16. December 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Fun and Games, General, Media Matters Not

The concept of “fake news” appears to be the meme du jour among the serious internet news set … well, the serious mainstream news set, anyway. Calling it the meme du jour is merely a kinder way of describing the mainstream media’s primal scream of denial. Me – I have become extremely suspicious when a meme suddenly pops up all over the national mainstream news and entertainment media and social media takes it up as if they were junior fashionistas entranced with Kim Kardashian’s latest exercise in stuffing ten pounds of avoirdupois into a five-pound sack. It’s as if there were some kind of coordinated list of talking points, similar phrasing, and suggested party lines being surreptitiously circulated among influential cognoscenti … like there was some kind of briefing paper being circulated. But that’s my nasty, cynical mind speaking there. They might have a new name for “JournoList” and circulate it by other means, but yes, that playbook is still operative.

The Primal Scream of Denial from the establishment media is all the more bitterly amusing – because they themselves played a huge part in destroying their own credibility with those citizens of Flyoverlandia who tended to vote for Trump. (With varying degrees of reluctance, I should make it clear. For every voter who went out and voted for him wholeheartedly, there must be at least one who held their nose as they voted for him, and another who regarded a Trump vote as being one big middle finger of protest, extended towards the bicoastal ruling elite.) Tin this latest kerfuffle, those major news establishments continue damaging themselves in the eyes of news junkies and bloggers who have been paying rapt attention since the rise of the internet as an internet news provider and fact-checker. The damage is ongoing, and perhaps accelerated to light-speed by the very Primal Scream of Denial. For anyone who has been paying attention over the last decade or even longer – there has been a long, long and sorry series of ‘fake news’ generated, perpetuated and splashed all over Page 1 above the fold, the endlessly hyped headline story on the evening news, or the one promoted in breathless ads for the investigative programs like 60 Minutes.

The long list of so-called ‘fake news’ might be said to begin with Walter Cronkite declaring that the US had lost South Vietnam in the Tet offensive. Four decades before the establishment of internet-enabled alternate news sources, it took years for it to emerge that no – the Tet offensive had been a disaster for the Viet Cong. But Walter Cronkite spoke … and such was his, and the national media’s authority – that saying made it so. So the established national media maintained the grand castle of their authority … for a while, until bloggers, commenters, and interested parties had the ability to publicly report, comment, fact-check and criticize. I’d date this from the early Oughts, just around the time of 9/11, which is when I became acquainted with the concept, although for some who were more technically adept, it may have been a thing for several years before then.

For me, the biggest crack in mainstream news credibility was the Dan Rather/TANG memo debunking in 2004. Here was a huge story, broadcast practically on the eve of the election, a story based on documents of a deeply uncertain provenance, relayed to a Bush-hating reporter by a man with a grudge against Bush. It came over as a breathtakingly audacious attempt to throw an election based on forged memos. Worse; I began to wonder how many other stories that 60 Minutes had broadcast over the years were built on just as shaky a foundation … which had gone unremarked, as interested amateurs with specific knowledge had never gotten a chance to examine the evidence for themselves. The list of other fake news perpetuated by the mainstream media is frankly overwhelming to contemplate; fabulists, fakes, and selective omission. I’ll skip making a comprehensive list of them, as it would make this post the length of one of my books, and those of us of a libertarian/conservative leaning have our own lists readily in mind.
It’s only gotten worse in the last election cycle, seeing that so many media establishments and reporters were so in the pocket for Hilary Clinton – as revealed by the Wikileaks memos. This had been suspected – yea, assumed – for the last decade, at least, but to see it all laid out in detail – names, networks, publications and favors rendered – was depressing in the extreme. I don’t see that the mainstream media can fight their way out of the tangle they backed themselves into. Their credibility with the conservative portion of the population is sunk as deeply as the Titanic. Once-respected weekly news magazines like Time and Newsweek are a thin shadow of what they were, once. Newspapers are shrinking, television news is going shriller, more partisan and fragmented. It may be as Sarah Hoyt observed – organizations tend to turn hard-left, just as they self-destruct. Your thoughts?

I saw the hungry armies of the men who had no work
I saw the silver ship fly to her doom
I watched the world at war and witnessed brave men go berserk
And saw that death was both the bride and groom
I watched Bikini atoll turn from coral into dust
At Dealy Plaza worlds came to an end
And swirling winds of time blew as the Soviet went bust
And life is born in stars as some contend
The swirling winds have always blown around man’s aimless trials
And will continue blowing ‘til the stars
Wink out in just a few short eons as the goddess whiles
Away the time in counting kings and tsars
Who think that they control the winds that swirl around their heads
Believing they are mighty as the sword
Not knowing that in blink of eye they’re taken to their beds
The swirling winds of time are oft ignored
Until, like we, the winds becalm and we stand face to face
With zephyrs and Spring breezes at our back
Propelling us toward what it seems is finish of the race
The winds we have but time is what we lack –

Walt Erickson, the poet laureate of Belmont Club, on this particular discussion thread.

So, tempus fugit and all that … dust in the wind, as the pop group Kansas used to sing. That number always reminds me vividly of a certain time and place, a memory which is strictly personal and has no bearing on this post, really … save for reminding me in an oblique way, that as of this month twenty years past, I went on terminal leave from the USAF. As of the end of this year, I have been retired from the military for as many years as I was in it. I can’t claim that I have traveled as far in this last two decades as I did in the two before that … after all, when I went to my high school reunion in 1982, I won the award for having come the farthest to attend the reunion. That was the year I was stationed in Greenland at the time, and the reunion was coincident to my middle-of-tour leave. The two decades past included travel to California to visit family, to Brownsville on client business, to Washington DC/Arlington for a milblogger convention, to Houston once and innumerable road trips to the Hill Country on book business. Dust in the wind, my friends – dust in the wind.
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21. September 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, General

So a writer who hangs out in a blog that I follow had a very cogent point in a recent post – about calumny – and the moral crime of falsely accusing an innocent person of a crime, ranging from the mild social offense to the deeply hideous crime against God and humanity at large. He felt, if I read the post aright, that calumny is one of those deeply awful things – as it damages an innocent person ….
Calumny has kind of fallen out of fashion as a dastardly deed, and you may well understand why by the time I’ve finished. To my mind it can be a worse deed than any of the above sins … I think it worse than the crime or sin. Calumny is false witness – where the person committing calumny knowingly and maliciously lies in testifying that an innocent person did something that they did not do. … And when you think about this, you can see why this is somewhat worse than the evil deed itself. Firstly, the person who will be punished is innocent. Secondly, the victim has to live with that. Their reputation, even if innocence is eventually established, is tarnished forever …

The thrust of that particular post was to do with the creation of credible villains – but it did set me to thinking about calumny, which is either the eighth or ninth of the Biblical ten commandments, depending on your religious tradition: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Ancient Biblical law took this prohibition so seriously that anyone found to have brought false witness would receive the punishment for that crime which they had accused an innocent party of. Which brought to mind the unfortunate frequency of political calumnies; the most recent of which being Hillary and her so-called Basket of Deplorables – je suis Deplorable, anyone? At this point, I would venture a guess that those people that she meant to insult are having a good laugh and making a joke of it all through t-shirts and other novelty items, while she has hurriedly backed away and apologized. She is but a single person, and a sick and feeble one at that, even if she is a long-time political operative borne up on the shoulders of a groveling media establishment, attending on her like courtiers of an unpopular monarch.
She is but one person and that was one single instance of shooting from the lip in the manner that we have all come to expect of her. What has been of more damage, over which I took much more offense was the near universal calumniation of Tea Party supporters over the years since the first big protests began in 2009. Here were earnest, educated and contentious Americans, demonstrating their concern over a lack of fiscal responsibility on the part of our national leadership – as is our right and duty to do so. And the wide-spread response from a substantial portion of the so-called media, entertainment and intellectual elite was to be painted as ignorant, racist and reactionary morons. That is calumny on a grand scale, in solo and chorus, and has never walked back from or apologized for by the perpetuaters. That narrative still stands, in the minds of those who never had actual personal experience of participating in a Tea Party event or organization. It is the calumny that will not die, but I can at least take comfort from knowing that it has done at least as much damage to the credibility (and possibly the pocketbooks and long-term careers) of those who flung it, as was done to those at whom it was flung. Discuss.

This was a lovely and profitable Saturday in Bulverde, where we had a table (actually a pair of tables facing in opposite directions in the center of one of the exhibit halls in the Community Center) for the first event on our season of book and craft market events. This is the first on our schedule for this season, which will see us on most weekends until Christmas. Last year at this event was … eh, not very promising at all, but this time around – yes. My daughter had a nice round of sales for her origami-based and bead-weaving based adornments, which she had at a fairly reasonable and appealing price.

The sad thing was – we went up to Bulverde late Saturday afternoon to set up, since her stock in trade is kind of finicky to put on display, we spent a while at it – and returned home and to internet access to hear all about the Moslem terrorist strikes in Paris. Yes, I said it – Moslem Terrorists. Terrorists – deal with it. In the 1980s, I lived with the possibilities of anti-American terrorism in Greece – around the corner always; assassinations, explosions, sudden random gunfire, sabotage and all that. These are on the schedule to be happening here, apparently, if the loonies of ISIS/ISIL are to be believed. Whether they can pull off something like that here in Texas … well, it didn’t end at all well for the pair of Moslem loonies who tried to shoot up the Draw Mohammed contest in Garland. They didn’t make it past security at the pull-in for the parking lot. Never assume that you will out-gun the locals at an art show in Texas.

The show itself proved to be a pretty good day for us both; I suspect that my daughter has now shown up at enough of these local shows to attract repeat attention. Her origami earrings and beaded bracelets are original, and rather reasonably priced … a perfect, inexpensive, original and charming gift, something that a teenager can afford to purchase with pocket money. This was also my first outing with print copies of Sunset and Steel Rails, which went also very well. So did Quivera Trail, saleswise. Here is hoping that this particular event is a good omen for the next few. We have added an event the second weekend in December in Helotes, which will be a new one for both of us. Next Friday and Saturday, I’ll be bringing more copies of Sunset & Steel Rails, and the first shipment of Chronicles of Luna City to the New Braunfels Convention Center – so, hope to see you there.

08. November 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, Memoir, My Head Hurts, Rant · Tags:

… when I used to be a feminist, and proud to think of myself as such. This was back at the time that I was a teenager, and being a feminist meant you earnestly believed that women ought to have the same opportunities for education, professional advancement, credit for personal and business purposes, and perhaps to be seen by a female ob-gyn, and generally have a wider range of choices when it came to what you wanted to do with your life. Even then the bra-burning drama and other minor theatrics seemed kind of pointless. Back in the day, as now, bras were expensive … and unless one had prepubescent-sized breasts, it was uncomfortable to go without!

Seriously – when I was a teenager and looking at my prospective life, – the feminism of that day appeared to be about having interesting and fulfilling alternatives in life. Believe me, Granny Dodie was shoving me energetically in the traditional direction of inevitable marriage to some nice guy I met in college or *shudder* high school, since she and her contemporaries had bragging rights over the quantity and accomplishments of their respective great-grandchildren and she and Grandpa Alf weren’t getting any younger, and the little girl across the street whom I used to play with when I came to visit them, why she got married at 18 and had a baby already! It was the lockstep nature of it all, that put me off, more than anything. Because I wanted some adventure, first.

There were only a couple of respectably acceptable professional options, unless one was totally driven, unusually talented, and single-minded, to boot. There was being a nurse: Guh! I hated scrubbing the bathroom, the sight and smell of vomit made me heave … seriously, I think I learned what I did then about nursing was all from reading Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, and I most definitely didn’t want any part of that. Then there was being an elementary school teacher; nope, I knew that I definitely did not have the patience – or the toleration for idiocy that was required even then, in those college programs dedicated to turning out education majors. Secretary … no, no, a thousand times no. (Although I did eventually put in a few years as an ‘admin assistant, which is what they now call what used to be an executive secretary.) I could type fairly well, but learning Gregg shorthand? Might as well learn Morse code and be done with it. There was also the glamorous occupation of being a stewardess … but I had as much affinity for glamor as I did for vomit.

So – the feminism of the 1960s and 1970s opened up a whole new and gloriously adventurous choice of professional occupations to us, and ones in which a woman would not just be the only one, or the only one of two or three in any particular profession, or class, or office. When I first went to military journalism/broadcaster school, there were three women in my class of about forty. By the time I departed the military, I had been told that the journalism/broadcaster courses were running about fifty-fifty. Quite a good few of the women I knew in my first hitch were the first, or maybe the second women in their various military specialties, since all but a handful of the most direct combat related fields had been opened up to anyone – male or female – who could meet the physical requirements and score high enough on the ASVAB to qualify. It was a great time to be a feminist; the big battles for acceptance, for educational and economic quality had been fought and won, and women of my age could enjoy the fruits of victory.

And then feminism … or those females wholly identifying themselves as professional feminist activists developed a serious case of boredom, or maybe shriveled, bitter little man-hating and resentful souls, perhaps upon discovering that all the big fights had been won already – and in some cases, won quite a while ago. The so-called feminist intellectuals discovered that busy women, reveling in those new opportunities, those new-to-them professions, or perhaps even just reveling in being able to choose freely to be wives and mothers … didn’t always toe the line of acceptable feminist thought. I began to note – yes, I did subscribe to MS Magazine – that the editorial voice, and that of the contributing writers was increasingly snotty, exclusive and doctrinaire … it was as if you weren’t really a feminist in good standing unless you were a vegetarian, single-mother, a liberal, employed in the academic world, and for extra points, a lesbian of some color or other. For me, this reached an absolute nadir with the rubbishing of Sarah Palin by the establishment feminists; a woman who combined a successful marriage, active in her husband’s business, and launched a political career starting locally and moving up to the level of state governor without being the spouse or spawn of an establishment politician was just not a good feminist for the professional activists – whose snobbery was nearly as vicious as their calculated scorn? That was about the final straw for me.

And now, we have the current crop of pathetic professional feminists; whining about guys looking at them, clumsily trying to flirt with them, making mildly risqué jokes between themselves, or wearing shirts with pictures of classic science fiction babes with blasters on it, complaining about near-to-invisible micro-aggressions, re-defining bad and later-regretted sex as rape, and about how a Catholic University not funding birth control is just the most unjust thing evah! Put a fork into current feminism, it’s done already.
Seriously, sometimes reading the latest blatherings of what the special feminist snowflakes complain about is to wonder if they don’t really want to go straight back to some neo-Victorian sheltered bubble, where their sensibilities are as delicate as blown-glass Christmas ornaments, and there is never a harsh word spoken. Those 19th and early 20th century women who campaigned for women’s rights are probably revolving in their graves so rapidly that you could generate electricity from them at the antics of these whining, passive-aggressive and vindictive spoiled children.

18. October 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: General

I had it in mind this weekend to go out to a local event that I was always very fond of, especially when I was trekking out to the Medical Center area every Saturday for a shift at San Antonio’s public radio station. (Yeah, they got a new manager some years ago, and fired all the local part-timers – but eh … at the time I was getting rather tired of being locked into a schedule which pretty much put a kibosh on doing anything much on a Saturday … and anyway. Never mind. Old story.)
The local event that I was fond of was a fall herb market, held under the oak trees and in the pavilion at Aggie Park, at West and 410. Loved it, once I discovered it almost accidentally – and budgeted money to spend at it, for there were venders galore; local farms selling a dazzling array of potted herbs – in every format from seeds, through 2-inch pots, to arrangements in bigger pots, to small trees. I got the bay tree which adorns the front yard (and is about twenty feet tall now) at the herb market, when it was a mere tadpole of a bay sprout in a very small pot, also the indestructible Key lime sapling in a 2-gallon pot which was carefully inserted into the back of the VEV with the aid of one of the volunteers detailed to assist shoppers – hey, that sucker has thorns ALL OVER IT! I set aside money in the household budget to pay for indulging myself at the Herb Fair, usually counted on blowing at least $25, sometimes more if circumstances permitted.

One of the historic buildings at the Pearl

One of the historic buildings at the Pearl

There were a multiplicity of venders at Aggie Park then, with live potted seedling-plants of just about everything herbal and legal you could grow in a garden in Texas at very reasonable prices, plus dozens more selling stuff made from those herbs; soaps, and potpourri, candles and room-spray, and at least one vendor selling wrought-iron baskets, garden ornaments and stands.
And a few years ago, they moved the venue to the grounds of the Pearl Brewery, where it happened in conjunction with the weekly farmer’s market. Well, OK then – the lawns and shade under the oak trees at Aggie Park, swapped for a bare parking lot in front of the Whole Goods building. Many of the same familiar vendors appeared in the new venue … so when I heard an announcement that the Herb Market was this weekend, I had no expectation of much having changed on schlepping down to the Pearl complex, looking for a wide array of small pots of herbs, just the sort to cherish over the next expected winter.
But it had. It’s nice that the Pearl complex has thrived, extended, and there are even more tall apartment buildings going up. My ranch real estate friend tipped me the word a couple of years ago that
Dogs and diners in the park at the Pearl

Dogs and diners in the park at the Pearl

the development around the Pearl and the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk was a gamble at least as much as a labor of love … and apparently it is paying off. It’s a very pleasant urban space; pedestrian streets and squares, a salting of historic brewery buildings with the very modern; all kinds of upscale shops on the ground floor with apartments and lofts on the upper. It’s all very European – and on Saturdays when the farmers’ market is in full swing, very crowded. There is a campus of the Culinary Institute of America in one of the buildings, and some other coffee shops, and small restaurants, and it looked like a lot of the booths at the market were providing food. Quite a few people were eating at tables and benches in various park-like squares; lots of children in strollers and dogs on leashes … we took Nemo with us, and he being the friendly little terrier-mutt that he is – he had a grand and exhausting time, meeting new dog friends.

But as for vendors of herbs and garden stuff … there was almost nothing; if I hadn’t known about the event, I would have just thought it was just part of the regular farmer’s market. There was only one vendor that had a selection of herbs in 2-inch pots that interested me, and they didn’t process credit cards. So disappointing, as I would have spent twenty or thirty bucks at least. Compared to previous years – especially when still at Aggie Park – it was a pitiful showing. I wound up not buying anything at all, except a pound of fresh mushrooms from one of the regular vendors. We wondered if perhaps the table fees for vendors had increased to the point where it wasn’t worth the trouble. Perhaps the drought a couple of years ago which caused the closing of the local Antique Rose Emporium outlet affected other plant nurseries as well.

A society as huge and complex as the United States can run economically only on the basis of acceptance and trust. This has been true for so long it is no longer noticed, like the air. People accept the rules and generally follow them whether or not there is a policeman in attendance. …. All over the the land people go about their business secure that arrangements will be honored and carried out. A high-trust society is a low-cost society.

Wretchard, at the Belmont Club

Of all that has changed over the last decade in the general culture of the United States, I wonder if a widespread loss of trust in the political, media, intellectual and bureaucratic establishments is the most quietly catastrophic of all the damage done to our society of late. It is axiomatic that once trust in an individual, a friend or a spouse is lost, it can almost never be regained; one of those things which is easily, almost casually done, never to be completely repaired. I suspect that we will discover over the next few decades that the thinking and observing portion of our society will never regain that unthinking trust in our institutions, now that we have seen them become weaponized in open and politically partisan ways. We have observed the national news media become politically partisan, more intent on hiding matters of significance than informing the public about them. What doesn’t appear above the fold, so to speak, or even in the back pages is sometimes more revealing. And the hate for ordinary American citizens in flyover country, frequently expressed by those residents of the wealthy bicoastal enclaves has been mind-boggling. There are personalities who have been so casually offensive in this regard that I have made it a point to avoid patronizing with my pocketbook anything that they have had anything to do with. I suspect that I am not alone in this – it’s another element of that ‘cold anger’ that I wrote about some days ago. How has it come to be that the so-called ruling elite of a nation now appear to hold their fellow-citizens in such deep contempt? (This contempt has begun to be returned with interest of late, although the ruling elites are predictably mystified by such quiet demonstrations as in the Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, the failure of certain lavishly promoted moves and TV shows, and heavily attended Tea Party rallies of a few years ago.)

My daughter has been watching old television series, on streaming video as she worked on various artistic projects for the upcoming Christmas bazaar season. This week’s choice was McGyver; over walking the doggles one morning she commented that two things about the show slightly boggled her mind; that the character didn’t have the internet (she kept thinking ‘Why didn’t he just google … oh. Never mind’) but the most striking feature was that government agencies like the EPA were seen as as benign, even competent and worthwhile. I did explain to her, how it used to be – how the EPA once did good work, or at least in the eyes of the general public, used to do good work. Other governmental agencies also used to be seen as the good guys … but not any more. Interfering, partisan, abusive busybodies, without much of a mission left, but more passionate and bullying in wielding authority of the crushing sort. When federal regulatory agencies established in-house SWAT teams on their table of organization marked the change from benign to malign.

One of the points that Wretchard makes in the essay linked above is that the low-trust state is fearfully inefficient, frequently corrupt and usually poor; energy that might be turned towards innovation, creation, building – is instead wasted, when a proportion of its’ subjects become enforcers, tirelessly surveilling, documenting, prosecuting and punishing the rest – who as a result spend their own creative energies into twisting, turning, evading and escaping that control. When nothing larger than a toy train layout in the basement can be done without a bribe or the influence of someone within the governing system, innovations and businesses are held down to being marginal, or illicit, and usually both. The nation keeps two sets of books, essentially; the official set and the black market set. Progress dies, strangled at birth, so to speak. Nothing moves, unless the State allows – because unapproved change will upset the comfortable establishment; that just can’t be permitted.

Obama is the man who promised that “…we are going to fundamentally transform America.” That certainly seems to have been accomplished. We still have some space for ourselves, of course. The shelves in the grocery store are still full, gas in Texas is at and around $2.00, Christmas and the local bazaar events are around the corner, our hens are laying, and the pantry is full, so there is cause for optimism.
But not much. Discuss.

(Crossposted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

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

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

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

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

Discuss, if you dare.

29. June 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: General

I’ve changed the template again – this time with rotating headers. Enjoy.

25. May 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: General

Detail - Facade of the Alamo Chapel

Remember comrades, friends, forebearers. Remember athers, uncles, grandfathers – all who served.

Granny Jessie kept chickens during the Depression – quite a lot of them, if my childhood memories of the huge and by then crumbling and disused chicken-wire enclosure, the adjoining hutch and the nesting boxes are anything to go by. Some of her neighbors went on keeping backyard livestock well into the 1960s – we occasionally sampled goose eggs at Granny Jessie’s house where we could hear a donkey braying now and again. Mom had to help care for the chickens, as child and teenager – and wound up detesting them so much that this was the one back-yard DIY farm element that we never ventured into when we were growing up. Mom hated chickens, profoundly.

But my daughter and I were considering it over the last couple of years, along with all of our other ventures into suburban self-efficiency – the garden, the cheese-making, the home-brewing and canning, the deep-freeze stocked full, the pantry likewise. I put off doing anything about chickens until two things happened: we finally encountered the woman in our neighborhood who keeps a small flock of backyard chickens, and she took us to see her flock. She told us that it was not much trouble, really, and the eggs were amazingly flavorful. In comparison, supermarket eggs – even the expensive organic and supposedly free-range kind were insipid and tasteless. (And – it seems that other people in other places have come through bad times by keeping chickens.)

The Coop with WindvaneThe second thing was spotting a ready-made coop at Sam’s Club a good few months ago. We kept going back and looking at it, whenever we made our monthly stock-up. It had a hutch, an attached roofed run with open sides secured with hardware cloth, and an appended nesting box accessed through a removable roof. But still … the price for it was what I considered excessive. Then, at the beginning of the month, the coop was marked down by half. Seeing this, we transferred some money from the household savings account, and with the aid of a husky Sam’s Club box-boy, stuffed all 150 pounds of the box which contained all the necessary flat-packed panels into my daughter’s Montero.

I put it together over Mother’s Day weekend, painting it the same colors as the house: sort of a primrose-peach color with cream trim. The coop and run was constructed of rather soft pine, with some kind of greenish wood-stain slathered over it all, which took two coats of paint to cover entirely. I wish that I had gotten out the electric drill with the screwdriver attachment a little earlier in the game; the side and roof panels were all attached together with 67 2-in and 2 ½ inch Phillips-head screws. Yes, I counted; I did about the first forty by hand … sigh. The remains of half a can of polyurethane spar varnish went on the roof to make it entirely waterproof. We topped it with a wind vane ornamented with a chicken, and it all went together on a bedding of concrete pavers set in decomposed granite, wedged underneath the major shade tree in the back yard. By municipal guidelines we are permitted up to three chickens and two of any other kind of farmyard animal: goat, cow, horse, llama, whatever – as long as their enclosure is at least a hundred feet from your neighbors house. The chicken coop may not, strictly speaking, be 100 feet from the next door neighbor’s house on the near side, but he is the one with the basset hounds, one of whom can hear a mouse fart in a high wind, and can be heard about a block away when he really puts his back into his bark.

We went out to a feed store in Bracken for feed pellets, bedding chips, a feeder and a water dispenser. The feed store also had artificial eggs made from heavy plastic, but so cunningly textured they looked very real. The feed store manager said that what they are also used for is as a means of dealing with local snakes that prey on chicken eggs … they slither into the nesting boxes, swallow an egg whole and slither away. If you suspect your nest is being raided in that fashion, you bait the nest with a plastic egg. Snake swallows it, but can’t digest, pass or vomit up the egg and so dies, in the words of one of Blackadder’s foes – “horribly-horribly.” (Ick-making to consider, but then I’ve gotten quite testy about critters predating on my vegetables, and set out traps for rats and dispose of dead rats without any qualms.) From many different places; Sam’s, our local HEB which now offers stacks of chicken feed in the pet food aisle, and now the semi-rural feed store – we are getting the notion that keeping back-yard chickens is getting to be a wide-spread thing. I wonder how much Martha Stewart is responsible for this development.

This morning we were off to the south of town, to a small enterprise in Von Ormy for three pullets. We

The Three Chicken Stooges - Laureena, Maureen and Carly - in the back of the Montero

The Three Chicken Stooges – Laureena, Maureen and Carly – in the back of the Montero

had wanted Orpingtons, but they weren’t available at any of the close-in providers, and the owner recommended Barred Rocks – those are those pretty black and white chickens with bright red combs. My daughter wants to name them Lorena, Maureen and Carly – Larry, Moe and Curly, feminized. They are supposed to start laying when they are mature, in about late summer, according to the owner of the bird-providing enterprise. Our three pullets are about ten weeks old, and somewhat timid yet – little knowing that they have won the grand prize in the chicken lottery of life. Eventually, they will have the run of the garden; we are assured they will brutally diminish bugs of every sort, gratefully fall upon green vegetable scraps, and come to be quite friendly with us. Early days, yet. And that was my week. Yours?
(Cross-posted at ChicagoBoyz and at www.celiahayes.com)

27. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: General

And another client from Watercress’s distant past … well, not all that distance, only 1988, but sufficiently far enough in the past that there are no existing records at the firm who worked up printing and binding of the original publication for Alice. I know – I called and talked to the company sales rep. Alice, though, is probably doing cartwheels in heaven over joy that a big corporate client is returning to us in a small way, for a reprint of their book. Likely she is also planning to send me a rocket of a memo through a handy medium, lecturing me on failing to charge every penny possible to an entity who can bloody well afford it. This is debatable, considering the state of Teeny Press publishing these days, and I had this spirited discussion with her many times. In the days of digital and POD printing, charging everything the market would bear and then 10% was increasingly untenable. I still believe we lost certain very promising prospects over this. Clients willing to pay in five figures for a private publication, even one done to the highest quality and aesthetic standards, were becoming dismayingly thin on the ground by the time that I went into partnership. I still am certain that we lost certain high-value publishing projects because of inflexibility in this regard. But – inside baseball. As a saving grace, there are those clients who are perfectly willing to pay a little extra for the privilege of dealing with a publisher whose representatives are happy to to meet personally, answer telephone calls readily, and work on their project with an attitude of ‘can-do’. These clients are our bread and butter these days. This is how I compete with the big and impersonal national POD publishing houses.

All we are needing to do for this latest project is to take apart an existing print copy, carefully scan every page, and then reassemble into a new file, upload to the contract bulk-printer, scan and tweak the existing cover, and do the same. We are doing most of this in-house. Back in the day, this kind of thing would have had to have been farmed out to someone who had expensive high-end software, an equally expensive high-end scanner, exalted word-processing and photo-editing skills, and therefore felt justified in charging a very high price for this expertise. But such now is the availability of scanner/copiers and relatively inexpensive software that much of which had to be farmed out to experts twenty years ago can now be done in-house with relatively inexpensive and off-the shelf technology. I saw this happening in miniature yea on two decades ago in the military. Once every unit acquired a nice copier-printer unit, which could do all kinds of quality B&W or even (horror!) color print jobs, there went the base reprographics office, which was reduced to issuing plaintive memos requesting that units refer all print projects of over so many pages and so many copies to them, and not to do them on the unit printer. Which was merrily ignored; in my time, the base office with the duty of keeping the current library of military forms was also reduced to obsolescence by having every form imaginable distributed on compact disc to individual units. Doubtless the time of the clerks tasked with this was re-routed to duties more immediately useful. I’m an optimist, so I can hope.

We are doing this current project with a printer-scanner-copier bought from Sam’s Club on Wednesday. Alice’s chosen expert for formatting manuscripts – that is, putting them into proper book format – billed her almost $5 a page. I can do it myself easily for less than half that, and when it is text-only, it feels a bit like highway robbery in asking for more than a couple of hundred or three for the entire book. (Pictures are complicated, especially those requiring captions. Again – inside baseball.) This book will be knocked out by this weekend, just in time to go back to work on the epic biography, for which the client wants more photos inserted. And a section in color, too. As soon as the pictures are finalized, then I have to work on the index … But this is one of the biggest clients Watercress has had in a long time, so yes, I am attentive to this client’s wishes.

Well, that is it for the income flow – I did manage to get my income tax figures sorted and over to the accountant who has looked after my interests for lo these many years. And there has been enough income flowing in that certain household things can be repaired, refinished or reupholstered. The two chairs and the tuffet were done and delivered this week, installed behind the bifold doors to the den which will hopefully keep the cats from testing their claws on them. With this, the main part of the house now looks good enough that I wouldn’t feel embarrassed at having someone visit. And even though it is not snowing around here, it is still cold enough that cocooning inside the house is a pleasant and comfortable option.

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

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

08. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: General

(Hey, anyone still here? Got a post for ya – Sorry for the absence … work and all that, and somehow not being particularly moved to write something. It’s just a mood – it will pass, I promise.)

Santa arriving in Goliad, Texas, last Saturday - mounted on the customary longhorn. With a spare mount, of course. It's a long way from the North Pole.

Santa arriving in Goliad, Texas, last Saturday – mounted on the customary longhorn. With a spare mount, of course. It’s a long way from the North Pole.

Another weekend, it must be another book event. And so it was last Saturday, so it will be this coming weekend. Last Saturday it was Christmas on the Square in Goliad, a place which I hold in affection – because it is a pleasant small town, full of nice people who all know each other and are connected by one to three degrees, has some claim to historicity, but is otherwise relatively unspoiled by excessive tourism and what my daughter calls the YA contingent. Which doesn’t stand for Young Adult, but ‘Yuppie *sshole’ – that variety of well-to-do and socially conscientious arriviste who roar into some unspoiled little country locale, en mass, and gentrify the heck out of it; the kind of people who love the country and farms and quaint friendliness, but who promptly turn it into upscale suburbia, can’t stand the smell of cows or the noise of agricultural pursuits at odd hours, and condescend to their neighbors as being hicks from the sticks. This also raises the prices of everything from property, rents, and everything else from a sandwich and cuppa coffee on up. Given the chance, I would take up a place in a nice little Texas country town like Goliad, renovate a little house and live there quite happily – but I would keep very, very quiet afterwards. I don’t think I am a snob or even a reverse-snob, particularly – but I always liked the remote little suburb that I grew up in precisely for the lack of pretense and the low-key, working-class friendliness.
The weather was wonderful on Saturday, there were enough vendors to make a double-line of booths along one side of the square, my daughter was persuaded not to bring home any of the cats on display from the local animal shelter, and gratifying number of shoppers and fans fell upon my books – especially Lone Star Sons – with cries of happy joy.
Anyway – what brought that these musings about class and neighborliness? Fondness for Goliad, the fact that they have laid out the streets in the old part of town to bypass certain huge old oak trees, some say they never lock their doors at night, and that semi-rural begins very close – within a block or so to the Courthouse square in some directions – and that the authors at the event fell into two distinct groups, and another author and me. As a repeat author to Miss Ruby’s Book Corral, I readily recognized them, although some were new to me. The first group were academics – they occupy a perch at the local branch of UT, or A & M, or one of the community colleges, and they all had books out which touched on local history in someway or another – at least two of which I was tempted to buy because … I need more microscopically local references because that’s where I get my best ideas! (Blondie talked me out of it … since … hey, I hardly have any more room on the bookshelves anyway.) One or two of them talked to me as we were setting up, or during the course of the day – but since I am cheerfully PhD-less (pronounced fid-less) and a dogged amateur historian, I barely count in the grand academic scheme of things. They clustered together, bought lunches and chattered amongst themselves: I’m not certain that they sold much, between them. This may have been more of a social occasion for them. The second group in the Author Corral were authors who were personalities in the local media – writers and columnists who already had a local following for their books. They were the ones that I mostly knew from other events; I know that they did a brisk business, especially the ladies with the cookbook, which seems to be enormously popular. The single other historical novelist and I shared a table, although my collection of nine separate books very much overwhelmed hers of two – and in hardback and paperback. I eventually sold her a copy of Lone Star Sons and The Quivera Trail purely because she was so intrigued overhearing me talk about them to people who came to my half of the table.
And that was that – for last week. This weekend, it’s Boerne, and on Saturday the market will continue until 7 PM. We have been told to bring a couple of strings of lights for the outside of the pavilion and some kind of spotlight for the inside. I think it will be actually rather lovely, at night – with the music and the lights and all. See you there, perhaps! We’re in the pink pavilion with the black-and-white-zebra-striped top.

18. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: General · Tags: , , ,

I have to say this about the sh*tstorm over what is being irreverently termed shirtgate – it’s the final and ultimate straw in moving me away from ever calling myself a feminist again … at least, not in mixed company. Ah, well – a pity that the term has been so debased in the last few decades. Much as the memory of very real repression and denial of rights in the persons-of-color/African-American/Black community has been diminished, overlaid, generally abused and waved like a bloody shirt by cynical operators (to the detriment of the real-life community of color/African-American/Black-whatever they wish to be called this decade), so has the very real struggle for substantive legal, economic, economic and social rights for women also been debased and trivialized. Just as the current so-called champions of civil rights seem to use the concept as an all-purpose cover for deflecting any useful discussion of the impact of welfare, the trivialization of marriage, and glorification of the thug-life-style in the persons-of-color/African-American/Black community, the professional and very loud capital F-feminists seem to prefer a theatrical gesture over any substantial discussion of the real needs and concerns – and even the careers of ordinary women. Women whom it must be said, are usually capable, confident, tough, and love the men in their lives – fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.

The self-elected spokeswomen for feminism certainly do seem to pop up over and over again – they must take up a good few cards in the average main-stream media reporter’s Golden Rolodex. If it’s to do with reproductive rights, the harpies of professional feminism will be there, center stage and hogging the microphone. For a particular palette of similar issues, they will also be there, likely wearing vagina costumes, tampon earrings, and screeching about the patriarchy. It appears that capital-letter Feminism is now an excuse to be a man-hating, vengeful, and easily-provoked harpy. They also seem to have a nice line in bullying those – male and female alike – who do not agree with them in every jot and tittle. For the nastiest and most prolonged episode of this in recent history, I give you Sarah Palin; a woman of intelligence and considerable political skill (acquired without marrying into a political family or being the spawn of one), monstered enthusiastically by the professional feminists, and some whom I had originally thought were above that kind of doctrinaire intellectual snobbery. (Yes, looking at you, Peggy Noonan.)

In this most recent case, the target of the professional feminists has been a youngish scientist who was part of a team responsible for landing a probe on a moving comet. This has been compared to a sharpshooter with a perch in a helicopter flying over New York aiming at and hitting a humming-bird who will be hovering over a particular flower five minutes from now in Wyoming. And the big takeaway which the professional harpy feminists took away from it? A blogger/writer at the Atlantic, one Rose Eveleth (whom I have never heard of before this; yay, chica, you’ve made yourself famous!) took one look at this stupendous achievement and decided to cry ‘sexism’ over the shirt that the scientist was wearing in televised interviews. An ‘aloha’ style short-sleeved shirt made from fabric with images of busty and space-blaster-armed women, taken from old science fiction illustrations. Apparently in Ms Eveleth’s mind, such images are harmful to women, and make them feel unwelcome in STEM fields. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion – and mine is that having a public conniption-fit over a shirt with old pop science-fiction images of women on it is too Victorian for words. This mentality is akin to the legendary delicacy of putting drawers on piano legs. Frankly, my dear – if you can’t handle such horrid sights, you might be better off keeping yourself housebound, laying on a fainting-couch with a perfume-drenched hankie over your fevered brow, rather than pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or medicine.

Strong and confident women are not threatened by the sight of such a shirt, or much else, come to think on it. Which reminds me of a small incident very early in my own career in the military; when a new bulletin board went up in the AFRTS breakroom of the station at FEN-Misawa, and some of the guys threatened to post pinups of scantily-clad women on it. My friend Marsh and I did not faint dead away, or break into tears, or threaten to sic the social actions office on them. Nothing of the sort; we simply got a copy of Playgirl, removed the male pinup from it, applied a discrete paper fig-leaf to the page, and added it to the bulletin board. Whereupon one of our male NCO colleagues (balding and a titch on the heavy side) looked at it and said, “What’s he got that I haven’t got?” and I said, “More hair and about fifty pounds less.”

And then we all laughed, and were friends, and all the pinups came down. That, young Rose, is how it is done by real women in the real world – not by coercing an apology through a hash-tag storm and public demonstrations of irrelevant outrage.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: General

My daughter and I spent almost all of last Saturday at our booth in the parking lot of a local Beall’s, in the heart of what would pass as the new downtown of Bulverde, Texas – if Bulverde could be said to have a downtown of any sort. There is a sort of Old Downtown Bulverde, at the crossroads of Bulverde Hills Drive and Bulverde Road, where the post office is (in a teeny Victorian cottage covered with white-painted gingerbread trim) and around the corner from one of the original settler’s farmsteads, complete with an original stone house and barn – now repurposed into an event venue. There is a small airfield nearby, and astonishingly enough, Googlemaps show a polo ground. But the landscape all around is that of the lowland Hill Country – low rolling, patched scrubby cedar, and occasional stands of live oaks. Everything – including a perfectly astounding number of single family housing developments are scattered unobtrusively here and there among the hills, the cedar and the oaks.
Stock - 2
This includes New Downtown Bulverde, not quite so unobtrusive, and a few miles farther north at the intersection of Hwy. 281 and FM-46 West. This is where is where the schools are, as well as the fire department – newly built and lavish, the shopping center with a huge HEB Superstore. Bulverde is what my daughter terms as one of San Antonio’s bedroom slippers – once distant and separate communities now in commutable distance from the big city. The other bedroom slipper is Boerne, which boasts a more definable, scenic and historic downtown. Physical evidence of a wealthy yuppie demographic contingent is strong in Boerne – wineries, gourmet grocery stores, chichi designer boutiques retailing everything from country furniture, clothing, jewelry, baked goods and coffee – not so much in Bulverde. Boerne has a monthly community market; Bulverde has them twice yearly, spring and fall. Boerne’s is on the historic downtown public square, or what our readers in England might call a common – a half-acre square of lawn, edged with mature pecan trees and adorned with a Victorian-style bandstand. Bulverde’s community market is – as said – in the parking lot of Beall’s, in New Downtown Bulverde and organized by the Bulverde/Spring Branch Chamber of Commerce. A friend of ours, who was part of the planning committee, told us that every single slot was filled – all 135 of them, a substantial increase over the spring market in May. But of course, Christmas is coming.

Our day began at 5:30. Not to beg any pity over that, but we did have to eat breakfast, scroll though our regular news sites and email accounts, walk the dogs and water the garden, before pulling out for the half-hour drive to Bulverde. We had already packed Blondie’s Montero SUV the night before; the pop-up pavilion, the necessary weights for it, the tables, folding chairs, the necessary racks and display items – and of course, the plastic tubs with all the stock; my books, her origami art. Blondie calls this exercise ‘Automobile Tetris’ – packing in everything which we will need. The bulkiest item is the wheeled rack to display her origami earrings – a repurposed and repainted soft-drink rack. The heaviest is the pop-up pavilion, which takes both of us to carry – and to put up. We had to be set up and ready to go before 10:00, when the market opened – and hopefully before then, for the Montero had to be out of the way and parked in the designated vendor lot. Having the pavilion, the chairs and the tables saves us a fair amount of money – some other market venues offer them for rent for vendors. The practice is for regular vendors to have all their own market furniture – not just the pavilion and tables, but things like display racks and signage – and a trailer to haul it all around. One little local boutique maintains a vintage Airstream trailer as their portable premise. Many of the regular stalls in local markets are run by hobbyists who have a full-time regular job and do gypsy-retail on weekends; artists in metal, beadwork, fabric, wood and pottery, small truck farmers and producers of small-batch soaps, candles and skin-care products, or artisan gourmet foods. Sometimes they scale up to a permanent location, or already have a permanent location and do the local markets to build awareness of their products. Our immediate neighbors, by the way, were a crafter who did bead jewelry (we remembered her from the spring market) and Miss Scarlett’s Texas Homegrown – organic produce. Which was quite good, and reasonably priced, too; Miss Scarlett’s owners are a young couple with a two-acre plot in rural Bulverde, where they intensely cultivate a wide variety of vegetables – and bees. We came away with half a dozen yellow squash and zucchini; he runs the farm, she does the weekly markets.

Blondie has a unique inventory – origami paper jewelry. She does mostly earrings; miniscule cranes and tulip flowers, which astound people for their tiny size, with a side-line in hair ornaments, pins and magnets. The crane earrings were a particular hit at this market, since they are priced to be readily affordable, and in practically every imaginable color. There was a lot of foot traffic, pleasingly constant for all the six hours that the market was open. That there was a good retail turnout is reassuring, in the light of current events. The day was fair, clear and warm, with a regular cool breeze that beat back the heat until about 3:00. Blondie had more sales than I did, dollar-wise, but many people took away information about my books – another thing to keep in mind for something like this: business cards and postcards. Quite often, there is an uptick of sales of my books on Amazon in the week or so following an event, from having handed out information. For both of us, the more that we are out and about at the markets – the more shoppers know about us. This is much more important for Blondie, since it may be harder to sell her origami items where people can’t actually look at and handle them in real time. I had a nice time, and several nice talks with readers; especially with a young student, all of eleven years old named Lorena, who picked out To Truckee’s Trail when I said it was the book of mine most suited for her age – although Lone Star Sons is intended as YA, it’s not available until mid-month and the only copy I have was for display.

This was our booth at the spring market - everyone wanted to know where we got it - Amazon, of course.

This was our booth at the spring market – everyone wanted to know where we got it – Amazon, of course.

The last hour of a market usually drags; the numbers of shoppers begin to drop, and while the vendors are committed by agreement with whoever is managing the market to stick around until the official closing, there is usually some surreptitious packing-up going on leading up to that point. Everyone is tired, bored as the crowds diminish, and more than ready to pack up and go home. The Chamber asked that we take down and pack up completely before bringing our cars and trucks into the area, which is a reasonable request – the gridlock is horrific, otherwise. We had everything broken down and packed in the Montero in twenty-five minutes, and were dropping with exhaustion by the time we got home. We’ll be doing this or something like it almost every weekend until mid-December – Ebola, or not.

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: General

Obama-is-my-co-pilot

Found at Bookwormroom, courtest of The People’s Cube. Says it all, really.

(Oh, NSA Guy, monitoring this website? Penne with Chicken, Spinach, and Toasted Walnuts in Gorgonzola Cream sauce tonight. Likely leftovers – if interested, send someone by with a go-box to the usual address at about 6:30 Central.)

14. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: General

Why-people-are-angry-with-the-government

Found at Bookwormroom.

07. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: General

As the garden looks on Labor Day weekend

As the garden looks on Labor Day weekend


It seems that Autumn, that taunty b*tch, is determined to delay her arrival in South Texas until the last possible moment. She might rightly collide with Winter in the very same weekend, but … well, this is the place that I have chosen to live, and anyway as long as it isn’t cold enough to kill the vegetables in pots, I am satisfied. I’d love to be able to shepherd the peppers, the eggplants, the okra into another season. But as always – I still desire to turn off the AC and open the windows to casual breezes and night-time temperatures in the 60s. Even if it does put nothing aurally between me and the basset hound next door, who can hear a mouse fart in a high breeze three houses away, on those nights when he is outdoors. And yes – his owner does know that Chester can be a noisy PIA … but the owner is a good neighbor to us, and Chester ensures that no perv will ever be able to climb over the fence into the backyards on our street without about half the neighborhood knowing … and considering that you could likely fit out the army of a small European country with the arms-related contents of this neighborhood alone… well, we are inclined to be indulgent about Chester. He is either an early-warning system or a discourager-of-pervs.
I’ve been sorting out the remains of heat-killed plants, and moving those things which have survived and thrived in pots to cluster around the steps of the shed, or the newly-reclaimed back porch. No, I will not have to get new pepper, okra or eggplant starts next spring. I swear that one of the things that the garden shops deliberately keep from backyard gardeners is the fact that pepper plants are multi-seasonal. If the darned things don’t get frozen, they will go on bearing, bearing and bearing, summer after summer. The garden presents a rather pleasing aspect, given that the pepper plants are doing very well with their second wind, and I will get a nice crop from them; banana peppers, hot red cherry peppers, cayenne and jalapenos … that is, if I can beat back that wretched rat who also has a taste for peppers and their leaves…
The Back Porch - Reclaimed

The Back Porch – Reclaimed


But enough about my garden and weather woes; I have about four projects for Watercress coming up, but not until late this month or into October, so I have taken the opportunity to finish off the book for this year – the YA collection of adventures which were inspired when I tried to figure out a way for the Lone Ranger franchise to recover itself. The more that I thought about it, the more fun that it seemed, especially as it seemed to me that what was key to a ripping good yarn depended on bagging the whole mask, silver bullets, noble white steed tropes, and the generic cardboard setting of the post-Civil War west. Just about everything to do with those is heavily copyright protected, of course. But wrenching the whole concept out of the standard and threadbare conventions, starting all over with the two characters – a young volunteer Texas Ranger and a Delaware Indian scout, setting it in the Republic of Texas years – which were stocked plenty with fresh and unused concepts and characters … I scribbled out the set-up adventure and five more episodes, leaving scope for a good few more, and that’s my book for this year, just in time for the Christmas marketing season. It’s a totally YA and male-friendly adventure, by the way; Blondie has pointed out that the middle-school-age male of our species has been left sadly underserved since the conclusion of the Harry Potter cycle. All that is left to them in popular literature are sparkly vampires in the forest and dystopian fantasies … why not go for something positive, affirming the cowboy way?
Why not, indeed? As soon as I have the cover near to final, I’ll be taking orders – and Blondie and I have been working at sorting out the calendar of our fall and Christmas marketing events.
New phone. Complicated. This is why she is my personal assistant.

02. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: General
Or as Blondie calls it - "Laundry Closet Tetris"

Or as Blondie calls it – “Laundry Closet Tetris”

Yes, we shop at Sam’s Club and store bulk quantities of toilet paper and paper towels – doesn’t everyone these days?

27. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: General

(I have been sidelined this week, working on a chapter of The Golden Road, and discovering about the place where Fredi and the herd of Texas cattle would have finished in California. The current political situations, national and otherwise are so dire that … can you blame me for taking to my favorite refuge – the 19th century?)

California marked the high tide-line of the Spanish empire in the New World. The great wave of conquistadors washed out of the Iberian Peninsula in the fifteenth century looking for gold, honor, glory and land, roared across the Atlantic Ocean, sweeping Mexico and most of South America in consecutive mighty tides, before seeping into the trackless wastes of the American Southwest. Eventually that tide lapped gently at the far northern coast, where it dropped a chain of missions, a handful of military garrisons and small towns, and bestowed a number of property grants on the well-favored and well-connected. There has always been a dreamlike, evanescent quality to that time – as romantic as lost paradises always are. Before the discovery of gold in the millrace of a saw-mill built to further the entrepreneurial aims of a faintly shady Swiss expatriate named John Sutter, California seemed a magical place. It was temperate along the coast and perceived as a healthy place; there were no mosquito-born plagues like malaria and yellow fever, which devastated the lower Mississippi/Missouri regions in the 19th century. Certain parts were beautiful beyond all reasoning, and the rest was at the least attractive. The missions, dedicated primarily to the care of souls also had an eye towards self-sufficiency, and boasted great orchards of olives and citrus, and extensive vineyards. The climate was a temperate and kindly one in comparison with much of the rest of that continent; winters were mild, and summers fair.

It was a rural society of vast properties presided over by an aristocracy of landowners who had been granted their holdings by the king or civil government. Their names still mark the land in the names of towns, roads and natural features; Carrillo, Sepulveda, Verdugo, Vallejo, Dominguez, Pico, Castro, Figueroa, and Feliz, among many others. They ran cattle or sheep on their leagues – the hard work was mostly performed by native Californian Indians; those who had survived such epidemics as were brought inadvertently by Europeans and who were amenable to being trained in useful agricultural skills. These vast estates produced hides, wool and tallow; their owners lived lives of comfort, if no very great luxury. From all accounts they were openhandedly generous, amazingly hospitable, devout … a little touchy about personal insult and apt to fight duels over it, but that could said of most men of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Carrillo Ranch house - circa 1929

The Carrillo Ranch house – circa 1929


One of the notable estates was that which lay around the present-day hamlet of Warner Hot Springs. Besides being a very fine property, it was also located the southern emigrant trail – that which ran through south Texas and New Mexico territory to Yuma, at the confluence of the Gila and Colorado Rivers, and terminated in Los Angeles. Eventually, the Butterfield stage line would follow this trail – and the ranch at the place where the road to San Diego diverted from it became a stage stop. The property also was the object of considerable legal wrangling – it was inadvertently granted to two different claimants; Silvestre de la Portila in 1836, and transplanted Yankee, John Joseph ‘Juan Jose’ Warner eight years later. Juan Joseph Warner built an adobe house on the property, and conducted ranching and trading operations until an uprising by local Indians drive him out in 1851. In the meantime, Silvestre de la Portila had deeded the property to Vincenta Sepulveda, the daughter of a long-established and important local family. Eventually, the powers that be decided in favor of Dona Vincenta, who at the age of 21 had married another scion of a well-to-do ranch family, Tomas Antonio Yorba, who was more than twice her age. Yorba and his wife set up first at his family property at Santa Ana, in present-day Orange County, where they ran cattle for their hides and tallow, and operated a small general store, trading all kinds of general goods, groceries and luxuries. Their house was a rather splendid one; they impressed many visitors with not only the generous nature of their hospitality, but order and luxury of their house – better adorned and furnished than the usual hacienda. After ten years of productive and apparently happy marriage Tomas Yorba died, leaving his wife the residence, large herds of sheep and cattle, considerable jewelry and the care of their four surviving children. She continued managing the property, her household and her business; a wealthy, attractive and able young woman. She did not remain a widow for very long; she married again, to Jose Ramon Carrillo, of San Diego, who had managed a large property in northern California. Romantically, they met at the wedding of Dona Vincenta’s niece to an office of the Mexican army. Jose Ramon Carrillo had a reputation for physical courage, which was not based solely on his experiences as a soldier. (He had engaged in several skirmishes between Californios and the Anglo members of the Bear Flag party, or during the Mexican War and in fighting with hostile local Indians, which was pretty much what had been expected of a man of his age and class.) But his most famous fighting exploit wasn’t with other men at all – it was with a bear.

When out riding with friends in the Sonoma foothills some time before his marriage, the party spotted a bear, at some distance. Carrillo proposed (and there is no evidence that liquor was involved in any) that he fight the bear … on foot and alone. He took a mochila from his saddle – a flap of leather used to attach saddle-bags and wrapped it around his left arm – and a large hunting knife with a keen blade in his right. When he advanced on the bear, it charged him; Carrillo shielded himself with his left arm, and thrust with the knife into the bear’s torso. Within a very short time, the bear lay dead before him. On another occasion, Carrillo attempted to lasso another bear, from horseback. In the heat of the chase, bear, horse and rider fell into a five or six foot deep chasm, hidden until that very moment by dense brush. The abruptness of the fall removed all fight from the bear – and it tried to scramble up the steep side of the pit. Realizing that there was no scope for fighting the bear in the ditch and that discretion might be the best part of valor, Carrillo braced himself under the bear’s hindquarters and gave a good push with all of his strength. The bear scrabbled at the edge of the pit, got over it and promptly ran away.

By the mid-1850s, Dona Vincenta had clear title to the former Warner property; she and her new husband moved there, built an even grander house – an establishment which also served as a stage station, and on the eve of the Civil War, Don Ramon Carrillo applied for the position of post-master … the rancho was also a post office. During the war itself, he also served as a spy and scout for the Union Army in the Sonora. There were shadows falling on him, however; a political and business rival was found dead, shot in the back by person or persons unknown late in 1862. He was interviewed under oath by a court in Los Angeles, and released – the court having found nothing to charge against him.

Dona Vincenta and her family in the 1890s (She is the elder lady in the center)

Dona Vincenta and her family in the 1890s (She is the elder lady in the center)

Two years later, Don Ramon also fell to an assassin’s ambush. The murderer – again – was never identified, and at the age of 51, Dona Vincenta was again a widow. She continued to manage the ranch, with the aid of her grown son for another five or six years, before moving to Anaheim, and to a long retirement in the house of her married daughter; Dona Vincenta lived to the age of 94. The ranch property was sold in the 1870s, continuing as a profitable sheep ranch for the remainder of the century and into the next. The site is now a museum, and open to the public.

A week to Christmas Eve – and I’m re-posting one of my favorite Christmas carols – sung at Gloucester Cathedral a good few years ago.

Enjoy. I’ll post some other seasonal music as I find them

Typical countryside in this part of Texas

Typical countryside in this part of Texas

This last Saturday was the second day of Christmas on the Square in Goliad, Texas. I had a table there, as a local author, but the cold was so pronounced that the whole event was rather a bust … but it did mean that folding up and coming home early allowed some time for taking pictures on the way back. This is a part of Texas which overlies the Eagle Ford Shale formation, and over the last five years I have noted a good many changes along the route, and in the small towns that we pass through on a semi-regular basis. More »

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Click on the link… click twice on it. It’s OK. Mind-boggling, but OK.

Angry Birds

(Busy working on the new book; my suggested reboot of the Lone Ranger franchise – title suggested by Blondie; “Lone Star Sons”. In the meantime, amuse with this bit of clip art.)

From a blog Pointman’s, some interesting notes on True Believers, past and present…

The activists swallowed the dream whole. As the apparent success of National Socialism became visible with improving times, it became more reasonable to actively pursue the elements who’d caused the bad times. The denunciations in the mainstream media became gradually more vile. Suitably qualified scientists wrote erudite papers proving Aryans were a superior breed and Jews were the human equivalent to vermin. The first easy step on the road to the Final Solution is to dehumanise the opposition.

All Jewish professors were removed from universities on the flimsiest pretexts without a peep from their colleagues and shortly after the Rassenregeln or race rules legislation was passed. Soon, not only was university entrance barred to them but any position of authority or any decent profession. All they owned was confiscated, which actually meant looted. They became an extensible threat. Anyone else in a position of influence who didn’t bend the knee to the regime was deemed to have been infected by Jewish ideas and could therefore be dealt with similarly.

The pseudo science of Eugenics melded with a deliberate and perverted interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution and the Nazi sympathisers in academia and science, swung right behind the ideas of that bastard mutant and lent it a spurious authority for the common person. State approved scientists are always well rewarded. It was now settled science and whatever happened to the Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, disabled, mentally handicapped and other inferior races or defective types was just natural selection in action.

Children were sucked into political education organisations like the Hitler Youth, so they too could embrace the dream. They grew up to blow up half of Europe.

Every single organ of the mainstream media blasted the same message at the populace. Any dissenting journalists were soon weeded out and a lot of them fled their own country. They had lots of company in doing that, not least talented scientists who went on to work on the Manhattan Project, which they knew was always intended to deliver a nuclear bomb on Germany, their homeland.

By the end of the thirties, the nightmare subtext of national socialism had gradually split society into two factions; the true believers and everyone else.

The true believers had thrived and were in ruthless control of every organ of state, from the Reich’s chancellery right down to the local parish organisations. They just knew they were a part of something new and glorious. The young middling educated class was fatally susceptible to the dream because it provided a way out of all those slick, articulate but conflicting viewpoints by all those other clever people. It means no more sorting through which one is right, no more doubts about which side of the question they have to be on, an end to uncertainty.

Suddenly it’s been simplified. It’s all about reducing the complication, boiling it down to one thing, perhaps even a few simple phrases. Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer – one people, one empire, one leader. Shout it loud brothers and sisters, shout it proud, the more you shout it, the truer it becomes. Join us children of a higher destiny on our great crusade to bring about the thousand-year Aryan Reich. All that’s left is to get the faint hearts amongst us on our side, and we’re going to do that, whether they want it or not. Sacrifices to achieve the dream will have to be made.

(Read the whole thing – found through Classical Values.)