The matter of a certain literary style and practice came up a couple of months ago – and I was reminded again of the discussion in a weird way, when my daughter and I watched the Night at the Museum movie series. This was in the interests of not freaking out Wee Jamie terribly, who is soaking up information and stimuli like a small, child-shaped sponge. I vaguely recall watching the first of the series, but my daughter did not, so I must have seen it in a theater, possibly when the Gentleman With Whom I (Once) Kept Company was on one of his yearly visits to Texas. Cute movie, and one which loaded in a lot of established actors in supporting roles (Ricky Gervais? Seriously?) …but anyway. (It is kind of cool, though – imagining an animated dinosaur skeleton playing ‘fetch’ the bone, and behaving like a playful puppy…)

The museum of the initial movie setting reminded me of an elementary school field trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History in Exposition Park, which also covered the La Brea Tar Pits, with all the life-sized landscaped dioramas, and the stuffed critters, mounted dinosaur bones and the remains of paleolithic critters excavated from the tar pits… all terribly retro and rather quaint, actually. There’s a natural history museum here in the old upscale part of San Antonio, the Witte Museum, with pretty much the same sort of exhibits, established around the same period, now with the addition of lighting and sound effects.

In any event, I began to think on how these kinds of exhibits became so very popular in the 19th century: I mean, the showman P. T. Barnum started with his exhibit of natural curiosities, scientific exhibits, wonders, and marvels early on. People flocked to see them in the flesh, and twice natural size – because most ordinary people didn’t often see extraordinary things; dinosaur bones, ancient Eqyptian temples, statues of Greek gods and goddesses, African elephants … such were curiosities, and rare ones at that. So going to P. T. Barnum’s flamboyant exhibits, and later on to more staid and scholarly local museums of natural history – well, there they were; all the exotic natural history and fabled creatures that you could wish to see, before movies and television brought them to us in living color in theater and living room.

On one of the book/author blogs which I follow (can’t recall which one or when, or even if it is an original insight!) another writer made what I realized immediately was a perceptive observation, regarding those verbally florid Victorian novelists who went on for pages and pages, describing scenes, settings and characters. Modern readers find this terribly frustrating, as this tendency bogs down the plot something awful. The reason Victorian authors did so was because most of their readers then had no mental archive of visual references to build on! When someone like Sir Walter Scott wrote about medieval Perth, or Dumas wrote about Renaissance France, or Lew Wallace about the Roman-era Holy Land, they were setting the necessary scene for readers in necessary and exacting detail for a reader who perhaps might at best have seen a crude black and white line drawing, or a hand-colored lithograph of a castle, Jerusalem, or the skyline of Paris. There was nothing in the 19th century reader’s visual vocabulary anything like what movies, television, even color photographs in glossy coffee-table books provide modern readers. We have the advantage of already having those visuals in mind, and don’t need to have them spelled out at length.

And that is my off-the-wall observation for this week – the news is just to depressing to contemplate at the moment. Comment as you wish.

20. January 2023 · Comments Off on Public Art and Freedom of Speech… · Categories: Ain't That America?, General Nonsense, Media Matters Not, My Head Hurts, sarcasm

… such as they are, in these distressing days. It’s come to be a standout exception in the last half-century when a piece of public art is actually attractive, engaging, relatable to the place and the audience, and exhibits moderate to advanced skills and aesthetic sense on the part of the artist. Noted in Tom Wolfe’s book-long evisceration of modern architecture, altogether too many post-WWII public buildings got finished off with a installing barren plaza in front, a plaza featuring a water feature with an enormous concrete turd dropped into it. There are exceptions to this bleak and ugly trend, of course – but the monumental MLK/Coretta Scott King statue unveiled last weekend in Boston is, alas, not one of them.

It’s just passably OK from the front aspect, but looking at it from the other side … oh, gosh – some bodiless arms holding up an engorged colon, a huge male member, or an enormous turd? Or something even ruder, as was suggested by Leslie Jones. Perhaps the main purpose, after all, was to burn $10 million dollars. And, no – I don’t think the people of Boston will come to love “The Embrace”, as the French eventually embraced the Eiffel Tower, or Christ the Redeemer came to be reverenced by Brazilians. A further note to Ms. Jones – I certainly will criticize that expensive bronze atrocity. You suppose that for another 10 million, the artist could have included the heads?

In the meantime, it seems that Sheila Jackson Lee, the wicked witch of Houston, the most abusive boss on Capitol Hill, and the long-time bane of airline staff on Washington to Houston flights has put forward a bill which basically enables criminal charges against anyone who posts anything on the internet which can be connected to the commission of an actual hate crime. Leaving aside the concept of a ‘hate crime’ being somehow worse than an ordinary, non-hate crime, this bill – in the event that everyone in the House and Senate looses what is left of their damned minds and decides that the First Amendment is merely a polite suggestion – could in theory mean that if someone vandalized the above-noted MLK monument, that I could be charged with contributing to or encouraging a hate crime. In past times, I would have expected that Queen Sheila’s flight of legislative fancy would be laughed out of consideration in about two minutes … but these mad days, I really can’t be sure … Discuss as you wish, and while we still can.

PS – I see in the news that Jacinda Ardern has resigned as Prime Minister of New Zealand. Jumped before she was pushed? Is there some kind of scandal brewing down under, or just the potential humiliation of losing reelection in a landslide. Locking down all of the country for fear of Covid AKA the Commie Crud can’t have done all that much for her popularity, as the very model of a modern Major AWFL. Anyone have insight into local politics in New Zealand?

As my daughter has taken up a new career (one which she is thoroughly enjoying, now that she has a successful sale under her belt and another three or four potentially serious and committed buyers on the horizon in the coming new year) I have had, perforce, to take an interest in the market for houses, in this, a moderately prosperous Texas city. Well, moderately prosperous, in spite of all the (explicative deleted) that the current economy and the Biden administration can throw at us. By all evidence that my daughter has noted locally, (mostly in price reductions for a number of listings) the property bubble has well and truly burst, or is now in a mode of slow deflation. Conventional wisdom among realtors who have been in it for years, is that prices for houses are on a seven-year-long boom and bust cycle. We’re about to head into the ‘bust’ downslope. Anyone who does have the wherewithal – the bulging pocketbook to buy outright or a high-enough credit rating qualifying for a loan at favorable rates to buy a house in the next couple of years will have their pick of properties, at least in this part of Texas.

I have noted over more than two decades of living in it, is that my own neighborhood is quietly prosperous; a high percentage of homeowners and few rental properties. This is a good thing, most definitely not a class or racial issue. It should be obvious to all now that owners of a house, even if only a small one, will tend to take better care of the roof, walls, windows and HVAC system that they have invested in. I would guess that my neighborhood very closely reflects the national racial makeup; racially mixed in conformance with the overall national stats. (Not culturally mixed, though. Just about all my neighbors are house-proud, responsible and community minded.) My neighborhood is not one of the notoriously wealthiest neighborhoods in San Antonio; the houses are relatively small, in the 1,000-1.500 square foot range on small lots, not more than a 10th of an acre. Some of the larger houses in the older part are on lots a bit larger than that, but all in all, the subdivision is a comfortable fit for people with working-class jobs, convenient to the various military bases, shopping centers, highway access. These small, comfortable houses and manageable gardens are owned by a cross-section of retired military, ordinary retirees, new families, small families, single working women, and small business owners. Working bourgeoise; the kind that the New Woke World Order wants to squeeze out of existence, for our stubborn insistence on managing our own lives and economics without any interference from the new self-elected and lustful-for-power Ruling Class.

As an aside, I don’t think that will happen – all of us stubborn working bourgeoise reduced to rental serfdom, subject to the illogical whims of some ivory-tower and unaccountable bureaucracy. There are, as yet, too many ways for ordinary citizens to slip away from the grasping fingers of control.

An element that my daughter has noticed is that the smaller houses in solid neighborhoods like ours go like hotcakes. The 1,000-1,3000 sf home, two bed, one bath, or bath and a half – such small starter or retirement homes at a reasonable valuation are in great demand, demonstrated by how blazingly-fast they sell, once they are listed. Not all that surprising, actually, as that is the size that I could readily afford, house hunting at the end of my inglorious military career. Also about the size of what my own parents could afford and which we all lived in as a family of six: two or three bedrooms and a single bath for us all. But such smaller homes coming on the market are few and far between and looking at the new developments spring up around the parts of San Antonio that I frequent, the new builds seem to be at the upper end of that range or larger, even way, way much larger. What about the prospect of smaller homes, homes even under 1,000 square feet, tinier lots?

You might think that the current fashion for “tiny homes” should be appealing to developers, just as a matter of marketing, and the lower costs to build and thereafter maintain … but for some reason, it doesn’t. Builders go on merrily constructing bigger and bigger houses.  (Usually on smaller and smaller lots…) I have always wondered why. The usual explanation is that municipalities naturally want to collect the very most in property taxes – the larger and more lavishly-adorned the property the greater the tax assessed, and the existing homeowners in the area being considered invariably hear “Small affordable houses!” and begin screaming to their local political office-holder, “OMG-Poor people! It’s affordable housing for poor people! OMG! Keep away, keep them far, far away!” Still, one would think that smaller, more compact houses would make so much good sense to developers and builders. Maybe it is.

Along the outer ring highway in San Antonio, a large apartment complex has been going in for months – but at the back of the complex, bounded by a small back road which we routinely use as a short-cut, there is a range of smaller units going in. At first, when they began pouring the slabs for them, we wondered if they were to be garages – but no; from the layout, no way to get a vehicle safely in or out, When the walls began going up, we could see that – no, the back half of the complex will be small cottages, and small duplexes. Interesting. Well, not everyone likes to live in a third-floor walkup, hauling groceries up two flights of stairs, with the noise from neighbors through thin walls at all hours … better a small, self-contained little house, with a decent separation from the neighboring unit, or only the other half of the tiny duplex. We wonder if this is a harbinger of things to come; of builders seeing that there may be money to be made in catering to the ‘smaller house’ impulse. Where will the market let us all, in these trying times?

What say you? Discuss as you like.

Americans – both those born on this soil and those who weren’t but who got here as fast as they could – are natural rebels, stiff-necked, stubborn, and not inclined to bow the knee and truckle to those who think they are our betters. Oh, it might not seem so in these dolorous times; too many of our fellows seem just too ready to be passive, landless serfs with an appetite for crumbs and approving notice from the wanna-be-nobility’s table, and too damned many outright want to be the nobles, or their willing henchmen/women/whatever. But a preponderance of us are not that ready to be pushed into servitude to the State – witness the drubbing at the pools that the voters of Wyoming gave to the presumed princess-heir of the landed house of Cheney yesterday. Losing an election by a 40% margin is not just the voters saying ‘no, thanks’, it’s the voters escorting the candidate to the city limits, brandishing buckets of tar and bales of feathers while snarling, ‘…and don’t come back!’
Ah well – I have long disapproved of political dynasties – the Kennedys, the Bushes, the Murkowskis, the Gores and their similar and lesser-known political ilk. The only political dynasty that was ever any good for America as republic and in the long term was that of John Adams, and that was back in the day when we all were pretty adamant that there would be no patents of nobility issued, tither formally or otherwise in this blessed experiment in citizen governance. For myself, I hated the choice I had between two scions of political dynasties in the 2000 election. What – a choice between two sons of political privilege? I think I held my nose and voted blindly, and can’t remember who for, not that it made much of a difference then or now. Although one of the two has retreated to a relatively quiet life in Texas, and the other has chosen to humiliate himself on the international stage as one of those campaigners for radical actions to oppose climate change, traveling hither and yon at great expense on energy-spewing jets.

It’s nice that the voters in Wyoming can emphatically kick to the curb a notorious carpet-bagger pol (whose speaking resemblance to Miss Piggy ought to be noted.) and whose personal portfolio has increased to an incredible degree during her tenure. Alas, cut short due to the obstinacy and stupidity of the voters – but never mind, she will no doubt flit off to some other profitable perch among the minor nobility. They do tend to take care of their own, after all.
In the meantime, we can make fun of them. It can be vicious, enjoyable fun – passing around disrespectful memes, satires, jokes and cartoons about our ruling class, pointing out their many hypocrisies, their double standards and public pratfalls. Laughter and derision are potent weapons, as Saul Alinsky pointed out in his Rule #5; “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.” Think of Sabo’s painting of Joe Biden in a mask and nothing else, and a hotpants and garter-clad Kamala Harris. Consider that picture of Sec Def Austin, double-masked and outdoors, inspecting the troops – all he needs is a flowing cloak and Darth Vader’s music. We can laugh and poke fun, while the media handmaids of our Ruling Class fume and stomp their feet while insisting that it’s not funny …
Well, it is. And we are a rebellious people. Ridicule is our weapon. Along with ruthless efficiency, determination and fanatical devotion to … oh, blast. I’ll come in again. Comment as you wish.

20. July 2022 · Comments Off on It’s Called Acting, Dear Boy · Categories: Eat, Drink and be Merry, European Disunion, General Nonsense, My Head Hurts, That's Entertainment!

Or so Laurence Olivier is supposed to have said to Dustin Hoffman, during the filming of The Marathon Man, when Hoffman got a little too deeply immersed in his role.
It’s acting – convincingly pretending to be a person you are not; experiencing events and emotions on the stage or screen that the actor might or might not have really experienced. It’s pretending, in the service of storytelling. In our current over-the-top state of extreme wokery, any kind of illogical insanity seems to rule; in this latest example, an American soprano singer, one Angela Blue, has made a great show out of quitting an opera performance, because of her objections to another opera performance and singer in the same venue. Angela Blue objected vociferously to Russian soprano Anna Nebtrebko singing in the title role of Aida, while made-up to appear as … gasp … Ethiopian. (A production design originated by the late Franco Zeffirelli, as an aside.) Angela Blue, who is African-American, terms it as ‘blackface’, although comparing serious grand opera to the buffoonery of vaudeville minstrel shows of a century ago is considerable of a stretch. What adds an interesting twist to this, is that the opera performance which Angela Blue walked away from was La Traviata, and her role as Violetta – a French courtesan, and in the original concept, a woman not of any color save lily-white.

To put it finely, Ms. Blue is perfectly OK with playing a white role, while throwing a hissy-fit over a white woman playing a sort-of-tan role. Quel surprise.
OK, then. This does bring to mind the great kerfuffle over casting of the US production of Miss Saigon, some three decades ago, which eventually died down when it was pointed out that a hard-and-fast across-the-board limiting of roles that an actor or singer could play to only that of their own ethnicity (or sexual orientation) would place severe limitations on those roles which an actor or singer could legitimately perform. Black opera singers, like Angela Blue would be limited to singing Aida, or Porgy & Bess. Opera singers of Japanese ancestry would have Madame Butterfly, Indonesians or Indians would have The Pearl Fishers and Lakme, singers of Chinese ancestry would have Turandot – and that would be that. Black actors looking to perform Shakespeare would have Othello and not much else save maybe in crowd scene. Performing anything Wagnerian would be totally out – only Germans could apply for those roles. Oh, and Hamilton would have to be totally re-cast; sorry, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Discuss or comment as you can bear it.

My grandson, the child of my only child, will be a year old next week, and if there is a more loveable, adored and indulged baby-almost-toddler around, I would like to meet him or her. (See, I’m not a biologist but I can tell the difference. My father, who was a biologist trained us all well in that sciencey sort of thing.)

He is close to weighing twenty pounds, and when standing on his flat, tender little baby feet – and he wants most urgently to stand – the top of his head comes to my daughter’s mid-thigh. When he was delivered three weeks early by emergency c-section, I was a bit concerned because his arms and legs were so thin, the flesh on them rather flaccid. He was just large enough and scored high enough on the APGAR test that he wasn’t consigned to NICU (neo-natal intensive care) and so could home with us two days later. In the year since, Jamie has firmly plumped out, with little dimples on the back of his hands where his knuckles are, and dear little indented rings around his wrists, elbows, and knees. He will lose that baby fat when he begins to walk, though. My daughter remained roughly the same approximate size and weight from the age of 18 months to four years – she just lengthened out, grew lean and tall.

He is going to be tall, when he is grown to man’s estate and shall be very proud and great. He has a head of feathery light-brown hair; sometimes we see blond highlights in it, sometimes rather more auburn, and it curls very slightly back of his ears. He has rather strongly marked eyebrows and ridiculously long eyelashes, but the color of his eyes themselves is hard to judge – blue-green, blue-green-hazel? It depends on the day and the lighting. His nose gives promise of eventually being rather a beak, but as to the mouth, everyone says that he has lips like mine and my daughters. Otherwise, not very much of a family resemblance at all; a gamine face, which likely will change when he is an adult. He is not one of those children who keeps basically the same face for their life, like Granny Jessie or my brother JP, both of whom are recognizable from earliest childhood through to middle or advanced age. He smiles now, openly and at practically everyone, and of late has begun to giggle and laugh.

Wee Jamie is not one of those timid, hard-to-approach small children. When we take him shopping, he is ready to smile at anyone who smiles at him, although he has been known to stare at some strangers with direct and unsettling intensity. Otherwise, a very placid, confident, and happy baby, who rarely cries full-on, unless in pain (rare) or fright (rarer still. His godmother speculates that it is likely he is that way because my daughter and I readily comfort him and attend to his needs. One year, under our belts – now for the next twenty…

19. April 2022 · Comments Off on The Birth of Educational Wokeism – A Personal Story · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Fun and Games, General Nonsense, Literary Good Stuff

I’m almost certain that I witnessed the seeds of teacher-training wokism yea these four decades ago when I was wrapping up the class hours necessary for a degree in English, an age before it became screamingly obvious that a BA in English didn’t guarantee that the recipient of it was conversant with proper grammar, spelling, the literary output of the greats from Chaucer to Wilde, or blessed with the ability (even if only acquired through imitation) to write in a clear and pleasing style.
With my usual efficiency and persistence, I had managed to complete every single required class for that golden degree by three and a half years into the enterprise, leaving me with just a requirement for so many class credits subject unspecified for my final semester toiling in the groves of academy as they presented at Cal State University Northridge. (A state uni with practically no notable characteristics or reputation then, or now. It was your standard state university, providing in a workmanlike fashion, higher education to a mixed bag of students – freshly minted high-school alums, foreign students, working adults and returning senior citizens.)

So, I looked at the catalog offerings for the spring of 1976 and decided that I would indulge myself intellectually and just sign up for any elective that looked interesting in the catalog. This put me in a class in Roman Art & Architecture, and another in Japanese Art &Architecture, both of which proved to be totally fascinating, challenging, and eventually useful – the Japanese one, especially, as it turned out to be a graduate-level one aimed at art majors, and did I have to seriously hit the books in order to pass! The Roman A&A final included a final exam involving drawing an accurate map of classical Rome from memory, naming the seven hills, including the lines of major avenues and aqueducts, and marking the location of about twenty major landmarks. This turned out to be useful when I passed through Rome as a tourist in 1985 …

It was the third ‘what the heck that sounds interesting’ elective which was the class that I found memorable and for not a good reason. I began to hate it, root and branch, topic and professor … a smug and smarmy male who reminds me in memory of the irritating Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf. The subject of the class was “Children’s Literature” and upon reading it in the catalog, I thought – hey, interesting subject, a study of classic kid-lit from the early days, a survey of the bigs in kid-lit; a little Frances Hodgson Burnett, some of this and that … what made writing and reading for the underage set appealing over the decades …
I had been raised on classic kid-lit. Mom was rigorous in that respect. I had all of them, either read to us, or on the shelves to read for ourselves. Everything: Child’s Garden of VersesLittle House on the Prairie and all in the series, Little Women and the sequels, Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan, the Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy, the Jungle Books, Winnie the Pooh and dozens more. I thought I would be in a class exploring what made those books and others such enchanting and enduring reads. What made them so special that they were still being read by and to children for decades or even centuries after having been written … and in that I was crushingly disappointed. More than that – outraged, although never sufficiently to rend the lector from limb to limb and encourage my fellow students to piss on the bloody remains. I did want that BA degree, you see. I already had plans, post-graduation.

As it turned out and which I should have noted before enrolling in it, the class was one of those required/elective for those aiming for a teaching credential in the state of California. And it was dire … I figured that out within the first couple of lectures. First, when the lector/professor figuratively urinated all over Child’s Garden of Verses, condemning it for being stupid bad poetry with an ump-de-ump rhyme. Yes, the poetry in Garden is fairly simple – Shakespearean sonnets it isn’t – and yet I (and others) can still recite verse after verse from memory. Then when the lecturer took a number-two dump on Wind in the Willows, picking out one chapter – The Piper At the Gates of Dawn – for an extra specially contemptuous sneering as saccharine, sentimental and trite. For myself, I had always loved Wind in the Willows, and believed that chapter to be charming, lyrical, and beautifully descriptive.

So, the lector/professor was an obnoxious philistine; I am certain there were skid-row bums and burned-out hippies with better literary judgement. Just to put the rancid frosting on this rancid cake of a course, he … umm … exposed the class to a bit of kid-lit that he thought was just the thing for your average middle-school reader. I have mercifully forgotten the title and author, although at this date I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a book that he had written. The hero and narrator was a teen boy whose family went from Nantucket Island in time for the 1893 Oklahoma land rush, set up a homestead there, and then by some misfortune that I don’t recall, the father died, they flaked out of the homestead claim, and the boy and his mother went all the way back to Nantucket – sadder and wiser, or so the narrative had it. A highlight of the book was the boy acquiring a girlfriend who had been a captive of the Indians (tribe unspecified, or at any rate, I don’t remember) and it was implied had been sexually initiated by the experience. She gave him a hand-job, described in a conversation between the two of them. Ugh.

That was the point when I decided that it was a darned good thing that I didn’t want to be a grade schoolteacher, if this kind of materiel was what one had make a show of lauding, while spurning the great body of enduring stories and poetry. I wonder how many other rational people made the same decision – and that’s why our schools are deeply mired in predatory wokeism. Comment as you wish. And no, I never wanted to teach school anyway, but if I had, I am certain this one class would have kicked any such desire out of me. I’ll just write good stories for kids, and read the good stuff to Wee Jamie.

04. March 2022 · Comments Off on From Luna City 11, Available Soon, Soon… · Categories: General Nonsense, Literary Good Stuff, Luna

(From the chapter entitled Of Science, Spies and Saboteurs and Thieves. I’m writing this as fast as I can!)

An excerpt from the untitled and never-published memoir of Alasdair Duncan Magill, late of Fife in Scotland, longtime police chief of Luna City, published with permission of the family in the Luna City Historical Association Newsletter. The extensive memoir was found among his private papers by his family, after his death from natural causes at the age of 98 in February 1987. Chapter 53 – The Matter of Political Murder

Of course, we assumed – my chief investigator John Drury and I both – from the very start that the mysterious death of the young man was more than it had seemed. Luna City was a peaceful, quiet place, through the efforts of citizens and law enforcement alike over time. Both John Drury and I had done our best for decades to assure this happy state of existence. In my tenure as a member of the constabulary – as street officer and as chief of the Luna City police department – we had put an end to the antics of local bad-hats such as Charley Mills, his unsavory influence, the Newton Boys robbery gang; all the disruptions which these miscreants and others threatened to bring to our little town. It was a perilous time, those decades of which I write. The Great Depression had bitten hard and long; many were those desperate souls who sought to make a living by thieving, either in petty means and stealth, or by outright robbery. Still, Luna City was an oasis of calm and obedience to the rule of law, all during those years. Of the four recorded murders in Luna City during the 1930s, one was domestic; a woman aggravated beyond tolerance of a drunkard husband beating her without mercy. The second was the result of excessive consumption of alcohol – a dare regarding relative skill at marksmanship after a particularly rowdy fandango at the Gonzalez Rancho. The third was committed by an outraged farmer, upon discovering a transient whom he had hired to help harvest hay attempting to rape the farmer’s eight-year-old daughter. The transient was dispatched by the farmer, wielding only his bare hands (Charges were dismissed in that case, as rightfully they should have been.) Only the last murder, in the year of our lord 1930_was judged to be premediated and deliberate murder.

But I am getting ahead of myself, in outlining the circumstances, which were indeed peculiar and with international implications. My involvement began with an interview in my own office, with Mayor McAllister and Mr. Albert Wyler, the owner of the ranch enterprise which was the largest of that sort in all of Karnes County. That these gentlemen condescended to meet me without fanfare in my own office in the new Police Department building should have indicated to me the importance of the matter, but at the time of setting the appointment, they only told the Sergeant of the Police that it was a matter of small import. That two of the most important men of the town should require a meeting with me, stressing absolute privacy … well, I might have been born at night, but it was not last night. This, I sensed, was a matter of delicacy.

The new department building had incorporated a separate office for the chief of police; just as the old building had. This office was commodious, with two windows; space sufficient for my own desk, a smaller one for a secretary (against the day when the budget allowed for a dedicated secretary-typist, save a single woman clerk who did all the typing and filing for the department, including that of John Drury, who was still my chief investigator.) John’s presence was not immediately called for, on the occasion of this interview, as I thought it merely a courtesy call on the part of the local nobility. More »

We have all been naughty, disobedient, ungrateful serfs – or so say the self-nominated Covidiocy experts, especially including those of nationwide media fame and of a political stripe known for their fanatical allegiance to the current ruling class. We’re supposed to get another tongue-lashing from the White House tonight, which has already promised a winter of severe illnesses and death for those holding out against getting vaccinated against the latest Covid variant. Are they going to cancel Christmas for those who won’t cooperate? Are we now all enrolled in the variant-of-the-month club, and expected to maintain a constant intravenous drip of boosters for the endless variants? More »

04. December 2020 · Comments Off on Net Novostey v “Pravde” i net pravdy v “Isvestihakh · Categories: General Nonsense, Media Matters Not

The bitter Soviet-era joke about the honesty and reliability of their major news organs translates as “There is no news in Pravda and no truth in Izvestia” – Pravda (Truth) being the official newspaper of the Russian Communist Party, and Izvestia (The News) was the official government newspaper. Teasing out actual tidbits of accurate and relevant information from those two sources may have been the most popular indoor sport for decades among Russians, after chess, depressing novels and drinking heavily. Pravda and Izvestia told the citizens of Soviet Russia only what the top-tier authorities wanted ordinary people to know about – anything contrary to the interests of party and government was deliberately omitted. Any embarrassing civic disasters with a high casualty count, sexual peccadillos on the part of the Party elite, and serial killers on the prowl – news coverage of that kind of event or development was firmly squelched, as things like that just didn’t happen in the perfect Soviet worker paradise.

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18. November 2020 · Comments Off on And Now For Something Entirely Different… · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, General Nonsense, Home Front, Military, Stupidity, Veteran's Affairs

Another horrific gaffe in retail marketing –  one which falls into the category of “grotesquely bad retail marketing decisions which will become a cautionary lesson in future marketing textbooks.” This spectacular gaffe involves a retailer of fashion-trendy and very colorful women’s athletic clothing, Fabletics – a company which started online in 2013 offering a subscription plan – somewhat controversial since the subscription charges were not always transparent, and branched out into brick and mortar locations. One of the founders is Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn, so there probably has been some advantages to a celebrity connection; easy to get that one-on-one with Oprah Winfrey, I presume. The company appears to this point to have been pretty savvy in a competitive field, marketing-wise, so all props to them. I’m not a customer of theirs in any case; the gym and the jogging track are not places where I go to show off my fashion sense. I’m old-school in that I prefer to work out in grey sweatpants and a baggy tee shirt.

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As if it wasn’t enough for the joyless, bitter scolds among the wokerati to have an absolute tizzy over the head of Goya Foods being civil and respectful of the office of the President of the US, another provider of excellent and relatively inexpensive foodstuffs is in their cross-hairs. Unlike the president of Goya Foods who basically told them to pound sand – and is now enjoying the economic benefits of having defied the wokerati – the management of Trader Joe’s is beating a sniveling and apologetic retreat, and promising to redo their policy of labeling their various ethnic food items with a suitably ethnic variation on ‘Trader Something-or-Other’. This was a bit of light-hearted bit of humor on their part, playing with naming stereotypes, but good lord, the grim and determined wokerati cannot abide any humor at all and so the whole concept must go. The Daughter Unit tells me, and this link conforms, that the whole thing started as a petition by high school students, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. I suspect the responsible students are the earnest and censorious sorts, desperately trying to out-woke each other.

Frankly, the whole ‘Trader Joe’s’ South Sea Island – Tropical Paradise motif always struck me as a last gasp of the 1950s ‘Tiki Culture’ and about the only one which didn’t involve a bar decorated with fishing nets and dried starfish, and fru-fru drinks with little umbrellas in them. Trader Joe’s various products are high quality, reasonably priced, and the social-consciousness is laid on with a light hand, in pleasant contrast with the mountain of ostentatious correctitude and high prices offered at Whole Foods. There is a reason the latter is derisively known as “Whole Paycheck.” I can only think it’s only a matter of time before the social justice warriors go after Trader Joe’s for that bit of cultural appropriation as well.

At least the providers of groceries are not having as rotten a year due to the Chinese Commie Crud as Hollywood is. Theaters shut down, premieres cancelled, top-flight releases like Greyhound, with Tom Hanks and based on C.S. Foresters’ war novel The Good Shepherd diverted to release on streaming video, the fall-out from “Me Too” and Harvey Weinstein’s wholesale-level practice of the casting couch, the apparent urge among our producers of entertainment to whore after foreign audiences, and now looking to curry favor with the hot new trend of ‘anyone but white heterosexuals in front of the camera and behind it as well as behind it in any capacity’ … well, Establishment Hollywood has earned the foul reputation they richly deserve. Those of us in flyover country are watching old movies on DVD (from our own libraries, let it be known) or on streaming video, watching foreign films or series – practically anything other than grim parables and lectures by the wokerati.

Comment as you wish: what are you going to watch, now? The Daughter Unit and I are watching episodes of Are You Being Served? Which has the side benefit of being gloriously politically incorrect, and not featuring any masks or six-foot apart social distancing. (The Daughter Unit and I temped for a few months at an upscale department store over the holiday season some years ago. We consider ‘Served’ as nearly a documentary on retail sales at a certain level.)

Being myself a person of decided pallor, and increasingly cynical about current social-justice principles being inflicted on captive campus audiences at every level from kindergarten on up through graduate school, I am over in a corner snickering uncontrollably about the current mass freak-out in educational circles over the appearance of anonymous and unsigned posters with the simple declaration that “It’s OK to be White.” No, seriously – these things are apparently “hate-filled … sick and outrageous behavior … revolting actions,” and those found to have participated in distributing the flyers, “subject to the severest disciplinary actions, including dismissal as well as possible civil and criminal actions.”

So much for freedom of speech, open-minded discussion of differences in the realm of academia. So much for respecting differing points of view. Well done, wokiest of the woke in the sacred groves and campus.
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Age and guile, so the saying goes, beats out youth and speed by a long chalk. (As does possession of generous insurance policies.) Age and experience also build up an overflowing reservoir of cynicism about a lot of things; protestations of enduring love, promises by politicians campaigning for election, and belief in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, among a long, long list of other things.

So it is with heartfelt convictions when it comes to media and academic protestations of “OMG, The Earth Is Gonna End and We Are All Gonna Die!” Sorry, if you’ve been around long enough (as I have been, long enough to collect Social Security while it still exists) you have been to this rodeo before. And to a good many performances, usually championed by the national media with their hair on fire; Existential doom – how many are there, shall I count the ways? The biggie when I was myself in grade school and for a goodly few decades thereafter was Immanent Nuclear War and Annihilation. Nuclear Winter afflicting any of us fortunate enough to survive that! Then there was the catastrophe of Global Cooling – the New Ice Age descending on us all! (insert extraneous exclamation points here.) We were all gonna freeze! More »

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 »

03. June 2018 · Comments Off on Sturm Und Drang · Categories: Ain't That America?, General Nonsense, Media Matters Not, Rant, sarcasm

Ah yes, a rousing round of storm and stress this week in our own very dear so-called entertainment media, starting with Rosanne Barr’s self-titled and relaunched sitcom being cancelled with such alacrity that security probably left scorch-marks on the carpet, escorting her off the premises at speed, although I am pretty sure that in Hollywierdland, it doesn’t work quite that way when terminating an unsatisfactory employee. Especially a star player in a recently-revived, highly-rated, and yet – controversial sit-com. Still – it is curious how quick off the mark the sacking was. So Rosanne has always been a bit of a loose cannon … no, reconsider that; a completely unsecured cannon, impulsively driven to fire in all directions on the slightest provocation, up to and acquiring her own foot as target. Calculated or inadvertent – at this point it makes no difference to anyone, really, save perhaps for her costars, now left high, dry and living on residuals.

In any case, I never watched the re-boot, and have only hazy memories of seeing the original show now and again. Meh. As far as a family-oriented sitcom set in blue-collar, flyover country America went, we much preferred The Middle, and Last Man Standing. If anything, the cast of characters, and the actors playing them seemed … well, nicer. More grounded, even.
But I cannot even work myself up into the required lather of fury over Ms. Barr’s allegedly uber-offensive tweet. Is Val-Jar truly a Muslim Brotherhood creature? Who knows for certain; likely those in the business of national security whose business it was to vet those appointed or hired to serve the highest offices in the land spent most of decade working very hard to not know any definitive answer to that question. Embarrassing to the Obama Administration, y’know. Best not to look too searchingly at Val-Jar’s connections and associations, such as they are. Does she strongly resemble the female character, Zira, from the first Planet of the Apes movie, and Ari, from the 2001 remake? Well … honesty compels an answer in the affirmative, mostly because of the hairstyle. Rude to make the comparison; yes, although such delicacy of feeling didn’t stop many with making the same unflattering comparison with regard to George W. Bush and driving in the point with a sledgehammer for nearly two decades. (Don’t even get started on the disgusting manner in which Condoleezza Rice was caricatured over the term of her office in the Bush administration. Some of the nastier examples are captured here, at Powerline.)

Politics, as we are often reminded, is not beanball. But a single standard as to what is acceptable, and what is beyond the Pale with regard comment, comedy, commentary, and caricature would be much appreciated by those of us tending to the conservative side of the political scale, or even those of us who appreciate civility, and even-handed humorous needling of prominent personalities. Alleged comic, Samantha Bee, who came out with a truly vile comedic suggestion involving Ivanka Trump vamping her father to reverse certain policies of his and topped it by applying a degrading term – on a cable television show – to applause and cheers.
Well. Nice job of demonstrating the double standard in show business, when it comes to liberal and conservative personalities. At this moment, Samantha Bee still has a job, although I understand that she is down a couple of corporate sponsors. Well-done, national establishment media; showing your unmistakable contempt for at least half the public! What next, I wonder; Who among the lefty-inclined icons of entertainment is now saying, either literally or metaphorically, “Hold my beer/mineral water/trendy beverage-of-choice and watch this!”

I see by another link on Insty Saturday afternoon that the United Airlines- Sheila Jackson Lee flap has not quite faded away – much as MS Jackson Lee, AKA ‘the Queen’ or ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee likely wishes it would. I surmise that this bit of congressional bad behavior is still rattling the newshounds and the commentariat for several reasons. The first of these is that ‘Cruella’ is one of the dumber members of Congress. (The honor of the dumbest must go to Hank “Guam Might Tip Over!” Johnson, of whom it might rightfully said – stealing a paraphrase from the late Molly Ivins about another spectacularly dumb career politician – “Lose any more IQ points, and his staff might have to put him in a pot in the corner and water him three times a week.”) But there’s more! ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee has been acknowledged hands down for many years as the rudest and most abusive boss on Capitol Hill.

For extra points, her award-winning awfulness is not reserved for members of her staff, but has been spread around pretty freely during her decades in public life and aimed at just about anyone who has the misfortune to draw her ire, judging by comments on the various stories posted about her, over the years. Abusive, rude, demanding, and free with accusations of racism are her calling cards; as well as true to form in demanding an upgrade to first class on the spot from United. As a frequent flyer between Washington and Houston, ‘Cruella’ has been notorious for appalling public behavior, a reputation dating to her very first days in Congress, according to this 1998 local article. My guess is that the United management sensibly wanted to avoid yet another ghastly public scene and took the easy way out, but with such resounding customer-relations ineptitude that they managed to make a potentially sticky situation several degrees worse.

Yes, booting another flying customer out of the seat she had paid for, with frequent-flyer miles rather than cash in hand, in favor of Queen Cruella, and then treating that customer in a demeaning and insulting manner – well, really, that does trip the trigger of flying customers everywhere. United rightfully should take some lumps for crappy customer service in this. Not many of the traveling public have experienced the indignity of sharing a Houston/DC or DC/Houston flight with Queen Cruella, but lots of us have had the experience of a stupendously bad airline flight. OK – so, flying now is like an intercity bus with wings. Crammed in, treated like cattle by security before the flight, treated like cattle during it, thrown a measly packet of pretzels or nuts, and a soft drink, perhaps the chance to pick up a cold sandwich on our way in … it’s become an unpleasant experience, which the public puts up with because a basic airline ticket is relatively cheaper than it was in the Golden Days of Yore when it comes to airline travel. That is the game, much as we regret the courtesies and luxuries available in the Golden Days of Yore.

We paid through the nose for those benefits then, and are still able to pay for an upgraded seat in First Class if we are still inclined, using cash or air miles. All to the good, having the means of obtaining a degree of lessened awfulness. A more comfortable seat, additional courtesy from the cabin staff, a higher- quality meal … and then to have that all yanked away from you, for no particular reason than one of the Ruling Class wants your paid-for-seat for their careless last-minute convenience? And then to be calumniated as a racist upon objecting for this high-handed behavior? Well, yes – given the generally miserable flying experience lately, no wonder that coverage of this otherwise insignificant incident has legs. I shouldn’t be surprised if an additional motivation is suppressed resentment bubbling up from underneath; resentment by white Americans at being unfairly calumniated as racists and then informed by handsomely privileged members of the ruling and media class – like Queen Cruella herself – that such disparagement is deserved somehow because of our so-called white privilege. Discuss.

I swear, I have no idea why the denizens of celebrity-world are going nuts lately. The distinct possibility is that most of them were always nuts, and I – despite once having had a nice collection of subscriptions to publications like Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, and Rolling Stone, and a mild and mostly professional interest in the entertainment field generally – managed to not notice the frothing waves of insanity emanating from the world of popular entertainment … since … Well, I think some entertainment figures began to go nuts about a decade ago, but in the last year it’s been … OMG, are these people allowed out without a keeper?
And this was before Pervenado, and the revelation to the wider public that apparently just about every big producer, star, or media figure in a position of authority is a sex-crazed perv who cannot keep their nasty hands off lower-level staff or prospective employees. Well, it wasn’t like the existence of the casting couch was that big a secret, but still …

No, I speak this morning of the manner in which a wide variety of media personalities and performers who once appeared to know that sales of their movie tickets, their personal appearances, concerts – all of that, which were based on personal popular appeal, or at least, not kicking the larger audience in the teeth by bringing in matters political/social to front and center. It’s a sad thing for me, to recall that once I thought Rosie O’Donnell was funny and basically harmless. She had the single funniest line ever in A League of the Own which was a slam on Madonna – richly deserving of it in several ways, even back then. So was Janeane Garofalo, too – and a whole raft of other entertainment figures, until Bush derangement took them up to the edge. Now in the last year or so, sheer frothing Trump-hate pushed them over, and it is not a pretty sight at all.
Trump-hate has turned them deranged. Seriously – no other word for this quite fits. Seriously, I cannot figure it – because until two years ago, he was one of them! A grade-C celebrity, a buffoonish caricature, kind of larger than life, a bit (OK, a lot! )vulgar, seemingly pretty competent as a big-city real estate developer – but otherwise, one of them. He went to their weddings, was a habitué of the places familiar to the big-city celebrity class, appeared to be a pretty representative social liberal of the moneyed urbanite class … and yet now appears to be The Worst Person In The World.
Looking at the entertainment news headlines over the last decade, it appears that only a few
entertainers are of a socio/politically conservative bent, or have the wit to keep such opinions to themselves on the sensible grounds of not wishing to piss off a good half of their potential audience.
Rosie O’Donnell has become a special case, in the last few days, by offering (via her Twitter feed) what appears to be a bribe to sitting officials. (more here, thanks to Ace of Spades HQ.) This goes beyond trash-talking. This offer can be, if one is inclined to take it at face value (and not as a ‘joke’ as Ms. O’Donnell will doubtless claim that it is) construed as an effort by a person of wealth and standing to peremptorily override the votes of those elected to carry out the wishes of ordinary citizens. This is a serious business, as Ms. O’Donnell’s legal adviser may be reminding her over this weekend. Yes – us ordinary voters are extraordinarily humor-deficient when it comes to having our elected officials bribed and threatened by the wealthy and connected, miffed at not having their own political whims catered to. Discuss, if you can bear it.

15. November 2017 · Comments Off on What’s With Alabama and Other Stories · Categories: Ain't That America?, General Nonsense, Media Matters Not

Frankly, the kerfuffle regarding Roy Moore’s alleged dalliances with just barely legal teenage girls four decades ago smacks to this observer as a put-up job by out of-state media and out-of-state politicians of both parties who apparently regard his candidacy for national office as an affront to the Ruling Class. Suspect scribbles in an old school annual and Gloria Allred in full-throated accusatory mode are, as in the words of Gilbert and Sullivan’s character Pooh-Bah, “Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”

Mind you, he might well have displayed, as a young thirty-ish male, a liking for female company somewhat more than ten years younger; such female company being somewhat easier to impress than those closer to his age at the time. (In previous centuries, such an age gap would hardly have raised an eyebrow. This was pretty much the ideal for much of history: thirty-year old man, well-established in a good trade, able to provide for a young wife of prime child-bearing age.) Frankly, though – the man has been in local politics for thirty years. If this is the worst that can be said about him, and the good people of Alabama don’t appear to have any problems repeatedly voting him into local office … then why does the national Republican party leadership feel obliged to intervene? It’s as if they (and others) are simply outraged at the concept of people actually choosing a candidate who is not totally Ruling Party-compliant. “We’ll make the important decisions for you, you poor deluded peasants.”

And if he as a much younger man made persistent romantic overtures to very much younger women, it’s still a vast improvement on doing a Weinstein – that is, whacking off and depositing the results on an innocent potted plant on a regular basis.

Which brings me around to the great Hollywood Sexual Assault meltdown … I’m almost afraid to look at the headlines first thing every morning of late; someone else whose movies I never watched is going to accuse or be accused of sexual harassment; that is anything from being a rude and abusive a-hole, all the way up to assault or rape, involving the same sex, the opposite sex, under-age sex of either or however many genders there are these days, or of any convenient plant life. The up side to this is that too many of them are consulting with their lawyers (the guilty), or their supportive “Me-too” group (the offended against) to take time to lecture the rest of us about our disappointing shortcomings – our failure to vote for Hillary, our global-climate-change skepticism, our unashamed racism, our failure to surrender our personal weaponry, and to separate the glass from the tin cans and the paper when putting out the recyclables. The next Academy Awards is going to be a real hoot, I’m telling you.

Any bets on where it is going to be broadcast from? San Quentin, Folsom, or Pelican Bay? Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

13. September 2017 · Comments Off on Informers and Tattle Tales · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, General Nonsense

Tattle tale tit,
Your tongue shall be slit,
And all the dogs in the town
Shall have a little bit! – trad. schoolyard taunt

How bizarre it is to come to a time in these sort-of-United States where certain people who might otherwise have been mistaken for grownups appear to take great pleasure in channeling their inner selves; that of a malicious, sneaky tattle-tale, running to the teacher to inform on their fellow students at every opportunity. We do not — yet — have the equivalent of the East German ‘Stasi’, where half the population eagerly and voluminously informed on the other half. I would have assumed that Americans, young and old, despised tattletales – the adult version every bit as much as the juvenile variety. But we have moved on, it seems. A certain kind of mentality seems bound and determined to sign up as informers even before such volunteers are requested by the authorities in various venues.
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29. September 2016 · Comments Off on Miniseries – 2016 · Categories: Geekery, General Nonsense, Media Matters Not

So, I had this marvelous inspiration for an epic miniseries last night, which I am sure has probably occurred to other people – would that at least one of them might be in a position to act on this inspiration. We were watching Father Ted, and on the way to watching it, skimmed through some of the other offerings available through Amazon, Netflix, and Acorn … and I was thinking, since there are so many period series available, which offer all sorts of alternate or even just slightly-skewed versions of history, especially the versions which offer the actors the opportunity to get all vamped up in corsets and coats trimmed up in gold braid and whatever … what would be a good and popular historical novel series to make a TV miniseries out of … something with a swaggering, handsome and sexually-adventurous-hero, who romped all through the known world of the 19th century, brushing elbows with all kinds of interesting men of note and bedding women likewise, hip-deep in scandals, scoundrels and skullduggery, oh my.

Can you picture for a shining moment – what a thumping good miniseries the Flashman books would make? Yes, George McDonald Fraser’s Flashman series of books, wherein the dashing rakehell of the outwardly heroic, inwardly lily-livered Harry Flashman goes from the First Afghan War, scampering down the corridors of power all over the globe, looking over his shoulder and putting on a desperate burst of speed. Think of all the famous historical personages portrayed over five or six episodes by well-known actors doing a guest turn, consider all the supporting and reoccurring characters, whose listing on imdb would feature this role at the top of their CV. Consider all the exotic, exciting locations for Harry Flashman’s adventures … well, OK, likely Afghanistan is off the list as a real-life shooting location since history is still repeating itself there: You got England and Scotland, Germany, the Crimea, Russia, India, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, Mexico, all through the US and better than half a century of significant events, wars, campaigns and punitive expeditions across four continents. You got Abraham Lincoln, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Empress of China, pirates in the South China Sea, mutineers in India, and Apache on the warpath.

It would be splendid. And with even more book materiel than George R. R. Martin, too. Enough to do at least ten seasons if they did all twelve books, although likely to fill in the American Civil War segment, they might have to figure out exactly how Harry Flashman managed to fight for both the Union and the Confederacy. GMF never wanted to do it up in a book; Flashman being an Englishman, the American Civil War was just one of those minor foreign scuffles to him.

And the best part – would be that nervous-nelly, eternally politically correct social justice warriors would absolutely melt down into puddles of anguished tears at it all.

08. July 2016 · Comments Off on The Restaurant of Life · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, Geekery, General Nonsense

Some ironic fun on a Friday, found through the Passive Voice website.

14. March 2016 · Comments Off on So About This Cultural Appropriation Stuff · Categories: Ain't That America?, General Nonsense, Literary Good Stuff

It seems that there is a great social and literary kerfuffle going on in some circles about J. K. Rowling writing about the sub-rosa magical world of Harry Potter, and extending it into North America … and collecting a ration of butt-hurt thereby, over an interesting concept called cultural appropriation. She earned this through including Native American – as in Indian-with-a-feather rather than Indian-with-a-dot – legends and aspects of culture in her writing and world-building. In using the feather/dot descriptive extension, the Gentle Reader may gather straightaway that I care not for jealous cultural-claim holding, so if a wide-ranging and imaginative use of literary sources outside the one that a writer was born into offends thee, then retire to your fainting couch and trouble this noble company no longer!

Or attend to my gentlewomanly words … sorry, I seem to be channeling the idiom of the great English genius, William Shakespeare, who was and still often is accused of not possibly being the person that he seemed to be – a hard-working lower-to-medium-middle-class actor, playwright and greedy cultural-appropriator of every thing going and available to him in the 15th century – and also imagining the character and conversations of nobility and royals, of soldiers, lawyers, cutpurses and bawds, of innocent virgins and the not-so-terribly-bright lovers who loved them …

So – clearing my throat and waving off the last vestiges of the various cinematic Shakespeare romps that we have watched over the last several evenings – really? Certain tropes are now off-limits? Because … ohhh – those doing the writing and appropriating are not of quite the same matching color and culture of those doing the appropriating. Really?

Sorry, my own dear segregationist cultural warriors … won’t wash. First – if it is out there, it will be used by story-tellers. Full-stop. Oh, it is still frowned upon to outright plagiarize – but there is nothing new under the story-telling sun. To take an element, a character-type, a plot device, a trope – as it were, and run away romping with it in one’s own style … well, that’s pop-culture all over. I did a college course in Greek and Roman lit, back in the day – where the professor confessed that in all of Roman comedy there were only about three plots and half a dozen stock characters, which made it sound like late 20th century TV situation comedies, or possibly even classic commedia del arte.

So appropriate away – just for the love of the audience, make it good. Take those little Lego blocks of characters, tropes, plots, legends … and build something new and amazing. At the very least, make it interesting.

I know that I have not been posting much lately – here or anywhere else lately; just the bare minimum of commenting on other people’s posts and other people’s blogs and websites, but I had a couple of projects for the Tiny Publishing Bidness to work on, and then the two major projects to finish, format and upload to various platforms. Yes, I decided to go all-out and finish two books in time for the Christmas marketing season this year. Amazingly, neither one was the one that I had declared at the beginning of the year that I would have all done and ready to launch by this time  … yes, the adventures of young Fredi Steinmetz in Gold Rush-era California is rolled back another year. Sigh. I still have to do an epic-truck-load of reading of contemporary accounts and skull out a plot sufficient and historically-accurate to fill the last half of the book; which so far in my head will include a stint in San Francisco the year of the epically well-organized Vigilante organization, encounters with various historic personages, to include William T. Sherman, Lotta Crabtree and her formidable mother, some murderous claim-jumpers and a young woman seeking justice – while disguised as a boy. So, yes I will get on to that presently. After all The Quivera Trail was held at a third completed while I worked on Daughter of Texas and Deep in the Heart, and it didn’t seem to do any harm in the long-run.

So – the Harvey Girl adventure, Sunset and Steel Rails is done and ready for release on the 19th, in print and in Kindle. Amazon is dragging their feet apparently, in expediting the ‘Look-Inside’ feature. It isn’t up at present, but it should be in the next couple of days. Not bad, for something that I only got inspired to start in February of this year.  But The Chronicles of Luna City is a light and amusing present-day trifle which my daughter and I only got started on at the end of July – and here it is November, and that book is done and nearly finalized as well.  Three months, and just 70,000 words (but with pictures!) which is short for me, as most of the other books run 125,000 and up. (Although Lone Star Sons pegged in at 65,000.) There was one of the professional pulp adventure fiction writers – whose name escapes me at the moment – who was said to have done a book a month at one point in his career. Don’t know what the total word count was on any of them, but he must have worked in a white-hot blaze of energy … and Luna City is a light and diverting trifle, requiring very little research. Well, except for looking up restaurant equipment, and the names of obscure British TV series of the 1980s, and making certain that there aren’t any real companies with the same names of companies that I have mentioned in Luna City. Movie production companies really go for the obscure, I have to say. Had to nix six or seven possible names because there is a real production company out in the world with the name of something I thought would work for a movie production company. Luna City is pure contemporary escapism, utterly devoid of any redeeming social value in the eyes of the established guardians of our high literary culture … which I believe a lot of us have a need of these days, given how particularly screwed up, violent, and depressing real life seems to be, lately. (Oh, Established Guardians of our High Literary Culture? Yoo-hoo … over here! Now, gaze lovingly upon my upraised middle finger!)

So, light blogging will commence, now that all the hard labor of writing, editing, formatting and polishing have been done. Did you miss me?

20. August 2015 · Comments Off on Short Takes – August Edition · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, General Nonsense, Rant, sarcasm · Tags: , , ,

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

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

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

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

Discuss, if you dare.

03. August 2015 · Comments Off on Tales of Luna City – Mid-day At the Age of Aquarius · Categories: General Nonsense, Local, Luna, Texas

Final Cover with LetteringOn Saturday morning, Berto Gonzales slept in, knowing that he should have the town car back to Elmendorf to Uncle Tony’s place by mid-day. He came yawning from the tiny back bedroom at his father’s place, drawn by the smell of bacon frying, coffee brewing, and the sound of the cable Univision channel on rather loudly. His grandmother, Adeliza Gonzales, had never learned English and was slightly deaf besides – but in spite of that and being relatively homebound at the age of 89, Adeliza Gonzales didn’t miss much, even though the only English-language programs she ever watched were on the Food Network. Berto’s father had bought a wide-screen television specifically to put in the kitchen so that Abuela Adeliza could watch her cooking shows in the comfort of the room that she loved the best.
“Morning, Abuela,” Berto said, and then repeated himself slightly louder. Abuela Adeliza’s attention was riveted to the television screen, where an excited announcer was yammering on about … Berto wasn’t sure. It looked shaky cameraphone footage of a naked man with something metallic on his head, running down the street in a foreign city – a brief clip, then to steadier footage of an important-looking storefront building, with a large number of ambulances parked in front, flashing lights everywhere. Abuela Adeliza shook her head in dismay.

“Poor, poor fellow!” She exclaimed. “Such a shame … he had such a fine future before him … ‘morning, Berto; did you sleep well, then?”
“Always,” Berto dropped a brief kiss on the top of Abuela Adeliza’s head. “Abuelita … may I have some migos and bacon? No one cooks migos like you do,” he added with calculation. Just as expected, Abela Adeliza rose from her rocking chair. The bacon was already cooked; a bowl of fresh-gathered eggs sat on the counter by the stove
“Of course, Berto,” she replied, but Berto’s attention was suddenly riveted by the television, all hunger forgotten. On the screen appeared a series of pictures – some of them intended for maximum dangerous glamor – of a youngish and rather handsome man in his thirties in a series of poses, alone or with others. In most of them, his head was covered by black and red plaid handkerchief tied do-rag fashion; his lower face adorned by carefully cultivated designer stubble; he held a knife, a cooking fork or a mixing bowl and whisk, standing in front of a truly ferocious stainless steel restaurant stove. The handkerchief seemed oddly familiar to Berto … and come to think of it, so did the young man’s features.

“Abuelita – who is he? That man – do you know him?”
“Why, of course I do, Berto – it’s Rich Hall – they call him the Bad Boy Chef. He was coming up in the world, on television cooking shows so often… I thought he looked so much like your Abuelo Jesus when he was young – so dashing and handsome, so I always watched when he was on.”
“Well, damn,” Berto exclaimed, “so he was a celebrity, after all! That’s the guy I picked up at Stinson last night. I practically don’t recognize him when he isn’t barfing or dead to the world.”
“Oh, Berto!” Abuela Adeliza dropped the fork she had been scrambling eggs with. “Are you certain? But you must call Chief Vaughn at once, and tell him! Everyone is searching for him, pobrecito! He has disappeared!”
“No, he hasn’t, Abuelita – I dropped him off at Hippie Hollow!”
Abuela Adeliza assumed her sternest expression, commanding, “Berto – you will obey! You will call the police, at once.”
“Why?” Berto was no longer eight years old, even if Abuela Adeliza still seemed to think so, sometimes. Abuela Adeliza told him. Before she was even finished, Berto had picked up the phone and dialed Joe Vaughn’s office.

“I swear to God, Jess,” Dr. Stephen Wyler examined the sludge at the bottom of his coffee mug, “if things don’t get better around here, I might as well stay home and poison myself with my own coffee.”
“No, you old poop, you have too much fun, carrying on complaining,” Jess Abernathy replied, with a notable lack of sympathy.
“I’ll thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head, young woman,” Dr. Wyler replied, and Jess grinned at him. They were actually quite good friends, despite a distance of sixty years of age between them, Jess being a qualified CPA and Dr. Wyler one of her clients. As he was materially the wealthiest among them, Jess spent a good many hours untangling and keeping his complicated finances more or less in apple-pie order. There wasn’t much Jess didn’t know about Dr. Wyler. If no man was a hero to his valet, he most certainly isn’t to his CPA. Jess regarded him very much as a kind of honorary uncle, aside from the professional considerations.
“We might advertise for a replacement cook,” she suggested. “The Bee-Picayune has rather reasonable rates. I’ll call and see if they have room in next weeks’ classifieds.”
“That’s how I got whats-his-name,” Dr. Wyler scowled. “And he left without notice as soon as he got a better offer from those bastards at Mills Farm … damn, is that your phone?”
“No, it’s yours,” Jess replied. She and Dr. Wyler were sitting at one of the outside tables at the Luna Café and Coffee, enjoying the relative coolness of the morning, if not the currently dismal state of the Café’s menu selections.

“Damn fool invention …” Dr. Wyler unsnapped the catches of the ageing leather medical bag that accompanied him everywhere. He fished out the insistently buzzing cellphone from its depths and regarded it with mystification.
“Finger on the circle and slide over,” Jess hinted broadly.
“I knew that … Hello? Wyler here, what’s your major malfunction?… oh, hullo, Sefton.” Jess listened to the faint squawking emanating from Dr. Wyler’s phone. At last, he broke the connection. “Sorry, my dear – duty calls. Azúcar has developed a cyst on his neck which simply defies all of Judy’s home remedies.” Azúcar was the Grant’s pet snow-white llama, who because he had been bottle-fed since shortly after birth, had grown up to be almost two hundred pounds of bossiness with regard to humans.
“I’ll come with you,” Jess hastily stuffed her notebook, and took out some change for a tip, for the long-suffering high school girls who were tending tables during the summer. At ninety-four, Dr. Wyler was as wiry and weathered as a lifetime of riding, working cattle, and tending large recalcitrant animals could have made him, but still … ninety-four, against a two-hundred pound llama. Jess would have never forgiven herself if Dr. Wyler came to harm. “Heads or tails?”
“Tails.”
Jess deftly flipped the largest coin, caught it in her palm and slapped it down on the table.
“Heads, I drive, Dr. Wyler.”

The Age of Aquarius Campground and Goat Farm was but a short distance away; it would have been little trouble for Jess to walk, but the day was already becoming warm, and mid-summers in South Texas are merciless to the elderly, no matter how hardened by a lifetime of work in it. Dr. Wyler’s late model extended-cab pickup truck with the custom design – the brand of the Lazy-W on the front doors – bumped down the unpaved ruts between the pasture where the Grants’ goat herd spent their days, and the smaller meadow scarred with regular tracks which – if you squinted and the light were somewhat dim – did somewhat resemble a campground. The only evidence of this for most of the year was the aged Airstream trailer with long-disintegrated tires parked at the top of the slope, under a fringe of trees farthest from the riverbank, as the solstice had been last month. The last of the mid-summer nudists had been gone for weeks and the campground reverted to its usual dilapidated appearance.

As Dr. Wyler’s truck came around the last bend, they both saw the single Luna City Police Department cruiser parked by the moldering Airstream, and Joe Vaughn – every crease of his crisp tan uniform short-sleeved summer uniform as sharp as if it had just came from the cleaners not ten minutes ago – leaning against the fender, deep in conversation with Sefton and Judy. In marked contrast, the Grants were not crisp in their attire. In point of fact, neither of them were attired, although in deference to local sensibilities, both had donned simple hand-loomed loincloths. It has long been a truism, and one deeply appreciated by Luna-ites that in just about every case, those who proudly and defiantly forswear clothing really ought not to indulge themselves this way, as a matter of aesthetics. Judy’s long hair covered the top half of her body rather efficiently, and Sefton wore battered cowboy boots.
“What’s going on, Chief?” Dr. Wyler spoke first. Joe Vaughn tilted his white felt Stetson a little farther back on his head and nodded politely to Judy. Joe was tall, hawk-faced with a direct gaze – also like a hawk – and very, very fit. A military tattoo with the motto “Death from Above” just barely showed below the bottom of his shirt sleeve, which barely constrained the arm that it clothed. His muscles had muscles.

“Welfare check on a guest,” Joe replied. “Berto Gonzales called me up, first thing this morning, with a tale of how he brought out a fare last night from San Antonio – and he saw him on the TV this morning. Miz Adeliza told him some cock and bull about the fare being some TV celebrity chef that went ‘round the bend. Just as soon as I put the phone down, Miz Grant calls and tells me that their guest from last night is nowhere to be found. His clothes, his bag and wallet are all here …”
“And two empty bottles of Cristal,” Judy Grant put in, her pleasant round face the picture of worry. “I think he must have drunk it all… You don’t think he’s done away with himself, do you?”
“Overpriced gnat-pee,” Dr. Wyler put in, apropos of nothing in particular. “A man with real taste wouldn’t swill anything but Krug for a last drink.”
“Young Berto says his grandma told him this runaway chef is named Rich Hall,” Joe Vaughn answered. “But this joker’s Green Card and visa say that he is Richard Astor-Hall, and that he came in through New York two days ago. The paperwork says that he is a chef, though.”
“You don’t say,” Dr. Wyler’s expression brightened … but just then, the screaming started.

08. June 2015 · Comments Off on Still Not Finished With Sad Puppies · Categories: Domestic, Fun and Games, Geekery, General Nonsense, Literary Good Stuff, That's Entertainment!

With some apologies because this is not a matter which particularly touches me, or the books that I write, I am moved to write about this imbroglio one more time, because it seems that it didn’t end with the official Hugo awards slate of nominees being finalized – with many good and well-written published works by a diverse range of authors being put forward. The Hugo nominations appear for quite a good few years to have been dominated by one particular publisher, Tor. And it seems that the higher levels of management at Tor did not take a diminishment of their power over the Hugo nominees at all gracefully. (This post at my book blog explains the ruckus with links, for those who may be in the dark.)

A Ms. Irene Gallo, who apparently billed as a creative director at Tor, replied thusly on her Facebook page, when asked about what the Sad Puppies were: “There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.”

Oh, yes – outraged science fiction fans had had fun with this resulting thread.
And who can blame them? Four sentences which manage to be packed full of misrepresentation and a couple of outright lies; the voicing of similar calumnies had to be walked back by no less than
Entertainment Weekly when the whole Sad Puppies thing first reached a frothing boil earlier this year. Now we see a manager of some note at Tor rubbishing a couple of their own authors, and a good stretch of the reading public and a number of book bloggers … which I confidently predict will not turn out well. I have not exhaustively researched the whole matter, but tracked it through According to Hoyt and the Mad Genius Club, where there are occasional comments about anti-Sad/Rabid Puppy vitriol flung about in various fora. I would have opined that Ms. Gallo’s pronouncement probably isn’t worst of them, but it seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, coming as it does from an employee very high up in Tor management. People of a mild-to-seriously conservative or libertarian bent, are just sick and tired of being venomously painted as – in Ms. Gallo’s words – “right-wing to neo-nazi” and as “unrepentantly racist, misogynist and homophobic,” when they are anything but that.

Discuss.

(Cross-posted at my book blog, and at chicagoboyz.net)