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

How bizarre it is to come to a time in these sort-of-United States where certain people who might otherwise have been mistaken for grownups appear to take great pleasure in channeling their inner selves; that of a malicious, sneaky tattle-tale, running to the teacher to inform on their fellow students at every opportunity. We do not — yet — have the equivalent of the East German ‘Stasi’, where half the population eagerly and voluminously informed on the other half. I would have assumed that Americans, young and old, despised tattletales – the adult version every bit as much as the juvenile variety. But we have moved on, it seems. A certain kind of mentality seems bound and determined to sign up as informers even before such volunteers are requested by the authorities in various venues.
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So, I had this marvelous inspiration for an epic miniseries last night, which I am sure has probably occurred to other people – would that at least one of them might be in a position to act on this inspiration. We were watching Father Ted, and on the way to watching it, skimmed through some of the other offerings available through Amazon, Netflix, and Acorn … and I was thinking, since there are so many period series available, which offer all sorts of alternate or even just slightly-skewed versions of history, especially the versions which offer the actors the opportunity to get all vamped up in corsets and coats trimmed up in gold braid and whatever … what would be a good and popular historical novel series to make a TV miniseries out of … something with a swaggering, handsome and sexually-adventurous-hero, who romped all through the known world of the 19th century, brushing elbows with all kinds of interesting men of note and bedding women likewise, hip-deep in scandals, scoundrels and skullduggery, oh my.

Can you picture for a shining moment – what a thumping good miniseries the Flashman books would make? Yes, George McDonald Fraser’s Flashman series of books, wherein the dashing rakehell of the outwardly heroic, inwardly lily-livered Harry Flashman goes from the First Afghan War, scampering down the corridors of power all over the globe, looking over his shoulder and putting on a desperate burst of speed. Think of all the famous historical personages portrayed over five or six episodes by well-known actors doing a guest turn, consider all the supporting and reoccurring characters, whose listing on imdb would feature this role at the top of their CV. Consider all the exotic, exciting locations for Harry Flashman’s adventures … well, OK, likely Afghanistan is off the list as a real-life shooting location since history is still repeating itself there: You got England and Scotland, Germany, the Crimea, Russia, India, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, Mexico, all through the US and better than half a century of significant events, wars, campaigns and punitive expeditions across four continents. You got Abraham Lincoln, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Empress of China, pirates in the South China Sea, mutineers in India, and Apache on the warpath.

It would be splendid. And with even more book materiel than George R. R. Martin, too. Enough to do at least ten seasons if they did all twelve books, although likely to fill in the American Civil War segment, they might have to figure out exactly how Harry Flashman managed to fight for both the Union and the Confederacy. GMF never wanted to do it up in a book; Flashman being an Englishman, the American Civil War was just one of those minor foreign scuffles to him.

And the best part – would be that nervous-nelly, eternally politically correct social justice warriors would absolutely melt down into puddles of anguished tears at it all.

Some ironic fun on a Friday, found through the Passive Voice website.

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

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

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

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

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

I know that I have not been posting much lately – here or anywhere else lately; just the bare minimum of commenting on other people’s posts and other people’s blogs and websites, but I had a couple of projects for the Tiny Publishing Bidness to work on, and then the two major projects to finish, format and upload to various platforms. Yes, I decided to go all-out and finish two books in time for the Christmas marketing season this year. Amazingly, neither one was the one that I had declared at the beginning of the year that I would have all done and ready to launch by this time  … yes, the adventures of young Fredi Steinmetz in Gold Rush-era California is rolled back another year. Sigh. I still have to do an epic-truck-load of reading of contemporary accounts and skull out a plot sufficient and historically-accurate to fill the last half of the book; which so far in my head will include a stint in San Francisco the year of the epically well-organized Vigilante organization, encounters with various historic personages, to include William T. Sherman, Lotta Crabtree and her formidable mother, some murderous claim-jumpers and a young woman seeking justice – while disguised as a boy. So, yes I will get on to that presently. After all The Quivera Trail was held at a third completed while I worked on Daughter of Texas and Deep in the Heart, and it didn’t seem to do any harm in the long-run.

So – the Harvey Girl adventure, Sunset and Steel Rails is done and ready for release on the 19th, in print and in Kindle. Amazon is dragging their feet apparently, in expediting the ‘Look-Inside’ feature. It isn’t up at present, but it should be in the next couple of days. Not bad, for something that I only got inspired to start in February of this year.  But The Chronicles of Luna City is a light and amusing present-day trifle which my daughter and I only got started on at the end of July – and here it is November, and that book is done and nearly finalized as well.  Three months, and just 70,000 words (but with pictures!) which is short for me, as most of the other books run 125,000 and up. (Although Lone Star Sons pegged in at 65,000.) There was one of the professional pulp adventure fiction writers – whose name escapes me at the moment – who was said to have done a book a month at one point in his career. Don’t know what the total word count was on any of them, but he must have worked in a white-hot blaze of energy … and Luna City is a light and diverting trifle, requiring very little research. Well, except for looking up restaurant equipment, and the names of obscure British TV series of the 1980s, and making certain that there aren’t any real companies with the same names of companies that I have mentioned in Luna City. Movie production companies really go for the obscure, I have to say. Had to nix six or seven possible names because there is a real production company out in the world with the name of something I thought would work for a movie production company. Luna City is pure contemporary escapism, utterly devoid of any redeeming social value in the eyes of the established guardians of our high literary culture … which I believe a lot of us have a need of these days, given how particularly screwed up, violent, and depressing real life seems to be, lately. (Oh, Established Guardians of our High Literary Culture? Yoo-hoo … over here! Now, gaze lovingly upon my upraised middle finger!)

So, light blogging will commence, now that all the hard labor of writing, editing, formatting and polishing have been done. Did you miss me?

So much idiocy, so little time and energy, especially when so many other people have come out swinging – but hey, if it’s worth doing, why not join in?

To the Trump, to the Trump, to the Trump-Trump-Trump. Say what you will about The Donald, all of his decades worth of baggage is out there, and out there proud and he doesn’t give a d*mn. Is he totally serious about running? Darned if I know – for all of it, he may be out there purely for the fun of throwing a spanner into the works of the long slow, gruesome march of the establishment GOP powers to force Jeb down our collective throats. At the very least, he’s making it possible for the other GOP candidates to start talking about the issues that 95% of the rest of us are concerned about – but which the establishment GOP is too darned lily-livered to even address. And at worst – that he could actually be elected? I don’t see that The Donald could possibly be worse than what got elected the last time around.

Speaking of long, slow gruesome marches … shall we start a pool on how much longer Her Inevitableness is going to carry on with her campaign? From where I stand, it seems like every appearance and event just seems to be making her more dislikeable and unpopular than before. Look, Hillary … the coronation just isn’t going to happen, not when your baggage train is about sixty boxcars long. May as well divorce Bill, settle down in Chappaqua and take up knitting for the grandspawn or something. Even coming out as a lesbian ain’t gonna help, not at this late date.
The revelation that the cheating website Ashley Madison has thousands of accounts at mil email addresses has me shaking my head. You need the help of a third-party website to organize an illicit affair? Back in the day, that’s what TDY orders were used for by determinedly unfaithful spouses. You kids – get off my lawn!

And finally – Shaun “Black Lives Matter” King turning out to be white, white, whiter than Rinso white? He ought to get together with Racheal Dolzeal, Elizabeth Warren and Ward Churchill, and start a group or something. I can see a future when someone starting a career as a racial activist or asking for academic preference on racial preference will have to have a DNA test run, and the results of it tattooed on their shoulder-blade for future reference, or something. It looks like young Mr. King is a fabulist of the first order, but scamming Orca Winfrey out of a scholarship intended to benefit youths of color in da hood is chutzpah above and beyond.

Discuss, if you dare.

03. August 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: General Nonsense, Local, Luna, Texas

Final Cover with LetteringOn Saturday morning, Berto Gonzales slept in, knowing that he should have the town car back to Elmendorf to Uncle Tony’s place by mid-day. He came yawning from the tiny back bedroom at his father’s place, drawn by the smell of bacon frying, coffee brewing, and the sound of the cable Univision channel on rather loudly. His grandmother, Adeliza Gonzales, had never learned English and was slightly deaf besides – but in spite of that and being relatively homebound at the age of 89, Adeliza Gonzales didn’t miss much, even though the only English-language programs she ever watched were on the Food Network. Berto’s father had bought a wide-screen television specifically to put in the kitchen so that Abuela Adeliza could watch her cooking shows in the comfort of the room that she loved the best.
“Morning, Abuela,” Berto said, and then repeated himself slightly louder. Abuela Adeliza’s attention was riveted to the television screen, where an excited announcer was yammering on about … Berto wasn’t sure. It looked shaky cameraphone footage of a naked man with something metallic on his head, running down the street in a foreign city – a brief clip, then to steadier footage of an important-looking storefront building, with a large number of ambulances parked in front, flashing lights everywhere. Abuela Adeliza shook her head in dismay.

“Poor, poor fellow!” She exclaimed. “Such a shame … he had such a fine future before him … ‘morning, Berto; did you sleep well, then?”
“Always,” Berto dropped a brief kiss on the top of Abuela Adeliza’s head. “Abuelita … may I have some migos and bacon? No one cooks migos like you do,” he added with calculation. Just as expected, Abela Adeliza rose from her rocking chair. The bacon was already cooked; a bowl of fresh-gathered eggs sat on the counter by the stove
“Of course, Berto,” she replied, but Berto’s attention was suddenly riveted by the television, all hunger forgotten. On the screen appeared a series of pictures – some of them intended for maximum dangerous glamor – of a youngish and rather handsome man in his thirties in a series of poses, alone or with others. In most of them, his head was covered by black and red plaid handkerchief tied do-rag fashion; his lower face adorned by carefully cultivated designer stubble; he held a knife, a cooking fork or a mixing bowl and whisk, standing in front of a truly ferocious stainless steel restaurant stove. The handkerchief seemed oddly familiar to Berto … and come to think of it, so did the young man’s features.

“Abuelita – who is he? That man – do you know him?”
“Why, of course I do, Berto – it’s Rich Hall – they call him the Bad Boy Chef. He was coming up in the world, on television cooking shows so often… I thought he looked so much like your Abuelo Jesus when he was young – so dashing and handsome, so I always watched when he was on.”
“Well, damn,” Berto exclaimed, “so he was a celebrity, after all! That’s the guy I picked up at Stinson last night. I practically don’t recognize him when he isn’t barfing or dead to the world.”
“Oh, Berto!” Abuela Adeliza dropped the fork she had been scrambling eggs with. “Are you certain? But you must call Chief Vaughn at once, and tell him! Everyone is searching for him, pobrecito! He has disappeared!”
“No, he hasn’t, Abuelita – I dropped him off at Hippie Hollow!”
Abuela Adeliza assumed her sternest expression, commanding, “Berto – you will obey! You will call the police, at once.”
“Why?” Berto was no longer eight years old, even if Abuela Adeliza still seemed to think so, sometimes. Abuela Adeliza told him. Before she was even finished, Berto had picked up the phone and dialed Joe Vaughn’s office.

“I swear to God, Jess,” Dr. Stephen Wyler examined the sludge at the bottom of his coffee mug, “if things don’t get better around here, I might as well stay home and poison myself with my own coffee.”
“No, you old poop, you have too much fun, carrying on complaining,” Jess Abernathy replied, with a notable lack of sympathy.
“I’ll thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head, young woman,” Dr. Wyler replied, and Jess grinned at him. They were actually quite good friends, despite a distance of sixty years of age between them, Jess being a qualified CPA and Dr. Wyler one of her clients. As he was materially the wealthiest among them, Jess spent a good many hours untangling and keeping his complicated finances more or less in apple-pie order. There wasn’t much Jess didn’t know about Dr. Wyler. If no man was a hero to his valet, he most certainly isn’t to his CPA. Jess regarded him very much as a kind of honorary uncle, aside from the professional considerations.
“We might advertise for a replacement cook,” she suggested. “The Bee-Picayune has rather reasonable rates. I’ll call and see if they have room in next weeks’ classifieds.”
“That’s how I got whats-his-name,” Dr. Wyler scowled. “And he left without notice as soon as he got a better offer from those bastards at Mills Farm … damn, is that your phone?”
“No, it’s yours,” Jess replied. She and Dr. Wyler were sitting at one of the outside tables at the Luna Café and Coffee, enjoying the relative coolness of the morning, if not the currently dismal state of the Café’s menu selections.

“Damn fool invention …” Dr. Wyler unsnapped the catches of the ageing leather medical bag that accompanied him everywhere. He fished out the insistently buzzing cellphone from its depths and regarded it with mystification.
“Finger on the circle and slide over,” Jess hinted broadly.
“I knew that … Hello? Wyler here, what’s your major malfunction?… oh, hullo, Sefton.” Jess listened to the faint squawking emanating from Dr. Wyler’s phone. At last, he broke the connection. “Sorry, my dear – duty calls. Azúcar has developed a cyst on his neck which simply defies all of Judy’s home remedies.” Azúcar was the Grant’s pet snow-white llama, who because he had been bottle-fed since shortly after birth, had grown up to be almost two hundred pounds of bossiness with regard to humans.
“I’ll come with you,” Jess hastily stuffed her notebook, and took out some change for a tip, for the long-suffering high school girls who were tending tables during the summer. At ninety-four, Dr. Wyler was as wiry and weathered as a lifetime of riding, working cattle, and tending large recalcitrant animals could have made him, but still … ninety-four, against a two-hundred pound llama. Jess would have never forgiven herself if Dr. Wyler came to harm. “Heads or tails?”
“Tails.”
Jess deftly flipped the largest coin, caught it in her palm and slapped it down on the table.
“Heads, I drive, Dr. Wyler.”

The Age of Aquarius Campground and Goat Farm was but a short distance away; it would have been little trouble for Jess to walk, but the day was already becoming warm, and mid-summers in South Texas are merciless to the elderly, no matter how hardened by a lifetime of work in it. Dr. Wyler’s late model extended-cab pickup truck with the custom design – the brand of the Lazy-W on the front doors – bumped down the unpaved ruts between the pasture where the Grants’ goat herd spent their days, and the smaller meadow scarred with regular tracks which – if you squinted and the light were somewhat dim – did somewhat resemble a campground. The only evidence of this for most of the year was the aged Airstream trailer with long-disintegrated tires parked at the top of the slope, under a fringe of trees farthest from the riverbank, as the solstice had been last month. The last of the mid-summer nudists had been gone for weeks and the campground reverted to its usual dilapidated appearance.

As Dr. Wyler’s truck came around the last bend, they both saw the single Luna City Police Department cruiser parked by the moldering Airstream, and Joe Vaughn – every crease of his crisp tan uniform short-sleeved summer uniform as sharp as if it had just came from the cleaners not ten minutes ago – leaning against the fender, deep in conversation with Sefton and Judy. In marked contrast, the Grants were not crisp in their attire. In point of fact, neither of them were attired, although in deference to local sensibilities, both had donned simple hand-loomed loincloths. It has long been a truism, and one deeply appreciated by Luna-ites that in just about every case, those who proudly and defiantly forswear clothing really ought not to indulge themselves this way, as a matter of aesthetics. Judy’s long hair covered the top half of her body rather efficiently, and Sefton wore battered cowboy boots.
“What’s going on, Chief?” Dr. Wyler spoke first. Joe Vaughn tilted his white felt Stetson a little farther back on his head and nodded politely to Judy. Joe was tall, hawk-faced with a direct gaze – also like a hawk – and very, very fit. A military tattoo with the motto “Death from Above” just barely showed below the bottom of his shirt sleeve, which barely constrained the arm that it clothed. His muscles had muscles.

“Welfare check on a guest,” Joe replied. “Berto Gonzales called me up, first thing this morning, with a tale of how he brought out a fare last night from San Antonio – and he saw him on the TV this morning. Miz Adeliza told him some cock and bull about the fare being some TV celebrity chef that went ‘round the bend. Just as soon as I put the phone down, Miz Grant calls and tells me that their guest from last night is nowhere to be found. His clothes, his bag and wallet are all here …”
“And two empty bottles of Cristal,” Judy Grant put in, her pleasant round face the picture of worry. “I think he must have drunk it all… You don’t think he’s done away with himself, do you?”
“Overpriced gnat-pee,” Dr. Wyler put in, apropos of nothing in particular. “A man with real taste wouldn’t swill anything but Krug for a last drink.”
“Young Berto says his grandma told him this runaway chef is named Rich Hall,” Joe Vaughn answered. “But this joker’s Green Card and visa say that he is Richard Astor-Hall, and that he came in through New York two days ago. The paperwork says that he is a chef, though.”
“You don’t say,” Dr. Wyler’s expression brightened … but just then, the screaming started.

With some apologies because this is not a matter which particularly touches me, or the books that I write, I am moved to write about this imbroglio one more time, because it seems that it didn’t end with the official Hugo awards slate of nominees being finalized – with many good and well-written published works by a diverse range of authors being put forward. The Hugo nominations appear for quite a good few years to have been dominated by one particular publisher, Tor. And it seems that the higher levels of management at Tor did not take a diminishment of their power over the Hugo nominees at all gracefully. (This post at my book blog explains the ruckus with links, for those who may be in the dark.)

A Ms. Irene Gallo, who apparently billed as a creative director at Tor, replied thusly on her Facebook page, when asked about what the Sad Puppies were: “There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.”

Oh, yes – outraged science fiction fans had had fun with this resulting thread.
And who can blame them? Four sentences which manage to be packed full of misrepresentation and a couple of outright lies; the voicing of similar calumnies had to be walked back by no less than
Entertainment Weekly when the whole Sad Puppies thing first reached a frothing boil earlier this year. Now we see a manager of some note at Tor rubbishing a couple of their own authors, and a good stretch of the reading public and a number of book bloggers … which I confidently predict will not turn out well. I have not exhaustively researched the whole matter, but tracked it through According to Hoyt and the Mad Genius Club, where there are occasional comments about anti-Sad/Rabid Puppy vitriol flung about in various fora. I would have opined that Ms. Gallo’s pronouncement probably isn’t worst of them, but it seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, coming as it does from an employee very high up in Tor management. People of a mild-to-seriously conservative or libertarian bent, are just sick and tired of being venomously painted as – in Ms. Gallo’s words – “right-wing to neo-nazi” and as “unrepentantly racist, misogynist and homophobic,” when they are anything but that.

Discuss.

(Cross-posted at my book blog, and at chicagoboyz.net)

Yes, I am – really. And still working through a vast amount of work that needs to be done in support of the Tiny Publishing Bidness … like the income tax return. Which I got done with after two days of number- and- account crunching last week, and dropped the whole lot off at the office of the nice gentleman who does my income taxes. He, bless him extravagantly – is very fond of me because I turn in all my stuff in February (March at the very latest!) – so he can complete it all at leisure, instead of in one frantic marathon in April … look people, this – like Christmas – happens every year. Putting it all off to the last minute will not make it go away. It won’t. Like necessary dental work, get it done and get it over with.
Most years, I have gotten my return and spent it well before the final rush begins … this year, there will be no funds returned, as I have broken even. Between the costs of buying the business from the founder of it and her heir, the various expenses associated with paying for printing and copies of books for resale, buying tables and a pop-up pavilion, display racks and a new printer … and the shed for the backyard to store much of this in … I am square with the government.
Next year will be an adventure in exploring how to strategically protect that income stream from my writing and the Tiny Publishing Bidness against the diabolical machinations of the vampire squids, but as Scarlett O’Hara so famously observed, ‘Tomorrow is another day.’ This coming year is a foreign country, to be sorted out as I venture farther into it.

I might just re-do this website again, since I have re-done the book website… the final handful of readers have been duly warned.

22. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, General Nonsense

Found through a link from an old FEN co-worker –

You know, now and again I wonder if the habits of frugality ingrained by almost fifteen years of living pretty close to the poverty line have turned me into my grandmothers – especially Grannie Jessie who was reputed to pinch pennies so hard that a booger would come out of Lincoln’s nose. I have never had a brand-new car, a totally-new-to-me house, and only occasionally a new piece of furniture or major appliance – the last two such items have come from the Scratch-and-Dent Store. Now and again I do have a brand-spanking new minor appliance – usually freebies from Amazon Vine. There was an electric kettle, gotten for the price of having to write a review of it. The same for the shop-vac, a great clumsy thing and no prize for appearance, but by god, it will suck the paint off a Buick fender. The usual small appliances though, are lightly second-hand; there was the once-top-o-the line Zojirushi bread machine, from a vast community-event garage sale, almost untouched and in the original box for $5. My most recent favorite small appliance toy was the vacuum-sealer, also bought at a yard sale for $5 – and also once top-o-the-line as well as also being barely used. Now, though – I think I have struck some kind of nadir, as far as slightly-used kitchen appliances go. But there is a bit of a back-story.

My kitchen is a small one; storage space at a minimum, you see – and I have a constitutional dislike of kitchen gadgets which only do one thing, and one thing only. Not for me an item like the electric waffle-maker that I remember that Mom had in her kitchen; about twenty-two inches square and eight or ten deep and which only made waffles. These appliances that I give shelf and counter space to ought to be good for more than one task, or amazingly, dazzlingly efficient at that one task … and for extra points, small and easily stashed away. I bought a KitchenAid stand mixer, yea those many years ago, precisely because it had multiple useful attachments, many of which I also purchased.

The current stove does not have a griddle option. (Once we lived in a rental house which had one, and I loved it.) Such things are, apparently, only an option in the high-end gas stoves these days, which is fair enough. One can make do with any number of electric griddle appliances, and there … there is where my multi-tasking option comes in. We have a small electric Delonghi indoor grill (bought at Williams-Sonoma when they were on sale and I was working at one of the reliable but deathly-boring corporate jobs) and a Toastmaster electric griddle, gotten through one of my daughter’s employers who intended donating it to a thrift shop. Both of them are quite adequate to the tasks required … but I had a hankering for something that would neatly combine their various functions … two, two, two in one! And maybe even more … I saw information on-line about a Cuisinart multi-griddle which would do all this and more; it could be a Panini-press, fold out and lay flat to be a griddle, or a grill, and had any number of different dish-washer safe plates, which could be swapped out … yes, that would be exactly the ticket! I put it on my Amazon wish-list, and some months ago, I spotted the exact same multi-griddle for an enticingly-reduced price at an HEB-Plus supermarket. Yes, I’d have to do a bit of finagling; including going halfsies on it with my daughter … but we put it into the shopping cart, and continued through the produce section. There we were approached by a middle-aged woman and her husband who asked most politely if we were going to buy it. I answered yes, I had been looking at and thinking of buying one for months and it all seemed providential … and she launched into her tale of woe. Yes, she had one, had been given it as a Christmas present from her husband … and to make a long story short, it proved to be a total disaster. The handles and catches for the interchangeable plates melted, it didn’t work anything as advertised, bits and parts had been replaced by the manufacturer, it still didn’t work anything like it had been represented to … and. It’s kind of more personal than reading a one-star review on Amazon, when a total stranger comes up and tells you that the item is a total dog. She advised us very strongly to give it a miss.

Which I did, sneaking it back onto the shelf from whence it came, with considerable regret; yes, it was a bargain, compared to the original price, but not at the price of the hassle involved. My daughter and I concluded that maybe Cuisinart was going to come out with a new and improved model soon, which would fix many of the problems, and that was why this one was on sale. I’d wait until the new and improved model to be available. There’s always time.

This week, though – when I was doing the early-morning jog that my daughter insists that we ought to do, in the interests of our health and well-being – I joggled past a house in the neighborhood where the residents had put out a stack of stuff on the curb. Look, I pay attention to this sort of thing, especially at bulk-trash pickup time. We’ve scored no end of useful elements for the garden, this way. We know the family in this house to speak to, since they put out some nice things on the curb before. Paring down the possessions, they said; a relatively-newly-wed blended family. (These days, two adult persons marrying and merging their once-separate households usually have two of everything … so, yes; good and usable stuff extraneous to current needs being put out on the curb. I can totally understand that.) Among the items extraneous to need was a bright red George Foreman grill – the model with a number of extra and interchangeable plates. We took it home, plates and accessories and all, carefully detailed the main unit, ran the washable items through the dishwasher, looked up and printed the owner’s manual, and gave it a test run … and yes, it works beautifully. It’s only lacking one of the grill plates, and they are available for a small sum.

It’s not quite what I had in mind – but if it works out very well, I might later get one of the later models which does open up all the way to offer two flat surfaces for grilling or griddling. But most importantly … the price was right.

… about the egregious Al Sharpton, whom I will not dignify with the title of reverend, first because there is no record of the fat, illiterate, race-baiting rabble-rouser ever having attended a seminary of any sort, and secondly because … oh, good lord, just look at those old pictures of him from the 1970s and 80s; jheri-curled, velour track suit and gold pendant the size of a man-hole cover. People, trust me when I tell you that I require a smidge more dignity from those who hold churchly office in any denomination, a standard from which Al Sharpton fell so far that he would need a bucket-truck with a three-story-tall extension even to get close.

Yes, in the interests of keeping abreast of news events in the pre-internet days, your Dear Author bought or subscribed to a great many print publications, to the point where on days when bulk mail came in to the military post office, I practically had to use a crow-bar to extract them all from my post-box. One of the regular reads – gotten from the Stars & Stripes bookstore, since I didn’t particularly feel the need for a subscription – was The Village Voice. So – yes, I had heard of the unsavory Mr. Sharpton some years before he burst upon the wider world of New York with the Tawana Brawley affair in the late 1980s.

Subsequently, I always wondered why the wretched little man seemed to be legally untouchable, even in spite of being ordered to pay out in the case of the Pagones defamation suit. The Crown Heights riots, the Freddy’s Fashion Mart fire – all of that had Al Sharpton’s smeary fingerprints all over them … and yet … he seemed to talk away always, unscathed by any meaningful payback. Falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater and setting off a panic which kills people – that would be actionable, surely?

And yet, nothing ever happened to the so-called reverend; he appeared to thrive as a particularly scummy and public race-baiter – and indeed, even to recent times, ascending to a presumably well-paid position at a major broadcast television channel. Which again – this really gives one cause for wonder, seeing as that the egregious Sharpton, who appears to have lost some weight and refined his sartorial taste – has gone vaulting up into higher and higher levels of visibility and social authority. Still – why?

Part of the answer, according to this story, courtesy of the Daily Mail, is that Al Sharpton was an FBI snitch. (Why again, are so many stories of this kind appear on a publication like the Daily Mail, which seems to have semi-literate high school students write their headlines, cut-lines and badly re-write stories lifted from other places? Well, at least they do, which is more than what can be said of our very own dear national media.) And if you believe he volunteered to be a snitch with regard to the FBI investigating two prominent Mafia families out of the goodness of his heart and as a fine upstanding citizen with a deep concern for the welfare of his community … then bless your heart and I have some fine Nevada swampland that I’d like to sell you. I’ll throw in a small bridge in Brooklyn, just because I am a good upright citizen myself.

No, Al got leaned on by the Fibbies, and I hope I live long enough to read in the headlines exactly what they held over his head and threatened to charge him with to ensure his cooperation. I’ll break out a $20 bottle of champagne or maybe a fine Fredericksburg Winery Fredericksburg and Northern vintage red Zinfandel and drink a toast. Al was a valued informant, and therefore Teflon in his subsequent career. Interesting also that it is revealed now – and I also wonder if there is some FBI agent a couple of weeks from retiring with a good pension who decided to square things by slipping the word to The Smoking Gun. Discuss.
(Cross-posted at chicagoboyz.net.)

If World War One were a bar fight
(found on Facehook and on PJ Media. Enjoy.)

And also just for fun – World War Two as if it were played out on a Facebook news feed.

iRSmRCg

How a European visualizes an American breakfast. Scroll down, the comments are hilarious.

(Found courtesy of Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom. Yeah, I slum, now that I am apparently not permitted to post comments at PJ Media. Which I find to be pretty ****ing insulting, since apparently any doofus whose cousin-friend-sister’s-mother-in-law can make $70 an hour from home on their computer can post comments.)

So, we have been having fun with a new kitchen gadget – nnnooo, not the kitchen gadget what is on the to-buy list at the Scratch and Dent Superstore (the awesome side-by-side refrigerator freezer which is on layaway and due to replace the 20-year old Whirlpool in the next month or so) – but the Food Saver vacuum device which came with half a roll of the plastic medium and the instruction manual. I spotted it at a neighborhood yard sale, barely used and for the unbelievably low, low price of $5 cash. The previous owner said that it worked – but not why she was letting it go, when it is so useful a gadget. This, when new went for a cool $170 or so. I had been considering purchasing a home vacuum-packing system now and again, but was always put off by the price. Yeah, I’m turning into my pinch-the-penny-until-a-booger-comes-out-Lincoln’s-nose grandmothers. Deal with it.

With the price of groceries going up and up, my daughter and I are running through all the means of saving here and there; to include copious use of coupons, buying on sale and freezing, and making a whole lot of different things from scratch. But the trouble with freezing is that even the sturdiest zip-lock freezer bags grow frost on the inside, and the stuff gets refrigerator-burn and generally unappetizing, and within a short time you forget what the heck it is and how long it has been in there anyway.

Insert the truism about the freezer being only interim storage for leftovers, before they are old enough to be thrown away.

But the Food-Saver eliminates the frost and freezer-burn, along with the air from the sealed package. We also discovered to our joy and surprise, that it makes the package of pre-made and pre-flavored hamburger patties or marinated chicken-leg quarters so much smaller that space-saving in the freezer is achieved almost instantly. Now we can buy the family-packs of chops or chicken-breasts or whatever, and package them in two-serving-sized bags which will not degrade the quality of the meat when frozen, or leave me trying to pry apart lumps of hard-frozen meat.

I’m already considering my options as far as purchasing a half or a quarter of a cow in one fell swoop … and we are racking our brains now, for the names of people we know who hunt. I’d like to have a bit of venison or wild boar in the freezer now and again, also.

When a writers’ organization forgets that its primary goal should be to assist and support writers and starts trying to look more politically correct and then to force that image on all members or else they be publicly shamed, it has outlived its time.
(From a comment by Amanda, at the discussion thread here.) For an explanation of glittery hoo-haa, go here – and remember, you have been warned.

Now, aren’t you all glad that I have taken to writing historical fiction? Those organizations which I am interested in joining, or semi-qualified to join based upon scribbling moderately competent, interesting, and OK-selling genre fiction (Women Writing the West, or the Historical Fiction Society) are not having these nuclear-melt-down-sink-through-to-the-core-of-the-earth perturbations. Or at least, none that I know of – mostly because I am interested in writing, not organizational politics, because – what was the reason for the writers’ organization again? Oh, yeah – the care and feeding of writers, and their economic interests, not some kind of neo-Stalinist clique imposing a kind of savage Mean Girls political correctness upon the membership and exiling all those who don’t or won’t go along with it.
More »

Ah, the New Year is upon us, now that we have successfully negotiated the month-long holiday hurdles – and no, I am doing my best not to ask myself what fresh hells await, since I am barely done with the rich banquet served up to us at year-end.

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh, and laugh, and laugh at the spectacle of a boat-full of global-warmenist tourists venturing on an Antarctic expedition to prove that the polar ice is melting faster than the Wicked Witch when Dorothy emptied a bucket of water onto her … being caught in the ice … and having to be rescued by ice-breaking ships. The topper is that this is actually the summer season at the bottom of the world, and the darned stuff is supposed to be melting seasonally anyway. But apparently not, and the gales of laughter at this bit of misfortune are not quite strong enough to dislodge the ship. Was Al Gore anywhere around? The unseasonably horrible weather hitting all of the United States but a tiny band along the west coast argues the presence of He Whose Chakras Need to be Raised, or at least smacked with a bucket of cold water.

Ah, the fortunes of the ruling dynasty in North Korea have taken a positively surreal turn into I, Claudius territory, with the long-time advisor and uncle (with a handful of Uncle’s top aides) of Pudgy-Boy Kim executed by being served up naked to a pack of starving dogs – and the ruling echelons made to watch the proceedings. To encourage the others, I guess. This was reported via Chinese news media, which makes me wonder how tired the Chinese are getting of the antics of Pudgy-Boy and all the other Kims. Given that dog-meat is a traditional Korean delicacy, and in North Korea eating it is likely a matter of survival, perhaps the dogs considered this arrangement a fair turn-about. No wonder Dennis Rodman appears to be getting fond of North Korea; height and color aside, he blends right in with the general freakishness.

And speaking of a parade of … well, not freaks exactly, more a case of being freakishly out of touch, I give you MSNBC, or as I have begun to call it, PMSNBC – now in a dead heat with Time Magazine as they race to the bottom. Well, both of these media entities were once respected, popular and purveyors of the news. Now I suppose it is commentary and opinion all the way, and very strident and in-your-face opinion, too. The insults are just the extra, although I am certain Melissa Harris-Perry got an earful over that notorious segment poking mean-girl fun at Mitt Romney’s adopted grandson. Being that she was a child of color – or anyway, half-color – born to a white Mormon mother, one would have thought Ms. Harris-Perry would have been a little more circumspect. I can hope that perhaps her own mother put her straight, about how painful it would be for mother and child alike to hear sniggering cracks about how one of these things is not like the other, and one of those things does not belong.

And finally, Obamacare, sweet Obamacare, the unAffordable Care Act, now in the act of a slo-mo clash and burn even more spectacular than that of the Hindenberg. Yes, thank you, I’ll have my serving of schadenfreude in chocolate flavor, with a spritz of whipped cream, toasted almonds and a cherry on top. Harsh? I’ll save my sympathies for those people now caught within the deadly toils of trying to work out some kind of healthcare coverage for themselves and their families who did not vote Dem in the last two elections. For those who did, and are now unpleasantly confronted with the results – sorry, we warned you, over and over, and all we got for that was abuse and ridicule. Sometimes enlightenment is only achieved through pain. I haven’t ventured into Open Salon lately to see how enlightenment is progressing these days – I’m not a sadist that way. I’ll just settle for my tasty cup of schadenfreude.

Hang tight – it’s gonna be an interesting ride through 2014.

One would have to possess a heart of stone, to read about the grand Antarctic expedition intended to prove that the Antarctic ice was melting at an unprecedented rate… get stuck in the ice!

(Found at Samizdata)

Obama - The Beatings

Any questions? You know, there comes a time when you have to come out and say that not only does the emperor not have any clothes on, but he is jumping up and down waving his donger in your face…

Covered here, at length, I am certain that New Mexico, or at the very least, the Hidalgo County PD needs a new motto.

How about “New Mexico – Come for the enchantment, stay for the thorough cavity searches”?

Or “Hidalgo County Police Department – The Keyster Kops!”

Or “Hidalgo County Police Department – Let Us Take You Up the Khyber Pass

Or “Hidalgo County Police Department – Illegal Anal Probs R Us!”

Seriously, if ever there was an occasion which calls for prolonged and vicious mockery, this would be it. Don’t these people have enough real and obvious criminals to deal with?

I swear, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. It looks like ACA/Obamacare will tank worse than the Titanic, since the website/websites appear to be an exercise in frustration, and those who have succeeded in finding out what their new plan will cost are reeling and stunned with sticker shock. I am spared the worst ravages, since I am on Tricare, and the quarterly payment has only gone up by about 10$. But Blondie, bless her little cotton socks, very carefully sought out her own insurance coverage earlier this year, and as an unmarried and relatively healthy (although somewhat service-dented and dinged) young adult secured coverage through Humana for a little over 80$ a month. This week she received a long explanatory letter from Humana that her basic plan would now cost a dollar or two more – but that if she chose to go with the plan which would meet the standards for Obamacare as ordained by governmental powers which have wriggled and squirmed with sufficient agility as to exempt themselves from Obamacare’s clammy embrace – that would cost her a cool $233.

I have read here and there that is about par – the costs of coverage will double, and what they will get for it will be even less than at present. Big government – is there nothing it can’t do? A rhetorical question, obviously. There are those also who mutter darkly that Obamacare was deliberately designed to fail, in that it would wreck medical insurance entirely and throw us all onto the tender mercies of single-payer. From which I presume that those with ‘pull’ will get their treatment in the gold-plated clinics and wards set aside for the higher nomenklatura, those with money will go off-shore or to concierge-care, and the rest of us will take our chances in places which will make the public hospital wards of the 19th century look like the Mayo Clinic, or study up on home-remedies.

As my mother used to say – never attribute to malice that which can be accounted for by stupidity, but in this case I am hard put to make a distinction.

Pretty much the same with the semi-theatrical government shut down, which with obvious and malicious intent closed down national parks which were pretty much open anyway, were run by third parties at a profit, or merely had the ill-luck to be on park service property. I thought the veterans and their supporters protesting by peacefully storming the Barrycades around the WWII and Vietnam memorials in DC, hauling them to the White House, and leaving them piled up with sarcastic notes “return to sender” and “please recycle” was genius. I guess we’re the counter-culture now, even as the media tries to write it all off as a Tea Party thing. What-ever! (insert contemptuous teenage mock-sigh)

Hey, boys and girls – lets all join in and support President Obama’s great new project – what about it?

Well, if that wasn’t one for the record books – a selection of Egyptian relative moderates taking back their country from a Muslim Brotherhood hard-liner through a protest-coup-counterrevolutionary thingy. Not quite certain how stable the reactionary moderate coalition actually is – or even if they are very moderate at all, or only in comparison to the Muslim Brotherhood gang o’thugs, but still – interesting. It did seem as of Morsi and his Brotherhood, even though freely elected in the wake of General Mubarak’s forced departure – were about to run Egypt straight off a cliff at speed, and perhaps this new coalition can only slow down the acceleration a little. As little as I know, I am fairly certain that the current American administration knows even less; late will the lights be burning tonight at Foggy Bottom, as the denizens of the State Department try and come up with some kind of reason, rationale and talking points. Of course, as a former Secretary of State remarked, “At this point in time, what difference does it make anyway?”

So, the good middle-of-the road and middle-class citizens of Egypt had a good bracing dose of what Islamic rule would mean and so spat it out of their mouths. The women, the Copts, the intellectuals, the middle class, the military, those who made their living through tourism, and I-don’t-know-how-many others, all rebelled at being ridden over rough-shod by increasingly stricter Islamists, just as the younger and more defiant Iranians have, although the Iranians are still simmering, while the Egyptians seem to have – at least for now – put their Islamic fundamentalists back into the bottle and jam in the cork tight. But Egypt, which once was the breadbasket for the Roman Empire – is reduced to importing food. The profitable tourist trade is wrecked beyond redemption, for who will want to come and look at the Pyramids, the temples of Luxor, and the museums full of antiquities, save the daring-to-the-point-of-suicidal Western backpacker types, who commonly don’t want to spend much money on expensive hotels, guides, transport and souvenirs.

And where are we – as Americans in all of this? Alas, nowhere – and thanks to our very dear President Kardashian, who has effortlessly managed to alienate and piss-off just about every party in Egypt, save Morsi and the Brotherhood who probably despised him anyway. It’s an interesting kind of gift, being able to alienate allies, while sucking up unsuccessfully to enemies. I’d deeply enjoy the taste of two scoops of schadenfreude, with a bit of chocolate syrup, whipped cream and a sprinkling of toasted almonds … but alas, we ordinary Americans will probably be cleaning up the damage from the Obama administration for decades after the principal architect of this Mid-east disaster has retired to a mansion in Hawaii and a series of well-paid speaking engagements.

The purely ironical part is that President Kardashian was so very, very popular with the usual Euro-lefty crowds, and in the Middle East – and now the bloom is so very much off the rose. I can hardly wait for the snippy Guardian-editorialists and readers, and all of their fellow-travelers to begin to whine about why did we stupid Yanks elect him to office in the first place.

(And for whatever NSA peon tasked with monitoring this blog, or perhaps me personally; we’re having turkey-burgers for supper, and I can make some extras. Let me know if you want a plate. Come by at 6ish or so – you know the address.)

The injudicious use of which has led to Paula Deen being booted from the Food Network, never mind that she was speaking under oath, and is a lady of a certain age and of a background where the n-word was … well, I honestly can’t say how current was the use of that word back in Paula Deen’s early days. It’s certainly scattered generously all over 19th century literary works like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn like chocolate sprinkles on a frosted Krispy Kreme donut, and piled on by the handful in the 20th century oeuvre of rap artists and edgy comedians of color.

It’s a word that I don’t use, myself. The very first time I brought it home – in the first grade, I think, having heard it on the playground, Mom landed on me like a ton of bricks. I don’t think I actually got my mouth washed out with soap – Mom wasn’t that old-school – but the lesson came through loud and clear. The n-word was not to be used, ever. The fact that I had gotten to the first grade, or thereabouts and had never heard it is likely a strong indication of how generally it was frowned upon in middle-class and mid-century So-Cal suburbs anyway. Matter of fact, I can’t even bring myself to use it in writing my own books, where it would certainly be appropriate and historically correct. I just can’t – I have to smooth it out and write it as it might very well have sounded phonetically. No, the use of racial epithets was frowned upon, as being low-class, tacky, and rude at home – and in the military it was even more strictly verboten. So there you are – very likely I could swear honestly and truthfully to never having used the n-word, ever.

I’ve never been particularly a fan of her show or her cooking; too much fried and way, way too rich for my taste, but I might be willing to extend some indulgence to Paula Deen, being of certain age myself. My daughter, though, is most definitely not inclined to indulgence, when it comes to the n-word, although I have repeatedly pointed out that the only people who seem to be able to wield it with impunity are the aforementioned rap artists and edgy comedians of non-pallor.

To judge from some of their output, if they couldn’t use it, there would go about a fifth of their vocabulary – but I digress. I only wish to point out the basic hypocrisy. If it is an ugly, demeaning and degrading term, then it ought to be across the board, without exception. One is reminded of how a certain kind of feminist wishes to reclaim the word ‘slut’ and proudly throws it about at slutwalks and such-like events, but comes totally unglued when the term is applied to say – Sandra Fluke, proud professional feminist.

So – circling back around to the original thought – Paula Deen dropped from the Food Channel for … essentially being honest, old-fashioned and perhaps consciously or unconsciously reflecting values of a different era and at somewhat at variance with the expected TV norms, and having the bad luck to be drawn into a legal imbroglio with a perhaps-vengeful former employee. One wonders … but I honestly don’t know enough about the case, or the people involved to venture any sort of opinion but this one; what if? (Firmly donning my tinfoil hat here…) What if the Food Network has established a preference for the young, urban, urbane and smoothly trendy metrosexual male chefs/restaurateurs or decorative young to young-ish and non-threatening of the female variety, and that would account for the rush to ditch Paula Deen, simply for the crime of being not-young, urban, urbane and smoothly trendy, etc.

If such is the case, I hope that Ree Drummond (rural, devout Christian, non-minority and home-schooling) has no skeletons in her metaphorical closet. Otherwise, she might very well be next on the chopping-block.

All academic to me, though – now that we have ditched cable and gone to a Roku box and a couple of paid subscriptions – but still food for thought, eh?

(Cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)

I’m in. Boycott of NBC is just the first shot. In another month or so, we’re cutting off cable, and going to a Roku box. This is just a nice coincidence.

Well, it was all that for a great many other people besides the Mighty-O, so no wonder that he has been looking pretty pissy lately, especially after a scorching defeat on an expanded gun-buyer background check program. Yes, just because people seem to agree with a statement on a poorly-worded poll, does not mean they necessarily want to see it enshrined in law … especially one hastily rushed through in the wake of a horrific event with the skids greased with hand-wringing over the deaths of small children … and the ostentatious display of their parent’s grief. Look, that’s the same exact thing that happened in the wake of the Dunblaine shootings. Popular revulsion and outrage was transformed into strict gun control legislation … and in the long run, how did that worked out for Britain, then? Is the ordinary run of people any safer in their homes, streets and places of business? For those of us paying attention, one really cannot be certain that they are.

One would have expected someone lauded as being over-the-top-intelligence and acute political smarts to have realized that most of the American public does not live with on-the-spot instant personal protection from hired body-guards or the Secret Service, and in fact, a great majority of us live where the forces of law’n’order are a fifteen to thirty-minute journey away. So the Mighty-O and his media buddies didn’t see it coming. Here’s a Kleenex and let me call the Wahhhmbulance for you.

And now we move on to Monday’s carnage at the Boston Marathon … in which the main comfort to be found is the fearless and efficient manner in which first responders and volunteers rushed to the scene. Ball bearings and scrap metal inside pressure cookers, left at a time and in a place calculated to maim as many bystanders as possible; so the intifada comes to America. It looks like those media talking heads who made no secret of hoping that the perpetrator(s) were white, Anglo-Saxon Tea Party types are to be bitterly disappointed. (To David Sirota and to NPR – Up yours. Very kindly, Sgt. Mom.) From today’s all-neighborhood man-hunt in Boston, it looks like the perpetrators were ‘white’… but radical young Islamics from Chechnya. Yes, that Chechnya … the very same who brought us the Beslan school massacre, the Nord-Ost theater hostage-taking, a series of bombings in the Moscow subways, the downing of two Russian airliners in 2004 … yeah, that Chechnya. No wonder the young lads’ uncle is pissed beyond being coherent. Here he is, living a peaceful, prosperous life far removed from what is usually described as ‘sectarian strife’ and his young nephews seemed poised to bring all that over the big pond in job lots and make Chechens in general about as welcome in the United States as ‘a truckload of dead rats in a tampon factory.’ That line is from the movie Top Secret! in case anyone was wondering. For the lot who keep insisting that Islam is a religion of peace, this week has proved to very, very, very disappointing … especially for an administration who seemed desperate to prove exactly that. Try telling that to residents of Boston and Watertown, where the manhunt is still going on.