I was reading a slightly ick-making article the other day about certain wasps which prey on caterpillars in a peculiar and parasitic manner – the female wasp injects her eggs into the body of the chosen prey, where they hatch into grubs and feed from the host … from the inside. In certain varieties, it appears that the inserted eggs/grubs affect the biochemistry of the luckless host, which eats and eats, but never to benefit itself. Entomologists who specialize in this kind of thing find this adaptation immensely fascinating, which is why I was reading about it, through a link form some place or other. It’s all very Alien, on a insect level, and the likeness to the movie doesn’t end there; eventually, the wasp grubs chew their way out through the body of the caterpillar … and wait – the dying caterpillar serves to the last gasp as a sort of insectoid bodyguard to the developing wasps, even sheltering them in the silk which would have made its own cocoon. And then the caterpillar dies and the fully-developed wasps fly away, to start the cycle all over again.

Then I read about how the Obamas took separate presidential flight aircraft from the east coast to the west in order that the president and his spouse could appear on two different shows, videoed at two different studios barely miles apart and within the same time frame, at great expense to the military organization which operates the aircraft in question. Really, couldn’t they have shared a flight and halved the expense … or is it that they just don’t care for each other or for much else besides their own comfort and convenience. The Obamas do appear to like the bennies and goodies that the office provides, and enjoy them with a hearty carelessness wholly befitting the court of Louis the 14th. Save that Louis and Marie Antoinette weren’t quite the feckless, arrogant aristos that they were portrayed by contemporary propagandists. Still – the reputation endures; of aristocrats enjoying themselves in a bubble of privilege and luxury, while all outside the bubble goes to rack and ruin.

The whole process of the parasitic wasp and the helpless caterpillar struck me as a metaphor for the current administration, and indeed, our current Ruling Class, in the Angelo Codevilla sense; an alien organism injecting itself into the American body politic with the sole selfish intent of surviving and enriching itself at the expense of the host … and then, of course, flying away to some gated community, fat with privilege gained from destroying the host. Of course, the ruling elite of every civilization have always rather distained the common working folk, the bourgeoisie, the working class who made up the body of those ruled – t’was ever thus, the exploiter and the exploited. At the very least, the ruling elite have condescended to them as the ‘backbone of the country’. Our current ruling class elite has also distinguished themselves by adding to the injury of exploitation the insult of holding the larger body of citizens in active contempt … contempt which verges on hatred, depending on the person voicing it.

Discuss.

17. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Geekery, Literary Good Stuff, Wild Blue Yonder

From the temple of Poseidon at Sunion, Greece

From the temple of Poseidon at Sunion, Greece

I see from a link from a Facebook friend that author Mary Steward has passed on to that great and ultimate publisher in the sky. (Facebook links and Twitter posts – I swear, this is how we find out news of a relatively minor nature these days.) She was well into her nineties, and the books that were her mega-popular best-sellers were all from several decades ago. (Including The Crystal Cave – the first of a five-novel retelling of the Arthurian cycle; these are the ones which most readers remember.) I, on the other hand, remember finding, reading and adoring her earlier books – the romantic-suspense-mystery ones. Yes, because they not the least bit risqué, no bad language or anything more sexually-explicit than a fond kiss or a close and comforting embrace – I recollect that I first encountered them in the library when I was middle-school age and no one burst any blood vessels over me reading them. I might even have read them first in the Mount Gleason Junior High library, at that – since the movie that Disney had made from The Moonspinners was shown in the school theater over summer. Although I was a bit disappointed when I looked up the book and read it after seeing the movie. Everything was different, just about! But for the setting and … well, the setting; I did get to appreciate the books, later on – as the memory of the movie faded. Especially those of her books with a setting in Greece; My Brother Michael, (Delphi and environs) and This Rough Magic (Corfu), especially … and then I had a soft spot for her very first book, Madam, Will You Talk? – which was set in southern France. I never did get to check out Corfu – but I did visit Athens and Delphi – and Provence, as well – motivated in large part because of the beautiful way that she had of establishing a place and the character of it.
Never mind about the romance and all … dumpy and rather plain fifteen-year-olds, cursed with glasses and metal braces – still have a wistful affection for romance. Even if the prospective hero is at first meeting grumpy and impatient – even slightly mysterious. Someday, my fifteen-year old self hoped – I would go to Greece, or the South of France, although the romance part was perhaps a little bit too much to hope for.

And I did – but that is another story. At any rate, she and Rosemary Sutcliffe were among the first writers that I came back to, over and over – because of the way that they wrote about a place; every leaf and tree and flower of it. I would like to think that I have taken some lessons from them, or at least had their very good example before me when I began to write about specific places.

Just for fun, and because I am thrashing out a review of The Birdmen, for Amazon Vine – a song from a movie about the early days of aviation, which became a British hit…

I’ve been surfing my usual internet hangouts over the last week or so – in between working on various editing, formatting and sales projects for the Tiny Publishing Bidness – so although I did surf, and read and observe reports on a number of different and rather disturbing events – I didn’t have time to write anything about them until after I had finished the biggest of the current projects on my plate.

The biggest of them was the new-old range war of the Bundy ranch. I suppose that technically speaking, the Fed Gov had some small shreds of technical justification in demanding grazing fees … but the longer one looked at the whole of L’affaire Bundy, the worse it looked … which is doubtless why the Fed Gov backed down. A tactical retreat, of course; The optics of a shoot-out between the minions of the Fed Gov and the various Bundy supporters would not have been good, for Harry Reid and his clan and friends most of all, although they may eventually act – seeing that they have a position which will be at risk by tolerating defiance.

First it was state land, then it was Fed Gov property, and all this supposed to be for the benefit of desert tortoises? Dad did an early life study of the California desert tortoise, back in the day. Tough little critters, and seemingly in no particular danger of extinction in the Mojave, unless and until they paved over the desert with solar panels, which was why Dad was tasked with the research. (He went out into the desert near Needles, California, every six months for a number of years, rounded up the randomly-assorted selection of 50 tortoises fitted with radio-transmitter devices, and hauled them into a veterinarian’s office for an x-ray, and for other examinations. No, I don’t know of anything else that Dad discovered, peculiar to the tortoises, only that they seemed pretty easy-going about the whole process…)
Say, the Bundy family has been running cattle on that range since the late 19th century, and now they are the last ranch family standing in that part of the world? Hmm, says the observer, upon seeing a sudden interest by the political powers that be in otherwise pretty unspectacular desert property owned by someone else. This plot was played for laughs in Blazing Saddles – I guess this time around, Harry Reid is doing the Hedley Lamar part. A bit ago, one of the regular commenters, (Subotai Bahadur, if memory serves or perhaps it was Wretchard at Belmont Club), speculated that the cold civil war would turn hot in earnest at the point where a locally respectable, well-thought of and otherwise respectable good citizen was unjustly and viciously brutalized by the minions of the Fed Gov, or as in the case of the following – by a governmental body or several acting in collusion. As a note to L’affaire Bundy, a lot of people not living in flyover states, or in rural areas – have no idea of how heavy the hand of the BLM or the Forest Service lies upon those in the rural west. Living in Texas, I have little personal experience in this regard, since by a historical twist of good fortune, most of Texas is privately owned. One does hear stories, though. Do not underestimate the resentment felt by residents of western states toward representatives of the Fed Gov when it comes to the BLM or the Forest Service. There is a pile of dry tinder there, well-soaked in gasoline, only wanting a lit match or two.

The second local story of which I speak – is the case of a family in Colorado who own – for now – a tiny cabin, a little island of private property within the boundary of a national park. The Forest Service appears to be colluding with the local county to confiscate the property, with the stated purpose of making the park all pristine, by means of eminent domain. No, this park is the preserve of the general public who don’t have any existing property rights, so for the good of all, the property of the one must be confiscated. This will be another stick of tinder for the National Forest Service, by the way.

The third instance is a curious one, of a reclusive collector of a wide variety of artifacts in a little out of the way neighborhood in Rush County, Indiana. Suddenly the FBI is descending on a modest house and supposedly confiscating certain items for examination … and what? The owner appears to be a wholly respectable collector who acquired the items legally, through a long career as a missionary and as an archeological enthusiast? What gives, really? The few news stories concerting the matter are unrevealing when it comes to the question of – what brought this on? Why now? And why is the elderly owner being treated as if he is an international art thief with millions of dollars in looted Nazi art stashed in a warehouse somewhere? And would the same consideration be given to a multimillionaire with a private gallery and a house in the Hamptons? Especially if he were a generous contributor to acceptable Dem Party political causes? Yes, one really does wonder.

The final story regards the recent dismaying policy of the IRS to scoop up tax refund monies from descendants of people who – mirable dictu – are found to owe money to the Fed Gov. Usually, according to this story in the Washington Post (who astonishingly, now appear to be committing acts of journalism) the debts were incurred by long-deceased parents and grandparents, and the legal means established for going after such long-time debts was in an obscure provision of a farm bill passed some years ago. Well, as Speaker Pelosi once so airily remarked, we would have to pass the bill to find out what was in it. This case is curiously illustrative.
I take away from all this a somewhat more discouraging insight – that the various offices of the Fed Gov now seem to see themselves as above the original intent of the law.
Which would be worrying enough; but the underlying tendency that I sense in reviewing all this is a bit more worrying, as a property-owner and one with the odd bit of original art and small artifacts collected in legitimate sale from distant lands, as well as having parents and grandparents who might in the distant past have been briefly in debt to the Fed Gov. Extrapolating from these separate stories, one can’t help coming to the conclusion that if you have something in the way of real property (even just as paltry a thing as an income tax return) and the Fed Gov has a reason for wanting it – they will come and get it.
If such is the case, we are not citizens any longer – but sheep to be sheared whenever the Fed Gov needs a few more pennies. In which case, the Fed Gov sees their prime duty as mulcting the citizens of what items of value they possess, by fair means or foul (usually foul and by the misuse of the laws they choose to enforce), in order to pay for the towering edifice of the Fed Gov as we know it, or to pay off those to whom they owe favors. Discuss.

(cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)

I speak, of course, of the missing Malaysia Airlines Boing 777, which took off last week from Kuala Lumpur and came to earth … or sea – we know not where. The whole saga just gets weirder and weirder as reported. Possible terrorists? Piracy and ransom? Complicity of the flight crew? Transponders turned off, and flying in a zig-zaggy pattern, and then vanishing entirely? There’s a new angle almost every day or so. Increasingly those who wonder about such things are wondering if those who do know or suspect with good reason what really happened to Flight MH370 are keeping their mouths shut as well. Yes – the oceans are wide and deep, and an airplane – even a Boeing 777 – is large and full of stuff, and people.

Wherever it came down, on land or on sea and if catastrophically … well, searchers usually have found something by now, especially by following along the original flight path. But MH370 went rogue, although why, how, where and at the hands of whom is a puzzle most extraordinary – in the words of Hercule Poirot. I’ll make no pretense of being an expert in investigating missing aircraft, but I only remember one other such case of a large aircraft vanishing so thoroughly and completely in the last decade or so. (It was in Africa, under weird circumstances, flight crew of three and … no one knows what happened to it after it took off.)

Usually, three days max, and somewhere along the expected flight path – the searchers find what’s left of the aircraft, and begin to make an educated guess at what happened, even if all there is to go on at first are some floating seat cushions and a fuel slick. But this, as I say, is just weird. Everything that is reported – and what is reported is sketchy, contradictory and filtered through the news media of several different countries – only adds to the weirdness. Speculation runs all the way through the possible, the probable to the ‘thriller-novel-plot’ and into the frankly extraordinary. But the thing is that once you have seen a plot to hijack four passenger airliners and crash them into tall buildings get carried out, one knows that what was once ‘thriller-novel-plot’ and conspiracy website fodder may very well turn up among tomorrows’ headlines.

It’s kind of creepy, seeing events in real life pattern themselves after thriller novels and Hollywood movies; proof of anything that God – or the Fates – do have an ironic sense of humor. Like certain other bloggers and commenters I am on my knees with gratitude that the asteroid/comet fragment/whatever which detonated upon hitting the atmosphere over the Urals a few days ago did not hit at the height of the Cold War. That would likely have set off a chain of unfortunate events, for which those surviving remnants of the old Soviet high command would have been very sorry afterwards … well, maybe they would have been sorry, but on the other hand, opportunities are not to be wasted. Still – a repeat of Tunguska is fascinating enough, and so is the fact that it was caught on so many dash-cams and CCTV cameras. It’ll be as hard to blame it on global warming as it would be on the US, although some are apparently trying their best. But the wittiest observation on the whole matter simply has to go to a commenter at the Belmont Club, who observed “In Post-Soviet Russia, SPACE EXPLORES YOU!”

A Mini concert …

Courtesy of one of those emails…

It appears that a great number of veterans and relatives of veterans are increasingly incensed at the news that the late Senator Murtha may have a new Navy ship named for him. The late senator was famed for nearly being nailed in the Abscam scandal, lo these many decades ago, for sucking down absolutely mind-boggling quantities of political pork for his district, and last but not least, pre-judging the Marines charged in the so-called Haditha incident.

Those veterans and relatives feel so strongly about this gross insult to military honor that they have opened a website, and a means of communication their displeasure to the Secretary of the Navy.
This is the website –

www.nomurthaship.com

Go, therefore, and do your duty, with regard to their petition. That is all.
(sorry, means of posting embedded links has gone the same way as the ability to post pictures.)

Yes, never underestimate the capacity for extremely bored and intelligent military personnel in amusing themselves.
Yeeks – and this was even published in a presumably responsible military-oriented publication.
Kinda puts my whole being sarcastic about the movies scheduled for late Friday night at Zaragosa AB in the local TV Guide kinda pale … although I did have viewers now and again tell me that they stayed up deliberatly to watch them, just so see if they were as awful as I hinted that they were.

Enjoy. This is funnier than any of my movie promos were.

I’m sorry, people – I am just swamped, with two huge paying projects with deadlines … OMG .. in a day or so, since this is Thursday.
I’ll be back on Monday. Stuff happening, got a raffle for tee – shirts going. Particulars at my book blog, here.

This is all courtesy of some lovely peole at www.ooshirts.com!

Ya know, at least Obama actually did a very good speech, announcing that Osama Bin Laden had been taken down, and he did have the stones in the first place to step up to the plate and give the order for the SEALS to take out the trash. No shilly-shallying around and voting ‘present’ on that one, even if there are reports that he chewed over the decision for 16 hours. Well, it was momentous decision; a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize authorizing a targeted assassination, within the sovereign territory of a nation frequently described as being an ally. The irony abounds – one can only imagine the political and media response to GWB giving the go-ahead. So, our boy-king has the advantage of being one of those with a D after his name, which – when it comes to this sort of thing pretty much affords all-over protection against blowback.

So, approving noises all the way around, all the day long on Monday and into Tuesday this week: OBL sleeps wid da fishes, and the most sycophantic media tools are crowing that he will be a shoo-in for reelection in 2012 on that account . . . never mind that gas will probably close on $5.00 a gallon by mid-summer, and joblessness is endemic and the prices for basic groceries are sneaking up. And then . . .

And then . . . oh, oh. Different stories: firefight with the SEALS . . . or not. Use of a woman – perhaps wife, perhaps not – as a human shield. Plain old down and dirty execution, or did the plan call originally for everyone in the house in Abbottabad to be taken away for leisurely interrogation? Video or still documentation of the whole thing – as well as that rushed burial at sea, proving that OBL did indeed go over the side of the Carl Vinson? And now, not releasing any of the pictures of OBL, pining for the fijords because of inflaming the Muslim street, or something? People, get a grip – the Muslim street is always inflamed over something or other. Besides, they are always telling us that OBL was a bad Moslem, that he hijacked the Religion of Peace . . . so, wouldn’t they also want to see visual proof of his demise. There have been enough bloody pictures circulating in the last ten years, and anyone who has ever watched an episode of CSI has probably already seen many scenes at least as bloody and stomach-churning.

And no one at the higher levels of the administration had any idea as to how to deal with this, as an important news event and public affairs challenge – other than the boy-king making a speech. It was as if that was as far as they could see it going; the Administration appears to have felt no need to work out an in-depth response. Just take their word for it, no need to work out a coherent narrative, backed up by pictures, video, carefully shielded witness testimony, et cetera. Just shoot, shove overboard, and shut up.

Not gonna fly, in this wired world, not with so many people wanting to see just a little bit more, within the boundaries of operations security. I’d guess that the pictures and video outlining just a few more answers to questions will leak or be released within days. Just too many people, who are just too damn curious and haven’t had that curiosity satisfied in the least. I’m a long-retired military media professional – and I am offering this feedback gratis. The Administration better start working out a better response to this, and any future-type events.

Later: Froggy and Blackfive thinking along the same lines

From an email by a member of a Yahoo discussion group for FEN broadcasters – dated Sunday

About one hour ago or 12 noon Misawa time I had the privilege of watching the USAF Misawa trucks and buses convoy out the main gate on their way to the local coastal areas to provide relief assistance. A half dozen buses filled with local military and USA teams that landed here. Also a dozen 60 foot flatbeds loaded with supplies and equipment. Local townsfolk came out to the curbside to wave and bow. A very heartwarming display indeed.
The northern coastal areas near Misawa AB were hit hard by the tsunami as was Hachinohe though not much was mentioned by the media.

Misawa has just announced the all clear for tsunami. Aftershocks are all but absent now. Power is back on after 36 hours without. Base has limited power. Japan has a lot to do now to clean up and get started again. This has been one really bad week. We grieve for those not far from here.

Info can be had at Facebook under “AFN Misawa” or by visiting the Stars and Stripes online newspaper.

Bill Bunch
Misawa, Japan

(Hey, I’m back – got in last night … or, um … very early this morning. Here is a post that I wrote at my parents’, but had no way to post at the Brief from their house!)

Over the last decade – or perhaps even longer – all of the adventure, the fun and the excitement of traveling by air has been removed with cruel and surgical precision. Slowly, slowly, all of the frivolous extras have been chipped away, or become expensive add-ons. A small bag of peanuts and a cup of juice, enjoyed while sitting elbow to elbow in a tight-packed flying cattle car, and the only thing to look forward to (aside from the whole journey being over) is a long slog through the wide-flung nodes of a hub airport in order to catch a connecting flight at another gate. Which as luck usually has it, is as far from the gate where you were unceremoniously decanted as it can get and not be in another county. Or state.

No, about the only good fortune one can hope for these days is meeting a congenial person, whilst waiting for your flight or during it, and passing the idle hours in interesting conversation. Here I was most fortunate – even with the East Coast being socked in with Donner Party levels of snowfall, and the West Coast being served up with relentless rainstorms – I passed the time traveling home with a succession of no less than three very congenial fellow travelers.

The first of these had been at the San Antonio airport all day, trying to get into onto flight to Salt Lake City and very tired of working Sodoku puzzles. There is only one kind of young man under the age of 21 who routinely wear a black business suit, conservative tie and white shirt. LDS missionaries – they hardly need the nametag, at all. Turned out his home was in Windcrest, he was going to the 9-week long LDS missionary training course in Salt Lake City before going to South Florida for his tour of mission duty, because he was fairly fluent in Spanish. Then, he thought he might join the Air Force. I don’t think he had ever been to Salt Lake City – and I used to live there.

The hour on the ground – and the two hours in the air to Salt Lake City were enlivened by the guy in the seat next to me; he was going to Park City for the skiing and a better time to do that doesn’t exist. He’s a native Texan – and it proves that San Antonio really is a small town because he had gone to school with one of my former employers. Turned out that we had some other mutual friends and interests, including one for local history. His grandfather and great-grandfather were cattle ranchers out in West Texas and I had written a book touching on the great days of trailing cattle north to Kansas – heck, I even had a copy of J. Frank Dobie’s book about longhorns in my bag.

Because of the delay on the ground, I was pretty sure I’d miss the connecting flight to San Diego … but they had just begun boarding as I jogged breathlessly along the concourse between gates (note to self: start jogging regularly again). Made the flight with about fifteen minutes to spare; I could have just walked fast, but not keen on spending the night sleeping in the terminal, fond as I am of watching the sun come up over the Wasatch Front. For the fight to San Diego, I shared a row with a young Coast Guard member’s wife, who was coming home to San Diego after a flying trip to Fargo, N.D. We had a lot in common, as it turned out: her trip was a last visit to her grandfather, whose health was failing rapidly, mine to be with my family and to sort out matters after my Dad’s death. She had three-month old baby son whom she adored – and laughed and laughed when I told the story of how my father had snake-proofed my brother and I. On one of the first dates with her husband, he had proudly brought a rattlesnake that he had killed, and skinned it in her kitchen sink

So, the flight home was passed very agreeably – although Delta did their part, I think the people I met along the way were the main means of making the journey at least a little pleasanter than it could have been.

OK – so it doesn’t look as if it will be a road trip, after all. There are some serious problems with the GG (sigh!) so that planned little jaunt is out. I’ll be traveling by regular airline on Friday morning (very early!) to Arlington, for the Milblogger Conference at the Westin Arlington Gateway, and coming back the same way on Sunday afternoon.
I am still holding off on a hotel reservation there – hoping to reduce expenses (hey, we’re in a recession, dammit! And there is work that I have done/services provided that I haven’t been paid for yet, so I must economize until those chintzy b**tards come through! ) so, if anyone of the femalion or family-oriented persuasion and a non-smoker wants to share a room this Friday and Saturday at the Gateway (or other nearby establishment) let me know! Like, ASAP!

(Recieved this request from a reader of my Open Salon Blog

I am an officially middle-aged, female, Canadian civilian from the Toronto area in Canada. You can find the first of several weekly Sunday night posts at my Open Salon blog, here.
Sgt Mom, I am hoping you may be willing to help me with a writing project I am developing. The project is about the stories of the fans, or fanatics as he likes to call us, of Henry Rollins. I am going to take time this next year researching, and compiling the personal stories of a significant number of ‘fanatics’ who have been inspired, influenced, helped, and otherwise impacted, by Henry. While the personal stories will not be specific to those in the military, it is absolutely critical that as many of those stories are captured as possible. During the first week of this project I have received some great personal stories, both military and civilian, through my preliminary post at opensalon.com.
If you would be willing to put this request for stories from Henry Rollins fans out to your online community at The Daily Brief, and any other blogs or networks you might be connected to, I would be so grateful.

Any personal stories, will not be published without the consent of the writers, prior to final publication. At this early stage I am thinking it will be an electronic publication, with a completion date of December 2010. I will stay in touch with all contributors as the project evolves to answer any questions, and keep people up to speed on how it’s unfolding. I would like to send the final work to Henry Rollins for his 50th birthday in February of 2011. None of the information I receive will be published elsewhere without the consent of the authors prior to publication. I will keep people posted on the project as it starts to roll out. I expect it to take most of 2010 as I will be working on this around my paid gig and teenagers, responsibilities I am grateful to have, yet leave little time for life’s other passions like writing.
Questions, stories and comments can be emailed to me at bennettangela@rogers.com, or through my Open Salon Blog.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about posting this to your online community. I sincerely appreciate anything you might be able to do to help. I’m just another Rollins fanatic, trying to give back a little something to someone who has had a significant impact on me, and many others in our global neighbourhood.

Sincerely,
Angela.

(All right then – got any good stories for Angela?)

My is it Friday already? The end of October, with tomorrow being the Dia de los Muertos or as we plain Anglos call it, the eve of All Saints Day. Time does have when youre having fun. And I am having fun this week. My hours at the Corporate Call Center just up the road were slashed to the bone this week, allegedly to accommodate their slow time of the year. Perhaps Ill get them back in November, perhaps not. Its a job that I am privately most unenthusiastic about, although youd never know it to hear me answer the incoming calls with brisk and chipper enthusiasm. I would not mind very much actually Id miss the money but not much else, as I the local publisher that I am doing work for has actually begun to pay me on a regular basis and shoot interesting little jobs my way.

The two most recent are transcribing old documents one not all that old, since there is a Star Wars reference in it, but the other might have some actual historical interest, being a pocket year-diary from 1887, bound in crumbling red leather. The owner of it plans to sell, and wants an accurate transcription or at least, as accurate a transcription of the contents as is humanly possible. The reason he is willing to pay someone to do it is because the diary-keeper wrote in occasionally illegible ink, couldnt spell for s**t, had an uncertain grasp of the principals governing the use of capital letters and appears to have been completely uninterested in using punctuation. On the plus side, each entry is only about one run-on sentence long, and three-quarters of those entries are variants on spent the four Noon at Ranch/town . No news fair and cloudy to day

Its the other entries that are mildly fascinating, for the diary-keeper seems to have been a manager for a cattle ranch in the Pleasant Valley of Arizona, and on the periphery of the murderous Graham-Tewksbury feud. His apparent employer was one of the owners of the Hashknife Outfit famed in West Texas lore and in the books of Zane Grey, so perhaps this is why the current owner thinks the diary is worth something to a collector. I dont see any evidence so far that the diary-keeper did anything more than pop around like a squirrel on crack all through that year, from town to the ranch and up to various line camps, to Flagstaff for the 4th of July celebrations, seeing to his various duties, which must have ranged from the office-managerial to overseeing round-ups and short drives of cattle from the back-country to the railway (which paralleled Route 66 through Arizona.) There were a few interesting slips of paper tucked into a pocket in the back of the diary, like a bank receipt from a bank in Weatherford, Texas, long strings of figures which appear to be a tally of cattle and a scribbled recipe for some kind of remedy, featuring a lot of ingredients that today are controlled substances (belladonna? Sulphate of zinc and sugar of lead, one drachm) Still and all, as Blondie said he was dedicated enough to actually sit down and make an entry, every day, in a whole year of days in which one day was mostly like any other, full of work and responsibility, and very little in the way of amusement, or at least amusement worth mentioning specifically. Still, an interesting peep-hole into the past, and another life, distant and yet close.

The other document is a rollicking memoir written by a WWII veteran, who spent nearly 18 months in the China-Burma-India theater, flying cargo over the notorious Hump the Himalayas. At that time, there were large chunks of the land below their air route that was simply white on their maps; never explored by land or by air. This writer lost some friends to the perils of high-altitude flight among mountains that were sometimes even higher, but his exuberance and energy come through in his memoir, quite unquenched. His personality is a little more accessible than the ranch manager of 1887, and he spent a little more time noticing marvelous things like a spectacular show of St. Elmos fire lighting up his aircraft during a flight through a high-altitude blizzard, or the white-washed towers of a mountain monastery, perched at the top of a 6,000 foot sheer drop. He wondered about the faint lights seen at night, from tiny villages far below the aluminum wings of his aircraft, wondered if the people living in those simple houses even knew that young men had come from so very far away, to fly a perilous re-supply route over the dark land below. Did it make any difference to their lives? Maybe it did, maybe it didnt. The flier went home, married his girl, lived a long and successful life. Among the little things to be included in the transcription of his memoir was an envelope of papers receipts from a grand hotel in Calcutta and a BX ration card, in which Blondie and I were amused to note that he had maxed out his beer ration for the month of September, 1943but only purchased one bar of soap.

The history, the past, near and a little distant, in bits of yellowed paper, a year of entries bound in faded red leather or eighteen eventful and frequently nerve-wracking months racking up 800 flying hours. Its all there, our history. We must remember where we came from, who we are who our ancestors were, and how they built their lives and did their work. Its not far distant, its more than a few tedious chapters in a history textbook written by an academic with an ideological ax to grind. Our history is real people, meeting challenges and accepting responsibility with courage, grace and humor. Its why I write books, to try and get people in touch with that history again, to connect with our ancestors. To remember who we are, and where we came from.

(Still taking pre-orders for the Adelsverein Trilogy, here The official release is December 10, and I have lined up some signings locally – schedule is here. Also a review of Book One – The Gathering just appeared in the Nov/Dec issue of True West (dead tree version) ! It’s on page 91, for those that are interested, but alas, no links – the True West website only goes as far as… September)

OK, so we arrived after an epic drive of about 20 hours, and three stops to cat-nap uncomfortably in a car full of dogs, Christmas gifts and luggage – variously in Lordsburg, someplace about two hours farther west than that, and a rest-stop in the mountains above Tucson. Look, when it’s too cold to sleep, and the air mattress has developed a slow leak and the dog and your child are bogarting most of the available space anyway… well, you may as well drive. Dunno about what rush hour traffic is like in Tucson these days, what with all the new construction, but it’s a breeze at 2AM!

We haven’t killed any Californians yet, we had a nice Christmas and will return with less stuff than we came with, the dogs haven’t fought too much with my parents’ dogs, they think the Weevil is a charmer (except for her chronic tail injury opening up and her painting blood all over the place… thank god for the invention of liquid bandage and lots of paper towels and spray cleaner….) and Spike is as cute and fluffy as ever.

Blondie is spending a couple of days in Pasadena with Pippy and her family, and my youngest brother, I am holding the fort at Mom and Dads – where they still refuse to move into the last quarter of the previous century and venture into the wild uncharted waters of the internet. But they do have a functioning computer, and I am pounding out a couple of reviews and another two or three chapters of the Adelsverein Trilogy, or Barsetshire with Cypress Trees and a Lot of Sidearms.

Yes, we’re alive, nothing has blown up in our absence, and I just emptied 3,000 spam comments out of the queue – about par, considering.

Merry Christmas, to everyone but whoever is running the spam comment generator. (You should be tossed out naked in a field of poison ivy and fire ants.)

Sgt. Mom

Regular reader Robert D. emailed me overnight, letting me know that an ace in two wars, General Robin Olds had died over the weekend.

In my early time in service, General Olds was famous for a defiantly non-reg mustache, and for having flown with Chappie James over Vietnam, forming a duo nicknamed “Blackman and Robin”.

He was a colorful character; these days seeming like a character in a swashbuckling adventure novel, or a movie serial.

More here.

A meditation upon one of WWII’s most unusual missions… which in even at the time seemed almost as if it were a movie…

From Richard Fermandez, “Wretchard” at The Belmont Club, courtesy of PJ Media.

I listened to a story on NPR this week, about the finding of the wreck of the Macon, one of the great navigatable dirigibles that for a time – or so the great minds of the early 20th century assumed – would give a run for their money to aircraft. For quite a long time, beginning with the Montgolfier brothers, it was assumed that various forms of lighter-than-air constructions were the wave of the future – not those fragile little mosquitoes that were the prototypical airplanes. From just before WWI, and for some time after, it looked like dirigibles would be the kings of commercial aviation, the seas patrolled, and the continents spanned commercially by luxuriously outfitted air-liners. Images of great silver airships are ubiquitous in commercial art, and futuristic visions throughout the 20ies and 30ies; the Empire State building, after all, was topped with a mast from which it was fondly hoped to moor dirigibles. (The thought of disembarking from a passenger liner moored there, and tripping merrily along some kind of walkway down to the observation deck is enough to give any acrophobic a case of the screaming willies, though, which may be why it never came to pass.)

The Germans had developed such rigid-framed airships late in the 19th century, and used them extensively during WWI, first as bombers, notably targeting London and Paris. They were huge lumbering craft, capable of traveling great distances and staying aloft for many hours. Alas, they were also slow and un- agile, which made them splendid targets in offensive operations – and they also burned spectacularly when struck, since they were usually filled with hydrogen gas. Although such aircraft with a variety of types of frames, or no frames at all went on being used throughout the war, they were more utilized for observation, or on ocean-going patrols. But when the war was over, it looked like the day for long-distance rigid-framed aircraft had dawned.

The British built a series of them, one of which was the first to make a trans-Atlantic round trip, in slightly less than 200 hours, in 1919. That craft, and its successor both crashed and burned spectacularly, as did an Italian-manufactured dirigible purchased at around that time by the US Navy. In 1923, the Navy built an entirely rigid-framed aircraft designed to be lifted by helium, the Shenandoah, the first such entirely built in the United States. Two years later, while on a publicity tour in the Midwest, the Shenandoah was caught in a violent thunderstorm and ripped into three pieces. The command cabin dropped like a rock, killing all in it, including the Shenandoah’s commander, but the stern and bow sections floated down more gently. Crewmen in the bow section called out to a farmer on the ground below to grab ropes trailing from the nose and tie them to a tree, and when everyone had slid to safety, brought shotguns for the survivors to use to puncture the helium cells.

Another dirigible manufactured in Germany and delivered to the US as part of war reparations was renamed the Los Angeles; fitted out as a passenger liner, with Pullman staterooms and bunks, it made over 200 uneventful trips, mostly to Puerto Rico and South America. An Italian semi-rigid airship called the Norge, fitted out by a scientific expedition flew from Spitsbergen, Norway to Teller Alaska by way of the North Pole in 1926: it would have been the very first aircraft to fly over the North Pole, but for Richard Byrd in an airplane, three days earlier. the Norge, and part of it’s crew was subsequently lost on another flight over the Pole, two years later.

But enthusiasm ran high during the mid-Twenties, regardless. Progress would always be a little bumpy, seemed to be the prevailing mood, and all these problems would be worked out, eventually. The American company Goodyear was granted certain patent rights related to dirigible construction, and began work on two more dirigibles for the US Navy, the Akron and Macon. They would be essentially flying aircraft carriers, capable of launching and retrieving four or five single-engine patrol airplanes from a hanger-bay equipped with a trapeze-like winch.

In the meantime, the British government launched a great project to build two enormous dirigibles, the R100 and the R101, which would be the largest in the world with accommodations for 100 passengers. The Germany Zeppelin firm had begun to recover enough to launch an enormous airship named after its founder. The Graf Zeppelin would be the first airship to circumnavigate the globe, and with it’s successors, partake in regular scheduled transatlantic passenger service. It was hoped that the British R 100 and R 101 would similarly expand passenger service: the R 100 flew to Canada and back, with no other event that being caught in a storm. On return, it was put into a hanger, pending return of the R 101 from it’s maiden voyage to India. But the R 101, plagued by technical problems and forced to fly too low in compensation, clipped a church steeple and crashed in flames near Beauvais, France early in 1930, with the loss of nearly all on board. The British government quietly pulled the plug on subsequent airship construction; so later did the US Congress. The Akron, launched with great hopes in 1931 was caught in a violent storm off New Jersey two years later, with the loss of all but a handful of its crew. The Macon, put into service at the same time was also caught in a storm, this one off the California coast near Monterey in 1935. Most of the Macon’s crew survived, and the wreckage of it and the patrol aircraft it carried, has just recently been located on the sea-bed.

The spectacular loss of the Hindenburg, two years after the crash of the Macon, only added to public misgivings, although the argument has been made that the great airships were doomed, by increasing competition from commercial airplane services and the coming of a new war, where conventional air craft would be of far more use. But the fairly constant series of spectacular airship disasters probably darkened the public and the political view, too. In the long run, airplanes may have been as much at a hazard, the development of air services just as rocky, and the cumulative casualties just as many. But there was enormous prestige placed in those few great dirigible projects, and great expectations by the public made the various disasters all the more public and crushing. It would have been as if over half the Mercury or Gemini flights launched by NASA had failed spectacularly in mid-flight. No matter what the prestige involved with dirigibles, or the lofty goals, a lot of people just quietly decided it just cost too much, even if it wasn’t a technological dead end in the first place. Now there are only a few places where you can stand, and imagine a great silver craft, hovering overhead, or being winched into a huge hanger: this great hanger at Moffit Field, near San Jose is one of them. And now the underwater wreck of the Macon may be the largest piece of interwar aviation history still identifiable on earth.

Reader Kaj added this comment, which was deleted in in my haste to clear out an accumulation of 30o auto-spam-comments this morning 9-29-06

“Admiral Byrds claims of being first to the pole by air are at best a bit
tenuous. The first undoubted crossing was by Norge, incidentally making Roald
Amundsen(and crew) the first, and the first to be on both poles.
I would have liked to refer to Wikipedia, but their page on admiral Byrd has
been used by hollow earth conspirazoids, claiming Byrd found the entrance to the
inner earth(!).
So much for Wikipedia credibility. ” – Sgt Mom

Unaccustomed as I am to giving a good goddamn about the blatherings of movie stars and other reality-challenged morons in the entertainment industry— we pay these people inordinately large salaries to dress up and pretend to be other people for our amusement, and I have always just tried to think of them as a breed of well-trained performing monkeys— I am a little surprised to find myself even considering a blog-post about Mel Gibson’s drunk-driving arrest and his subsequent widely publicized anti-Semitic outburst, recorded apparently in its very ugly entirety. It’s been all over the entertainment industry media, to which I never (well hardly ever) pay attention, but Blondie does – and if her reaction to the whole thing is anything typical, the very photogenic Mr. Gibson may have a big-post rehab problem. She was honestly revolted by the whole nasty diatribe, will probably not see whatever his next movie is, and is even put off by the thought of watching any of the old Mad Max movies again. In vino, veritas, you see, truth at the bottom the wineglass; she and I have been around long enough to know that an over-sufficiency of alcohol doesn’t really change a person. It just loosens inhibitions, and their grip on whatever façade they maintain over their true personality. Everyone knows people who are kind, funny and amusing sober, and even more so when smashed – and conversely, at least one individual who only appears to be kind, funny and amusing, when sober. When that kind gets a skin-full, the real underlying person comes out, and it is usually a memorably nasty piece of work. So, while drunk on his ass, a movie star who has a public persona of being a rather genial, fairly devout sort of family man is revealed to be – well, something rather less genial, to put it kindly. And since he is in the entertainment business, this has implications for more than just his family, circle of friends and therapist.

It’s enough to make one madly nostalgic for the old studio morality clauses, actually. On the whole and over the long run, we rather prefer our entertainers to have a private life pretty much be congruent with what they play on the screen, assuming that we have to know anything about their personal lives at all. Frankly I’d rather see someone like Meryl Streep or Judi Dench spend three decades or more playing a great many different and interesting characters, and living a dull and blameless personal life out in the suburbs between movie shoots. Or even a Robert Mitchum, who seems to have in real life been pretty much the same kind of two-fisted, hard-drinking brawler he often played. I’m fairly sure that Rock Hudson would never have been as big a movie star as he was, if everyone had known that in real life he played for the other team, although we can now appreciate him being a much better actor than we thought back then, playing all those love scenes with women. If he had been outed in the 1950ies, Rock would have been dropped – er, like a hot rock. What he was in real life, was just not congruent with the roles he played, and the public personality he appeared to be. I get the giggles myself, picturing him in a passionate movie cinch with Doris Day, knowing what I know now. So, how many people will giggle cynically when they see Mel playing a regular guy?

As I wrote here last month, anti-Semitism in the US never quite has attained the virulence that it has in Europe, for a number of likely reasons. Not to say it anti-Semitism never appeared in the American cultural or political body politic; there are plenty of examples to the contrary. But set against that are even more accounts of how in a lot of places, and on a lot of occasions, it was something that, to use an English expression, was just not done, being neither condoned or approved of, and on one famous occasion, it brought down a bigger hero than a movie actor, a man whose credentials for being an American hero were somewhat more substantial than being able to recite lines in front of a camera; Charles Lindbergh, the Lone Eagle, Lucky Lindy himself, who by 1941 had spent nearly two decades in the public eye, after his epic crossing of the Atlantic, solo and non-stop in a single-engine and the ghastly kidnapping and death of his first child and the resulting investigation and trial. Aviator, writer, scientist and traveler, he had become a passionate speaker, and one of the leading lights in the America First Committee, a group formed to oppose any American involvement in what would become the Second World War. Many of the founding members- intellectuals, businessmen, and politicians alike- were honorable, and passionate patriots, who were convinced that the war in Europe was none of our affair, and that involvement in it would not end well or to American advantage, and had the example of the first war to go on. Conventional wisdom of that time had it that America had been suckered into participating in World War One by an unholy cabal of slick politicians and greedy arms merchants, and as war broke out in Europe in 1939, Americans very rightfully felt they’d better not get fooled again. But there were other, less honorable motivations motivating members of America First, traditional dislike of Britain’s imperial and financial powers, admiration for or fear of Germany, deep dislike of President Roosevelt – and as historian David Gardner wrote “Anti-Semitism was the most inflammatory issue in the isolationist debate. Jews had good reason to hate Hitler… Jewish interventionists could therefore be motivated only by a desire to help co-religionists in Europe. To save them, Jews appeared willing to sacrifice American lives. The fact that interventionist sentiment was strongest in the traditionally conservative south and southwest, areas of small Jewish population, had done little to change popular belief that Jews were leading the drive for war.”
And by the fall of 1941, events had skidded way beyond anyone’s control, least of all the passionate anti-interventionalists of America First. Rooseveldt had won re-election the year before, a military draft had been instituted, Lend-Lease aid and volunteers flowed towards Britian, along with considerable American sympathy. After a U-boat fired on an American destroyer, President Rooseveldt authorized the US Navy to shoot back. Passions ran high, as events converged, and Lindbergh addressed an America First rally in De Moines, saying “The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration. Behind these groups, but of lesser importance, are a number of capitalists, Anglophiles, and intellectuals who believe that their future, and the future of mankind, depends upon the domination of the British Empire … These war agitators comprise only a small minority of our people; but they control a tremendous influence … it is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany … But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy, both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way, for they will be among the first to feel its consequences� Their greatest danger to this country is in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government…”
Lindbergh had long been a hero to most Americans, even as he had become so deeply involved in America First, and certainly viewed by many, especially in the Rooseveldt administration as an admirer of Hitler, and the Nazi Party, but this speech— described as intemperate and inflammatory — brought down a storm on his head. The America First Committee, fractured and was made irrelevant by Pearl Harbor, and Lindbergh himself was all but made a political outcast by the opprobrium that descended upon him.
Curiously, the speech that killed his political career was made on September 11th.
(More fascinating stuff about America First Committee… much of which seems curiously relevant, these days)

This month is the anniversary of the very crack of dawn, for American military aviation, and it happened in San Antonio. At the Fort Sam Houston parade ground… or to be precise, over it. More here, by a local reporter.

To: Ms. Jill Edwards, Ms. Ashley Miller, Student Body Senate, University of Washington
From: Sgt Mom
Re: “The University of Washington’s student senate rejected a memorial for alumnus Gregory “Pappy” Boyington of “Black Sheep Squadron” fame amid concerns a military hero who shot down enemy planes was not the right kind of person to represent the school.

1. How very, very precious, and I do not mean that in a complimentary way, Ms. Edwards & Ms. Miller. It does not reflect well on the education for which someone is presumably paying a great deal of money, to be so casually dismissive of the qualities of someone who of someone who— along with a great many of his contemporaries— risked his life decades ago in order to make it possible for you to sit in a quiet, well-appointed classroom and pass judgment and a factually misplaced judgment, at that.

2. I really cant, at this distance, make out what you and your peers may have been taught or not taught in your comfortable, academic Eden, but it appears that history, ancient and modern, is most decidedly not on your personal study plan. If more than anything can be learned in a ahem a real history class, not the thinly disguised Marxist polemic so in fashion at certain establishments, it would be the truth of the old adage that Peace is the dream of the wise, but wars are the history of men. And by men of course, I mean humankind as a whole, not the gender in particular. So sic the Womens Studies Department on me for not using the approved PC phrase du jour like I give a flying F**k anyway.

3. Since war is lamentably a certain constant, much as we might wish and hope and pray otherwise, warriors are also a constant. Let me break it to you gently, Ms Edwards, Ms Miller, the common experience of a lot of your fellow humans down the ages has been that of being hapless, inoffensive, hardworking and peace-and-quiet loving prey. Yes, my dear, sweet innocent student body senators, they wound up having their peaceful happy little agrarian communities or states smashed and ravaged, burnt and sacked, and themselves and their families murdered, raped and/or enslaved by every robber gang, army or larger, more un-socially aware human organization unless the community, state or kingdom which they happened to find themselves resident in had the ability and the will to prevent this from happening.

4. Yes, my dear innocent students, peace is not the natural happy state of humankind it is a rare and dear-bought commodity, purchased in blood for, and sometimes by the citizens of the state or city in which they lived. The first, and most original obligation owed by the free citizens of ancient Greece and Rome was their duty to defend their polis, their city, their community and their fellows and families with arms, as soldiers, according to their means. This, alas, was a necessary duty, for people who just want to live in peace and quiet, with their families, communities and livelihoods all secure. If you dont believe me on this, just check any of the recent news stories about Darfur. Just because you are not interested in war, does not mean that war is uninterested in you.

5. Of late, in this age of specialization, we have tended to farm the job of military defense of the polis out to those who are truly interested in doing it, and who have a natural skill. There are, and have always been people who do not mind going into danger, and in fact rather enjoy blowing stuff up. They are good at it, for the most part. Warriors, like war, and the poor, are always with us; wishing it werent so wont make it all go away. The whole purpose of a military, as I have written before, is to kill those designated as our enemies. Think of our warriors as another blogosphere essayist did, as they are our sheepdogs, protection against the wolves, the wolves that always threaten any community.

6. Yes, I can see why Colonel Gregory Pappy Boyington would not exactly be the beau ideal of your pretty little campus: he was crude and rude, an unrepentant killer; a rowdy, undisciplined and brawling menace; a drinker and alleged wife-beater, cheerfully willing to go to China as a mercenary… not exactly anyones notion of a model citizen. He lived fast and recklessly, and was probably the most surprised of all that he lived long enough to die within a breath of old age; No, Ms. Miller, he would not have been your sets cup of tea at all. Very probably in some vast imaginary late 20th century dictionary, there is a picture of him, next to the entry for Politically Incorrect.

7. And yet there you go; he had a certain set of skills; as a pilot, a leader, and a warrior. For whatever his reasons, he served, in China and in the Pacific. He and his ilk kept the wolf of the moment from the door of the peaceful, the harmless and the inoffensive, in such security that they could begin to think their shelter owed everything to their own honest good will, and not the blood and dedication of those who secured such for them at such cost. For all his faults, and in company with his peers, Pappy Boyington might have done more to protect the defenseless than all the college senates and interest groups ever convened.

8. Frankly, I am enjoying a mental image of a statue of Colonel Boyington coming to life and delivering a good old-fashioned and profane Marine Corps ass-chewing. Such might be a truly educational experience to a student body which, lamentably appears to be a collection of sheltered, spoiled, candy-ass yuppy puppies and one which seems to exist in ignorance of the means by which they can continue to be sheltered, spoiled, etc cetera.

Sincerely,
Sgt Mom.

(Link courtesy of The Belmont Club.. BTW, Cpl/Sgt. Blondie points out that most USMC Medal of Honor awards were made postumously)

I got the shock of my life this morning. An email from an old friend who was stationed with me at CCK AB in Taiwan. I have no idea how he found me, but it was a joy, and a pleasure to catch him up on the last 25 years. We worked together in the base MARS station. If you ever were overseas and talked by phone patch to home, you know what I mean. I was able to talk to my wife about every week due to my position. It made the tour much shorter! Some days are just jewels!

Blackfive has paratrooper porn.

Yeah I know…what can you do with people who think jumping out of airplanes is fun? Ya make ‘em Airborne.

Yeesh…

From Air Force Space Command News Service:

CAPE CANAVERAL AFS, Fla. What took years to build took seconds to knock down Aug. 6 when 171 pounds of strategically placed explosives were detonated, toppling the historic 179-foot mobile service tower at Launch Complex 13 here.

The 1,300-ton structure was used to launch Atlas/Agena space launch vehicles in the 1960s and 1970s. The most famous of those launches were five Lunar Orbiter missions for NASA in 1966 and 1967. Those missions photographed about 99 percent of the moons surface and helped pave the way to men landing on the moon in 1969.

The pictures are pretty cool, but it’s a little sad to see this. I’m sure it’s tough to have to maintain an unused launch tower, but this was a piece of history, one of the monuments to our nation’s continuing pioneer spirit.

Fortunately, the towers at Launch Complex 39 are a little bigger and would be harder to take down. :-)

I am again watching a cable show decrying the virtues of the F-104 Starfighter. But wait a minute… Weren’t it’s records for top speed, time-to-speed. and time-to-altitude, eclipsed first by the F-106 Delta Dart, and then the F-4 Phantom?