07. June 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, History, Literary Good Stuff

I scribbled the last words of Luna City #8 early Thursday afternoon. Left it all in suspense on the final page, as is usual with the Luna City series; resolve all the main story lines, wander down a few amusing byways as regards the (created) local history, explore the lives or experiences of characters, set up hints regarding the next installment, and then leave it all on a (temporary) cliff-hanger.
Yes, I’m evil that way. I want readers to buy the next installment, ‘kay? Just so they can find out what will happen next. Look, this has been the stratagem of story-tellers since the very art of story-telling began.

And then I set to work earnestly on the next … for which I had already scribbled two scene-and-character-setting chapters, and several pages of notes about mid-19th century female abolitionists, and ordinary women who took up the challenge of being battlefield nurses when the pustule of the peculiar institution burst in 1860-61 and plunged most of the somewhat united American states into a bitter and brutal war. They say that civil wars are the worst. It’s as if the hatred is all the more bitter when it’s not some alien and foreign invader burning crops, raping women, and stealing away the best, brightest and most noble of youthful manhood, along with the harvested crops: it’s all the more stinging when it’s kin and ex-friends doing all of the above. I guess that it is the aspect of personal betrayal that makes it all the worse.
It was all very complicated, you see. Human society, the interactions that we have with those of our kind most usually is more complicated that the political theorists and historians can comprehend. Just as a brief example – a recent bio of Audrey Hepburn revealed that her mother was quite the Hitler enthusiast … until the war began, Holland was occupied, and a near and dear relation was executed by the Nazis. So – serious reconsideration of sympathies, all the way around on the part of Mother-of-future-gamine-star.

Back to my original thought – the next book, set in the lead-up to, and during the Civil War, as seen through the eyes of a female abolitionist and later on, a volunteer nurse. Minnie Vining. She was briefly mentioned in Deep in the Heart, and at slightly more length in Sunset and Steel Rails, so that I must ret-conn her character and story-arc from those brief appearances and fill out such experiences which were hinted at in those books. Only daughter among four sons of a long-established and respectable Boston family, a family whose experiences in the American Revolution were also hinted at … and why am I writing all my family saga backwards? Starting from the 1830ies in Texas and filling it all in, backwards and forwards from that point? Eh … sounds like a personal problem.

So here it is – the next historical is a Civil War novel – a bit of a change in focus for me. Of the previous books, only one is set during that period, and that in the Texas Hill Country, where most key developments and events happened far offstage, and most main characters in it sincerely wished not to participate in the war effort in any way. The other books are set either before and on the frontier, or at some remove afterwards. This next one, with a working title of That Fateful Lightning goes straight into the weeds of the anti-slavery movement; how it came to be that the question of slavery roiled feelings throughout the decade before the war, and it how it came to be that partisans on both sides were more than willing to take up arms against kin, former friends, neighbors and total strangers.

I expect also to delve full into the eccentric operations of Civil War battlefield hospitals. I already have a tall stack of reminiscences by women who served in such hospitals, and in providing the necessary by organizing fund-raising bazars and extensive shipments of home comforts to men in the field. It may have been an almost natural thing for so many women to take up nursing at that time. In the days before antibiotics and notions of sterile bandages, women ordinarily spent a fair amount of time nursing the sick anyway; children, husbands, brothers and sisters. Taking up a temporary career as a war nurse was a natural extension. Organizing fresh bread, clean sheets, and tempting invalid meals on an industrial scale – must have been just another logical reach for someone already accustomed to doing so on a home-sized level. I have been mildly boggled to find out how the pre-war Army medical establishment, which was a tiny organization suitable to a tiny peacetime military, came to depend so heavily on the various local Sanitary Commission volunteers when it came to dealing with the huge numbers of casualties once the lead began to fly in earnest.
I honestly don’t know how long this will take me: maybe as early as the end of this year, perhaps into next year, say mid-2020. But in the meantime, enjoy the other historicals, the Lone Star Sons volumes, and of course – Luna City.

06. June 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, History

D-Day Troops Landing(A reprise post from a decade ago – a reflection on D-Day.)

So this is one of those historic dates that seems to be slipping faster and faster out of sight, receding into a past at such a rate that we who were born afterwards, or long afterwards, can just barely see. But it was such an enormous, monumental enterprise – so longed looked for, so carefully planned and involved so many soldiers, sailors and airmen – of course the memory would linger long afterwards.

Think of looking down from the air, at that great metal armada, spilling out from every harbor, every estuary along England’s coast. Think of the sound of marching footsteps in a thousand encampments, and the silence left as the men marched away, counted out by squad, company and battalion, think of those great parks of tanks and vehicles, slowly emptying out, loaded into the holds of ships and onto the open decks of LSTs. Think of the roar of a thousand airplane engines, the sound of it rattling the china on the shelf, of white contrails scratching straight furrows across the moonless sky.

Think of the planners and architects of this enormous undertaking, the briefers and the specialists in all sorts of arcane specialties, most of whom would never set foot on Gold, Juno, Sword, Omaha or Utah Beach. Many of those in the know would spend the last few days or hours before D-day in guarded lock-down, to preserve security. Think of them pacing up and down, looking out of windows or at blank walls, wondering if there might be one more thing they might have done, or considered, knowing that lives depended upon every tiny minutiae, hoping that they had accounted for everything possible.

Think of the people in country villages, and port towns, seeing the marching soldiers, the grey ships sliding away from quays and wharves, hearing the airplanes, with their wings boldly striped with black and white paint – and knowing that something was up – But only knowing for a certainty that those men, those ships and those planes were heading towards France, and also knowing just as surely that many of them would not return.

Think of the commanders, of Eisenhower and his subordinates, as the minutes ticked slowly down to H-Hour, considering all that was at stake, all the lives that they were putting into this grand effort, this gamble that Europe could be liberated through a force landing from the West. Think of all the diversions and practices, the secrecy and the responsibility, the burden of lives which they carried along with the rank on their shoulders. Eisenhower had in his pocket the draft of an announcement, just in case the invasion failed and he had to break off the grand enterprise; a soldier and commander hoping for the best, but already prepared for the worst.

Think on this day, and how the might of the Nazi Reich was cast down. June 6th was for Hitler the crack of doom, although he would not know for sure for many more months. After this day, his armies only advanced once – everywhere else and at every other time, they fell back upon a Reich in ruins. Think on this while there are still those alive who remember it at first hand.

05. June 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic
Well, it won't win me any followers on Instagram for my mad organizing skills - but now we can actually find what we were looking for...

Well, it won’t win me any followers on Instagram for my mad organizing skills – but now we can actually find what we were looking for…

With the garage nearly cleared out – at least as far as we can walk around in the place blind-folded and not injure ourselves through falling on or over something dangerous – the time came to tackle another messy chore.
The garage freezer. This was an item which – since I bought it in (gulp) the early 1990ies – has served heroically ever since. It’s an up-right; no, my parents’ first freezer was a chest-style, and was it ever a pain, getting down to the bottom of that item. Mom and Dad resorted to a system of stacked heavy-duty stacked plastic baskets, which was all very nice and efficient, except that you had to shift at least three or four of them if you were going on a deep snorkel for some wanted item. So, when I finished up in Northern Utah after twelve years overseas, I bought an upright freezer through the good offices of the BX and thought myself fortunate. When previously stationed stateside, the BX didn’t offer major appliances. Something about local furniture and appliance merchants in Sacramento screaming bloody murder at not being able to gouge military members for household items … eh. Old news. Anyway – I caught the food-preservation fever in Utah. Something about a place where fifty and a hundred-pound bags of sugar and flour are freely available at commercial outlets that are not Sams’ or Costco. Must be something in the water, I guess.
Anyway, we’ve been going systematic about frozen purchases, since I came into possession of a vacuum-sealer at a yard sale a few years ago and doing a brisk round at the end of the month for … foodstuff to last the whole month-long. We had a good system going … but it came time to defrost and clean out the garage freezer, since the layers of frost became insupportable. As in ‘couldn’t shove in another blessed thing not without a crowbar and ice-pick.’
I really hesitated about this project, since I knew (from the last time I had ventured this project) that it would a) make a mess from melted ice all over the garage, and b) put us through the trouble of taking out the not-inconsiderable quantities of frozen stuff IN the freezer, and keeping it safe and deeply frozen until time came to return it to the original resting place. On the up-side, we would really be able to inventory and re-sort the collected deep-frozen items. Yes, dear readers – we took the plunge, although the Daughter Unit had to run out and purchase an additional Styrofoam cooler and a couple of insulated bags at the nearest available HEB once it became clear that the contents of the freezer would overwhelm the current collection of coolers and insulated bags.
The melted ice-water did run a good way into the garage, and we were put to the effort of mopping it up… totes expected. But a good way into this process, I realized that one of the large plastic storage tubs was THE EXACT SIZE TO FIT INTO THE BOTTOM OF THE FREEZER!!!ELEVENTY!!! Where it could collect the ice-melt without any fuss and overflow into the garage. Gee … wish I could have noted that earlier in this project. Noted for the next time, though.
So – that expedient is on the schedule for the next time we perform this exercise. The last big chunk of frost, adhering to the top inside of the freezer unit came away allofasudden in mid-afternoon, about two hours before I had expected it to melt and fall away into the commodious waiting bin.
But all to the good. We could turn the freezer on again, and show everything away … a small thing, in my schedule of household upgrades … but a decidedly needful one.
And yeah – the storage bin as a catchment for the ice, the next time we defrost. SO noted.

31. May 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Media Matters Not

So, I’ve been following, in a desultory fashion, the kerfuffle over various movie projects suddenly discovering that filming in a state where the local voters and their legislature prefer putting limits on the availability of abortion is … OMG! The Handmaids’ Tale is upon us! Flee, Flee for your lives, those TV series and movies choosing to shoot in lower-cost states than California (where about every scenic local has been seen in the background many a time. It was, once a upon a time, my private amusement, in spotting familiar locations in and around Los Angeles appearing in popular TV series.) Geeze, it’s almost as if among the Hollywood glitterati the need for abortion services occurs at least once a month and twice on Sundays. Given the various reports of disgusting rapey-sexual conduct among producers and directors (mostly male) perpetuated upon (mostly but not exclusively) female performers, perhaps on-command abortion services might be required at that. Funny old thing that – these are the same producers and organizations who have no problem filming in foreign countries with even stricter limits on abortion. More »

26. May 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Literary Good Stuff

Some years ago, when the world was young and all, Oh Best Beloved, the proprietor of a generalist blog (Blogger News Network) that I contributed content for, and who also paid me by the word for occasional professional content, came up with a means for his stable of contributors to score free books and movies. Seriously, that’s how it all started; and how could one say no to free books and movies, seeing how much new movie DVDs and hardcover books cost? He worked up an agreement with publicity firm which would provide review copies of movies … and we would do reviews for Blogger News Network. At a slightly later date, I began doing this for a couple of different on-line enterprises; book reviews mostly. Before Barnes & Noble, and Amazon evolved to the point of getting positively twitchy about duplicate reviews, we were also in the habit of posting slightly edited versions of our reviews on those sites. Later, B&N and Amazon came to frown on this practice, and I stopped doing it – for a reason which will soon become clear.

It came about, Oh Best Beloved, that one day in 2011 after I had been doing this for a couple of years (for the free book and movie swag, mostly) I received an email from something called the Amazon Vine, noting that I had apparently received a boatload of helpful up-votes on my reviews, and that was sufficient by their somewhat mysterious metrics to be invited to become a Vine Reviewer. Well, it sounded interesting, and possibly remunerative, and why not? The publicity company providing movie DVDs hadn’t offered anything interesting in simply ages – I think show business in general was going through a bad patch – and the book review places were going through a similar dry period. So, I accepted the invitation, outlined my preferences: for books, mostly, computer and office supplies, and stuff for the house and garden, sometimes gourmet food items. I still have no idea of why Amazon offered me this interesting little sideline gig, by the way – other than the boatload of helpful votes on the earlier reviews.

Over the next couple of years, I scored the occasional interesting book, a cover for the Kindle reader, a surge protector, a battery-operated motion-sensing flood-light for the back yard … nice, but nothing really to go bananas over. If there was a high-value item in my Vine queue, it was usually gone by the time I asked for it. For the first few years it continued that way. I did consider myself outstandingly fortunate to get a rather nice 17-inch laptop computer, and a couple of months later, a Canon Maxify printer. That was about a good as it got for me, being a Vine Voice. It seems though, about eighteen months ago, that the powers that be at Amazon rejiggered the Vine algorithms again. Since then, it’s been a veritable flood of household and home renovation items. A couple of interior light fixtures, an outdoor light fixture, a couple of ceiling fans, a very nice Moen kitchen faucet, an Amazon-brand bathroom sink faucet, a beveled-edge mirror, along with a number of kitchen appliances … the mirror, the bathroom faucet and one of the light fixtures were set aside and installed as part of the master bath renovation. The biggest of the ceiling fans went into the living room, and my daughter and I installed the exterior light fixture ourselves. (Not for nothing was the Daughter Unit a USMC field wireman.) The other features are set aside for the kitchen renovation in a couple of years. I am not totally mercenary about this – I only ask for the items that we can really, genuinely use – but looking around the house lately, anyone knowing where some of the features came from could be forgiven for thinking that it’s the House that Amazon Built.

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?

17. May 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Media Matters Not

How the mighty are fallen from earlier glory: in the 1990ies, CNN was the scrappy, creative underdog in the TV news business. No name anchors and reporters, bare-bones no-frills sets, go anywhere, cover anything reporters and camera crews. In the first Gulf War, they were Johnny-on-the spot and the news source to watch for war developments, if my memory serves. And now, some knowledgeable commenters and bloggers wonder openly if the only reason that CNN’s viewership isn’t crashing more steeply than has been reported is because of the channels’ ubiquity at airports and other public venues. Once upon a golden time, it seemed only logical for the owners/managers of airports and the like to have contracts with CNN, and no one objected much because it was CNN, a responsible and political neutral source of news. More »

12. May 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

This is something that has been developing over the last … decade or so. Maybe a bit longer, since when the Daughter Unit came home from the Marines with all her worldly possessions and parked most of them in the garage. A garage into which a lot of domestic detritus had flowed in addition, starting with some excess furniture, held against the day when the Daughter Unit ever had her own establishment, the camping gear from when we did indeed camp … and a number of boxes of stuff which may not even have been properly unpacked from when I bought the house in the spring of 1995 and a grateful USAF-hired subcontractor in the moving profession parked them within. My final delivery of PCS delivery of household goods, after eight moves over twenty years. I ought to take pictures of the boxes, as they are unearthed. (This is not anywhere near a record in the military world. I managed to remain at one place for six years, practically a lifetime homesteading, as these things go.) To all this was added various gleanings by myself and the Daughter Unit – but I swear, until about a decade ago, we could – with a bit of a squeeze – get two cars into the garage.
Until the garage door crapped out, and I could not afford to have it replaced at that time. And then … well, Fibber McGee’s closet had nothing on the garage. It was to the point where stuff was just lost within. A kind of domestic storage black hole, although if we opened the door from the hallway into it, there was nothing like the noisy, prolonged cavalcade of stuff falling. It was at a point where there was barely a path from the door to the freezer, and that was when the hot-water heater gave up the ghost last year. I still think that the hot-water heater should have been retained in a utility-plumbing museum someplace, for it was proved by the plumbers who replaced it, to have been the original install to the house, and had faithfully provided hot water for thirty years, when it rightfully could have been forgiven for collapsing after ten or so.
Anyway, in that grand final collapse, the hot-water heater flooded the near regions of the garage, and I lugged out several trashcan-loads of ruined and moldy stuff over the days that followed – mostly those shoes and clothes in which my daughter was no longer interested in. When the Daughter Unit returned from California this spring – we agreed to sort out the garage, now that the door and automatic lifting mechanism was on my schedule to be replaced. We have now been working on that project since Monday. Much has to be sorted, and inevitably, much of it consigned to the trash, or to the local Goodwill outlet, although we did make a side trip yesterday to a local recycling enterprise with the back of the Montero loaded with what could be construed as metal or technological scrap with a metal component. Based on our last visit there, the Daughter Unit suggested an over-under. She placed a bet on over $15, but I went for under $10. We got a whole $1.50 for the trouble.
Goodwill, though – any more trips to the nearest Donation Station, we will be on a first-name basis with the unloading-assistance people. Clothes – mostly hers, outgrown, unneeded. The futon mattress, hopefully to be reunited with the frame, which went to Goodwill last month. (Yes, it took that long to wade through the detritus in the garage to get to it.) Extraneous appliances – how on earth did we finish up with two or three coffee makers when only one of us drinks coffee? The old yoghurt-maker, from when I was a newly-minted sergeant with a toddler, living in Mather AFB enlisted housing, on a shoe-string budget, when my biggest monthly bill be for the day-care center, and I cut corners in all kinds of ways, including brewing yoghurt from milk and a couple of dollops of the previous batch. An extraneous blender, a couple of framed pictures which once ornamented the Daughter Unit’s room … and a whole raft-load of old magazines. I had subscriptions to Gourmet, the Smithsonian, and a selection of others; most of them I passed on to other readers (my next-door neighbor in Athens, Kyria Penny adored reading my old Atlantic and Harpers issues), or disposed of, once read, but like back issues of the National Geographic – those magazines accumulated. And accumulated. And accumulated. Well – nice, readable, interesting magazines, and once one has paid for them … well, anyway, it was time to do a clean sweep. I never once went out to the garage to look up back issues and keeping them seemed distinctly hoarderish to me. So – out they have gone, piled up in garbage bags next to the recycle bin.
We did a culling of the boxes of books out there, as well, as well as some stuff that once I was sentimental about – like the framed posters I had on the walls of my barracks room, an age ago. A handful of books are reprieved, the rest packed into bags and wished on the good people of Goodwill, and the posters are for the chop. Yesterday, we emptied and demolished a pair of cheap utility shelves – one from Spain, where it used to hold the kitchen things, the other inherited from Dave, the Computer Guy. Gone, waiting for trash collection, their contents culled, repacked and re-shelved if we decided to keep. Today – emptied and moved the two shelves that we will be keeping, and re-shelved stuff. The bags full of trash await collection. Next week, we’ll call on Neighborhood Handy Guy and his pick-up truck, to help us ferry a couple of box springs and mattresses (one of the box springs is unused!) and the bicycles – the old three-speed that I took to Korea for the year to serve as my basic transport, and the kid’s bicycle that the Daughter Unit had in Spain. Sentiment is all very well, but these bikes were ordinary, nothing otherwise special – and we need the space in the garage.
My ambition, actually – is to be able to walk across the garage with my eyes closed, and not trip over anything. The purpose for all this is so that we can get the garage door replaced, and be able to park at least one of the cars inside, by the time that I finish paying Neighborhood Handy Guy for the bathroom renovation.

Last weekend, I was at the local HEB … the nice new one on Bulverde Road and 1604, the one newly-built and opened last spring to serve a rapidly expanding population along that crossroads. When I bought the home that I live in now and probably forever, there was nothing much out that way but a gas station and a large plant nursery. Now – all kinds of commercial enterprises. We like that particular HEB, by the way. It’s a longer drive to get to, then the one nearer the neighborhood, which we term “the podunk HEB.” One is better for a slightly more upscale and very much wider collection of groceries and household stuff, the other is more convenient, just around the corner, and where we are more likely to encounter neighbors.
At any rate, I was in the check-out line; an early Sunday afternoon, with all my purchases laid out on the belt, and a very much younger woman with a toddler in the seat of her cart, and a pretty full basket of comestibles in the basket, next in line after me. The toddler; a boy, about a year old, and with a short haircut of his dark hair. She was about mid-twenties and Hispanic, with purple-dyed hair. She reached up to the top row of the rack where impulse purchases are arrayed, books and magazines mostly, in a last attempt to get shoppers to make that one last purchase and picked out a small book. She laid it down on the belt, and said to me,
“I can’t resist books.”
More »

I was ruminating all this week, after last week’s post on the practice of ‘othering’ and how common it seems of late that that white people (that is, those of us who are on the paler end of the skin-color spectrum and whose ancestors originated somewhere north of the Mediterranean and west of the Urals) are the piñata of choice among a wide swath of lefty academics, and certain media and political personalities. Last week it was the lefty librarian blogger getting her pantyhose in a twist about all those books by white people in academic libraries, this week it’s students at an Oakland HS (of course – Oakland/SF) demanding that murals of George Washington be painted over, a couple of months ago it was a rather nasty bigot named Sarah Jeong landing a cushy gig at the so-called newspaper of record, in spite of a series of tweets that would have seen any writer of pallor and masculinity reduced to waiting tables and driving for Uber. And now it appears that such concepts as a rule of law, assumption of innocence, conventional good manners and even timeliness are now held to be proof of the iniquity of whiteness. Why should this be so, and why now? More »

Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings. – Heinrich Heine

This last week there was a mild kerfuffle in the world of those bloggers who love and often write books, and who also love history. This was caused by a marginally-literate screed published on a personal blog by one Sofia Leung, who professes to be a feminist and a librarian of the totally-woke/social-justice/critical-race-theory variety. Said screed was amplified in the twitter feed of the Library Journal, until the tweet was deleted, (possibly at the urging of someone with a lick of sense and professionalism). I suspect that the Library Journal is a publication which was once much more respected and authoritative; like Time, Newsweek, Scientific American, Harper’s, Smithsonian and National Geographic once were, before being overtaken in a flood of semi-coherent woke/social-justice/critical-race-theory nonsense. Quoth Ms. Leung –

“Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they are physically taking up space in our libraries. They are paid for using money that was usually ill-gotten…”

I swear, those two sentences alone encompass ignorance of such pure, stainless density as to drop into the center of the earth and emerge on the other side. (A close rival this week, is the Twitter feed of a painfully ignorant SJW who insisted that white people shouldn’t be permitted to learn Spanish because it wasn’t properly a ‘white’ language.*) However, the phrase which raises the hair on the back of the neck of any historically-knowledgeable of whatever color or shade of whiteness is her complaint that such materiel – presumably papers, publications and books which reflect that so-called “whiteness” “… are physically taking up space in our libraries.”

Taking up space in our libraries. Reflect on that for a moment. Our libraries. Taking a rather royally-possessive attitude, here, aren’t we, Ms. Leung? Considering that these tenuously United States are still inhabited largely by citizens whose national origins were somewhere north of the Mediterranean, and west of the Ural Mountains and thus are to be ‘white’ by the standards of this current century. (The definition of ‘white’ is curiously elastic; depending on the point to be proven. Americans of Oriental descent, and those whose origins are in South America are frequently also lumped into the ‘white’ category, for purposes of allocating places at prestigious universities or for inflating/deflating categories of certain crimes with regard to the ethnic background of the convicted.) Are we not supposed to be educated and diverted by volumes of whatever – poetry, history, philosophy, drama – in our own tradition? What is it that you are proposing to do with that which you so magisterially disapprove of, Ms. Leung? Remove it, as something unclean? Perhaps you have an auto-da-fe of books in mind, if you have thought that far ahead, when you consider a condemnation of stuff physically taking up space in libraries?

Additionally, I am also fairly certain that – depending on the nature of the library in question – that many of those institutions so casually dismissed by Ms. Leung contain extensive collections of material in the original language or in authoritative translation from the ancient world, from India and the Orient. Indeed, wherever there was a written language, there must be material, both original and informed commentary – from a direct source which in now ways could be considered ‘white’ and layers and layers of comment which perhaps might be …

In any case, Ms. Leung is considered by me to be a disgrace to her profession – a dangerous and bigoted one, with delusions of adequacy far beyond her intelligence, as it is displayed in her blog post. Is this expressed wish of hers – to cleanse “our” libraries of the dreaded taint of “whiteness” a kind of harbinger when it comes to fashion among the woke set? How seriously should we take it? Are we – us ‘normies’ and flyover citizens – now past the second or third marker on the road to be erased, in having our history, what we value intellectually being thrown down the memory hole?

Discuss as you wish.

*Can’t find the link for this – but I know I saw it.

After reading a couple of favorable reviews of The Highwaymen at blogs that I am usually given to trust, I took a flyer on watching the movie – streaming video, of course, on my home computer. I can count the number of movies that I have made a deliberate effort to see in a theater over the last couple of years on the fingers of one hand and … well, wow. Just wow. Kevin Costner isn’t any Kenneth Branagh, or even a John Wayne – but he can act, especially given an intelligent and nuanced script, spare and understated direction, and production values not dependent on flashy special effects. Woody Harrelson may personally be nuttier than squirrel poop – but he also can act. Like Jimmy Stewart did before them – they are better and more interesting playing older, more grizzled characters then they were as smooth-faced young studs. So – The Highwaymen is a retelling of the hunt for and final ambush of gangsters Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, glamorized beyond practically all recognition in the 1968 movie.

There were a good few roving criminal gangs in the 1920ies and 30ies, enabled by the ubiquity of motor cars, resentments of banks in a time of Depression and hardship, and a national media inclined – as they have been practically forever – to make popular folk heroes out of ordinary criminals. The Highwaymen, instead of glorifying a pair of vicious and possibly psychotic losers (who hardly appear at all, save at a distance), follows the two former Texas Rangers, Frank Hamer and Maney Gault on a long and dusty road trip – down empty country roads, through migrant camps and small towns in the Depression-era middle America: a buddy-cop and road-trip movie. Touchingly, the two of them are not quite sure they are up to it. In real life, Hamer and Gault were in their fifties at the time they were tagged to hunt the Barrow gang, survivors of hard and violent times; the old ‘Wild West’ lingered in Texas well into the 20th century. There is some small humor made from the fact that two-way police radios and phone-tapping were a new concept in law enforcement for a pair of guys who first made their bones in the horseback-and-Winchester-rifle days.

What I appreciated most, though – was how flawlessly the scenery where The Highwaymen was filmed backed up the story – yes, that was genuinely Texas; piney woods and dusty plains, with the sky arching overhead. The lonely little gas stations, the streets of Dallas where the Barrows and the Parkers lived, grimy interiors of roadhouses and coffee shops, the migrant camps and tourist cabins – all perfect, right down to the signage and light fixtures. (This was nothing like that horrible Texas Rising mini-series – filmed entirely in Durango, Mexico, in which the concept of scenic authenticity was flung down and danced upon.) The final ambush of Barrow and Parker was actually filmed at the spot where it happened, which must have creeped out the film crew and actors considerably.

All and all – a good two hours spent with interesting people: Hamer had a long and eventful history in law enforcement, which rightfully should be good for another half a dozen movies. In 1939, for instance, he and 49 other retired Texas Rangers offered their services to King George VI, to protect England against the Nazis. (A local Llano author, Elisabeth G. Wolf worked this into a supernatural alt-history fantasy.) Hamer’s wife, Gladys Johnson Sims (seen briefly in the opening scenes of The Highwaymen) should have her own movie, at that: she was at the center of the last great Texas family feud in which the principals personally took up weapons. This feud was kicked into high gear when she shot her ex-husband as he tried to force the issue of custodial visitation with their young daughters. In the town square of Snyder, Texas. In front of witnesses.

Finally, the high quality of The Highwaymen, in acting and directing talent and production values, is additional proof that cinematic creativity has moved on to new venues. Generators with a ready audience – Amazon, Netflix and the like – are creating original, interesting content. Far more interesting content than what’s nommed for the Academy Awards this year; discuss as you wish.

So it seems that race-hate faker Jussie Smolett walks away, free and clear. As a three-way protected person – being of color, gay and a C-list celebrity – and one with apparently plenty of pull among the Chicago political overclass, this probably should have been expected. Race-hate fakers generally seem to get away with the proverbial slap on the wrist and a stern warning not to do it again, once the initial outcry dies down and investigators have done a belated job in proving the initial outrage to have been faked. The same-old, same-old for Lil’ Jussie is about par, in the mind of cynics like myself.

But the sheer, brazen ineptitude of his manufactured drama, the unlikelihood of a pair of MAGA-hat-wearing white men out with a noose and a jug of bleach in the middle of one of the coldest winter nights of the year, randomly pouncing on a C-list celeb in the cast of a show of which most of us had never heard … no, just no. As it eventually turned out after extensive investigation by the CPD (during which serious crime continued to crest in a tidal wave, and the supposed victim made the media rounds loudly trumpeting his alleged victimhood) Lil’ Jussie was proved to have bungled six ways from Sunday in hiring a pair of Nigerian body-building brothers to do the deed that he couldn’t get any MAGA-hat wearing white guys to do and paying them with a personal check. This is Three Stooges – Lucy Ricardo – Homer Simpson level of plotting … and as of this week, the right words were whispered in the right ear. Lil Jussie skates; free as a bird, guilty as sin, adorned with an unbecoming smirk, the kind of smirk worn by the grade-school sneak when he has managed to get another kid punished for his own misdeeds.
Not for the first time since I’ve been a blogger – I must agree with Roger Simon; Jussie Smollet is a new O.J. Simpson.

“.. another man getting away with a crime he committed in full public view. That didn’t work out very well for The Juice. In fact, he’s a pariah for life. And it won’t for Smollett either. He will be a despised person for the rest of his days and a symbol of unequal justice. He might as well have gone to jail, served the time, and been forgiven.”

By the grace of our legal system O.J. Simpson – a far more well-known celebrity than Lil Jussie — was found innocent in criminal court of the brutal slaughter of his ex-wife and a restaurant worker who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. O.J.’s good fortune for that, but practically the last time in twenty-five years that anything good happened with regard to his post-sports career as a movie actor, commercial pitchman and all-around celebrity. He was dropped like a hot rock from just about every generously recompensed job as a commercial ‘face’, and I still cringe whenever he appears in a Naked Gun movie. O.J. has a half-life. Jussie may be riding high at this moment – but I think he will have she same kind of half-life, wearing out an existence in the shadows of notoriety as a pariah. Jussie Smollet didn’t murder an ex-spouse and a hapless waiter, but he did break one of the great commandments. He bore false witness against his metaphorical neighbors, deliberately, with malice, and for his own personal aggrandizement – that of getting a pay raise, and perhaps more media visibility. This kind of calumny is not easily overlooked or forgiven. Discuss as you wish.

So, as of this last week, as per the sparkly new members of the House, the Democrat Party line is now one of unapologetic and hard-line anti-Semitism. Not that this should surprise anyone with a grounding in history: in the 19th century, the Democrat Party was the party of slavery and secession, in the 20th, the party of segregation and Jim Crow. And now, in this faintly-tarnished 21st, they appear to have become the party of socialism, anti-Semitism, and the fanatical belief that OMG-The-Planet-Earth-Is-Gonna-Fry!
The Horrendous Climate Change thing is bad enough on its’ own. Look, I have been paying attention long enough to remember when Massive Global Cooling was all the Panic du jour, then followed by the Massive Global Warming – all this human and/or industrial caused. I am so not falling for the scam of the successor to this panic – that of Massive Global Climate Change!!Eleventy!! It was warm enough in Roman times to grow wine grapes in England, warm enough in Medieval times for subsistence farming in Greenland, cold enough in the 17th centuries that the Thames froze over at London, enabling midwinter jollities to be held on the ice. The monumental Cliff Dweller settlements in the American Southwest flowered and flourished until the thirteenth century, when widespread drought and subsequent unrest drove the Anazazi from their aeries among the cliffs. The volcanic explosion of Mt. Tambora in 1815 in the East Indies brought about the following “year with no summer” in the northern European continent and the eastern US – all this when industry was in infancy and automobiles a dream in the mind of whatever madman was doing science fiction at the time… so, not buying anthropomorphic global warming or the Green New Deal for a hot second.

But that kerfuffle is a small thing, next to the revival of anti-Semitism, now apparently a key Dem party feature, with the new kids on the block – Ilhan Omar, Cory Booker, AOC and others apparently having no problem with publicly, unapologetically expressing sentiments regarding Jews that wouldn’t have been out of place in a publication like Der Stűrmer. Anti-Semitism in the United States was, I always thought, not nearly as virulent a feature in the social landscape as in, say, Imperial Russia (with frequent vicious pogroms and generation of the ever-green Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery) or in Belle Epoque France, with the Dryfus affair. Certainly, anti-Semitism existed in the US, but in a paler, social-snobbery kind of way. One has the impression, in surveying a wide selection of contemporary 19th century American readings, that generally American intellectuals and thought leaders knew of anti-Semitism, but didn’t really feel anything about it, one way or the other. Growing up in Southern California in the 1950s and 60ies, anti-Semitism was even farther off the table: it was tacky, ignorant and completely unacceptable. Besides, our family had friends – some of them very dear friends – whose’ lives had been impacted by the Holocaust. It was an uncomplicated path between Jew-hate and loading your fellow-citizens into box-cars for that one-way trip; this, everyone seemed to know and understand … then.
But not now, apparently. The same old Jew-hate staggers back to horrid zombie-life among people who ought to know better, but don’t. And why? The necessity for having a scapegoat for personal and societal failure, I assume. Catastrophic failure in socialist regimes (see Venezuela, the latest example), the sink-hole of dysfunction in the inner-city urban black community, and the slow-rolling disasters that are countries ruled by strict Islamic principles (Pakistan and Somalia immediately come to mind) simply must be the fault of other forces or agencies. Someone or something else must be to blame when it all comes crashing down, as socialists have only the best intentions, the urban black communities are wholly innocent, and Islam is perfect. So the ancient hatred of the successful by the un- shambles forth, once again. Your thoughts?

05. March 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Media Matters Not

It seems that Ruling Class lackey and unfunny comedian Bill Mahler has unburdened himself of a particularly snide monologue this week just past, outlining what he sees as the difference between the residents of blue and red states – to the denigration of the red states, of course. This monologue was delivered to applause and laughter at every line – especially the one about the Blues (AKA – Our Kind, Darling!) having Wolfgang Puck and those lamentable, deplorable Reds only having Chef Boyardee, har, har, har! (We have Paula Deen, the Pioneer Woman, and Guy Fieri … and anyway, isn’t Wolfgang Puck so 80ies? He was a laugh line in Northern Exposure sub-plot involving Adam the anti-social master chef for petes’ sake.) There was also another laugh line, about how we all in flyover country were living in a state of frustrated envy, because the Blues are the British Royal Family, and the Red Staters are Megan Markle’s dad. More »

27. February 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Good Stuff, Luna

What Do They Drive?

One of those things that I have practically had to make a chart for, when writing about Luna City – is keeping track of the vehicles which the various characters drive; they are mentioned now and again, and over seven (and this year to be eight books) I have to try and be consistent. Car ownership – make, model, style, color and condition – say something about the personality of the driver/owner. Herewith the run-down; as near to complete a listing of those motor vehicles (not necessarily automobiles or trucks) which I have noted in passing:
Berto Gonzalez: he routinely drives an assortment of luxury town cars and limousines as part of being employed by his Uncle Tony, who owns a car-hire service catering to the up-scale market. Berto also routinely drives a rather down-at-heels pickup truck owned by his father; a vehicle with a cracked vinyl seat patched with duct tape. He does not yet own his own personal vehicle, as he has no real need to do so.
Jess Abernathy-Vaughn: a bare-bones yellow Jeep Wrangler.
Joe Vaughn: ordinarily behind the wheel of the Luna City PD’s one cruiser, or one of the department’s sport-utility vehicles. His personal vehicle is a pickup truck, model unspecified, but of solid quality and well-maintained. Joe is fastidious, that way.
Doc Wyler: a very recent model Ford F-150 King Ranch model pickup, with the cattle-brand designed logo of the Wyler Ranch on the doors, and all the add-on bells and whistles. Doc is a man accustomed to the best and has the means to acquire and maintain such.
Sefton and Judy Grant: The Grants operate – and barely manage to keep it street-legal in the eyes of the Karnes County motor vehicle licensing authorities – a vehicle pieced together from an old Volkswagon bus, with a pickup-truck bed welded to the back half of the chassis, behind the driver and passenger seats. The sides of the truck bed and the doors to the driver/passenger compartment are spray-painted with flowers, peace signs and vintage hippie mottoes, in between the rust.
Miss Letty McAllister: she does not drive.
Richard Astor-Hall: he does not drive, either.
Chris Mayall: a recent model Mitsubishi hatch-back; bright red in color. Chris, like Joe, is fastidious about vehicle maintenance, and is still annoyed at the bill for bodywork incurred when he collided with a deer – even though the Gonzalez Motor and Auto Body shop gave him the friends-and-family rate. Chris blames the deer for reckless grazing.

Harry Vaughn: his personal transport – other than the RV which he drove down from Alaska several seasons ago – is a vintage ’66 Lincoln Continental convertible, candy-apple red and in pristine condition. Harry Vaughn is considerable of a chick magnet among the older generation in Luna City. He also has a fifteen-foot aluminum boat with an erratically-functioning outboard motor.
Romeo Gonzales: Romeo, the oil-field worker turned top male model, arrived in Luna City at the wheel of an extended-cab pick-up truck, make and model unspecified, slightly battered but in good condition mechanically. Like many of the Gonzales and Gonzalezes, Romeo is an excellent shade-tree mechanic.
Susanna Wyatt-Gonzales: As a senior executive (now on hiatus from VPI) Susanna, like Doc Wyler, makes enough to indulge in the very best. In her case a late-model, velvet-black Mercedes sedan with custom pink leather interior.
Roman Gonzalez: Another extended-cab pickup truck, of course. Not ostentatiously new, but slightly battered from use, and usually slightly dirty, with a rack carrying several ladders, a big toolbox, and whatever else is required at the job site of the day.
Hernando “Nando” Gonzalez: It’s been almost three decades, but the legend of Nando Gonzalez lives on, in the ritual sounding of the air raid siren every November 1st at 11 AM. Nando drove a an immense, boat-like late 60’s Cadillac into town every day for lunch at the Café – a car which increasingly suffered glancing collisions with curbs, telephone poles, fire hydrants, trash cans, the oak tree at Oak Street and West Town Square, the ornamental bollards in front of the Café itself, and other automobiles – until the then-police chief began sounding the siren in warning.
Xavier Gunnison Penn: An older RV, not in especially good condition, with Gunnison Penn’s treasure-hunting logo and picture emblazoned on the sides.
Luc Massie: Drummer for the band OPM and assistant chef at the café. Luc operates a small red Vespa motorbike.
The Walcott family has several vehicles: Clovis and Sook usually drive a late-model sport utility vehicle, black and with all kinds of automotive bling. They maintain an old Volvo sedan for the use of their teenage children to drive.
Did I miss anyone? Let me know.

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 »

Watching this weeks’ major media meltdown regarding Governor Northam and a college buddy having dressed in blackface and as a KKK member for I presume some kind of masquerade party is as entertaining as it is baffling. I was in elementary and middle school during the high points of the civil rights/desegregation campaign – by the time I was an adult, half a dozen years ahead of Governor Northam – civil rights for citizens of whatever color was a done deal. It was all, we thought, done and dusted. Membership in the Klan was an unsavory, disreputable thing. I ought to mention that I grew up in blue-collar California, and if there had ever been a substantial KKK presence there, it managed to escape my notice and the notice of my parents. Things must have been way different in the south-eastern US in the 1980s, I guess.
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I see that the fallout from Covington is still falling – well, admittedly not on the front pages of the Establishment National Media (the ENM for short) – but I hear the echoes quite clearly still, especially among those of a conservative or libertarian inclination. Oh, not the encounter itself; it was still bleedingly obvious to most of us within days that the Covington Catholic schoolboys held up rather well in the face of blatantly racial and relentless barracking on the part of the Black Israelite nutters, and harassment by a drum-pounding professional “activist” whose account of the whole shenanigans afterwards bore only the most coincidental resemblance to those facts easily verified from the numberless videos available. That no one in the Establishment National Media has the least particle of interest in outing the Black Israelite nutters by name and number, or of asking Chief Reefer Ranger to account for the discrepancies in his own personal narrative would lead one to conclude that representatives of the ENM have forsaken impartiality in favor of the “narrative” which posits that MAGA-hat wearing, white, religiously-observant residents of Flyoverlandia are wicked, evil, non-persons, and Persons of Color/Minority – no matter what their conduct and words may be – are blameless and above all criticism.

This bias on the part of the media has been demonstrated so blatantly in this matter arrives on top of a whole range of instances when the ENM fluffed over a great log in the eye of those persons and parties which they held in esteem and had non-stop vapors over the tiniest speck in the eye of those they did not. By this means, one may watch the credibility of the ENM shrivels down at the same rate as their revenues. One may also observe the pink-slipping of reporters and contributors to various print and on-line publications with a degree of schadenfreude and listen with a cold heart to the lamentations of their genders-of-indetermination. Indeed, I have taken a degree of mean-minded satisfaction over these soyboys and girls throwing hissy fits on Twitter over being advised to ‘learn to code’; proof absolute that – like many a middle-school bully – they could dish it out but couldn’t take it without running in tears to teacher. Twitter has joined into the biased fun, too; making it screamingly obvious that they will turn a blind eye towards bad behavior on the part of lefty celebs and activists, but exercise great severity over the smallest transgression by someone perceived as conservative-leaning. Writing off better than half the country – even if they aren’t on Twitter or care to Twit anyway – as irredeemable deplorables, racists, and beneath the contempt does not seem like a sensible position for anyone in the current affairs business. I am assuming that Twitter as an enterprise has some kind of business plan, opaque as it may seem.

As of now it seems that there is another supposed MAGA-related atrocity being exploited by the ENM: an actor of mild color, (of whom I had never heard), in the cast of a TV series (which I had barely heard of and never watched or have any intention of watching) claims to have been assaulted by MAGA-hat wearing racists on the city streets of Chicago. At two in the morning (a time where nothing good really happens), on one of the coldest days in local history. I rather expect that since the local police have not been able to confirm much of anything, and since Jussie Wossname’s story has changed nearly as much as Chief Reefer Rangers’ that this alleged hate crime will dissolve as fast as the Covington Catholic one did, in all but the minds of true believers in MAGA wickedness and racism.

Whether an accusation of race-hate-crime has any credibility at all is not the concern of the Establishment National Media; it is only sufficient that the accusation be made. That an accusation can be made against the designated target for a distributed campaign of hate spearheaded by the ENM, even if such an accusation is made of whole cloth, is the only thing that matters any more. Your thoughts?

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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17. January 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

Honestly, I just meant to get a screwdriver from the toolbox in the garage, and go about my soon-to-be-renovated bathroom, taking down the glass shelf, the towel hook and the little glass vases in nickel-finished holders – all the hardware that I am going to reuse because I liked it very much, and they were pretty expensive when I first purchased them from Crate and Barrel when I did some superficial redecorating of the master bathroom shortly after moving in.

But I found the putty knife when I was going through the toolbox (which I will need to scrape that disgusting popcorn texture off the ceiling) and the big hammer … I am going to be using all of them in the next few days anyway. Yes, I walked into the bathroom with the hammer and began bashing away at the tile surround, just to see how difficult it would be. What with one thing and another, about a third of the nasty stuff is removed. This is featureless white contractor-grade tile of no particular merit, with the grout between permanently grotty and incapable of ever being thoroughly clean … well, I just got carried away, mostly with how much I hate that nasty cheap bathtub and shower surround in the master bathroom. It turns out that although water had seeped through the tile surround at the angles, and where it joined the top of the bathtub – there was not as much catastrophic rot and water-damage as I had feared. Although the drywall immediately underneath is so decayed that it crumbles like chalk, and I can pull it away with my bare hands. Here I thought that the drywall underlay for tile in bathrooms and all – was supposed to be the extra-heavy moisture-resistant stuff with the green paper coating. This wasn’t. It was the ordinary stuff, and moisture had gotten into it. No wonder I couldn’t keep the crud at bay in the grout. This is not the first structural omission I have found in my house, but at least this one will be remedied soon.

The first shipment of the replacement tile for the shower enclosure arrived yesterday – which is what brought all this on. I ordered it from Wayfair, because I liked the looks, and it was on special-reduced sale at an acceptable $2-3 per square foot – a traditionalish pattern in what looked like pale blue on a cream background and would suit the new walk-in shower enclosure. The UPS delivery guy is going to get an extra-special large box of fudge next Christmas, because the boxes with the tile are darned heavy – and little doeth he know that there will be two more boxes next week, as well as the new vanity – which I also ordered off Wayfair, because it also came up on sale; exactly what I wanted for an early 20th century and country look – wainscoting halfway up the walls, anaglypta wallpaper on the ceiling and dressing-room walls, hexagonal white tile on the floor, archaic-appearing faucets and fixtures.

First thing today, I took one of the bathroom tiles down to Lowes’ to match the paint for the walls and woodwork. It turns out that on close examination – the background is more of a white with a bluish cast, and the figure is almost a slate grey-blue. A challenge to match, but the woman at the paint counter took it as her personal mission to do so. Now I have a gallon each of whitish-with-a-blue cast, and slate-grey-bluish paint piled up with the other stuff which will play a part in the renovation, and an ambition to clear out as much as I can, single-handed, before mid-week, when Neighborhood Handy Guy and his pickup truck and I go to collect the last of the necessary materials which don’t fit easily into the back of the Montero.

13. January 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

The new home renovation project for this year has commenced, in a small way. This is the renovation of the master bathroom – number three on my grand five-year plan for sorting out the tiny suburban bungalow – which in another two years will be entirely paid off, mortgage-wise. It was once my ambition to do a second mortgage, once the first had been paid in full, and use the profits from sale of the California raw acreage to purchase a half-acre in the Hill Country and build my dream house on it. This probably will not happen, although I still have hopes of the Adelsverein Trilogy or the Luna City series suddenly (and miraculously) attaining the popularity and stratospheric sales figures of Fifty Shades of Grey, or the Outlander series, and enable us to buy a substantial property and build a bespoke mansion on it. But hope is not a plan – and this; this is the Five-Year Plan to sort out the present house, and make it fit for a local author with modest tastes, a huge library, and a tasteful collection of career mementos to live in.
So – the master bathroom becomes the next item on the list after renovating the guest bath (AKA Blondie’s bathroom), the new roof, and the Amazing Catio. Those three items were completed last spring; the Catio is almost completely paid for. Time to move on to the next two projects; the garage – now a good part cleared out in preparation for a new door – and the master bath.
This facility is a pair of rooms about five by five feet each, as laid out by the construction firm which built most of the Spring Creek Forest subdivision over three decades. They were one of the better firms, which meant that the constructor-grade appliances and installed fixtures were not absolute dreck, constructed from paper straws, tinfoil and bottom-grade cabinets of compressed wood chips and a thin vinyl veneer, and purchased by the railcar-sized lot. (Seriously, when Neighborhood Handy-guy ripped out the small bathroom vanity last year, I demolished it myself with a carpenter’s hammer, and stuffed the remains into the ordinary trash can.) More »

I used to like going to the movies. When I was growing up, going to the movies was an occasional treat. In the very early days, it was the drive-in movie double-feature. Likely this was because it was cheap, and Dad was a grad student with a family, and on a tight budget: JP and I in our pjs, with bedding and our pillows in the venerable 1952 Plymouth station wagon, the back seat folded down, and falling asleep almost as the titles for the second feature rolled; Charlton Heston as El Cid, seen dimly through the windshield of the Plymouth, between Mom and Dad’s heads, and the rearview mirror. Sean Connery as James Bond, bedding another of an enthusiastic series of chance-encountered and spectacularly-endowed women, and me thinking, as I dozed off, “Oh, that’s nice – she hasn’t got a hotel room, and he’s sharing his …”
Yeah, I was six or seven years old. That’s what it looked like to me, curling up in the back of the station wagon, as my parents finagled their own low-budget date night. Later on, it would be a Disney movie in one of the splendid, then-sadly-faded old picture palaces in Pasadena; the Alhambra, the Rialto, or the Academy, accompanied by Granny Jessie – this after much discussion of which movies appropriate for grade-school age children were available at a matinee showing. This would be one of only one or two movies we saw in a theater for the entire year, so we would choose very carefully, indeed. I think Granny Jessie was grateful when we were able to appreciate somewhat more mature fare, such as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming, and What Did You Do in the War, Daddy.
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07. January 2019 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Politics, Rant

Well, it certainly started off with a bang … or, strike that, a number of spectacular public tantrums on the part of people that ordinary humans might have expected to have cultivated a more mature approach when it came to coping with others in the public sphere. I speak of the Gamestop shop customer of indeterminate sex who went off on the cashier for addressing … ummm, the customer as a man, when on the thin basis of some eye makeup, the customer apparently hoped to pass as a woman and not a member of a 1980s tribute rock band. Let me break it to you gently, guy – as a woman myself, you’re doing the woman-thing all wrong. A little more care with the coiffure, a skirt and some nice stockings and low heels, and a soft-spoken Southern lady demeanor – even adorning a six-foot-something frame with shoulders like a football quarterback – would make it easier for those you encounter in public to go along with a pretense of you being a delicate little flower of womanhood.

Of the vape-store clerk (now a former vape-store clerk) feeling all righteous and entitled to go off on an abusive rant against a customer wearing items of clothing identifying him as a Trump fan … seriously, when did it become OK to be an abusive butthead in public? Or is it just that incidents like this are more likely to be documented in this age of practically everyone having a telephone capable of recording short video? Cannot we all agree on a new year resolution – to act like mature, well-adjusted adults in public? More »

29. December 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

It’s been a bit since I did one of these year-end and year-looking-forward roundups. Well, since I had gotten a fair number of those goals achieved, or had a good go at them, it all seemed kind of pointless. But I did get certain strategic goals accomplished for 2018 – namely the first couple of items on the Five-Year Home Renovation plan. For a good few years, I had the dream of purchasing half an acre in the Hill Country and building a bespoke retirement home on it, funding that with profits from writing, and from a mortgage on the current home, once that it was paid off – which it will be in another couple of years.

That ambition, I began to see during late 2017 was probably unrealistic. Much as I would like half an acre of Hill Country, or something on the fringe of one of the small towns, and enjoy the sun setting over the distant hills, and fields of wildflowers in spring, and the jolly comradery of a small community, and to be able to keep chickens without worrying about if the rooster is annoying the neighbors … I like the convenience of being five minutes from grocery stores, the mild ego-boost of being one of the home-owners longest-resident in the neighborhood, and internet without any hassle. I also have the sneaking feeling that upkeep of that tiny portion of suburban cottage-and-yard which I do own nearly free-and-clear is probably about all that I can reasonably manage in the future. Unlike Benjamin Button, I am not getting any younger.

While the income from sales of various books, especially the Luna City series is satisfactory, it is very far from JK Rowling ‘buy your own castle!’ territory. While I live in hope of one day making a fair pile – hope is not a strategy. Late last year, I evolved the 5-Year Plan to improve/renovate the present home and am happy to report that three of the elements have been done and dusted. The new roof was completed late in the spring – it turned out that the tornado that ripped through the upper part of the neighborhood had also damaged my own roof, which had been installed in 2003 and was well to the end of its’ scheduled lifespan. The company which first did the work, and which I called again for an estimate on replacing also does small construction/renovation, and they added the covered, hardware-screened Magnificent Catio. I am nearly done with paying the deductible on the roof and for the additional add-on. The other spring project involved renovation of the small bathroom – also done and dusted by Neighborhood Handy Guy, who is skilled at painting, tilework, carpentry, minor electrical, uncomplicated plumbing and general maintenance.
The third project done was renovating the front yard – this done mostly by my daughter and myself. We installed pavers on either side of the entry sidewalk, more pavers by the very front, put in a slightly raised bed, bought some marked-down plants at Lowe’s, put them into pots that we were given by a neighbor clearing out their garage, and had Neighborhood Handy Guy severely trim the trash tree/Arizona ash at the front. (Yes, the original owners of my house opted for the very cheapest trees, and oh, how I wish they had sprung for a burr oak, or something classier than the trash trees!) It makes now for a rather Mediterranean look, with segments of concrete pavers set in sand, and pots of various plants. It will all be lovely, when they are revived by spring, and hopefully, not killed by the next winter freeze or the summer heat.

So – on to the new year’s resolutions. The main home reno goal during 2019 is to get the master bath totally renovated and get a new garage door installed. The old one has been frozen in place for … a while. And the garage is full of stuff. Some of it is my daughters, some of it mine, and suspect that much of it is extraneous to need. We have been circling around the project of reviewing the contents – and I did a good bit of cleaning out late in 2017 when the old hot water heater gave up the ghost and flooded the near regions with an inch or two of warm water. So far, we’ve done two runs to Goodwill, filled the trash and the recycle bin, and put some chairs, two boxes of HVAC ducting (surplus from when we replaced some runs of duct ourselves) and a tall round laundry basket out on the curb. It took only ten minutes for someone driving past to take one of the chairs – I kind of hope the boxes of ducting will be gone by the weekend.

The 2019 ambition for the garage is to not only get the door replaced but clear out enough space that we can put at least one of the cars inside and use one corner as a workshop. The Daughter Unit wants to pick up making stained glass panels again – as she got all of Mom’s glass-cutting gear and certain of the supplies of class and lead caning. We’ll have all the space to do this … as soon as we clear out a bit more…
There’s going to be more stuff going to Goodwill – mostly clothes. Yes, cleaning out the closet and the dresser drawers meant moving it mostly to the garage, and that just won’t do, for several reasons any more. For one, I haven’t worked in an office for someone else in years, and so the wardrobe of business suits and blouses are seriously extraneous to needs. For another – both the Daughter Unit and I started going to the gym three times a week when she came home from California last spring. The Daughter Unit also started running last year when she was in California … nine or ten miles, three times a week. She started also being rigorous about sweets, bread, snacks and portion sizes at meals. We’ve both lost weight – to the tune of three or four sizes in jeans, which is a nice problem to have, but it means that bales of larger-size everyday jeans and casual tops are now also extraneous to needs. My additional mild ambition is to drop another couple of sizes in jeans, which would put me comfortably back in the size that I was wearing upon retirement from the USAF. This would also make my primary medical care provider very happy, since it might make it possible to dial back requirements for the high blood pressure meds.

So there we are for 2019: new bathroom, cleared-out garage, and a size 10/12 in jeans again. Piece of cake, eh?
Oh, and get a good way through writing the next historical, and at least two Luna City chronicles. Definitely a piece of cake.

Oh, Christmas Tree!


With completion of the Splendid Catio, we can have a fully-decorated Christmas tree once more. We haven’t done this in several years; the indoors cats cut a swath through the Christmas ornaments, and the tree itself, and what with the heavy market schedule and all … we haven’t done the Full Griswald in three or four years. Maybe for the outside, not for the inside. But we have three deep tubs of Christmas tree ornaments, and a tall artificial (but generally real-looking at a distance) pine tree out in the garage, and this year, my daughter insisted absolutely on having a decorated tree. In addition to the lighted garlands, tabletop displays, and assorted other seasonal doo-dads, she wanted the Christmas tree brought in and decorated to the full, at least with those ornaments which would not shatter irreparably when hitting the painted concrete floor from the height of at least eighteen inches or so.
Reader, I acquiesced – and so we brought in the tree, and assembled it, with lights and ornaments and all, although we could not find the nice brocade and tassel-and-beadwork ornamented Christmas tree skirt which I am certain that I purchased from Tuesday Morning some years ago. It’s probably still out in the garage somewhere. It may turn up eventually.
Going through the existing boxes of ornaments for the tree became a memory-venture along the maps to our family past. Not very far long it, only as far as me purchasing or contriving ornaments for my little barracks tree when I was stationed in Japan as a baby airman in the late 1970s. The Christmas ornaments that I knew as a kid were all burned in the fire that took Mom and Dad’s retirement house in 2003. Of those things, the one collection I most regret were the stockings that Granny Jessie knit for us as the first two of us kids appeared, with our names worked into the top, and a half-dozen lighted glass Santa Claus ornaments from the 1930s, still in their original box. But as I said – all those are gone, ashes swept away long since. I made an attempt to replace the stockings – but in felt, with our names worked into the top: I suppose that my sister has the lot now, since having to sell Mom and Dad’s house after Mom fell and fractured her spine and was no longer able to live without extensive nursing assistance.

The oldest ornaments I do have – they came from Great Aunt Nan; a pair of small yarn and fabric ladies. They came from Denmark, I dimly recall Nan saying. The one with the tiny bag is a newspaper vendor for the most popular daily; the initials BT must stand for Berlingske Tidende. After that – the oldest are a collection of tiny embroidered fabric animals from India. I probably bought them at the NCO Wives Christmas bazaar early on. The second-oldest I made myself; a wide selection of Styrofoam balls covered with fabric, lace, braid and other trims. Some look a bit battered now, having gone through almost four decades of Christmases and the same years of being hauled here and there in my hold baggage, and being stored in all kinds of odd closets and garage spaces. They have the advantage of being durable, cat-and fall-proof, though – which is why they still endure.
Kind of hard to say which are the next ornaments in order of seniority. In Greece in the early 1980s, I took up the habit of yearly purchasing a box or two of appealing ornaments from some high-end catalog outlet – which I can no longer recall the name of but are probably now out of business entirely. The small vintage airplanes and the papier-mâché globes are from that period. In Greece, I had a small star-pine in a pot which lived on the balcony of the apartment building I lived in. That little live tree served for a couple of Christmases; when we transferred to Spain, I left it to Kyria Penny, the Englishwoman who lived in the next-door apartment building. She and her husband, Kyrie George, used it for their holiday tree until it became too large to move in and out of doors. I don’t know what happened to it after that, although the little airplanes and the globes moved with us to Spain in our hold baggage. Passing through Rome, I bought half a dozen Anri angels.

For a good few years during that period in Spain, my job there favored me with a January TDY to Ramstein, Germany, for a broadcasting squadron confab. The post exchange there had a concession there offering a vast array of traditional wooden Christmas ornaments: I brought home a good collection of them for several years running, and they still adorn the tree, being nearly as indestructible as the home-made ornaments. The NCO Wives Club sponsored a shopping trip to Turkey during one of those years; that fall, they had a booth at a craft fair offering stuff from Turkey. That’s where I bought four tiny brass and glass lamps. Miniatures of the full-sized lamps from there which were popular souvenirs.

In 1991, we rotated back to the States, after twelve years of straight overseas assignments, and celebrated a white snowfall Christmas in Ogden, Utah. In the Hill AFB BX, I had the good luck to buy a starship Enterprise Christmas ornament. I understand they were insanely popular that year, and now are rather rare as these things go. I have two more Star Trek ornaments; the Voyager and the Galileo shuttle, which weren’t quite so rare, and consequently now are available for about the same as I originally paid for them. During another TDY — to New Mexico, this time — I visited Santa Fe and bought a folk-art carved winged leopard in a shop there. By this point, the accumulation of ornaments was sufficient to make a good showing on a full-sized tree. I didn’t have to purchase them by a dozen or so at a whack. We – my daughter was earning her own spending money with regular employment by then – turned to purchasing ornaments one or two at a time. The year that we were both working at a department store, my daughter bought the little Christmas angel-mouse carrying a dove. I bought a couple of ornaments at the Hallmark store around the corner from our neighborhood, when they were on sale after Christmas. Such is our thrifty habit now – we pick up whatever has taken our fancy after Christmas, when they are marked down for quick sale. The tree, after all, is now hung thick with ornaments, most of which have a vivid memory of time and place attached.

(For the rest of December, the first three volumes of the Luna City Chronicles are available on Kindle, for a mere pittance of .99 cents each! Put up your feet, and spend the holiday in the prettiest and most eccentric small town in Texas!)

13. December 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Critters, Domestic, Home Front

Whilst I was perusing this story about the possibilities of trauma being a heritable thing, on my home office computer, my daughter came in to see what I was up to, and to lavish some small affection on our own bit of inherited trauma – that is, Mom’s cat, Isabelle. Isabelle was the last of those purebred apple-head Siamese cats which had been Mom and Dad’s. When their house had to be sold upon Mom becoming an invalid, my sister took the dogs to live with her (along with Mom) and Blondie and I inherited her two cats, one of whom has since passed away from advanced age. But Isabelle … sigh. Mom can’t remember how old she is exactly, since she was one of a long series of pure-bred apple-headed Siamese cats – and this iteration turned out to be as nutty as squirrel poop. Also mind-blowingly timid, unaffectionate, hostile even, unhygienically given to pee and crap where she slept (or where I slept, which was even more disgusting), and negative to the existing cats. We speculated that either Isabelle had been dropped on her head too damned many times as a kitten or was just as inbred as heck.
Anyway, upon completion of the Glorious Catio last spring, Isabelle – with her disgusting toilet habits and bad temperament firmly established – was one of those who moved in full time. There she spent her days and nights, fed and sheltered, amused by the garden outside, receiving some affection whenever we went out to sit – carefully, of course – and all was right with our world. (And it was nice to be able to clean something and have it stay clean for longer than ten minutes.)
Late in October, we rescued a dog from the streets in our neighborhood; a lively pug-chihuahua mix, whom no one recognized or claimed. We started calling him Fang – one has to call animals something, of course – and schemed to rehome Fang with an animal-loving couple of our acquaintance, a couple whose previous small dog had crossed over that rainbow bridge, and looked to us to find them another one, since my daughter and I seemed to have a secret super-power of animal-attracting. Fang seemed agreeable to cats but was (and still is) a consummate escape artist, and speedier than chain-lightening with a link snapped. We were afraid to keep him in the house, where he might tangle with our two small dogs, outside in the yard – too many gaps in the fence where he might escape. The Catio, with hardware mesh walls, brick floor and latched door, was the perfect temporary place. The cats, after all, had their ranks of shelves and perches, far above a small dog, who would perforce be limited to floor-level.
All went well for a couple of days. Our friends agreed to take Fang when no one claimed him, and my daughter went to run some errands, and I settled down to work at the computer. Until the sudden horrific ruckus broke out – howling, snarling, wailing – coming from the Catio. I rushed out there to see two cats on the highest shelves, watching with interest, and Isabelle with one hind leg up to the knee caught through the slats of one of the chairs, and twisting around, yet had her front claws and jaws firmly latched onto Fang’s rump. All too obvious what had happened; Fang had surprised Isabelle, asleep on the chair, she got her leg caught, and retaliated as cats will, with tooth and claw.
Fang, of course, did not like this situation, and commented loudly. Isabelle didn’t seem terribly pleased, either. I grabbed her scruff, eased her leg out from the chair, she let go of Fang and seemed to levitate across the Catio and hang onto the screen door for a moment before falling back to the ground. Fang, whimpering slightly, seemed relatively unhurt save for his dignity. But Isabelle was limping, badly enough to make a visit to the vet obligatory. My daughter thought she might have broken one of the long bones in her leg. So – applied some antibiotic to Fang’s rump, stowed Isabelle in a carrier, and off to the vet. (By coincidence, the one that I had brought Fang to, earlier in the day to have him checked for a chip.)
No, it emerged that Isabelle had not broken her leg – to the astonishment of the veterinarian, she had contrived to blow out the knee tendons in attempting to get her leg out from between the chair slats. The best and least expensive surgical solution he could suggest was to install a long pin through the leg bones to hold the knee rigid, and let the tendons heal. This we agreed to; for a cat we weren’t all that fond of, that to all appearances hitherto wasn’t all that fond of us, either – but Isabelle was Mom’s cat, and we felt obligated to take care of her to the best of our abilities because of that. We warned the veterinary staff of her disobliging and usually hostile nature and left her overnight for the surgery the following day.
When we went to collect her the following afternoon, the vet-tech enthused to us over how good and cooperative she had been, how affectionate she had been, even when the anesthesia wore off. My daughter and I are looking at each other and going, “OK … what have you really done with Mom’s cat, and where did you find this identical Siamese?”
We had to keep her restrained in a crate inside the house for a good few weeks – a crate just large enough for a towel-and-piddle-pad covered pillow, with a dish of food and a water dispenser. She took her daily antibiotic graciously, seemed to briefly retain her old habit of peeing and crapping where she slept, and then … didn’t. The concept of the litterbox seemed to have dawned on her. The surgical wound on her thigh healed over (she’ll go back to the vet after the holidays to have the long pin removed), and she curled up quite amenably in on of the pet beds that we have star-scattered across the household. From there, she moved into claiming the dog-bed at the foot of my bed, from Nemo and Connor (who prefer sleeping on the bed itself,) and to being actually human-affectionate. She sits on laps when offered, purrs affectionately, ‘talks’ to us in ‘Siamese-cat-yowl’ when we pet her.
Really, it’s quite astonishing, the transformation. I can only think that there must be something positive said for trauma. At least in the case of Isabelle.

(Note to all – the first three Luna City books are marked down for 99 cents on Kindle for the month of December only. Yes, as the pusher promised; the first couple of hits are free!)