It appears that this week, the New York Times, the so-called paper of record, upon whom the self-directed spotlight of smug superiority ever shines – has now taken that final, irrevocable step from the business of reporting news and current events, matters cultural and artistic to becoming a purveyor of progressive propaganda. Of course, as characters in British procedural mysteries often say, ‘they have form’ when it comes to progressive propaganda; all the way from Walter Duranty’s reporting on famine in the Soviet Union through the drumbeat of ‘worst war-crime evah!’ in coverage when it came to Abu Ghraib, and the current bête noir – or rather ‘bête orange’ man bad. It seems that it has now become necessary for the Times to make the issue of chattel slavery of black Africans the centerpiece, the foundation stone, the sum and total of American history. Everything – absolutely everything in American history and culture now must be filtered through the pitiless lens of slavery.
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Trent Telenko has already addressed the free-fall of credibility when it comes to elements of the federal government in the wake of the suspicious death in supposed tightly-supervised custody of Jeffrey Epstein, the Pedo-Prince of Perv Island. The resulting discussion thread provided plenty of food for thought, as well as clarifying the degree of contempt that elements of the so-called ruling classes and the federal justice bureaucracy apparently feel towards those ruled – in that they can’t even be bothered to tell a believable story regarding the last days of the Pimp to the Privileged.
Once upon a time, we had – or at least, thought we had – a national news media which might, with the wind blowing in the right direction, and assuming that the reporters at the top of the national news-food chain weren’t best buddies with the studly, hip, and dynamic president and his glamorous wife – that national news media would cover the important stories. More »

(Miss Minnie Vining, spinster of Boston, is visiting relatives in Richmond, Virginia – and acting as a chaperone for her very much younger cousin, who is being courted by none other than the very raffish Pres Devereaux. On an excursion out into the countryside to look at the summer wildflowers, they are involved in a dreadful carriage accident.)

She couldn’t breathe. All the air was sent from her lungs by the force of that fall over the side of Mr. Devereaux’s Tilbury gig. A constellation of exploding stars blotted out the sky overhead, and Minnie felt herself suspended between not being able to draw a breath and a white-hot agony exploding up to her shoulder and down to her hand, and from her head, which had struck the road with cruel force. Somewhere, a woman was crying out in alarm. She sounded very young, panicky – Minnie felt herself lifted, as limp and powerless as a rag doll in the grip of something. She couldn’t think, only felt – and what she felt was pain, pain and more pain.
“Miss Minnie! Wake up, open your eyes – speak to me!” a voice begged – a somehow familiar voice. A man. Authoritative … and for some curious reason, frantic in concern.
Minnie obeyed the command to open her eyes, although her sight was somewhat baffled by … oh, yes, the brim of her bonnet, now crushed and disarranged, and a flood of something sticky and warm on her face, wetting the collar of her dress. And this was the countenance of … oh, yes – she fished in her dis-jangled memory for a name. Mr. Devereaux, the handsome and raffish adventurer … presently courting the very young Charlotte Edmonds.
Yes. She was supposed to have been their watchful chaperone.
Minnie struggled to recall – yes, an aggravating and contrary man, a whirligig of opinions posed for nothing more than to harass and torment … but he … he was a man … and Minnie fished for knowledge and insight in her present torment.
A man who waged a war on a chessboard and was the most gallant when losing to a mere woman.
“She’s bleeding so awfully!” the younger voice exclaimed in horror – Charlotte; yes, that was Charlotte, daubing ineffectually at Minnie’s forehead with a dainty handkerchief smeared horribly red. Mr. Devereaux replied,
“Her head struck a large rock on the ground, I believe – and it is well known that such injuries always bleed out of all proportion … Miss Minnie, please speak to us!”
“Wha … h’ppened?” Minnie stumbled over the words. It hurt to speak.
“A runaway team, on the road!” Charlotte exclaimed. “The driver could not control them – he had fallen from the wagon, and the wagon struck Mr. Devereaux’s gig … they kept on going! And now the wheel is utterly smashed! What are we to do, Mr. Devereaux? What are we to do, since we are all this way from town? Surely, Cousin Minnie needs a doctor at once!” More »

My initial reaction upon reading of Juaquin Castro ‘outing’ local San Antonio donors to the Trump campaign was along the lines of “oh dear, that was so not a good idea!” Nothing that I have read about the imbroglio in the days since has given me cause to revise that opinion … other than to confirm it. Yes, such information is a matter of public record, but opening up certain of your constituents to harassment, especially in the wake of such things as calls for Republicans to be harassed in restaurants, protested by persons threatening violence at their homes, attacked physically, and going so far as shooting up their softball teams … this does not calm the political passions in any degree. No, it’s as good as spraying gasoline on a bonfire, and the Castro brothers richly deserve every bit of the opprobrium they have earned – especially locally.

There is a rather curious thing about San Antonio; it may look like a medium-sized city to the distant observer, but it is actually the biggest small town in the world. The networks of personal connection are as strong and as intertwined as any small town. More »

On summer nights, in the suburb where I lived in the late 1980ies, I often heard gunfire at night – a regular popping kind of noise, like pebbles dropping into a metal bucket. The every-day noise of the city died away, as well as sounds of traffic on the highway between Zaragoza and Logrono. Very distant, of course – the firing range at Bardenas Reales was at least thirty miles north as the crow flies, but the sounds of artillery, air gunnery, and military war games carried quite well, under certain conditions. I was often reminded then, of accounts from both world wars – recollections of residents in France and England; miles from the front, but who could hear the war, at a distance. The popping sound of distant firing also reminded me of other accounts, like this one – of submarine warfare in WWI, and how pressure worked on the hulls of early submarines, quite often fatally to their crews.
The noise – hissing, popping, creaks and groaning, as the pressure builds, and builds. I cannot help thinking that the shootings in an El Paso Walmart, at a bar in Dayton, and at the Gilroy garlic festival are symptomatic of pressure building to a nearly unbearable level. Those young men, the shooters in each case (as well as earlier shooters like Dylan Roof and Adam Lanza) are the weakest rivets popping loose.

And no, for the hundredth and thousandth time – it’s not guns, their availability, laws governing sales of guns, the Second Amendment, or politicians and editorialists pleading for so-called “sensible gun control” who emerge, like the groundhog in spring, in the wake of horrific events. I have often wished that they would vary the program by suggesting a round of “sensible nutbar control”, just for the sake of variety. I have also come to think that the constant and unsubtle anti-male bashing in intellectual, educational practice and entertainment circles over the last twenty, thirty, or forty years might have a great deal to do with teen and twenty-something men going completely off the rails. The best-adjusted of them settle for low-rent jobs, a meagre social life and turn to on-line gaming, dangerous hobbies involving heights, long falls, and high speed. The worst-off take comfort in the kind of solace and sympathy available among the like-minded in the darker corners of the internet. The very worst-off find a weapon and use it on living, breathing, bleeding targets. Such young men can’t get a worthwhile job or a worthwhile relationship – so much for having a steadying family life and long-term commitments as earlier generations of males did. Adding a heaping helping of social and political contempt for being white, working class, and living in Flyoverlandia is just the topping to this whole rancid dish.

Your thoughts, and insights? We are all damned by our so-called betters as irredeemable, far-right racist deplorables, anyway; may as well speak honestly while we can.

05. August 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Home Front

A cookbook, that is – one cookbook to rule them all. A good few years ago, what with the popularity of so many food and cooking websites, we got in the habit of printing out recipes that sounded good, and if they did turn out really, really good – putting them in sheet protectors in a three-ring binder for easy referral. That binder is the every-day reference for putting together an evening meal, only as time went on – the book got terribly random and unwieldy, with the recipes inserted in any old order. There were also pages of recipes that had once looked interesting, but not enough to actually cook them, or that we tried once and went ‘meh’ or alternate recipes for a dish that we had a recipe for that we liked better … and the pages themselves got sticky from use, or being splashed, the binder began falling apart … and I swear that one of the cats (now exiled to the Magnificent Catio) was in the habit of spraying on the back of the binder …so, time to cull, re-print, re-arrange, put into fresh page protectors and a brand-spanking-new binder and also to create a duplicate book for the day when the Daughter Unit has her own domestic establishment.

So that has been the current project, now that Luna City #8 is fairly launched. I started with going through and pulling out all the recipes for chicken. A few of them I had to just copy into a fresh document, most of them I retrieved from the various websites where they had originated, and copy-pasted into a new document. Doing this let me change the size of the font – look, it’s a bear to have to fetch my reading glasses to read a 8 or 9 point font, while reducing the recipe itself to a single page – because flipping over three pages to follow the same recipe is … not helpful, especially when half of it might be taken up with pretty pictures. (No, I don’t need the pictures. Ingredients and instructions are sufficient, thank you very much.)

After a weekend of working at this project, I have gotten all the way through the chicken recipes, and all of the beef/pork/lamb/venison recipes, which I think must have made up more than half of the original binder. The remaining sections – for vegetarian, fish, and miscellaneous side dishes and sauces should go much faster. And that – along with another chapter of the Civil War novel – was my project for the week.
Oh, still waiting to hear from the garage
regarding my poor little car. Getting a replacement side light seems to be the main remaining challenge – it may very well have to come all the way from Japan by special order, although I would think that a little creative metal bending and plastic fabrication, such as Dad used to do in his garage for some of his automobile projects, would do the trick. It absolutely fries me that the idiot whose’ rotten driving caused the accident had no damage at all to his car – whereas I have now been without mine for a month and a half.

Yes, the great science fiction visionary, Robert A. Heinlein (PBUM) an Annapolis grad and serving naval officer who was discharged for reasons of health early on in what might have been a promising naval career at the right time and in the right generation to have made a significant command mark in WWII, generated the concept of the crazy years. But I wonder if he had the slightest clue of the far-frozen limits of bug-house, chewing-at-the-restraints, raving-at-the-moon crazy that current political figures, media personalities, self-styled internet stars, and academic t*ats would achieve … and just in the last week or so. Really, under the old rules of civility, the ones that I grew to adulthood honoring, decent citizens would have just looked away, murmuring polite demurrals and excuses under their breath, while deleting the offending party from their address book and never inviting them to their neighborhood potlucks any more … but now the crazy has got to such an extent that one can hardly keep up.
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Oh, let me count the ways – first, a purely visceral and visual reaction: she’s a snake in a trendy head-scarf. Reminds me of the internet meme of Momo, actually. And the fact that she is a particularly nasty bigot and vocal anti-Ordinary American, and Jew-hater, and might very well have both perpetuated and benefited from immigration fraud.
And … Somali.

I am certain there are some Somali immigrants/refugees who are adornments of wherever they have settled outside of Somalia and taken the trouble to adapt to their new communities. The fashion modal Iman. And Ayaan Hirsi Ali … Seriously, that just about does it for me as far as favorable impressions of the Somali immigrant community goes. I have been given to understand through various local specialty bloggers, that there is a large and indigestible collection of Somalis in Minnesota; indigestible as much of what passes for news regarding that community which appears now and again in media as well as blogs … does not reflect well on Somalis. Systemic welfare fraud. Somali taxi drivers refusing rides to passengers with service dogs and duty-free alcohol. Support and volunteers for the brutal régime of ISIS in Syria. The unprovoked shooting of an unarmed woman by a Somali police officer who never should have given a badge and a gun. There are reports that Ms Omar’s father was a higher-up in a Marxist régime which brutally ruled the place until overthrown, whereupon Somalia devolved into a more or less permanent state of cutthroat tribal war, famine and piracy … and don’t think that I have forgotten about how the US and the UN together got suckered into trying to administer famine relief in the face of a local warlord weaponizing the distribution of food. Taking pity on all those poor, poor, big-eyed starving children with swollen bellies finished up with the bodies of dead Americans being dragged through the slums of Mogadishu and displayed like trophies for the news media. No good deed goes unpunished, in that part of the world, it appears.

You’d think that refugees from all that would be disinclined to create that situation all over again, upon escaping from it, as well as perhaps displaying a modicum of gratitude for a safe refuge. That doesn’t seem to be the case, most notably with Ms Omar, who apparently expected America to be all roses, rainbows and unicorns like a 1950ies sitcom and was most bitterly disappointed when it wasn’t.

Somali refugees were settled there through the good offices of religious agencies over the last three decades, which once had much better results in assisting refugees. I was active in college in a local Lutheran-sponsored local resettlement effort focusing on Vietnamese refugees. This was a very personal, tightly-focused effort by a working-class community in doing our best for a body of people for which we felt an inchoate degree of sympathy, in that most of the refugees that we turned out all effort for were also working and middle-class – whom, moreover – worked very hard to establish themselves in a new country. Those sponsored families and individuals rewarded our homes and efforts; they all became Americans, melting seamlessly into speaking English, educating their children, sending them out into military service, to useful occupations, to whole-heartedly embracing all that America had to offer – while still keeping intact an affection for certain traditions. That is the way that immigrants in previous decades did it, no matter what their national origin – but if Ms Omar is the best the Somali-American community has, I don’t hold out much hope for that community ever adjusting. Discuss as you wish.

A longish and somewhat exhausting morning – this the day that my social security is paid into my bank account – (Yes, I collect it, having put into it for all those working years since the age of 16, and having no more patience for working full-time for other people) so we went up to New Braunfels for the semi-monthly purchase of meats and sausage at Granzins, then a little farther to the new super-HEB for assorted groceries, and then a loop around to Tractor Supply for flea spray, drops and collars for the critters. Who are all afflicted with the summertime plague of fleas, and the most seriously effective yet most reasonably-priced remedies are all available at Tractor Supply, including a carpet/surface spray which has a strong yet pleasing odor of citronella and only seems to be available at Tractor Supply. I wish that I drove a pickup truck – I wouldn’t feel like such a townie, pulling into the parking lot there. I might even pull on those vintage Ariat boots that I bought at a charity thrift shop a couple of years ago.

Anyway, loaded up at Granzins on chicken breasts, quarters, a small steak (which is my monthly treat) and some of their divine locally-made sausage, which makes a splendid main dish when rubbed with a little of Adams Reserve Steakhouse Rub, spritzed with a bit of olive oil and then baked until done. At the super-HEB, a 7 ½ pound pork tenderloin at a good price, to be chopped into roasts and boneless chops … and when returned home, an hour of time with the vacuum sealer, packaging it all up for the freezer – set with meat options for supper for the next month or maybe even longer. Look – we flirt with tasty vegan options at least one night a week, but that’s just for the variety of it. Otherwise, we are unashamed carnivores.
Part of the journey to New Braunfels involved a fitting … for a costume to be worn at a book-launch party in Seguin late next month by one of three – the author and my daughter Blondie to be the other two. I committed, in a moment of weakness and affectionate friendship for another author, to sew frontier ‘soiled dove’ outfits for the launch party bash. Easy enough – a white cotton shift, a flashy skirt with lace trim, and a fitted and laced bodice. The skirts and the shift are simple enough, the laced bodice must be fitted to each individual; the pattern is one I am not happy with, since I will have to add some extra lacing to the back of the bodice to ensure that the shoulder portion will not be slipping down … eh, the outfits will be marvelous when I have completed them.

Tuesday mid-day was likewise consumed by a necessary errand – to the cardiologist at BAMC for the yearly check-up. Yes, I seem to have developed a noticeable heart murmur in the last couple of years. Such was was noted when I was in my twenties, but was written off to a) pregnancy, b) a doctor doing research who apparently wanted to find such in healthy young adults for the purpose of generating a research report, and c) a bout of viral myocarditis discovered during a routine physical required when I was putting together an application for an officer commission – a condition which eventually healed on its’ own, although at the time it scared the bejesus out of my supervisors, my parents and the hospital administrators at the Misawa AB hospital. The comforting thing in the current iteration is that it doesn’t appear to have gotten any worse since being first observed. EKG – same as last year. Sound of it all – same as last year. Barely over the line for concern, according to the cardiologist. Hardly rating any concern, considering the appearances of other patients in the waiting area of the cardiology clinic – yeah, the full collection of canes, walkers, and wheel-chairs. Look – we all die of something. A dicky ticker over the next two or three decades appears to be my fate. I’m OK with that, considering some of the other alternatives.

It was not part of their blood,
It came to them very late,
With long arrears to make good,
When the Saxon began to hate.

I have often jokingly wished that some kind of secret sign existed, like a Masonic emblem or peculiar handshake by which those of us conservatives who do not go about openly advertising our political affiliations to all and sundry might discretely identify a kindred spirit. Those of us in the real world have friends, neighbors, and co-workers who range across the political spectrum; Traditional good manners and consideration for those who didn’t share your beliefs once dictated a degree of ambiguity regarding political leanings, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs. This sense of discretion owed more to conventional good manners rather than cowardice, although a disinclination about being bashed about the head by a member of the Klantifa, harassed out of a restaurant, or a Twitter campaign to get one fired from employment are lately a very real possibility as a result of overtly advertising ones’ conservative sympathies.
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18. July 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Luna, Media Matters Not

*And other formats, too.

Luna City Behind the 8 Ball is now available in Kindle, and on most other ebook formats! Enjoy! The print version will be available later on this month. (And if you really, really enjoy the Luna City series, please post a review somewhere, and tell all your friends!)

I don’t imagine that any sentient human of the center-conservative bent has escaped hearing about how a reporter for the centrist-academic website Quilette had the snot beaten out of him in downtown Portland by the black-clad streetfighters who represent themselves to be anti-fascist. Apparently, this was punishment for Andy Ngo daring to report on their unsavory antics and not being in slavish accordance with whatever political delusion the Antifa-ites hold close to what passes for their hearts. For myself, I prefer to call them the Klantifa, as the natural successor to the KKK as the thuggish arm of local Democrat Party government. (They do the dirty work, while the official Party maintains semi-plausible deniability.)
The Klantifa appear mostly to be a bunch of pasty-faced, dread-locked inhabitants of their parents’ basements with a taste for public live-action role-playing, combined with delusions of street-fighting adequacy whenever they outnumber their targeted opponent at least five to one. More »

02. July 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Good Stuff

(Miss Minnie Vining is about to venture into the district in old Richmond where the slave markets were held, accompanied by Elizabeth Van Lew, and a pair of male cousins who are friends of the family she is visiting: Captain Shaw, and Preston Devereaux, who has promised Miss Van Lew that he will purchase two slaves for her … slaves that Miss Van Lew will free. Much discussion of the “peculiar institution” ensues.)

The carriage arrived before the Edmonds’ door just before the hour of nine. Annabelle, waiting with Minnie in the front parlor made one last attempt to dissuade her from the excursion.
“It might be dangerous!” she insisted. “You heard what Cousin Peter said – about being recognized as being of abolitionist sympathies, among those whose livelihood depends on perpetuating the peculiar institution.”
“I have no apprehensions, ‘Belle,” Minnie replied. “We will be accompanied by a gallant soldier, and a gentleman who recently returned from the California gold mines; I am certain that both Captain Shaw and Mr. Devereaux have faced such dangers as would make a set of slave-driving ruffians a mere annoyance in comparison.” Outside in the street, the sound of carriage wheels carried to her ears. “I believe that will be the coach … if we do not return for dinner at midday, make my excuses to Susan, dear.”
“Is there nothing I can say?” Annabelle dropped her embroidery hoop into her lap and clasped her hands together. “Nothing to make you consider turning aside from this course?”
“No, nothing,” Minnie gathered up her reticule and tied the strings of her mantle at her throat, as she heard voices at the door – Susan’s housemaid, and that of Captain Shaw. “Not once my mind is set on a course which I have determined.”
“Be most careful,” Annabelle whispered – or that was what Minnie thought she heard, as she left the parlor. Outside, an elegant dark-grey berline carriage awaited, drawn by a pair of matched, dapple-grey horses, whose reins lay in the hands of a coachman – another black slave, in a fine dark grey coat and starched white stock, the elegance of whose attire rivaled that of Captain Shaw himself.
“Miss Vining! Good morning!” Captain Shaw took her arm, going down the steps. “You know, this is not considered an acceptable outing for a lady… But Pres insisted, and he’s a hard man to gainsay.”
“I have been assured of this, solo and in chorus,” Minnie replied, with some asperity. “But I will not be deterred!”
“No, I was afraid not,” Captain Shaw sighed, as he assisted her to step from the ground, onto the narrow carriage step. “You and Miss Van Lew are of a kind, I perceive. I should warn you, though – ladies do not generally attend the auctions. You see … umm … it is the practice among prospective buyers, to assure themselves of the health and fitness of a male slave they are interested in … that they remove their garments, in order that their bodies may be closely inspected.”
“Good heavens!” Minnie exclaimed. “Surely they do not require that of females in public! Why, that is barbaric!”
Preston Devereaux took her other hand, with a mocking grin, and settled her onto the seat next to Miss Van Lew, observing, “Barbarism is in the eye of the beholder, Miss Vining – as I have good reason to know.”
“Not … in that portion of the auction,” Captain Shaw replied, and Minnie could have sworn that the man’s countenance reddened – but that was in the relative dimness of the carriage interior. Captain Shaw tapped on the glass of the window nearest the driver’s perch, and the berline lurched away from the Edmonds’ front door. “But – it is my understanding that such is required now and again, in … a private viewing of the … um… merchandise. Well before the auction and bidding begins.”
“Of a high-yellow fancy, most usually,” Mr. Devereaux, suave as ever. Minnie would be willing to swear that the gentlemen were as determined to discourage herself and Miss Van Lew from the proposed excursion, only that they had chosen a more subtle means of going about it. The carriage rocked gently, as the black coachman in elegant livery clucked to the horses.
From the corner of the closed carriage, Miss Van Lew remarked, as if making a note of the weather, “That would be a woman with a bare minimum of African blood, Miss Vining. Such is the tendency for owners of female slaves to engage in congress upon their bodies. After generations of such conduct … one cannot really tell free from slave. It requires the judgement of a veritable Solomon to tell the difference between a free white woman and a black slave.”
“I see,” Minnie retorted, although she didn’t … not entirely. But untried waters were to be ventured upon, and hopefully without fear or favor. “I perceive that you gentleman both have experience with the matter of holding Negroes in the condition of bondage. I suppose that you both hold slaves.”
“We do,” Captain Shaw admitted, through suddenly thinned lips. “But I can assure you that we treat our people well and fairly. None of Marylebone Hill’s people have ever been sold down the river, not in my lifetime or that of my father.”
“My own family, alas, does not own as many slaves as formerly,” Pres Deveraux admitted, with an exaggeratedly tragic sigh. “The reversals of the cotton trade made it necessary that we dispense of the excess in recent years; they will multiply naturally, you know. Conditions over the last few years were desperately unfavorable for Deveraux crops – insufficient income to support the family and our dependents at the current market price of cotton and tobacco. Do not look so horrified, Miss Van Lew, Miss Vining – our agent arranged private sales, and specified stringently that families would be sold entire, and only to purchasers of whom he approved. Otherwise – what are we to do? In the North, one may merely fire workers superfluous to momentary needs, and one is relieved of all further responsibility for their welfare. Is that not a cruelty, according to your Christian lights? Are we not our brothers’ keeper, after all?”
“But free men possess the inalienable right to order their own lives,” Minnie retorted. “To work at whatever they chose, to travel where they will without hinderance, to contract marriage to a woman of their own choosing …”
“To starve in a gutter, if that is their choice,” Pres Devereaux agreed, smoothly. “Without any notice being taken of their situation. Is it not kinder, Miss Minerva – in the situation of a lesser breed, when sick or old, no longer able to work – to be taken care of? Housed, clothed, fed, to have the attention of a doctor when ill? It is a great responsibility, even greater than that of being a father with children. Children grow up and take charge of their own lives, eventually – but the responsibility for your field hands and house slaves never, ever ends.”
“I admit of no fair comparison,” Minnie was indignant. “Between a slave, subject to the whims of an owner, and the condition of a free man or woman. We are God’s creatures, of His creation, every one of us – and no matter what our native capabilities may be, all deserve that freedom.”
“The African race are like children,” Pres Devereaux spoke with infinite patience – nearly as irritating to Minnie as open condescension would have been. “Would you allow a small child do as they wish, in every respect? That would be careless, irresponsible, unfitting…”
“Mr. Devereaux is provoking you deliberately, Miss Vining,” Miss Van Lew interjected. “Did I not warn you yesterday of his habit of being a dancing whirligig, assuming attitudes merely to tease and provoke?”
“You did, indeed, Miss Van Lew,” Minnie replied, and scowled behind her veil at Mr. Devereaux. The berline, meanwhile, had left behind the relatively smooth streets of Church Hill, and descended into more crowded – and therefore more rutted and pot-holed thoroughfares closer to the river. Minnie craned her neck, at the familiar shriek of a locomotive steam whistle – yes, they were passing very close to the railway lines which threaded Richmond like a ragged spider-web. Here was the hubble-bubble of commerce, of loud voices, the grinding of cartwheels and cracking whips. Over it all floated a distant vision of the white-pillared state capitol building, a classic Roman temple set in a grove of young trees, floating above it all like a white-sails of a distant ship, above a vista of common warehouses, narrow side lanes and a tumbled wasteland piled with trash threaded through by a muddy stream.
“I told Rufus to take us past Lumpkin’s, first,” Captain Shaw murmured to Mr. Devereaux, who absently stroked his narrow mustache, as he nodded in agreement with this itinerary.
“Ah, yes,” he continued pleasantly to Minnie. “Robert Lumpkin – keeper of the most notorious slave-jail in Richmond, familiarly called ‘The Devils’ Half-Acre.’ A man equally notorious for his riches accumulated in his chosen trade as for the brutality he exercises in the conduct of it. Low breeding; such always shows. Although, he has made his slave concubine his legal wife, for what that might be worth, socially.”
“The peculiar institution encompasses curious complications, on occasion,” Captain Shaw murmured.
There was an uncomfortable silence in the coach as the coach continued on, down a rough and rutted alley; Miss Van Lew silent behind her veil, and Captain Shaw looking out from his side of the coach as if he wished to be anywhere else but here. Only Pres Devereaux appeared to relish the company and the occasion. Really, what an appalling man! Minnie thought to herself. And Susan wishes to match hers’ and My-Dear-Ambrose’s Charlotte with him as a husband!
“Ah, yes, there it is; that fortress with a stout wall all the way around.” Pres Devereaux announced, cheery as a cricket with a happy song. “Not as scenic as the Tower of London, or as romantic as the prison of Chillon in Lord Byron’s cheery ditty, is it, ladies?”
Minnie could hardly bear to look upon such a scene of misery: yes, a stout plank wall, encompassing a foot-trampled yard with a single rambling brick building within, farther down the sloping hillside. Iron bars set into every window made it plain that it housed prisoners. Three other buildings stood somewhat closer to the rutted lane in which the berline had paused; buildings which had a look of domesticity about them, especially since there were no bars in the windows.
“As for famous inmates in this place, I daresay you have heard of the escaped slave Burns? He was apprehended in Boston, was he not? And returned to his master by order of the magistrates – backed up by Army troops?”
“Yes, I have heard of that matter,” Minnie replied truthfully – for the matter of Anthony Burns, escaped slave, being arrested in the street, and forcefully returned South to his owner had been the means of metaphorically setting Boston aflame with abolitionist passion all that spring. Her brother George had been suffering his final illness, or he would have struggled up from his sickbed to join with his fellow abolitionists in protest.
“It was a mystery to all good Southerners,” Pres Devereaux confided, “Why those who championed Burns willingly defied the law. And it is the law – that stolen property be returned to the proper owner.”
“There is the law which is written by men, who are not perfect – and those higher laws instituted by our creator,” Minnie stated, for she was truly rankled by Pres Devereaux’s bland self-assurance. “Those fugitive slave laws were created by such imperfect men – who compound the insult to freedom-loving citizens of the North by insisting that we endorse the brutality of slavery. It’s not enough that slave power confine itself to those places which have willingly chosen to endorse the practice – that we could endure and have for decades! But now to demand that we in the North who object to fellow human beings treated as objects to be bought and sold in the marketplace must go against our own conscience, and cooperate with slave-takers on free soil? Is it not as the great Luther himself advised – to go against one’s conscience is neither right nor safe!”
“Bravo, Miss Vining,” Pres Devereaux applauded. “A fine piece of oratory, I must say! You might almost convince a man such as myself to the cause of abolition – almost; but that I am a Southerner, and our fortunes here depend upon exercise of the peculiar institution.”
“Ah, your fortunes,” Minnie nodded – yes, a momentary concession. That would disarm an opponent in the legal hustings, Papa-the-Judge advised, when he had guided Minnie in her studies of his old trials and in his volumes of Blackstone’s Commentaries. “Fortunes which are based primarily on agriculture and the export of cotton. But what of industry? Where are your armories, your factories – why must the raw materials produced in your plantations be shipped wholesale to the mills of England? Why must your fortunes depend on forced labor of Africans, imported under great hardship and cruelty? It is said that a sound tree will bear sound fruit, but a tree with roots in poisoned soil will bear naught but poisoned fruit. I would hold that slavery is the most poisoned soil of all!”
“We do have industry in the South,” Captain Shaw spoke vigorously for nearly the first time in this exchange. “Behold – the chimneys of the Tredegar Iron and Locomotive Works! That must count for something, Miss Vining!”
“And that would be your only example?” Minnie tempered her exasperation, did her best to sound conciliatory. “Has the South nothing to equal the fabric mills of Lowell and Fall River, the Armory of Colonel Colt, a long-ranging transport project such as the Erie Canal, the iron works of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey? The Tredegar works are a fine one, indeed – the canal and basin for river commerce here in Richmond – but when the North has five or ten such enterprises for every single one in the South, you will forgive me, Captain Shaw, for not being entirely convinced of the advantages of the peculiar institution.”
“Miss Vining’s mind is made up,” Pres Devereaux interjected. “And will only admit such facts as those which confirm her existing prejudice. We should drive on – I had it in mind to see the auction at the Old Fellows’ Hall on the hour of eleven.”
Minnie opened her mouth to object to this – she was perfectly capable of exercising reason, when a sensible reason applied for admission, but at that moment, she recalled again Miss Van Lew’s warning; that Pres Devereaux lived to be provoking.

25. June 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games

Like an unkillable zombie, or Freddy Kruger returning for the umpteenth time, the matter of reparations for slavery shambles out of its’ crypt on a periodic basis. The whole concept has, I surmise, a catnip-like appeal for a certain kind of politician or intellectual, when catering to the never-to-be-satiated ‘gimme that!’ crowd. “Reparations for slavery!!!!!!!!Eleventy!” gets slapped down by practical considerations about as often as Freddy Kruger … and yet, it staggers out one more time. Never mind that current estimations are that maybe only 5 % of the current American population owned slaves pre-Civil War (and not all of that 5% were white, either). Never mind that a good chunk of the then-American population bitterly opposed the institution of chattel slavery of Africans, never mind that we fought a mind-bogglingly bloody war to end it. Never mind that that any surviving pre-1865 slave or slave-holder would have to be well over a century and a half old. Never mind the sheer obscenity of demanding that rich, successful, privileged PoC’s like Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, and Barack Obama deserve a check for ancestral pain and suffering from working class and poor whites (whose’ families may not even have arrived in the US until well after 1865).
In response to this demand, I put forth a modest counter-proposal, acknowledging that yes, IF there should be reparations paid in this day for the institution of chattel slavery, for the malignant practices of the Jim Crow laws, and local law-enforced racial segregation, and the depredations of the KKK, which cruelly impacted Black Americans, such reparations ought to and should be paid by the Democrat Party. More »

22. June 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Literary Good Stuff

Shockoe Creek was a creek emptying into the James River – a creek now mostly channelized and paved over. It lay between two substantial hills upon which the city of Richmond, Virginia, was built; in the earliest days of the city, it was the market district; convenient to the waterfront, the main roads, a transshipment node where goods from deep-water cargo ships were transferred to smaller boats, to wagons, and warehouses. Commerce was the lifeblood of that part of Richmond, within sight of the grand white neo-classical building which was the state capitol. Here was the shipping basin and canal which led to it, the market building housing venders of meat, produce and other comestibles. Nearby was the bridge which crossed the James, the Haxall mill which ground fine white flour for shipment throughout the Americas. Up-river a little way was the Tredegar Iron Works complex, the pride of the ante-bellum industrial South.

And another kind of commerce was centered in the Shockoe Bottom – the trade in slaves. In the decades before the Civil War, Richmond was the second-largest wholesale and retail market in the South: the offices of brokers, agents and traders in slaves, auction houses, and holding-pens – known as slave jails, all were situated in a quarter-mile square area. I have discovered all kinds of curious things about the slave trade as practiced in Richmond – curious to me, that is. I wasn’t raised in the South, the ancestors of my one American-born grandparent was a fire-eating abolitionist; frankly, all I knew about the matter was what there was in the generalist history books pertaining to the Civil War. Nothing much about the nuts and bolts of actual practice, as it were.

I have had to become acquainted with all of this, as I am working on the next historical novel – and this involves a heroine, Minerva Templeton Vining, a spinster of independent means and thinking, who becomes an active campaigner for abolition in the 1850ies, and then a volunteer battlefield nurse during the war itself. The catalyst for all of this is a visit that she makes to Richmond to visit kinfolk – and while she had to that point been of abolitionist sympathies, she is radicalized by what she sees in the course of that visit. So I have to write about what she sees, and create the conversations that she would have had, dealing with what was termed the ‘peculiar institution.’ I don’t think that she would actually have witnessed a slave auction first-hand; so far, all the accounts and pictures that I have found have only men attending the auctions. It seems that male slaves were often asked to strip entirely, so that their state of health and soundness could be judged – I have read one account of a woman slave being stripped for a prospective buyer in private, but not at the auction location. Both male and female slaves often had to show their bare back and shoulders, though, to determine if they had been whipped. The degree and age of scarring would indicate a discipline problem, and downgrade market value in the eyes of a potential purchaser.

I did go into this project knowing that for most Southerners, a slave was a luxury good. A first-rate young field hand was worth $1,500-2,000; something on the order of $25,000 to $30,000 in today’s dollars. A slave who was trained in a particular skill might command an even higher price.
A particular curiosity – which makes sense, once I thought about it – was that the dealers in slaves who kept a slave jail (basically a warehouse/boarding house/dormitory) took every effort to make their sellable human merchandise look good upon being put up for auction, although the actual conditions in the slave jail may not have been very good. Those slaves being held for sale were provided with decent food, medical care if required, and a period of recovery from any particularly grueling travel. On the day of auction, they were provided with means of bathing, were groomed and dressed in new clean clothes. There is a painting by an English abolitionist who made sketches of an auction on the spot and later produced a then-well-known painting: five female slaves, clad in grey dresses and white aprons, with red bows at the throat, with one man, in trousers, white shirt, tan trousers and a red waistcoat. One of the women has a small child in her lap; they sit patiently in a row. They are luxury goods – of course, the vendors want the merchandise to look good. I think that is the most unsettling aspect of it all; not outright cruelty (of which there was some, although not quite as much as the campaigners for abolition would have had it) but the fact that it was just business, the business of selling and buying human beings.

Slaves Waiting for Sale - 1861 - Eyre Crow

Slaves Waiting for Sale – 1861 – Eyre Crow

Finally – an interesting curiosity: one Robert Lumpkin, who kept a slave jail of such notoriety that the compound was called “Hell’s Half Acre” was formally married to a slave woman, who had five children by him – including daughters who were sent to a finishing school in the North. When he died, at the very end of the Civil War, his wife inherited the property … and sold it to a Baptist minister who founded a school for blacks – the Richmond Theological Seminary. The site is half-under a freeway, now; the half that isn’t is an empty lot with an outline of some of the buildings in the compound.

(Minerva “Minnie” Vining, a spinster of independent means, is visiting relatives in Richmond, Virginia, in the early 1850ies)

On her return to the Edmonds house, the maid who opened the door for her whispered,
“Ma’am is in de parlor with Ma’am Vining an’ de girls, Miss Minerva…”
Susan called from the parlor, obviously having heard the bell, and the door open and shut. “Minnie, is that you, dear? You must join us – Mrs. Van Lew just sent a boy with a note saying that she and Miss Elizabeth would be here momentarily …”
“Allow me to change my dress, Sue,” Minnie replied, and hastened up the stairs to the room that she and Annabelle shared, to discover that someone – either Annabelle or one of Susan’s housemaids had already laid out one of her afternoon dresses; a simple gown in the s pale violent of half-morning, with a lacy fichu – all with the creases from having been packed in a trunk neatly pressed out by the unseen hands of Cousin Susan’s Negro maids. Minnie hastily unbuttoned the skirt and bodice of her walking costume and exchanged her stockings and high-buttoned boots and for clean white stockings and plain dainty slippers. By the time she had effected this change, and hurried downstairs, the maid was already opening the front door to admit two ladies. Minnie fairly scampered into the parlor, and settled onto the divan next to Annabelle, who whispered,
“You’re late! We were beginning to despair! Did you lose track of the time?”
“The gardens of Church Hill are so splendid,” Minnie gasped. “I confess that I did – I am sorry, Susan – I was admiring certain of the trees; those with white flowers, of four or five petals.”
“Dogwood trees,” Charlotte piped up, and Susan chided her.
“Dear, speak when you are spoken to. Yes, the dogwood trees are particularly splendid this spring, although you have missed the jonquils at their best. But the magnolias are soon to bloom…Yes, Sadie?” That last was addressed to the maid, deferential in her dark dress, white apron and turban, lingering in the doorway.
“Mrs. Eliza Van Lew, Miss Elizabeth, Ma’am,” she murmured, and stepped aside from the doorway as Susan rose from her chair.
“Eliza, my dear!” she exclaimed to the older lady; a pleasant-faced matron with pink cheeks and very white hair, dressed as modestly as a Quaker in a grey walking dress bereft of any additional adornments. “And Lizzie – we are so pleased to see you today! Come in, come in! I must introduce you to my cousins, visiting from Boston: Mrs. Annabelle Vining, and Miss Minerva Vining – they have come to celebrate Lydia’s marriage with us and then to stay the summer over … the gentlemen will join us shortly.” Susan and the Van Lew ladies exchanged brief social embraces – the older lady with more open affection than the younger. “They traveled by train, all of the way,” Susan added, and the Van Lew ladies chorused their wonder and approval.
“From Boston!” Exclaimed Eliza Van Lew, as she turned her attention towards Minnie and Annabelle. “And on the train – what a marvel the railway has become. Now, I was brought up in Philadelphia, and my daughter attended school there, and now the matter of travel has become so much less onerous than it once was … how welcome you are to Richmond!”
“We have been received with every fond courtesy,” Annabelle replied, while – unobserved – Minnie regarded Miss Lizzie Van Lew, recognizing as if with a secret Masonic handshake, another stubborn spinster of her ilk. Yes, Miss Elizabeth was pleasing in her aspect and person, and fashionably-clad; a perfect blonde rose of the South, with the flaxen hair, unearthly blue eyes, and that fine complexion lauded by every sentimental novelist and fashion-paper … and yet, Miss Van Lew defied that convention, for her nose was a perfect beak and those eyes reflected a piercing and unsettling intelligence.
“Miss Vining,” she said, and her voice was pleasant and cultured. “May I sit with you and converse? I would adore to hear of how the abolitionist cause is progressing in the North. We hear so very little of the matter here in Richmond, you see – only fulminations against such wicked persuaders such as your Mr. Garrison, and the Reverend Slocomb – since he is of Boston, may I presume that you are acquainted with him?”
“But certainly,” Minnie answered, pleased and heartened at encountering a kindred spirit among Susan’s circle. “Mr. Garrison was a particular friend of my late brother, although they had fallen out over … some aspect of campaigning for the cause of abolition. I cannot recall the specific issue as Mr. Garrison is a passionate advocate and not easily brought to compromise. But he and my brother did eventually reconcile. Reverend Slocomb ministers to the congregation which I attend – and I have the privilege of a personal acquaintance with him, as well as a personally-inscribed volume of his sermons …”
“Indeed, I have a copy of that very same book!” Miss Lizzie beamed, radiantly, and Minnie laughed.
“I am reassured in making your acquaintance, Miss Van Lew – I had become convinced that such abolitionist sentiments are most rare in the South,”
“Alas, they are,” Lizzie Van Lew agreed, without rancor. “But I care little, nor does Mama, or my brother John. Among our circle of friends, it is considered – so far – merely an eccentricity peculiar to the Quakers of the northern States, and thus tolerated. My late father left us so considerable an estate as to shelter us well against that public opprobrium which might fall upon those of lesser means, otherwise …”
At that moment in their conversation, Richard and Cousin Peter joined what had become a most pleasant gathering: Susan fussed over settling her father into the most comfortable chair, and Richard took a seat on one of the spindly parlor chairs opposite the divan where Annabelle sat with Minnie and Miss Van Lew. No sooner was the introduction made, than Susan’s maid announced the arrival of another party.
“Captain and Mrs. Shaw, and Mr. Devereaux, Ma’am,” the girl said, and suddenly it seemed that Susan’s parlor was very full, although a large portion of that came from Mrs. Shaw’s fashionable crinoline as she leaned on her husbands’ arm, and the breadth of shoulder of the man who followed the pair into the parlor. Minnie couldn’t help that her eyes were drawn to him, as if by a magnet; tall and fair-haired, with rugged sun-bronzed features and eyes of a particular pale blue hue, a specimen of vigorous maturity, whom she judged to be about the age of her own. He possessed the same arresting quality as the Reverend Slocomb – that of an actor commanding the attention of an audience as he strode the boards.
“Why, Miss Elizabeth!” he exclaimed, in a gentle drawl which Minnie had begun to identify as that trait of those from the deeper south. “You mus’ do me the honor of acquainting me with your charming friends!”
Elizabeth appeared entirely unmoved by his courteous regard, even though it drew the interest of the other women in the room as a sunflower follows the sun. “These ladies are Mrs. Edmonds’ Boston relations,” she replied, in a voice devoid of the least scrap of flirtatious interest. “Miss Minerva and Mrs. Annabelle Vining. This gentleman is Preston Devereaux, lately returned from … where was it? I heard that it was traveling abroad; I cared little for where, although I prayed that it be far, far from Richmond…”
“My dear lady Tongue,” Preston Devereaux returned, seemingly much amused. “I thank you for your courtesy, Miss Elizabeth of Kate Hall. Ladies …” he kissed Annabelle’s raised hand, and then Minnies’, “Consider me to be at your most devoted service!”
Minnie and Annabelle briefly met each other’s eyes.
A rogue, indeed, was Annabelle’s unvoiced comment.
Yes, but an amusing one, Minnie signaled.
“I deduce from your manner of speech that you are from another place than this,” Minnie ventured, for yes, Preston Devereaux’s accent was the most deeply marked in Southern inflection that she had heard thus far.
“Charleston, Miss Vining,” he replied, with a smile which drew her – although not as deeply as it would have, if she had been as young as Charlotte Edmonds. “My family there is said to be descended from a latter sprout on the family tree of that Robert Deveraux, once the Earl of Essex and favorite of Good Queen Bess.”
“Charleston,” remarked Captain Shaw, from across the parlor where he had taken a seat next to Cousin Peter. Captain Shaw was dark of hair and yet had the same pale blue eyes as his cousin. His young wife was deep in converse with the Eliza Van Lew. “Where it is often said that the inhabitants most resemble the heathen Chinee – in that all eat rice and worship their ancestors.”
That bon mot earned a ripple of amused laughter from the ladies within hearing, and a chuckle from Preston Devereaux, who appeared to take no offense, as he regarded the three ladies – Miss Elizabeth, Annabelle and Minnie.
“I trust that you are finding your visit to Richmond enjoyable?” Preston Devereaux inquired, as if he really were interested, and Minnie replied,
“We have only been here for a day, Mr. Devereaux, but we have been warmly welcomed by our kin, and friends such as Miss Van Lew…”
“Richmond is so very different from Boston,” Annabelle echoed, and Miss Elizabeth set aside her teacup.
“We were having the most interesting talk,” she remarked, as every word were a little dagger. “Regarding mutual friends, and an interest in abolition.”
Minnie exchanged a glance with Annabelle; for all the care taken in leaving certain topics of conversation unexplored in the interests of civility among friends and kin, Miss Elizabeth was treading heavily among the conversational caltrops.
“Indeed,” Preston Devereaux raised an eyebrow. “A fascinating topic, Miss Elizabeth – alas, not one of interest to me: I may truly boast of having not a single drop of abolition blood in me.”
“A pity,” Miss Elizabeth observed, acidly “For I daresay that a single drop would make you into a man, rather than your present nonentity.”
Minnie drew in her breath with a horrified gasp, fully expecting Preston Devereaux to react as any ordinary man who had been insulted by a lady in the confines of another lady’s parlor, but instead, he merely chuckled appreciatively.
“Touché, Miss Elizabeth – my dearest shrew. I did invite that hit! Miss Vining pray do not look as if you meant to take offense on my part. Miss Van Lew and I have been in the habit of verbal jousts such as this for years. Such bouts sharpen our relative wits and amuse our friends no end.”
“Be warned concerning Mr. Devereaux’s conversation,” Miss Elizabeth returned, with an air of stark warning. “He assumes attitudes not from any deep conviction, but merely from a desire to provoke and tease. He is a veritable whirligig, turning as the conversational wind blows.”
“I have heard that Mr. Devereaux was abroad on foreign travels,” Annabelle interjected, in a manner intended to be placating, and that gentleman smiled as if he divined her motivation and was prepared to be indulgent of it. “I would like so very much to hear of his adventures – our cousin Susan says that you sought gold in California! So very exciting! What was it like? One hears the most fascinating tales of adventures and riches to be had in the mines. And now California is to be a state, so soon after having been merely a foreign possession! The gold mines are of an incredible richness, we hear tell.”
“I was in China, on an errand of some import for a relative of mine, and on my return, the ship on which I was traveling made port in California … and the news of the discovery of gold caused all of the sailors to desert,” Mr. Devereaux accepted a cup of tea and a plate of cake from Susan’s silent housemaids. Minnie made a private memorandum to herself; make sufficient conversation with Susan’s household slaves to learn their names. It seemed untoward to not know the names of servants, or not even to be able to tell them apart, so alike they all appeared, in their anonymous dark dresses and dark faces, below snowy-white turbans, as if interchangeable human automatons, given into service. Mr. Devereaux continued.
“We were there becalmed, in the port of Yerba Buena – although now it is called San Francisco. Situated on the most marvelous sheltered bay. The word came that gold had been discovered in the foothills of that mountain-range which shelters California to the east … even, that discovery was shouted in the streets, with proof brandished by one of the most respected men of town … I vow that even the few soldiers of the Presidio deserted their posts! All were maddened by the possibility of gold to be had, as easily as you ladies might pluck up and gather flowers from your gardens…”
“And did you find any gold yourself, in those bounteous California mines?” Miss Elizabeth sounded most skeptical, as Lizzie and Annabelle hung on every word. Minnie noted that Mrs. Eliza was deep in conversation with the young Mrs. Shaw – ah, from Philadelphia, she recollected. They must have interests, if not kin in common. Richard and Cousin Peter were likewise deep in converse together with Captain Shaw – matters of military import, both recent and of a historic nature, Minnie assumed. Charlotte and Lydia appeared likewise engaged in a converse most intense with a slender young gentleman who had also been announced. Minnie gathered that he was Lydia’s intended, from the fond manner in which Susan made him welcome to the parlor. She would have been more interested in the lad – but for being fascinated in the tale which Pres Devereaux had to tell.

It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … but for Wales, Richard?- From A Man for All Seasons

I have been following the Oberlin/Gibson Bakery trial with the same kind of reluctant and horrified fascination with which one might regard a multi-vehicle pileup on the highway; the mass-casualty kind that involves numerous vehicles in every kind of disassembled condition and in every possible position, scattered or crunched together on the roadway or catapulted off on the verge, which attracts the professional attention of multiple fire department engines, ambulances, and every police and highway patrol cruiser for miles around. In the case of the Gibson Bakery suit against Oberlin, extensive coverage of the protests, trial, verdict and local background to the whole messy affair was provided by the Legal Insurrection blog.

One of the nastier aspects to the imbroglio is the revelation that there was an ongoing problem with students shoplifting, at Gibson’s and apparently at other local retailers. A writer for a student publication called it as a “culture of theft.” More »

13. June 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Literary Good Stuff

(This is from the new work in progress: the Civil War novel, about the doings of Minnie Templeton Vining, tireless campaigner for the abolition of slavery before the war, and a nurse volunteer during it. In this chapter, Minnie has been left independently wealthy by the death of her father, and then of her oldest brother. She has decided to travel, and see something of the world.)

“Don’t fuss so, Richie,” Minnie chided Sophia’s seven-year old son, as she and Annabelle waited on the platform of the Lowell Street Station, that magnificent modern temple of commerce on Causeway and Lowell. The clamor of the busy station echoed around them; the shriek of steel wheels on rails, the gasp of steam escaping, newsboys shouting their wares. “We’ll only be gone for the summer. We’ll be back before you know it.”
She and Annabelle were to travel to Richmond by gradual stages and all the way by train, escorted by Cousin Peter and Annabelle’s son-in-law, Richard Brewer. Minnie had impatiently thrown back the black veil that draped her bonnet, and now a slight breeze from the harbor – wandering tentatively between the pillars which upheld the station roof, and the clattering engines with their burden of railcars – blew the ends of that veil to and fro. She and Annabelle wore the deep black of morning – although not the unrelieved shrouds suitable for widows, to Minnie’s great relief. She hated looking through a black fog of a veil.
“Don’t want Grammy to go ‘way!” Richie’s lower lip stuck out, mutinously, and he aimed a kick at the stack of trunks and carpetbags stacked next to Minnie and Annabelle and those friends and kin come to see them away. “Make her stay, Papa!” Sophia chided the boy, without any real conviction, but Richard shot out a swift arm and pulled the lad by his ear away from the luggage. Richie screwed up his face and yelped in pain.
“Stop that!” Richard commanded forcefully. “Behave like a young gentleman, Richie, or you’ll get a good thrashing over my knee!”
“Oh, you’re hurting him!” Sophia protested, while Minnie and Anabelle exchanged glances of mutual exasperation. Richie was a handsome lad, big for his age, well-mannered when he felt like it, but Minnie privately felt that Sophia mollycoddled and indulged him better than was good for his character; a young mother, and to date, Richie was the only chick in the Brewer family nest. Stubborn, willful and thoroughly spoiled, yet Richie was charming … when he wanted to be. Fortunately, Richard Brewer was not inclined toward indulgence.
“I’ll hurt more of him than his ear, if he doesn’t behave, my dear,” Richard sounded exasperated, even as Annabelle murmured, “All he hurt was his own toe, dear – I doubt that our luggage has any feelings at all.”
“It was an unmanly display of temper,” Richard retorted, in lawyerly dispassion. “And Richie is sufficiently old enough to learn not to give way to them. He is supposed to be the man of the house while I am away – not a spoilt infant.”
Minnie privately agreed with Richard – whom she had always found to be a sensible young man, sober beyond his years and yet graced with a puckish sense of humor which somewhat alleviated the solidity of his bearing and the burden of wealth and privilege. Her gaze fell with relief upon a pair off familiar figures, coming along the platform towards their party. To distract what she feared might become an unseemly public dispute, Minnie exclaimed,
“Look, it is the Reverend Doctor Slocomb, accompanying Cousin Peter! Dare I think that he has come to bid us farewell, or a safe journey? Or is he perhaps bound on a journey likewise? I would relish his company, if so – for his opinions and discourse are always so diverting!”
“I doubt that he can be parted so long from his adoring flock! Especially the ladies of the parish,” Annabelle observed, with a mischievous smile in Minnie’s direction. “Perhaps he is making an exception in your case, Minnie! You are, after all, an heiress to no small estate, and the good reverend is yet unwed…”
“Ridiculous!” Minnie snorted – for Annabelle would gently tease her about the handsome reverend – a half-decade Minnie’s junior, but his waving locks of dark hair already touched with gray, making him look as of he was her equal in years. And he was not unpleasing to look upon – nor was Minnie quite without susceptibility to male charms.
For the Reverend Slocomb was a man fully in command of those charms; a rugged physique, tall and broad of shoulder, a countenance in which the features of a classic Greek statue mingled appealingly with lively intelligence and charm. An passionate orator and of an abolitionist sympathies, his sermons in the pulpit of Beacon Street Congregationalist Church riveted the attention of all listeners, packed closely in the private pews and in the galleries – he had even had a collection of them published, and Minnie had purchased a copy from her allowance, although the late Judge waspishly described him as a producer of pretentious windbaggery sufficient to raise a Montgolfier balloon.
Now the Reverend Slocomb had spotted them – the party of three black-clad women, a man, and a small boy, with the towering mountain of trunks and carpetbags piled next to them on a pair of luggage barrows.
“My dearest Miss Vining!” he exclaimed, advancing and abeam with smiles, deftly evading a newsboy with his basket of fruit and sheaf of newspapers. The Reverend bowed over her hand, all honest and friendly affection. “Mrs. Vining, Mr. Brewer – good day to you all! My dear old friend Mr. Peter Vining tells me that you are departing with him on a journey of some time!”
“To visit kin,” Minnie couldn’t help but smile, and hoped that she was not pinkening – for Annabelle would tease her privately over that. “We will be in Richmond for almost two months – the length of summer. We felt the need of a change of scenery, and I am …”
“Tired of Boston?” Reverend Slocomb kept her gloved hand still imprisoned within his. Minnie felt the warmth of his regard, the appeal of his consideration and resisted the impulse to simper like a schoolgirl. Meanwhile, Cousin Peter Vining, advancing at a somewhat slower pace, leaning as he did on his trusty cane, flashed a boyish grin at the party.
“Belle, dear – Minnie! Richard, you young scamp! Here I am, better late than never. They were afraid I would be late for the train, pestiferous invention, yet better than marching all the way! Had you despaired of my arrival?”
Minnie flashed a brief smile at the Reverend Slocomb, sliding her hand out of his with a grace that obliviated any lack of manners. Cousin Peter Vining was over the allotted age of fourscore and ten and increasingly lame from toes lost to frostbite in the bitter cold of a winter encampment when he was a mere lad in the Revolution, although otherwise wiry and spry. Yet, in defiance of those years, and unlike the Reverend Slocomb, Cousin Peter still contrived to appear younger than his calendar age. It was in his eyes, Minnie had always thought – the lively interest and energy of her father’s younger cousin. Cousin Peter was raised in Milford in Delaware, and at the age of seventeen had followed Washington with stubborn devotion, marched south with the Delaware regiments and fought at Cowpens. The spirit of independence burned with a white-hot fervor in Cousin Peter – perhaps that kept him still young, after all those travails in his youth. It was his oldest daughter Susan, and her husband who had invited them all for a long visit – Minnie privately hoped that Cousin Peter was yet strong enough to endure the journey without damage to his health, for all that they had planned to do it in leisurely stages, and rest for a day or so between.
“An adventure!” Cousin Peter kissed Minnie’s hand, and then Annabelle’s. “I have never outgrown a taste for adventure! And Susan is my dearest child, and I long to see her again, one more time. She has six handsome children, and she sent me the loveliest letter some weeks ago – her eldest, Lydia, is collecting a button-string; a button from each of her relations! We can indulge Lydia with the very finest and most personal buttons, I daresay.”
“We can, indeed,” Minnie pushed back her bonnet sufficiently so that she could also kiss Cousin Peter on his age-withered cheek. “And we can present them personally, of course. I am anticipating this visit with such longing! It is not that I am tired of Boston,” Minnie added, with a sideways smile at the Reverend Slocomb. “But one longs, sometimes, for other vistas … other sights! I decline to rusticate away, to the point where I do not dare set foot outside my own doorstep, lest I encounter some unfamiliar sight and swoon out of fright at the strangeness of it all.”
“You were the perfect dutiful daughter, ministering to Ly, and then to Horace and George in these last years,” Cousin Peter murmured, his voice husky with suppressed emotion. “Eh – and you are well-deserving of a holiday, my dear Minnie.”
“A perfect saint,” the Reverend Slocomb added. “A model of daughterly and sisterly devotion – we shall miss your presence at our devotions, and in the good work performed by the good ladies of the congregation, Miss Vining. Hurry back to Boston, as soon as you may … your return will be an event much longed-for … I speak personally, of course. Although I am certain that the other ladies will welcome you home …”
“I am certain that they will,” Annabelle pursed her lips, just barely amending the cynical smirk in which they had originally arranged themselves. “We well know the degree of respect in which Miss Vining is held by the good ladies of the Beacon Street Church.”
Minnie just barely held herself back from sticking out her tongue at Annabelle – her oldest and dearest friend, who knew well where to jab the sharp needle of her teasing. An affectionate tease, for the most part – but Annabelle’s aim was as always, unerring.
“I have no apprehension when it comes to telling ladies like Lolly Bard when they are being silly geese,” Minnie retorted. “And that appears to be the source of the intelligence that I am respected among them,”
“Touche, Aunt Minnie,” Richard Brewer grinned. “A hit, a very palpable hit … I believe that is now our carriage, and now is the time to mount it – that is, if we wish to gain favorable seats for our party.”
“Lead the way,” They made their farewells to the Reverend Slocomb; Richard embraced his son – who seemed now merely sullen – and Sophia, bravely stifling tears. What he murmured to them was private, not for the ears of anyone else. In a spirit of rebellion, Minnie left the black veil hanging back over her shoulders, as Richard offered her his arm, and Cousin Peter did the same with Annabelle. Richard snapped his fingers at the porter with his barrow, already taking up the long handles, as another porter lingered, asking if he could be of service. Now was the moment of departure.

The Daughter Unit and I spent most of Saturday morning in the lovely little town of Wimberley, Texas. Wimberley is situated on a particularly scenic stretch of the Blanco River, in the hills to the west of San Marcos. It’s closer to Austin than to San Antonio and seems to have become even more of a weekend tourist draw, since we first visited it in the late 1990ies. Then there were just a handful of little shops catering to tourists, and one restaurant with had memorable hamburgers and an outside deck which overlooked the riverbank, all grown with cypress trees, great and green. There were a fair number of hippie artisan types; potters, glass-blowers, metal-fabricators and the like, plus the usual number of antique shops, which tended more towards the ‘quaint old country junk’ side of the scale. On the first Saturday of the month, Wimberley stages a mammoth open-air market – something we’ve been to a number of times. It’s supposed to be the oldest and biggest one in Texas.
More »

07. June 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, History, Literary Good Stuff

I scribbled the last words of Luna City #8 early Thursday afternoon. Left it all in suspense on the final page, as is usual with the Luna City series; resolve all the main story lines, wander down a few amusing byways as regards the (created) local history, explore the lives or experiences of characters, set up hints regarding the next installment, and then leave it all on a (temporary) cliff-hanger.
Yes, I’m evil that way. I want readers to buy the next installment, ‘kay? Just so they can find out what will happen next. Look, this has been the stratagem of story-tellers since the very art of story-telling began.

And then I set to work earnestly on the next … for which I had already scribbled two scene-and-character-setting chapters, and several pages of notes about mid-19th century female abolitionists, and ordinary women who took up the challenge of being battlefield nurses when the pustule of the peculiar institution burst in 1860-61 and plunged most of the somewhat united American states into a bitter and brutal war. They say that civil wars are the worst. It’s as if the hatred is all the more bitter when it’s not some alien and foreign invader burning crops, raping women, and stealing away the best, brightest and most noble of youthful manhood, along with the harvested crops: it’s all the more stinging when it’s kin and ex-friends doing all of the above. I guess that it is the aspect of personal betrayal that makes it all the worse.
It was all very complicated, you see. Human society, the interactions that we have with those of our kind most usually is more complicated that the political theorists and historians can comprehend. Just as a brief example – a recent bio of Audrey Hepburn revealed that her mother was quite the Hitler enthusiast … until the war began, Holland was occupied, and a near and dear relation was executed by the Nazis. So – serious reconsideration of sympathies, all the way around on the part of Mother-of-future-gamine-star.

Back to my original thought – the next book, set in the lead-up to, and during the Civil War, as seen through the eyes of a female abolitionist and later on, a volunteer nurse. Minnie Vining. She was briefly mentioned in Deep in the Heart, and at slightly more length in Sunset and Steel Rails, so that I must ret-conn her character and story-arc from those brief appearances and fill out such experiences which were hinted at in those books. Only daughter among four sons of a long-established and respectable Boston family, a family whose experiences in the American Revolution were also hinted at … and why am I writing all my family saga backwards? Starting from the 1830ies in Texas and filling it all in, backwards and forwards from that point? Eh … sounds like a personal problem.

So here it is – the next historical is a Civil War novel – a bit of a change in focus for me. Of the previous books, only one is set during that period, and that in the Texas Hill Country, where most key developments and events happened far offstage, and most main characters in it sincerely wished not to participate in the war effort in any way. The other books are set either before and on the frontier, or at some remove afterwards. This next one, with a working title of That Fateful Lightning goes straight into the weeds of the anti-slavery movement; how it came to be that the question of slavery roiled feelings throughout the decade before the war, and it how it came to be that partisans on both sides were more than willing to take up arms against kin, former friends, neighbors and total strangers.

I expect also to delve full into the eccentric operations of Civil War battlefield hospitals. I already have a tall stack of reminiscences by women who served in such hospitals, and in providing the necessary by organizing fund-raising bazars and extensive shipments of home comforts to men in the field. It may have been an almost natural thing for so many women to take up nursing at that time. In the days before antibiotics and notions of sterile bandages, women ordinarily spent a fair amount of time nursing the sick anyway; children, husbands, brothers and sisters. Taking up a temporary career as a war nurse was a natural extension. Organizing fresh bread, clean sheets, and tempting invalid meals on an industrial scale – must have been just another logical reach for someone already accustomed to doing so on a home-sized level. I have been mildly boggled to find out how the pre-war Army medical establishment, which was a tiny organization suitable to a tiny peacetime military, came to depend so heavily on the various local Sanitary Commission volunteers when it came to dealing with the huge numbers of casualties once the lead began to fly in earnest.
I honestly don’t know how long this will take me: maybe as early as the end of this year, perhaps into next year, say mid-2020. But in the meantime, enjoy the other historicals, the Lone Star Sons volumes, and of course – Luna City.

06. June 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, History

D-Day Troops Landing(A reprise post from a decade ago – a reflection on D-Day.)

So this is one of those historic dates that seems to be slipping faster and faster out of sight, receding into a past at such a rate that we who were born afterwards, or long afterwards, can just barely see. But it was such an enormous, monumental enterprise – so longed looked for, so carefully planned and involved so many soldiers, sailors and airmen – of course the memory would linger long afterwards.

Think of looking down from the air, at that great metal armada, spilling out from every harbor, every estuary along England’s coast. Think of the sound of marching footsteps in a thousand encampments, and the silence left as the men marched away, counted out by squad, company and battalion, think of those great parks of tanks and vehicles, slowly emptying out, loaded into the holds of ships and onto the open decks of LSTs. Think of the roar of a thousand airplane engines, the sound of it rattling the china on the shelf, of white contrails scratching straight furrows across the moonless sky.

Think of the planners and architects of this enormous undertaking, the briefers and the specialists in all sorts of arcane specialties, most of whom would never set foot on Gold, Juno, Sword, Omaha or Utah Beach. Many of those in the know would spend the last few days or hours before D-day in guarded lock-down, to preserve security. Think of them pacing up and down, looking out of windows or at blank walls, wondering if there might be one more thing they might have done, or considered, knowing that lives depended upon every tiny minutiae, hoping that they had accounted for everything possible.

Think of the people in country villages, and port towns, seeing the marching soldiers, the grey ships sliding away from quays and wharves, hearing the airplanes, with their wings boldly striped with black and white paint – and knowing that something was up – But only knowing for a certainty that those men, those ships and those planes were heading towards France, and also knowing just as surely that many of them would not return.

Think of the commanders, of Eisenhower and his subordinates, as the minutes ticked slowly down to H-Hour, considering all that was at stake, all the lives that they were putting into this grand effort, this gamble that Europe could be liberated through a force landing from the West. Think of all the diversions and practices, the secrecy and the responsibility, the burden of lives which they carried along with the rank on their shoulders. Eisenhower had in his pocket the draft of an announcement, just in case the invasion failed and he had to break off the grand enterprise; a soldier and commander hoping for the best, but already prepared for the worst.

Think on this day, and how the might of the Nazi Reich was cast down. June 6th was for Hitler the crack of doom, although he would not know for sure for many more months. After this day, his armies only advanced once – everywhere else and at every other time, they fell back upon a Reich in ruins. Think on this while there are still those alive who remember it at first hand.

05. June 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic
Well, it won't win me any followers on Instagram for my mad organizing skills - but now we can actually find what we were looking for...

Well, it won’t win me any followers on Instagram for my mad organizing skills – but now we can actually find what we were looking for…

With the garage nearly cleared out – at least as far as we can walk around in the place blind-folded and not injure ourselves through falling on or over something dangerous – the time came to tackle another messy chore.
The garage freezer. This was an item which – since I bought it in (gulp) the early 1990ies – has served heroically ever since. It’s an up-right; no, my parents’ first freezer was a chest-style, and was it ever a pain, getting down to the bottom of that item. Mom and Dad resorted to a system of stacked heavy-duty stacked plastic baskets, which was all very nice and efficient, except that you had to shift at least three or four of them if you were going on a deep snorkel for some wanted item. So, when I finished up in Northern Utah after twelve years overseas, I bought an upright freezer through the good offices of the BX and thought myself fortunate. When previously stationed stateside, the BX didn’t offer major appliances. Something about local furniture and appliance merchants in Sacramento screaming bloody murder at not being able to gouge military members for household items … eh. Old news. Anyway – I caught the food-preservation fever in Utah. Something about a place where fifty and a hundred-pound bags of sugar and flour are freely available at commercial outlets that are not Sams’ or Costco. Must be something in the water, I guess.
Anyway, we’ve been going systematic about frozen purchases, since I came into possession of a vacuum-sealer at a yard sale a few years ago and doing a brisk round at the end of the month for … foodstuff to last the whole month-long. We had a good system going … but it came time to defrost and clean out the garage freezer, since the layers of frost became insupportable. As in ‘couldn’t shove in another blessed thing not without a crowbar and ice-pick.’
I really hesitated about this project, since I knew (from the last time I had ventured this project) that it would a) make a mess from melted ice all over the garage, and b) put us through the trouble of taking out the not-inconsiderable quantities of frozen stuff IN the freezer, and keeping it safe and deeply frozen until time came to return it to the original resting place. On the up-side, we would really be able to inventory and re-sort the collected deep-frozen items. Yes, dear readers – we took the plunge, although the Daughter Unit had to run out and purchase an additional Styrofoam cooler and a couple of insulated bags at the nearest available HEB once it became clear that the contents of the freezer would overwhelm the current collection of coolers and insulated bags.
The melted ice-water did run a good way into the garage, and we were put to the effort of mopping it up… totes expected. But a good way into this process, I realized that one of the large plastic storage tubs was THE EXACT SIZE TO FIT INTO THE BOTTOM OF THE FREEZER!!!ELEVENTY!!! Where it could collect the ice-melt without any fuss and overflow into the garage. Gee … wish I could have noted that earlier in this project. Noted for the next time, though.
So – that expedient is on the schedule for the next time we perform this exercise. The last big chunk of frost, adhering to the top inside of the freezer unit came away allofasudden in mid-afternoon, about two hours before I had expected it to melt and fall away into the commodious waiting bin.
But all to the good. We could turn the freezer on again, and show everything away … a small thing, in my schedule of household upgrades … but a decidedly needful one.
And yeah – the storage bin as a catchment for the ice, the next time we defrost. SO noted.

31. May 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Media Matters Not

So, I’ve been following, in a desultory fashion, the kerfuffle over various movie projects suddenly discovering that filming in a state where the local voters and their legislature prefer putting limits on the availability of abortion is … OMG! The Handmaids’ Tale is upon us! Flee, Flee for your lives, those TV series and movies choosing to shoot in lower-cost states than California (where about every scenic local has been seen in the background many a time. It was, once a upon a time, my private amusement, in spotting familiar locations in and around Los Angeles appearing in popular TV series.) Geeze, it’s almost as if among the Hollywood glitterati the need for abortion services occurs at least once a month and twice on Sundays. Given the various reports of disgusting rapey-sexual conduct among producers and directors (mostly male) perpetuated upon (mostly but not exclusively) female performers, perhaps on-command abortion services might be required at that. Funny old thing that – these are the same producers and organizations who have no problem filming in foreign countries with even stricter limits on abortion. More »

26. May 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Literary Good Stuff

Some years ago, when the world was young and all, Oh Best Beloved, the proprietor of a generalist blog (Blogger News Network) that I contributed content for, and who also paid me by the word for occasional professional content, came up with a means for his stable of contributors to score free books and movies. Seriously, that’s how it all started; and how could one say no to free books and movies, seeing how much new movie DVDs and hardcover books cost? He worked up an agreement with publicity firm which would provide review copies of movies … and we would do reviews for Blogger News Network. At a slightly later date, I began doing this for a couple of different on-line enterprises; book reviews mostly. Before Barnes & Noble, and Amazon evolved to the point of getting positively twitchy about duplicate reviews, we were also in the habit of posting slightly edited versions of our reviews on those sites. Later, B&N and Amazon came to frown on this practice, and I stopped doing it – for a reason which will soon become clear.

It came about, Oh Best Beloved, that one day in 2011 after I had been doing this for a couple of years (for the free book and movie swag, mostly) I received an email from something called the Amazon Vine, noting that I had apparently received a boatload of helpful up-votes on my reviews, and that was sufficient by their somewhat mysterious metrics to be invited to become a Vine Reviewer. Well, it sounded interesting, and possibly remunerative, and why not? The publicity company providing movie DVDs hadn’t offered anything interesting in simply ages – I think show business in general was going through a bad patch – and the book review places were going through a similar dry period. So, I accepted the invitation, outlined my preferences: for books, mostly, computer and office supplies, and stuff for the house and garden, sometimes gourmet food items. I still have no idea of why Amazon offered me this interesting little sideline gig, by the way – other than the boatload of helpful votes on the earlier reviews.

Over the next couple of years, I scored the occasional interesting book, a cover for the Kindle reader, a surge protector, a battery-operated motion-sensing flood-light for the back yard … nice, but nothing really to go bananas over. If there was a high-value item in my Vine queue, it was usually gone by the time I asked for it. For the first few years it continued that way. I did consider myself outstandingly fortunate to get a rather nice 17-inch laptop computer, and a couple of months later, a Canon Maxify printer. That was about a good as it got for me, being a Vine Voice. It seems though, about eighteen months ago, that the powers that be at Amazon rejiggered the Vine algorithms again. Since then, it’s been a veritable flood of household and home renovation items. A couple of interior light fixtures, an outdoor light fixture, a couple of ceiling fans, a very nice Moen kitchen faucet, an Amazon-brand bathroom sink faucet, a beveled-edge mirror, along with a number of kitchen appliances … the mirror, the bathroom faucet and one of the light fixtures were set aside and installed as part of the master bath renovation. The biggest of the ceiling fans went into the living room, and my daughter and I installed the exterior light fixture ourselves. (Not for nothing was the Daughter Unit a USMC field wireman.) The other features are set aside for the kitchen renovation in a couple of years. I am not totally mercenary about this – I only ask for the items that we can really, genuinely use – but looking around the house lately, anyone knowing where some of the features came from could be forgiven for thinking that it’s the House that Amazon Built.

23. May 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: General, Health and Wellness, My Head Hurts

Speaking as one who formerly identified as a feminist, of the reasonable ‘small-f’ variety, when it meant equal opportunity for education, employment, the same pay for doing the same job, and equal consideration when it came to things like credit, I have always been baffled by how the raving ‘Capital-F’ feminists chose abortion as the hill to die on. I was also baffled by the rabid male-hating by influential Capitol-F feminists like Andrea Dworkin.
(Ladies, the male of our species may have their moments, and a very, very, very few of them are creatures which any sensible woman should run screaming, or at least murmuring a polite excuse and expeditiously leaving the room … but the rest of them are very nice, if occasionally a bit eccentric in their hobbies and inability to load the dishwasher and remember where they left the toilet seat. They fix things – I rather adore men who can fix things. It’s an endearing quality, as far as I am concerned. They are also stronger than us, and they willingly kill large bugs and spiders.)

Mind you, I was always aware that a woman who was pregnant and didn’t want to be pregnant, for whatever reason – had a problem. (And yes, I experienced some of this at first hand.) A big problem, to which there was no really good solution. There were women who did horrible things, permanently damaging things, to their bodies in order to rid themselves of an unwanted baby. There were back-alley abortionists, also doing horrible things to women’s bodies by way of relieving them of a baby. Even bearing a child to term, only to surrender custody to adoptive parents through various means – that was a tragedy for a woman, although a good outcome for the child. Making abortion absolutely illegal without exception was and is not the solution. On the other hand, neither is permitting it right up to full-term – and that is something I find absolutely horrifying. Furthermore, in a world where reliable birth control and in an emergency, a morning-after pill are readily available – why is late-term abortion even such a polarizing matter for debate?

This week, Alabama’s legislature passed a fairly restrictive abortion law and Alabama governor Kay Ivey (yes, a woman) signed it into law and the Establishment Capital-F feminists are coming unglued, as might well have been predicted. Again – why did the mainstream Capital-F feminists choose unlimited access to abortion services to be that be-all, end-all cause? I recollect the existence of pro-life feminists; whatever happened to them? I assume they were screeched into silence on that question. But why, when there were so many other women-related causes that all women could have rallied around: parental leave, generous consideration for the needs of pregnant women, mothers with small children, and new families in general … but no – the establishment Feminists went all-out for abortion, although veiled with the euphemism of ‘reproductive health.’

I’ve never been able to figure out why. My daughter says it’s because the matter of abortion availability is something that will never quite go away; women forget their Pill, think it’s a time of the month when they won’t conceive, trust the guy they are having sex with, put off doing anything about a suspected pregnancy. One theory that I have run across is that so many of the early establishment Feminists had abortions, secretly were in knots about it, and went all out to normalize it as a means of justification. Maybe. Considered in retrospect at this point, a good many don’t seem to have been happy women at all. Your thoughts?

17. May 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Media Matters Not

How the mighty are fallen from earlier glory: in the 1990ies, CNN was the scrappy, creative underdog in the TV news business. No name anchors and reporters, bare-bones no-frills sets, go anywhere, cover anything reporters and camera crews. In the first Gulf War, they were Johnny-on-the spot and the news source to watch for war developments, if my memory serves. And now, some knowledgeable commenters and bloggers wonder openly if the only reason that CNN’s viewership isn’t crashing more steeply than has been reported is because of the channels’ ubiquity at airports and other public venues. Once upon a golden time, it seemed only logical for the owners/managers of airports and the like to have contracts with CNN, and no one objected much because it was CNN, a responsible and political neutral source of news. More »

12. May 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

This is something that has been developing over the last … decade or so. Maybe a bit longer, since when the Daughter Unit came home from the Marines with all her worldly possessions and parked most of them in the garage. A garage into which a lot of domestic detritus had flowed in addition, starting with some excess furniture, held against the day when the Daughter Unit ever had her own establishment, the camping gear from when we did indeed camp … and a number of boxes of stuff which may not even have been properly unpacked from when I bought the house in the spring of 1995 and a grateful USAF-hired subcontractor in the moving profession parked them within. My final delivery of PCS delivery of household goods, after eight moves over twenty years. I ought to take pictures of the boxes, as they are unearthed. (This is not anywhere near a record in the military world. I managed to remain at one place for six years, practically a lifetime homesteading, as these things go.) To all this was added various gleanings by myself and the Daughter Unit – but I swear, until about a decade ago, we could – with a bit of a squeeze – get two cars into the garage.
Until the garage door crapped out, and I could not afford to have it replaced at that time. And then … well, Fibber McGee’s closet had nothing on the garage. It was to the point where stuff was just lost within. A kind of domestic storage black hole, although if we opened the door from the hallway into it, there was nothing like the noisy, prolonged cavalcade of stuff falling. It was at a point where there was barely a path from the door to the freezer, and that was when the hot-water heater gave up the ghost last year. I still think that the hot-water heater should have been retained in a utility-plumbing museum someplace, for it was proved by the plumbers who replaced it, to have been the original install to the house, and had faithfully provided hot water for thirty years, when it rightfully could have been forgiven for collapsing after ten or so.
Anyway, in that grand final collapse, the hot-water heater flooded the near regions of the garage, and I lugged out several trashcan-loads of ruined and moldy stuff over the days that followed – mostly those shoes and clothes in which my daughter was no longer interested in. When the Daughter Unit returned from California this spring – we agreed to sort out the garage, now that the door and automatic lifting mechanism was on my schedule to be replaced. We have now been working on that project since Monday. Much has to be sorted, and inevitably, much of it consigned to the trash, or to the local Goodwill outlet, although we did make a side trip yesterday to a local recycling enterprise with the back of the Montero loaded with what could be construed as metal or technological scrap with a metal component. Based on our last visit there, the Daughter Unit suggested an over-under. She placed a bet on over $15, but I went for under $10. We got a whole $1.50 for the trouble.
Goodwill, though – any more trips to the nearest Donation Station, we will be on a first-name basis with the unloading-assistance people. Clothes – mostly hers, outgrown, unneeded. The futon mattress, hopefully to be reunited with the frame, which went to Goodwill last month. (Yes, it took that long to wade through the detritus in the garage to get to it.) Extraneous appliances – how on earth did we finish up with two or three coffee makers when only one of us drinks coffee? The old yoghurt-maker, from when I was a newly-minted sergeant with a toddler, living in Mather AFB enlisted housing, on a shoe-string budget, when my biggest monthly bill be for the day-care center, and I cut corners in all kinds of ways, including brewing yoghurt from milk and a couple of dollops of the previous batch. An extraneous blender, a couple of framed pictures which once ornamented the Daughter Unit’s room … and a whole raft-load of old magazines. I had subscriptions to Gourmet, the Smithsonian, and a selection of others; most of them I passed on to other readers (my next-door neighbor in Athens, Kyria Penny adored reading my old Atlantic and Harpers issues), or disposed of, once read, but like back issues of the National Geographic – those magazines accumulated. And accumulated. And accumulated. Well – nice, readable, interesting magazines, and once one has paid for them … well, anyway, it was time to do a clean sweep. I never once went out to the garage to look up back issues and keeping them seemed distinctly hoarderish to me. So – out they have gone, piled up in garbage bags next to the recycle bin.
We did a culling of the boxes of books out there, as well, as well as some stuff that once I was sentimental about – like the framed posters I had on the walls of my barracks room, an age ago. A handful of books are reprieved, the rest packed into bags and wished on the good people of Goodwill, and the posters are for the chop. Yesterday, we emptied and demolished a pair of cheap utility shelves – one from Spain, where it used to hold the kitchen things, the other inherited from Dave, the Computer Guy. Gone, waiting for trash collection, their contents culled, repacked and re-shelved if we decided to keep. Today – emptied and moved the two shelves that we will be keeping, and re-shelved stuff. The bags full of trash await collection. Next week, we’ll call on Neighborhood Handy Guy and his pick-up truck, to help us ferry a couple of box springs and mattresses (one of the box springs is unused!) and the bicycles – the old three-speed that I took to Korea for the year to serve as my basic transport, and the kid’s bicycle that the Daughter Unit had in Spain. Sentiment is all very well, but these bikes were ordinary, nothing otherwise special – and we need the space in the garage.
My ambition, actually – is to be able to walk across the garage with my eyes closed, and not trip over anything. The purpose for all this is so that we can get the garage door replaced, and be able to park at least one of the cars inside, by the time that I finish paying Neighborhood Handy Guy for the bathroom renovation.