11. May 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: General

As I retired from a relatively uneventful career in the peacetime Air Force in 1997, I’ve been out of the military for longer than I was in it. I don’t hang around so much in military veteran circles online as I did early in the decade afterwards, when my daughter was serving in the Marines after 9/11 and deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. But she does venture into veteran social media circles, on a local basis through organizations and outlets like Bourbiz, Grunt Style, Ranger Up, and Black Rifle Coffee … and she called my attention to what amounts to a dumpster fire ongoing in veteran circles. Holy heck, it’s more a raging nuclear inferno than your plain ordinary social media dumpster fire. Read the series of articles, she said, it’s jaw-dropping – and so I did. Oh. My. G*d. I thought the Vietnam-era “stolen valor” incidents so thoroughly documented in this book were the far frozen limit, but this Steele character appears to have ventured into hitherto unexplored dimensions. More »

09. May 2020 · Comments Off on Respecting Authority · Categories: General

As the Deity is my witness, I swear that certain of our elected officials at the state and municipal level are holding a contest to see who can be the most petty, obnoxious, contradictory, and unreasonably dictatorial boot stamping on a human face in the wake of the Wuhan coronavirus. (Yes and I will call it the Wuhan coronavirus, or maybe even the Chinese Commie Crud; I owe nothing to the Chinese Communist Party, nor do I expect to sell books in China, so bite me, Premier “Winnie the Poo” Xi, you and your running-dog lackeys in the American media.)

Lets’ see – Governor Gretchen “Karen” Witmer was making a strong showing for most of the last few weeks; stupid and illogical orders as to what was essential and what was not; yea, even to the point of roping off aisles in general-purpose stores. You could go to the store, look at the merchandise which was sitting right there, in plain sight … but because Governor “Karen” had ruled, in her inexplicable wisdom, that certain items were not essential … you could not purchase them. You could, in fact, order them through the store website … but you could not actually pick up the item and schlep it to the cashier yourself. Governor “Karen” also, in her infinite wisdom, decided that the same quarantine/isolation practices that were marginally appropriate for the Big City in her state were also appropriate for the far-distant rural counties, where one might have to actually arrange for someone with the Wuhan coronavirus to come and cough on you. Governor “Karen” also claimed to see Nazi and Confederate banners at public protests objecting to her idiotic policies. So, not only stupid and illogical … but delusional. If she was auditioning for a spot as the Dem VP-nominee, I suspect that she has bombed the audition. (But one never knows. Like idiocy, there seems to be an infinite and boundless supply of delusions of competence on the part of our current political leadership in blue states.) More »

28. April 2020 · Comments Off on Lament for a Mall · Categories: General

Malls were the latest, trendiest, most oh-there thing in retail development about the time that I was in high school and college. There were a couple of them that I went to, early on, and they were … OK. A nice diversion if one was in the mood or purse for retail therapy. Most of them were enclosed, two or three levels, almost always expensively decorated, adorned with plantings, sometimes with dabs of architectural creativity here and there. All of that made sense in places where the weather was bitterly cold for at least half the year or boiling-hot for three-quarters of it – still does, in the upper mid-west and mountain west, especially in snowy winters. It was, however, a serious and time-burning excursion to go to the mall; finding a place to park nearest an entrance, walking … and walking, and walking, and carrying whatever you had purchased. If there was a nice and varied selection of shops, not wall to wall big chain outlets, exactly the same as every other mall – so much the better.
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23. April 2020 · 3 comments · Categories: General

And in other places, like New York. I must confess to snickering nastily at New Yorker’s response to Mayor OBlah-blah’s unveiling of a system to nark out your neighbors for not obeying every jot and tittle of the Wuhan Corona-crud restrictions. Said system was immediately swamped in an unstoppable rising tide of rude pictures, pictures of rude gestures, and sarcastic references to Hitler, as well as crude personal jibes regarding the Mayor himself – to the point where the system was taken down entirely. Well, good for New Yorkers, I say – and a very good thing that such a thing wasn’t tried in a Texas city; seriously, the receiving server would have melted down into a radioactive puddle of goo. And California skateboarders industriously clearing out their skate-park of the sand dumped into it by officious authorities and making a dirt-bike track out of the excess sand? That’s just freaking awesome. We have not forgotten how to cock a snook at overweening authority; a tradition has been passed on to a new generation…
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17. April 2020 · Comments Off on The Dark Night of Fascism… · Categories: General

…is said to always be descending on America but landing in Europe … but in the instance of this Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic, a peculiar variant of it looks to be landing in Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia, seeing as those states have been blessed with governors breaking all land speed records in getting in touch with their inner authoritarian. One might be forgiven for suspecting that their motivation is not so much for keeping those vulnerable to the newly-improved Chinese respiratory crud in quarantine, but one might also be forgiven for a healthy sense of suspicion; that governors like … Gretchen “Karen the Governator” Whitmer are actually making a frantic display of authority, in a pathetic attempt to demonstrate that they can, actually, make wise use of such authority. Karen the Governator is additionally challenged by the prospect of being theoretically in the running to be nommed to the VP slot in Joe Biden’s hapless campaign for the office of president of these United and temporarily locked-down States. Sigh – the thing about authority, class, good taste, or being a lady – is that if you must make an overt demonstration of those qualities to the masses – then you don’t possess them at all. While it’s absolutely fine that a real-life Natasha Fatale has lost the Russian accent and taken on the onerous duties of being the elected governor of Michigan, going all overboard like the bossiest boss of the most nightmare HOA imaginable (I’m all about building a second career!) … is not a good look. Demanding that retail outlets which are already open and have customers withing – not sell garden seeds, flooring, and baby car seats on the grounds that such are non-essential is bloody insane. And illogical.

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This is a septic bit of public street art that I ran across on Bookworm Room this week. Apparently, this Winston Tseng is a bit of a rebel artist, kind of the liberal, east coast version of Sabo. Yeah, he looks like what we have come to expect of a certain kind of liberal, big-city intellectual; a weedy metrosexual, striking an avant garde pose. Seems to have the kind of resume that goes with that pose. Frankly, he looks like the kind of guy who doesn’t know the difference between a straight blade or Phillips-head screwdriver. Probably can’t drive a standard shift car, either – even if he does have a drivers’ license in the first place. Appears on the strength of the art posted on his website that he hates Trump and his administration, root and branch. Yawn – so daring! So avant garde! And so bloody predictable.
I get it that there are two New Yorks – the working-class-stiff element, likely who cannot afford a 300-foot apartment in any postal code within miles of Manhattan, and the intellectual sort, chuffed beyond all measure that they are living and working in New York New York – where if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, and anywhere else is just … Nowheresville when it comes to adding up the social intellectual points. Out here in the vast American hinterland between two coasts, those of us who have an interest in more-than-local public matters are marinated in information about New York New York. It’s in our movies, the books and media we read, the media we watch. The Ultimate Big City, the Biggest Apple of Them All … yeah, we get it. Over and over again. We know. But reciprocal evidence that the residents of the most happening, trendiest city in this whole US of A know bloody anything … anything at all about the rest of us is pretty damn thin on the ground. No, nothing. Nada. Bugger-all. Invincible sheltered island ignorance. The famous NY Magazine cover comes to mind; a rare moment of awareness of their own insularity on the part of the most New York New York intellectual monument of all.

This matter came to the attention of Bookworm through a tweet regarding a lament at Slate (which used to be a thing for me, back when I was new to the internet and all) concerning a noted lack of sympathy for New York and New Yorkers during the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic. This in contrast to the outpouring of support and sympathy after 9/11. Why so little regard in this present emergency, asked the author of the post, Dahlia Lithwick, in a tone which almost verged into a protracted whine? I think the most scathing and concise answer to her was commenter Steverino, who wrote in the comments to her post:
A few months after the Sep 11 attacks, I was driving on a two lane Texan road somewhere far south of Dallas when I saw a gas station ahead, the old kind from the ‘60s, with slanted glass so it looked like an airport control tower. The glass was white, like it had been whitewashed after going out of business. I pulled in, out of curiosity, to investigate. The station was open for business. The white on the windows were hundreds of 3×5 note cards taped to the inside, each pledging small amounts of money to buy New York City a firetruck to replace one of those destroyed in the terrorist attack. This was coming from a tiny Texas town that was lucky if it had a Dairy Queen … It is astounding to read a clueless liberal claim that Trump has brought divisiveness to America after conservatives have spent the last twelve years being smeared by liberals as racists and Nazis when we disagree on even the slightest things. The biggest sins Trump has committed, in the eyes of liberals, is to win the election and to use their own rhetorical tactics against them. Had there been no Obama, there would be no Trump. When you take an extreme stand against Americans, expect an extreme reaction … You recruited his army of supporters with your slander and incivility, your contempt for honest dialogue. How do you like the result?

For myself – and getting back to the so progressive Mr. Tseng, whose illustrations were used in a tweet demonstrating just why Ms. Lithwick was getting no sympathy – I was more than a little disgusted with the overt social snobbery in his mock “Keep New York Trash Free” billboards. So our precious artist perhaps never considered that the paunchy working-class guy in a sleeveless t-shirt and Confederate flag tat might be a truck driver transporting essential goods over a long distance, a stocker in a supermarket, or a farmer. Never considered that the woman with a Bible in hand might be a nurse, a volunteer aid worker, a cashier in a store selling essential goods, a good neighbor in a small town. Nope – just trash, that New York is better off without.

Doubtless, he certainly would never, ever acknowledge that people of the sort that he scorns as “trash” have done more good in this current crisis than he has been, or ever will.

11. April 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: General

No, really; the renovation of a single room in my house – the hallway between the garage to the living room was kicked off by a single doorknob. I asked for it from Amazon Vine on a whim, and after I installed it in my bedroom door and wrote the review, I began thinking how really nice it looked. Too nice for the ratty old hollow-core contractor-grade door, which was original to my house when it was build in 1985. Being a bit of money ahead, I thought of replacing the door … and when I looked into interior doors, cost of, and availability at Home Depot, it came about that I could actually afford to replace not just one door – but the doors to the closet, the guest bathroom, the second bedroom door, and the door into the garage as well. Hurrah, hurrah! And – adorn them with the same glass doorknob as I had gotten through Vine. A gallon of good paint, and a few hours on the part of Roman The Neighborhood Handy Guy; done and looked amazing!

The Doorknob!

But the new doors, with a coat of pristine white paint made the existing trim and walls look grotty and gross – especially the wall where the cat litter boxes had formerly been lined up, and so there was a trip to Lowe’s … and another to Home Depot, and while there, saw some nice laminate flooring on sale. And the Daughter Unit mused, “I wonder how easily that peel-and-stick linoleum will come up?”

At Work In The Hallway

I looked at the row of narrow shelves in the hallway, stacked with paperback books … the shelves were just simple lengths of MDF and plain brackets, Serviceable enough, but not all that attractive. Surely, we could do better; and when consulted, Roman TNHG suggested knocking out the drywall and setting the shelves between the studs. That way, it wouldn’t narrow the hallway as much. He could do a bang-up job with fancy molding trim and beadboard; a bookcase that would truly be a built-in.  And if we started the work ourselves, he wouldn’t charge for the demolition. The following day, I began boxing up the books while the Daughter Unit was at work, and when she returned home to a relatively empty and echoing hallway, we took out the shelves, and bashed away – carefully – at the drywall. Today, we applied bead-board pattered wallpaper to what will be the back of the bookcase. (Anaglypta wallpaper from Wayfair, which I swear must be about the only place one can even find nice substantial wallpaper anymore). Tomorrow, when the wallpaper has dried, we’ll paint – and next week, trek back to Lowes’ or Home Depot for everything else to finish off the hallway in style.

The beadboard wallpaper, installed between the wall studs

I swear, it all started with a single doorknob…

10. April 2020 · Comments Off on Proactive to Punishment · Categories: General

I can’t decide which is the more dispiriting element of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic; the fact that so many local authorities in America and Britain are letting their inner authoritarian out for an untrammeled romp while sanctimoniously insisting that it’s all for our own good whether we like it or not (or agree or not), that a large number of ordinary citizens are falling all over themselves in volunteering to inform on neighbors who are doing nothing more than going for more than one walk a day, visiting a park or beach, or exercising in their front garden, and that representatives of our National Media Establishment are as malicious a set of scurvy, biased, panic-sowing incompetents as ever crawled out of a journalism school armed with delusions of adequacy along with the degree. Age 27 and know absolutely nothing, as Ben Rhodes remarked.

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03. April 2020 · Comments Off on Life in the Time of Pandemic · Categories: General

Being retired (from the military as of 1997) and from much of anything else involving putting on a skirt suit, pantyhose, low heels and modest makeup in the last three or four years, the Wuhan Coronavirus lockdown really has not impacted my own life much. My daughter’s work and what there is of mine has been home office based for the last four or five years, so sheltering in place has not been much impact on our day to day life. We count this as our good fortune, while realizing to our sorrow that many others in our community are not so fortunately situated.

Up at half-past six, earlier if Larry Bird is creating outside the back yard windows, a leisurely mug of strong tea, while scrolling through various favored websites for a view of what fresh hells await, then a walk with the dogs – our own terrier-mix Nemo, and Penny, the labradoodle who belongs to an elderly neighbor. (One of those upon whom we are keeping a careful eye, as a fragile cancer-survivor.) A very brisk walk through the tangled streets of our subdivision – alas, we were once given to go to the nearest Planet Fitness three times weekly for an hour mostly spent on the elliptical, but they closed at mid-month, so the strenuous walk must substitute. The dogs are getting rather resentful at this program: “Oh, hell, aren’t we done yet?!!” practically appears in thought-bubbles over their heads during the last half-mile or so.

Back to the house: usually a bit of house-cleaning or gardening – the spring has been quite splendid, almost unnoticed. The trees are lavishly green, the bulbs planted in the fall and winter are now producing flowers, the tomato starts that I bought on sale in the fall and sheltered through the couple of chill spells have already produced tomatoes, the pole beans planted a week or so ago are beginning to leap up the frames positioned for their benefit. We were planning on replacing the chicken house this spring, and refreshing the small flock of laying hens, which has been reduced to a single semi-productive hen, but it looks like the current pandemic emergency has caused a run on supplies of chicks and hens. So – next year, I think. In the meantime, an egg every other day or so.

An hour or two (or more) at the sewing machine in the den – I’m doing fabric masks, from a pattern on the Joanne’s Fabrics website. It seems that local clinics, hospitals and medical practices are in crying need of them, so I am going through my cotton muslin fabric scrap stash. It’s not as easy going as I would like – the cranky Brother machine that my daughter bought on the installment plan is a temperamental beast, and after re-threading a couple of times and breaking at least one needle, my patience is at an end. My rule – after doing a fair amount of stitching for Matilda’s Portmanteau – is that after I break two needles, I’m done for the day. I have a pattern scanned from a neighbor’s pattern stash for doing surgical caps, which I am given to understand are also needed badly by a local clinic. The Daughter Unit also posted eight of them to my sister in California: she supervises the care of Mom, and needs three masks for her husband and son, and five for the home-care nurses to regularly visit to help with Mom, who is paralyzed from the shoulders down, but otherwise in good shape.

We went out to Walmart Thursday morning for fabric for this new project and another packet of needles. They are apparently going big on social distancing; in the foyer, I was upbraided by a manger for not remaining six feet or more from my daughter as she procured and sanitized a cart. “It’s the city rule!” she protested, when I pointed out that we are related, live together, and arrived in the same car, seated considerably less than six feet apart. Sigh. There are rules; sensible ones, and then the other kind – the variety that authority freaks seem to get off on enforcing. I hold the city authority freaks responsible for this one, not the manager, who in the matter of providing essential products to the public, likely has challenges that I can only imagine in my worst nightmare. (My regular nightmares are epic… last night I had two of the them in a row: “The Radio Station Which Doesn’t Work” in which I try to do live radio from a studio in which nothing works or is in the right place, followed by “I Can’t Find My Car” – in which I wander about endless parking lots around a campus of some kind, trying to find my car, or even remember where exactly I left it. Yeah, I must be stressed or something. The Daughter Unit blames the Walmart manager for this…)

Break for lunch – usually something left over from supper the night before, or a toasted sandwich. Then on to writing, for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I am staggering along on Luna City #9, at a pause on That Fateful Lightening, not that this should worry my half-a dozen fans. Both Quivera Trail and The Golden Road stood half-completed for months, or even years Break for supper around 5 PM. An hour or so of watching something on streaming video – this week our choice has alighted on episodes of The Good Karma Hospital – which is agreeable, has scenic backgrounds (filmed on location in Sri Lanka, which used to be known as Ceylon) and deals with mostly solvable medical dilemmas and soap operas teases of an emotional sort. Read in bed for an hour or so after that, attended on one side by Nemo the Terrier (who appears in The Golden Road as Nipper) and on the other by Mom’s former cat, Isabelle the Not-Tightly-Wrapped-Siamese, who has Issues. Don’t we all, these days?

31. March 2020 · Comments Off on Madness and Maddow · Categories: General

The Navy hospital ships promised by President Trump to deploy to New York and Los Angeles arrived on-station as ordered a few days ago. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, presumed for some obscure-to-me reason to be associated with the provision of news to the public, and most recently famed through peddling Russian conspiracy theories regarding Trump’s election for the past three years, had ridiculed the President’s proposed schedule as “nonsense. ” She, or whatever pronoun she goes by, had loudly and publicly claimed that it would be “weeks” before the hospital ships arrived. Instead, the hospital ships arrived more or less to schedule. A lesser news-person would have the decency to be embarrassed over how transparent a prediction-flop this was. Not this Maddow person, it appears. This is not a good thing, and not for the reason first assumed. PBS’ Yamiche “Rolie-Polie-Olie” Alcindor baldly admitted, and in nicer words, that the name of the game for the national establishment news media is “Get Trump!” and anything goes, fair or foul (mostly foul) will serve that end. Well, really – those of us who have been paying attention, especially for the last decade and a half (or longer) have known very well that the name of the game as far as the establishment national news media is concerned, is to enthusiastically smear Republicans and their conservative supporters (no matter how mild or harmless) the pretext, and to excuse Democrats and their supporters, no matter how vile the offense and actions. Nothing new here, move along. SSDD, as we used to say in my active duty days. (Same sh*t, Different Day.)

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24. March 2020 · 3 comments · Categories: General

Seriously, I do wonder if there isn’t a strong antipathy against all things Official-Mainland-Chinese/ Chinese Communist Party and all its works building among Americans, in the wake of the almost-universal infection by the Wuhan Corona-virus epidemic. I mean – the damn plague started there, despite what all the official CCP agencies and bodies, and their sympathizers and hired media can and will insist. Bungling containment, concealing practically everything about the epidemic (the third devastating epidemic originating in China, by the way, the swine flu and the H1N1 virus being the first two) and then having the unmitigated gall to blame it on the United states – that takes the absolute cake, as far as I am concerned. It reminds me of the books I absorbed, growing up; most by English and American authors of the mildly popular sort (some fiction, some non) and dating anywhere in the first half of the 20th century whose detestation of Germany and Germans hung in the atmosphere of those books like a particularly dank fog. It was an almost visceral dislike, for all that we generally had been inclined favorably towards Germany before the turn of the previous century. Martin Luther, Johan Sebastian Bach, the Brothers Grimm, Schumann, Beethoven, Goethe, scientific, technological and medical advances all flowed to the rest of Europe and to the Americas, making is all the richer for it – but German ‘frightfulness’ in World War I, and the horrors inflicted by Nazi Germany burned through that enormous fund of respect and favorable opinion, leaving a very bad taste in the mouths of those old enough to have been exposed to them, either directly or at first and second remove. That bad taste may only now be fading with regard to Germany, but I wonder if it isn’t now about to be replaced with burning resentment of China, or at the very least, the Chinese Communist Party.

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20. March 2020 · Comments Off on The Far Limit · Categories: General

With an effort, I wrench my attention from contemplating local fall-out from the Wuhan coronavirus, or as an unknown wit called it the ‘Kung Flu’. The grocery stores we favor are pretty well picked over by mid-day, in spite of closing from 8 PM to 8AM to restock, the gym has closed, gatherings of more than ten are strongly advised against, and just about every local market or book festival that we had considered participating in has been cancelled or postponed until summer or even later – when, presumably, either the medical wizards will have a handle on the Kung Flu, or people will stop panicking over it.

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13. March 2020 · Comments Off on March Marches On · Categories: Domestic, General

I had a client make the final payment on a finished project late this week, and the two potential clients whom we met with earlier in the week are deferring a decision or a start on their projects until later (if ever) so I could take a break from their stuff and do a little bit more on the ongoing house project; a replacement door for the back door into the garage, and one for the second bedroom, which the Daughter Unit currently occupies. We found a quite acceptable metal-reinforced panel door at Home Depot for a reasonable price, but the door for the bedroom is another matter. We were looking for a door with a glass panel in it, for the bedroom is at the end of a hallway with only a single ceiling light, and no natural light from the outside whatever. So – the Daughter Unit has been pushing for the door with a translucent glass panel in it, so as to allow natural light from the bedroom window to seep into the hallway. Only problem was … expense and availability. Such a door is a special order; not in stock at either of the big-box home improvement outlets. Although Wayfair had very nice ones available – the very cheapest of them was $300, which is … a little out of budget. I had to go and order from Home Depot, and the door will be delivered early in May. Until it arrives, my attention will be focused laser-like on the rest of work in the hallway; specifically, covering the ghastly popcorn texture with beadboard panels and cornice molding, and the peel’n-stick lino with cork flooring and new baseboards. (This will be a test run for the look of the rest of the house …) Until I can begin on that, though – I need to replace the narrow set of shelves along the hallway which houses a simply huuuge collection of paperback books. This will involve boxing up all the books, and taking down the metal brackets and MDF planks in order to complete painting that wall, and seeing to a complete-floor-to-ceiling shelf unit just wide enough to accommodate paperback books… no, really, I would rather work on my income taxes …
All the bits and bobs and lists of expenses and profits from sales in various venues, are all tallied up and ready to be delivered to the nice gentleman CPA who has done my income taxes since 1995. What I will do when he retires for real, I have no idea. I can just hope that he is one of those who will carry on out of habit, looking after a diminishing pool of clients, rather like my late business partner did with her clients – and she handed them all onto me, those who survived. I can only hope that my CPA has a younger apprentice handy.
In other news, it seems that springtime has arrived – alas, not in the trees to the back of the property, which is mystifying. The plum and peach are still bare sticks; no blossoms or budding leaves at all. Neither is there any fresh spring growth on the thrice-cursed hackberry weed tree, just the other side of the fence line – a tree which I hate with the passion of a thousand burning suns for the manner in which it scatters nasty, weedy sprouts all across my yard. I hate the hackberry, so I do. If the wretched seedlings aren’t pulled up entire by the time they are about three or four inches tall, they send a tap-root halfway to the center of the earth and defy extermination … only cutting damned thing off at ground level and painting the bleeding stump with a chemical concoction available from the local nursery keeps it from propagating… This weekend, plant out the various seeds and seedlings, as mid-March marks the last possible frost in South Texas. I did get a jump on this, in sheltering some tomato starts through the winter; they are just now bearing a handful of tomatoes ripe enough to eat, and a tub full of spring greens is nicely ready for salads … and that was my week.

09. March 2020 · Comments Off on Ask Not · Categories: General, Literary Good Stuff

… whom the woke-mob bays for; it bayeth for thee… to paraphrase John Dunne. As no less than Woody Allan may testify at this point, as the article linked here outlines. So the woke mob claims another scalp; yay, wokesters of New York City Mainstream Publishing Division! Take a bow, having thrown a glorious temper tantrum and bent your employer to your will! Today, Woody Allen – tomorrow? Who knows?! N.K. Jemison, a notoriously woke science fiction writer and beneficiary of the current system, weighed in on behalf of the mob, which is … not a good look for someone dealing in speculative fiction. She is supposed to possess some talent, but again – encouraging the mob, even joining in – not something which a thoughtful person with a sense of events and historical recall ought to do. But never mind.
Frankly, as far as I am concerned the mainstream publishing establishment, which is centered in New York (as if that wasn’t sufficient punishment) may ride off into the sunset any time now. Words like “incestuous” and “culturally-blind” come to mind, as well as “arrogant” and “exploitative.” More »

13. February 2020 · Comments Off on The Goad · Categories: General

“…Wake again, Bagheera. For what use was this thorn-pointed thing made?” Bagheera half opened his eyes—he was very sleepy—with a malicious twinkle. “It was made by men to thrust into the head of the sons of Hathi, so that the blood should pour out. I have seen the like in the street of Oodeypore, before our cages. That thing has tasted the blood of many such as Hathi.” “But why do they thrust into the heads of elephants?” “To teach them Man’s Law. Having neither claws nor teeth, men make these things—and worse.” – From The Kings’ Ankus by Rudyard Kipling

The jeweled elephant goad, the ‘ankus’ of Kipling’s story – was indeed a thing made by men, intended to control elephants; a thing used to threaten and inflict pain, to make the elephant do what the man wielding the ankus do what was commanded. I have begun to think of late that the threat of being called a racist is much the same kind of instrument. It’s a means of control, wielded to enforce silence and obedience. Consider the various local police in English towns and cities, who were so bludgeoned by the threat of being viewed as racists that they turned a blind eye, over and over, and over again, to deliberate and organized grooming and sexual exploitation of white English girls by Pakistani gangsters.

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20. January 2020 · Comments Off on Stuff Getting Done on a Monday · Categories: General

Slowly but surely, stuff is getting done; the Daughter Unit and I forswore the gym this morning in favor of a very brisk two-mile walk through the neighborhood with the dogs. I finally finished a post on a WWII novel which had been lingering in the ‘half-finished’ queue for weeks. Made the call to activate the new ATM card, and – this was the biggie – filed the state sales tax form and sent in payment. This was made a bit easier for me for having worked out a long spread sheet with the formulas for calculating what was due in each category – which as my sales were pretty minimal last year resulted in some amounts due to various small entities which were in pennies. So, had to round up to a dollar on the state web-pay page, in most cases – but the grand total owed still came out to about what it should have been according to my own calculations, so that’s all square and taken care of. As far as other tax materiel – have to wait for the various W-2s to come floating in to put the tidy package all together for the nice CPA who has looked after my tax stuff since we settled in San Antonio.

Read a couple of chapters of William Howard Russell’s My Diary North and South – he was the big international correspondent for the Times of London newspaper; a convivial and unrepentant Irishman, often considered the first war correspondent, having made his fame for reporting on interesting developments in the Crimean War. He was sufficiently famous after that to have had many doors open to him and spent the opening months of the American Civil War on a prolonged jaunt through the border states and the south. During a short visit to Washington DC he hobnobbed with many important personalities in the new Republican administration – including a visit to the White House and a meeting with Abraham Lincoln, who was derisively called “the Railsplitter” by many snobbish Northerners which Russell encountered early on. Russell also noted that Lincoln deployed humorous anecdotes as a way of lubricating potentially awkward social encounters … well, I am looking for the low-down on public mood, going into the early months of that war, and Russell looks like a wonderful source for channeling contemporary feelings and observations.

Fiddled around with the Luna City website, added a page for the two compendium volumes, and a PayPal order button after generating the ‘button’ for it, something which I ought to have done weeks and weeks ago. Honestly, I tend to forget about the Luna City website; it’s kind of a static website, not an active blog so much as my book blog/website is.

I fiddled with installing a new doorknob to one of the bedrooms – hoping that this would fix an ongoing problem with the latch not settling properly. Nope; I think this problem won’t be solved until I get around to replacing all the original interior doors in the house. The existing doors are all that cheap contractor-grade hollow core doors … (pauses for a moment to look up the solid wood slab doors at the local Big Box … oh, nice – $125 or so.) replacing the doors will come, possibly later this year. The big project will be replacing the exterior garage door – and maybe we can get a start on that this week, when I can make a down payment on it to the contractor.

And that’s the Monday at Chez Hayes…

24. December 2019 · Comments Off on The Christmas Countdown Continues · Categories: General

Another of my favorite Christmas carols –

23. December 2019 · Comments Off on The Christmas Carol Countdown · Categories: General

From the Christmas Revels Collection –

22. December 2019 · Comments Off on The Christmas Carol Countdown · Categories: General

Another of my very favorite Christmas carols…

The reenacted Civil War, at Liendo Plantation this last weekend. I went with a camera, in search of some good pictures, to use for the current Work in Progress – That Fateful Lightning.

11. September 2019 · Comments Off on Just for Today – From Luna City 3.1 “9-11+15 · Categories: General, Luna

“I know that it’s been fifteen years as of last Sunday,” Coach Garrett mused thoughtfully, hardly taking note of the beer in front of him. “But sometimes it’s as clear to me as if it was yesterday.”
It was a perfect, autumn afternoon – a Friday afternoon in mid-September, just beginning to turn cool. The VFW had visitors’ night on Fridays, and now Richard sat outside with Joe Vaughn and Coach Garrett, at the splintery picnic table under the massive sycamore tree that shaded the back of the VFW.
“You were there in New York, weren’t you, Coach?” Joe drank deep from his own beer. “You saw the Towers go down, up close and personal. Man … it was bad enough watching on TV in real time.”
“Another life,” Dwight Garrett shrugged, but something in the look of that otherwise undistinguished, middle-aged countenance warned Richard to embrace tact and circumspection in his further comment.
“It was a splendid day for me,” Richard ventured, reminiscent for the world of just a little ago, but gone as distant now as the Austro-Hungarian empire. “I know … the irony of it all. An evening in Paris – it was mid-evening. I had just won my first cooking contest, and signed with a talent agency. Some of my old Charterhouse pals and I popped over to Paris to celebrate my excellent prospects. We were drinking in a bar in the Rue d Belleville, and wondering why they had a telly on, and tuned to some high-rise disaster movie. It didn’t seem all that big a thing, not at first. The penny didn’t drop until we saw the headlines in the newspapers the next day. In my defense, we were all enormously pissed that evening.”
“I’ll bet your hangover was epic,” Joe said, not without sympathy. “I was at Fort Lewis. First assignment to the Second Battalion … just driving into work, when it came over the radio. Airplane crashed into the World Trade Center tower. Swear to god, everyone thought it must be one of those little private airplanes, ya know – like a Piper Cub or something. The top sergeant said, ‘Oh, man, they must have gotten hella lost!’ And then someone turned on the breakroom TV, and there was this big ol’ gash in the side of the tower and the smoke just pouring out… Top said he remembered hearing about a WWII bomber hitting the Empire State Building, but that was in a fog. Two big honking silver buildings – we just couldn’t understand at first how it could happen by accident.”
“It was such a beautiful morning,” Dwight Garrett nodded. “Cool, crisp … not a cloud in the sky. I had played a concert at the Alice Tully the night before, so I slept in. Gwen … my wife didn’t wake me up when she left for work. She left a note for me … that we should meet for supper at Morton’s on Washington Street, just around the corner, when she was done with work that evening.”
“Didn’t know you were a married man, Coach,” Joe said, and Dwight Garrett sighed.
“Oh, yes – I left it late, sorry to say. Gwen and I were married for six years and three months. A dedicated career woman, and a divorcee with two sons she raised herself. We met at one of those musical soirees associated with a Mozart festival. Gwen was in finance. Did you ever notice that maths and music are deeply intertwined in some people? Anyway, we had a nice little condo in Tribeca, a stone-throw from where she worked.”
“And?” Richard prodded. He had visited New York often enough during the high-flying years of his career as a globe-trotting celebrity chef, and had only the vaguest notion of where Tribeca might me. It was not his favorite city on the American continent; that would be Vancouver, or perhaps Miami. New York was too crowded, too … vertical for his taste.
“She worked at Cantor-Fitzgerald – in the North Tower,” Dwight Garrett replied in perfectly level, dispassionate tones. Joe drew in his breath sharply, but said nothing, and Coach Garrett continued. “Even asleep, I heard the sirens – but so ordinary a sound in the city, I just went back to sleep. Until Gwen’s son Jeff called from White Plains. ‘Where’s Mom?’ he said, ‘Did she go into work, today? Turn on the TV – there’s a plane that hit the building she works in, all the top floors are on fire, and she’s not answering her cellphone.’ I told him to calm down. I’d walk over to the WTC and find her, make sure she was safe, and that everything would be all right …” He took a long draw of his own beer, calm and meditative, as if he were telling a story of another persons’ experience. “The sidewalks along Vesey Street were full of people looking up towards the towers – both of them just gushing smoke. Like water coming out of a fire hydrant. I started walking as fast as I could. I could see nothing moving on the street, but fire engines, lined up as far as I could see, once I got close. I kept trying to call Gwen. I thought sure that they would let me through the barricades once I explained. The South Tower fell before I got to the end of the block. It was … like a tidal wave of black smoke, dust, soot. A policeman yelled at us to run like hell. A bunch of us on the sidewalk ran into the nearest place – a coffee shop on Vesey, to escape it.” Coach Garrett shook his head, slowly. “Outside that window it turned as black as you could imagine. And the lights went out. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face for about five, ten minutes. That policeman was in there, too – he had a flashlight, but it didn’t help. When we came out everything was grey, covered with thick grey dust. We were all covered in it, too. Needless to say, they wouldn’t let me come anywhere near the North Tower. There were too many people. And I think they were already afraid that the North Tower was going to fall as well.”
“Did you find your wife?” Richard ventured. Coach Garrett shook his head.
“No. Not that day, or afterward. Nothing left – everything and most everyone on the floors just above the impact site were essentially vaporized. I accepted right away that she was gone forever, nothing to be done. No good going to the morgue or hanging around as they excavated the pile afterwards. It was almost as if our marriage had been a wonderful, fleeting dream, and she had never been … except for the boys, of course. And her clothes and things in the condo. It was just so … curious, how it happened out of the clear blue in the blink of an eye, on so ordinary day.”
“Sorry, man,” Joe said, after a long moment. “I never knew about your wife, and all of that. That why you left New York and came home to Texas?”
Coach Garrett nodded. “I couldn’t stay. Not without Gwen. The pile of rubble burned for months. The whole place smelled of smoke and death. I packed a suitcase and took the express to White Plains a few days later. I signed the condo over to Jeff and his brother, rented a car and drove back to Texas. I meant to go back to Kingsville … but heard about a job teaching music here. It seemed like a good way to start fresh.”
“You do what you gotta do,” Joe agreed. “Another, Coach? My treat.”
“Sure thing, Joe,” the older man finished off his beer and looked into the distance; the blue, blue sky and the leaf canopy of the sycamores just beginning to turn gold and brown. “There’s one thing I do regret about Gwen. I wish that I hadn’t slept in – that I had fixed her breakfast, kissed her, said that I hoped she would have a good day, and that I loved her. I never for a single moment thought that she would suddenly just not be there. Love shouldn’t end that way, on the flip of a coin.”
“Nope,” Joe agreed, and to Richard, it looked as if Joe had suddenly made up his mind about something. “You want another, Rich?”
“Only if you’re buying.” Richard replied.
“Cheap limey bastard,” Joe grumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, the great science fiction visionary, Robert A. Heinlein (PBUM) an Annapolis grad and serving naval officer who was discharged for reasons of health early on in what might have been a promising naval career at the right time and in the right generation to have made a significant command mark in WWII, generated the concept of the crazy years. But I wonder if he had the slightest clue of the far-frozen limits of bug-house, chewing-at-the-restraints, raving-at-the-moon crazy that current political figures, media personalities, self-styled internet stars, and academic t*ats would achieve … and just in the last week or so. Really, under the old rules of civility, the ones that I grew to adulthood honoring, decent citizens would have just looked away, murmuring polite demurrals and excuses under their breath, while deleting the offending party from their address book and never inviting them to their neighborhood potlucks any more … but now the crazy has got to such an extent that one can hardly keep up.
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11. June 2019 · Comments Off on Adventures in the Indy Author Trade · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, Literary Good Stuff

The Daughter Unit and I spent most of Saturday morning in the lovely little town of Wimberley, Texas. Wimberley is situated on a particularly scenic stretch of the Blanco River, in the hills to the west of San Marcos. It’s closer to Austin than to San Antonio and seems to have become even more of a weekend tourist draw, since we first visited it in the late 1990ies. Then there were just a handful of little shops catering to tourists, and one restaurant with had memorable hamburgers and an outside deck which overlooked the riverbank, all grown with cypress trees, great and green. There were a fair number of hippie artisan types; potters, glass-blowers, metal-fabricators and the like, plus the usual number of antique shops, which tended more towards the ‘quaint old country junk’ side of the scale. On the first Saturday of the month, Wimberley stages a mammoth open-air market – something we’ve been to a number of times. It’s supposed to be the oldest and biggest one in Texas.
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23. May 2019 · Comments Off on Bafflement · Categories: General, Health and Wellness, My Head Hurts

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

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

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

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

No, I don’t think will ever reach Peak Stupid; just as we will probably never reach Peak Oil, either – since there appears to be an inexhaustible supply of the former, and more of the latter than the gloom’n’doom crowd apparently thought. But Deity on a Trisket, the farrago of Stupid on display just this past week is just plain mind-blowing. And I read a lot of history, so it’s not a total surprise to me that individually and en masse, humans are capable of the spectacularly moronic; things like Tulip Mania in 17th century Holland, pursuance of the Flat Earth theory after trips into space, and the Billy Jack movie series, not to mention the whole disco era in general.
So the Jussie Smallett supposed hate-crime on the below-freezing streets of Chicago on the coldest day of the year thus far (hey, it’s only February, I am confident that the remaining ten months of 2019 will bring us ever more bountiful levels of stupidity) has fallen completely apart – much as the intelligent and logical portion of the blogosphere had predicted upon being made aware of the specifics. Yes, a planned – with an astounding level of stupidity even for an actor – hate crime, intended to leverage a pay raise, and garner oodles of that sweet, sweet milk of sympathy for a victim. And the National Establishment Mainstream fell for it, hook, line, sinker and whatever else in an appealing sob story, not to mention quantities of gullible media celebrities, and gullible political celebrities. Oopsie. The most decent of them appear to have the nous to be resoundingly pissed with Mr. Smolett over how their sympathies were exploited. The indecent are lying low and doubtless waiting for the next shiny, flashy supposed hate crime to bubble up to the top of that pond of scum which appears to be our national thought leaders. Live and learn, people – there exists a long, long, long history of faked hate crimes. The most recent of which happened not two weeks previously, with the Covington Catholic students. Memories are short in the National Establishment Media gene pool; measured in hours, I would guess. Possibly this is a variety of genetic defect. More »