07. September 2023 · Comments Off on The Tottering Colossus · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, Geekery, General, Media Matters Not

We beat feet from cable for our nightly television viewing about ten years ago – my, how the time flies when you are having fun. We went to various subscription services at a quarter the cost of the monthly cable bill. This came about when we realized that there were only a couple of channels or services provided by cable that we watched regularly; this last weekend, we racked our memories, trying to recall the last American broadcast TV program that we looked forward to and made a point of watching. (Castle, BTW, mostly because of Nathan Fillion … which had it’s last season in 2016.) We have lavished our screen-watching time ever since then on old, or foreign movies and series, of which there is a rich and entertaining selection – everything from Blackadder, to the original Upstairs, Downstairs (Great Britain), to things like A Place to Call Home800 Words and Brokenwood Mysteries (Australia/New Zealand). Currently, the evening watching for us is The Durrells (BBC, and only minimal traces of wokery), while Wee Jamie seems to be fascinated by Alien TV, (Australian) Grimmy and the Lemings (Canadian/French) and Masha and the Bear (Russian.)

Neither of us have felt the urge to go to a movie theater to see a first-run movie in ages. The last one that I went to a theater to see was Dunkirk. I do know that the one-two punch of Barbie and Oppenheimer did boffo business at the box office, sort of reviving interest in seeing first-run movies at an actual theater, as did The Sound of Freedom … but neither of us felt a jolt of interest in venturing to a theater. Those other movies on tap at the multiplexes just seem … meh. Over-loud, over-larded with special editing effects, inept writing and stupid plots, remakes of animated features or comic books, uninteresting concepts, and the unending lectures on matters political, racial, and sexual, pounded in with all the subtlety of a fifty-pound sledgehammer. Added to that; the movie-going experience now costing a small fortune as well as being physically unpleasant, compared to staying at home and watching it on your own wide-screen TV, sitting on your own comfortable couch, breaking for a snack, meal or a potty break.
From what I have read in various middle to conservative websites and blogs (including this one) with an interest in contemporary culture, entertainment and media in general and the comment thread attached to those posts, I am not alone in a prolonged disengagement with our American entertainment industry. Dropping viewer numbers for award shows, collapsing box office receipts, major houses like Disney circling the drain, audiences fragmenting into smaller and smaller niche markets, to include games, Youtube videos and the like … the American entertainment colossus, which once bestrode the world appears near collapse. The SAG-AFTRA strike hardly seems to have made a ripple, outside of those in the industry most concerned. The rest of us are watching … well, practically anything else.
What are you watching, and diverting yourself with, when it comes to television and movies? Comment as you wish.

06. September 2023 · Comments Off on A Lovely Way to Spend a Holiday · Categories: General

My daughter decided that since Monday was a holiday, we ought to get out of the house and go … go do something. We have always loved Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country, and the new Nissan (now nicknamed ‘Thing’ because of three letters making up part of the newly-issued license-plate) gets incredibly good mileage … so, we thought we would. Zip up the 281 to Johnson City and over the 290 ‘Wine Road’ to Fredericksburg. Alas, since it was Labor Day, the Ranger Museum and Fort Martin Scott were closed, and so was the Dutchmans’ Market, immediately opposite was likewise closed … so we went straight into town and parked in the lot behind the Visitor Center. That public parking lot is almost always and at best three-quarters empty. Perhaps most casual visitors to Fredericksburg don’t know about that parking lot, tucked away across the street from the Museum of the Pacific War

Anyway, Wee Jamie became distinctly bored and fractious, halfway between Johnson City and Fredericksburg, to the point where we had to pull into Wildseed Farm and take him out to let him decompress. It seems that not only has Wildseed Farm succumbed to the Wine Road mania and added a tasting room – but now they are going to charge, in season, to walk through the wildflower meadows. Which is another sad indicator of the turistification of the Hill Country … but business owners have to make a living, I know. At least one of the vineyards has built a whole castle keep alongside the road, fulfilling a prediction that I made early this century. (That the Hill Country would become the New Provance, seeing that there was already wine, olive oil, lavender, sheep and sheep’s milk cheeses … all we needed now was some castles and quaint hilltop towns.)

Oh, yes. Wine. Every mile or so along the road between Blanco/Johnson City and Fredericksburg there is another winery, varied with a couple of distilleries and an enterprise to brew mead. My daughter says that if you follow the Wine Road and stop in at every place for a single glass, you’d best get on the liver transplant list in Johnson City and have Live Flight waiting for you at Fredericksburg. A saleswoman in one of the shops on Main Street where we shared this, lamented that Fredericksburg used to be famous for peaches … now it was for wine. Many of the larger vineyards now have B&B cabins and spa-oriented hotel facilities available on the grounds, so I guess you can sample a lot of their wines and then crawl to a handy bedroom to sleep it off.

Le sigh deep. We rather liked Fredericksburg when it was a pleasant little German Hill Country town where they rolled up the sidewalks at 5 PM weekdays and there were only a few bars and restaurants open after that hour of the evening. The National Museum of the Pacific War was in the Nimitz Hotel complex, slopping over to a nearly-empty warehouse on Austin Street and a pole barn a couple of blocks away, Now, the very last normal business on Main Street, the 5 & Dime closed (the elderly owners of a 100-year old business wanted to retire, a clerk in another Main Street store told us) – and the Christmas shop on the corner of Main and Llano has now moved all the Christmas stuff to the side, and revamped as a fashion boutique. What used to be a gas station across from the Nimitz Hotel (which then became a coffee shop with an outdoor terrace under the old canopy) has been replaced by an ornate retail building with New Orleans-style metal balconies; but in line with the general late 19th century look of Main Street. The Subway sandwich shop diagonally across is also replaced by a retail complex. The shops, galleries and boutiques have filled up Main Street and spilled into parallel streets one block either side, Austin and San Antonio Streets, which used to be mostly residential. An acquaintance at a book club meeting in Fredericksburg told us a couple of years ago that there were now more B&B beds downtown than there were regular residences. Another acquaintance at that same meeting told us that they carefully avoid the Main Street area on weekends…

There was a small special gallery display for children at the War Museum – and it was free of charge, so we checked it out with Wee Jamie. It focused on the home front, and the work of children who wound up helping on farms and ranches when their older brothers and sisters went to war. There was a display of necessary crops, and then one about the rationing system, and a mockup of a news stand with WWII-era magazines and newspapers on display. But the final third of the exhibit was (drumroll, please!) focused on a Japanese-American girl interned with her family because … reasons. Much was made of the unfairness of this, although my mother, who was 11 years old when Pearl Harbor happened, had a best friend who was Japanese-American, and interned with her family. Mom was old enough to overhear a lot, especially when the war news turned ugly in 1942, what with the fall of the Philippines, and Singapore. Mom was frankly relieved when her friend was interned – as they would then be safe from retaliatory mobs, since so much was reported even then about Japanese atrocities against military and civilians in the Far East, not to mention fears of Japanese invasion on the West coast. What would have been more relevant to a Texas audience would have been a mention of interned German and Italian-Americans in Crystal city … or even American families with their children interned in camps at Los Banos and Santo Tomas in the Philippines under conditions of great hardship and brutality. This is, after all, a museum of the Pacific War.

We did visit the bookstore and gift shop – where my daughter bought a small flyer’s helmet for Wee Jamie, which has inspired me to make him a little flight suit and faux-leather aircrew jacket for his Halloween costume this year. Pictures of Wee Jamie will be posted when the outfit is finished. For the rest of the afternoon, we strolled up one side of Main Street to Town Square, and down the other. There weren’t an awful lot of people in town, and the heat was not too awful – so it turned out to be a very pleasant way to spend a holiday.

28. February 2023 · Comments Off on The Hard “Nope” · Categories: Domestic, Fun and Games, General, History, Stupidity, World

It was a post at Bookroom Room that led me to jump aboard this particular train of thought – that most of us have certain concepts embedded in us so firmly that absolutely nothing will ever get us to violate them. As Bookworm put it, “Because as I’ve contended for years, every person has one absolute truth. It’s the one thing they know to their bones is true and the world must align with that truth … For my mother, who would have been a fashionista if she’d had the money, style and beauty were her truths. She sucked up all the lies about Barack and Michelle Obama until the media talking heads said that Michelle was the most beautiful, stylish first lady ever, above and beyond even Jackie Kennedy. That ran headlong into Mom’s truth and, after that, she never again believed what the media had to say about the Obamas.”
It’s a concept worth considering – our own truths, which we will stubbornly hold on to, refusing any threats or blandishments. It varies from person to person, of course. Some have only small and irrelevant truths, which are never seriously threatened, and there are those who have no real truths at all, save perhaps self-aggrandizement – but even so, for some keeping to their truth is a hard struggle, deciding to hold to that truth against everything – especially if they have status or a living to make, in denying that truth.

Sam Houston, as governor of Texas on the eve of the Civil War, refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, required by a newly-passed law upon secession from the United States. Twice elected president of an independent Texas, and the general who had secured freedom from the Centralist dictator, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna nearly fifteen years before, Houston had labored mightily to secure annexation of Texas to the US. Secession from the Union must have nearly broken the old man’s heart. Most accounts have it that he paced the floor of his office for an entire night, considering whether he would take the oath … or not. He did not; he resigned all office and retired to his home in Huntsville, where he died several years later. When all was said and done, Houston was a believer in the Union, and devoted to Texas. When it came to secession and swearing an oath of fealty to the Confederates – a hard “nope” for the hero of San Jacinto.

My own personal biggest hard “nope” has to do with so-called anthropogenic global warming/global cooling/climate change concept alleged to be caused by human activity and industry. I don’t care how much the autistic Swedish teenager scowls at us all, or Al Gore flies from his many lavish mansions, to one important conference after another, to lecture us all about our carbon footprint. Earth’s temperatures and conditions have swung wildly over millennia, without any help from human beings at all. Canada and the north-central US were once covered by a mile of ice. The Sahara desert was once a grassland interspersed with marshes, rivers and lakes. In Roman times, it was temperate enough in England to grow wine grapes, while around 1000 AD it was warm enough for subsistence farming in Greenland … and then the climate turned colder all across Europe, until the River Thames froze solid enough between the 14th and 18th centuries to host so-called Frost Fairs on the solid ice. Avenues of shops opened on the ice, racing events, puppet shows and all manner of entertainments took place. The massive explosion of an Indonesian volcano in early 1815, on the other hand, led to a so-called year without summer in the northern hemisphere in 1816. The climate of earth has changed drastically, without any human input over conditions – even before humans existed, so what the heck have gas stoves or gasoline engines – or even coal-fired power plants have to do with it?

11. January 2023 · Comments Off on The Royal Ruckus · Categories: Fun and Games, Geekery, General, Media Matters Not, That's Entertainment!

Although ruckus is perhaps too mild a term for the flaming dumpster fire, train wreck or thirty-car pile-up on the interstate, for the public relations disaster that has been called down upon the Windsor family by the present king’s younger son. One isn’t so much drawn to look, in horror – just that one can’t look away from the international spectacle of a man napalming relationships with his own family, all egged on by his wife and the news/entertainment media.

I can’t help knowing what I do know about the British royal family, and the Kardashians, too, as I am a regular reader of the Daily Mail. Curiously, both the British royals and the Kardashians are an obsession of that publication, and it’s a slow week where there aren’t half a dozen stories concerning either. To be fair, I would guess that most of the royals are a bit better grounded, more obedient to duty, and all-around pleasanter people than the Kardashian clan. I really don’t know any of them, in the accepted sense – all I do know, like Will Rogers, is what I read in the papers. But the royals figured a lot in the news, over the last twenty or forty years – what with Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee, the assorted family weddings, divorces, scandals, nostalgic looks backward at the abdication of Edward, the wartime conduct of Queen Elizabeth’s parents, her own coronation, and her recent passing … well, one picks up a lot of trivial knowledge by osmosis.

One of those things is the realization that it’s a burden enough to be born into a family such as the Windsors, and as for the individuals who willingly and for love marry into it? It’s not a fairy tale; it’s more like an indeterminant sentence of glittering privilege and hard labor, into which those volunteers must go with open eyes and a willingness to fit into that life and give up just about every shred of privacy as the rest of us know it. The late Queen Mother did so, apparently assuming at the onset that her husband as the second son would be allowed a relatively obscure and private life on the edge of the royal circle. (I have read in several different accounts that her resentment of Edward VIII was unrelenting, as she was convinced that the responsibility of the office her husband was thrown into, willy-nilly, contributed to shortening his life.) As queen consort and later dowager, she never put a foot wrong. Catherine Middleton did the same; it would seem that Prince William let her have a good long time to consider and consent to what she was letting herself in for. Camilla, the present queen consort was in two minds about the degree of commitment necessary to join the royal family firm; apparently, so did Prince Harry’s previous serious girlfriends, and who could blame them in the least?

Another of those realizations is the knowledge that their lives are terribly peculiar; privileged for certain – but always in the pitiless and unsparing eye of the public – always “on”, whenever in public, the cynosure of all attention. The lifelong burden of attention and responsibility must be a terrible weight; only the strongest and most dedicated are likely able to hold up under the strain without cracking. That the late Queen and her husband held up under it for decades argues for the strength of their own characters, and the steadfast support and affection of a close family circle and those long-time members of their private circle – those few with whom they can relax, let their hair down, metaphorically, and trust to share confidences with – confidences and feelings which will not immediately be blared to the public at large. A close-knit and close-mouth family circle must be a large part of that support system. And Prince Harry has just blown all of that to heck. Not just breaking family confidence, as if that weren’t enough, but publicly venting a reservoir of spleen and resentment with just about every member of his family. It’s horrifying to watch as a disinterested spectator. Those once closest to him must be in agony. One must wonder if he was always an immature and resentful dumpster fire of a human being, and the royal public affairs office and a sympathetic British media just managed to keep that under wraps … or was Ms Markle every bit as awful.

If anything, the divorce coming along in five to seven years, is going to be an even more disastrous spectacle.

04. January 2023 · Comments Off on Wee Jamie · Categories: Domestic, General

My grandson, commonly called Wee Jamie in these pages, is twenty months old now, and a week ago Sunday experienced his second Christmas. Possibly this is a Christmas which will establish his memories of the holiday; what with presents, visiting Santa, the decorated Christmas tree and all the lights, nutcrackers, Santa figurines, the creche and the garlands over the door and the mantlepiece. It depends on how early his conscious memory kicks in, which is extremely variable. (I can remember very clearly places and incidents from when I was just barely three, my daughter says that her memory is a blur until nearly four.) Maybe next year will be the one that he remembers as being supremely enchanted, the Christmas which sets the standard for all the happy Christmases in the rest of his life. For myself, having at least sixty of those Christmases in memory under my belt, the only ones which really stand out for me now are the ones that broke the mold – those Christmases celebrated in basic training, a couple of them in Japan, the one in Greenland, the Christmas in Korea – all those holidays wherein we exiled souls made our own celebrations. The family Christmases all have settled into one indistinct blur; a pleasant blur, anyway.

Jamie is … adorable. Not my own opinion as a fond Nana; he is adorable. He is outgoing and friendly to almost every stranger that he meets, and affectionate to those whom he knows – our close neighbors, his godparents and our own friends, mostly. I have always thought this to be a better trait in a toddler, rather than being fretful and fearful of any other adult outside a limited circle.  Adorable in my arms, sodden with sleep, draped limp and boneless against my shoulder when he has fallen asleep, ready for nap or the night. He is a handsome little boy with feathery light-brown hair flopping over a high forehead. I am certain that by early middle age he will have a rapidly receding hairline, rather like Prince William in that respect. His eyes are, alas, an indeterminant hazel-gray-brown, rather than the blue they were as a newborn. He does retain the strongly marked eyebrows and long eyelashes which were noted even in the pre-natal scans. According to his last pediatric visit, he is trending physically on the smaller side of normal for his age. My daughter and I are both certain that sometime in his early teens he will shoot up overnight and become a tall and lanky adult. He is a very well-behaved baby, not much given to spasms of frustrated crying – and that on occasions when he was very tired, very hungry and it was past his regular naptime. This is good – as it distresses my daughter enormously when they do happen. The last three times were when we were in the car, coming back from some place, and Wee Jamie was frustrated and inconsolable.

It was feared, early on and based mostly on my daughters’ age, that there was a risk of Down’s Syndrome for him. This concern haunted her pregnancy, especially as there were some early indications on ultrasound scans which hinted at that condition – mostly a thickened nuchal fold at the back of his neck. There were some small cardiac issues detected at birth, and his eyes were slightly almond-shaped, which turned out to be more of a family trait. But he had none of the other notable physical markers for Downs, and the cardiac issues resolved within a year. The one worrisome quality was and is that he is slow to develop.  Wee Jamie has been late hitting all those important benchmarks; anywhere from two to three months behind in rolling over, sitting unaided, high-crawling, cutting teeth and saying distinguishable words. The pediatrician, being concerned that he might fall too far behind and never catch up, recommended physical and speech therapy through Brighton Center. He is making progress, to the point where the therapist – wise in the ways of small children says that Jamie could walk, stand, feed himself with fingers or a spoon … but he just doesn’t want to. I suspect that he has always been a bit lazy – breast-feeding was too much work for him early on, and he preferred the ease of the bottle.  He still isn’t saying simple words, or following many simple instructions, but by no means is he inarticulate; no, he is quite chatty in baby-babble. After watching the animated series Grizzy and the Lemmings, and Masha and the Bear, will do a very creditable bear-growl. Again, I suspect that he might not talk until very late, at which time he will surprise us all by speaking in complete, grammatically correct sentences. No, thank you, Mother, I do not require another helping of mashed peas at this time.

I can hardly wait to see how he turns out, this wonderful little boy-child. My daughter had a dream of him, once, of Wee Jamie being commissioned a captain in the military medical field, with us pinning the insignia on his shoulders. She said wistfully that she wished she could have shared the dream with me, so that I could see how handsome he had turned out to be. And a doctor in the family, too. Dad would have been so proud of that!

21. November 2022 · Comments Off on A Grand Puzzlement · Categories: Ain't That America?, Geekery, General, Media Matters Not, My Head Hurts, Technology

There are certain things that I just don’t “get”. No matter how hard I try and wrap my mind around the topic, it just stubbornly refuses to engage, sitting in a little sullen lump in the corner and obstinately saying “No.” Because of this, the higher mathematic fields have always been closed to me, either through natural disinclination or having been traumatized in getting blind-sided by the New Math in the third grade. Wisely, I stuck to the simpler, practical methods to do with numbers, and left esoteric maths to those who had a bent for them. I have other talents.
That being admitted and perhaps in relation to such an inability, I could never quite grasp the method and appeal of bitcoin.

Why was it a ‘thing’, other than a lot of people seemed to believe that bitcoinage was a ‘thing’? Bitcoin always seemed to me to be like the medium of exchange used in on-line role-playing games; a thing of value because everyone involved insisted on and agreed that it was. As for the concept of ‘mining bitcoin’, other than it involved a lot of time on the computer, and something to do with solving long and complicated formulae … Nope, just could not “get” how that all worked, and what if anything, bitcoin was based on, other than being trendy. It was all vaporous, it meant whatever anyone said that it meant, and no two people seemed to agree on how bitcoins were generated. So my daughter and I were never particularly drawn towards anything to do with bitcoin, or bitcoin wallets, investments or exchanges … especially since so many of the communications that we (my daughter more than me) received about bitcoinage appeared to be scammers. Something so thoroughly fenced around by a poisonous reek of scam made us both wary and we declined involvement, in any way, shape or form. Sensible in hindsight, considering the near-apocalyptic collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s Futures Exchange.

A truism to live by – like high-explosives, if you don’t understand it, don’t play around with it.

Well, it could have been worse – might have been tulip bulbs. (Oh, that Charles Mackay is not alive in this century – how many more chapters could he have added to his magnum opus!) It was curious and ironic that Bankman-Fried and his merry band of wonderkind were so elevated by the finance press … as if he had discovered some great hitherto unknown secret to grubbing wealth unfathomable, secrets unknown to the rest of us mere mortals. The subsequent crash and burn, as well as the fury of those rooked out of their very real investments is a mater of academic interest to those of us who had the native intelligence not to go messing about in something we really didn’t understand.

Bankman-Fried and his friends appear to be the children of privilege – just like Elizabeth Holmes, of Theranos ill-fame, who by striking coincidence, was sentenced this week. Like Bankman-Fried, Holmes was taken up by the press and by the great, good, and the well-connected, few of whom appeared to have actual specific knowledge of the field that she claimed expertise in. She conned a great many people who ought to have been warier or known better into backing her blood-testing enterprise – an undertaking that I am certain was as mysterious as is the generation of bitcoinage to laymen… or laywoman. But she fooled the well-connected and media outlets for years, just like Bankman-Fried did, and now everyone who ever bought into the hype has egg, metaphorically-speaking, on their faces. One wonders how much of it was due to the intensely favorable press … and how much the assumption from those who enthusiastically backed Theranos, that ‘she’s one of us, one of the elite, well-connected, gradate of a prestigious university, the daughter of so-and-so; she couldn’t possibly intend to pull a scam on us!’ I assume that it was the same with Bankman-Fried; ‘oh, he couldn’t possibly scam us! He’s one of us!”
Comment and discuss as you wish.

21. November 2022 · Comments Off on The Pleasures of Yew-Toob · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Geekery, General, That's Entertainment!

Last fall, when my daughter and I both fell temporarily to the covid plague, one of my respites was sitting at my computer with Wee Jamie the Wonder Grandson in my lap, watching various videos on YouTube. We were not exactly sick … just not very well; easily tired, devoid of energy and interest in anything that lasted very long. Wee Jamie had a low-grad temperature for a day or so, and sniffles, so his health was never in any particular danger. Neither was ours, once some serious drugs had knocked out the covid-induced pneumonia … but the two of us, Wee Jamie and I came away from those weeks with a decided fondness for ten or a dozen YouTube series – some of the home renovation off-the-grid living, a couple of ‘build a shelter from raw materials and a few basic tools’ – look, hard work fascinates me, I could watch it for hours. (Our Restoration NationRed Poppy RanchTrent & AllieLesnoy_Craft … respectively, various locations in the south, somewhere in the inland northwest, in Utah, and somewhere in … maybe Russia? We also liked some of the model-building shows; one an Australian, the other a German, both of whom do the most amazing dioramas and small structures. (Luke Towan, and Samy-Modelblau. Oh, the things that you can make from thick cardboard, and a range of model-making supplies! And wire … and resin…)

But the ones that we liked the best, and from which I came away from with a severe case of power-tool envy were the various renovation/restoration channels; a variety of specialists doing amazing things in renovating, refinishing, and repairing old furniture, restoring seriously wrecked and rusted agricultural or domestic items, and restoring them to attractive functionality. It’s kind of soothing, watching rust being blasted away in a sand-blasting booth. I so wish now that I had been permitted to take wood and metal shop in junior high school – instead of cooking and sewing. I already knew how to cook and sew … but this was when shop classes were strictly reserved for the boys, and the home-making sills were likewise reserved for girls. (You know – back before the Noachian flood. Although Dad did his best to teach my brothers and sister and I, outside of school)

The thing that does get me is that these various specialists really ran the gamut of nationalities – and that some of them never even appeared as more than their hands, doing the work. Veradona Restoration is Czech, AT Restoration, as near as I can figure out, is based in Estonia, one of the Baltic States. LADB is French, and so mysterious that all one ever sees of the experts featured is their hands. I think that there are three of them – one young, one middle-aged, one old, just to judge from close-ups of the hands doing the detail work – woodwork, metal fabrication, rust removal. They have a charming ginger cat-familiar hanging about the incredibly-well equipped workshop; Avril, who appears in most episodes.

Then there is Epic Upcycling, featuring a stone-faced Canadian carpenter-genius, who builds the most ornate and substantial furniture out of old pallets and miscellaneous scrap. Seriously, never give this man an acre of old shipping containers, I think he would build a whole fantastically-original city, or at least a suburb out of them. The pieces of furniture are fantastic – complicated, ornate … and he builds his own metal hinges, handles, locks and stuff. My thought is that of course, the designs are that ornate because the wood he builds them out of is basically waste product, of which (from the occasional glimpses of his wood stash) he may have cornered the available market in used pallets. What he could do with fine wood would rival anything built for Versailles. Or any other 17th, 18th or 19th century palace.

Ah, the pleasures of watching knowledgeable craftsmen and women at work … although I am pretty certain that all the disasters are off-camera or edited out.

20. September 2022 · Comments Off on Blackout · Categories: General

A lot of things came together this week – and one of them is the absolute end of my patience and grim toleration/indulgence of certain intellectual trends and racial sub-groups in our society. Curiously, this comes during a period of the mourning for and burial of the late sovereign Queen Elizabeth II, which in combination with some other news elements initiated this particular train of thought. My toleration of certain elements in our society has reached a critical point; to whit, I am done with black racism … and yes, black racism is an existing and very poisonous thing, as much as enablers and perpetuators of that variety of racism deny it, and our National Establishment Media try and sweep it under the rug, denying the very evidence of our lying, racist eyes. Some brutal and egregious rape-murder-kidnapping-assault happens in a city like New York, Memphis, St. Louis, Atlanta, a mass punch-out all-hands brawl in a fast-food restaurant, an amusement park or on a cruise ship, an organized mob loots a retail outlet … if there are no pictures initially of the perpetrators of such outrages against civic good order … well, everybody knows.
Everybody knows.
Everybody knows that an elderly person of white or Asian ancestry is more apt to be knocked out in the street by a male thug of color. Everybody knows that schools in black majority urban areas are snake pits of venomous disorder, places which well-meaning teachers flee. Everybody knows that the Black Lives Matter mass movement set a new land-speed record in going from cause to racket, materially benefiting only the original organizers and their subsequent investment in pricy real estate in upscale neighborhoods. Everybody knows, or at least suspects that reported racist incidents, such as Jussie Smollett, the BYU Volleyball imbroglio, the noose garage pull-down at NASCAR – all ballyhooed in the national media will eventually turn out to be to be self-aggrandizing fakes. The initial offence is headline news. But the apologetic walk-back is usually reported on page whatever. Huh. Imagine that.

I’d also suspect that there may have been actual incidents of white-on-black public racism in the last decade or so – but the well of credibility has been so poisoned that very few thinking person will credit them. There are only so many times that ‘wolf!’ can be cried, before anyone outside of the Racial Industrial Complex has any credibility. I do feel genuine sorrow for neighbors of mine, for fellow service personnel, (to include commanders and NCOICs) who are of – as one of my friends once put it – a dark year-round natural tan color – who are also good and responsible neighbors, family-oriented, law-abiding, and patriotic, in spite of their community being victimized by casual racism, general bigotry and Jim Crow laws and practices a lifetime ago … but that was then. For most of us under the age of receiving Social Security, it’s like World War Two. Something that we have heard about, seen in documentaries and heard our elders reminiscing about … but which we have never actually experienced in real life. But the grievance woobie is clung onto by the Racial Industrial Complex like a tantrum-prone toddler who can’t let go of their security blanket … because? Well, they wouldn’t be special any longer.

The criminal element among the black community – estimated to be about 4% of the population is also estimated to be responsible for about half the violent crime in the United States. That is poisonous enough, but in a lot of ways, it’s a self-limiting phenomenon. Black offenders with a penchant for violence will eventually encounter a final come-uppance: other offenders in open gang war, law-enforcement once they have pushed too far and too openly, even eventually vigilante action, should the black criminal element venture too far away from their protected turf. Vicious predators in the back country eventually run into a terminal 3-S solution.

No, the ostentatious black activists who have finally breached my personal wall of toleration for intellectual idiocy are so-called intellectuals, people like the professor at Carnegie Mellon, who wished that the late Queen Elizabeth had experienced an agonizing death. To my mild surprise, the author of those wishes is an authentic Nigerian American. Usually, it’s the native-born Americans of color in the activist community, academia, or in media who combine that degree of malice with vicious historical ignorance. Tolerations and patience among ordinary citizens already appear to be running out when it comes to the black criminal class; might it be running out for the antics of the black activists and the lunatic intellectual racists as well? Not that I think there will be any overt demonstrations, such as there would have been early in the last century; any actions taken will be more along the lines of quiet shunning and physical avoidance. Comment as you wish.

19. June 2022 · Comments Off on Cozy Little Home · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, Local

This must be my month for noticing cozy and modest little homes appearing in media – last week it was a quaint little cabin in the mountains redone by Melissa Gilbert and her husband as their personal refuge. This week it is a shed on a small ranch property near Fayetteville. The owners inherited the property from grandparents. While sensibly saving up what they need to reno the main house, they spend a year and a mere $16,000 on fitting out a shed as a tiny temporary home for themselves and two young daughters. The shed itself dated from the 1980s and appeared structurally sound – it had even been insulated, but lacked plumbing and electricity, and was just a single room inside, approximately 280 square feet. So they set to work, doing the labor themselves; partitioning off the space inside to one living room and kitchen, with a bathroom and bedroom at the back. They built on a generous porch which added about a third more living space, replaced the windows, put in an air conditioning system – and have been living in it happily for more than a year.

I’d guess that most of that $16,000 went for the plumbing, electric and HVAC, the new vinyl windows, and the kitchen cabinets. Most of the other construction materials were sourced from the ranch itself, gained from tearing down an even more decrepit old barn and reusing the wood beams, planks, and the front door, which hardly needed any more work than replacing the glass panel in it. It was a lovely demonstration of what one can do on a small project, with the help of friends, and making use of what materials come to hand. I do hope that they will also document progress on renovating the main house; at any rate, when that second and larger reno job is done, the family will have a lovely little guest house.

I honestly wish that more builders were interested in building developments of small – say 800 square foot or less houses, of the two bedrooms, one bath sort. Those small starter houses might sell for a much more reasonable, affordable price. But there are all sorts of economic and political pressures not to do so, mostly associated with economic costs and civic authorities not wanting to allow any development which might soon descend to slumhood, never mind that home owners tend to be rather more careful of their property than renters.

13. April 2022 · Comments Off on Our Culture, What There Is of It · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, History, Old West, Texas

This last weekend, I actually went out of my house/neighborhood and did something different. Something interesting and out in the real world, or something that resembled the real world, out there, beyond the keyboard and computer screen. I had a table for my books at a cultural event, the Folkfest in New Braunfels. Historically, New Braunfels was one of the German Verein-founded towns in the Texas Hill Country, one of those that I have written about in my historical series; the main reason that I was invited to the bash under the oak trees at the Heritage Society’s campus on the northern edge of town. The Adelsverein Trilogy touches on the circumstances and reason why more than eight thousand German immigrants ended up on the wild and unsettled Texas frontier in the 1840s. A consortium of German noblemen and princes hoped to make a tidy profit – and to do a good deed for their struggling countrymen – by taking up an entrepreneur grant in the independent Republic of Texas. They were honest in their hope to make the venture advantageous economically for them, which distinguishes them from many other ostensibly charitable enterprises of late. That the Adelsverein went broke within two years had more to do with the princely gentlemen overselling their program to eager potential immigrants and badly underestimating the costs in transporting them to Texas. That it resulted in a godly number of able, educated, independent-minded and patriotic new citizens turned out to be a bonus. It also resulted in Kendal, Gillespie and Comal counties being almost completely German-speaking for better than a hundred years, which explained the prevalence of dirndls and lederhosen worn with cowboy boots at the Folkfest.

The Heritage Society has moved a number of buildings of historical note onto the property; a dog-trot cabin, carpenter’s shop, a windmill, one-room schoolhouse. blacksmith shop and others. For the Folkfest, these buildings are inhabited by docents and volunteers, augmented by historical reenactors in tents and pavilions, eager to exhibit their skills and gear. The flintlock and black powder shooters shot their long rifles regularly during the two days, as did the cannon crew with their antique artillery piece. There was live music under the trees – a Celtic band, a children’s choir singing German folksongs, a clogging dance troupe, an array of country-western singers – and a children’s costume parade on Saturday, carrying on the tradition of a May Day parade established by the teacher of the first school in New Braunfels in the 1850s. A pair of charro performers demonstrated rope tricks and fancy riding skills in a temporary rink, the owner of a genuine 1913 Ford Model-T gave rides around the circuit of the grounds, and the owners of an authentic cowboy chuckwagon demonstrated making biscuits and cooking over a fire with iron Dutch ovens. In other years at Folkfest I have seen lace-makers showing off their skills, and carpenters demonstrating how to use templates and hand-tools to shape chair spindles and legs. Last year, the hayride was in a wagon pulled by a pair of horses, this year merely a trailer lined with hay-bales pulled by a tractor. But there was a good crowd, over this last weekend; families and couples having fun, listening to the music while sitting at the tables by the beer garden, under the great oak tree in the center of the grounds by the beer garden. There wasn’t a single mask in sight, and no social distancing that I could see. It all reminded me that not everything is awful and catastrophic – and that many of us are holding on tight to our history and our traditions.

 

07. February 2022 · Comments Off on Visions of A Time and Place on the Big and Small Screens · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, Local, Media Matters Not

I am tempted to start watching the series 1883 – and likely will, as soon as it appears in one of our regular streaming services, but I am wondering, just reading about it – how far into the episodes I can get before walking away.

I mean, we barely lasted one episode into Texas Rising; a hideous and heartbreaking waste of time and video, being shot mostly in the wild mountains of Durango, Mexico, which bore no resemblance at all to the topography of Texas.* And no, the chapel of the Alamo does not have a crypt. They did get two things right, although the rest of the series was a cringe-fest, according to viewers who had stomachs stronger than mine. Texas did fight a war for independence from the Centralist dictatorship of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, and there was a battle at the Alamo in San Antonio, and another at San Jacinto, barely six months later. Otherwise, Texas Rising was heartbreaking for Texas history fans, because it could have been a totally enthralling account of the war for independence and the fight for independent statehood – elements and incidents which were so dramatic and improbable that hardly anything needed to be made up out of whole cloth.

That series and countless others fell into a common fault of movies and television series when ‘doing’ a Western – that is, a story set on the American frontier in the 19th century – wherever that frontier happened to be in any given decade from the 1820s on to the end of that century. The common failing is to run it all together in one murky blur, as if technologies large and small remained constant, as did fashions, the political and geographical landscape, relations with various Indian tribes. As I wrote in this essay, several years ago, “there were very specific and distinct places, as different as they could be and still be on the same continent. 1880’s Tombstone is as different from Gold Rush-era Sacramento, which is different again from Abilene in the cattle-boom years, nothing like Salt Lake City when the Mormons first settled there – and which is different again from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s small-town De Smet in the Dakota Territory – or any other place that I could name, between the Pacific Ocean and the Mississippi-Missouri.”

Setting the series to start in 1883 is curious enough – it’s just rather late in the history of the frontier to generate a long-trail wagon-train journey, and from Texas to Montana, too. The western market in beef cattle was about to go bust by the middle of that decade, and the northern ranges ravaged by two especially harsh winters in a row. The various Indian wars along the frontier were done and dusted, all but the last uprising of the Lakota Sioux, inspired by the Ghost Dance movement. The transcontinental railroad had been completed long since. By the mid-1880s just about every major city in the United States and Canada was connected by a network of shining steel rails, obliviating the necessity of a long and dangerous journey by wagon-train across all-but-empty lands in most of the trans-Mississippi west. A cast interview that I did read mentioned that the producers and directors were going all out for authenticity. Well, we’ll see, eventually. I recollect reading an article in Smithsonian, of all places – which lauded all the ways in which the producers of The Patriot were going all out in historical fidelity, but once I watched that movie, I realized that the authenticity was all in small details, such as props, costumes and weaponry … just not the whopping big plot elements, personalities and key incidents. I’m afraid that I will find the series 1888 to be another helping of the same old stuff.

*Wierdly enough – the movie The Highwaymen got the topography exactly right. Yes – the wide lonely vistas, the two-lane paved roads with the line of spindly power poles along-side and the bare fields of new corn or cotton, or whatever spreading out on either side, the tiny roadside gas stations … were exactly right. The small towns, and transient camps, the little tourist cabin enclaves … also exactly right, as to time and place. I have pictures of my own, taken on various road trips which can affirm this.  I don’t know how much that the production company for The Highwaymen spent to do location shooting – can’t have been more than Texas Rising – but one big production got it right, and the other fell spectacularly flat when it came to the ‘look’ of places.

04. October 2021 · Comments Off on Looking Ahead · Categories: General

The last third of the year is upon us, that part of the year when we have markets, and prepare for the holiday season. I don’t know how many we will be doing this year. I had to beg off the Folk Festival in New Braunfels as I was still feeling feeble with the Commie Crud. The thought of driving up to the venue with stock and the tables and all, dragging it all from the car, setting up and spending two days outside was just too exhausting to contemplate. A pity for it would have been fun – but I’m only a week out from having to rest for several hours after the exertion of reading the usual news in the morning and walking the dogs for a bare half-mile, and from going to bed at 6 PM, utterly exhausted.

My book didn’t make the Giddings Word Wrangler this year, so that event is also off my calendar. Looking on the bright side, I am spared the cost of two nights in a local hotel and the drive to Giddings – and doing it alone, since the Daughter Unit has Wee Jamie to consider. The Word Wrangler has never been all that profitable for us, but we loved doing it because of the community involvement and the opportunity to hang out with other Texas authors. But we do have Miss Ruby’s Author Corral in Goliad, another Christmas event in New Braunfels and possibly the craft event at the Bulverde senior center. Honestly, this last year really has been one I’d rather forget.

It’s depressing to read the news of a morning – writing about Luna City, the Jim and Toby stories, and the various historicals is an even more urgent refuge than before. Somehow, I have to get myself motivated to finish the Civil War drama, which is nearly half-done. I think what is holding me back is the fact that I will have to write about that war, the ghosts in Union blue and Confederate gray, and the savagery with which they went after each other. I’ll have to write about that in detail, imagine it happening before my eyes. This hits too close to current events, with feelings running high between progressive and conservative factions.

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I read the linked story in the Daily Mail, and realized that my daughter and I must have passed within a mile or so of the abandoned water-park many times, during the time that I was stationed at Hill AFB and made the journey up and down I-15 between the home that we had in South Ogden and my parents retirement place in Valley Center. The desert around Yermo, Barstow, Ludlow, Baker and Needles was familiar stomping ground for Dad, who confessed sometimes that in another life, he would have been a desert rat – for he loved the Mojave Desert. Loved the wide blue sky, at home in the dun-colored sweep of desert which actually hid so much life; Dad would have been happy in a small shack somewhere out beyond Needles, with a burro and a dog for company, watching over the desert life that he adored – the kangaroo rats, the little desert kit foxes, the tiny birds which nested in hollows in the cactus, the desert which bloomed into amazing sweeps of color once a year after sudden flurries of rain.

We never would have stopped at the waterpark – deserted now – in it’s prime, as we weren’t really the sort of people who did tourist attractions. Mom and Dad preferred camping trips, day excursions to places that were free or nearly so, long hikes in the wilderness – that kind of thing. But it looks as if it would have been a fantastic place for families, back when it was open, even though a long, long drive out into the desert.

One of Dad’s regular stops in his desert excursions had first been established when his parents, Grandpa Al and Granny Dodie used to drive up to Las Vegas for a spot of gambling. This must have been post-World War II, when gasoline rationing ended. Dad would have been a teenager then; Grandpa Al and Granny Dodie were rather fond of such excursions, which they carried on to a lesser degree when we were kids. Dad fondly remembered stops for a meal at a tiny, two-outlet hamburger chain called “The Bun Boy”, at the approximate halfway point between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, either the outlet on the outskirts of Barstow, or the one in a tiny hiccup in the road called Baker. For a number of years, Baker boasted of the tallest thermometer in the world, constructed by a local entrepreneur. The local radio station, which was all that we could get on the car radio carried commercials for the Bun Boy, or the rival establishment across the road, The Mad Greek, which featured gyros and fries. When my daughter and I drove from Utah for the holidays, or back again after New Years’ we would time the start of our drive to catch a meal – mid-morning breakfast at the Bun Boy, no matter if we had started the drive before dawn at Mom and Dad’s place, or after spending the night at Mesquite on the Utah-Nevada border.

It was a comfortable diner-type restaurant, not terribly distinguished in architecture or décor – but the food was always good, and the burgers were fabulous. Sometimes we ate at the counter, which was always fun, especially if there were truck drivers also getting a quick meal and refills of coffee. We got the low-down from them on where the highway patrols and the local police keep a strict weather-eye on speeders on the highway.

It looks like both locations for the Bun Boy are closed – and Baker itself is a ghost town — all but deserted save for a gas station; the Mad Greek is apparently closed as well. Are the lights still on for the giant thermometer? California used to be such a lively, interesting, fun place, but now I think with sorrow and regret of crumbling ruins and deserted towns, the hot dry wind whipping through places like Baker and the desert water park.

26. September 2021 · Comments Off on An Extraordinary Woman · Categories: General

She was born to privilege and a degree of wealth, at the turn of the last century – Muriel Morris, an heiress of the Swift meatpacking fortune, and by most accounts conflicted over that circumstance. Like a scattering of her peers in the debutant world, she had an interest in social justice, as it was generally understood at the time. She is reported to have read Upton Sinclair’s polemic The Jungle as a teenager and been horrified – doubly so as both sides of her family had made their fortunes in the industry which Sinclair portrayed as especially brutal and gruesome. Muriel Morris was also of an unexpectedly intellectual bent and determined enough to pursue her intellectual interests – first with studies at Oxford, England in the 1920s, and then in – of all places, Vienna, Austria, where she hoped to study psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud. She briefly married a British artist, Julian Gardiner, by whom she had a single child, a daughter, before deciding to pursue a medical degree at the University of Vienna in 1926. She had a trust fund sufficiently generous to support herself and her small daughter.

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Twenty years it’s been, as of yesterday. Twenty years and Afghanistan is down the drain, the Taliban back in charge. At least a comprehensive malignant menace like Bin Laden is dead, with his corpse – supposedly – dropped into the deep ocean, although I suppose that his organization staggers on, zombie-like, and possibly subsidized by Pakistan’s secret service. The dust of the fallen towers is settled, and the American troops are home, more or less. Still under a cone of silence as far as the US media is concerned, as are tales of hairbreadth escapes by American citizens, employees, and American-employed Afghan nationals … perhaps they were all made to sign a binding non-disclosure-agreement, as a condition of getting on that big Freedom Bird. Or our national establishment media is doing their bidding, as obedient handmaidens of the Dem party, and doing their best to disappear this latest disaster. Well, good luck with that. There are too many of us out there, and we have a voice, for at least a little bit longer.

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05. September 2021 · Comments Off on Cone of Silence · Categories: General

It looks as if with the official departure of the US military from Kabul, a media cone of silence perpetuated by the National Establishment Media has descended over the whole ghastly mess, leaving a good many of us who have been following the chaotic and bloody disaster that it was with unanswered questions. Like – exactly how many Americans were left behind in Afghanistan? American citizens and employees of international and US-sponsored NGOs, or dual nationals home visiting relatives in the “Old Country” over the summer vay-cay? A couple of hundred? Or thousands? Independent military reporter Michael Yon and others across the indy blogosphere reported that American citizens – with their passports in hand – were turned away from entering the Kabul Airport by the US Army, and it is those people who are stranded in Afghanistan now. Well, maybe. Between the proverbial fog of war and the cone of silence – a great many questions remain.

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They abandoned the dogs. In the hurry to abandon Kabul, the assholes in charge of leaving Afghanistan in an unseemly hurry – abandoned the dogs. Those expensively-trained and pedigreed, loyal, and loving creatures – were abandoned. In their travel crates, no doubt bewildered and confused. Left to die of hunger and dehydration, or to the torture of Muslims who abominate dogs, or a slower death of starvation and neglect, if someone thought to leave the crate doors unsecured, and let them run free about the area.

I don’t care if the carefully-parsed excuse from the DOD claims that they weren’t actually military DOD working dogs, left behind. I don’t care. Those government-grade assholes lie and parse like they breathe, effortlessly and legalistically. The dogs were trained, valuable, loyal and trusting, no matter who held their leashes and held out their reward woobie for them. And they were left behind, in the most disastrous and shameful retreat and withdrawal since – ¦ honestly, I don’t know when. Maybe the sinking of the Titanic.

And don’t even get me started on the American citizens left behind, or the Afghani citizens who had assisted or worked for the NATO establishments in Afghanistan, who are now at peril. Next to which the situation of the poor dogs pales – but humans have abilities, language, and resources. Those dogs have none of that – only bewilderment at being so betrayed.

Seriously, I never expected much from American adventuring in Afghanistan, and that was even well-before 9-11. Everything that I had read about the place – starting with Kipling, and even pop novels like MM Kaye’s The Far Pavilions, and G.M. Fraser’s Flashman series – especially the first Flashman adventure, which covered the First Afghan War in rollicking (and considering current events) depressing detail.  All that I ever read about the place signaled “handle with extreme care, equipped with asbestos gloves and long tongs” to one uninitiated into the mysteries of international relations. Considering how those considered to be credentialed experts in that region have karked up the American withdrawal from Kabul and Afghanistan proper … one might very well conclude that a survey of popular historical novels dealing with the place and people therein might afford a better grasp of realities. Those military in the lower and mid-ranks who had the experience of deployments there had pretty much come to the same conclusion, if my readings of other milblogs, and posts on social media are any indication. Once we settled Bin Laden’s hash, there really appeared no particular reason to linger.

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29. August 2021 · Comments Off on A Bit of a Diversion · Categories: General

Candidly, the current state of the world and the latest news such a depressing f**king place, that the Daughter Unit and I have taken refuge in renovating the den, which is our TV watching room. A leak in the ceiling from an overflowing drip pan during the week that Wee Jamie was born resulted in part of the ceiling to that room falling in – and it’s taken a bit of time to clear up the mess, although the HVAC company whose’ unit was responsible for the overflow which caused the initial collapse were troopers and cleared away the mess and roughly patched the hole in the ceiling straight away. It turned out, though – that the deductible on my homeowners’ insurance was pretty high – to the point where the insurance adjuster and I pretty much agreed: take that money and just hire the local neighborhood handy guy to fix the damage – patch the ceiling and all – and just forget about filing a claim.

So that is what we have done – painted the walls with the half-bucket of pale gray-blue paint left over from the nursery, repainted the three bookcases with ice-white paint and moved out the armoire which took up altogether too much space in a small room. This very week we began watching TV there of an evening, with a newly-bottle-fed and bathed Wee Jamie in a small rocking cradle between us. Alas, until I have another client, or the sales of books absolutely skyrockets in the next month or two, actual replacement of the lamentably pop-corn textured ceiling with beadboard and the painted concrete floor with vinyl planks will have to wait. In the meantime, we’ve reclaimed the den for TV watching – and what did we find when we checked into BritBox to see what was on offer? Nothing more awesome than Blake’s 7, which was the British equivalent to the first Star Trek series, at a slightly later time period. This series aired on KUED in Salt Lake City, late on Saturday evenings, and which we discovered and watched slavishly – it followed, IIRC, an episode of Red Dwarf weekly. We loved them both, and I taped the whole run of Blake on VHS tapes, which I still have, and will maintain as long as the series remains stubbornly unavailable for a reasonable cost in a format watchable in the US. I even had a Blake’s 7 T-shirt, a gimme from KUED’s annual pledge drive, a shirt which I wish that I had taken better care of, for the nerd-credit that possessing such an item would presently afford me.

“Sets made of cardboard and plastic sheeting. Costumes borrowed from other shows. Shooting on gravel pits and the like. Each episode made for maybe three quid…” So goes one review on the packaged set available on Amazon. Yep, those were the production values all right – I think that my high school drama classes might have made something higher-grade, overall … at least we might have spent twenty or twenty-five bucks. Only the early Doctor Who episodes boasted even lower-rent special effects, as I recall one which supposedly represented some kind of alien entity, consisting of a long sheet of lightweight plastic shower curtain agitated by an off-camera electric fan. Even the original Star Trek boasted more convincing set dressings and costumes, which is saying something indeed.

But against all those production and special effects shortcomings was a bravura cast of actors, plating interesting and flawed human or humanish characters, and some really excellent writing. There were no happy endings, and certainly no redshirts bumped off in each episode while the main characters emerged unscathed at the end of every episode and season. (One character, Ker Avon, in refusing to go planet-side: “I’m not stupid, I’m not expendable, and I’m not going!) In fact, by the end of three seasons, half the starting characters had been redshirted, and their technologically superior spaceship was gone, and the leader, Blake himself, went missing for all of the final season, until the very end. There was really noting quite to equal it on American TV until Babylon 5. Dystopic, dramatic, and engaging … and an improvement on watching the current news.

17. August 2021 · Comments Off on Yes, I have Seen This Movie… · Categories: General

Indeed, I have seen this movie before. Only it was helicopters lifting off the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon, after a war which didn’t drag on for nearly as long as the hamfisted, ill-advised and ultimately disastrous attempt by an assortment of venial careerists in the DOD and State Department to make a functional country out of an Islamist-ridden tribal hellhole like Afghanistan. Now, it’s grossly overloaded airplanes and mobs in Kabul, Afghanistan. The suspicion now is that those high-ranking idiots, exemplified by General Milley and his boss at the head of the DOD, former General Austin didn’t really believe in that stated mission, they just wanted to ensure that the gravy-train went humming along; pots and pots of boodle for their pet projects, a nice pension, and a profitable post-retirement gig as a member of the board of whatever, or a nice gig as a media commenter. Oh, and instead of dealing realistically and honestly with Afghanistan – a 7th century quarrel with borders, a fact which has been freely acknowledged for decades, if not centuries – these shoulder-starred geniuses were off on a mad quest to hunt down and eliminate the Great White Supremacist Whale from the military services.

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13. August 2021 · Comments Off on I Have So Seen This Movie Before · Categories: General

It didn’t get better, seeing it fifty years later.

10. August 2021 · Comments Off on Party Hearty · Categories: General

Well, if there isn’t one element in current events which more clearly shows up the double standard – not to mention the absolute uselessness of masks and so-called social distancing – it would have to be Barak Obama’s lavish party with six hundred of his closest and dearest friends, at his plush estate in that playground of the old-money wealth, Martha’s Vineyard. The Commie Crud virus obviously must know the difference between the enlightened, sensitive members of the elite, and would not dare afflict them, unlike those stupid, unenlightened and no doubt racist proles attending the Sturgis motorcycle rally. So, the Obummer and his guests, solo and chorus gave the middle finger to masks, and social distancing – and by their example, the rest of us ought to be able to do it too, witness the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, which occurred at almost at the same time. The time of the mask is done, although the establish media is still screeching on about it. Is anyone really still listening, out in small towns and rural areas in Flyover country, when some indignant Karen at any level, from the supermarket aisle to the state house, starts wingeing on about the dratted things, and won’t you consider the continued good health of everyone around you, you heartless deplorable, you?

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06. August 2021 · Comments Off on High Trust · Categories: General

Last Sunday morning, the Daughter Unit, together with the dogs and the Grandson Unit, were doing our customary long walk through the neighborhood when we came upon a rather startling thing – a man’s lost wallet with money, credit cards, and various identification, including a drivers’ license in it, lying close to the sidewalk. It was a slimline leather thing, almost the same dark color as the asphalt paving, and we only spotted it after practically driving the Grandson Unit’s baby stroller over it. It’s not the first time we have found something of the sort while walking. Once it was a woman’s purse, snatched from the front seat of her car not five minutes previously while she went back into the house for something, and once it was a wallet stolen – again from the front seat of the car, the cash taken, and the wallet and ID dumped in the grass at the edge of a vacant lot. In both previous cases, the cash was stolen, but the ID’s had an address on it, and were the owners grateful for getting them back. The owner of the stolen wallet was a resident with a green card, and it would have been a major PITA to get a replacement for it.

But this time, the owner of this lost wallet didn’t live in the neighborhood, but in a gated neighborhood some fifteen minutes distant, a thirtyish guy with a Hispanic name. We were unable to find anything in the wallet with a telephone number on it, and we tried a couple of internet searches. After careful consideration, the Daughter Unit decided that the best thing would be to drive over to the home address listed on the drivers’ license, and return the wallet to the rightful owner, presuming that the address was current. I insisted that she call me before she rang the doorbell of the residence, and again as soon as she returned the wallet to the rightful owner, just on the off-chance that he turn out to be some kind of freak or sex offender. By a stroke of good fortune, the owner of the wallet was driving out of the neighborhood as my daughter was trying to get in, and when she appealed to him for help in getting through the gate, by asking did he know ‘so and so’ – it all ended quite nicely. It turned out that he was a contractor with AT&T doing work in our neighborhood and misplaced the wallet sometime Saturday evening. He was resigned to having to spend all Monday in replacing his ID – he had already cancelled the credit cards, but he was very glad to get the rest of it all returned to him, as it would have been a day off work to get everything else sorted out. Not to put any especial shine on us for being good and honest citizens – but isn’t it a nice thing, living in a high-trust society?
How much longer will that last, I wonder…   This kind of high-trust society can only take so many hits before converting to a low-trust. And that will be a sad thing, I sense.

05. August 2021 · Comments Off on Over and Under · Categories: General

the descent into senility on the part of the so-called President Joe Biden seems to be accelerating, or so I presume from frequent scans of that news media which has not gone completely bonkers. Honestly, about the only regular mainstream establishment news outlet I check frequently is the British Daily Mail – in spite of all it’s many sins, including apparently allowing semi-literate teenage interns to write the headlines and photo captions, an unseemly devotion to the regular goings on of flashy semi-celebs like the Kardashians and Megan “Royal-Wrecker” Markle, and having the execrable Piers Morgan on staff – they do cover US-based political stories without any particular fear or favor. In other words,

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01. August 2021 · Comments Off on Light Upon the Subject · Categories: General

So, it’s silly and stupid, and I really put off this house improvement chore for far too long, mostly because I assumed that I would have to pay a massive ( MOAB-style, as more than $1,000) bomb for it – which I really couldn’t afford, because I am still paying (and will for the next three years or so) the work done on the exterior of the house: the new siding, paint and windows. Which have made the house all ship-shape, water-tight and fit for service for probably at least three decades. At least, that is what the wording on the warranties says, and I won’t argue with that.

But I came out ahead this month, having a nice amount of money left over at the end of my month thanks some nice royalty checks and the work done and paid for with regard to a couple of new clients for the Teeny Publishing Bidness on the “assisting authors to self-publish” track. (I do the agreed-upon editing and formatting prep-work, cover design to their satisfaction, and hand them files they can upload to Ingram Spark, under their own name and ISBN.) I thought that I might as well eliminate another bit of household shortcoming by having some electrical issues remedied. This was caused by two of the male cats; they now live in the Splendid Catio, where they can do no more damage. At least to the inside. They were prone to spray on stuff. I have no notion of why they did this, habitually, but between them, they managed to demolish a number of household electrical outlets and appliances, with the result that some of the outlets and appliances were pretty much frelled and several connections to overhead fixtures were rendered non-functioning, though generous applications of cat pee on the linked electrical line. A good few years past, I paid a licensed electrician at their going rate to replace half a dozen of the outlets … which promptly were ruined when the little (explicative deleted) went through and did it all again within six months. Money wasted, as far as the long-term went. I did have a neighbor who was a licensed electrician and agreed to a couple of hours of work replacing outlets at the neighborhood friends rate, but I talked to him months ago, and he never responded to text messages and phone calls last week, so I went and appealed to Roman The Neighborhood Handy Guy, who is adept with all kinds of maintenance skills and possesses a more-than-full array of appropriate tools  â€¦ as a matter of fact, Roman TNHG is one of Wee Jamie’s Honorary Uncles, the one who will teach him carpentry and tile work, the very moment that Wee Jamie can pick up a power tool. Roman TNHG came on Friday and spent most of a day replacing nine outlets, a light fixture over the kitchen sink that we thought had been totally ruined as it was a cheap thing to start with, and a pair of light switches which had also been generously peed on. (Thanks, kitties – your contribution to the well-running of this household is so noted…)

(Daughter Unit to me, upon regarding the extracted switch elements. “Umm … I suppose we were lucky that the house didn’t burn down…”)

Bonus to that – the garbage disposal, as near-rusted out as it is, does function again. So do the lights and outlets in the kitchen, for which we are so grateful. We can actually use appliances in the kitchen plugged into more than a power strip on a single outlet and a cheap desk lamp on top of the refrigerator. And we can turn on the lights in the kitchen. Another step on recovering a fully-functional, somewhat energy-efficient house and small garden…

27. July 2021 · Comments Off on To Vax or Not To Vax… · Categories: General

That is indeed the question, and against all urging and advice, a fair number of Americans are saying ‘not’; for valid and wholly understandable reasons, after having made a carefully considered decision. Such be the case of the Daughter Unit and I. The Daughter Unit spent most of last year being pregnant and did not want to risk anything that would possibly damage Wee Jamie in utero. Her medical team did not do anything more than make a pro forma suggestion; that they did not mention it after she declined likely hints at their own doubts about the safety. We both had to get yearly flu shots when we were on active military duty, and honestly, I would routinely get sicker from the shot than I usually did from the flu itself. Towards the end of my active-duty time there was a great push to get all active duty to be vaccinated against anthrax, and I was in two minds over having to get that vaccine, before my retirement rendered the point moot. I remembered very well how so many of those deployed for the first Gulf War later developed serious health problems, problems that it was speculated, might have been because of the array of vaccinations they were given, in combination with exposure to various environmental hazards and contaminants. (I’ve always thought that the Gulf War Syndrome was a kind of multiple chemical sensitivity/allergy, caused by exposure to a range of triggering compounds or combinations, to which some people were more vulnerable than others. Not a medical or sciency-person; just my own opinion from what I have read and knowing veterans who were affected by deployment in that war. But that’s a whole ‘nother rabbit hole.) To get to the point, it was not entirely unknown for reluctant military personnel to be ordered to take vaccines, over their own doubts and objections.

Just this week, the Daughter Unit received a form letter from the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs, addressed to Dear Veteran:

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26. July 2021 · Comments Off on Midsummer Moments · Categories: General

For some curious and mostly unexpected reason, I had quite a lot of money left over, coming down to the end of the month, and the Daughter Unit was feeling a considerable touch of cabin fever. For the last two months, she has been dedicated to tending Wee Jamie, the Grandson Unit, and studying for her Texas real estate agent’s license. This program was interspersed occasionally with trips to the grocery store, or maybe in a moment of daring, to Lowe’s for gardening and household maintenance stuff. On seeing that we could swing a brief road trip, we made a spur of the moment decision to hit Granzin’s in New Braunfels, and then to go eat a meal that we hadn’t prepared ourselves – to Blacks’ BBQ. We have rather missed the Red Hat ladies association that we belonged to for better than a decade; we met once a month for a lunch at a local mid-priced eatery; alas, four long-time members dropped out or moved away, another three died or developed serious health issues, and finally the last and youngest member besides the Daughter Unit moved with her husband to the Caribbean upon his retirement.

So, we fed Wee Jamie in mid-morning, and set out as soon as he was burped, calculating that we could be to New Braunfels and back before he would need his mid-afternoon feeding. I had it mind to check out the JoAnn store there (which is much nicer and more fully stocked than the San Antonio outlet, don’t ask me why) for suitable cotton fabric for another 19th century costume comfortable for summer wear, but the fabrics that would have worked for the vision that I had in mind were not on sale, and prices for fabrics have sky-rocketed to the point that I just cannot countenance paying them, not when I need them for a costume that requires at least eight yards of 60” fabric, plus all the extra notions like buttons, lining, thread, trim, et cetera. Eh – I found everything I wanted and could afford through an on-line outlet later in the day. Really, I wish now that I had pigged out even more than I did on fabric when Hancock Fabrics was having their closing sales.

On to Granzins’ which was jammed on a Saturday, but fully fitted with employees attentively manning the counter that stretches the whole length of the store. There are a couple of sections – the frozen sausage and Cajun specialities, which are on more of a help-yourself basis, the fresh/smoked sausage and bacon section, the deli and dried jerky and cheese, then the beef, the pork, and the seafood and chicken. On a weekend, or heading into a holiday, Granzin’s is packed with customers buying for a weekend at Canyon Lake or stocking up for a Saturday or Sunday backyard barbeque. The prices are good – almost better than HEB, and the quality is fantastic. Only a few items are pre-packaged. Basically, you can pick out the steak, or the roast, or the whole fryer chicken you prefer. And I don’t know where they get the chicken breasts – they must come off meat chickens almost the size of small turkeys. We’ve made two meals, sometimes, from one of the bigger half-breasts. They also stock a lot of local products – butter, honey, pickled vegetables, nuts, and seasonings. (Granzin’s in New Braunfels is behind Bluebonnet Ford, on a little side street called the Old McQueeney Road, which – if you are not looking sharpish for it along the access road to IH-35 – can easily be missed.)

Loaded up with various protein meats, intended to be parted out, sealed with the vacuum sealer, and stashed away in the freezer for the coming month. It’s been a couple of months since visiting Granzin’s, so we were a little low. The fresh garlic sausage, BTW is awesome, when sprinkled with a little olive oil and some Adams Reserve Texas Steakhouse Rub spice and baked. Our next-door neighbor still raves about the fresh garlic sausage that she brought back and baked for her family.

Black’s BBQ has the advantage of being one of four locations, branching off from the original location in Lockhart. Prior to a book event in Lockhart ages ago, we sampled the Kreuz Market, which was OK, as far as BBQ went, but nothing really special to our mind, in spite of all the hype. All the locals that we mentioned this to afterwards said that we should have gone to Black’s. Well, at last we made it, and the sausage and brisket was pretty darned good, although we still mourn the loss of the Riverside Meat Market in Boerne, which (cunningly disguised as a gas station on the corner of Main Street and River Road) produced the most awesomely good rotisserie chicken and BBQ beef brisket. (That space is an empty and grass-grown lot, now. Guess the Riverside was just too down-market for the upscale yuppie population in Boerne. I’d love to know the inside story, but I’ll bet it’s too depressing for words. The Riverside Market pit and BBQ doesn’t seem to have been replaced locally.) Black’s in New Braunfels has the advantage of a nice location, a roomy building designed in in the architectural style of Texas vernacular, which involves lots of rough stained beams, concrete floors and walls of galvanized tin panels, and a welcoming parking lot, which seemed to be mostly filled on a Saturday at lunchtime. The inside was cavernous and generously fitted out with heavy picnic tables and benches, which allowed diners to socially-distance as they chowed down. Wee Jamie slept happily through all of this, for which we were extremely grateful. He didn’t wake up and demand a bottle until well after we returned home.