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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The tomato trees - just planted

The tomato trees – just planted

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

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

Apple Blossom - Early March

A single pink and white apple blossom

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

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

Pepper plants - grown from seed over winter

Pepper plants – grown from seed over winter

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

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

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

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

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

(OK – finally the last of the history post I started earlier this week. Things to do, places to, things to write about. I said I would have this second part on Friday, but … real world, you know?)

Towards the end of that day, May 6th, 1942, the road petered out. Stilwell abandoned the last of the trucks and the radio van – the radio set weighed 200 pounds alone. Last messages were sent, one advising General Brereton, in New Delhi that Stilwell and his party were on foot, heading for Homalin and then Imphal, and asking for them to be met at Homalin by resupply and medical aid. “Indian govt. should be warned rice, police, and doctors urgently needed by refugees on all routes to India from Burma. Large numbers on way. All control gone. Catastrophe quite possible. End.” Another, to the US War Department via Chunking, ended, “We are armed, have food and map and are on foot 50 miles west of Indaw … believe this is probably our last message for a while. Cheerio. Stilwell.”
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Some years ago, Blondie or I bought a Henry Watson Pottery bread crock at a local Tuesday Morning outlet; it’s a sturdy lidded terra cotta pottery container for bread, as it says on the side of it. I had bought a number of other Henry Watson Pottery items over the years, as they turned up here and there in the BX; there was a garlic jar, and one for onions with a wooden top, a container for sugar with a gasket-sealed top … just nice, attractive and sturdy storage containers. There was also a lasagna pan, much lamented when it broke, as it was glazed on the inside and was the perfect size for the stuff that I baked. Not just lasagna let it be known. With a small baking rack inside, it was perfect for baking a whole small chicken.
The pottery lid of the bread crock broke. It broke several times, the last time in so many pieces that it was not possible to piece it together, and so for some years it went lidless … not a satisfactory situation, really. Being newly annoyed by this in mid-January and having a little money ahead, I looked around on line for a replacement lid; alas, coming up empty. The crock is still manufactured, it appears, and once uponnatime, the Watson Pottery did have a replacement lid available, but no longer. There wasn’t even such to be found on E-bay. Well, never mind, thought I … I can find some wood discs of a size to fit at a hobby shop, glue them together, slap a wooden drawer pull on top, sand the whole assembly smooth, slap some stain and varnish on it and – hey, a functional lid!
Bread Crock with Turned LidNope. The inside diameter of the crock was about 7.25 inches, the outside 9.50, and nothing available in the various hobby shops, online or otherwise, came even close. Either to large or too small, and not having a woodworking lathe other than the tiny Dremel lathe that I bought ages ago to do miniature woodworking on … sigh. Wit’s end, until I remembered one of our neighbors. He does lovely custom woodwork in his garage, open to the street, as a hobby, lavishing the results on family. He lives in a rental, two houses up from us … and, yeah. I took the measurements to him; he fished out a three inch thick scrap round from his woodpile and after a couple of days, turned us a lovely lid, to exact specifications. Fits like a dream, looks better than the original lid!
For this exercise of skill and artistry, we traded a half-pint jar of home-made calamondin orange marmalade (made from the fruit of this odd ornamental that I bought years ago – it’s a native of the Philippines, and this was the first year that it actually bloomed and bore fruit) and a week’s worth of a dozen completely organic and totally free-range eggs, fresh from the chicken’s butts. Because … neighbors.
I thought on this, in hearing from another neighbor, who had a yard sale this weekend, because she and her husband are selling their house on a particularly quiet side street and moving. Their house sold in double quick time; according to their realtor, the particular zip code is a very “hot” one, and our neighborhood is particularly desirable. Not a surprise to us, really; it’s a quiet, and affordable neighborhood, close to schools, markets, gainful employment and military bases. Again, the affordable part; someone working a moderately well-paid job in this part of San Antonio would be able to purchase a house here without going broke on it or having to live on Top Ramen for thirty years. I managed the mortgage easily on an E-6 salary, and subsequently on the pension for same, although sometimes there were some dicey months. Some residents have amazing small gardens, kids play in front and back yards, people walk their dogs or run at all hours, decorate for holidays, know each other by sight well enough to wave. Nothing that will ever be on the Parade of Homes, in Architectural Digest or Country Living, or even, God help us, run the risk of becoming a historical district, unless in a hundred years, late 20th century residential developer becomes a significant aesthetic marker. (Although, seeing as the great and the good seem to prefer us all living in bare concrete stack-a-prole high-rises, perhaps a neighborhood like ours might very well become a suburban treasure. After all, Levittown has, in some appreciative circles.)
The eggs, by the way, are very popular and much appreciated by those neighbors that have received a selection of Carly and Maureen’s finest fresh-laid. After all, the girls lay them at the rate of one a day, most days, and we can’t possibly eat them at the rate of one each per day. We also hope that giving away the surplus will make those close neighbors feel more kindly towards Larry-Bird when he crows in the wee hours of the morning. As it happens, the closest neighbors rather like the sound of Larry and the girls, all having grown up in the country with chickens. It makes the neighborhood feel more home-like, I guess.
And everyone appreciated the Christmas fudge, as well. We distributed this years’ batch almost two months ago, and people are still telling us how very, very good it was. The goodwill is also repaid in kind – this weekend we have about two pounds of fresh homegrown Brussels sprouts from one of the keenest gardeners around – she has an allotment in a community garden, where she volunteers, which is fortunate for her yard isn’t any bigger than ours. And that’s how it goes, in a suburban neighborhood, where most everyone is willing to do the necessary, neighborly thing.

He was an abrasive man, as his nickname suggests – and had very little of soothing diplomacy in him. A soft-spoken and conciliatory manner might have served him better in the long run over the duration of his tour as the American commander of Chinese troops in Burma during WWII, but considering the dire situation there in March of 1942, perhaps irascible and decisive better served the immediate situation. A 1904 graduate of the US Military Academy, General Joseph Warren Stilwell had a particular talent for languages – to include blistering invective, written and spoken Chinese, field tactics and the training of soldiers. He had come to Burma to take charge of reorganizing the nationalist Chinese military forces there … just the Allied defense of South-east Asia crumbled under a vigorous Japanese offensive. The invasion of Burma was intended to cut off the land route which supplied China, blockaded along the coast by the Japanese. War materiel for China reached there only by ship via the Burmese port of Rangoon and thence by truck, traveling 700 miles over the Burma Road. This ran from Lashio to Kunming and Yunnan; a perilous track hacked out by hand labor through jungle and over steep mountains several years earlier.

The defense of Burma rested primarily on British, Commonwealth, and Chinese forces – all supplied with difficulty as the Japanese launched their great offensive in December, 1941. About the only thing that the fractious Allied command in Burma possessed in quantity was distrust, suspicion, and an awareness of impending defeat at the hands of triumphant Japanese pushing north along a line from Rangoon to Mandalay. Stilwell, nominally in command of the Chinese armies, was constantly back-bitten by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, who was reluctant to gamble troops and materiel, preferring to conserve them against future needs – fighting the Japanese in short term and Chinese Communists in the long. The Generalissimo also did not repose much trust in the British, either – suspecting them of imperialist designs on China. This was a distaste shared with Stilwell, although for a slightly different reason. Stilwell abhorred pomp, circumstance, military ritual, jazzy uniforms, many privileges of rank, and swagger sticks, in no particular order – some or all of which were delighted in by the British military establishment. (To be fair, some American officers delighted in them as well.)
Stilwell, who if anything was an active and hands-on commander, had two small field HQs – one at Lashio, and the other at a small town called Shwebo, just north of Mandalay – where Stilwell was when the commander of British forces in Burma, General Harold Alexander ordered evacuation of Burma. Allied defense of Burma had collapsed utterly; Alexander’s evacuation order was merely confirmation of the dire situation on the ground. British, Indian, Chinese, Burmese troops and civilians were already making a mad dash along any route leading to India and safety.

General Alexander had experience in military disaster and withdrawal, having covered, as a divisional commander in France in 1940, the evacuation of British forces at Dunkirk. Alexander had left on the last destroyer out of Dunkirk; Stilwell had much more strenuous plans. Even in defeat, and with a disinclination to pull rank for his own advantage, Stilwell had pull. An American transport aircraft arrived on May the 1st. Stilwell refused to get on it himself – he sent out fifteen members of his HQ staff instead, and set off north by truck and jeep, on a route which paralleled the railway between Mandalay and the strategic town of Myitkyina, where the airfield was still in operation. He started with a group of about eighty, with the intent of traveling by train to Myitkyina, evacuating all but a few by air and trying to rally the Chinese troops.
The railway turned out to be useless to them, blocked by damage to the rails beyond the power of Stilwell’s party to clear it. The best way of reaching India and safety, in Stilwell’s judgement, was to turn westerly, and head for the valley of the Chindwin River, and cross the mountains beyond on foot. This had the advantage of avoiding mobs of the defeated Allied troops and frantic civilian evacuees clogging the well-traveled routes out of Burma; the Japanese advance leap-frogging ahead … and with luck, would skim through before torrential rains of the seasonal monsoon. On the 5th of May, the general ordered several trucks of his convoy abandoned when they bogged down in a river ford. They carried on westwards toward the Chindwin with the remaining trucks, the lighter jeeps carrying the most critical supplies, and the radio van.

The party had grown since leaving Shwebo; by the morning of May 6th it was a multinational and civilian-military affair: nearly thirty US Army personnel – most of them officers of Stillwell’s staff, fifteen ragged British soldiers and fourteen Chinese, a volunteer medical unit commanded by Dr. Gordon Seagrave (the son of long-time American missionaries in Burma and fluent in the Karen language), including 19 Christian Burmese nurses, a small British Quaker ambulance unit, Jack Beldon, civilian correspondent for Time and Life Magazines, some native Burmese, Indian and Malayan cooks, and the Reverend Breedham Case, another missionary with extensive knowledge of upper Burma and the various dialects spoken there. One of the British officers, a Major Barton had also spent many years in up-country Burma. The knowledge of the country and languages possessed by those three – Major Barton, the Reverend Case, and Dr. Seagrave would prove invaluable to the party over the course of their long walk to India and safety.

(To be continued on Friday)

Taking pen in hand … or actually, the computer keyboard … to while away a few minutes of leisure between wrapping up today’s work. (Yes, I am a small business owner and independent author; weekends and holidays are normal working days for me, although those hours and days are of my own choice, which makes up for quite a lot. And also, the commute is short.)

I was working away on graphic adornments for the next book in the Luna City Chronicles, and an editing job which I had thought to finish by mid-month, but these things happen. Anyway, I was diverted upon coming out to start cooking supper, to note that Blondie is also working away on her own stuff for upcoming events; for aural wallpaper, she had an old TV show on streaming video as she works. She has been going through various old shows in recent weeks. Last week it was the original Thundercats, the week before that it was McGyver. But this week it’s The X-Files … a show which she finds nostalgically amusing, but which I began to find so repellant that I stopped watching after a certain point. Was it the episode with the murderously incestuous hillbilly clan with the armless, legless mother, or the one where an oh-so-secret US Army unit machine-gunned to death a whole group of human-alien hybrid offspring? Memory does not serve up an exact date at this point, but that was where I decided that The X-Files just was not my cuppa any longer. Not for dealing out spine-chilling bits of horror in weekly episodes – the creepy guy who could slither through AC ducts, the primitive humans living in the wilds of New Jersey, the life insurance salesman who could foresee the death of his potential clients … for sheer story-telling expertise and creepy thrills, right up there with The Twilight Zone, or Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Likely, The X-Files still is, among certain aficionados.

No, what I could no longer countenance by watching was the government/alien/political shenanigans plots; Cigarette-smoking Man, assassinations, and aliens and all, with the government massively covering up. That, I began to sense was encouraging a terribly unsavory mind-set among the terminally paranoid. It’s one thing to have all this spilled out in the wee hours on radio in Coast to Coast; quite another to have it on prime-time broadcast television. It was almost as if the show was deliberately encouraging and egging on the paranoid element – for ratings and pure sadistic amusement. And so we stopped watching it entirely. Now my daughter is entirely amused, shaking her head over how the show-runners seemed to find it credible that long-term projects undertaken by the military-industrial complex could be kept secret for years, or decades, given that nothing much will remain long a secret when people retire, leave service, and all. Eventually, they write books. Sometimes years later, or even just months. The military is an odd place – and nothing stays secret in it for long. Good story-telling is forever. Messing with the minds of the conspiracy-inclined is also forever, given how many viewers seem to believe that if it is on TV, then it is real.

And the next media imbroglio – that there are no actors/actresses of color in this years’ Oscar noms… and the chief complainant regarding that situation is a guy-an-spouse who live in a huge estate the size of which if you ran away from home, you could still be at home. This is on-par with Orca Winfrey going on a prolonged media whine about how a Swiss shop assistant demurred showing her a particularly ugly handbag which cost retail about as much as my pension yearly plus what I earn from the Tiny Publishing Bidness. I mean seriously, Will Smith – you want an award trophy for just like … showing up? I suppose the best riposte to this was in another comment thread, by a contributor who seems to be in the acting profession. It was to the effect that he would rather be known at the end of his career by the question, “Why did he never get an Oscar?” than the question, “Why DID he get an Oscar?”

Discuss, if you will, these relatively trivial matters.

10. January 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: European Disunion, Fun With Islam, Rant

An archaic term, in general; according to the wildly variable and sometimes suspect Wikipedia, it is a term taken from an even more archaic term for food for livestock. “Soldiers are the metaphorical food for enemy cannon fire.” Wikipedia defines the expression further as, “…an informal, derogatory term for combatants who are regarded … as expendable in the face of enemy fire … or to distinguish expendable low-grade or inexperienced combatants from supposedly more valuable veterans.”

Expendable is the operative word, and expendable without much regret on the part of the credentialed elite – the political, social or military elite – because the expected goal is considered worth the sacrifice, especially if the sacrifice is borne by others. Reading this week about the sexual violence reported – reluctantly in many cases by German media – as being perpetrated on a grand scale by recent Middle Eastern migrants masquerading as war refugees on women in German cities on this last New Years Eve gave me a sickening new understanding of the concept.

Indeed – here we have a transcendently generous, philanthropic goal; to provide sanctuary for the poor innocent refugee from wars’ alarms and horrors. It is a worthy goal, by the way – when genuine refugees are considered, and those providing sanctuary are quite firmly realistic about the situation and limitations. But authorities in Europe who made a great, enthusiastic show regarding welcoming Middle Eastern refugees all through last year now must accept – and accept they must, however reluctantly – that they have made their own women into sexual cannon fodder. They have enabled molestation, gang rape, robbery and massive harassment in their own streets … all so that the ruling elite might bask in the glow of their own self-righteousness. Well, done, Angela Merkel and the mayor of Cologne, and those media outlets who refused to make mention of the various incidents, which now appear to have been happening for months on a smaller scale.

However, Ms Merkel and the German ruling elite are hardly alone in selling out their citizenry to sexual exploitation for fear of being termed racist. Social workers and police looked the other way for decades in Rotherham, England … and our own very dear establishment media organs in the United States have downplayed criminal offences perpetuated by illegal aliens for years.
Cannon fodder, indeed. Discuss.

So, it is our plan, sometime in the next year or so, to remodel the kitchen of my little thirty-year old tract house, and do so on a D-I-Y and scrounge-based budget, utilizing finds, inherited items, severely marked-down elements, and the services of the detail-oriented local handyman-carpenter to gain a more efficient and attractive kitchen, with at least 35% more storage space, because … I cook, preserve and store, and have the equivalent of two floor-to-ceiling bookshelves of cookbooks. I’ve been in libraries which didn’t have as many cookbooks! But anyway – the existing kitchen is small – one of those U-shaped numbers, about 8 x 10, and adjacent to a dining area of similar dimensions, and all originally fitted out with extremely cheap base and wall cabinets, which among their myriad failings in quality and installation do not make use of the corners. Nope, the original contractor whanged in cabinets at right angles, and sealed in the corner void spaces, which wasted considerable storage capacity right from the very beginning.

Everything installed was cheap, construction-grade and likely supplied by the boxcar-load. It has always amused me that the cheapest possible light fittings from Lowe’s or Home Depot that I bought to replace the original stuff are still a hundred times better than the original. And the neighborhood was built by a reputable builder; the stuff put into the places build by the disreputable must be made from tinfoil, cardboard and soda straws.

The new kitchen in Chez Hayes will, of course, be built around the gargantuan side-by-side refrigerator-freezer, which we bought a little more than a year ago, and the vintage and practically mind-condition 1941-Model B Chambers stove which my daughter inherited from our dearly beloved business partner and founder of the Tiny Publishing Bidness. But … and this is a epic but several times the size of Kim Kardashian’s … the stove is gas, and for safety’s sake, must be gone over carefully by a qualified technician and installed by same, since it has doubtless been jostled, rattled, bounced and had connections loosened since being moved from the little house where it had originally been installed. And also – we need to have a gas line extended to the kitchen of the house. All this will cost: exactly how much, we do not know at this stage of the game.

In the mean time, the current electric stove – which was bought from the Scratch’n’Dent outlet in 2003 when the originally-installed electric stove gave up the ghost – has likewise given up and joined the electronic appliance choir eternal, instead of staggering on for a year or two until the Chambers was ready to be installed. And no – I just didn’t want to go and get a new electric stove just to use for only a year or so. We settled on a sort of temporary and sort of long-term fix: a good two-burner hotplate, and a small toaster/convection/rotisserie oven, resting on lengths of wire shelving installed in the empty space where the stove was. We’d considered some kind of stand or kitchen cart, at first – but nothing was quite the right size, and even 1/4th of an inch larger than the space for a 30” stove would not have fit at all. We still had a bag of end-brackets left over from fitting out the pantry with wire shelves, so it was the space of twenty minutes at Lowe’s and another hour at home with a drill and hammer. So far, it looks good; and offers a little extra shelf space for pots and pans, and the vacuum-sealer. I’m not using more than two burners at a time, and the little oven is just about the right size for the stuff that I’m usually baking, broiling or rotissering anyway.
And that was how we spent the week between Christmas and New Years…

01. January 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

It is that time of year again, isn’t it? To review the past year and look to the next, and make those personal resolutions and decisions; I’ve done a post on this subject several times in past years. I’ve made resolutions late in December or early in January and twelve months later, tallied them up. Usually the tallying up came out with a score overall of 75% achieved. Alas; the backyard is still not a bountiful truck garden and orchard of edibleness; nor are my books on any kind of best-seller list – nor even above five figures in the overall Amazon author rankings, a position which I reach intermittently and usually on the occasion of a new book being released or an Instapundit link.

In mid-December of 2014, I looked at the list I had made for 2013 on those things that I wanted to accomplish, taking stock on what I had managed to do and what I had left undone. Now on this New Years Day 2015, I am looking at what I did manage to complete from that original list, and examining those things to work on, and either accomplish, or to try harder on in 2015.

#1 – Books … During 2015 I had meant to complete The Golden Road for release in time for the Christmas markets in November; the adventures of a wide-eyed seventeen-year old Fredi Steinmetz in Gold-Rush era California. The good news is that I have ten chapters of it in rough draft … and the other good news is that in the last year I managed to complete two other books for Christmas-shopping-time season. I had an inspiration last January, after reading another writer’s post about the Harvey Girls; that book was done before Thanksgiving, and then the inspiration which stuck my daughter and I – to create a typical small South Texas town, and people it with characters sort of based on certain people, and a history – as well as a whole town layout – based on a handful of such towns known to us. Chronicles of Luna City was done – or at least, the first volume (yes, there will be more; the whole epic is more or less open-ended) at the eye-watering speed of about three months.

#2 – A vow to redouble the efforts for a lavishly-productive back-yard truck garden sufficient to provide all our fresh vegetable needs. Still a flat failure, although the output from the pole beans was pleasingly bountiful this year, at least. This will be a continuing goal, although on the plus side, the goal of a backyard farm has been augmented with the addition of the chickens, or as my daughter calls them, “the wup-wups” from the sound of the gentle clucking they made when they are satisfied with life but still feel chatty. Maureen and Carly regularly produce an egg a day (with occasional days of feeling off.) We haven’t had to purchase eggs in the supermarket since about mid-September.  Larry-Bird the rooster also serves as an avian alarm clock. It is apparently a coming thing to have backyard chickens, now. We are grateful that all of our nearest neighbors were raised in the country and rather like hearing the sound of the girls and Larry-Bird. There are (according to what I read in the neighborhood email group), some locals who acquired, or moved in with chickens, and the roosters of their flocks were not well-received. Especially at 5 AM.

#3 – Better track of readers and fans … Sigh. I had a marvelous bump-up in sales, due to the new releases and some enormously helpful links in strategic places, but seeing that the bump-up continues is one of those ongoing projects.

#4 – Management of existing business and recruitment of new clients at Watercress Press; this remains another ongoing work in progress. I have two clients, the completion of whose work has been dragging on, for various reasons for the last year. As regards their books, there is light at the end of the tunnel for certain of one, and just possibly for the other. Although as I keep saying pessimistically, “It may not be the light at the end of the tunnel – it might just be the headlight on the train coming towards us!” I completed a couple of projects for an old Watercress client, who is ecstatically pleased, and have a new editing client, and a number of repeat orders for new copies of books from past POD clients. Keeping the business going is a continuing goal.

#5 – Stockpiling staple foods; the pantry closet, the big standing freezer, and the long-term storage spaces are packed almost solid with staples, frozen and canned foods. Our goal for this year, is to continuously review what we have stashed, and ensure that we rotate and consume the stuff efficiently. Which reminds me – to start another batch of sauerkraut soon; we made grilled Reuben sandwiches for New Year’s Eve supper. Grocery sauerkraut just doesn’t have any flavor to it; might as well be eating watery and slightly salted celery, or iceberg lettuce.

#6 – The project for totally renovating the kitchen is somewhat closer on the horizon than it was last year at this time. The practically-pristine vintage stove which Blondie inherited will have to be made right, tight and safe for use, and we will have to ensure that a gas main is run out to the kitchen end of the house. That may prove somewhat expensive, but on the other hand, replacing the cabinets may be a bit more affordable, thanks to working with the neighborhood Handy-Guy.  Unfortunately, the kitchen reno project this year was derailed by extensive and expensive work needing to be done on Blondie’s SUV, and veterinarian bills for the late and much-beloved Calla-puppy.

And so there we are. I’ve left out the political stuff. Above my pay grade and anything might happen – and likely will, this coming election year. I have no control over that, other than voting in November – these resolves are just the stuff that I do have some control over.

The long pre-Christmas market marathon is finally complete – this last weekend was our last event, and possibly the most strenuous, involving as it did two days in Boerne (three, if you count set-up on Friday afternoon), with the pink pavilion and all the gear – the tables, display racks, two strings of Christmas lights and an extension cord – not to mention my books and my daughter’s origami earrings and bead bracelets. We have had a market event every weekend since early November, save for the weekend after Thanksgiving, so our state of exhaustion is nearly total. This was compounded (1) by both of us having caught (in sequence) a filthy cold/cough/flu and (2) a mid-week overnight trip to Brownsville to tend to the project of one of the Tiny Publishing Bidness’ clients. The client covered the costs of the hotel stay and gas, and treated us to a perfectly magnificent lunch at an Argentine steakhouse, so there is that. But my daughter felt perfectly awful for one week, and then the cold hit me on the return from Brownsville and I have been barely able to function ever since. Monday was the first day that I could really succumb to how awful I felt, and crawl into bed for much of the morning. Until some robocaller (curses be on their head this Christmas season, and all their stockings be filled with lumps of coal) on the cellie woke me up and set the doggles to barking about mid-afternoon.

Anyway – now that I am feeling slightly better – here’s a wrap-up of my observations of the holiday season. I avoided all malls, and big box stores, by the way. Our Black Friday shopping was all on-line, for items of quality (books and specialty foods, mostly) to be sent by mail to dear family members. I would not be surprised to learn that such is the case with many other shoppers this year. I would also not be surprised to learn that people are being very careful with their purses and credit cards, when it comes to Christmas shopping. I’ve been tracking sales of my own books at direct marketing holiday events since 2009, and there has been a definite dip in sales this year and in 2015 over previous years. I noticed also that sales deals offered via email with regard to Black Friday, and the week after have been extended, and extended again.

People seem quite defiant in the way they say “Merry Christmas!” to each other; not so much the carefully non-denominational “Happy Holidays.” No, it’s “Merry Christmas!” out loud and proud. And I have noticed that my neighbors have been particularly assiduous in decorating their houses and gardens with lights, inflatables and outsized Christmas ornaments this year … and in exchanging small gifts between neighbors. We gave small boxes of home made gourmet fudge to those whom we know best, and also to the mailman, local firehouse, the nearest police station, the guy who drives the garbage collection van, and the staff at the bank branch where we do business … and have received in return a wealth of thanks and good wishes, as well as a pound of home-smoked pork chops, a bottle of red wine and a pair of replica Indian arrows, fletched with buzzard feathers and tipped with points made from bits of sharpened deer antlers … yes, we have neighbors with interesting hobbies.

There is in the air, I sense, a determination to have a Merry Christmas in spite of it all … threatened riots in certain cities, the pall of terrorism and crime, of political turmoil, a worsening economic situation, and the smothering hand of political correctitude, a bright flame against the threatening darkness. Merry Christmas, indeed.

(And as a bonus – pictorial proof positive that Santa Claus is a winter Texan, spending the cold, dark months of the year in the Rio Grande Valley, soaking up sunshine, orange juice and good Mexican food. He was eating breakfast at the table next to us at the Marriott Residence Inn in Brownsville last week.)Breakfasting Santa

17. December 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

My daughter was nearly ten years old, in that Christmastime of 1990. I was stationed at Zaragoza AB, in the Ebro River Valley of Spain, which was serving as one of the staging bases in Europe for the build-up to the First Gulf War … the effort to liberate Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein seemed to believe that he had a perfect right to occupy, loot and exterminate those opposing him in that small matter. But this is not about that war, particularly – only as it affected those of us located far along the haft of the military spear towards the sharp and pointy end.

Zaragoza was a long-established US base in Spain by then – sufficiently long enough to have grown up a second generation of children born to American servicemen and their Spanish wives. It was sufficiently well-established to have a fairly modern on-base school, which housed the elementary classes in one wing, and the high school in the other. My daughter started there in kindergarten, the very week that we arrived, in 1985, to the day that we departed, six years later, when she started the sixth grade. It was a safe posting, especially considered after my previous assignment to Athens, Greece, where terrorism aimed at American personnel and at the base generally was accepted grimly as an ongoing part of life, like hurricanes along the southern coasts. One took every careful precaution and internalized certain practices against an irregular and specifically unpredictably-occurring threat. One of my daughter’s earliest memories is of watching me from the front step of the suburban Athens apartment where we lived then … kneeling down to look underneath my car, parked out in the street. I was, of course, looking for something explody-ish with trailing wires, where such a device ought to not be attached to the underside of the bright orange Volvo sedan that I had purchased from a fellow NCO upon arrival in Athens. (The Volvo had the temporary USG or US Forces Greece license plates on it, which branded the vehicle as being owned/driven by a member of the American military, and thus a likely target for anything from crude vandalism to a bomb.  Just one of those things; it was a relief to get to Spain, where the practice was for regular Spanish license plates to be placed on automobiles owned by American service personnel.)

Late in autumn of that year the build-up began. Zaragoza AB went on a war footing, which meant that duties and hours devoted to those duties doubled, or in some cases, tripled for all personnel. Bright new concertina wire went up, all along the base perimeter; one of my memories of that period was how weirdly beautiful it looked under a layer of winter frost  in the early morning – like sunshine brilliantly glittering on matte-finished silver.

Christmas was coming.  After that, New Year’s Day, and then the deadline for Saddam Hussein to give up Kuwait. We knew that, barring a miracle, he wouldn’t. And then War, sometime in those days of the first week. Inevitable. The dark grey storm cloud on the horizon, flickering with flashes of interior lightning, blotting out the horizon and moving inexorably closer. One was made aware of it in dozens of ways, as the minutes, hours, days ticked by – even as the prosaic routines went on. My daughter had school every day, I cooked a family supper every evening, read to her at bed-time, shopped for groceries at the commissary, pressed a fresh blue uniform shirt every morning, mailed out Christmas cards, bought and wrapped presents. Because Christmas. One holds on to as many shreds and shards of normality as one can, when it comes to children.

These last few weeks, I have been feeling the same foreboding that I did, that holiday season more than twenty years ago. My daughter and I have a full schedule of weekend holiday markets and events. When we were setting up for the first of them, on a Friday afternoon, we came home to the news about the Islamic massacre in Paris. This week, as we were getting ready for another, it was the Islamic massacre of local government employees in San Bernardino. Next week … who knows? I am fairly certain that there will be another atrocity perpetrated by Daesh fanatics over the coming holiday season. It will occur in a place and at a time where it will all come as a horrifying surprise to the victims of it, to our national leadership cadre and to our major news outlets. The latter two will, of course, be horribly inconvenienced by having to throw some thin shreds of career-saving rationale or justification excusing such an unexpected event. This I know, as surely as I saw the deadline for military action in the Gulf inch closer and closer.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

 

30. November 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, History, Old West

David Smith Terry was truly a man of his time and place – Texas and California in the early to mid-19th century. He possessed a large portion of the same intelligence, ambition, and physical courage which distinguished many of his contemporaries, as young men in tumultuous times. Alas, such qualities were offset by a pig-headed conviction of his own righteousness, a boiling-hot temper readily provoked to violence, and one more weakness, which would eventually prove fatal to David Smith Terry; he was all too ready to act on impulse without regard for consequence.
He was of a generation born into a relatively new country, with no memory of colonial rule by Britain, or the revolution itself, save perhaps for passed-down recollections of his maternal and paternal grandfathers, who had both fought in it with distinction. David S. Terry was the second of four sons of Clinton Terry and Sarah Smith Terry. The Terry marriage does not appear to have been a particularly successful one; they separated in 1835, when David Terry would have been about eight years old. Sarah Terry must have been a woman of spirit and determination, for she moved with her four sons to Texas in that same year, apparently hoping to retrieve some portion of respectability and income which had been lost through her husband’s mismanagement – mismanagement which must have been on a fairly epic scale to leave her in possession of their remaining property and custody of their sons. She and her sons established a plantation west of the present-day city of Houston, where they planted cotton and waited for prosperity to bless them once more. Instead, Sarah Terry died, shortly thereafter, leaving her sons – the oldest, Benjamin being fifteen, and David thirteen – essentially orphaned in the war and rebellion which followed.

David, large for his age and already impetuous, enlisted in Sam Houston’s army of Texans at Gonzales, following the fall of the Alamo. Reputedly, he fought at San Jacinto with considerable distinction. When Texas won a shaky independence by Houston’s victory, David S. Terry returned home to the cotton plantation – but not for long. He took up the study of law in the office of a relative by marriage, was admitted to the bar and practiced in Galveston for some years. He was described as a tall, handsome gentleman, solidly built, with steel-grey eyes under heavy brows, and sandy hair brushed back from a high forehead. He sported chin-whiskers but no mustache. Naturally rather reserved, he could be animated in conversation when the topic interested him, and very good company. He identified passionately as a man of Southern sympathies and as a Texan; to that end, he usually carried a sheathed hunting knife of the design made popular by Jim Bowie.

He went soldiering again, in the Mexican-American war, serving in Colonel Jack Hays’ regiment of Rangers. He participated in the battle before Monterrey, and upon returning to Galveston at the end of that war, became interested in politics. In 1847, he ran for the office of district attorney for Galveston and lost. This defeat may have been felt in a stinging fashion; two years later, he joined together with some of his Ranger comrades and followed the Gold Rush to California. He tried gold-mining for a brief time, didn’t care for the experience, (as did most men with a more readily-profitable trade who did not immediately strike it rich) and set up practicing as a lawyer again in Stockton, California. There he dabbled in running for local office, this time as mayor. Just as before, in Galveston, he was defeated, and thereafter for a time returned to the practice of law. He prospered sufficiently over the next few years that he could afford to return east and marry a distant cousin-by-marriage, a Miss Cornelia Runnels. She was educated, well-mannered; the perfect gentle Southern belle, twenty-three to her husband’s twenty-seven. She is supposed to have influenced him greatly, and as the decade progressed, David Smith Terry went from success to success. Sadly, of their six children – all sons – only three survived to adulthood; of those, one died as a teenager in a hunting accident and the other at the age of thirty or so.

As for David S. Terry’s professional prospects, in 1855 the laurels of high political office finally descended on his noble brow in the form of a position on the California Supreme Court. But controversy dogged his footsteps; in a tense interlude during San Francisco’s second bout of organized Vigilante activity, he lost his temper. He was not a supporter of the Vigilance Committee, which had been created by otherwise sober and law-abiding citizens in the wake of what appeared to be flagrant abuse of the law by elected and appointed authorities. Being one of those elected and appointed authorities – although personally incorruptible – Judge Terry did not approve of other parties interfering. An altercation ensued, when he and others who objected to amateurs taking the law into their own hands paid a visit on the Vigilance Committee. When a posse of Vigilance Committee members led by Sterling Hopkins attempted to arrest two members of Judge Terry’s group, Judge Terry most intemperately stabbed Hopkins in the throat with his Bowie knife. Arrested in turn himself, he must have had a nervous couple of days, waiting to hear if Sterling Hopkins’ wounds were mortal. Fortunately for both men – they were not. Alas, in coming years, Judge Terry’s temper remained as uncontrolled as ever.

The matter of slavery – whether it was to be allowed in prospective new states of the Union and under what conditions if any – roiled California every bit as deeply and violently as it did elsewhere. There, the established Democrat party in California split into pro and anti-slavery factions. Not entirely unexpectedly given his origins and background, Judge Terry was vociferously on the pro-slavery side. Given that, and his intemperate nature, he was bound to clash with the anti-slavery side, personalized by his former friend and now US Senator David C. Broderick. Inflammatory accusations were exchanged, deep offense was taken … and a formal duel agreed on by the aggrieved parties. On September 12, 1859, they met in a place which is now a city park, but which then was outside San Francisco’s city limits. Judge Terry won the coin toss, allowing him to select a set of dueling pistols … which had hair triggers. Supposedly, Senator Broderick was warned of this by the neutral party who examined the pistols – but as the two men squared off, Broderick’s pistol accidently discharged. This left Judge Terry to take his own sweet time in taking aim at Broderick.
Mortally wounded, Senator Broderick fell; he died three days later – a martyr to the anti-slavery cause. Judge Terry was charged, but acquitted. His career in public office – although not his profession as a lawyer – being pretty well trashed, in the eyes of indignant anti-slavery partisans and perhaps those who disapproved of dueling, or of a duelist taking savage and unsporting advantage of a hair-trigger misfire – remained relatively untarnished. He returned to that practice for a time, but on the outbreak of the Civil War, picked up his sometime occupation as a soldier, in which practice an affinity for dealing out sudden fatal violence was – if not more acceptable – conceded to be more generally useful.

Returning to Texas, he proceeded to join the Confederate Army – for which his older brother Benjamin had raised a swashbuckling cavalry regiment official known as the 8th Texas Cavalry, and popularly as Terry’s Texas Rangers, which served valiantly throughout the war in the west of the Appalachian theater. Benjamin Terry was killed in nearly their first skirmish, late in 1861, another Terry brother perished at Shiloh and David Terry was wounded at Chickamauga. He finished the war as a colonel, lay low for a time in Mexico, as did certain other die-hard Confederates … but in 1865, he returned to California and the practice of law as if nothing had ever happened. Time and experience appeared to have chastened him, or at least taught him to rein in the temper, for by the end of a decade after his return, he was a respected member of the California Constitutional Convention, revising the original state constitution.

And then, fate played the femme fatale card on David Terry, jurist, judge, colonel of cavalry and man of the world. He took on a client of the type usually termed as an ‘adventuress’ in the 19th century and a gold-digger in the early 20th, terms which usually hint at a degree of daring and amorality – a woman bent on playing high-stakes poker in the grand game of life. She was Sarah Althea Hill, an orphan of a respectable and prosperous family in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. In 1871, when she was twenty-one, Sarah Althea and her older brother came to San Francisco to live with relatives. Sarah, in the parlance of the time, was ‘fast’ and in the next decade, she burned through the inheritance from her parents of $20,000 dollars. (From modern calculations, this would have been anywhere from a quarter to over half a million.) Sometime around 1880, Sarah Althea made the acquaintance of a very, very rich man – William Sharon, a ‘49er, financier, silver-mine magnate, real-estate tycoon, hotelier, and for two terms, US Senator representing Nevada. He was at that time in his sixties, a widower … and as noted, filthy rich. They became attached, to which precise degree became a matter for spectacular and scandalous legal wrangling in various courts for the next five years.

Seriously, the courtroom antics would have made a spectacularly tacky real-world TV series, beginning when Sarah Althea Hall had William Sharon arrested on charges of adultery, and proceeded to sue him for divorce, demanding alimony and a generous share of his property due her as an aggrieved ex-spouse. The resulting legal wrangling enthralled the readers of tabloids across the nation. Sarah Althea insisted they had been secretly married and she had a signed contract to prove it – secrecy necessary because he was running for reelection at the time, and wished to keep it all quiet lest his other mistress hear about it and create an embarrassing scandal. William Sharon insisted, indignantly, that Sarah Althea had merely been his generously compensated mistress and any such contract alluding to a marriage between them was a forgery. After a year of bitter legal wrangling, a judge ruled in favor of Sarah Althea, declaring her to have been William Sharon’s legal wife, and to have a right to such of his wealth accumulated since their presumed marriage. Coincidentally, Cornelia Terry, David Terry’s long-suffering wife died at the same time.

The appeals and countersuits commenced immediately, continued by William Sharon’s son and son-in-law after his death a year after the judgement. Meanwhile, the presumed Mrs. Sharon married her now-widowed and very much older lawyer, and together they zestfully embarked on another round of legal hearings on whether William Sharon and Sarah Althea Hill had been truly and legally man and wife … only the next time, the circuit judge hearing the case – Associate Justice Stephen Johnson Field, of the US Supreme Court – appeared distinctly unsympathetic. Sarah Althea, in a breach of court etiquette, loudly accused Judge Field of having been “bought” by the Sharon interests in the case. A fracas ensued, with David Terry drawing his Bowie knife in her defense. Both Terrys scuffled with US marshals, were forcibly removed from the courtroom, arrested and slapped with jail sentences by Judge Field, who thereafter earned the bitter enmity of the pair. The threats against him by the Terrys were taken so seriously, that when next Judge Field ventured to California in the late summer of 1889, he was accompanied by a US marshal as his dedicated body-guard.
Whether it was coincidental or not, Judge Field and his body-guard, David Neagle, were traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco train, on August 14th, 1889. Coincidentally, the Terrys had also boarded that train, somewhere along the way. When the train stopped for breakfast at the station restaurant in Lathrop (a town a little south of Stockton), the Terrys discovered the presence of the judge … although perhaps not his bodyguard; a fatal omission, considering subsequent events. But given the hot and irrational tempers displayed throughout the lives of both David Terry and Sarah Althea, this was absolutely guaranteed not to end well or without bloodshed. David Terry approached Judge Field, peacefully eating breakfast, and without warning, slapped him across the face.

Marshal Neagle – who had previously been a town marshal and deputy sheriff in the rowdy municipality of Tombstone, Arizona, during it’s the wildest and most wooly stage – leapt to his feet and drew his own weapon as David Terry reached inside his own coat. Marshal Neagle shot David Terry twice – dropping the former judge dead in the middle of the railroad restaurant. So ended the life of a man who otherwise might have been better known for nobler things – save that he had a wicked and impulsive temper, and fell for a woman who had even more problems with violence and impulse-control than his own.

The post-script? There was a resulting US Supreme Court case, which decided that yes, the Attorney Genera of the US did have the authority to appoint US Marshals as bodyguards to Supreme Court Justices. Sarah Althea Hill (Sharon) Terry – who it might be inferred – had substantial mental health issues, was eventually confined to an institution, where she died of natural causes some forty years later. She was buried in the Terry family plot, in a cemetery in Stockton, California. A granddaughter of David S. Terry came forward and approved, at the time of her death.

24. November 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Local

This last weekend, I overheard two of the volunteers at the New Braunfels Weihnachtsmarkt commiserating on how the last two months of the year seem to go on rocket-powered skates. For them, the last two months of the year are spent sequentially at Wurstfest, early in November; at Weihnachtsmarkt in mid-November; Thanksgiving, which slaughters the last of the month, along with Christmas shopping in other venues firing up with a roar, then Christmas… This demolishes pretty much all of December, until one emerges in the New Year, exhausted, partied-out, gifted-out, volunteered-out, and with one’s checking account sobbing for mercy.

Fellow Texas indy author CM Bratton setting up in New Braunfels.

Fellow Texas indy author CM Bratton setting up in New Braunfels.

This is pretty much what Blondie and I will be doing, in support of my books and her origami and beading – and origami-plus-beading art – although we will have a short break over this week’s Thanksgiving break. This we will spend, sorting out the fence between ourselves and our neighbor to the immediate south, as the fence posts along that property line have disintegrated to the point where there is actually no connection at about soil-level between the concrete and the posts which supposedly uphold the fence. This is the stretch of fence that I replaced myself in about 2002 or 2003, over the Thanksgiving weekend, since the bulk trash pick-up in my fair city was conveniently scheduled for the week following …

Where was I? Oh, yes – the schedule and last weekend … they had decorated the hall through the Convention Center with seasonal arches, all lighted and seasonally adorned, and moved the Santa venue to one of the conference rooms adjacent to where I thought would be prime spot to have a table … alas, it would have only worked for someone having strictly children’s books of the ‘large picture and simple word’ style … although I did sell a set of Quivera Trail/Steel Roads to the energetically costumed couple who were doing St. Nicholas and Mrs. St. Nicholas for the entire weekend. I did OK with my books over the two days, but not so thick a traffic with the new releases as we had hoped. A number of sets of The Adelsverein Trilogy – which practically sold us out … but not so many of the new books as we had hoped, based on previous years. Blondie speculates that perhaps we have tapped-out the market in New Braunfels for a while.

So – on to the next events; Goliad with Christmas on the Square – which I love purely because that event is so small-town local. I’ve been coming back to it and back to it again; it’s a goodish drive, and on that one year that it was murderously cold, I didn’t sell a single book – but still. Much of the inspiration for Chronicles of Luna City came from stories that we heard there, or things we saw – like the lovely classic courthouse square. That will be Saturday, December 5th. Then, the following Sunday afternoon, it’s Chocolate and Santa at La Escondida Celebration Center in Helotes. The weekend after that – the 19th and 20th, back to Boerne Town Square for the Cowboy Christmas Market … and then we likely will collapse for the rest of the year, completely exhausted.

But then … I have to get cracking on finishing The Golden Road – the adventures of a wide-eyed teenaged Fredi Steinmetz in California during the gold rush. And more stories for another collection of Lone Star Sons, and yet more for Luna City.

Add me to a relatively short list of people on social media who are not making any particular gesture of sympathy and solidarity with the people of France who have been whammed for the second time in a year by the bloody-minded foot-soldiers of Islam. It’s not that I don’t care, and that I don’t feel the least shred of human sympathy for those people who went out for a drink and a good meal at a popular restaurant, a raucous rock concert, a soccer game, and then had their lives changed forever – if not ended entirely. It’s just that at this particular point in time, I am a bit tired of making easy feel-good, symbolic gestures about Islamic terrorism. Once you’ve made them … then, what for a follow-up?

I’ve so been to this rodeo before. 9-11. Beslan. The train bombings in Madrid. The bus bombings in London. The slaughter in the streets of Mumbai, and at the Boston Marathon finishing line. Westgate Mall. The murder of staff members of Charlie Hebdo, and the Jewish supermarket in Paris. Intifada without end in Israel. Und so weiter. I won’t even start on the list of bombings and slaughters across the Middle East; merely observe in passing that in those circumstances the usual Muslim suspects are slaughtering each other, rather than doing the business to outsiders.

The only thing more inevitable than the candle-light vigils, the moments of silence and the mounds of flowers piled up at the sites are the lamentations from the Muslim communities about the never-yet materialized anti-Muslim backlash. There comes a point where one gets tired of it all, of doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. There is a lack of seriousness about the problem of deliberate Islamic aggression in Western countries; an unwillingness to defend those values we have developed – sometimes painfully – over a long time; values such as freedom of speech and intellectual inquiry, a separation between the state and religion, a rule of law and not of the mob – one law, applied equally across class, race and sexual divides – and an unfettered press. This lack of serious intent is perhaps more marked in Western Europe, as it appears from various sources. The various no-go areas common to French metropolitan areas are not so firmly established in the US yet, and the mass sexual trafficking of vulnerable young women by Muslim men so recently demonstrated in places like Rotherham, England appears to have been landed on like a ton of bricks by civil authorities in the US. We are not – yet – being swamped by thousands of Middle Eastern faux-refugees arriving daily, as is happening in Germany.

But Beslan, Mumbai, Westgate, Charlie Hebdo … it will happen here, and probably sooner than later. Not all the candle-light vigils, moments of silence, and sorrowful hashtags and logos will prevent it. Only determination on the part of individuals and our leaders to do the difficult, the harsh and the necessary will do that.

This was a lovely and profitable Saturday in Bulverde, where we had a table (actually a pair of tables facing in opposite directions in the center of one of the exhibit halls in the Community Center) for the first event on our season of book and craft market events. This is the first on our schedule for this season, which will see us on most weekends until Christmas. Last year at this event was … eh, not very promising at all, but this time around – yes. My daughter had a nice round of sales for her origami-based and bead-weaving based adornments, which she had at a fairly reasonable and appealing price.

The sad thing was – we went up to Bulverde late Saturday afternoon to set up, since her stock in trade is kind of finicky to put on display, we spent a while at it – and returned home and to internet access to hear all about the Moslem terrorist strikes in Paris. Yes, I said it – Moslem Terrorists. Terrorists – deal with it. In the 1980s, I lived with the possibilities of anti-American terrorism in Greece – around the corner always; assassinations, explosions, sudden random gunfire, sabotage and all that. These are on the schedule to be happening here, apparently, if the loonies of ISIS/ISIL are to be believed. Whether they can pull off something like that here in Texas … well, it didn’t end at all well for the pair of Moslem loonies who tried to shoot up the Draw Mohammed contest in Garland. They didn’t make it past security at the pull-in for the parking lot. Never assume that you will out-gun the locals at an art show in Texas.

The show itself proved to be a pretty good day for us both; I suspect that my daughter has now shown up at enough of these local shows to attract repeat attention. Her origami earrings and beaded bracelets are original, and rather reasonably priced … a perfect, inexpensive, original and charming gift, something that a teenager can afford to purchase with pocket money. This was also my first outing with print copies of Sunset and Steel Rails, which went also very well. So did Quivera Trail, saleswise. Here is hoping that this particular event is a good omen for the next few. We have added an event the second weekend in December in Helotes, which will be a new one for both of us. Next Friday and Saturday, I’ll be bringing more copies of Sunset & Steel Rails, and the first shipment of Chronicles of Luna City to the New Braunfels Convention Center – so, hope to see you there.