Saturday, September 29, 2012

Battles in September

I've been trying to write up the Battle of Sedan for September, really, I have. Like a schoolboy who sits at the table unwilling to begin his homework, I have made several starts at it only to stop, sullenly unpleased by the brutal waste of the L'Année terrible.
"I take up pen to tell of the terrible year,
And suddenly I stop, elbows on my desk.
Must I proceed? must I go on?
France! what horror! to see a star fade in the heavens!
I feel the lugubrious ascent of disgrace."
Like Hugo, I feel the need to document the Terrible Year: N'importe. Poursuivons. L'histoire en a besoin.
But I fear that it may not be in the appropriate month but, rather, in October that I finally write the doleful tale of the end of an empire; perhaps alongside the battle for that month, Milvian Bridge, where an earlier empire ended and a new one began.

Soon, though. I promise.

Cold Iron

I spent the better part of the daylight hours of the past Thursday and Friday doing soil exploration using hand tools; hand auger drills of various sizes as well as a pipe and slide hammer contraption known as a "drive probe".

Both of these gadgets required human muscle to work, and since as it happened the soils that the human muscle - my muscle - were required to work on were either composed of fucking great lumps of rock, or end-of-summer-dry silt soil that had the fixed opinion that it was just like rock said muscles were sternly reminded that it was nearly fifty-five years ago that they formed from their primordial protoplasm.

In plain terms, I am no longer young, and for the past two days required my body to do something that was too demanding for its remaining strength and endurance.

I am tired, and sore. The big muscles in my shoulders, arms, and thighs ache and cramp, and the now-familiar deep burn of pain in my right hip has flickered up like a fire fed fresh coals. I have taken several painkillers to tamp down this fire, but the result has been to deny me sleep, an oddly common side-effect of this particular medication. So when the second big lag-cramp twisted me up from our bed I limped out here to sit and stretch and think and write a little, since I am outside the room of sleep, my nose pressed against the warm night-glass but my eyes still wide open, my mind still spinning, unable to open that casement and enter into the silent room to lie down and sleep.

Surely I cannot be the only one who, aging, begins to feel the body's fraying, the steady, sullen failing of the parts that once worked so well, the weakness of once-strong muscles and the grinding of once-smooth joints that remind me that I am a long way down the road towards my body's inevitable failure?

And I am surely luckier than many. My body was stronger, for a longer time, at a higher level than many of the sorts of people I see daily; young people whose obesity makes them look and move like old men or old women. People who seem to sit rather than walk, walk rather than run. People who decades younger than I whose bodies, or minds, bear the obvious marks of serious illness, or violent injury.

And I am lucky in having been gifted with the endurance of pain. Pain and I are old...well, not friends but, perhaps, two old enemies who have crafted a sort of familiarity with one another. He is not a stranger to me, this daily thief who robs me of the back that was strong and straight, the stride that was long - as long as the stride of a man with legs less than three feet from sole to crotch could be - and fierce.

Every morning we rise within moments of each other, my companion and I; often he pokes me in the shoulder or in the hip before I have straightened up from my night's rest to remind me that he has never left me, that I will never be alone so long as my joints continue to deteriorate and my bones continue their hobby of collecting stray bits of calcite like gingerbread on the eaves of an old house.


So I sit in the quiet room, the only light the phosphors of the white screen before me, trying to let my body settle into a quiet hum that will give me time to think, and write.

From the rental house at the corner to the west comes the noise of the University students enjoying a Friday night's socializing. I am suddenly seized by the strong desire to dress and walk down the dark street to show them my herky step like a marionette with a tangled string, and tell them to dance, and run, to leap and skylark, to arch and bend and enjoy the young strength and suppleness of their bodies now, whilst they may, while they enjoy the fullness of youth, and power, and grace so that they may have those memories to pull about them when the ache and stiffness of age and hard use lays its cold iron on their limbs and bends their backs like the brittle stalks of the autumn grass.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beginning Autumn

On the porch in September a brown spider
in its web. There are deaths that come so quietly.
Over the mountains, the half moon rising.
Behind the fence a neighbor's dog howls in the dark.
No matter what the poet says a yellow leaf
asks nothing. The green wail of spring is what I want.
When you follow the shoreline out of sight,
I listen to ocean in an empty shell.
I never intended my life to turn out this way.
How solitary the drifting boat on the water.
~ Jeanne Lohmann

The summer is winding to a close here in the Northwest. The tomatoes are still proffering their August bounty but the red harvest is dew-frosted in the mornings now, and the fat heirlooms are cracking in the cool nights. The grass is still sere but the green is creeping back in after the first of the autumn rains.

The pictures of the back of the house are testimony to my irritating parsimony. Despite the repeated warnings that "replacing gutters is often difficult and a professional roofer may be a long-term savings" I went ahead with replacing Missy's back roof gutter, and a nasty, unpleasant job it was. I can see a visible belly in the damn thing, and the brackets I used did not do a particularly adequate job of holding the inside of the gutter against the roofline, so I had to go back and hang some flashing to route the runoff into the gutter. It's the worst sort of jury-rigging, but it works, and as my old drill sergeant was wont to say; if it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid...

I hope you are starting to see the signs of autumn, despite the poet's wail for spring, it is my favorite season of the year.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I can't embed it, but follow the link to what has to be one of the funniest Downfall parodies yet; Hitler discovers that R-money's "secret video" has all but tubed the election.

I don't know if you could make this shit up and be funnier. Honestly, I'm no Obama fan, but this guy has some sort of political-reverse-Midas-touch.

If his party wasn't so scarily toxic I'd feel sorry for him. But as it is, I hope the bastard craters like Francis Gary Powers' U-2; we've had three terms of moderate Republicans and two of utterly-bugshit-nutbag-incompetent-weapons-grade-moron-Republican and look how far we are towards the Gilded Age as it is.

I can't afford to see a Republican elected in my lifetime; I'm too goddamn old to start living under a bridge and too goddamn picky to start eating out of a dumpster...

Friday Jukebox: Stormy Weather edition

To reflect the gray and rainy day, the first in weeks, here's Laura Love performing the classic "Stormy Weather";Please excuse the video quality; let me suggest that you put this on the speakers in the background and look out the window at the lowering sky.

Imagine yourself on a dim-lit porch on a sultry early autumn afternoon, the sound of voices in the far distance and the scent of leaf-smoke and the forewarning of rain. The one you love is far away, and you are unsure of what the morrow may bring.

In hopes that you will enjoy a bright morning here's Laura again, this time with a rousing version of "More Than A Hammer:

I do hope that tomorrow will find you lightness and joy.

But no one knows better than I that we never know what tomorrow may bring.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TC Darwin

I'm always sort of amazed when I run into people who "don't believe" in evolution as the method of the origin of species.

First, because most of these people are "conservative". And, second, because if they would just look around, they'd see a wonderful metaphor for evolution at work in one of their (typically) favorite things; weapons.

I thought about this again because of my son's current favorite on-line game "World of Tanks".
The magilla behind this MMO game is that there's this imaginary world full of World War 2 tanks. It includes every possible permutation and variation of the breed, including tanks that were no more than prototypes or never fired a shot in anger between 1939 and 1945. Oh, and it includes self-propelled artillery, for some odd reason.

But they're all there, and you "buy" a tank or tanks and then you get tossed into battles where you drive around, shoot other people, and get shot. There's no infantry, or mines, or civilians, or politics, or messy wounds or deaths - it's WW2 in a pasteurized bottle, but it's big fun for nine years old.
But here's the catch; you have to start out with a light tank; the VK-31 Leichttraktor for Germany, the Soviet MS-1, or the U.S. T1 "Cunningham".

But you get pitched into battles with much bigger tanks, everything from mid-war mediums to 1945 superheavies. The Boy spends a lot of time getting shot into Swiss cheese, at which time I remind him that there are two types of light tanks; ones that hang around after the Big Kids show up to play, and live ones.

Which brings me back to evolution.

Because typically we can't "see" things evolve. Natural selection requires environmental change to occur, and that usually occurs over millenia. A type of critter produces several genotypes, and then some change occurs - temperature, salinity, rainfall, vegetation - where one genotype is more successful than the others. But the replacement of one with another often takes lifetimes, typically many lifetimes, to complete.

But in the World of Tanks, the real world of tanks, we've seen a process that neatly duplicates what happens in the evolution of species through natural selection in a single long human lifespan.

The major nations typically went to war in the late Thirties or early Forties with a full suite of armored vehicles;
Light tanks, for scouting,
Medium tanks, for general combat, and mobile action, and
Heavy tanks, for static defense or breaking through an enemy's defense.
(The only exceptions I can think of were the Chinese, who flat-out couldn't afford anything more than a rag-tag and bobtail, and the Japanese, whose armored force was as crude and unsophisticated as the rest of Japanese tactical doctrine.
I should really do a post about them - Japanese armor truly sucked pipe, kind of shocking for a nation whose ambitions were so great...)
Where are they now?

I'll tell you where; they're here, but the tank has evolved.
The deadly natural selection of combat was unpleasant to the light tanks; they were too small and too slow to fight through an enemy's screen of medium tanks, mines, and hand-held antitank rockets (the bazooka and the Panzerfaust were the small mammals that ate the light tank eggs...) and reconnaissance duties increasingly became the province of the aircraft.

And the heavies were just that; too damn heavy. Too slow, too expensive, too few. I don't agree with the old Soviet saying about "quantity has a quality of it's own" but it was true that unless the terrain was ideal the combination of infantry, artillery, tac air, and medium tanks could winkle out a platoon or so of heavies with a little effort.

The light and heavy versions of the species a. tankus converged on the medium to produce the "main battle tank". This vehicle has roughly the speed of a WW2 medium tank (or better) with composite armor and the main cannon of roughly a WW2 heavy tank. The current U.S. M1A1 has a 120mm cannon; the German Panzerjäger Tiger Ausf. B mounted the 12.8 cm PaK 44 L/55. The armor of the Soviet T-80 is comparable to the late-WW2 IS models or the German superheavies.
Modern tanks are clearly an evolution of the WW2 types, an evolution that converged on the medium tank at the expense of the heavy and light types.

Ground reconnaissance duties have now been delegated to other vehicles; light wheeled scout cars such as the U.S. M1126 Stryker or the Russian BRDM/BTR-types, or the tracked carriers such as the U.S. M3 CFV.

Even on the theatre scale the U.S. Army concluded after WW2 that reconnaissance and screening are the province of specialized units (armored cavalry regiments, or ACRs) but armed them with standard main battle tanks and infantry/cavalry carriers. Since the Third Gulf War in 1991 most of these ACRs have been converted to use the Stryker light wheeled AFVs.

Only the British insist that the light tank still has a place on the battlefield.
Their Scimitar AFV is the last of the Great Power lights, and I have a sneaking suspicion that its persistence owes more to the reluctance of the British cavalry to accept that in armored war a modern cavalryman in a light tank is as dead as their horse cavalry forebears were when they met the original armored columns in 1939.

(Oh, and I should note here that the Poles weren't really that stupid; it's a military urban legend...)

For the rest of the world experience has concluded that using a small tank to scout is expensive and unproductive; it is too small to outfight an MBT and too slow to outrun one. Its light armor cannot withstand modern artillery or infantry antitank weaponry. A wheeled vehicle can do the job just as well, and it's loss can be afforded better. Sorry, scouts; it's just not worth training you up to be a tanker.

The natural selection of battle has not chosen the light tanker and his little tank.

So my poor little man and his light tank are trying to fight against not just larger and stronger tanks, but forces that mimic the incredible power of natural selection and species evolution.

No wonder it's such a hard fight.

But he has an excuse; he's nine years old. And we've talked about "evolution" and he's seen the simulacrum happening in the World of Tanks. I tell him; if the tanks were "intelligently designed" the M1 would have been invented in 1916.

Instead, the tank "evolved" as the world's tank designers responded to the natural selection of battle by altering the phenotype of the tank over the course of the 20th Century. The analogy isn't perfect, of course...but it makes the point; "species" can change, do change, as the result of natural selection, and end up resembling something very different from the starting point.

I wonder; what the flamin' hell is the excuse for the "conservatives" who don't "believe in evolution"..? Can't they SEE?

So, all together now:

(For those of you non-German speakers, that's the Panzerleid, the "Tank Song" of the German Army of WW2. Interestingly, for all that the modern Bundeswehr has discarded almost all the old Wehrmacht trappings, the Wiki entry says that the German tankers still sing this song.)

(And I want to tip my hat to commentor "gruff", whose cogent arguments regarding tanks and evolution caused me to revise this post)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cascadia Cup Half-full...

Well, that was quite a weekend, wasn’t it?
The second half of the second leg of the bizarre three-legged I-5 Corridor Derby (the "Cascadia Tripod"?) concluded Sunday with the Timbers Reserves holding off the Sounders Reserves for a 3-2 win.

The Big Sides, however, played to a 1-1 draw the day before so the issue of Whose Cup will be decided – unfortunately for the Timbers, whose record abroad resembles Italy’s (the army's, not the team's) – in Seattle and Vancouver in October.
I went to both matches, the first with hope and trepidation, the second with a lovely lassitude and pure curiosity (would we see the fabled “Trencito”? We did, more of which in a bit) and my son, who at nine considers a pretzel, cotton candy, and orange soda to provide enough atmosphere to make the reserves at Jeld-Wen Field to be just like watching Brazil.

At any rate, my observations of the matches – in order of date but in no other particular order.

Saturday, 15 SEP 12 POR 1 – 1 SEA

I hoped that the first team would run out with a) energy and b) a tactical plan to carve into the poorly-dressed visitors from the Emerald City.

The first? Yes, and more than yes. The team hustled for the full 90, and showed impressive energy and spark.

The second? Mmmm…not so much.
The problem was that Sigi Schmidt showed his mettle as a rotund student of the beautiful game.

He’d clearly watched the films and recognized that Portland really has no go-forward options in central midfield other than Darlington Nagbe. Shut down Nagbe and the Timbers are back in SpencerWorld, running up the touchlines. And the pie-gobbling rascal had planned for that too; he knew that if you fronted Franck Songo’o he would turn inside where you could force him to make a poor pass. And Sal Zizzo just had to be smothered. So he set Gonzales to just obstruct Zizzo’s runs long enough for a midfielder to track back and help out. He used his central midfield to harass Nagbe all match. And, sure enough, Franck kept turning the ball into the traffic jam inside and getting his pocket picked.

And I think that he, and the rest of the league, has figured out Dike. The man just doesn’t have a good touch; if you throw a body at him he will cough up the ball, or lay it off, or take a forced, poor shot. Without anyone else to help out up front that was pretty much that.
The backline woes continued, but in something of a minor key. Kimura was beaten soundly by Zakuani several times, but Rodney Wallace played perhaps his best match as a Timber in two seasons (including scoring the equalizer…). He pretty much neutralized Zakuani on the left side, Mosquera and Horst did enough to throttle Johnson, and so, with Alonso and Nagbe wrestling to a draw the only weapon the intruders had was Montero.

Sadly for the Green and White Faithful he fired his looping bullet just after Ricketts had gone off (with what appeared to be an arm injury – the very thing I worried about when we traded Troy for him; the fragility of that arm…) and caught a jumped-past-Jake-Gleeson-on-the-keeper-depth-chart-for-some-reason-I-don’t-quite-get Joe Bendik off his line for the initial goal.

Taken altogether I’d have to say that it was a deserved result for both sides.

With a passing sneer at the man in the middle, again - honestly, MLS, how bad does the boy Salazar have to be to get assigned to the U-12 development league? His calls really didn’t benefit either side (other than the Chara foul, which I didn’t see as quite as automatically-PK-worthy as many, but your mileage may vary on that question) but it went a long way towards making the match as ragged and ugly as it was for long stretches.
Other than that, I think that Coach Porter needs to look hard at a couple of issues.

Communication. I loved the energy and the hustle Saturday. I hated the looking-like-we-played-together-just-the-past-week. How many times did Dike play a through ball to Zizzo…who wasn’t running for it? Three times? Four? Or the “Franck-Songo’o-square-pass-to-nobody”? Hanyer Mosquera marking space while pointing to a nearby unmarked Sounder? I agree we have individual talent out there. I’m not sure why the coaching staff seems unable to make it play as a team.

Throw-ins. Are we the worst team in MLS West with throw-ins? It sure seems like it. The secret to gaining possession from the Timbers seems to be to force them to boot it into touch and then wait for the throw; the Timbers will stand there marked into oblivion and then throw it right to you. This doesn’t seem like a difficult play – why do we seem to have such difficulty with it?

The one other thing I wanted to see Saturday was a coaching staff with a tactical plan to attack Seattle; instead it seemed like Gavin (or Sean, or whothehellever is marking the chalkboard now) didn’t really have a notion of where they could find an advantageous matchup. I want to think that these guys can figure out a way to go to the House of Astroturf and stonewall the Sounders for 90 minutes and the away draw.
Seems possible. Let’s see if we can actually DO it, though…

Sunday, 16 SEP 12 POR 3 – 2 SEA

More than 8,000 people showed up for a meaningless reserve match on a lovely sunny Sunday.

Think about that for a moment.

Are we really “Soccer City USA”?
I think we might just be.

The Sunday match was an odd affair, with Portland running out with a side full of unused starters before giving way to the bench players, trialists, and the youngsters. Seattle, on the other hand, fielded mostly their regular team bench until late in the match. The difference showed immediately, as Portland scored an improbable three goals inside fifteen minutes.

One huge factor was the play of Alexander and Alhassan in midfield. In particular the second goal was created by a lovely sliderule pass from Alhassan to Boyd who then chipped Ford in an almost Cantonaesque fashion. Lovely piece of work.
The new left back, Ian Hogg, also contributed with a good run that led to the first goal by Mike Fucito.

Kris Boyd…he’s a Sounders killer.

Why didn’t we sub him in Saturday..?

Hogg looked decent at left back, making several studly blocks on crosses that should have swelled Gavin’s little Kiwi heart; the man is hard, no error. Several other of the Timbers reserves showed well, including Cam Vickers and young Mitch North, who was thrown into the fire when Jake Gleeson got cleated in the right hand (Are you SURE you want to trade away Troy Perkins, Gav'? Oh, well, never mind...)

Charles Renken came on after halftime and helped settle the midfield defensively.

Brent Richards is looking much tougher on defense that he did at the beginning of the season. He scored a lovely goal, turning on a loose ball in the box and settling it before lashing a rocket past Ford.

He also has a terrific throw
(remember where I was bitching about throw-ins? This kid should take every one, and anytime we get a throw inside 18 yards of the opponent’s goal he’s almost as good as a corner!)
and he can still outjump pretty much anyone else on the pitch.

Lots of good stuff there.
Still, the typical Timbers lack-of-communication-and-coordination issues surfaced as the team let off the pressure in the second half and the Sounders’ midfield began to exploit the space between the Boys’ midfield and backline to claw two goals back.

The backline looked like a rat-scramble at times. Eric Brunner, while showing why he is so badly missed with the first team, also showed that he’s not really match fit yet, and Futty played his typical 95% steady 5% WT...Futty!? match.

The Little Train?
Clearly the man Valencia has potential. He’s big, for one thing, and he looks comfortable with the ball at his feet. He wants to score, and shows some ability to put the shots where he wants them. He had a brief outing, and his last and only for the season unless everything goes sideways for the Big Side.

Still - he looks like he’s a promising piece of lumber in the overstocked Timbers Forwards Woodshed.

Two matches, two days; one fraught with the tensions of this season, the other, perhaps, a hint of sunnier days ahead.

All that was no matter to my little man who skipped happily, full of soccer and candy and sunshine as we walked back to the car after the match on Sunday.
I envied him a little; he has no worries for cups and coaches and coming seasons; when the Timbers win all is good and right with the world, and he can skip along without the cares of those of us who have peered into the abyss at the heart of the game and see it peer back with the face of Freddie Montero.

But, never despair – Onward, Rose City!

(Cross-posted - I'm fiercely proud to say - from SlideRulePass.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Certain Maxims of Hafiz

"Now it is not good for the Christian's health to hustle the Aryan brown,"
For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear: "A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East."

~R. Kipling

My friend Labrys is infuriated that the Afghan muj have, once again, proved that our "strategy" for Afghanistan is about as cunning as that of the sixteen-year-old rube who has pushed into the traveling carnies' poker night. He - and we - are fools for the plucking and will, and are, being plucked. The only tragic part is that our losses are in blood and lives as well as treasure.

We were fools and more than fools to imagine that in a decade or two and with a force that wouldn't have made up a corporal's guard in Alexander's or Baibur's armies we could do what those ruthless conquerors couldn't do in lifetimes.

I really have nothing more to add on this subject. In a polity that had genuinely well-moderated public fora, a robust political intelligence, and a competent popular press the "wisdom" of trying to Hustle the East would have been taken out back and shot twice in the head years ago.

Being the nation we are, and being the public we are, we will manage to kill many more of the locals, and our own, before we accept the inevitable facts.
And, while tragic, this is entirely to be expected. I wish I thought I could change that, but I cannot. I wish I thought I could viciously punish those who are going to perpetuate that, but I cannot do that either.

All I can do is sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the deaths of kings.

"If He play, being young and unskilful,
for shekels of silver and gold,
Take his money, my son, praising Allah.
The kid was ordained to be sold."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

True fir

It was a long, nasty, ugly job, but I finally refinished the bedroom floor.
The picture above is the "before". Please don't let the revolting mess on the scrap of carpet in the center of the room fool you; most of this house is not as clean as that, and is probably bound together by spilt milk and cat hair.

The explanation for the tatty patch of carpet is tortured, but the shorthand version is that Mojo and I wanted to see what the Former People had done with the floor prior to carpeting it (fearing that they had done as they'd done with the front room, replacing fire-damaged flooring with cheap and nasty particleboard...) so we tore out the strips along the east and north walls.

Exposing, to our relief, the good fir floors that the builders had laid in 1922.


In the interim the wood had been slathered with multiple layers of paint, including what I suspect was the original floor color, a deep red oil-based stuff that deteriorated when treated with paint stripper to a sort of Vile Jelly that stuck to everything.
The first night that Mojo and the Littles were gone I moved all the furniture out and yanked up the remaining carpet before literally getting down on my knees to pull out the thicket of little staples the damn Former People had used to secure their cheap and nasty carpet.

And found that before they had done that, they had slopped a mess of plaster and white paint all over the floor, probably while applying the disgusting "texture" to the ceiling. And stepped all in it, grinding it into the old paint.


Plus the carpet, cheap shit that it was, had absorbed every liquid ever spilt on it (and I don't even want to think about THAT...) and had then produced a rot that had eaten into several portions of the floorboards.


I spent the next week getting home from work and repeatedly stripping and sanding the floor, removing the soft spots, and then applying several coats of polyurethane spar varnish.

And here's the finished work;
I'm ridiculously pleased with the overall effect. The old fir positively glows, and the resulting spare cleanliness appeals to my military soul.
I like the way the new register cover works with it, too.

There are times, usually times like this, when I wonder if I would not have been happier and more satisfied if I had made my living with my hands; been a finish carpenter or a mason.

But then I think of how often I've seen modern builders slap together awful, cheapjack, gimcrack crap and suspect that I'm better off being a house carpenter only to myself.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Jukebox; Black King Edition

This is the soundtrack for today's jukebox, which is really more of a story-box today;
The man in the center of the dance above is Obo Addy. He died yesterday from liver cancer, a cancer that was perhaps the only thing that the big man from Ghana couldn't beat.

Because the man could solid fucking drum.

I first ran into Addy at the old Civic Stadium back in 2003, during one of the two Women's World Cup matches played in Portland that year.

One of the four teams that played that evening was the "Black Queens" of Ghana. And - let's be no less than honest in respect of the man's passage; there is no reason for mendacity at the edge of the grave, now, is there? - the gals from the Gold Coast were really dire.


Down in California, where they'd played their first two matches, they'd given up three goals to the Russian team and had lost 1-nil to a China that was a tired shade of the fearsome Steel Roses of the Nineties. They were gone, done, finished. They had only one match left to play, a meaningless fixture with an Australia that was as sorry and as homeward-bound as they were.

But here in Portland they played with a difference, and that difference was Obo Addy.
Addy and his drumline perched in the old Shed End seats pounding out a driving West African rhythm, a gaudy and fearsome thunder, their music pounding out across the velvet Northwest evening like a Ghanaian warhammer.

And the Queens stunned the hapless Matildas, winning their first - and to this day, only - World Cup match.
In the terraces above the goal the thundering drums of Addy and his friends beat out the suddenly racing pulse of the journeyer who, in the distant land he now calls home, happens upon a happy reminder of the land of his birth.

I walked home smiling, to the fading rumble of those distant drums.
So, goodbye, Obo Addy. I'm glad I shared that moment with you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Harvest of Shame

I had a chance to stop for a moment this morning and got to read the World's Worst Newspaper over my coffee. And for just a moment I was pleased to see that the headline had nothing to do with the events of twelve years ago today.

That's nice, I thought; maybe we're starting to get over ourselves.

And then I continued to think about the entire business.

And realized that the silly, self-licking-ice-cream-cone of our Middle Eastern "policies" remain both unchanged and unquestioned,

Recognized that our national greed for the sweet, sweet crude remains unslaked, and we have not even seriously considered any sort of sensible attempt to even discuss weaning ourselves from the petroleum teat proffered by the unstable, violent strumpets that feed our lubricious petrochemical craving,

Acknowledged with bitter anger that the willful crimes, errors, and omissions made because of the events of that day have never even really been examined, much less punished or expiated. The doors to that madhouse still stand open, ready for another cabal of idiots, criminals, and grifters to pull us back inside,

And accepted with rueful regret that we appear to have learned nothing and yet forgotten nothing from that eminently forgettable day.

I rose from my table angry at myself, at my "fellow citizens", but most of all at the greedy, cynical opportunists that have continued to use this day to create the United States they crave; the fearful, ignorant, credulous Skinnerbox of useful idiots that will continue to prefer "safety" to liberty and "strength" to honor.

I looked out over the green hills of Portland and saw, instead of the dark firs and big-leaved maples a broad field sown thick with the foolish ideas planted that day twelve years ago; planted by fools, would-be oligarchs, and con-men, yes, but nurtured and grown to ripeness by the carelessness and indolence of you and I.

And clenched my fists with my useless fury at the grief of it.
Because - as vile as are the shoots that we have already gathered - I know that someday, perhaps in my time but more likely in my children's, we will likely come to reap a bitterer harvest from that poisoned field.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Out There Up North

I spent most of last week drilling along a stretch of two-lane highway south of the little town of Oakville, Washington.
The actual work site was on the Chehalis Indian Reservation, which was more butt-hurt and dog-ass than most of the northwest Washington rez, and that's saying a lot since outside the Jamestown S'Klallam Rez the little dogpatches along Highway 101 that line the west side of the Puget Sound are among the saddest and sorriest of the firstcomer gulags we've made for them to slowly die in, we white-eyes in our impartial majesty.

To give you an idea, the first day went badly - the first day of drilling usually does, but this was worse than even the usual with a bad combination of caving AND "heaving" sand and gravel. To give you a notion I've worked in this business for twenty years and have never, never encountered heaving gravel. It was awful, and we fought with it the whole day and managed to achieve a draw at best - and I suggested to the flagging crew-boss that he save time by leaving his warning signs in place and just turning them end-on to the traffic. He looked at me like I had two heads.

"Did you see that trash back up the road?" he growled, and, yes, I had noticed the little hamlet of raggedy shack-islands ringed with rust-red reefs of derelict vehicles of all varieties. "Those bastards'd have these signs gone in sixty seconds." I scoffed at the notion that anyone would be so low-rent as to steal cheap warning signs, but the flagger just repeated that the hardcases laired in those shacks would have the entire signage away to sell the five pounds of aluminum in the uprights.

So we took in the signs for the night. What a sad old world.

Anyway, that wasn't really my point for this post, since you could really care less about my work. No, it was this;
These oddities are called, collectively, the "Godspodor Monuments", and stand just east of I-5 near the little town of Toledo, Washington.

According to the linked page at "Weird Washington" these gomers are the brainchild of one Dominic Godspodor, a wealthy "eccentric" (and you'll note that wealth moves you from "batshit crazy" to the more benign "eccentric"; as always, bags of money are the KY Jelly of Social Acceptability) who wanted to honor a bizarre congeries of things and people; Mother Teresa, the Native Americans (of "all tribes", according to the billboard that sits near these things), the victims of the Holocaust, the victims of drunk drivers, African-American slaves, Susan B. Anthony, Jonas Salk, William Seward, and Lewis and Clark.


The pillars you see in the picture are his tributes to the first three; don't ask me which is which, although I'm guessing that the one with the big Christ is NOT the Holocaust one or, at least, I hope so. That would be way too much like baptizing Anne Frank, or have the Mormons already gotten around to that?

I really don't know what else to say about these things, other than they're butt-ugly in a particularly up-in-your-face sort of ugly way. Every year I have passed it the site looks worse and worse; the field unmowed, the steel of the pillars rusting, the shoddy explanatory billboard sagging and faded.

While I have a certain amount of sympathy for the rich bastard's hobby, I have to wonder; would the half-million he spent on this gawdawful have been better spent building a factory of some sort on the Chehalis Rez, so some of all those tribes' modern survivors would have an honest job and a decent, living wage?

I suspect that Teresa and the Shoah victims would have been okay with that.

But regardless, there they stand; strange unattractive pillars in an empty field where the busy world rushes past them with no more than a puzzled glance.

Mind you, these things aren't exactly the oddest oddity along the I-5 corridor in Washington State; the "Uncle Sam" billboard south of Chehalis is a treat packed with wingnutty goodness.
And there's always Mima Mounds, Nature's contribution to Weird Washington.
But that's the State of Washington for you; ex boreas semper aliquid whacki. Eccentric monuments, wingnut billboards, and impoverished Indians crouching in the woods.

Makes me damn glad to be home south of the Big River.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Ni shagu nazad!

It's sort of sad, what happens when you a) trust someone like me with a nine-year-old who loves wargames and then b) send said nine-year-old away and leave me to my own devices. You get this;
Between refinishing the bedroom floor and hanging the gutter outside Missy's room I found the time to assemble and paint these little models; a Soviet SU-85 assault gun and a German Panzerfeldhaubitze 18M auf Geschützwagen III/IV (Sf) Sd.Kfz. 165, better known as the "Hummel".
The artillery piece has always been part of my favorite war-stories. Hummel means "bumblebee" in German. The Nazi cannon-cockers named their SP artillery after bugs; the 105mmSP was tagged "Wasp" (Wespe), the 150mm with "Bumblebee", and the 88mm SP tank destroyer with "Hornet" (Hornisse).
Well, apparently Hitler found out about this in the case of the Hornet and had an absolute hissy; Schickelgruber didn't want his all-conquering artillery named after no Götterverdämmt bugs. He ordered that the tank-destroyer be renamed the "Rhinoceros" (Nashorn).
Well, when your Leader is a carpet-chewing loony with a homicidal disposition, you pretty much do what he says. So the Hornet became the Rhino. But the other two guns were still called "Wasp" and "Bumblebee".

Just very quietly.

Anyway, it was fun channeling the 15-year-old me, the wargame nerd. I'm ready to take on the kiddo when he returns, and that can't be too soon for me.