07. November 2013 · Comments Off on In the Light of This Development … · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Drug Prohibition, Fun and Games, General Nonsense, Stupidity

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)

10. September 2013 · Comments Off on That Old 1930s Feeling · Categories: Fun and Games, General, General Nonsense, Military, Politics, sarcasm

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

04. July 2013 · Comments Off on Walk Like an Egyptian · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Fun and Games, Fun With Islam, General Nonsense, GWOT, Politics, sarcasm, War

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)

09. May 2013 · Comments Off on Starve the Beast · Categories: Domestic, General Nonsense, Media Matters Not, Working In A Salt Mine...

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.

19. April 2013 · Comments Off on Obama’s Very Bad, No-Good, Completely Horrid Week · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun With Islam, General Nonsense, Politics, Rant

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.

18. March 2013 · Comments Off on Wednesday Musical Wierdness – Mis-heard O Fortuna Lyrics · Categories: Geekery, General, General Nonsense, The Funny

12. March 2013 · Comments Off on Lower Edumication · Categories: Ain't That America?, Geekery, General Nonsense, Rant, sarcasm

Well, that’s likely a bit of a shocker for the panjandrums of the public school system in New York; that 80 percent of graduates have to have remedial education before considering college-level courses. It could have been worse; the first time the story floated past my awareness, I understood it as 80 percent of the public high school graduates were functional illiterates. Ten or fifteen years ago the concept that public high schools were releasing functional illiterates into the wilds of adult life would have been shocking, incredible … but these days? Meh – not so shocking, and not that much surprising, after hearing some of the stories of friends with school-aged children, the occasional stories of malpractice in education which bubble up in the media … and most of all, interaction with some of the products of the public education mill. Some of these were very junior airmen whom I encountered in the military, some were friends of my daughters’ … and many had been appallingly educated.

Honestly, it seemed like they had only gone to school because it was the law that they do and it was no longer legally to send them to work in a factory. What they got out of the modern educational experience seemed mostly to be a big steaming pile of nothing, with a lot of political correctness sprinkled across the top. The cleverest and most focused children manage to educate themselves, in a spotty fashion and in spite of their teachers. The ordinary get passed along until they are dumped out of the end of the educational alimentary canal, while the criminally-inclined gravitate toward that interest – at least until they run afoul of the law. This is all terribly frustrating to read about, especially for people like myself who remember better educational times, before educational heresies such as ‘whole word’ reading, the New Math, ‘relevance’, and sundry other horrors took over the classroom. A group of commenters are lamenting this at According to Hoyt. Truly, truly I say unto you, there is no way that when and if my daughter has children that they are going to public school. I’ll homeschool the little darlings myself, read to them aloud every afternoon or evening, and take them to every museum and educational outreach establishment that there is. And as many books as they want to read; I mean, my brother and I had the complete set of the Golden Book Encyclopedia, and read every volume from cover to cover for the fun of it.

Another aspect of this ongoing educational malpractice is that our taxes are paying through the nose for it. In some cases and in some localities, parents are paying Maserati prices for Yugo results – a situation for which the teachers’ unions don’t even have the grace to be ashamed. And finally, learning of so many incidents of bullying of vulnerable students during the school day, and through social media after it; well, who would want their child exposed a real-life and institutionalized Lord of the Flies, every day and all day? What parent, being moderately well-educated themselves and having access to some resources couldn’t do a better job of educating their children at that? I’m just surprised that there aren’t more stay-at-home parents home educating. Discuss.

24. February 2013 · Comments Off on No Parking on the Chicken Floor · Categories: Geekery, General Nonsense

Giant Chicken

Presented without comment.

Trissie the cat, resting in the Nesco Roaster Oven & Slow Cooker

Trissie the cat, resting in the Nesco Roaster Oven & Slow Cooker

A news story in an English tabloid rather amused me today, as it listed the top ten little used kitchen appliances which might (or might not) be in the average English kitchen. Being the owner of a house with a painfully small kitchen, but one who still enjoys cooking – from scratch, yet – I will plead guilty to owning some under-used gadgets. Of course, at one time or another, things like the slow-cooker got a great deal more use. And before we began experimenting with the paleo-style diet, we did get a lot more use out of the bread-making machine. But at lease we can plead that we did not waste money on purchasing most of the underused gadgets. In some cases, we bought them second-hand, or at rummage sales, and so paid mere pennies, compared to the original price.

Looking down at the list, though – I wonder how some of these gadgets aren’t used more. I mean – a blender? I use the blender all the time, and the food processor, too. From the top of the list – a toasted sandwich maker. That’s one I don’t have, although I think my daughter had one, living in the barracks. And my father was very fond of making sandwiches in the stove-top non-electric croque-monsieur iron. A George Foreman-type grill is another kitchen tool which apparently 17% of English purchasers never use again – which is sad as I would really like one, especially the model which has the interchangeable, dishwasher-safe grill plates, and which can either lay out flat or be used as a Panini press. I do have a rather nice little one, picked up on sale at Williams-Sonoma; nice to use, a bear to clean afterwards, though. Kitchen scales – unused by 16%? Say what, then? Sorry, I have a cheap little one which I use all the time, and would love to replace it with a nice Victorian-style antique one with the interchangeable weights. Juicers are unused at the same rate as kitchen scales, but it’s a good and healthy thing that this means 84% of English owners of juicers are using them regularly. Bread-maker (also going %16 unused in England); we plead guilty to several, all of them bought at yard or rummage sales.

They seem to have been the gadget of choice for wedding presents, about fifteen years ago; they’re everywhere at second-hand sales, and usually barely – if ever- used by the original recipient.
Hand-blenders are next on the little-list, at %15 unused. That is one I don’t have, or even thought about buying. Seems kind of pointless, when I have a selection of balloon whisks handy. And finally, rounding out the little-used list, at %14 percent – a coffee machine. I don’t have one … for the very good reason that I don’t drink coffee. Lately though, the very high-end cappuccino machines seem to have taken the place of bread-making machines as the go-to gadget for up-scale presents, so my daughter – who does drink coffee and is known as the Queen of All Garage Sales – looks forward to seeing them available at thrift shops and yard sales.

In the foundation-legend of the Swiss confederacy, Alberect Gessler was a cruel and tyrannical overlord installed by the Austrians, who installed his hat atop a pole in the public marketplace and decreed that all should bow to it … to his hat, not merely his person. Such a declaration was, I think, a way of rubbing in his authority over the common citizens – indeed, rubbing their noses in the fact that he could make them do so, and do so in front of everyone else.

Having read now and again of small businesses run by devout Christians, such event venues, a bakery doing wedding cakes, or a wedding photographer, even a bed and breakfast refusing to provide a good or a service to a gay couple, I am lead to wonder if this isn’t a kind of Gessler’s hat, metamorphosed to the 21st century. Of course, in this best of all possible worlds, anyone’s money ought to be as good as anyone elses’. And in the case of some of the complainants, loud comparisons are made, comparing the way in which small businesses dealt – or didn’t deal at all – with customers of the African-American variety, fifty years and more ago. Left unsaid, but still implied is a kind of smug satisfaction that devout Christians will be called to heel just as unrepentant racists were.

Somehow, I can’t be so certain of that outcome. Browbeating and bringing suit against the religiously observant into compliance with society’s dictates most usually has the opposite of effect intended, even if superficial compliance is eventually gained. Devout and observant Christians do make up a larger portion of the population than gays – who for all their prominence in media and entertainment, still only comprise less than 3% of the population overall – if that. African-Americans, give or take a couple of percentage points either way are at about %12, which is probably not a market segment which can be ignored by someone selling services or a product.

So, can you refuse service to a member of the public, and for what reason? Do you need a reason? Or will just a polite demurral do, such as “I am so sorry, we can’t fit that into our schedule” ? Making the question a little more complicated – will any religion do? Suppose a Jewish photographer didn’t want to photograph a Catholic quinceanera celebration, or a Muslim-owned halal caterer refused to provide food for a specifically Jewish or Christian event? Seriously, even if such a thing happened in the real world, I can’t imagine the customer getting too bent out of shape by the refusal – unless the refusal was couched in less than tactful language.

So what are we to make of stories such as those that I linked, and others of the same sort? I am pretty sure that it’s not so much a question of civil rights for a very small, but socially influential minority at issue here. Rather, it’s a metaphorical Gesseler’s Hat, for which is not sufficient to merely tolerate – all must be seen to approve, and in loud voices in the public square. Discuss.

…and tell sad stories of the deaths of kings — and commoners too, for that matter. The great William Shakespeare wrote many such sad stories, some of them more protracted and dramatic than others, some of them mercifully taking place offstage, as it were. The other night we watched the current episode of Downton Abbey, and even though we knew it was coming, we did sniffle a little at the shocking death of Lady Sybil – in childbirth, too. Whereas this was a tragically common cause of death in women of high and low social stature alike up until the end of the 19th century, it probably took real effort on the part of the writers to have it happen convincingly in the 20th – even the first quarter thereof. I’ll give the writers all props for creative research and as extra round of appreciation for avoiding the old soap-opera standby of a long fall down a staircase (although in fairness, they have hit upon a good few classic soap opera memes).

This also brought me to think on how many times I had to go into books, or perform a routine googlectomy in looking for just that very means of afflicting or removing one of my own characters. Which did turn out to be a fairly substantial list of conditions, ailments and cause-of-death, although some of them happened off-stage, so to speak or were referred to only briefly, while others had more detailed treatment. Let’s see: To Truckee’s Trail – threatened and actual near-starvation, malaria (called the ague) and cholera, both offstage before and after the time of the story. The Gathering – gunshot to the head, typhus (called ship-fever), malaria again, aftereffects of frontline meatball surgery in wartime, cholera again, and hints of manic-depression. The Sowing – more manic-depression, post-traumatic stress, pre-eclampsia, diphtheria, chronic alcohol abuse, gunshot to the back, multiple gunshots to the torso, and multiple sclerosis. The Harvesting; full-blown manic-depression, agoraphobia, more post-traumatic stress, incipient senility, stroke, peritonitis following abdominal wound with a bladed weapon, gunshot to the abdomen, drowning, and sudden massive heart attack/heart failure. Daughter of Texas: immediately fatal arrow-wounds, unspecified chronic illness, extreme dysentery coupled with heart failure, meatball surgery, and tuberculosis … plus, a war going on. Deep in the Heart: multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic shock, uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, massive stroke, again aftereffects of frontline meatball surgery, and malaria. Plus another war going on. So far in the latest book, Quivera Trail, I have only gotten up to a massive heart attack, but there is an operation for a depressed skull fracture in my plot outline, so I really should get back to work on that.

This listing actually makes it look as if it it is wall to wall General Hospital-type soap opera medical emergencies in the books, but actually it isn’t. It’s just that illness and death is a part of life – and in the 19th century, it happened with really dismaying frequency. Considering that Daughter of Texas/Deep in the Heart and the Trilogy cover more than fifty years of the lives of four different families, during three wars, and at a time when the best of doctors couldn’t do all that much … this list could have been much, much longer.

I’m still fighting the remnants of the Cold From Hell (possibly complicated by an allergy to blowing cedar pollen which hits a lot of people around here) but at least I am starting to feel a little more in the Christmas spirit. Not much more, but at least I am enjoying the Christmas music on the radio, and just last Monday I was inspired to go ahead and sort out the last of the Christmas presents that I wanted to give to some people I am fond of. So, all that is sorted. Our Christmas dinner is sorted also. Blondie will be out doing deliveries for Edible Arrangements until the last minute, so practically everything to do with Christmas was done in the last day or so.

Which leaves me looking out at next year, and considering what I will do, and what I can do, as the fiscal cliff approaches; no matter how you slice it, 2013 is going to be a bumpy ride. So, in no particular order of importance, I am resolved to – More »

04. December 2012 · Comments Off on Becoming at One With Texas · Categories: Fun and Games, General Nonsense, Local, Old West · Tags: , , , ,

It was a gradual process … the place grows on you, even back before it became clear that it was one of the states – out of these occasionally United States – which has a good chance of emerging comparatively unscathed from impending economic disaster. I don’t know why Texas should be so fortunate among states and nations, but perhaps it is because of a part-time Legislature. Yes, this might tend to discourage professional busy-bodies from taking up a full-time career dictating the teensiest minutia of every scrap of our lives, from the number of flushes our toilets need to the wattage of the light-bulb in our porch light and the knotty question of whether a puddle in the back forty qualifies as a seasonal body of water. The Texas Lege can only assemble every two years for a set period of time to consider these and other weighty matters, and so must find other and more remunerative means of earning a living and staying out of their constituents hair. There was an adage to the effect that work expands to fill the time you have available for it – very likely it works the same way for legislative bodies. Perhaps limiting the time available to them forces legislators to prioritize and focus their potential mischief on only the most necessary tasks. Still, what a thought, that Texas might be the last best place to survive the impending economic and political meltdown – who would have thought, eh?

So, Texas took us over, bit by bit – although it wasn’t without a struggle, especially when enduring the ghastly heat of summer, which occasionally felt as if it were lasting all year. Or when there was a highway alert because … er, there were stray cows on the roadway … Or when I could not get just-introduced men in a social setting to not straightaway start addressing me as ‘darlin’’. There were charms, insidious ones – the Hill Country, and sweeps of wildflowers in spring, breakfast tacos (the breakfast food of the gods, I swear), the many splendors of the HEB grocery chain, real Texas BBQ … oh, the list goes on and on. I suppose the first sign that assimilation had begun was when my father began to say that Blondie and I sounded a little more Southern in our speech – there was, he swore, a faint interrogatory lift in tone at the end of certain sentences, which had not been there previously. Blondie began to like country-western music, I began to giggle at Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family” … and upon finally retiring from the military I had to get a Texas driver’s license. And then I began to write historical fiction … and well, it was all over, then. Assimilation was complete, or nearly so.

I do like to dress up in a slightly western-fashion when I do a book event now; a long skirt, western-style shirt and vest – and I have let my hair grow long again, so that I can do it up in a roll with a curved Spanish comb in it – and I have been looking around for a pair of Western boots to complete the look. I’ve substituted a pair of high-laced old-fashioned ladies’ boots for now – but a pair of cowboy boots would really complete the look. But not just any boots – being thrifty but with high standards means that I’d like I. Magnin style at a Walmart price, so we’ve been checking out the various thrift and resale stores for a pair of good and broken-in (yet not broken down!) boots. We almost thought we’d found them at a little boutique in Boerne last week, but I couldn’t get one pair on, and the other was too big … for me, but not for Blondie. So, she has herself a pair of Tony Lama’s now, and for me, it is just a matter of time.

Assimilation complete. I got here to Texas as fast as I could.

It looks really weird to me, this last Veteran’s Day weekend … not even a week after the election results came in. A couple of days after General Petreus put in his resignation as head of the CIA – conveniently for the American news cycle – on a Friday before a three-day weekend. So, kind of astonished over that – a mere several days before he was to testify about whatever was going on with regard to our quasi-official establishment in Benghazi on the 11th of September last. Of course, the second most astonishing aspect to me is that the head of the CIA can’t keep an affair secret, and the third most astonishing is that someone so politically wily as to be able to pin on four stars would still be stupidly reckless enough to engage on such a very public affair. What, were they doing the horizontal mambo in the middle of the parade ground at reveille at whatever base they were at in Afghanistan? Ok, never undervalue the comfort of situational friendships between persons of the opposite sex in a far country, double if in a war zone. Been there and … err, backed off from doing that, in the physical sense. But the friendship was enormously satisfactory; a way of getting through a hard tour in a distant and unforgivingly difficult place, and a lot of people there with us and who noted that we were a quasi-official couple also probably assumed that our relationship included an ongoing sexual aspect. Which it did not; part of the friendship involved an understanding between us that carrying it that far would inflict unacceptable damage on each other, emotionally and professionally. I thought the world of him, and he loved his family, back in the World; that’s the way that responsible and caring adults manage that kind of situation. It’s in the field, and it ends in the field.

But the way that the Petreus mess is expanding is enough to cause me to raise an eyebrow – and now it turns out that the second woman involved – is she the South Beach Mata Hari or what? – also had a good friend of the multi-star adorned command-rank level, as well as the somewhat dogged interest of the investigating FBI agent, who sent her a pic of him shirtless… dear god, people – this is not high school. Or at least, I assumed it was not. As it is, I could swear I watched a story line like this on General Hospital in the late 1970s, only with doctors, nurses and consultants, instead of commanders, reporters and socialites.

It is curious though – the sudden retirements, resignations, and reassignments of high-ranking and notable officers lately. It’s almost like there is something going on: earlier there was that kerfuffle about General Carter Ham being relieved of duty, with dark hints that it was because of events in Benghazi. On the bright side, though – since General Petreus was deeply involved in the events of 9/11/2012 in Benghazi, it just might be that there might be a little more interest in what happened there than has been displayed so far by our mighty mainstream press.
Or not.

As I contemplate the coming election, I do wonder if a sort of cultural turning point hasn’t been reached, which was elucidated lo these many decades ago by Huey Lewis and the News – that it’s soon might be seen to be hip to be a square. Or to put it in standard English – if being sober, responsible, cheerfully working at a blue-collar and non-corporate job, engaged in a traditional man/woman marriage, and living out in flyover country somewhere, and being a traditionally patriotic, fiscally responsible, striving small business entrepreneur and home-schooling more than the requisite one or two designer-perfect offspring … might be the default option for the rebellious and non-conformist? I mean, really – look around at the current social and educational landscape in some of our larger and supposedly more urban and urbane environments. Take a good long look; I have a stack of barf-bags handy. What could be more logical than to rebel against such decay, despair, conformity and criminality than to stake out a suburban (or even rural) homestead in flyover country somewhere and wholly become what the putrid 1960’s retreads were rebelling against in the first place?

Look, the standard-bearers of 1968 have taken over the higher ground, roosted in the educational, media and political establishments like a flock of grackles – shrieking to high heaven and splattering the surface underneath with a Jackson-Pollocking layer of artistic but bad-smelling dung. Well, really – what could be more fun to the naturally rebellious youth than to tell the baby-boom cohort of elders (who basically trashed every American institution as they moved through it, save perhaps the military, technology, the culinary arts – and possibly retail) to take a hike, I’m going to live like my grandparents, or maybe my great-grandparents? Plant a garden, go off the grid and make your own clothes, and preserved food? I know that Martha Stewart was responsible for a lot of renewed popularity with regard to home-making, but she always seemed to me to be someone striving for Right-Coast upper-class respectability. What does one make of web and cable cooking-show personalities like Ree Drummond, the accidental country girl who wound up on a ranch in Oklahoma, living a comparatively laid-back life, cooking and gardening, and home-schooling four children?

Could this rebelling by going back to basics account for the retro appeal of Mitt Romney? Staid, conventional, traditional 1950s-Leave It To Beaver-style marriage, large and happy family, picket-fence suburban ideal home – everything that the brigades of 1968 revolted against, and subsequently established a new normal of something completely different from it – and now a new generation is rebelling against that? Amusing to contemplate, anyway.

I just hope the fashion for girdles and wearing high-heels and stockings to vacuum the floor is one thing that never revives. That stuff is uncomfortable.

16. October 2012 · Comments Off on Upstairs, Downstairs and All Around the House · Categories: Ain't That America?, General Nonsense, History, Media Matters Not, Memoir, That's Entertainment!, World

My family was, for various reasons, devoted to the first Upstairs, Downstairs series, back in the day. Mom loved the whole dichotomy of the ‘family’ upstairs, and the servants, working away behind the scenes and below stairs – very likely because her father, my Grandpa Jim was engaged in practically life-long service to a wealthy family living in a magnificent mansion. Dad had a mild guy-crush on Rachael Gurney, who played Lady Marjory Bellamy – she was what Dad apparently considered the perfect upper-class Englishwoman. And I loved it all because it was … England, that very place that three of our four grandparents had come from, and during the two decades that were pictured in the show. The outer world of Upstairs Downstairs was what they would have remembered; the music, the manners, the fashions, habits and social customs, the scandals and events.

So we followed it devotedly, even as we admitted to each other that it was really a high-toned soap opera in period costume. I think primarily the reason that it succeeded on those terms was that it was entirely character-driven. That is, the characters drove the plots, and they were pretty consistent over the arc of the show; there was a womanizing rake – actually two of them, one upstairs and one down – the imperious lady and her devoted sour-tempered maid, the upright lord of the house, several charming ingénues – and their affairs of state and otherwise, personal crises large and small, courtship, marriages, birth, death … the whole enchilada, as it were. And always in the background there was history going on, but it usually took a back seat to personal lives and concerns. Which is how it is for most of us; what we do, the decisions that we take are driven by our characters and our needs. So, dialed up for dramatic purposes, the Bellamy saga managed a high degree of consistency that way.

And now we come to the new Upstairs, Downstairs iteration … and a couple of episodes into the second season, it is not going well, character and plot-wise. It was a good idea, to update Eaton Place to the 1930s, and bring in a whole new upstairs and downstairs family, with the character of Rose Buck to tie them together, but it’s already gone south, between season one and two … which we have easily deduced from the rushed manner in which the transition between the two was made. You mean – now they have two children? And the mother-in-law died? (And they killed the monkey… not a good start, FYI, and it matters little that it was a well-meant accident.) And Sir Hallam will be boinking his sister-in-law, who doubles as a Nazi spy? Hooo-kay, then. There could have been a whole season of character-developing high-toned soap opera worked in, between the end of one and the start of the second, but apparently everyone wanted to rush on to the drama of historical events. Pity, that – what they finished up with was plot-driven characters; where the needs of plot drove the characters to do things that radically changed what they had first appeared to be ... which is very likely why one of the key originators of the original and the follow-on series departed at speed, while the other had serious health problems.

No, it’s not a bad thing do do plot-driven characters, especially in the confines of a historical narrative, but abruptly contradicting the established character, and rushing over certain developments? Sigh. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the next season of Downton Abbey. At least, they are not doing things in a mad rush ... although they did rather hurry through WWI, and muddled the sequence of the end of the war and the great influenza epidemic.

(Cross-posted at my book-blog website)

The Cure – reminded of this by those nice folks at Ace of Spades HQ.

I was very fond of this song, when it was first popular, and when it was in our reocurring hit-list, because the musical up-ramp to it was just about a minute long, and when I used it as the last song in the playlist at the end of an hour, I could do an outro, promo the next hour and read about half of the spot reader book over that mad minute of music.

Enjoy, y’all.

17. August 2012 · Comments Off on Here’s a Pretty How-de-do · Categories: Ain't That America?, General Nonsense, Politics, Rant, Tea Time

And with the issuance of two announcements this week regarding the upcoming Presidential campaign, the usually interesting quadrennial race just got a little bit more … interesting? Bizarre? More than usually contentious? All of the above and more, to judge from this week’s surfing across the oceans of the internet. So Mittens discovered the existence – heretofore unsuspected by the larger public – of his fiscally responsible and constitutionalist backbone and tagged Paul Ryan as his running mate… that makes for a snappy bumper sticker right of the top of my head; “Time for a little R & R.” Said prospective VP nominee had never swam across my ken as a possible, but then Mittens himself had never seemed to me to be a likely prospect for the top o’the ticket either … altogether too bland, to nice, too establishment GOP … but then I am only an interested amateur and Tea Party enthusiast. All props to him for seeing that the fiscally responsible, strictly Constitutionalist and relatively free market segment of the libertarian-conservative public constituted a powerful voting block.

So … Paul Ryan; hope that he and his family, all of his friends, neighbors and and everyone that he has ever known are all battened down against the coming onslaught headed his way from the usual media crowd, also known as Pravda on the Potomac. Frankly, no wonder at all that Paul Ryan or his people didn’t want in the least to be interviewed by a whiny regular at Salon.com. Mainstream media establishments have proved comprehensively that they were so deep in the tank in the tank for Obama last time that they probably needed a deep-sea diver’s helmet and someone up above feeding them oxygen. And nothing much has changed – yet again, they seem dedicated soul and body to drag his tottering Juggernaut over the finish line. At least those who still have a job and whose organization is still functioning will be dedicated to that project, although it would seem that at least some of them must be entertaining doubts.

Yes, established media organs – you have showed us where your loyalties lie. I wouldn’t want to talk to you either. Over the last four or five years, you have dedicated yourselves to trashing Tea Partiers, libertarian-conservatives, and traditionalists generally. So, no – we really don’t want to talk to you. Not you, not the pollsters that call incessantly: who knows who is really asking, and what will that information obtained from us really be used for? No, we don’t trust you, and we certainly don’t trust this current administration. Look at what happened to Joe the Plumber, to the owner of Gibson Guitar and any number of others … and include the owners of Chick-fil-A, too. Don’t’ forget about how the Department of Homeland security made grumbling noises about veterans and tea partiers being potential terrorists, too. And we don’t much want – unless we are a stubborn and stalwart sort – to even go out and joust in those wide open public internet spaces available to us … since, in a lot of cases (notably this one) the administrators are pretty obviously biased. Pity, that.

We’ll vote in November – that’s all that I’ll admit to at this present time.

The other announcement – that Joe Biden, the one-man walking gaffe machine would still adorn the bottom of the ticket. Knock me over with a feather – I thought sure that the announcement would concern health issues and a desire to spend more time with his family. But whatever – the man’s got a gift … and the gift is to the Romney-Ryan campaign, especially if Biden makes too many more appearances. Of course, the man at the top o’ the ticket seems to have stuck his beautifully polished Gucci loafer in his mouth a good few times, too. The ‘you didn’t build that’ meme seems to have gone down like a whole pineapple enema with the small business community … which, as sources like the Chambers of Commerce never tire of reminding us, are the engine running the whole American middle class economy.

Yes, a small to medium business of their own, and being their own boss is one of those things that just about every American, or prospective American with a bit of hustle and drive in them aspires to. Count me among them – as I have just spend the last week tediously transcribing a 19th century ledger book for a client – and thanked the deity every morning that as tedious and exacting as it was, I’d rather be doing that at my own computer in the corner of my own little home office, then climbing into the office business drag and driving across town to someone else’s office to spend the next eight hours. Way to piss off just about every striving American and independent consultant, President Obama. Do, by all means, stay loyal to Joe Biden, and whoever is strategizing your campaign. Encourage your administration bureaucrats and officials to be vengeful, you media minions to be ugly, your local protest element to be ugly and threatening, and all of them to be irrational. Every instance will be reason for any number of quiet Tea Partiers to decide that R & R is good enough on November 2.

Me, I think this is the beginning of the preference cascade – that moment that everyone who has been made deeply unhappy by the policies of this administration looks around, and discovers that they are not alone.

19. July 2012 · Comments Off on The Spectacle of Wrecks on the Internet Superhighway · Categories: Ain't That America?, Geekery, General Nonsense, Literary Good Stuff, Working In A Salt Mine...

I am not one of those people who thrive on discord – which may be one of the reasons that I gave up posting on Open Salon yea these many months ago. I am at heart a rather peaceful and well-mannered person who does not actively seek out confrontation, on the internet or in real life … no really, stop laughing! I merely present myself as someone who doesn’t suffer fools lightly, and who will not hesitate to squash them, which has the pleasing result of not being very much bothered by fools. It’s called ‘presence’… and has worked out pretty well, actually online and in real life. I can easily count the number of fools I have squashed … only a dozen or so that I remember. And none of them came back for seconds.

I don’t deliberately slow down to gawk at epic highway pileups either … except that in real life, everyone ahead of you has slowed down anyway, and the full spectrum of destruction is spread before you. And as for epic internet crackups … one can go for months without being made particularly aware of them, but this week my attention was caught by news of the mother-in-law-of all internet crack-ups to do with books. This one I must pay some attention to, as books are my vocation. It’s a more appalling spectacle than the Great Books And Pals/Jacqueline Howett Review Crackup of 2011, which should have served as an object lesson in how an author should not respond to a mildly critical review. This fresh slice of internet literary hell is what I am dubbing the Great Stop the Goodreads Bullies Cluster of 2012.

Goodreads, for those who have not had it wander across their ken … is kind of like Facebook for book enthusiasts. More specifically, for readers of books – although I do have an author page there, for all the good it does me. Not much; this is why I am not inclined to spend much time and effort on it. Anyway, it seems that a handful (or maybe more) of the regular Goodreads reviewers have earned a reputation for what is – or could be interpreted – as snark, scathing wit, or just dismissive disinterest. As the fictional food critic, Anton Ego said, “…the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.”

Yes, it is fun and easy to cut loose with all barrels on some hapless bit of publication – and since the mad and wonderful world of books in this year of our lord offers such a wide array of targets, I can’t really blame various Goodreads reviewers for being rather spiky and judgmental about books. It’s a site for readers, after all. And there are plenty of wallbangers out there. (That is, a book so awful that you throw it across the room hard enough to bang against the opposite wall) But handful of Goodreads reviewers who have have been colorfully blunt in expressing their opinion of particular books now are classed as bullies? And that a handful of aggrieved Goodreads members (who may be writers, or just overly-impassioned fans) have set up a website, specifically dedicated to ‘outing’ those reviewers, terming them ‘bullies’ and tacitly encouraging other people to stalk and harass them online and in their real off-line lives. The irony, it burns. OK then – is the principle being established here is that the cure for bullying is … more bullying? Must be merely one of those interesting coincidences that the intended targets of Stop the Goodreads Bullies are women … oh, and the whole schmezzle of revealing Goodreads members personal information is a violation of the Goodreads policies, anyway.

Say, was there some act of Congress or the current regime passed lately which demanded that all book reviews are slavishly adoring, else the wrath of someone-or-other be excited? Is this the natural outcome of giving trophies for participation? Are certain writers thinking, “I wrote a book so I deserve nothing but glowing reviews for it?” I’ve reviewed books myself, often enough, and now and again administered an unfavorable or a mixed review. Not too many of those lately, as really don’t want to waste valuable hours reading a stinker, and fortunately the ‘Look Inside’ feature pretty much lets me screen out the really awful selections. A review isn’t a advertisement for the book; it is, or ought to be at the very least, a reasoned analysis of why or why not a reader should spend a good few hours of their life reading it. Nothing more, nothing less, although this rule is frequently trampled upon.

The bottom line is that the only response an author should make for a favorable, or even mildly critical review – and even if any response should be made is debatable among the cognoscenti – is, “Thank you for your consideration.” For a critical or scathing review – no response at all is best. There is no crying in baseball, and there should be no whining from authors; especially not to the extent of setting up a website to complain about being bullied. You put your stuff out there for everyone with the interest or the wherewithal to read it. Accept that there will be a number among them who will not like it, miss the point entirely, fail to grasp the whole point … well, grownups and professionals bleed about that silently and move on. Comfort yourself with those reviews and the appreciation of people who did get the point, and who loooooove it.

Frankly, I also comfort myself against unappreciative reviews by going and looking at my vast collection of publisher and agent rejections for Truckee’s Trail and Adelsverein. I think of it as the best kind of plate armor against bad reviews.

(Crossposted at my book blog, and at Chicagoboyz)

01. July 2012 · Comments Off on Monday Morning Miscellany · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, General Nonsense, Media Matters Not, Politics, Rant, Veteran's Affairs

OK, so it’s Sunday afternoon. I’m just planning ahead, ‘kay?
1. So the Supremes upheld Obamacare … well sort of. Is it a tax, or isn’t it? Dessert topping or floor-wax. All that I can tell from here is that the closer and closer it gets to being implemented, the more unpopular that the whole program seems to be becoming. Why, oh, why couldn’t the Obamster have just tweaked Medicare to cover those uninsured. What towering illusion of adequacy led him to devise what appears to be Britain’s National Health scheme writ large and applied willy-nilly to the US. Anyway, now he’s staked his political career – what’s left of it – on ramming it through, over objections.

2. Oh, and his reelection campaign is going big in Paris for the 4th ofJuly, which kicks off a campaign swing through Europe. Guess the Obama reelection campaign has squeezed enough out of Wall Street and Hollywood, so it’s on to greener pastures. Words fail, they really do. I’ll probably never watch George Clooney in anything, ever again. If Mittens has any sense at all, he’ll be at a traditional down-home American community 4th of July bash. I swear, the campaign ads practically write themselves.

3. Colorado burning … the pictures of the fires burning along the mountains, and the homes going up in flames give me the cold shivers, they really do. The Obamster did show up to console the good citizens of Colorado Springs though … Which is nice of him. Texas burned last year though, with nary a peep.

4. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes breaking up. I think there must be some order of contemplative religious in a monastery on an isolated mountaintop somewhere who did not see that coming.

5. I posted a sample chapter of the next book – The Quivera Trail, on my book blog, here. Check it out, if you’re interested.
And that’s my weekend. Yours?

(With apologies to the Obama perpetual re-election campaign. Other people have had a go at this concept – I think The Life of Brian is one of the funniest, but I wanted to have a go at this myself. )

3 Years Old – Under President Eisenhower, Celia stays home with her younger brother, as her full-time work-at-home Mom helps her get ready for school by reading aloud to her, supervising her playtime and providing a secure home environment. She will join thousands of students across the country who will start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed.

17 Years Old – Under President Nixon, Celia takes the SAT and is on track to begin applying for college … which college program includes two years at a local junior college capped by two years at a state university – a public university system that the taxes paid by Celia’s parents over the years have subsidized. The public high school which Celia attends is in a working-class suburb, but offers academically enriched courses for those students who qualify for them.
More »

04. May 2012 · Comments Off on May Miscellany · Categories: Domestic, Fun and Games, General Nonsense, Media Matters Not, Politics, Rant, sarcasm

Holy krep, is it May already? Guess it must be – time flies when you are having fun. My excuse is that I actually took a whole Sunday off; Blondie and I went up to the World Famous Buda Texas Wienerdog Races on Sunday, and I have been working alternately on two paid projects all this week to catch up. So – barely able to keep up with the news, such as it is, between all this and noodling around in the kitchen making another wheel of Leicester cheese and starting two crocks of home-made sauerkraut. All this German stuff is starting to catch up to me, I swear.

Sauerkraut, red potatoes and nice little sausages from the best meat market in New Braunfels, all cooked up in the same pan, make a darned tasty meal. (The recipe is on my book blog, under “The Splendid Table” page. No, seriously – good eats. I’ve begun to wonder, tasting the glories of home-made cheese, how good are the pickles that we have canned, and the sauerkraut which will eventually emerge from the canning kettle.)
Anyway – the news is it’s usual bounty of the richly comic:

Like Professor Elizabeth Warren, who looks like an older version of a Bund Deutcher Madel recruiting poster (League of German Maidens, the female version of the Hitler Youth) claiming to be 1/32 Cherokee Indian … ok, then. Now and again, I met people who told me they were part whatever American Indian. A fair number of them were blue-eyed blonds, which led me to assume that … certain physical traits must have been pretty darned recessive. Even if my friend Esther T. who was one-eighth Shoshone did look like Geronimo got up in drag as a Wagnerian soprano. So who’s really a minority, when you look at first glance like a member of the majority class? Oh, and I won’t even get into how the head of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous is almost a dead-spit look-alike to my brother J.P. – who in spite of having dark hair and brown eyes and used to tan very easily … is a person of unmixed pallor, Anglo-Saxon and protestant descent for as far back as family records go. Seriously. But honestly, how seriously can you take this s**t these days?

I see where some Occupy Whatever doofuses had a plot to blow up a bridge. But they didn’t have the wit to see that all their needs for explosives were being met by surprisingly helpful FBI informants. I am being reminded of those dear sweet days in the late 60s and early 70s, when law enforcement alphabet agencies made up a substantial portion of the membership of so many of these fringe little groups with violent inclinations. Apparently, they were the only ones willing to come to tedious meetings and reliably pay their dues. I kid, I kid.

And now that all the jollies have been wrung out of President Obama’s boyhood proclivities for chowing down on chow (and hound, and peke and collie), I guess now it’s time to make fun of his composite girlfriends. Seriously, he had girlfriends, composite or individual? My impression was that he was too much in love with himself to get involved with an outsider, but OK … You know, after a certain point, when enough stuff has been composited, created, massaged and shaped, you may as well call it fiction, not a memoir.
And that’s my week. Working up a piece to accompany the administrations latest bit of work “The Life of Julia” will call for a separate entry of it’s own.

(links below – somehow the posting of embedded links on this blog is frelled beyond redemption.)

That’s the feeling, really – as Blondie and I walk the dogs of a morning, and discuss such weighty matters as who remembered to bring sufficient poopy bags, if it is safe enough to let the Weevil off leash long enough to have a brisk run up and down the long fence behind which lives another Boxer mix who carries on a sort of fence to fence tag run, how many tomatoes we are likely to get from our current planting of garden bounty, if there will be enough cucumbers to make a decent batch of pickle spears soon, what to have for dinner that evening … and the morning gleanings of various internet news sites that we favor, upon rising from our slumbers first thing of a morning.

I favor Instapundit myself – out of long habit, even if he did drop this site from his blogroll a couple of years ago, but my daughter favors a combination of TMZ and the Daily Mail website, which (oddly enough) often puts up items of American news days before it appears in our own very dear mainstream media organs. Nope, tis true, tis true: sensationalist, twee, celebrity-addled, frequently misspelled/ungrammatical/confusing/sentimental-enough-to-trigger-a-diabetic-reaction, the DM still unashamedly and without much bias that I can detect covers the news. What a concept, hey? (Leaving aside the DM’s editorial bias, whatever it might be. When it comes to Brit newspapers, I used to favor the London Times and the Spectator myself, until they put everything interesting behind a paywall, then the Telegraph, and even the Guardian – until … well, that last just went beyond the pale for me. The lefty establishment bias just got to hard to take. God knows what the Grauniad thinks of the Tea Party; I don’t have a stomach strong enough to check.)

Anyway – to see ourselves as the DM sees us. My daughter notes the increasing numbers of American commenters, who ask why they hell do they have to go to a British newspaper site to see relatively unbiased American news. I’d guess it’s probably because the DM doesn’t seem to actually have a rep in among the White House Press Whores, or among the local establishment in whatever city the interesting story of the moment comes from. So, they can tell the story and access-to-the-elite-establishment be damned. Kind of refreshing, actually: what was the old press motto? To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable – damned if it doesn’t seem that principle has been reversed, in these degraded modern days.

Anyway – we were talking about a wide-ranging number of topics, but actually, they weren’t all that wide-ranging. Mostly it was the various aspects of the Federal Gummint’s heavy and strangling hand descending on a variety of concerns and businesses: the EPA going after coal-burning power plants (what – do they want rolling blackouts?), the Department of Labor going all ‘it’s for the chiiiiiiiildren!’ in forbidding children, tweens and teens from working certain essential jobs on family farms, hammering the Catholic church for not handing out free birth control like it was Skittles, the EPA going after rabbit breeders, the Justice Department casually allowing weapons to walk from border states into Mexico, prosecuting Gibson guitar manufacturing enterprise for using certain kinds of imported wood, the TSA (who easily could be the most despised organization in the US today but for all the competition from the EPA) feeling up four-year old girls and ripping off wheelchair bound veterans, the NOAA enthusiastically ruining the livelihoods of New England independent fishermen … and the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman imbroglio, with respect to flash-mob violence and the disinclination of our own very dear Department of Justice to become involved in prosecuting those who incite racial violence. Long list it was, too. So, I don’t think I want to get fitted for a tinfoil hat just yet … but WTF do these various numbskulls think they are doing? Exactly how far do they think people can be pushed before an individual or a community entirely looses patience? I mean – do they want large numbers of Americans to openly defy the Feds, nonviolently or otherwise? Is this deliberate incitement or just dumbassery on an epic scale?

I know, cheerful thinking for a morning walk. I think I’ll go fire up the canning kettle, and put aside another dozen jars of home made pickles, relishes and sauerkraut. To the best of my knowledge, the EPA or the DOJ hasn’t come out regulating against that … yet.
(Links here. Impossible to embed links any more…

03. March 2012 · Comments Off on When Buntline Was in Flower · Categories: Ain't That America?, General Nonsense, History, Old West

Ned Buntline, that is … a dime novel writer, publicist, playwright and producer … as well as publisher and popularize of popular cheap novels about the American west, published in mass quantities during the latter half of the 19th century. His name was actually Edward Zane Carroll Judson, and he had been a sailor, a brawler, an instigator of riots, an ex-convict and a prodigious drinker and public lecturer on the benefits of temperance. Presumably he knew whereof he spoke, on this subject, although the phrase ‘do as I say, not as I do’ certainly does occur to one. But this is not about E.Z.C.Judson, or his alter-ego, Ned Buntline … or even any of the Wild West personalities that he wrote about in his dime novels.

No – what he, and his scribbling ilk did in a fair part, was to popularize the far west – the frontier west as it then existed in the late 19th century – as a fountainhead of unending drama and breathtaking adventure. Granted, anyone who does this now, or in previous decades has had wonderful material to work with: eccentric characters galore, marvelous and improbable events, romance of every variety, warfare and friendship with strange and alien peoples (Indians, unreconstructed Confederates and Mormons among them). But Buntline and his less famous competitors did it first, establishing the meme almost before the dust was settled.

Of course – some of that dust was purposefully raised, in the course of telling a ripping good yarn for the price of one thin dime. They had not the luxury of being able to wait and see, to consider events steadily or see them whole. They were also not able to thoroughly fact-check the back-stories alleged by some of their most famous heroes – say, Buffalo Bill Cody, or Wild Bill Hickok, or cared very little others were out and out criminals and sociopaths. Or that others –like the small landowners and homesteaders who came out on the wrong side of something like the Johnson County War were not, and had experienced the bad fortune of being relatively voiceless in a contest where the other party had the bigger public megaphone. (And that much of their output is hideously racist by modern attitudes should go without saying.) They also were guilty of creating or flat-out exaggerating every convention imaginable regarding cowboys; who were usually plain old working men of every color, performing backbreaking and/or totally boring labor – but they did it in the open air, and from the backs of horses, which must have looked pretty good from the perspective of a factory hand or clerk back east.

Still – Buntline and his ilk set the stage for the enduring image and conventions of the Old West: timeless stories and stock characters, which were lovingly sent up in a movie like Rustler’s Rhapsody. Even so, it was vision of the Wild, Wild West which gripped our grandparents and great grandparents in print, entranced our parents at the movies … and had us glued to the television.

But you know what? The real Wild West was even more incredible than Ned Buntline ever dreamed.

…they toil not, nor do they spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Enough of that simile, since it’s pretty obvious that Solomon in all his glory was not spread all over just about every fashion and women’s mag for the last couple of years, accompanied by cutlines, stories and editorials, all drooling over how chic, fashionable and oh-so-modern and otherwise laudable the spouse of the current occupant of the White House was.

Yep, upon the apotheosis of the Empty Suit known as Barack Obama, to the highest office in the land, I could hardly pass the supermarket checkout stand, without being assured that his Significant Other was the best thing since Jackie Kennedy or sliced bread… so lovely, so tasteful, so chic, the very model of an ultra-modern First Lady. Frankly, the sycophantic chorus got to the point where I began muttering to myself something along the lines of, ‘Sister, I remember Jackie Kennedy – and you, darlin’ – aren’t no Jackie Kennedy. If Jackie Kennedy had ever dressed for a public event by raiding her daughter’s closet and the nearest Goodwill outlet, she would have at least made it look good!’ Frankly, if I never see another picture of Michelle in a boob-belt and too-small cotton cardy, or one of Laura Ashley’s more unfortunate evening dress designs, it will all be too soon. And I speak as one who does raid her daughter’s closet, the local Goodwill store and loved Laura Ashley, but then I do not see any fashion mags out there breathlessly lauding Sgt. Mom’s inimitable sense of style.

About the only mystery left unexamined regarding Michelle Obama’s dress sense is how on earth one can spend a bomb of money and still finish up wearing such desperately unflattering clothes, or clothes grotesquely unsuited for the occasion – or both.

So, you will have gathered that Michelle Obama annoys me. I would have been content to dismiss her as I did, yea these many months ago as “a seething pit of resentment in spite of two high-end degrees, a large income and a mansion; a BAP with a limitless sense of entitlement.” I might have been able, eventually, to blow off the fashion and women’s magazine going all full Pravda on us … but for the vacations.

The incessant expensive vacations to lavish resort locations annoy me. I don’t grudge rich people their amusements, knowing that they mostly pay for such excursions themselves, and that spending on them will trickle down to make a good living for the people who own, run, and work at such places – heck, I live in a destination city, although I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not a tropical paradise like Hawaii, or an enclave of the uber-rich like Martha’s Vinyard. I certainly didn’t grudge President Reagan, or either of the Presidents Bush from taking vacations at property they owned and improved, and even hosted VIPs at. (I did derive amusement out of the White House Press corps being dragged to Crawford, Texas, in August, though. Awwww, poor cosmopolitan urbanites, being dragged to the ass-end of nowhere in the most miserable part of a Texas summer!)

But at a time when ordinary working people are cutting back to a week or so, taking a frugal holiday here and there, or even not taking a vacation at all – Michelle Obama taking a lavish holiday every two months or so, looks very, very bad to the general public. And the White House must know that it’s going over about as well as a case of the chicken pox at a kid’s birthday party. That someone whose job it is to consider damage control can’t or won’t talk her into slumming it at Camp David instead is not a good thing.