Saturday, November 15, 2008


What were people thinking? I've already seen that people were mad about the economy, so they elected someone most likely to trash it. The best, however, is this little tidbit I ran across. This poor family from Bangladesh exercised their first vote to vote for Obama, because he will "restore the American Dream." I guess that depends on what you construe the American Dream to be. But since they are here and the son is studying, one would have to assume that said dream is alive and well. The other day, I heard a pundit on the radio ask why anyone would who comes to the United States would want to turn it into the country they felt forced to leave.

What's striking about the article is how Obama is all things to all people. Shortly after the family is a woman talking about Obama and social programs. What exactly an Obama presidency will entail remains to be seen. What is easily discernible is the thought processes of the electorate. Mayhap, I shouldn't be so harsh. After all, my first vote went to McGovern.

More Sherwood Anderson

There is a haunting lyrical quality to Anderson when at his best. Try some of these from Winesburg, Ohio. If I remember rightly, he wrote most of it in a single burst of creative zeal. Perhaps that accounts for it. They are many more I could have chosen, yet they are more easily understood in context. I think, though, there is enough here to give a taste.

from "Paper Pills"-
The story of Doctor Reefy and his courtship of the tall dark girl who became his wife and left her money to him is a very curious story. It is delicious, like the twisted little apples that grow in the orchards of Winesburg. In the fall one walks in the orchards and the ground is hard with frost underfoot. The apples have been taken from the trees by the pickers. They have been put in barrels and shipped to the cities where they will be eaten in apartments that are filled with books, magazines, furniture, and people. On the trees are only a few gnarled apples that the pickers have rejected. They look like the knuckles of Doctor Reefy's hands. One nibbles at them and they are delicious. Into a little round place at the side of the apple has been gathered all of its sweetness. One runs from tree to tree over the frosted ground picking the gnarled, twisted apples and filling his pockets with them. Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples.

from "Tandy"-
The stranger became silent and seemed overcome with sadness, but another blast from the whistle of the passenger engine aroused him. "I have not lost faith. I proclaim that. I have only been brought to the place where I know my faith will not be realized," he declared hoarsely. He looked hard at the child and began to address her, paying no more attention to the father. "There is a woman coming," he said, and his voice was now sharp and earnest. "I have missed her, you see. She did not come in my time. You may be the woman. It would be like fate to let me stand in her presence once, on such an evening as this, when I have destroyed myself with drink and she is as yet only a child."

from "Departure"-
The young man's mind was carried away by his growing passion for dreams. One looking at him would not have thought him particularly sharp. With the recollection of little things occupying his mind he closed his eyes and leaned back in the car seat. He stayed that way for a long time and when he aroused himself and again looked out of the car window the town of Winesburg had disappeared and his life there had become but a background on which to paint the dreams of his manhood.

Literary Interlude: from "Sophistication"

I've been ruminating about growing older lately, and the Sherwood Anderson story popped into my mind. It's about growing up, and I'm growing old.

There is a time in the life of every boy when he for the first time takes the backward view of life. Perhaps that is the moment when he crosses the line into manhood. The boy is walking through the street of his town. He is thinking of the future and of the figure he will cut in the world. Ambitions and regrets awake within him. Suddenly something happens; he stops under a tree and waits as for a voice calling his name. Ghosts of old things creep into his consciousness; the voices outside of himself whisper a message concerning the limitations of life. From being quite sure of himself and his future he becomes not at all sure. If he be an imaginative boy a door is tom open and for the first time he looks out upon the world, seeing, as though they marched in procession before him, the countless figures of men who before his time have come out of nothingness into the world, lived their lives and again disappeared into nothingness. The sadness of sophistication has come to the boy. With a little gasp he sees himself as merely a leaf blown by the wind through the streets of his village. He knows that in spite of all the stout talk of his fellows he must live and die in uncertainty, a thing blown by the winds, a thing destined like corn to wilt in the sun. He shivers and looks eagerly about. The eighteen years he has lived seem but a moment, a breathing space in the long march of humanity. Already he hears death calling. With all his heart he wants to come close to some other human, touch someone with his hands, be touched by the hand of another. If he prefers that the other be a woman, that is because he believes that a woman will be gentle, that she will understand. He wants, most of all, understanding.

Yes, there is a difference. More about that later. The short story in its entirety is available here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Boogeymen" and Bias

They don't have too much of an agenda at ABC News. In their article about the GMA interview with superannuated radical William Ayers, they repeatedly use the term "boogeyman." I would have written "bogeyman," that is if my intent was to convey that the gentleman in question, no threat to anyone, was used to scare people. The impression is heightened by the assertion in the article that the "distinguished" professor was used as a "political piñata" by McCain and Palin during the campaign. See, there's nothing threatening here, the article implies. It was only those nasty, fear-mongering Republicans.

Unfortunately, the unrepentant Ayers is actually more of a danger now than he ever was playing with his chemistry set. Firmly ensconced in academia, training the teachers of tomorrow, his influence is more pervasive and insidious. Worse, people like Ayers are hypocrites. Living the good life, calling the police to protect him from O'Reilly's people, and preaching revolution. Just who is playing with a piñata? Read it and barf. How many times do I find myself writing "words matter."

Meanderings: Feeling Bookish

It was a documentary that started it off. Yesterday, attempting some culinary concoction involving heavy cream and sherry, I caught the word Krakatoa coming from the television in the other room. Immediately, the thought of a book I've been meaning to read came to mind- Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27 1883. The last volcanic eruption-themed book I read was in installments in the The National Enquirer way back when.

The Enquirer of my youth was a black and white publication, more given to headlines like the one I spotted on the way down the steps to the candy store next to Sam's on Court Street, the name of which eludes me. It was on the back cover which someone had left exposed: "Woman Bites Off Son's Tongue." Apparently, Momma was enraged when Junior informed his father of her infidelity and took out her displeasure by biting off a huge chunk of the offending organ. How that haunted me! That single action- because in my youthful niaivete I believed it- threw into doubt my hitherto unwavering belief in the goodness of mothers. Could my loving but tempermental mother turn on me one day and strike out in the same fashion? Perhaps I was primed to worry by the couple who were my sometime babysitters. They seemed to joy in remarking that my "tongue was long," another way of denoting that I had a habit of saying unfortunate things, usually followed by the threat of having the same reduced to ground beef. I always found these interactions distasteful. Thankfully, my parents were not given to such lingual observations.

So the Enquirer of yesteryear was more of a Ripley's of print. At one point, they ran a serialization of a book on the eruption of Mt. Pelée on the island of Martinque in 1902. It was really fascinating. Ever since, I've been hooked on natural disasters. For a while there, we had a good run. Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm was followed by Eric Larson's Isaac's Storm about the Galveston hurricane and Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air which detailed the deadly storm on Mt. Everest. Later there was Hemingway's Hurricane by Phil Scott based on the deadly storm which hit the Florida Keys in 1935.

Since then, it's been slim pickings, although I do have to point out Candice Millard's River of Doubt which follows the journey of an expedition, including ex President Theodore Roosevelt, to map the unknown reaches of an Amazon river.

At that point in my mental meanderings, the sauce thickened, so I missed the documentary. They will inevitably rerun it. It's cable, after all.

Some titles newly on or soon to hit the shelves-
Coming in December is Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta. No info as to plot at this juncture.
On November 25, we have the 20th Dirk Pitt adventure from Clive Cussler, along with someone suspiciously named Dirk Cussler, Arctic Drift. His son, I believe.
The Camel Club returns in Divine Justice by David Baldacci which hit the shelves recently.
Dean Koontz rounds out the offerings on November 25 with Your Heart Belongs to Me. The plot reminds me of another novel, just can't remember. They made a movie of it with Clint Eastwood.
Forgot, Michael Connelly's Brass Verdict which is just out. Amazingly the 14th in the Harry Bosch series. I once used the 2 minutes I got to speak to Connelly to ask him how to pronounce Harry's first name. Unfortunately, the fog of voices and Merlot left me no more knowledgeable. I know he answered; I just can't remember what. Go figure. Boy, do I miss the reading festival.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rime of the Ancient Comandante

The Associated Press picked up the latest picture of Fidel Castro. The picture originally appeared on a Russian Orthodox website, and Babalu posted it days ago. Even the AP, sometime cheerleading section for the malevolent despot, had to acknowledge how "frail" he looked.

Something about the picture evokes Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and its tale of retribution, most notably this:

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold :
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.

Death and Life-in-Death have diced for the ship's crew, and she (the latter) winneth the ancient Mariner.....

....Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea !
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.

He despiseth the creatures of the calm,

The many men, so beautiful !
And they all dead did lie :
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on ; and so did I.

And envieth that they should live, and so many lie dead.

I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away ;I
looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

I looked to heaven, and tried to pray ;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust.

I closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the balls like pulses beat ;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet.

Why not reread the whole thing? It kinda grows on you.

Dying by degrees is a terrible thing and, levity aside, not something to be relished. But in the end, inhumanity is all too human.

A Wind of "Change" and a Noxious Air

According to this article, the Obama transition team is exploring using their donor list as a mailing list of sorts to marshal support for his policies. Take a look at this example:

"Just imagine what happens when a congressman comes back to his district and 500 people are lined up for his town hall meeting because they got an e-mail from Obama urging them to attend," said Thomas Gensemer, managing partner of Blue State Digital which designed Obama's campaign Web site and

It's a brave new world indeed. Of course, there is something about this that is causing just the veriest frisson of fear along the back of my neck. It is interesting to note that by law the donor list must be kept separate from the White House. Call me crazy, but there must be a reason for that. So is there a fine line between the workings of democracy and the rule of the mob? Obama's shock troops? Shades of red shirts, here.

H/T Ziva

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bin Laden Purportedly Planning Attack?

Mom mentioned it. She was freaked out that they would try something at the inauguration. Despite being McCain supporters, we are Americans first. Anyway, all I could find was this report which surfaced in Australia. It's noticeably absent on on the main media websites, perhaps because of credibility, so take it with a huge grain of salt. Despite being a friend of a friend type account, in the past when they start making noises, they've struck. Particularly scary is the claim that it will exceed 9/11. Reminds me of some sports thing, like "the best defense is a good offense." God watch over us all. And if you see something suspicious, it doesn't hurt to let someone know. At worst, they'll think you're politically incorrect or demented or both. Meantime, don't give the suckers the satisfaction.

Cuba, Da: Embargo, Nyet!

In an interesting bit of international pantomime during the visit to Moscow by the "Cuban Foreign Minister" Felipe Perez Roque, both parties for reasons of their own made all sorts of conciliatory noises. The headlines emerging include Cuba "inviting" Russia to drill for oil here, Russia extending a $20 million dollar credit to Cuba here, and the best- both announcing that "President" Raul Castro will be visiting Moscow next year here. Of course, there are the usual demands that the US obey the rest of the world and lift the embargo. Something I find a tad presumptuous at best. There is if nothing else the question of uncompensated seizures of American property. Guess it's easy to give away other people's money. There seems to be a lot of that going around these days. Then the Russians know all about the lack of remuneration, as the Cuban misrulers owe the old Soviet Union about $26 billion in unpaid debts.

Sure it's all meant to scare the US into submission. The Cuban regime wants money, money, money- There must be more money!- as it rattles its tin cup menacingly, saying, "See, if you aren't nice to us, we'll cozy up to the Russians." In the end, what they want is credit, as they've burned just about every other country in the world community. Okay, maybe they also want access to American markets and American tourists. It all adds up to filthy lucre, little of which is going to seep down to the population. The Russians want to sell arms to Latin America, I hear. They already have the cover of being miffed with some reason over the placement of missiles in Eastern Europe, which by the way we have handled in a ham-handed fashion.

It seems a bit of political theater, because Russia cannot afford to carry the economic black hole that is the island. Similarly, the Cuban regime has learned that it cannot depend the Russians to carry their economy. Although not averse to a suckle or two at the Russian teat, they are in search of a benefactor, waiting for the "One." Frankly, there are enough bailouts going around. It is past time to deal with the Russians in a respectful, if critical, manner. They are giving us a taste of our own medicine. As to the Lords of Misrule in the Caribbean...that's fodder for another time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Quoted on Sunday

"Hold and Die." These were the orders given to the 600 or so South Vietnamese soldiers whom Captain John W Ripley was "advising" on April 2, 1972 in Vietnam. Facing a juggernaut of 20,ooo regular Northern troops during the "Easter Offensive," Ripley single-handedly placed the charges and blew the Dong Ha Bridge. The story surfaced this week in conjunction with the passing of the now Col. Ripley. Read both here and here for the inspiring story of a true American hero.

"None at All." The response of a worried wife when asked if she had hope of her husband's survival of the latest Russian naval catastrophe. An accident involving the inadvertent release of freon in the fire suppression system of a nuclear sub claimed at least twenty lives. Unclear is why personal breathing apparatus was not used. This latest joins a growing list of Russian nuclear submarine disasters that have claimed the lives of many: K-19, Kursk, as well as others. Article here.

"It was Bizarre." So said a lifelong Boothbay Harbor, Maine resident of the 12 foot waves that materialized in the harbor. The cause is unknown. In the Boston Globe article, Megan Woolhouse discusses the phenomenon which has been documented in other locations including Daytona Beach, Florida.

"I've never met an axolotl..." for the end of the witticism by Ogden Nash, read this Fox News report about the endangered axolotl, or "Mexican Walking Fish," a monstrous looking salamander inhabiting the region of Xochimilco in Mexico. The victim of urban sprawl, farm run-off, and non native species incursions, the axolotl faces extinction.

"There is a slightly creepy cult of personality about all this." according to Evan Thomas of Newsweek. Now he says it. Don't bother. Check out the Rose exchange, posted on the Rush Limbaugh site here. While we're on the topic of the election, check out this most excellent article in Forbes. Claudia Rossett exhorts us that it is "time to restore liberty." Pretty nifty.