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 · 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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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 · 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 »

18. January 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: General

Count De Monet – “Sir, the peasants are revolting!”
King Louis – “You said it. They stink on ice.”

Played for laughs in a movie by a producer/performer whom many of us doubt would ever get a green light today. But the great and good in the media and in the intellectual class – really do affect the pose that the peasants stink on ice, and say so, at every opportunity and in every possible venue. They despise the residents in Flyoverlandia – those who had the temerity to be conservative, conventionally religious, independent of thought, fiscally-careful, or even (gasp!) voting for Trump – or against Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua. Victor Davis Hansen collected up a litany of poisonous disparagement in this recent essay; a collection that is all the more depressing as an assemblage, nasty as each one of them were considered in isolation as they occurred and bubbled up to the top of the outrage cycle.

How did all this come about? (David F. ventured on this topic earlier this month.) I mean, there has always been a certain degree of social snobbery on the part of those who viewed themselves as being of the upper class, the managerial sort, the better-educated, and those who honestly felt they were the winners in the Darwinian struggle. The intellectual and artistic set always did regard themselves as a cut above the common herd. Over in Jolly Olde England, the gentry and nobility enforced their own supreme position with a fine sense of social brutality against ambitious interlopers.
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07. October 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: General

Oh, wow – is the first week of October already done? Guess it is; the pension got paid, and all the bills are lined up like dominoes. The biggest one is for the roof replacement, and the Magnificent Catio, which will not be completely paid for until after the end of the year. Still, I don’t regret the expense. The roof was about three or four years past it’s ‘best if used by’ date, and the Magnificent Catio, now houses full-time those cats taken on by my daughter whose careless toilet habits render them unsuitable for indoor residence. Seriously, they are the feline equivalent of guys who cannot hit the urinal, prompting the lament, “Couldn’t you just stand in it and aim out?” The Catio makes it easier to keep the house clean and ready for visitors at a moment’s notice, and at some day in the next decade, given the fact that the oldest offender must be almost twenty years old already (he’s one of the cats we inherited from Mom), we will have a very pleasant covered screened-porch patio, although we might have to have it pressure-washed hard enough to take a layer off the concrete brick flooring materiel.

The oldest of the dogs, Connor the Malti-Poo is now twenty or even more (he was an older dog when we found him, dumped in the next neighborhood over, and that was some years ago), and beginning to fail, so that is another sorrow to face, in the very near future. I have already determined that I will not coax out another few months of existence for him through heroic medical measures. He is already half-blind, mostly deaf, sprinkled with excessive moles, getting senile and with a slightly diminished appetite for food or walkies … Sometime in the next few months, I think, while he still has a little joy in his doggie life, rather than torment him with endless and futile trips to the vet. I wish that I have – as Dad did – those means of doing it relatively painlessly at home, but Connor has always been a very social little dog, and he will likely take considerable enjoyment out of that last trip to the vet, and we will stay with him to the very last. But enough of that.

Luna City Lucky Seven is done – out to the volunteer alpha-readers. And I had an impulse, once I was done with my work for the Teeny Publishing Bidness today, to scribble a bit on one of the proposed next books, the one set in the lead up to and in the Civil War … but here it is, almost time to start fixing supper. The Teeny Publishing Bidness client is coming tomorrow, to collect the most recent installment of his manuscript, now with even more pictures which he judges worthy of inclusion, and the first version of the cover design, which was the Daughter Unit’s artistic inspiration. The Daughter Unit has also taken on – with insane thoroughness – a paid research job for a mutual friend who has real estate property interests in what amounts to an underdeveloped portion of the city. The Daughter Unit describes this as administering a community-based colonoscopy – sorting out the things that would work, and what real estate development would best work, plus a myriad other interesting stats, like the registered sex offenders per square mile. This actually involves going and talking to people in the targeted neighborhood and drafting a prospectus for potential investors. This is a job that came out of the blue – and the Daughter Unit is making the most of it. So far, the client is pleased. It’s a short-term assignment, but we hope that it will lead to other assignments of this kind, for this client and others.

For myself, I am now onto the second chapter of the Civil War novel – with a fortyish heroine who becomes an abolitionist lecturer before the war and a nurse during it. (Great-Aunt Minnie Vining, who appears briefly in Sunset and Steel Rails.) Overall plot is still a little unfocused, but I am starting to be drawn into the world of mid-19th century feminist activism, possibly as a strong reaction to the current version. There were so many strong, passionate, nonconformist women involved in the abolition movement – and other social movements – who did not seem to be the least constrained by Victorian conventionalities; Julia Ward Howe and Clara Barton were not singular curiosities. They had plenty of company.

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.)