Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fierce, and bald, and short of breath

This post over at the Girl With The White Parasol (who's pretty amazingly terrific about movies, by the way, if you like the movies) got me thinking.

Because it's about movies (no, duh!), and actors, and acting, and, in particular, the acting of Marion Robert Morrison, who you probably know better as "John Wayne".

I have an odd sort of relationship with John the Wayne.

I loved his flicks when I was a kid, in part because the ol' Duke looks a lot like my father the Master Chief. Plus, well...he was the tall-in-the-saddle guy. The hero. The Ringo Kid, full of decency and strength.

It wasn't until I grew up, and joined the Army, that I began to have problems with the Duke.

Aubyn at TGWTWP sums up those problems thusly:
"Wayne knew that he owed all his success to his audience and he believed it was his responsibility to live up to that image. This belief would cost him plenty. Although he played the soldier many times onscreen, Wayne never served in World War II and this failure ate at him, fueling the macho militarism he would express later in life."
But I think The Problem of John Wayne is bigger, and goes deeper, than just that.

Wayne didn't just "never serve" in the war that defined his generation. In 1941 - possibly with the aid of his studio, but possibly not - Wayne was assigned draft status "3-A"; "deferred for [family] dependency reasons." At the time he might have had good reasons for staying out of the fight. Although we now think of him as a big star of the Forties he was a big star - of the LATE Forties. In 1941 he'd just had his breakthrough role as the Ringo Kid in Ford's Stagecoach. He was still a "struggling young actor" with a toehold in the studio system in '41, and spending three years on a destroyer might have 86ed his career and his family's shot at security.

But that wasn't the end of Wayne's curious lack of ferocity for actual fighting.

Wayne worked his way up the studio ladder quickly in the early Forties. By the last couple of years of the war he was a made guy; he could easily have volunteered and never lost a real shot at a movie career. He is supposed to have sent in some p-work to John Ford's Naval Photographic outfit but never followed through on it. There was always another movie to make.

Wayne was reclassified "2-A" in 1944 - "deferred in support of [the] national interest." for his war film work. After a month the Selective Service decided to revoke many previous deferments - remember, by '44 the U.S. manpower well was running dry, the bodies were piling up in France and the Pacific, and even old married guys and war-plant workers were getting their draft notices - and reclassified him 1-A. Wayne's Wikipedia entry states:
"Wayne did not attempt to prevent his reclassification as 1-A (draft eligible), but Republic Studios was emphatically resistant to losing him; Herbert J. Yates, President of Republic, threatened Wayne with a lawsuit if he walked away from his contract and Republic Pictures intervened in the Selective Service process, requesting Wayne's further deferment."

But...this is John the Wayne we're talking about! Mister "Green Berets", the embodiment of Sixties and Seventies superpatriotism! How come the young Duke didn't insist on doing what so many of his studio counterparts were doing and joining the Good Fight? As for the story about Yates, in his biography of Wayne Gary Wills notes that no other studios took action against their actors - many of them stars such as Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Robert Montgomery, and Jimmy Stewart - that joined up. Frankly, that sounds as lame as the old "football injury" story about Wayne that is a Sixties fabrication to explain his lack of wartime service.

"Cecil Adams" at The Straight Dope has an entertaining theory about why the future COL Kirby wasn't so eager to take on the Japs or Krauts:
"Nobody really knows why; Wayne didn't like to talk about it. A guy who prided himself on doing his own stunts, he doesn't seem to have lacked physical courage. One suspects he just found it was a lot more fun being a Hollywood hero than the real kind. Many movie star-soldiers had enlisted in the first flush of patriotism after Pearl Harbor. As the war ground on, slogging it out in the trenches seemed a lot less exciting. The movies, on the other hand, had put Wayne well on the way to becoming a legend. "Wayne increasingly came to embody the American fighting man," Wills writes. In late 1943 and early 1944 he entertained the troops in the Pacific theater as part of a USO tour. An intelligence bigshot asked him to give his impression of Douglas MacArthur. He was fawned over by the press when he got back. Meanwhile, he was having a torrid affair with a beautiful Mexican woman. How could military service compare with that?"
Actually, I wonder if even at this point, even while all this fawning and torrid Mexican womanizing was going on, that Wayne didn't get some small sense of how this failure to put himself at risk might become an issue later on.

William Manchester talks about Wayne getting the bird from servicemen in WW2, an incident that I knew about long before I read Manchester's actual account of it:
"After my evacuation from Okinawa, I had the enormous pleasure of seeing Wayne humiliated in person at Aiea Heights Naval Hospital in Hawaii. Only the most gravely wounded, the litter cases, were sent there.... Each evening Navy corpsmen would carry litters down to the hospital theater so the men could watch a movie. One night they had a surprise for us. Before the film the curtains parted and out stepped John Wayne, wearing a cowboy outfit...He grinned his aw-shucks grin, passed a hand over his face and said, ‘Hi ya, guys!' He was greeted by a stony silence. Then somebody booed. Suddenly everyone was booing. This man was a symbol of the fake machismo we had come to hate, and we weren't going to listen to him. He tried and tried to make himself heard, but we drowned him out, and eventually he quit and left."
You would think that the sort of man who had lived through something like that would have become, if not reticent, at least a little more ambivalent on the subject of war and fighting, military service and patriotism, than the man Wayne grew to be.

The Wayne I remember as a man was the Wayne of the Sixties and Seventies, and that Wayne was so virulent a "patriot" and "American", so much a symbol of fake machismo as to be almost a parody, one of Sassoon's scarlet Majors.

Here's The Rockford Rascal quoting him quoting Wayne on the subject of killing the native inhabitants of North America:
"I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them [the Indians], if that's what you're asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves."
You can practically hear Wayne's thoughts...all that good land and all those wholesome Europeans wanting it, who the hell were those damn redsticks to keep US out, those selfish bastards!?

When I watch a film I try to see the character not the actor. But for me, with Wayne, it's very, very difficult. He so often plays "John Wayne" that it's hard not to see Wayne the man, not Wayne-the-actor-playing-a-Civil-War-cavalry-officer.

What doesn't help is the place he has come to hold in many other American's minds. I had a roommate in Panama who really, really luuuurved him some John the Wayne. He'd watch any Wayne movie, even awful shit like The Green Berets, even ridiculous, endless, tedious tripe like The Alamo. And get him started on the man himself? Seems that for SGT Meany John Wayne was the living embodiment of America. "A great American, a hero", SGT Meany kept calling the Duke.

I would look at him slantwise.

"You do know that ol' Duke never really did all that stuff, right? Never fought in a war, didn't defend the Alamo, wasn't ever a cop, wasn't ever a pilot, or a cowboy, or a DA. He was an actor, a guy who made his living pretending to be things he wasn't."

I might as well have been speaking Lithuanian. To this guy Wayne was the real thing, a hero, as much as symbol of America as a flag, or an eagle, or an NFL football.

Since my childhood I've run into a lot of other people like my old roommate. Many of them seem to be as politically conservative as Wayne was, and you can't shake them from the idea that the guy was some sort of ginormous American "hero"...and I wonder how much of that goes back to Wayne himself and his "legend", the image of him as he appeared on the screen; fighting man, American soldier (or sailor), patriot, going into harm's way to serve his country.

Only...he didn't.

Not only that, when he had the chance to do, and be, all of those things he chose not to.

I don't begrudge him that choice. Any man who can choose peace over war is a wise man. But, having made that choice, such a man would do well to remember that choice and have the grace to refrain from loudly encouraging other young heroes to hasten up the line to death.

Wayne did not, and for that reason I still find myself uncomfortable with his portrayals of military sacrifice.

The guy made some hellacious fine movies, and did some fine work on-screen.

But the man's self-forged patriotism clangs so fiercely, the trumpet of war he sounded is still so loud and so brassy that I can't forget the man often enough to appreciate the work of the actor, and that, to me, is a damning thing.

Acta est fabula

I was saddened to read not long ago that a blogging sister has decided to hang 'em up.

"I really feel I’ve lost heart for it." she concluded.

I know how she feels.

I've tried to interest myself in posting about the rampant idiocy of the Paleolithic Right, of the profound indifference of my "fellow Americans" as the blunt reality of torture and secret policemen and oligarchs make the fine words on the 18th Century parchments more and more ridiculous and even louche. Of the seemingly endless concatenation of ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision that constitutes the public "news" (the World's Worst Newspaper just downshifted itself yet again, going to a tabloid format that contains less than a page or two of actual local "news" with the remainder the usual wire stories and sports or "entertainment" filler) sources.

I've tried to work up the ire I felt when the idiot Bushies were sending my Army brothers to fight, die, and return in bags or forever marked from a pointless land war in Asia about the idiot farkling about in the lesser-paved parts of the world by the Obamites.

I've tried to regain my antipathy towards the elites whose rapacity and blind greed have helped put us in this handbasket, at the Cliven Bundy sorts of greedy, grifting morons whose blind hatred of the Commons has blinded them to the fact that they themselves are the cows, culled, outsourced, downsized, laid off, crammed down, and eventually ground down by their masters, the very "job creators" they idolize.

I've tried to work myself into a spitting fury over what may well be the single biggest disaster of the Human Era, our own unwillingness to accept that we are changing our very climate. As Chesterton said about Christianity; it is not that trying to restrain climate change has been tried and found difficult, it has been found difficult and never tried.

And after all that trying I keep coming back to the realization...what's the point?

If you're here reading about that you know about it; I can't tell you anything about it you can't find better expressed over at Charlie Pierce's place. I can match Driftglass' incisive spleen, or Krugman's clinical exactitude.

If not politics, then what?

I can turn this into some sort of Daddy-blog, writing about home and family. And don't get me wrong; those things are important. Vastly important. Top-gallant delights and keelson depths, but both utterly central to my life.

But yours? Why should you care whether the Boy is being happy and cooperative or (as is the case at the moment) a sulky young mandrill in desperate need of some corrective action. If he was eight years older I'd be on the verge of wall-to-wall counseling, myself, but you can't do that with ten and expect good results. Or not going to jail.

I could write about what I love. Soccer? You guys hate that and, besides, I already have a place where I can write about soccer amid the applause of dozens.
Well, a couple of people, anyway, then.

Military history. Poetry. Some of the more topical, funny, or curious family stuff. Random musings about men and women, people in general, places.

In short, I haven't come to where my friend Labrys is.

I still like the sound of my own voice enough to continue writing and posting here. But I suspect that I, too, will spend less time on the rostrum shouting at the crowd that passes by deaf to the sound of my most impassioned oratory.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Jesus Eggs!

We don't do much religion at the Fire Direction Center, but this year the kiddos wanted to decorate eggs. So.

To credit the artists: left and lower right, Daddy. Top right and right center, Missy. Top left and lower left, The Boy.

Here's another look.

Turned out rather well, for what Bugs Bunny would have called "da technicolor henfruit"...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Jukebox: Dirty Rotten Cheating Bastard Edition

What can I say? Outside of my Bride, I can't think of anyone I love as much as Blossom Dearie.

Inside my Bride it's...hey! This ain't that kinda blog!

(I was going to say "'s too dark to read" but, still...)

Kaiju Hentai!

Every so often something utterly innocuous just tickles the living shit out of me. For example:

Over at Lawyers, Guns & Money one of the bloggers (bspencer, to be specific) does something called a "Friday Creature Feature" where she profiles some sort of paleontological critter. Today's was the Permian reptile Dimetrodon - that's the dinosaur-y looking one with the big sail on his back, right?

OK, so I enjoy this little feature and I'm reading down the comments section and I come to this:
Denverite says:
April 18, 2014 at 12:59 pm

So I had no idea these “mammal-like reptiles” were around long before the reptilian dinosaurs.

Yeah, a lot of people don’t realize that dinosaurs and mammals really kind of evolved parallel with each other. A good way to think of it is that the dinosaurs were the reptiles that evolved into birds, and the mammals were the reptiles that evolved into rats.
And in the comment string to this comment are the following:

mike in dc says:
April 18, 2014 at 4:42 pm

B-B-But then, where did Godzilla come from, if not from the unnatural union of a stegosaur and a T.Rex?

sharculese says:
April 18, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Well, see, when an undersea lizard and a nuclear blast love each other very much…

And that's the point where I completely lost it and laughed so hard my Diet Coke came out my nose.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


One of the good things about time is that it makes kids grow up.

Okay, sure; babies and toddlers are very cute; indeed, its probably that very cuteness that saves dozens of them from being drowned in sacks like excess puppies.

But they...well...let's just say that if they were a dive, or a gymnastic routine, or a video game, they wouldn't rate high for difficulty.

It's not that they're easy easy. They're fairly to insanely high-maintenance and burn through your waking time as well as depriving you of a hell of a lot of your non-waking time, at least when small. You're always doing something to or for them when they're little.

But they don't really actively engage your brain. Most small-child-rearing can be done pretty much on mental cruise-control. Love. Hug. Babble at. Feed. Change clothes/diapers. Play simple games with. Read brain-killingly-simple stories to. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Day after day after day...

I know, I've said this before but it's worth repeating; all this bizarre love and respect that a big chunk of American society lavishes on parents for how haaaaard they work, how much they sacrifice, how good and wonderful they are?

Utter bullshit.

Not that parents - a lot of parents, anyway - don't work hard, forego pleasures, and are good people in general and towards their offspring in particular.

But parenting as a job beats the hell out of mining coal or butchering hogs. It sucks way less than cleaning toilets.

Clearing mines under artillery fire? Harder and sucks waaaayyyy more than parenting.

It may often be thankless and at times the hours are bad. But its not like wrestling with psychotic mental patients (and if it is you probably need to have the kid seen to by a specialist...).

The actual worst part about it is the fucking boredom.

Let's be honest with each other; to an adult with a functioning cerebrum a 4-year-old is like a labrador with less bowel control. Just like the pooch will happily play fetch for hours past the moment your mind implodes from the utter sameness the toddler is generally limited to doing things that are about as interesting and engaging as staring at paint chips and to an adult about as enjoyable as eating them.

Doesn't mean that parenting that 4-year-old isn't important, or that doing it well and throughly isn't worth the doing.

But it's kinda hard to get excited about it.

So. Time is great. It turns these little labradors into little people.

Sometimes perverse, infuriating people. Sometimes people who seem determined to piss you the hell off.

But, as often as not, funny, clever, inventive, curious, engaging people who are interesting to be around and to do things with.

The Boy and I spend most of Saturday together because his soccer team, the NoPo "Cheetahs", is playing their hated rivals the "Aftershox" over at Flavel Park in northeast Portland.

After a grab-ass half hour assembling everything we needed (and if you have a kid, or if you've ever run a crew of 10-level workers you know about the grab-ass; "Where's your (fill in the blank)?" "Did you shut your room light off?" "Do you have water in your water bottle?" "Where's your PYSO card?" Yeah, it's like that.) we jump in the Honda and roll out for Parkrose.

On the way we talk tanks, mostly.

The Boy has some inventive notions of building the ultimate tank and how he'd fight it. Given that he has no actual idea of the nature of war, for which I thank the Gods of Blood and Iron every waking moment, and an eleven-year-old notion of how machines, physics, ballistics, and human nature actually work he actually has some intriguing notions.

I try not to shoot down too many, though I may mention the ones that have already been tried and failed (Multiple turrets? Usually not a good idea...) but I have to say I'm slightly impressed at the encyclopedia of knowledge of WW2-and-early-postwar armor he's built up from his beloved World of Tanks game.

We also chat about the soccer game.

He's already a little depressed; in two season the Cheetahs have never beaten the Aftershox. Worse, the typical Cheetah-Shox derby ends with a burst of Aftershox scoring that boots the Cheetahs off the pitch in disarray. It's not a simple fix; the Aftershox have just been all-around better in all things soccer.

We get to the park, already noisy and busy with kid soccer and the bathtub-ring of parents, siblings, pets, various required impedimentia (the average kid soccer team comes to play with more tote-able crap than Hannibal's Army including the elephants. Just sayin') and rations. After all, life does not consist of Sport alone.

Afterwards, there must be Snacks.

The Boy and I traipse over to the north field where his game is scheduled and begin the process of assembling him as Goalkeeper Kid when we discover that in the grab-ass half hour young Peter Shilton has forgotten his shinguards.

Fortunately Coach once played recreational soccer as an impoverished college student and knows the trick of slicing up a cardboard box and slipping the bits inside the knee-socks.

They provide no protection - I caution the Boy that his days of going in hard with his studs flying should be considered over for the day (he snorts derisively) - but will produce an appropriate thump when the referee raps his shins.

The Cheetahs take their warm-ups as seriously as any other group of eleven-year-olds take a mundane and humdrum chore, which is to say not at all. There is lots of silliness and chatter and horseplay.

But as the team huddles up after I look over to see the Boy standing alone, quietly surveying the pitch and swinging his gloves from shoulder to shoulder.

There is a moment before every match when a goalkeeper, if he or she is worth anything, realizes that its their work that day to keep the ball out of their goal.

That while there may be ten or a dozen or a hundred different excuses or reasons or rationalizations for failing to do that in the end it comes down to their speed and strength and skill.

If sport has any value at all it is in that. You are matched against an unyielding standard and you stand or fall. There is no middle ground, no equivocating, no penumbra of doubt. You either give all or you don't, you either rise to the standard or not.

The Boy is learning that hard lesson on the lumpy ground and untamed grass of northeast Portland.

I don't think that's a bad thing at all.

Our usual linesman is missing so I volunteer to run the touchline, limping, attempting to appear neutral and unbiased whilst muttering tactical advice to a group of grade-school children.

At least I manage to avoid using the phrase "utter rubbish!" which I've been told is my standard curse at professional games.

The first twenty minutes or so are fraught. The teams trade goals. There are moments of lovely precision amid the usual schoolboy booting and fumbling. The Boy lets a dangerous bounding cross go right between his hands but luckily for him and the Cheetahs there are no Aftershox on the far post.

The halftime whistle blows with Cheetahs up 3-2.

After a sip and a quick talk the boys run out for the second half. On the sidelines the parents gossip and laugh, happy with the progress of the game, the sunshine, and the Spring all around us.

One of the moms has rushed outdoors - undoubtedly having waited until the last moment for the grab-ass half hour! - in a light dress on a breezy cool day and has had to dig around in the family car to find something warm to wear over it. What she's found is a sort of knee-length light woolen coat that would not have looked out of place on this field fifty years ago.

One of the Boy's defenders' sister stands slim in the shade of a park maple, her long pale hair caught up in an elaborate braid studded with small white daisies the color of the cords and earbuds of her iPod. She gazes into the middle distance, listening to music no one else can hear, little concerned with the doings of smaller brothers.

Suddenly, shockingly, the Cheetahs take control of the match. One of the Boy's teammates is a skilled attacker, but he is usually isolated and suppressed by his singularity. Today the Cheetahs have no less than three players running free, and their interplay slices through the Aftershox defense.

The red-shirted rivals, on the other hand, appear to be missing several of the players that provided them with their most dangerous threats. Their attack is not quite working, their last pass intercepted or wide. When they do fire off a shot the Boy is there to slap the ball away or field it.

Now time is an enemy, seeming to slow to a crawl. Up 6-3 the boys in NoPo blue want the final whistle that doesn't blow. Another Aftershox attack goes out for a goal kick. Cheetahs midfield plays smart, pushing the ball out to the touchline, into the corner, forcing their rivals to chase.

Regaining possession the tall kid with the light-blue shorts plays a good long ball through towards my touchline. One of his teammates on the far side is goal-side of the last Cheetahs defender and my arm goes up as the Aftershox attacker turns with the ball but is met and tackled neatly away. The referee looks at me inquisitively and I explain; she shakes her head, either dismissing the infraction or doubting my impartiality.

The long throw goes up the sideline.

Finally, finally, the long whistle, and the Cheetahs collapse into a huddle like a neutron star of satisfaction. There is the obligatory cheer-and-handslap for the defeated, but both sides know that the underdog has won this year's Superclasico, that the perennial champion has been dethroned. The Boy throws me his gloves and sprints back to the sack of granola bars and juice bags, grabs his share, and is munching and sipping contentedly as we walk back to the little Honda.

"You stood in against some tough shots, little man." He smiles around his juice-pouch straw, satisfied with his play.

The Boy is not built anything like me. Where I am squat and thick with short legs he is gracile, slender and tall, his shoulders narrow as mine are heavy and sloping.

I think of that as I touch his back, feeling the light bones of his shoulderblades like the wings of birds beneath my hand.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"All right, then, I'll GO to Hell."

From Anais Mitchell's brilliant Hadestown, Greg Brown performs "Why Do We Build The Wall?":

Damn, but it's been a long time since I posted a Friday Jukebox, hasn't it?

Thing is, I'm kind of funny about music.

There's music I love the hell out of. Play it over and over again.

But I don't like a hell of a lot of music. Not hate it, just don't like it. And if I don't really like the music I much prefer silence.

But I like the hell out of this one. It mirrors the burly vigor I'm feeling looking forward to the end of a hard week's work and a pleasant upcoming two days off...while echoing the little trickle of tired, sullen anger that's always within me as my country slides unthinking into the New Gilded Age. I love the funky growl Brown gives his Devil, smoothly chortling his way to his appointment with Armageddon while he grins mercilessly at the fucking rubes and fools he's got doing his work for him.

The rubes and fools all around us; looting what they can take and spoiling what they can't, sporting their bling as the World burns.

As Huck said; I'll go to Hell.

But don't expect me to be fucking gracious about it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Janet Christ!

Got to thinking about this when my cousin posted this article from the Times talking about some sort of 4th to 8th Century manuscript that contains a fragment where Christ talks about the missus:
"Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife...’ ” Too convenient for some, it also contained the words “she will be able to be my disciple..."
Now I have as little religion as the most Godless heathen. But I got to thinking about this a bit in the context of the period when the guy is supposed to have lived and wondered...why not?

I once read somewhere that one of the strongest lines of evidence that the Christ - assuming that there was an actual person living in Galilee around 32AD who claimed to be the Son of God and went around talking about that until he was arrested and executed and the whole magilla isn't a Book-of-Mormon-level scam - was married was the importance of marriage as a social signifier in Roman Judea.

Bottom line; a thirty-something Jewish guy with no wife and family? Slacker, or worse. Can't hold down a job long enough to afford to marry? Too poor? Too chancy?

Who the hell would listen to that joker talk about God? What the hell would he know?

The bizarre Christian obsession with celibacy really sort of turns up associated with Paul of Tarsus. He was sort of a freak about that. I tried a quick search for "What did Christ say about chastity" and result was, pretty much, "nothing".

Here's the Mormons trying to come up with something. The best that Bishop Elder "of the Seventy" can do is cite the Matthew version of the Sermon on the Mount where Christ says "Don't commit adultery."

Here's the Catholics talking about it and the best the Church webmaster can come up with is "Sexual intercourse outside marriage is formally condemned I Cor 5:1; 6:9; 7:2; 10:8 Eph. 5:5; I Tim 1:10; Heb 13:4; and with explicit reasons I Cor 6:12-20."

Get the connection there?

No Gospels.

First Corinthians, Ephesians, First Timothy, Hebrews...those are all Paul getting all pissy while riding his usual hobbyhorse, "Fucking is the Devil's horizontal rhumba and only if you're married it's only just barely preferable to depopulating the Earth." The sonofabitch was just obsessed with his purity of essence; I'll bet he had something going on about his precious bodily fluids, too. Dude was a freak. Period.

Jesus, based on what got written down, seems to be a whole 'nother guy.

He gives the usual prohibitions against adultery, but physical chastity?

Doin' the nasty so long as it was with your legally-sanctioned partner?

That seems to have been jake with Jesus.

(And, along those lines, Paul Rudnick has a funny "I was Jesus' wife" story in the New Yorker.)


Is this odd little scrap a forgery?

Who the hell knows? We don't even know if Jesus himself isn't a massive 1st Century practical joke, much less whether he really was married if he really was real.

But if there was an actual person, was it likely that he was married?

Seems to me, what the hell - it's as likely as not.

To which, being who I am and what I am, I have to close with this delightful image of "The Bride of Christ" from Pastor Dobi's blog:

Which I found searching for an image of "The Bride of Christ".

Pastor Dobi, "your sister in Christ" describes the little scene as:"...The Bride of Christ coming to her beloved! Look at the picture closely. We see our dear Jesus coming to His bride..."

And as instructed I looked at the picture closely and my immediate thought was:

"I'll bet! I just hope that dear Jesus is thoughtful enough to tip His bride the hint before he comes so she knows that she's about to get a faceful of the Holy Spirit..."

Yeah, yeah, I know. Sorry. I just can't help it.

Proof once again if any was needed that a) I have a filthy, filthy mind, and b) I better hope that all this really is a big practical joke because, if it's not, when Jesus returns I am in SO much trouble...

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Monday morning

For just a moment, perhaps less than a minute, I have no idea where I am.

Have you ever had that fractional minute of complete confusion just as you wake?

I have no idea where I am physically, or how I have arrived...where ever I am. I have no idea what the time is, or the day, or the date.

And for just that tiny time-period, I am seized by an overwhelming panic.

What is happening? Am I in danger? Where am I, and why don't I know where I am?

And just as suddenly I know exactly where I am, and when, and my fears seem immensely silly.

I am in the little house in North Portland, it is Monday, and - since I had set the alarm that is beeping on the nightstand in a very nastily superior way as if it has seen and sneered at my panicked waking - I know it is 5:10am.

I stop the clock with a vengeful slap and lay for a moment inventorying the silent insults of age. Grinding in the shoulders, ache inside the hip, sore knee. The overall sensation that my body lacks the suppleness and strength it once had, that they have been replaced by a sort of surly stiffness.

I swing my feet over onto the floor and rub the stiff bristles the still barb the back of my skull, thinning remnants of the primeval forest that once grew there. Before I can pad halfway across the kitchen in my strange rolling short-right-legged gait Nitty the cat is following-me-in-front-of-me, weaving across my bare feet meowing as if she was last fed halfway through kittenhood rather than the previous day.

I don't worry about the noise; half my family are heavy sleepers and I know that the third is already out on the couch, ghost-footed little shadow in the early morning fleeing who knows what from her bed to the safety of the cluttered front room.

Given the cat's frantic noise I can't do anything else until I find her food. I get a can out of the cupboard and open it.

The meatlike substance commercially sold as food for cats may well be the most revolting thing ever placed in a can. Seriously. I am not particularly delicate about smells; my Bride insists that I would be unable to find a camel six months dead hidden under the bed if all I had to rely on was my olfactory sense. But the pong that bursts from the little metal can is vile, even to me. How the hell can any creature, even one that cleans its anus with its tongue, find this goop appealing?

Why would I even want to know that?

The cat meowls again, an odd little mashup of cry, rumble, and purr. I dump the ghastly offal into Miss Nitty's sparkling bowl. My inamorata insists that the cat's dishes need to be scoured regularly. I point out that this is an animal that cleans its anus with its tongue.

My bride claims that makes no nevermind, and washes the cat's bowl until it shines.

Prey provided to the domestic predator I turn my hand to making coffee.

Ah, coffee.

With a hefty dollop of cream I carry my cup full of earthy, rich savor into the darkened room where my daughter curls on the couch, a crumple of polka-dotted robe with a tousle of midnight hair peeping out from the end.

The Girl was fitted with braces just last week, and one of the caveats she received was that she must not suck her thumb or she could damage all the expensive fretwork.

Little Miss has sucked her thumb since she was tiny. Nature provided her with a perfect socket in her upper jaw where her cleft had taken one of her incisors away, and the quintessential Missy was a pair of bright eyes behind a fist and a raggedy scrap of terrycloth that is her beloved "stripey wubbie".

That thumb, and the fit of it and the gentle osculation on it is comfort, and surety, and peace, and she has never been without them until now.

Suddenly the world is a less comforting and peaceful place for our little traveler. She has been fretful, and as evening draws on to night and bedtime has been fearful. She has taken to wrapping herself in her mother's garish pink-and-white-polka-dotted robe to sleep, drawing comfort from my Bride's smell infused into the fabric. Now she makes small mewing noises as she skootches around to put her head down on my lap for our morning cuddle.

That, too, is essential to Little Miss; whenever she finds that I have left the house without taking a moment to sit with her she cries. We don't actually do anything. There is no talking, or singing, or storytelling. She does not hold me or curl against me and my only contact with her is to gently stroke her hair or down her back as she sleeps.

Together we sit, silent, in the darkened house, the only movement the slow petting of my hand and the steam rising invisibly from my cup. Her head, heavy with dreams and warm with sleep, weighs down on my hip.

Eventually I have to get up and dress.

From over the square bulk of Astor School the eastern sky is lightening, the pale sky outlining the branches of the magnolia in the front corner of the yard already heavy in bud and filters through the red flowering currant, its candy-pink blooms no more than a lighter gray in the grayness around them.

I move as silently as I can. Pulling my right sock on is a trial; the stiff hip won't bend and I contort and skew my leg to fit the end of the damn cotton mitten over my toes and then bend the knee to reach and pull it on. Finally I have socks and boots on, pocket my phone, shrug on fleece and cap, pour the dregs of the coffee into the red-and-silver container from the little coffeehouse in Port Angeles.

Before I go I must return to the couch for a drowsy spastic hug from The Girl, another ritual that cannot be skipped.

The door locks behind me with a dry click.

The morning has brightened to full day, but still with the cool pastel colors of the immediate post-dawn. Urban birds - chickadee, robin, junco - are all voicing their morning complaints over the obbligato of city noise; a dog barks, distant traffic-sough from the arterial six blocks north, car door slams, a faint siren in the distance.

Traffic on North Columbia is light, so it isn't very long before I'm standing in a muddy empty yard looking down at a pile of rusting, oily metal. My workday is beginning, and this is where it begins; with some sort of jerry-rigged underground storage tank that has been discovered during the grading of what is to be a drive-through Starbucks.

I sip my coffee. It's still smooth as a lie, as hot as hidden lust.

"These damn things were buried all plumbed together, hunh?" I ask. "This was what they used for an underground tank?"

The contractor nods, not taking his eyes off the pile of metal as if it might leap up to attack him if he did.

"Wow. You gotta wonder who thought that was a good idea. That's some sort of fucked-up hillbilly shit."

The man nods again, turns slowly, looking for the enviro guy who's supposed to be here to haul the congeries away.

I stand motionless, enjoying the rising heat of the morning sun, and sip my coffee, and wait.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Winter is coming?

My friend Ael had a nifty tagline for the latest anthropomorphic global warming report from the UN and the potential for some life-altering changes it describes:

"Summer is coming".

Any Song of Ice and Fire-themed political references are jake with me, and it has the added encomium of being terse and ominous at the same time.

That's the scary long-game.

In the short-term, however, some people are getting all sorts of up in the Big Whack about Eurasian politics:
"Nato's military commander in Europe has issued a warning about the build-up of Russian forces on Ukraine's border. Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen Philip Breedlove said Nato was in particular concerned about the threat to Moldova's Trans-Dniester region."
Wait, wait, I hear you say. Why is this whack, Chief? I hear you say.

After all, Putin is an Evil Emperor, right? Oligarch, Stalin-wannabe, all-around thug and blight on the landscape who wants to grab back all the bits of the old Soviet Union and reassemble the Evil Empire? Why is it whack to be concerned about him waving the Big Red Stick around his western borders?

OK, I'll put it this way; is NATO, and, by inference, the United States, ready to fight Russia over Moldova?

Because that's really the bottom line. Is the West willing to fight (since assuming that the only way to ensure that Putin's ambitions don't mean Russian troops back in Latvia, say, or eastern Ukraine) to contain Russia in its present borders and prevent the reassembly of the Soviet Union? Will we fight to preserve the independence of the Baltics, or the states on the Ruthenian plain?

We weren't in 1945, and that was before the Soviets had nuclear weapons.

We weren't for Hungary in 1956, or for Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Even beyond the question of open warfare, are we prepared for a new Cold War over eastern Europe?

We might need to be, as we were prepared to face off with the Soviets over Western Europe in the last half of the 20th Century.

But if that's the case we, We the People, should really have a serious talk.

Are we ready for another Cold War? What's our goal? What's our strategy? How much are we willing to spend in blood and treasure?

Where do we draw the line where we'll fight the Russians rather than let them cross?

The eastern border of Latvia?

The eastern border of Ukraine?

The eastern border of Poland?

Do we even know?

This isn't a spur-of-the-moment sort of decision, or one that is best made around one individual incident. And, no, I don't like what Putin has been doing in the Crimea and I don't trust his ambitions in the Near Abroad. But to mobilize for a new Cold War is committing ourselves to a winter that might last for generations as the previous one did.

I don't trust GEN Breedlove - or any other serving officer - to make that decision for me. There's a reason that Congress was given the authority to declare war and formalize peace, after all.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Choking on silver

In case you wanted more doom and gloom (and talk about the weather, Ael...) here's two related news items laying out in excruciating detail the killing blow awaiting us at the top of the dark ramp ahead.

First, the near-certainty that we are in the process of baking our world to a delicate crunch.

And, second, that we are ensuring that our New Oligarchic Masters will not give a flying fuck about that.
And despite the furious verbal and written smokescreen that the meeching coterie of remoras for the wealthy and powerful will emit, these are related, and unless We the People act decisively and swiftly mean that those of us not insulated by wealth and power are headed for an ugly future.

Simply put, since the advent of the Industrial Revolution we've been transforming our planet not so much to an unprecedented degree but at a hyperkinetic rate. Our average global temperature has both risen and fallen significantly before this, but these were part of the larger global/solar system heat cycles.

What we've done has been, in effect, to add a heat wave to the vast swells of insolation, ocean circulation, carbon sequestration and release that affect the Earth and have pretty much since the damn thing cooled enough to accumulate an atmosphere.

We con't be sure how big this wave is relative to the swells. But we can tell that it's there, and that it has the potential - assuming that the overall global climate isn't dropping back into a glacial period - to drive our planet towards the kind of climate that makes grasslands of forests and deserts of grasslands, raises oceans and otherwise creates some pretty impressive changes in our local flora and fauna.

And the critical factor is that this is happening fast; a couple of hundred years, a flick of geologic time.

Things like our food crops are the products of generations of selective breeding, and our food-producing regions developed of millenia of human history. And the same history shows that when those crops and regional conditions change, as they did for the Sumerians, as they did for the Anasazi, that can get very difficult and deadly for the humans involved. have the wealth and power to insulate you from that change.

If you can move freely about the globe, if you can pay for your own sources of food, of heating and cooling, if you can pay for your own armies to secure those things and to defend you from those who don't have the wealth and power to secure them for themselves, well, then...why should you care?

Why shouldn't you be more interested in your short-term wealth and power? Why should you give a flying fuck what happens, then?

That's one of the huge reasons that oligarchy and plutocracy are bad for everyone outside the oligarchs, plutocrats and their entourage and, eventually, for them, too.

When you put that much wealth and power into the small group that also controls the polity you produce a perfect storm of ignorance and indifference. The aristos don't know how bad it is for the proles and don't care.
We know what the inevitable result is. The ugly mess shambles along until finally some sort of unholy disaster unhinges everything. The society disintgrates into a war of all against all. The usual conclusion is either the ascent of a strongman, a Lenin or a Napoleon, or a descent into anarchy and barbarism as after the fall of Rome.

And for some reason we've managed to construct this meatgrinder and are ramming our collective dicks into it while we worry more about missing airliners and white girls and who's got the inside lane on this season's reality show.

I have absolutely no idea what the fuck to say about this except the dinosaurs had the excuse that their brains were the size of a fucking walnut.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Not Blogging

I just happened to glance at the sidebar while proofing the previous soccer-jersey post and realized with a start that I only posted six times in March 2014.


Fah! Six crummy posts? Six?!

I know that March was badly slow, if nothing else from the comments on the Glorieta Pass writeup. People were "welcoming me back" and I briefly wondered where I'd been.

But now I realize; not here.

And I got to wondering about that; have I ever been that unproductive on this blog before?

Well, yes. But it was a long, long, long time ago.

Going back over the past seven years - I started this thing back in the late summer of 2006, almost seven and a half years ago - the slowest period was the winter of 2008. I posted a whopping total of 26 times between January 1 and March 31, 2008; 9 posts in each of January and March and the low point, 8 posts, in Fabruary.

But you have to go all the way back to December of 2006 before you find a month when I was slacking this badly.

In December, 2006, I also posted only six times.

Well. Crap.

I can blame some pieces of business outside my own laziness.

A lot of traffic on this blog was generated by the ridiculous wars in southcentral Asia. Those wars are not exactly finished, but the end, like a dragon by the side of the road, is well in view. There doesn't seem to be anything more to say about them, or, really, much about military affairs in general. I've been out of the service too long to have any more inside information. And, frankly, all that remains at this point seems to be arguing over trivialities. My friend jim over at Ranger just put up a post fulminating over women in the combat arms that got me thinking "Damn...if this is what we have to argue about now we don't really have jack shit to argue about, now, do we..?"

The other big-ass reptile squatting alongside the highway seems to me to be the degree which We The People have stood around with out thumbs up our collective ass and our brains in neutral and let the plutocrats, the oligarchs, the hedge-fund fraudsters and wanna-be aristos and Great Power fantasists kidnap our republic.

But what's the point in my writing about that?

You want incisive take-downs of these skeevy bastards you've got Pierce. And Krugman. And Taibbi (although Matt appears to have disappeared into the mists of some sort of fucking vanity project called "First Look Media").

You don't need me pounding my little tin drum. Hell, my friend Labrys can work up a better head of outraged steam than I can these days. My opinion has pretty much settled on "You worthless fucktards are perfectly happy to let these scumbags steal your patrimony for a mess of pottage. Fine. I'll do what I can where I can right here and the hell with you people."

Right now the part of this casual abandonment of the Republic that most grates in my craw is the...well, you can't really call it the "revelation" since we all pretty much knew this shit had been going on for years, but the...deobfuscation, if you will, of the brutal regime of secret prison and vicious torture that we have payed for and looked away from since a bunch of raggedy-ass Allah-pesterers made the Bush Administration shit its pants.

(That's the Boy on the left, above, by the way. I have no excuse for the illustrations in this post. I'm simply going through my pictures folder and doing a photo dump. Cartoons, personal pictures, nonsequiturs...the visual accompaniment for this one is "you get what you get"...)


Here's the thing about this.

There is no way. No possible way.

Not a single, imaginable, potential, even-wildly-hypothetically-conceivable way that the Islamofantacists could have created an existential threat to the United States of America, even after 9/11.


Not possible.

Created havoc? Perhaps. Killed people? Maybe.

But destroyed the Republic itself? Overthrown the "freedoms" that they were so supposed to hate?


But imprisonment not just without trial but without even a public name or a file number? Disappearances into night and fog without trace?

Lawless torture, and then frantic efforts to hide this lawlessness and torture?

That not just can but inevitably will destroy any democratic state and the freedoms it is supposed to protect.

A state must, if it is to remain in the hands of the People, be a state of law, of open government and relatively equal justice enacted in open courts.

When you start giving parts of your government the go-ahead to do their business in secret, when you give them the authority to sieze people and disappear them, to spy on your own people, to torture and kill in darkness and without fear of justice, you cannot simply stop them outside your borders and at the strandlines of your oceans.

Those people will then come within your government, within your states, and your citie,s and your houses.

And they will bring their own lawless entitlement to take what they deem needs taking, to destroy what they deem needs destroying, and to rend what needs rending.

Because that is what you have taught them to do.

They will not stop because you protest your innocence, because you avow your loyalty, because you claim protection under the law.

You have already given them absolution from the laws, you have already taught them that the end justifies the means, that secret torture and secret imprisonment and secret spying are part of their brief.

You will have given the sheepdogs a taste for the flesh of the sheep.

Right now this nation should be seething with anger. Our agents, paid with our taxes, have been torturing and kidnapping in our names, and then lied to and hid from the People in Congress. As they have before and will again, we have sowed the wind, and even the dullest amoung us should know what bitter storm that sowing reaps.

And we do not seem to care.

If those simple facts do not enrage you, I cannot think of anything I can say that can.

And thus I found that I just stood silent, having nothing more to say. I feel utterly voiceless, shouting over the roaring waves of indifference like Demosthenes.

I'm still here. And part of my silence was laziness, and distraction, and the world intruding on me.

But if you wondered why the other reasons why there was so little here in March, well...there they are.

By their shirts shall ye know them. Or not.

In keeping with our national philosophy of "let's see if we can sell more of this crap..." the Nike corporation has designed a new jersey for the U.S. national soccer teams for the upcoming men's (2014) and women's (2015) world cups.

Almost every commentor on this thing has observed how it looks like a "bomb-pop", the dildo-shaped red-white-blue frozen thing you can find in most 7-Elevens and almost every ice-cream truck. And, yeah, there's something to that.

Frankly, as both a soccer fan and a U.S. soccer fan the whole business leaves me vastly "meh". It's not a bad kit. It's not a classic one, either.

And - bomb-pop or no - it's far from the worst thing the U.S. National Team has ever ran out wearing.

Anyone remember the infamous "denim stars" shirt from 1994?

Yeah. That shirt.

To me the way the jersey looks isn't such of a muchness as it is that the damn jersey has never looked the same way twice. has a nice review of how the U.S. men's team has looked since 1994 here. Check it out. Some variation of red, white, or blue or a combination of the three, but always a different combination. Stripes. Hoops. Solid red, solid white, solid blue, sashes, bands, cutouts, panels.

Now the bomb-pop.

I tried to find the article where a much better soccer writer complained that the problem was that nobody could recognize a U.S. national shirt if you soaked it and whopped them over the head with it. As opposed to pretty much the rest of the soccer world.

Argentina is light-blue-and-white stripes. England red. Holland orange. Germany white. Italy blue, and France a darker blue. Brazil yellow. Mexico green. There are variations, of course - none of those federations are immune to the "let's see if we can sell more of this crap..." - but every nation has a basic shirt color and design that is nearly instantly recognizable in its basic form.
I can recognize a Mexico "El Tri" jersey from across the length of the pitch and know something about the wearer. Same-same with Spain's dark red, or Sweden's blue-and-yellow.

The U.S. jersey? Tell me again...what color are we this week?

So I'll be rooting for the bomb-pop this summer; it's our national team and I support them whatever colors they wear.

But in the back of my mind I'll be wondering what color that will be next time.