard memo, which Dan Rather and 60 Minutes unleashed on George W. Bush just before the 2004 election is the example which springs first to mind, and never mind that it was launched in September. It was still a desperate partisan attempt to upturn an election.

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08. October 2020 · Comments Off on Signs and Portents · Categories: Domestic, Eat, Drink and be Merry, Fun and Games, Media Matters Not

In noting a pair of interesting and sort-of-related developments this last week, I am wondering if they are an indication of just how deeply angry ordinary Americans of a deplorably conservative bent are with the panjandrums who provide our entertainment, of the pro-sports and movie varieties. The first is the fact that ratings for the NBA finals are cratering, and other pro sports aren’t very far behind. The Commie Crud probably is discouraging physical attendance at games, for sure, and ostentatious displays of partisanship for Black Lives Matter on the part of players have definitely ruined any pleasure in watching games for viewers who just want to forget about politics and protest for a while. It’s also a very bad look for well-compensated and privileged Black players – a good few of whom are not precisely paragons of gentlemanly and law-abiding behavior themselves – to go on national television openly expressing solidarity with an assortment of Black thugs, addicts and criminals who have had fatal encounters with various police forces in the last couple of years.

Black lives may indeed matter, but it certainly doesn’t look as if the lives of Black business owners, Black police officers and random innocent Black citizens caught in exchanges of lead disagreement between Black gangsters matter don’t seem to matter very much at all to the most outspoken BLM supporters in various sports. We suspect that the lives of White citizens are valued even less, although one might think that the money paid by White fans for season tickets, sports memorabilia and product endorsements might earn at least a little apolitical courtesy. It would appear not … and sportsball fans of all colors are abandoning the stadiums, fanship and broadcast games with alacrity. It might be that professional players of some sports might have to have a second job to support themselves in the off-season, unless the Chinese fans and endorsement dollars keep them in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

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30. September 2020 · Comments Off on Paint it Black · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, Geekery, Media Matters Not, Rant, World

Well, if this isn’t a good reason for a grad student passionately interested in English literature – meaning the study of classic literature written in English (starting with Beowulf and running all the way to Tom Stoppard) to avoid the U of Chicago and embrace a program of self-education then I don’t know what is. It’s akin to being invited to a grand, lavish multi-course banquet and then only allowed a single tiny plate of hors d oeuvres. Which you must consume, and praise lavishly, and not even consider looking over at the main course. Or for another comparison – be fascinated by American pop music all through the 20th century, and then only be permitted to specialize in Motown. Because … reasons. Anyone fascinated by Chaucer or Tin Pan Alley is just plain out of luck, because of systemic racism, and overwhelming whiteness of the culture and the stain of slavery, et cetera, which is usually the reason given. Frankly, I think it’s just momentarily fashionable to paint everything Black.

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21. September 2020 · Comments Off on 1942 – The Year That Everything Happened · Categories: History, Literary Good Stuff, War

Weirdly enough – and this apparently happens to authors at random – I had a dream about the plot of a new book late this past summer and woke up just in time to remember it all. A novel set in WWII, which is at least half a century or more out of my fictional headspace; I like the 19th century. Got all the reference books, the books or art, a grasp of the vocab and the look of the whole 19th century universe and outlook. (The costumes, too; yes – I dress in late Victorian or Edwardian garb to do a book event. No, the corset isn’t that uncomfortable, and yes, how people react to me in this get-up, hat, reticule, gloves and all … it’s amazing. Last time out in all this, I had a guy tip his hat to me and say, ‘Howdy, ma-am’ and that is just freaking amazing!)

But – WWII. For me, it is just enough close in time that I knew a lot of people personally involved, from Great-Aunt Nan, who was one of the first-ever women recruited for the WAACs, to any number of high school teachers (some of whom were more forthcoming about their service than others) to the Gentleman With Whom I Kept Company for about a decade, to a neighbor of Mom and Dad’s who had been a prisoner of war in the Far East and fortunate enough to have survived the experience. In short, the books, the movies, even the TV shows that I watched as a kid and teenager, were all marinated in the memories of the Second World War. I was born a bare decade after it was all over; shows like “World at War” were in the ‘must watch’ category at our house, as well as any number of now slightly cringe-making series like … never mind. Just take it for granted that WWII was inescapable for a person of my age. I also scribbled some bad and derivative juvenile fiction with a WWII setting. (Which I found in a box in the garage during the most recent turn out … yep, it was bad. Supposedly, one must write a good few millions of words to get the bad out of your system. Just about all of that is in a box in the garage, against which are orders to the Daughter Unit to burn in future.) And I had a self-directed exploration into the 1930s-1940s in college, when I had access to a college library with microfiche scans of a certain newspaper; I read every issue from 1935-1945, which was like seeing a whole decade of history’s first draft narrowly through a key-hole.

Anyway – enough of the throat-clearing. As is my wont when working out the fine details in a plot, I set up an Excel spreadsheet broken out by month and year, marking events in various theaters, all the better to work the travails of my fictional characters against. It struck me all over again that 1942 was the year That Everything Happened. For Americans, it was the first full year of war on two fronts; for Britain and her colonies and the governments-in-exile of her allies, it was the start of a third year of a war formerly limited, more or less, to Europe and North Africa. And then all merry old hell broke out in the Far East. Possessions, colonies, independent small countries began falling like nine-pins to the Japanese war machine. British Malaya and Fortress Singapore, Dutch Indonesia, the Philippines, Guam and Wake Islands, a good chunk of New Guinea and other islands all across the South China Sea – all fell in the first few months of 1942. It would have been a depressing thing, reading any major Western newspaper during those weeks; weeks where Allied confidence in their own ability to fight a balls-to-the-wall war and win took a considerable beating. The Allies reeled … but in May, the fortunes of War began to smile on the Allies. A naval clash between Japanese, American and Australian naval forces in the Coral Sea checked Japanese attempts to take Rabaul in New Guinea. In the next month, another sea battle – again between dueling aircraft carriers in the defense of Midway Island – blunted further Japanese advances in the Central Pacific. In July and a world away – the Germans were blocked and turned back from Egypt at the first battle at El Alamein, and then again three months later, in the same place. In the month of August, the Americans began landing on Guadalcanal and the Australians began taking back New Guinea. The Axis tide was checked, and slowly began to retreat. In November, the Allies (American and British with Canadian, Australian and the Free Dutch naval backup) opened a second front with the Torch Landings in French-controlled Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco – this not quite a year after Pearl Harbor. In barely a year, the Allies went from disaster and defeat on practically every front, to regroup and to begin effectively striking back. It would take another two years and more to completely defeat the Axis Powers, but it is striking to look at the timeline for 1942 and to see how the war situation turned from humiliating defeat, through resolve, and then to begin the long march back.

Discuss as you wish.    

15. September 2020 · Comments Off on Where They Burn… · Categories: General

“Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.” – wrote the 19th century German poet and essayist Heinrich Heine. Or in English, “Where they burn books, in the end they will also burn men.” I’d update the line to say – “Where they burn cities, they’ll burn the countryside, too.”

And since Antifa and Black Lives Matter demonstrators have been busily setting fires in urban protests, attempting to set fire to police stations, throwing Molotov cocktails and fireworks, and incinerating whole city blocks, businesses, pawnshops and bookstores alike, can one really blame residents of rural and small-town Oregon for assuming the worst and suspecting that the catastrophic fires scorching the west coast have a man-made origin? It’s a logical assumption to make, after six months of threats, violence, and deliberate urban arson. It’s not a great leap of imagination on the part of rural residents to assume that Antifa/BLM would move on after having comprehensively fouled their urban strongholds, especially if it meant striking hard at generally more conservative rural and small-town Americans in a way which would hurt, and hurt badly. My parents lost a house and everything in it, in the Paradise Mountain fire in 2003, a fire which was widely suspected to have been started as an illicit bonfire on reservation land. My parents were able to rebuild and counted themselves lucky that all they lost were things; they escaped with their lives and pets, didn’t lose a business or anything that couldn’t be replaced, unlike some of their neighbors.

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Sometimes, long after first reading a book or watching a movie and enjoying it very much, I have come back to re-reading or watching, and then wondering what I had ever seen in that in the first place. So it was with the original M*A*S*H book and especially with the movie. I originally read the book in college and thought, “Eww, funny but gross and obscene, with their awful practical jokes and nonexistent sexual morals.” Then I re-read after having been in the military myself for a couple of years, and thought, “Yep, my people!”

The movie went through pretty much the same evolution with me, all but one element – and that was when I began honestly wondering why the ostensible heroes had such a hate on for Major Burns and the nurse Major Houlihan. Why did those two deserve such awful, disrespectful treatment? In the movie they seemed competent and agreeable enough initially. In the book it was clear that Major Burns was an incompetent surgeon with delusions of adequacy, and that Major Houlihan was Regular Army; that being the sole reason for the animus. But upon second viewing of the movie, it seemed like Duke Forrest, Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre were just bullying assholes selecting a random target for abuse for the amusement of the audience.

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31. August 2020 · Comments Off on Comes the Moment to Decide · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Politics

Once to ev’ry man and nation 
Comes the moment to decide, 
In the strife of truth and falsehood, 
For the good or evil side; 
Some great cause, some great decision, 
Off’ring each the bloom or blight, 
And the choice goes by forever 
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.

– James Russell Lowell

So the first shots in the shooting war have been fired, to the surprise of practically no one who has been following civic matters over the last six months. Admittedly, that the first would be fired in Kenosha, of all places – that’s a bit of a surprise. Although it isn’t at all startling that a Trump supporter would be gunned down on the streets of Portland by an Antifa thug shortly thereafter, to resounding cheers of approval. The hateful rhetoric and the violence against property has been ratcheting up and up, as has the violence against persons. At this juncture, bullets are merely a short step. For at least two people – Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha and Michael Reinoehl in Portland, the choice to pull a trigger has been made, and made irrevocably, whether for good reasons or bad. (It is somewhat ironic, to read of this linked story, of progressive activists sniveling about the presence of “self-appointed” vigilantes being tolerated by local police, harshing the mellow of all those justifiably indignant progressive protesters, whose street protests have, unfortunately and most mysteriously, turned into orgies of arson and looting.)   

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19. August 2020 · Comments Off on The Rolling Kristallnacht · Categories: Politics, Texas

The rolling Kristallnacht of “mostly peaceful” protests organized and sponsored by the unholy union of Antifa and BLM continues unabated in those mostly progressive Democrat party municipalities such as Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, and New York. Give the protesters, rioters and looters credit for stamina; they’ve kept it up for nearly two months now, and look to be going strong, still. They haven’t much dared venture out and away from those progressive sanctuaries, although half a dozen did make a trip to Sturgis to provoke the bikers rallying there, which futile bit of resistance theater they did from behind a screen of local police. Which brings to mind Insty the Blogfaddah’s oft-repeated observation that the police – which the Antifaites and BLM protesters wish to abolish – are there to protect accused criminals from the rest of us. Frankly, it would have been laugh-out-loud comic if the bikers in Sturgis had been allowed to pants the Antifaites and run them out of town naked, but there you are. Obviously the Antifaites and BLMmers are hoping to provoke an over-the-top violent reaction and a blooming new crop of martyr Horst Wessels; they must be quite annoyed that so far, the rest of us have kept our temper. Although there was that incident in Austin late in July, wherein a protester learned too late that brandishing a weapon in a threatening manner towards a driver who is a licensed concealed-carry holder and an active-duty soldier moonlighting as an Uber driver … might just have an adverse outcome.

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10. August 2020 · Comments Off on Reason #564 To Be Glad · Categories: Fun and Games, Literary Good Stuff

That I am my own independent publisher, with the Tiny Publishing Bidness, and only wasted a couple of months and a lot of postage, in 2007 or so, trying to get an agent interested in my first two novels. Because that was the way to break into traditional publishing; get an agent, who would present your work to the traditional publishing houses. Another book blogger at the time advised trying it for a year, and then going independent, as there were sufficient small companies doing publish-on-demand, some of them for rather reasonable fees. I did have an interested agent in New York, who was referred to me by another milblogger back then, and although the agent reluctantly declined to offer me his services, he was jolly complimentary and encouraging, and provided some good insights. One of the unspoken insights that I took away from this exchange, and drew from all the other letters saying “Thanks, but no thanks” from various literary agencies was that it was all a terribly insular world, the world of the established agencies and big publishers, all of whom seemed to be based in about half a square mile of real estate in New York. This impression was reinforced by later interactions with members of the on-line author support group that I was a part of, many of who were drop-outs of one sort or another (mostly editorial, graphic design, public relations, et cetera) from that milieu. They all knew very well that the establishment publishing world was flailing, shedding mid-list authors and editors, farming out the slush piles of unsolicited manuscripts to the agencies. Later on, I started following Sarah Hoyt, originally trad-pubbed and who wrote now and again of the stifling conformity among those in the traditionally-published world. Her experience was mostly in the science fiction genre – but over and over again, one got the very clear message; that only certain opinions and world-views among authors or prospective authors were permitted. There might not have been an organized effort to blacklist those who did not conform, and to sabotage their books, but as far as the overall effect on conservative-leaning or anti-wokerati writers, there just  might as well have been the literary equivalent of “JournoList” in play.

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03. August 2020 · Comments Off on Consulting My Magic 8-Ball · Categories: General

So, last week the Daughter Unit asked me when the new civil war would kick into high gear. Note she said ‘when’ not ‘if’ – for we’ve been in a cold civil war for some time now. I’d say this cold civil war became manifest with upsurge of Tea Party demonstrations in 2009, and has rumbled along all through the Obama administration, building up reservoirs of bitter anger and resentment ever since. My personal SWAG is that things will get interesting (and even more interesting for certain values of interesting) late in the evening of November 3,2020, when the polls close and the first election results are reported.

And no, it won’t make a particle of difference who wins; Trump or Biden, or whoever has replaced Biden as the Great Dem Party Hope. My sidebar prediction is that the higher echelons of the Democrat Party will realize, probably shortly following the party caucus to be held sometime this month, that Joe Biden has finally and definitively lost track of his single remaining marble, and that there is no possible and convincing way that he can be propped up as a viable candidate. Whoever has the VP nomination will move up to the top of the ticket and one of the remaining hopefuls will be a replacement. For all we know, the Dem Party higher-ups may even have decided that what the hell, they don’t have serious hope at all for 2020, and are only naming candidates for this year with an eye towards establishing visibility and a track record for 2024.

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This last weekend, I had a tiny and depressing demonstration about the facile nature of local news – the news making machinery behind the popular song as the pop song used to go. I did local news-gathering myself as an in-house broadcast professional, doing a daily radio news program for Armed Forces Radio, Seoul Korea edition. I know how the pudding is made; have the basic framework for the story, go out and talk to people for the bits that fill in the story already mentally mapped out in your mind – and go and do it again the next day, and the day following. Daily news is sausage; stuff that casing with whatever the story requires, a judicious combination of meat or filler.

There was a house fire last Sunday afternoon in our neighborhood – the first I knew of it (since I was working the final edit of Luna City #9) was when the Daughter Unit flung open the door, saying that a nearby house was on fire, that the dogs from the house were running loose on the street, and could I bring some doggie treats and help everyone catch them?

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As if it wasn’t enough for the joyless, bitter scolds among the wokerati to have an absolute tizzy over the head of Goya Foods being civil and respectful of the office of the President of the US, another provider of excellent and relatively inexpensive foodstuffs is in their cross-hairs. Unlike the president of Goya Foods who basically told them to pound sand – and is now enjoying the economic benefits of having defied the wokerati – the management of Trader Joe’s is beating a sniveling and apologetic retreat, and promising to redo their policy of labeling their various ethnic food items with a suitably ethnic variation on ‘Trader Something-or-Other’. This was a bit of light-hearted bit of humor on their part, playing with naming stereotypes, but good lord, the grim and determined wokerati cannot abide any humor at all and so the whole concept must go. The Daughter Unit tells me, and this link conforms, that the whole thing started as a petition by high school students, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. I suspect the responsible students are the earnest and censorious sorts, desperately trying to out-woke each other.

Frankly, the whole ‘Trader Joe’s’ South Sea Island – Tropical Paradise motif always struck me as a last gasp of the 1950s ‘Tiki Culture’ and about the only one which didn’t involve a bar decorated with fishing nets and dried starfish, and fru-fru drinks with little umbrellas in them. Trader Joe’s various products are high quality, reasonably priced, and the social-consciousness is laid on with a light hand, in pleasant contrast with the mountain of ostentatious correctitude and high prices offered at Whole Foods. There is a reason the latter is derisively known as “Whole Paycheck.” I can only think it’s only a matter of time before the social justice warriors go after Trader Joe’s for that bit of cultural appropriation as well.

At least the providers of groceries are not having as rotten a year due to the Chinese Commie Crud as Hollywood is. Theaters shut down, premieres cancelled, top-flight releases like Greyhound, with Tom Hanks and based on C.S. Foresters’ war novel The Good Shepherd diverted to release on streaming video, the fall-out from “Me Too” and Harvey Weinstein’s wholesale-level practice of the casting couch, the apparent urge among our producers of entertainment to whore after foreign audiences, and now looking to curry favor with the hot new trend of ‘anyone but white heterosexuals in front of the camera and behind it as well as behind it in any capacity’ … well, Establishment Hollywood has earned the foul reputation they richly deserve. Those of us in flyover country are watching old movies on DVD (from our own libraries, let it be known) or on streaming video, watching foreign films or series – practically anything other than grim parables and lectures by the wokerati.

Comment as you wish: what are you going to watch, now? The Daughter Unit and I are watching episodes of Are You Being Served? Which has the side benefit of being gloriously politically incorrect, and not featuring any masks or six-foot apart social distancing. (The Daughter Unit and I temped for a few months at an upscale department store over the holiday season some years ago. We consider ‘Served’ as nearly a documentary on retail sales at a certain level.)

20. July 2020 · Comments Off on Ephemeral Amusements · Categories: Ain't That America?, Literary Good Stuff

The Daughter Unit was a little over two years old when we went to live in Greece, and almost kindergarten age when we left, and during that period we lived in a second-floor apartment in suburban Athens and hardly ever watched television. (I had a television set, but it was 110v, and Greece was a 220v country, and anyway, I was almost never at home in the evenings, the exception being when we went to our neighbors to watch Jewel in the Crown when it aired with subtitles on Greek TV.) This was at a time before wide-spread adoption of video players, before cable, way before streaming video. It was, in bald point of fact, rather like the three to five broadcast channels available when I was growing up. So, no, I didn’t miss TV much, and nor did the Daughter Unit, because we had books.

Heaps and heaps of books; my parents took the opportunity of the Daughter Unit being a military dependent and entitled to have her personal items shipped to Greece gratis to include almost all of the kid-lit that Mom had accumulated for my brothers and sister and I. (Mom and Dad were in the process of moving into a travel trailer parked on the building site of their eventual retirement home, and so took every opportunity to down-size what they didn’t need or want. Like … that part of the personal library.) Off that shipment went to Athens, augmented with new books that I bought through an English mail-order service which offered lovely catalogs aimed mostly at expatriates whiling away the decades in locations devoid of English-language bookstores, and a children’s bookstore in what passed for a mall in Voula or Vouliagmeni, which featured Greek, English and I think German and French-language books. It was a small place, barely one twenty-foot square room in size, with each wall dedicated to a language. I am pretty certain that I bought the Daughter Unit’s favorite comic book series there; the Asterix and Obelix books.

Asterix and Obelix; the series was translated from the French original and available everywhere in Europe; an epic and pun-laden series of books about the heroes; Asterix the canny warrior, his sidekick, the hefty menhir-deliveryman Obelix, and all the residents of the lone Gaulish village holding out against the Roman invaders, thanks to a magical potion brewed up by the Druid Getafix. Asterix and Obelix lived to beat up or out-wile the Romans, have adventures in far exotic lands, and to eat wild boar, presumably nicely roasted, crunchy and with appropriate sauces at a feast to follow their triumphant return. The illustrations were colorful and even surprisingly accurate when it came to Roman art and architecture, and the adventures were easy to follow. They became my daughter’s favorite bedtime story material, mostly because she could follow along. Not for her bland and simplistic materiel like Dr. Seuss; no, not when there were Romans and indomitable Gauls. (True Fact: in the midst of our road-trip through Europe in the autumn of 1985, when I told her that we were about to cross over from Germany into France, which used to be called ‘Gaul’ she perked up and asked if we were going to meet any Indominable Gauls.)

During that wandering journey, she encountered other fans of Asterix; a German teenager in Baden-Baden, who alternated with the Daughter Unit in naming all the cast of reoccurring characters – Getafix the Druid, Vitalstatistix the chieftain, Cacofonix the Bard, Fullyautomatix the blacksmith, Geriatrix the tribe’s senior citizen, and Asterix’s canine pet Dogmatix. In a small town on the edge of the Morvan national park in central France, we walked by a community billboard where there were pictures posted of a recent parade – for Bastille Day, perhaps? Among them was a home-made float on a towed trailer, and an assortment of children and teenagers dressed as characters from the series on the float. The Daughter Unit, of course, recognized them right away. All across Europe, she spotted the series on sale (the covers are very distinctive) and asked for the issues that she hadn’t seen, and of course I had to confess that … I couldn’t buy her those particular volumes, since they were in Italian or French.

And that, my friends – is how the Daughter Unit learned to read. From the English translations of a French comic book series.

19. July 2020 · Comments Off on Ephemeral Amusements · Categories: General

The Daughter Unit was a little over two years old when we went to live in Greece, and almost kindergarten age when we left, and during that period we lived in a second-floor apartment in suburban Athens and hardly ever watched television. (I had a television set, but it was 110v, and Greece was a 220v country, and anyway, I was almost never at home in the evenings, the exception being when we went to our neighbors to watch Jewel in the Crown when it aired with subtitles on Greek TV.) This was at a time before wide-spread adoption of video players, before cable, way before streaming video. It was, in bald point of fact, rather like the three to five broadcast channels available when I was growing up. So, no, I didn’t miss TV much, and nor did the Daughter Unit, because we had books.

Heaps and heaps of books; my parents took the opportunity of the Daughter Unit being a military dependent and entitled to have her personal items shipped to Greece gratis to include almost all of the kid-lit that Mom had accumulated for my brothers and sister and I. (Mom and Dad were in the process of moving into a travel trailer parked on the building site of their eventual retirement home, and so took every opportunity to down-size what they didn’t need or want. Like … that part of the personal library.) Off that shipment went to Athens, augmented with new books that I bought through an English mail-order service which offered lovely catalogs aimed mostly at expatriates whiling away the decades in locations devoid of English-language bookstores, and a children’s bookstore in what passed for a mall in Voula or Vouliagmeni, which featured Greek, English and I think German and French-language books. It was a small place, barely one twenty-foot square room in size, with each wall dedicated to a language. I am pretty certain that I bought the Daughter Unit’s favorite comic book series there; the Asterix and Obelix books.

Asterix and Obelix; the series was translated from the French original and available everywhere in Europe; an epic and pun-laden series of books about the heroes; Asterix the canny warrior, his sidekick, the hefty menhir-deliveryman Obelix, and all the residents of the lone Gaulish village holding out against the Roman invaders, thanks to a magical potion brewed up by the Druid Getafix. Asterix and Obelix lived to beat up or out-wile the Romans, have adventures in far exotic lands, and to eat wild boar, presumably nicely roasted, crunchy and with appropriate sauces at a feast to follow their triumphant return. The illustrations were colorful and even surprisingly accurate when it came to Roman art and architecture, and the adventures were easy to follow. They became my daughter’s favorite bedtime story material, mostly because she could follow along. Not for her bland and simplistic materiel like Dr. Seuss; no, not when there were Romans and indomitable Gauls. (True Fact: in the midst of our road-trip through Europe in the autumn of 1985, when I told her that we were about to cross over from Germany into France, which used to be called ‘Gaul’ she perked up and asked if we were going to meet any Indominable Gauls.)

During that wandering journey, she encountered other fans of Asterix; a German teenager in Baden-Baden, who alternated with the Daughter Unit in naming all the cast of reoccurring characters – Getafix the Druid, Vitalstatistix the chieftain, Cacofonix the Bard, Fullyautomatix the blacksmith, Geriatrix the tribe’s senior citizen, and Asterix’s canine pet Dogmatix. In a small town on the edge of the Morvan national park in central France, we walked by a community billboard where there were pictures posted of a recent parade – for Bastille Day, perhaps? Among them was a home-made float on a towed trailer, and an assortment of children and teenagers dressed as characters from the series on the float. The Daughter Unit, of course, recognized them right away. All across Europe, she spotted the series on sale (the covers are very distinctive) and asked for the issues that she hadn’t seen, and of course I had to confess that … I couldn’t buy her those particular volumes, since they were in Italian or French.

And that, my friends – is how the Daughter Unit learned to read. From the English translations of a French comic book series.