Sunday, November 30, 2008

Henry's place

You hear 'Walden Pond' and you think of something like a stock tank, but a pond's a different proposition in Mass, apparently. We all know Walden because that's where Henry D Thoreau had his cabin where he wrote that stuff we all had to read in school. The govt has moved the cabin onto a park grounds, no doubt because discerning students were vandalizing it to get even with the pious misanthrope. The cabin is maybe 90 or 100 square feet. He didn't need more because he could hotfoot it home to eat at the parents' place, which was nearby. Sort of the 19th-Century version of mom's basement, I guess. The original hippie – idle, pious, and ready to instruct everyone in moral behavior. It was still fun to see something as iconic in American literature as Thoreau's cabin.

Little woman

The girl is sitting on the grounds of the Alcott house in Mass. I couldn't resist the image of her with her cell phone and notebook out in the yard of the house where Louisa wrote the deadly girl book Little Women. Yesterday was the birthday of Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa and the rest of the tribe that was immortalized in the novel. Bronson had an academy, pictured also, out back of the house. His proposition was to make wages running the school, but it was really Louisa's book that put the family in the chips. I saw the true and actual chair and desk where she wrote the book. Literate women of my acquaintance say they've found the book unreadable on looking into it later in life. I have not and do not intend ever to read it. The Alcotts were among a group of earnest, annoying, and pious do-gooders that thrived in Salem and Concord.

Decline and fall

So, the Vicad had a page 1A pome-as-news-story Saturday, another Little Me innovation that would've gone unnovated. I do, however, see here possibilities for breakthrough concepts in reporting. We could do the police blotter in terza rima, with each entry constituting a new stanza. Big sports stories are in Homeric form, of course. Think what you could do with the weddings, with bardic recitations of lineages … or maybe we should skip pioneering new forms of journalistic writing and as far as poetry goes remember that the only good poet is a dead poet, meaning nobody alive now needs to be writing poetry.

Friday, November 28, 2008


A financial blogger called London Banker has some to-the-point remarks on the relative decency of the financial planning of the putative democracies and that of China, what's with the westerners working frantically to protect the interests of the wheeler-dealers while the Chinese focus on the wellbeing of actual small businesses.
Any discussion of China always invites criticism of its anti-democratic governance. … If the democratically elected governments … are free over an extended timespan to ignore the interests of the people, then how is a Western democracy superior to a Chinese bureaucracy? From looking at the policies and practices of the past year, the merits of Western democracy are not immediately apparent in ensuring that policy responses to the financial crisis are aligned with the interests of the people. Even over the past decade, it is not clear that the policies of the democratic Western governments have aimed to strengthen and broaden the economy to benefit of the electorate rather than a narrow, self-serving elite.

Read the whole post here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


We dined about 2 this afternoon – turkey, proper cornbread dressing, some fancied-up greenbeans [but not with cream of mushroom soup], cranberry chutney, giblet gravy, sweet potato pudding and little pecan muffins, a slug of zin – I hope pretty much what everyone had, given personal quirks and family traditions. A thoughtful friend observes that Thanksgiving is a day that everyone in America sits down pretty much to the same meal. I like that thought. Moments of national unity have become far between. We had a married-in relative from the Midwest and sometimes would celebrate the meal with that crew. I'd carry a pan of cornbread dressing along when we went. My wife said that my custom constituted rudeness, but I always considered that I was protecting myself from a wet-bread concoction that they called 'stuffing.' A boy can't be too careful about his stomach …
As the occasion for gratitude, we are upright and breathing regularly, sleep pretty well, no strokes heart attacks so far, have a sound roof over our heads, and live in a pleasant place. My friend The Pilot dropped by this afternoon looking recovered from his treacherous back and happy to be in **Adrift for the day. Hope all had as pleasant a day as we did.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

'16 killed; 7 bodies found near school field'

So you read that headline in a paper, you figure it's more Iraq bloodshed, Shias killing Sunnis or something. But noooo, it's a headline in the world's worst newspaper on a story reporting the latest score from the abattoir that is El Paso's sister city.
Seven men were executed next to a school soccer field Tuesday in one of the largest and most brazen acts of violence in Juárez this year. The massacre occurred on a very bloody day, when at least 16 homicides were recorded.

Read the entire brief story here. Sixteen killings at least. But who's counting? Certainly not the Mexican govt. Sooner or later, the moral chaos of Mexico will slide across the river like everything else.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Plumbing the muck

Like a dragging anchor, the pore ol Vicad keeps bouncing along the bottom. Of late, Monday and Tuesday papers could be run off on the mimeograph machine down in the school office, there's that little to them. Last Saturday Little Me, the arts reporter, did a story on some movie no grown human would ever want to see and did it at a level of solipsism stunning even for her. Story ran page 1A. Then Sunday we got yet another chapter in the immigration series, musta been FF-xvi or so, with no real revelations beyond the obvious that immigration's a big problem. Might have spent the money better covering Hallettsville and Cuero in the fashion of a few years ago instead of grinding out fodder to enter for prizes. Someone in the discussions accused a reporter of being unequipped to report and the editor responded that the soul in question had a master's degree from Columbia, probably the premier graduate J school in the country. Here's the cost of schooling there. Can you imagine spending that kind of money to end up working for less than a first-year schoolteacher? Probably the decent thing would be to close down about two-thirds of the journalism schools in the country … there won't be any kind of employment in journalism for most of the graduates.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Money, &c

Some time past I copied this following onto my little doc of things to blog about. Seems still worth reading:
America is bankrupt. American government bonds are extremely overvalued. “The world’s last bubble.” America is in debt for over 13.000 billion (13 trillion) dollar and adds a 1.000 billion dollar debt each year. …

Read it all here. I've no doubt spent too much time the last few weeks watching CNBC, in part horrified by all the financial situation, in part horrified because I'm watching IRAs evanesce, small amounts of money becoming daily smaller, and in part fascinated because I can't resist the chance to watch a train wreck. I have come to the conclusion that nobody in this country understands exactly what the hell is going on, except a bunch of inept greedheads who perceive that they can show up in DC with their hands out and come away with money. They may not understand what's going on, but they understand the part about money. The Citibank deal looks like multiple billions tossed away to help out people that deserve no help, but I can't be sure about that because, as I said, I don't understand what's going on. The money frittered away on Wall-Street welfare payments will make it hard to do anything else for many years.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Can't help myself … blonde joke

A blonde suspects her boyfriend of cheating on her, so she goes out and buys a
gun. She goes to his apartment unexpectedly and when he opens the door she
finds him in the arms of a redhead.
Well, the blonde is really angry. She opens her purse to take out the gun, and
as she does so, she is overcome with grief. She takes the gun and puts it to
her head.
The boyfriend yells, 'No, honey, don't do it!!!'
The blonde replies, 'Shut up, you're next!'

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Body count (cont.)

More than 1300 dead in Cd. Juárez this year. From the world's worst newspaper:
The violence in Juárez continued to rage with at least 10 homicides occurring Friday.
Among the slayings were a triple homicide in the morning, a man gunned down outside a pool hall in the afternoon and a killing at a funeral home in the evening.

Read it all here. You gotta wonder how long this can go on. Wazoo was a prosperous [by Mexican standards] and booming town ten years ago.

Obama's cabinet

He who will be president soon is choosing his cabinet these days. Georgie Anne Geyer, a great columnist and American patriot, has some pointed observations of the Anointed One's choices so far:
Instead of creating that "government of unity" that he talked about, and positioning the best people for the jobs at hand around him, Obama is, quite incredibly, appointing some of the nastiest people in Washington, and bringing into his administration some of those least-talented for the special jobs at hand.

Read it all here. It can only be so long before the feet of clay start to show on Obama – not that, whatever they are, they won't be vastly better than W's head of dung – and we hafta hope for him to accomplish a maximum of good stuff before disenchantment sets in.

Friday, November 21, 2008


People do go on about the glories of changing seasons. By the time I got to New England, the leaf-peepers had mostly pept and left, but there was still a little fall glory left over around Boston, witness this pic. We walked down a river path from Brookline, a park that had been designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the guy who designed Central Park in NYC and wrote a lovely book about travel in the antebellum South [I commend to you this book]. Anyhow, there were still a few piddling leaves yet to fall or recently fallen, and I enjoyed looking at them. The fiery red is sugar maple. I walked down the street where my friend lives and gathered up a few leaves to bring home to my wife. We walk by the glorious display of leaves here on **Adrift when we walk to the post office; it's on a sorry Chinese tallow over on the bayou bank.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Great museum-i

Before I went north, a friend told me that I needed to see the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, said it was his favorite museum in the world, and this guy has seen a few museums. Established in what was once the premier port of the coast, the museum started from the miscellaneous treasures brought back by sailors and the seafaring culture of the place. For instance, they have a prime collection of maritime materials. One of the guards told me that he used to come to the museum when he was a kid and that it was like his grandmother's attic in those days. It's grown and become organized since then, though the salty stuff is still very important, with things like these figureheads from old ships. The buxom chick with the hypercleavage came from The Indian Princess.
There's also a lot of art, including a bunch of really nice Asian stuff that came back with sailors in the tea trade. Also, a lot of American Indian art, old and modern. Most of the modern stuff was of a predictable ironic tone, but these skateboards tickled me no end.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Old Ironsides

The frigate Constitution, better known as Old Ironsides, is moored in the harbor at Boston. She was originally one of a group of ships built to deal with the Barbary pirates on the north coast of Africa who were preying on American maritime commerce, seizing ships and holding them for ransom. That was the situation that gave rise to the quotation 'Millions for defense, not one penny for tribute' [that's from memory and unreliable]. The North Africa expedition inspired to the lick in the Marine hymn about 'the shores of Tripoli.' [With seven ships now held by Somali pirates we might consider sending her out again.]
The 'Ironsides' name came from an incident in the War of 1812 when cannonballs from a British ship bounced off her hull. Our tour guide explained that the ship was so tough because she was clad in three layers of oak … white oak on the outsides and live oak in the middle. You can still see the layers in the ship. She is still in commission, an active member of the US Navy, with a crew quartered in the Boston Navy yard. Crew dresses in period uniforms with baggy-butted britches that look kinda hiphop, otherwise quite spiffy. It's probably good duty, and the sailors seemed to be having a good time. The kid who led our tour was a drama major who emoted extravagantly and sometimes bobbled his lines. There's also a nice little museum there. Fun to see something I'd learned about in American history classes a long time ago.

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Mexican mayhem

A journalist in Cd. Juárez was murdered last week with his daughter beside him.
Armando Rodriguez, who covered crime and the Juarez cartels for El Diario de Juarez, was killed in his car in front of his home as he prepared to take his daughter to school.
The killing, even in a year of extreme violence, shocked observers on both sides of the border.

You see anything about that in your local newspaper? I thought not. Here's
the whole sad story, from El Paso's Newspaper Tree Web site, a good source of border and northern Mexico news. American neglect of the murderous chaos in Mexico is inexcusable. Texas papers in particular should be all over the story. I think that American media are reluctant to tell the truth about Mexico lest they be seen as picking on poor Mexico.

Take it, it's good for you

Recently the public prints ballyhooed a study purporting to show that taking a drug called Crestor would significantly improve health. The study was sponsored by AstraZeneca, which just happens to be the company that produces Crestor. The pill costs $3.50/day, and the subtext of the newspaper stories seemed to be that all God's children, or at least those of a certain age, should be taking it, each one contributing better than a thou a year to AstraZeneca's coffers. The 2blowhards have some interesting commentary on the study, including a link to one Michael Eades, a skeptical MD. Eades writes, in part:
Although the relative risk numbers in this study appear to be correct, you’ve got to realize that these are small numbers we’re talking about. Out of almost 18,000 subjects there is a difference of not quite 50 deaths between the two groups during the years over which the study took place. Which means, of course, that neither subjects in the placebo group nor subjects in the Crestor group were at great risk of dying. There is a difference, but in these small numbers … it is almost meaningless.

A small maybe gain for a huge outlay of money. Read all of the Eades observations here.I appreciate that Eades may be turning a crank of his own, but his post is worth considering. There are also links to a couple of other doubters. The press has a habit of gullibility when presented with anything emitting from a lab. Skepticism is a good habit of mind in this world.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

History, history, history

The Old Manse was inhabited at one time by Ralph Waldo Emerson and by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne wrote a collection of short stories titled 'Mosses from the Old Manse' that has some of the most deliciously Freudian images you ever read anywhere. If I were a more diligent person I would look them up for your education and amusement but it's too hard. It's enough to say that those New Englanders had what people now would style issues on matters sexual. The building by the river is part of the grounds of the Old Manse as seen from the modern bridge that crosses the river. The Old Manse looks down on the river and site of the rude arch that spanned the flood where that engagement between Colonials and British soldiers took place. There was a running fight up and back something like 20 miles from Boston out to Concord and Lexington, and it's well furnished with signs and museums. A good place to get some sense of the way things kinda were on 19 April 1775 when the incipient American rebellion really got under way. Gotta stir your American blood to stand in those places and contemplate those nervy people taking on the greatest power in the world at that moment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Loon's excellent adventure

Oh, boy! I'm leaving SAT tomorrow morning for a four-day stay in Boston, a place I've never been, as my compass points mostly west and south. Going to cop a flop with an old friend – and I mean old … haven't seen him since, I believe, 1960. He lives in a house that was built in the 1680s. And I thought we always lived in old houses. Going to see the John Singer Sargents in the Museum of Fine Arts, visit the historic sites and sights, and, it is hoped, eat some good food. Friend says the neighborhood joint is a Turkish restaurant. Hard to do in **Adrift, that one. Everyone says that Boston is one of the singular cities of America. I'm excited about it, barring the miseries of traveling in the age of our fierce War On Terror, the one that is being fought by making me throw away my lighter. I'll take pix for when I get back, maybe get in a post on the road.

Spam, but entertaining spam

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Good for a grin on Monday morning.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

On books

Lady who sends me stuff – that would be my wife – sends me a nice little essay by Theodore Dalrymple on books and bookstores. In part:
Books, even without association with anyone known, have an almost sacred quality in any case: it is necessary only to imagine someone ripping the pages out of a cheap and trashy airport novel one by one to prove to oneself that this is so. If we saw someone doing it, we should be shudder, and think him a barbarian, no matter the nature of the book. The horror aroused by book burnings is independent of the quality of the books actually burnt.

Read it all here. It's a nice piece of writing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Military-industrial complexity

Fred Reed, the Sage of Chapala and one of the brighter people blogging, has some cogent remarks on the spreading power of the military in American life. The defense budget and military power just get bigger and bigger, and anyone who demurs is marked traitorous or cowardly. Reed writes, in part:
The country has no need of such a military, and especially not of the formidably costly weapons. Having no plausible enemy of any sophistication, the Pentagon exercises itself by attacking primitive nations in the Third World, and usually losing. For this you do not need an F22. You could lose as well with slingshots.

Read all of the piece, titled 'Military,' here. Maybe I just share a lot of his quirks and crotchets, but I think Reed is dead on about a lot of things many others dodge or don't get.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cheer down

Guy named Jim Rogers, who messes about with big-time money, observes:
America is bankrupt. American government bonds are extremely overvalued. “The world’s last bubble.” America is in debt for over 13.000 billion (13 trillion) dollar and adds a 1.000 billion dollar debt each year. …

Read the whole post here
and pity Obama, who has to contend with this tangle. There won't be a lot of money lying around for jobs programs or comprehensive health-care reform or much else. Apparently there will be massive welfare coming up for the auto business, which has obdurately ignored the reality of oil while they pursued big bucks making oversized and impractical SUVs. Don't get too excited about the drop in gasoline prices; guaranteed, it won't last long. For our part, it's a lovely evening, we ate pasta with tuna and tomatoes and followed that with stinking cheese and ripe pear, so life continues at some pleasurable level no matter what.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


The Obama crowd is moving quickly toward accession to office. I hear surmise that Larry Summers will get Treasury. I hope so … ever since he was ritually humiliated by academic feminists and driven from his job as president of Harvard, I've hoped he'd come back some way even stronger. His sin was speaking aloud a truth readily apparent and easily demonstrated about comparative high-end math abilities in males and females. Maureen Dowd had a hopeful piece in the NYT today about a return of dignity to the White House:
How could the White House be classy when the Clintons were turning it into Motel 1600 for fund-raising, when Bill Clinton was using it for trysts with an intern and when he plunked a seven-seat hot tub with two Moto-Massager jets on the lawn?
How could the White House be inspiring when W. and Cheney were inside making torture and domestic spying legal, fooling Americans by cooking up warped evidence for war and scheming how to further enrich their buddies in the oil and gas industry?

Read all of her piece here. What presidential candidate was on TV Tuesday evening calling for a repeal of the obnoxious Patriot Act? That would be Ron Paul. Who were you expecting?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's over, finally

We walked over to City Hall this morning to vote. I always enjoyed the feeling that on election day people all over the country were doing the same thing I was doing. The early voting policy has sorta ended that, but there were still a lot of people out to vote today [though not here in **Adrift; we walked right in and voted with no wait], and they seemed to say pretty clearly that they'd had enough of Bush and the neo-cons, corporate hegemony and money-grabbing financiers.
Just watched Obama in Grant Park in Chicago, and it was a fine piece of political speaking. He's damn good at talking, he was gracious to McCain and didn't gloat, he talked about unity and American identity, and his tone is generally toward compromise and cooperation. We can only hope that his actions in office reflect that tone. Despite all the talk of his extreme leftist stances, I suspect that he will do something on the order of Clinton-style triangulation, a strategy that brought good administration of the federal government. We must wish him well because he has a miserable path to walk, given the state of the country now. Now W can go home and cut brush and give high-dollar speeches and feel aggrieved at the lack of appreciation.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Reviewing the last eight years

Tom Engelhardt, writing on his TomDispatch blog, sums up the catastrophe that W’s administration has been for this poor republic:
And what a debacle the Bush Doctrine proved to be. What a legacy the legacy President and his pals are leaving behind. A wrecked economy, deflated global stock markets, collapsing banks and financial institutions, soaring unemployment, a smashed Republican Party, a bloated Pentagon overseeing a strained, overstretched military, enmired in an incoherent set of still-expanding wars gone sour, a network of secret prisons, as well as Guantanamo, that "jewel in the crown" of Bush's Bermuda Triangle of injustice, and all the grim practices that went with those offshore prisons, including widespread torture and abuse, kidnapping, assassination, and the disappearing of prisoners (once associated only with South America dictatorships and military juntas).

Read it all here and breathe a sigh of relief that it will soon be over, one way or another … unless we get Sarah Palin as veep to an ailing John McCain. Maybe a real Republican party, a party like Eisenhower's – careful about spending, averse to foreign adventure, disinclined to meddle with the public, respectful of the Constitution – will come out of all this.

Prankin' Palin

Guy who sends me stuff sends me a funny thing about a couple of Canadian radio guys who pranked Sarah Palin, fooling her into believing that she was talking to the French president.
MONTREAL - In an over-the-top accent, one half of a notorious Quebec comedy duo claims to be the president of France as he describes sex with his famous wife, the joy of killing animals and Hustler magazine's latest Sarah Palin porno spoof.

Read it all here. Sarah Palin's overweening ambition is an unfortunate manifestation of the bogus idea that in America anyone who wants something badly enough is fit to have it. For half-bright 16-year-old kids, that would be sports fame or rock 'n' roll notoriety. [I blame TV for this pinhead sentiment loose in the land.] Palin may want very much to be president, but she is in no wise qualified for the job. If weird political winds should blow her into the White House and into the Oval Office, it would be as big a disaster for the republic as the odious W has proven to be. She should be back home in Wasilla selling real estate, maybe to the Russians that hang around the neighborhood. People need to learn to assess their capabilities in a way that reflects reality.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Matrimony & madness

We've just spent three days at Babylon-on-Colorado, marrying off a nephew of the wife. In September the daughter was married here in **Adrift ... the city judge read the ceremony on the banks of Cow Bayou and we came to our house for a reception. Honoring localism in food, we had San Antonio Bay shrimp, Woodsboro ham, and Yoakum smoked turkey along with lots of Portuguese white vinho. The Austin wedding was much bigger and more ornate. The bride is a bright, pretty, and funny girl who will be a decoration to the outfit.
Austin amazed, as it usually does. It's almost unrecognizable beyond the old central area, and that's much marred by progress; the doofus spirit of the place lives unaffected by change. While we were there, a woman threw her 4-year-old child into traffic. When the TV stations were doing interviews about the incident, people kept saying stuff like, "I didn't know she had issues," speaking of the mother. Nobody mentioned that perhaps pitching your kid out in front of a SUV is an at least arguably evil act. Just worry that the baby-tossing mommy was somehow in need of hugs or something like that. I ate Thai twice and Vietnamese once and bought curry paste and coconut milk. You can't get those things here, but I'm glad to be back on the banks of the bay.