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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Discuss, if you can bear it.

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

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

12. July 2017 · 3 comments · Categories: Domestic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calla-Puppy; the model for Dog

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

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

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

Spike – the original inspiration for Mouse

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discuss, if you can bear it.

01. July 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

Strictly speaking, it isn’t quite mid-summer, but half the year is gone with the end of June, and the sweltering heat of summer descended upon Texas – a heat predicted confidently to last until September at the earliest and into late October at the latest… (although in one ghastly year, it didn’t cool down sufficiently to open the windows and turn off the AC until mid-November) so where was I with this thought? Oh, yeah … planning out the schedule of events for the rest of the year, trying to keep what there is in my garden from perishing in the dire heat, the three Barred Rock chickens from pecking the littlest of the Bantam Wyandottes to death, the dogs in fine fettle, the house in a mostly-clean condition – or a condition which will not unduly alarm the Health Department – various projects for pay for the Tiny Publishing Bidness (which projects uphold my household economy) and oh, yeah … my own writing.

Of which I could not do anything yesterday – being that my pension payment was deposited in the bank, which meant that I could go and do the monthly stocking-up of the cupboard-freezer-supply closet on Friday, rather than today, the calendar first of the month. I frankly would rather have done all of this early on a Friday, and beat the madness of crowds on a weekend, and even more the weekend of a mega-holiday weekend. Especially at Granzin’s Meat Market, which is strategically located on a back road to a major local recreational destination … and therefore, there will be holiday-makers stocking up on food-stuffs for the holiday, as well as canny local shoppers like myself. Yes, it was busier than usual on a Friday morning – but the madness will truly descend on Saturday. And also at Costco, and the branch of the HEB chain which is in the relatively rich part of town and therefore which has a better and wider selection of certain preferred brand staples than that in my own local store. Yes, the HEB chain has a fine judgement on stocking neighborhood branches down to a fine science. I call it the Olive Oil Variant: that is, so many thousand in average income before taxes is correlated to the number of brands of olive oil on the shelves in the outlet. Thus – higher the average income, the greater number of brands available.

So – the first of the month shopping circuit; Costco (and/or Sam’s Club, depending) Granzins’, Tractor Supply, Trader Joe’s, and the Super-HEB, with perhaps a stop at Tuesday Morning if required. We have worked out where to get the best prices on various staples, you see – which makes a circuit of about 45 miles, takes three-quarters of a day – but sets us up for a month or more on things like pet food (cat, dog, chicken, and the wild bird freeloaders), meats, frozen and canned goods, household detergents and paper goods … all of which fill the trunk of my car or the back of my daughter’s Montero. We start with an empty Igloo cooler, and finish up with the vehicle piled high; some of the preferred pet supplies come in 35 to 60 pound bags. Which then must be hauled into the house, or to the shed, and then the various meats must be parted out and sealed for the freezer … so yes – one very long day. But I got it all wrapped up in a mere four hours, which means that my weekend is clear for more amusing things.

26. June 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Air Navy, History, Old West

Edward Fitzgerald “Ned” Beale was a prominent 19th century hero, a celebrity, almost; a military officer, war hero, notable horseman and explorer, hero of the western frontier, good friend of several other notable frontiersmen, friend of one president, and appointed to offices of responsibility by four others – and those offices varied quite widely in scope. He was also a champion of the Native American tribes, prominent in Washington high society for decades, and seemed to lurk meaningfully in the background of key historical events at mid-19th century. Curiously, his name doesn’t readily spring to mind more than a hundred years after his death; the most prominent places bearing his name being Beale Street in San Francisco, and Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville in north-central California. One would think for all his various services to the nation and for his vast array of prominent and still-famous friends that he would be more of a household name. Perhaps he was for a while – but four decades or more of politically-correct restructuring of American history have elevated some, and reduced others to mere footnotes in dusty journals.

Beale as a young midshipman

Beale as a young midshipman

Ned Beale was born in 1822, in Washington D.C. – the capitol of a nation barely half-a-century old, to parents with connections to the American Navy. His father was a paymaster for the service, his mother the daughter of one of the first six commanders appointed by President Washington to head the new US Navy. So, it was only natural, when after the death of his father, Ned Beale was appointed to the Naval School in Philadelphia, a precursor to Annapolis. Upon graduation from the school in 1842, he was commissioned as a midshipman, and made voyages to the Indies, South America, and Russia. Three years later he was assigned to the Pacific Squadron, the command of Robert Stockton; an able and trusted officer, who had – as Beale himself would later have in his own career – the trust of presidents, and the friendship of the influential. Beale served as Stockton’s aide and private secretary; they were part of the American delegation to Texas when the Texas Congress formally accepted annexation to the United States.

Beale’s next assignment for Stockton was – not to put too fine a point on it – a spy, ordered to conceal his nationality and sail on a Danish ship to England, to suss out British feelings and possible war preparations over the contentious matter of the Oregon boundary. Barely having completed that assignment and reported his findings to President Polk, Beale was sent off hotfoot with dispatches to rejoin Captain Stockton, whose flagship happened to be in Peru at that moment. This necessitated that Beale make the journey by sea to Panama, cross the Isthmus and make his way to Peru – all this a kind of 19th century precursor to Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Stocktons’ ship detoured to Hawaii, and arrived in harbor at Monterey, California in July, 1846. War between the United States and Mexico had already begun. The Pacific Squadron’s orders, in that eventuality, were to seize those ports along the Pacific coast – especially those in California. Stockton set about doing so with zeal and efficiency. Ned Beale was detached to serve with a US Army column which had come at speed overland from Fort Scott on the Missouri-Mississippi under the command of General Stephen Kearny. Briefly pausing to take Santa Fe, and New Mexico for the US, Kearney’s advanced column – guided by Kit Carson — arrived in California out of breath and weakened after a marathon march of 2,000 miles across country. Kearney’s advance party, augmented with sailors and Marines from the Pacific Squadron clashed with Californio-Mexican volunteers and Mexican presidial cavalry at San Pasqual, near San Diego. Both sides claimed a victory – although Kearney’s force suffered the heavier losses, they eventually took San Diego, and Ned Beale was one of the heroes. Two months after the San Pasqual fight, he was sent east with dispatches. Over the next two years, he made six cross-continental journeys on official business; one of them in disguise to make a short-cut through Mexico to bring irrefutable proof of the tremendous gold strike in the California foothills at Coloma to the federal government. Amid these expeditions, he found the time and energy to marry; the daughter of a politician from Pennsylvania, Mary Edwards, and sire three children with her.

Beale resigned his naval commission in 1851, but in no way was he done with the far west, or assignments of great import to the federal government. He returned briefly to California, to manage properties owned there by his mentor, Commodore Stockton. On his way west, he squeezed in a spot of surveying for a transcontinental rail line through present-day Colorado to Los Angeles. Two years later, he was appointed superintendent of Indian affairs in California and Nevada. Thereafter Ned Beale spent a hectic decade exploring and surveying the west, establishing a wagon road between Fort Defiance, New Mexico to a point on the Colorado River between Arizona and California – the initial phase of this project involved another project of interest to the Army – the Camel Corps. He proved to be a champion of camels in the far west; when the Camel Corps was formally disbanded at the end of the Civil War, Beale purchased some of the surplus camels and kept them at his vast California ranch property. The camels also served in a later Beale expedition to extend the road from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to the Colorado River. That same route was later followed by the Santa Fe railway, US Route 66 and the present day I-40.

In 1871, Ned Beale purchased a mansion in Washington, DC – Decatur House, notable for being almost next-door to the White House, and entertained a wide variety of guests there over the following years – guests including U. S. Grant, and prominent members of his administration. He spent one year as ambassador to Austria-Hungary, and made as much of a social splash in Vienna as he had in Washington. Doubt less his experiences on the far-west frontier – which by that point was almost legendary – coupled with his considerable diplomatic skills and ability to earn the trust of important people had a lot to do with that success.

His final years were spent between Decatur House, the California ranch, and a horse farm called Ash Hill, close to Washington. He died at Decatur House in 1893, a few years shy of the twentieth century. Sailor, soldier, spy, surveyor, explorer, diplomat, rancher, man about town – and a fine judge of horseflesh. Not many men of his time could quite equal that resume in every particular.
(Ned Beale is set to appear as a character in the next Lone Star Sons book – Lone Star Glory, which I hope to bring out by November, 2017.)

Along about the time that I started blogging … no, even well before that point, I was well-aware that there were personalities who could say and do flamingly stupid and insulting things on the public stage, and some would take no permanent career harm from having done so. Jane Fonda, for example, went on having a career for decades after getting the nick “Hanoi Jane” for her anti-war antics in the 1960s. Other personalities – equally prominent, having said and done things just as injudicious – appeared to walk away unscathed. It seemed to be a given that some public personalities were basically Teflon; as it would become even more obvious in the last decade, they had something that I call – for lack of a better term – douchbag privilege. Generally speaking, the lefty-intellectual-media lot – like the Kennedys, the Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton brand of racial activists, and jerks like Michael Moore had douchbag privilege, whereas those of the other persuasion didn’t. More »

13. June 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Luna

All righty, then – Luna City IV is fairly launched – although at present I believe that more copies of the ebook version have sold than the print version. There are already a handful of reviews, two of which (so far) plaintively complain that we are writing too slowly, and when is the next installment due for release?

Well – in this best of all possible worlds, we could (and have!) turned out a Luna City book in six months, but honestly, I hate to rush things that much. And I have another book – the next Lone Star Sons to finish in time for release at the Christmas shopping season markets. The next Luna City could be out in early next spring, or as late as June 2018. We do have the general story arc worked out, but the actual writing takes time, and these things are like a good cheese or fine wine. They have to mellow a bit, before being released for consumption by the public. Besides, there are other books to be worked on as well. Although I will reveal who is on the phone with Kate Heisel in the last scene; it’s one of her news contacts, but that bad news that she has for Richard will be revealed in the next book – A Fifth of Luna City. (There are a couple of clues as to what that bad news might be, in some of the intervals, if readers want to put two and two together.) And yes, every one of the Luna City books will end on a cliffhanger.

03. June 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: European Disunion

Yeah – this has gotten to the point where we can make sick jokes about it all.

Just when I start to think that the fans of Hillary Clinton and her minions in the national establishment are calming the heck down, after the unexpected shellacking at the polls by Donald Trump of Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua … nope, the insane is being cranked up to twelve – that is two more above ten. (Obligatory Spinal Tap reference there.) And the inmates of certain college campi are running the insanity all the way up to thirteen or fourteen, as witness the furious activists at Evergreen University, in Olympia, Washington State. They are bent out of shape over the usual crap that student activists are usually bent out of shape over – but in this case, the frosting on the cake is a video of a raucous demonstration by student activists making their demands, and generally acting like spoiled three-year-olds throwing a screaming tantrum. The video is linked here -And the students take? “We demand that the video created for Day of Absence and Day of Presence that was stolen by white supremacists and edited to expose and ridicule the students and staff be taken down by the administration by this Friday.” Sorry, kids – the internet is forever. Don’t want to be ridiculed by strangers who don’t give a damn for your sensitive little egos? Don’t do ridiculous things.

Ridiculous things like … oh, I don’t know – pose for an elaborate video shoot with a blood-soaked fake head of Donald Trump, especially if you are a pathetically unfunny failed comedian like Kathy Griffin. In whom, like the Kardashians, I am fabulously disinterested but such is theirs and Kathy Griffin’s unseemly lust for public attention that I can’t help knowing about them anyway, much as I would wish otherwise. At this point, it looks like this tasteless stunt as cost Ms Griffin a gig with CNN on New Years Eve – story here. I imagine that the suits at CNN are counting up the numbers and calculating how many more viewers they can lose if they really put their backs into it.

And speaking of media figures taking their lumps – last week we had the interesting spectacle of one Greg Gianforte, running for a congressional seat in Montana, charged with roughing up a reporter for England’s Guardian newspaper. Gianforte won the contest anyway, leading observers like myself to wonder if he did any damage to his campaign at all. After all – who hasn’t wanted to slap the cr*p out of a rude and obstreperous reporter now and again? This could get very popular, if incorporated onto White House press briefings. Sean Spicer could draw a name from a hat at the start of every briefing, and punch out the selected reporter. We could call it “Beat the Press.”

And finally – the latest to surface in the cacophony of crazy is the demand by a group calling themselves “Texas Antifa” to remove a prominent statue of Sam Houston from Houston’s Herman Park, on the grounds that Houston was a slave owner. Doubtless, Texas Antifa is trying to hop aboard the movement to banish statues of Confederate leaders and soldiers from public spaces across the old South and garner some of that sweet, creamy media attention … either that, or someone – either on the right or left – is doing an epic troll. While Sam Houston did own slaves (about a dozen, some of whom were purchased so as to keep a family together, or so sayeth one of the biographies I have read) he was emphatically against the expansion of slavery to the Western territories, against secession from the United States and resigned his office as governor rather than take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. In any case, Texas Antifa has called for a rally on June 10th. At the very least, this event may draw more supporters of keeping the statue where it has been since 1925. I’m no particular judge of prog-speak: Texas Antifa’s Book of Face page is here. Read for yourself and decide – for realsies lefty, stark raving nuts, or clever parody?
Discuss, if you can bear it.

This short has been around for a bit – but still..

(That’s a phrase from the Vietnam War era military, BTW.)

Another day, another mass-killing, inspired by fundamentalist Islam, and perpetuated by a killer prepared to explode himself with a bomb packed with ball-bearings, or nails, chunks of scrap metal, whatever … as long as he or she takes a bunch of infidels with him, thereby to enjoy eternity in the endless whorehouse that is the Islamic version of paradise. Another Bataclan, another Pulse nightclub, another Fort Hood, another San Bernardino, another Boston Marathon. Sometimes the program is varied with guns and plenty of ammunition. But mostly – bombs, calculated to splatter as much human flesh as far as possible. And there is another round of faces of the dead, the bloodied limbs of the injured, splashed over the internet and newspaper pages. Another round of flowers and candles and teddy bears piled up in impromptu memorials, another moment of silence, of services where members of the prominent ruling class assume somber expressions, the inevitable hash-tag and Book of Face filter (where one expresses sympathy and solidarity on the cheap on ones’ page). And the inevitable footnote – where an assortment of media personalities and a selection of plummy-voiced representatives express pious dismay regarding the inevitable anti-Muslim backlash and claim that Islam is a religion of peace. (At this point, I suspect said representatives have their fingers crossed behind their backs, such is the degree of cynicism to which I have sunk since September 11, 2001.) More »

Elsie the Contented Cow was created in 1936 first as a cartoon corporate logo for the Borden food products line; a little brown Jersey cow with a daisy-chain necklace and a charming anthropomorphic smile. Three years later, a live cow was purchased from a dairy farm in Connecticut to demonstrate (along with several other likely heifers) the Borden Dairy Company-invented rotary milking parlor – the dairy barn of the future! in the Borden exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair. The live Elsie, originally named You’ll Do Lobelia (no, I did not make up this bit) came about because an overwhelming number of visitors to the exhibit kept asking which of the demo-cows was Elsie. Of the cows in the show, You’ll Do Lobelia was, the keeper and administrator of the dairy barn agreed – the most charming and personable of the demonstration cows, especially for a generation of Americans who had moved on from a life of rural agriculture and likely never laid eyes on a real, live cow. So, Lobelia/Elsie was drafted into service for commercial interest (much as young American males were being drafted at about the same time for military service). Elsie, her assorted offspring, spouse (Elmer the Bull – the corporate face of Elmer’s Glue) and her successors continued as the public face, as it were – for the Borden Dairy Company, appearing in a movie, even – and the Macy’s department store window, where she gave birth to one of her calves. Her countenance adorns the labels of Eagle Brand condensed milk to this day.

But what – one might reasonably ask – has Elsie the Cow have to do with the Alamo?

There were cows in the Alamo – or at least, at the start of the 1836 siege. William Travis’ open letter from the Alamo, written as Santa Anna’s army invested the hastily-fortified old mission on the outskirts of San Antonio, included a hasty scribbled post-script. “The Lord is on our side—When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.” A facsimile of the letter – a plea for immediate assistance – was printed at once, and published by the two major Texas newspapers of the time: the Texas Republican, and the Telegraph and Texas Register.
The Telegraph and Texas Register was owned by a partnership; a long-time settler in San Felipe de Austin named Joseph Baker, and a pair of brothers, originally from New York – John Petit Borden and Gail Borden, who served as editor, although his previous profession had been as surveyor and schoolteacher. Baker and the Bordens published their first issue almost the minute that revolution broke out in Texas, with the “Come and Take It” fight at Gonzales in late autumn, and subsequent issues of the Register covered the various issues and controversies in the mad scramble that was the Texas Revolution. And scramble meant literally – for by early spring, the Telegraph was the only functioning newspaper in Texas. John Borden left to join the fledgling Texas Army, and a third brother, Thomas, took his place in the partnership. On March 30th, the Borden brothers and their partner disassembled their press and evacuated San Felipe with the Texian rear guard, a short distance ahead of the advancing Mexican Army. They set up the press in Harrisburg two weeks later, and just as they were about to go to press with new issue – the Mexican Army caught up to them. The soldiers threw the press and type into the nearest bayou and arrested the publishers. Fortunately, the Bordens did not remain long in durance vile, for in another week, Sam Houston’s rag-tag army finally prevailed.

Gail Borden was still raring to go in the newspaper business, and mortgaged his Texas lands to buy a replacement press. The Telegraph resumed publication in late 1836, first in Columbia, and then in Houston – but on a shoe-string. The Borden brothers had sold their interest in the newspaper by the following year, and Gail Borden moved into politics, serving as Collector of Customs at Galveston, and from there into real estate, before developing an interest in – of all things, food preservation. His first essay was a sort of long-lasting dehydrated beef product, called a “meat biscuit”. The product won a prize at the 1851 London World’s Fair, and proved to be popular with travelers heading to California for the Gold Rush, and with Arctic explorers – but the US Army – which Borden had been counting on for a contract to supply meat biscuits – was not enthused, which left Gail Borden casting around for another likely product. There was a great concern at the time with the contamination of milk, especially in cities, especially since diseased cows could pass on a fatal ailment in their milk.
It took Gail Borden three years of experimenting, developing a vacuum process to condense fresh milk so that it could be canned and preserved. After a couple of rocky years, Gail Borden met by chance with an angel investor, who saw the utility of Borden’s process, and had the funds to back an enterprise called The New York Condensed Milk Company. Although Borden developed processes to condense fruit juices and other food products, milk was and continued to be their best-seller, especially when the Civil War broke out, and demand for the product rocketed into the stratosphere. By the time that he died, in 1874 – back in Texas and in a town named Borden, after him – no one could deny that he had not been wildly successful as an inventor and innovator.
In 1899, the New York Condensed Milk Company formally changed its name to the Borden Condensed Milk Company, to honor their founder. (There have been a number of rejiggering of company names since – currently the Elsie logo appears on the Eagle brand of condensed milk, through corporate machinations too convoluted to explain here, if anyone even would be interested.)
And that, people, is how Elsie the Contented Cow is connected to the Alamo.

Unaccustomed as I am now, or have any need to casually or professionally involved in the sewer that broadcast television has become in the last decade or two, I still manage to find out about some of the most egregious and offensive violations of good taste, good sense, and good manners, thanks to the internet – like Stephen Colbert’s tasteless and degrading monologue regarding President Trump more than a week ago. There are plenty of viewers and listeners who, like me, are of a conservative-slash-libertarian inclination, and unlike me – do still watch mainstream broadcast news and entertainment. They do take note of these offenses, and post, tweet and comment about them. Since the election of Donald Trump – against all expectations – to the high office of president, an astonishingly large number of public personalities have gone and continue to go stark raving nuts.

People in the entertainment business seem to be worse-affected, although a couple of Democratic Party politicians like Maxine Waters come close. While Maxine Waters’ unhinged blatherings should only be a matter of concern for those fools in her district who repeatedly return her to national office … the equally unhinged blatherings of figures who for some reason have a pulpit in the world of popular entertainment are somewhat more worrisome. Like the aforementioned Colbert, who is alleged to be a comedian. Honestly, I can’t judge whether he is or not a comedian, since I haven’t watched an episode of the Late Show in a dog’s age – but his unsavory blast of commentary which has ruffled feathers in my conservo-libertarian corner of the blogosphere has left the commetariant decidedly unamused.

So – Steven Colbert’s monologue has drawn some comment here and there. No, I don’t think that he will be fired for it; a slap on the wrist from the FCC may be about the most penalty that he will suffer. He is, after all, one of those anointed and set into a place in the high firmament of big media entertainment, an establishment which will roll over and go hard-left, rather than admit that … oh, hey -they have insulted, alienated, and pissed off at least half of their audience, the consumers of their product. Obviously, it must more important to entertainers like Colbert to go along with the popular crowd in demonstrations of contempt for Trump and those who voted for him. Which brings me to the aspect of this which I find to be the most depressing – the motivation for these displays of contempt … no, not only contempt, but outright hatred. The anger and frustration, boiling over. Those of us who voted Trump (often with reluctance and reservation) did not obey the instructions of the elite, and this willful disobedience on our part has maddened them beyond all beyond normal conventions of civility and rational thought. They are choking on their rage and hatred. And so it spills out in a tidal wave like Colbert’s infamous monologue.
Discuss

02. May 2017 · 2 comments · Categories: Domestic

Since the regular oven died the death a couple of years ago, we have been using a countertop version with a convection and rotisserie option – which functions I have to say come in quite handy. It will be a while until we can have the Chambers stove renovated and checked for safety issues, since it is a gas model, and have the kitchen renovated to accommodate it. In the mean time, in between time – the countertop model gets a good workout. I confess that I don’t really miss a full-size oven, save when it comes to baking a pizza larger than about twelve inches. But since my daughter is in California helping with extended family matters for another few months … it’s not like I need a big pizza for supper anyway.

I have been giving the rotisserie function a workout whenever I have a whole fryer chicken from Granzins’ and a hankering for various meals using leftover rotisserie chicken. (There are numerous recipes for this ingredient, besides using it in crepes, and for chicken salad.) There are several tricks to getting a well-rotisseried chicken from this little oven – and one of the first is to stuff a whole lemon into the body cavity, and ram the skewer through it. The second is to use cooking string, or silicone ties; one around the drumsticks to secure them to the rotating skewer, and another to keep the wings tight to the body of the chicken. As the chicken cooks, it softens … and begins to flop all over the place. The lemon and the ties keep it all neat and compact as it cooks.

With this chicken, I got adventurous: I had a whole small orange with no particular purpose in mind for it – so that was what I used instead of a lemon. But I marinated the chicken for most of a day in a zip-lock bag, in about a quarter of a cup of lemon juice and a teaspoon of Adams Extract Citrus Siracha spice blend. Yes – the Adams Extract series of spices are another one of our local Texas industries branching out. Small-to-medium sized business, experimenting with bold flavors, rather like Fischer and Weiser with their sauces and jams. Both these brands are carried by the regional HEB chain – and both are absolutely freaking marvelous. One of the big HEB outlets has a food demo counter, where we first sampled some foods cooked with Adams Extract spice mixtures. Once a year, they have a BOGO sale at the HEB. As the regular selling price is not … well, this is not cheap stuff, let me tell you. But even so, they are worth it! But the BOGO event was not to be missed – so a bottle of one spice rub mix that we love and were running short of, and one … that I took a chance on; Citrus Siracha.

Once marinated, I took the chicken out of the plastic bag, dried it off, rubbed another teaspoon of Citrus Siracha on it, moistened with a bit of olive oil, and set it to rotisserie for two to three hours at 350. I could have used more Citrus Siracha – up to the tablespoon, I think, but I didn’t want to take a chance on making it unbearably hot the first time out. But it came out perfect; so tender it about fell off the bone, the skin crispy and mildly spicy. Tonight – chicken fajitas with some of the cooked meat, and tomorrow … who knows?

30. April 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Military, War

Or as another Open Saloner called it, some years ago, “The semi-annual national unity game of chicken”; that is the ostentation round of saber-rattling which has been played by North Korea every six months or so since … since the armistice which divided the Norks from the Sorks about the time that I was born. I wrote in 2013;

“The Norks do this every six months, usually when they want to squeeze some concessions out of the outside world. It’s like an overgrown toddler throwing an international temper tantrum. Likely, all of his generals (or uncles, even the generals who are not his uncles) have to go along and make the usual noises and poses for the cameras, in spite of the fact that for all their resplendent ribbon-salad displays – they have not fought an all-out, balls-to-the wall war since 1954. Which war was nearly sixty years and three wars ago, as Americans are counting it, which means that their equipment must be getting pretty worn-out as well as their tactical schemes and field practice for using them – outside the boundaries of a pretty tightly-controlled war game which will allow no margin for making the Kim dynasty’s pet soldiers look bad in any way, shape or form … while they might have been able to buy some new stuff on the international black market – which hints that those drug sales by their diplomatic staff must really be paying off, big-time, and they might actually be able to hit what they might be aiming at, on a good day, depending on what they have purchased, and if their vendors didn’t rob them blind, and if the Chinese actually gave them some of the good stuff … I do believe they can hit Seoul on a good day with their artillery, and kidnap lonely strangers off the beachfront towns in Japan in the wee hours, and possibly come close to hitting Japan with something high-explosive … whacking the continental United States with a ballistic missile is a bit of a chancy prospect.”

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29. April 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic


So, I have been a little … absent from the blogs for the last week or two. There are only so many hours to the day, and I have been caught up in finishing Luna City IV, for publication at mid-May, formally to be launched at the Wimberley Book Festival on the second Saturday in June. Which book is actually a little ahead of schedule; I had thought it would be completed in another month, so I am running ahead of the self-imposed schedule – even with a couple of Tiny Publishing Bidness projects to spend time upon.
This will give me a head start on the sequel to Lone Star Sons, which I hope to have done in time for the Christmas marketing season. Rather like I had hoped for The Golden Road, only what with one thing and another, that particular book missed all but one day of the Christmas marketing season and that one day was a bloody, cold, wind-whipped disaster. Plus, in that wind-whipped disaster, I lost the information for the one person who had paid to order a copy in advance. (Sorry – please PM if you are that person, still looking for your pre-paid copy! Give me the date and place where you ordered it! You’re a fan, and I OWE you a copy!)
Other than that – real life, the garden, the dogs and cats and chickens. Last month’s project was the construction of a set of gates, a lattice gate to keep the chickens in the back garden, and another at the front of the property, to allow a long open garden along the sheltered and south-facing side of the house, dedicated to flowers and vegetables. Plants in the ground, plants in pots along one side, a couple of lattices now half-covered with pole bean vines and lemon cucumbers, and a long bed of native plants and a pair of tomato trees along the other. All of these projects take time, either out in the garden or chained to a hot computer – but I have hopes of both paying back bountifully over the remainder of this year.

When we do a market or book event – my daughter takes care to put out all of my books along whatever table or display space that we have in chronological order. Eight of them are historicals, and can be described as a family saga, in that a good few characters appear in various books – although not always as a main character. Even so, I have taken good care that all my books (Chronicles of Luna City excepted) are self-contained; it’s not one of those series where you have to read each book in rigid order to make sense out of it all. (Personally, I hate those kinds of series.) But the Adelsverein Trilogy, and the five books which share the same four family trees span the years between 1825 and 1900 – mostly, but not exclusively in Texas. To Truckee’s Trail is set in 1844-45, on the California-Oregon Trail, but stands apart from these eight. Lone Star Sons is set in Texas in the 1840s, and has Jack Hays as an ongoing character – but is also stands apart. The Luna City series is set in modern-day Texas, and is completely different in tone, being more a gentle comedic diversion.

With that out of the way – this is the breakdown, in chronological order, for those readers who do want to read them that way:
Dot cover - smallerDaughter of Texas: Runs from 1825, and begins with the Becker family arriving in Texas: Margaret, her brothers Rudi and Carl, her parents Alois and Maria. The narrative deals with early days in the entrepreneur settlements of San Felipe-on-the-Brazos, and Gonzalez, Margaret’s marriage to the local school-teacher, Horace “Race” Vining, the build-up to and the outbreak of the War for Independence, the Runaway Scrape and the battle of San Jacinto. The remainder of the book tells of Margaret’s life in the tiny settlement of Waterloo, which became Austin, up to the year 1840 and the death of her first husband, under circumstances which set up plot elements of Sunset and Steel Rails – which is set a generation and forty-five years later. Besides Margaret, her brother Carl and her son Peter Vining as an infant, this book introduces the characters of Daddy Hurst, and sisters Hetty and Morag Moylan, carpenter and part-time soldier Seamus O’Doyle and Dr. Henry Williamson. Sam Houston, Harry Karnes, James Bowie, William B. Travis, Susannah Dickinson and her daughter, and those members of the Gonzalez Ranging company who went to the relief of the Alamo, Deaf Smith, Mirabeau B. Lamar, and Angelina Eberly are some of the historic figures which appear in this book.

Deep in the Heart Cover - 800 pxDeep in the Heart: This book runs from 1841 to 1847, and overlaps some of the events and developments in Adelsverein: The Gathering – although there is a brief “bookend” introduction and afterwards set in 1865, as the Civil War ends. This narrative follows Margaret and her four sons and her friends: she is a widow running a boarding-house in Austin catering to members of the legislature. Her younger brother Carl serves as one of Jack Hays’ Rangers, fighting Comanche war parties in the unsettled Hill Country, the invading Mexican army at the Salado Creek fight, and barely surviving the Battle of Monterrey during the Mexican-American War. The main narrative ends with Margaret’s second marriage. Historical figures appearing in this book include Sam and Margaret Houston, Angelina Eberly, Jack Hays and many real-life residents of contemporary Austin.

 

The Gathering Cover - smallAdelsverein: The Gathering runs from 1844 to 1849. Carl Becker is a major character here; Margaret makes a very brief appearance. This book is about the recruitment and emigration of German settlers by the Mainzer Adelsverein and their arrival in Texas – in this story, represented by the Steinmetz and Richter families: Christian Steinmetz, his wife Hannah, step-daughter Magda Vogel, his sons Johann and Friedrich “Fredi” and his daughter Liesel, who is married to Hans “Hansi” Richter and has two children with him; Anna and an infant named Joachim. The narrative follows their journey – first by sailing ship across the Atlantic, and by wagon train to first New Braunfels, and then to the new town of Fredericksburg, where they happily settle and begin to build prosperous new lives for themselves. The Steinmetz and Richter families are fictional, as are their friends, the Altemeullers – but most of their neighbors in the new settlements are historical figures, including John Meusebach and the innkeeper C.H. “Charley” Nimitz. Prince Karl of Solms-Braunfels appears in this volume, along with his retinue, Jack Hays (again), Indian agent Robert Neighbors, Samuel Maverick, his wife and their household. One minor character – Porfirio Menchaca, the Tejano horse-wrangler at Carl Becker’s ranch, who appears at the end of this book, is the son of an old friend of Horace Vining’s, as mentioned in Daughter of Texas. Porfirio appears as a minor character in the subsequent Adelsverein Trilogy books, and in The Quivera Trail.

9780989782289-Perfect.inddThe Golden Road: This book follows the teenaged Friedrich “Fredi” Steinmetz to the gold fields of California during the years 1855-59. It was mentioned in Adelsverein: The Sowing, and in Sunset and Steel Rails that Fredi followed the Gold Rush, but without any particular success that he wished to talk about later. During those years, Fredi works as a cattle drover, freight hauler, washes dishes in a saloon, sells newspapers on the street, rides for an express mail company, and serves as bodyguard/stagehand for Lotta Crabtree, as she and her mother tour the gold mines. He does pan a little gold, too, in company with a mysterious and musical Irishman named Polydore O’Malley, who may be wanted in England for an attempt on the life of Queen Victoria. Or not. O’Malley is fictional, but Fredi does encounter a number of historical characters, some before they became famous – or notorious – including Sally Skull, Jack Slade, Charles Goodnight, Roy Bean, Juaquin Murrietta, William T. Sherman, Mary Ellen Pleasant, Old Virginny Finney, Lotta Crabtree, and Ulysses S. Grant.

Cover The Sowing - smallAdelsverein: The Sowing. The second volume of the Adelsverein Trilogy covers the Civil War years, 1860-65, chiefly following the lives of Carl and Magda Becker and their family, Hansi and Liesel Richter and their children during that time. The main narrative ends with the wedding of Magda and Liesel’s adopted young sister Rosalie to a returning Confederate soldier at the end of the war. There are a pair of brief “bookends” – opening and closing the book, set around 1910 with the aged Magda telling several of her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of what happened during the war. Magda’s brothers Johann and Fredi appear briefly, as does Porfirio Menchaca. Historical characters appearing in this book include (again) Jack Hays, Dr. Ferdinand Herff of San Antonio, Dr.Wilhelm Keidel of Fredericksburg, and a leader of the notorious “hanging band”, J.P. Waldrip.

 

The Harvesting Cover - smallAdelsverein: The Harvesting – This book picks up at the end of the Civil War, slightly overlapping events in the last chapter of The Sowing. The first chapters deal with the experience of Peter Vining, the youngest son of Margaret and “Race” Vining returning to the family home in Austin. He and the small son of his oldest brother are the only surviving males in the family. His three older brothers died at Gettysburg, he is an amputee – and both Margaret and Dr. Williamson have died as well. For lack of a better alternative, he travels to Fredericksburg in the Hill Country and takes employment with Hansi Richter, who has gone into the freight hauling and general store business, along with Fredi Steinmetz and Carl Becker’s oldest son, Dolph. The main narrative concludes in 1876, with Magda receiving news that Dolph has courted and married an Englishwoman. During the course of this book, the younger generation moves more to the front and center: Dolph Becker, his younger brother Sam, Peter Vining, Hansi Richter’s daughter Anna, and Magda’s daughter Hannah. Again, there is a ‘bookend’ beginning and ending, set in 1918, with Magda recollecting events for her youngest daughter Lottie, serving as a volunteer nurse at a military hospital during the great influenza pandemic.


The Quivera Trail
: This book slightly overlaps Adelsverein: The Harvesting, as it begins in 1875 with Dolph Becker courting Isobel Cary-Groves, a titled English aristocQuiveraTrai; Cover 1 - Smallerrat with a desperate need to marry … marry anyone. The main narrative follows Isobel and her very young ladies’ maid, Jane Goodacre as they journey to Texas and begin building new lives for themselves. Alternate chapters deal with their experiences and perceptions as Isobel builds confidence in herself and trust in her husband, and Jane – against her own expectations – develops a sense of independence and falls in love. Magda and her daughter Lottie, Hansi and Liesel Richter appear as supporting characters, as do Peter Vining and his wife, Anna Richter. Hetty Moylan and Morag’s daughter Jemima-Mary also appear. Historic characters appearing include the gunman John Wesley Hardin, and Lizzie Johnson Williams, famous as a woman rancher of the period. The character of Wash Charpentier, champion cowboy, is based on Nate Love, an early rodeo champion – who retired from cowboying to become a Pullman porter. The narrative concludes in the late 1870s, although there is an afterward, set in 1918.

 

9780989782050-Perfect.inddSunset and Steel Rails: This narrative is divided into three parts, set in 1884, 1890 and 1900, following the experiences of Sophia Brewer, the granddaughter of Horace “Race” Vining by his wife in Boston. Jilted by her fiancée, bullied and exploited by her older brother, Sophia escapes by taking another name and employment as a Harvey Girl. Finding love and happiness at last, Sophia’s family and friends are threatened by the horrific Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Fredi Steinmetz is a major character in this book. Magda Becker, her daughter Lottie and daughters-in-law Isobel and Jane also appear, as do Peter and Anna Vining, Peter’s nephew Horrie, and George Richter – an infant in The Gathering, and a Confederate Army teamster in The Harvesting. Wash Charpentier, the cowboy turned Pullman porter also appears. Historical characters include Fred Harvey himself, his son and business partner David Benjamin, and cowboy-turned Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo.
And that’s the run-down – all in order, for those who wish to follow the fortunes of several linked families over 75 years, or who have favorite characters among them. Enjoy!

Some time ago and in another blog-post I wondered if it were possible for those with conservative and libertarian leanings to develop some kind of secret password, or handshake with which to identify themselves to new-met acquaintances who might possibly share those inclinations. We tend to be polite, do not relish open confrontation – and really, why pick unnecessary fights with neighbors, casually-met strangers, distant kin, or fellow workers? Most times, it just is not worth the hassle, or the chance of turning a casual social interaction or relationship turning toxic. Most of us do not eat, sleep, dream, live politics twenty-four-seven, anyway. But it certainly is pleasant to discover someone of like sympathies, usually after a few rounds of warily sounding them out, and assuring them that no, we will not come unglued if they confess to having voted for or liked (insert political figure or philosophy here).

But I think that I have hit upon a handy shorthand method for discerning the political sympathies of another without coming outright and asking. This insight came about through following a couple of libertarian-leaning or conservative blogs – Sarah Hoyt and Wretchard at Belmont Club being two of the more notable – and noting that the principals and many of their commenters all seemed au courant with Kipling.

Lines from “The Gods of the Copybook Headings“When ‘Omer Smote ‘is Bloomin’ Lyre”, “The Sons of Martha” “The Three-Decker” and “Dane-geld” or “The Wrath of the Awakened Saxon” and any number of other poems from the pen of the Glorious Rudyard were tossed about with abandon, along with references to various short stories and novels. Tags and lines from these poems and others were almost a currency in comment threads at these websites and blogs.
If you like Kipling … then you are likely to be some stripe of conservative, libertarian, or an original independent. I have not much of an explanation of why this should be so, other than that Kipling was an unparalleled master of storytelling, and his poems – traditional in the sense that they had a rhyme and meter – sometimes are still topical and always quotable. He has been out of fashion among the mainstream intellectuals and tastemakers for going on a century; In the place of the story-teller and poet there is a massive straw-image of him, labeled with every nasty -ism that can be applied; imperialist, racist, and so on and so forth. Die-hard fan of British imperialism – or not – he certainly was an acute observer of the institution and of his times. Perhaps it is the clear-eyed observer part of the Glorious Rudyard that appeals. Any other explanation would be welcomed, but the correlation between a liking for Kipling and conservative leanings is pretty well marked in my mind. Your thoughts?