Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tick … tick … tick

From the Washington Examiner: 'NEW YORK — Freedom Communications Inc., the owner of the Orange County Register, is expected to file for bankruptcy protection this week, according to a published report.' Read it all here. Freedom is the publisher of a slew of papers, including nearby McAllen, Harlingen, and Brownsville. The Register is their flagship paper. Bad times in the newspaper business.

Old, old crime story

Just to show that any newspaper has some saving grace, I give you the 'Tales from the Morgue' blog by Trish Long, the archivist at the El Paso Times, in a lookback on a Wes Hardin escapade published May 2, 1895. In part:
El Paso is no Longer Bad Medicine as it Were
Last night a quiet game was opened up in the Gem building and the game was moving along smoothly when a visitor to the city dropped into the game and commenced losing and was behind a nice little sum when a dispute arose between the dealer and the stranger. The stranger with the remark: “Since you are trying to be so cute, just hand over the money I have lost here,” placed the muzzle of a ferocious looking pistol in the dealer’s face. …

Read all the story here. Old John Selman killed Hardin Aug. 19 at the Acme Saloon, per the Handbook of Texas Online. Newspaper librarians know things you don't.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Teddy K

The last two, three days have been all Kennedy, all the time. Little piece in the paper about all the many Ks who stand ready to serve as our leaders, characterizing them as our Royal Family. No thanks … don't hold with royalty and especially not rabbity royalty. I have always considered Teddy K and George W as the strongest possible arguments for high inheritance duties.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


A man named Bill Kauffman, in a blog named the Front Porch Republic, reprints an article he wrote in 2006 about Elmer Kelton:
Elmer Kelton loves his subject matter. He was born to it, after all. And if the Western is a ghetto, it is a remarkably rich ghetto populated by the likes of Edward Abbey (The Brave Cowboy), Jack Schaefer (Shane), Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove), and other novelists whose mortal sin, it seems, is setting their tales in open spaces rather than in the confines of the faculty lounge or city tenement. Elmer Kelton has an utter mastery of his subject; a distinctive, even arresting, point of view; and a narrative talent honed by writing for the Western pulps. His best work, The Time It Never Rained (1973), can be read as character study, regional literature, and philosophical novel: find me a navel-gazing New Yorker writer who has squeezed out a single book as rich, layered, and unsettling.

Read all the fine story here and mourn once again Kelton's passing. I kited the link from the 2blowhards blog, a frequent source of good stuff. Kelton got a lot of credit as a good writer but not as much as he should have. Guy was really great.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mon morn misc

Last Wed I ate lunch with Abe Cochran, Rusty Hooks of the Vicad blogs. It was fun; we've been talking about it for maybe four years. Then, Fri evening we had as dinner guests Mad Mike Austin, the Pilot of the Vicad blogs, plus his ladyfriend, a charming companion. It was likewise fun. It occurs to me that I have Vicad blogging to thank for both the occasions and can properly regard both the blogs as children of my own Vicad blog.
It comes out that Elmer Kelton died Saturday at the age of 83. It was not a hot news crawl on the cable channels nor did Channel Zero mention it that I caught. Nonetheless, we could lose a Michael Jackson every Sat from now until 2010 and not do as much damage to the real health of the arts and letters of our republic as we suffered from the loss of Kelton. He was a wonderful stylist, an honest and affectionate chronicler of a place and a people, and a nice man to boot.
This morning there were school buses rumbling around and little voices shrilling in our village – the first day of school. Sorry herself wasn't here to gloat that she's not teaching any longer.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Health, more

From a friend:
'This is really good. It's a serious attempt to explain what the health care debate is all about. No matter what happens we will all end up paying more.
'For a better viewing experience click where it says full.
Paper had a story with Kay Bailey Hutchison declaring her opposition to govt involvement in health care; nearby was another ad for a barbecue fundraiser to cover part of somebody's health expenses.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More nutritionist stuff

On the topic of nutritonists, from Healthline:
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a nutritionist and a dietitian? To put it simply, a nutritionist has no concrete definition, while a dietitian has credentials to go with the term. Any person working in a health food store or otherwise can call themselves a nutritionist.

Read it all here.
The nutrition columnist is also in the very middle of the Cuero chupacabra thing and has apparently peddled a bunch of t-shirts off of that goofiosity.

Newspaper stuff

The Vicad promises an end to the Fatal Funnel series, capping all off with an odd selection of speakers. I forget when it happens but expect some will show up like attendees at a Mafia funeral – to make sure the damn thing is finally dead. Friend opines that they will not run out of tickets.
A correspondent corresponds: "On Cobler's blog page he has twitter updates...riveting stuff like 'i just picked up my kids from soccer.'" It is my fearless prediction that Twitter will disappear within 18 months. Too much inanity for anything useful to filter through.
I notice that there's an ad in Journalism Jobs for a reporter for the Vicad. Wonder who bailed?
The paper's nutritionist-columnist had a little thing in the business page recently commending herself for some putative accomplishment in nutrition. I was pleased to read the first column in the paper by a dietitian, who pointed out that 'nutritionist' is like 'therapist,' a meaningless word. QuackWatch, a useful Web site [dealing with quackery, what else?] reads 'Promoters of questionable health practices often form organizations to multiply their effectiveness. How can one tell which groups are reliable and which are not? There is no sure way …" The list of ducky orgs includes the lady's American Association of Integrative Medicine as a dubious outfit. See QuackWatch here.
The board of the South Texas Center for Nutrition Research Therapy recommended Vietnamese pork ribs cooked in fish sauce this evening. It was quite tasty.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Adjunct pack visits

Herself was in Austin from Friday until today, being grandmotherly and performing a sad social duty. The pup and I enjoy baching it … we eat sardines for lunch without snide comments on the smell and bark a little more than usual. She brought back the grandpuppy for a visit, raising considerably the level of noise and activity around here. Our dog, the blue one, benefits from the company but is often an ingracious hostess, being accustomed to life as an only dog. Nonetheless, they do keep each other occupied, much as two little boys will do. Used to be a country adage to the effect that one boy's a handful, two boys are half a boy, and three boys are no boy at all. Guess there still is if I remember it.

Decline and fall, cont.

There was much ado in the public prints and electrons about Chicago's closing down today – no libraries, no garbage collection, no clerk's office open. It was traumatic for citizens of the place who count on finding those services right there when they go for them. Sub-federal political entities are beset by terrible budget troubles that will get worse before they get better. From a piece in the WaPo:
NEW YORK -- As states across the country grapple with the worst economy in decades, most have cut services, forced workers to take unpaid days off, shut offices several days a month and scrambled to find new sources of revenue.

Read it all here. California has taken some steps to hold on that range from embarrassing to downright sleazy. Wonder when someone's gonna snap to the Argentine govt's stunt of taking over retirement accts and try that?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Speaking of benefits, & a snicker

So, there I was yesterday, talking about people trying to raise money by selling brisket to finance medical procedures, and this morning the Vicad has in the Crossroads section a story headed 'Barbecue to benefit ailing teen.' Goes on to say that a 14-year-old girl needs $100k to cover med bills to this point. They hope to sell 500 plates at seven bucks a plate. That'll only leave them $96,500 short. So far. We need a genuine national health-care program.
And from the máximo lider at the Vicad newsroom, the big cheese, the editor hisself in his blog, this most damning bit: 'While on vacation in Omaha last month …' Imagine that – vacationing in Omaha. 'Then we all went to Mickey Dee's for a delightful dinner and sat around drinking light beers and listening to John Denver records.' [No. no, I'm making that part up]. Omaha for a vacation … that's just pathetic. Like going to Kenedy County for the skiing or something.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health arguments

The Times of London had a posting about the health-care argument here in America. Comments, mostly pro-national health care, were fascinating:
As a Brit living in America, I have to say I'd love to have the NHS here. I am paying over $700 a month for insurance for myself, my wife and son. And even after all that we are responsible for the first $3000 claimed per year per person. $700 is about 1/4rd of my monthly income. No wonder a large percentage of personal bankruptcies are as a result of health care costs!

American healthcare is fantastic, but only if you have insurance. Try telling the 47 million without insurance what a good system they have, as they struggle to afford even a single doctor visit. … The NHS isn't perfect, but its a damn sight better than the American system. I've experienced both systems, and the NHS beats U.S. healthcare hands down.

… Remember Britain isn't the country where a person in a car crash has to pay for the ambulance that picked them up.

Read all of them here. I've got to the point of averting my eyes from the TV footage of people screaming at their representatives. It's painful to see such dynamic stupidity on display. We've had a couple more benefits here lately to raise money for people needing it for health emergencies. Civilized countries don't force working citizens to sell brisket plates to pay for chemo.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Texas newspaper woes

David Crisp, the Billings Blogger, writes that one of his old papers, the Palestine Herald-Press, has dropped two days of publication a week – Sat and Mon – plus other dire steps:
The first daily I ever worked for, the Palestine (Texas) Herald-Press, has cut publication from seven days to five a week and has started mailing rather than delivering papers. I hear that substantial staff cutbacks also have taken place.

For the rest of Crisp's post, here. And for the H-P's story on the cuts, here.
From the Herald-Press, Aug. 1, another development that couldn't help a strapped publication:
Authorities have said [Herald-Press circulation manager Malinda Shea] Lucas took advantage of her position at the newspaper to create names of ficticious newspaper carriers. Checks were then generated in the names of those fake carriers, with Lucas cashing those and pocketing the proceeds, authorities have said.
Lucas stole $107,254.78 from the Herald-Press over a four-year period, according to authorities.

And for the rest of that sad story, go here.
I sometimes wonder how the Vicad can keep on publishing papers comprising just three four- and six-page news sections and a classified section that's all house ads.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another one messing around

Well, bless us, another R pol of the pious division, this one a Tenn state senator, is caught boinking the help:
When an extortion plot exposed married Republican Sen. Paul Stanley's illicit relationship, he said he would be "clearing up" misimpressions later. He's now clearing out his office, the latest politician caught in a sex scandal, this one made worse by not coming clean.

Schädenfreude at this level of intensity used to be hard to come by. Senator Stanley's entire tawdry story is to be foundhere.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday night misc.

Recently I learned that V-8 juice is an unsatisfactory accompaniment to peanut butter on crackers. Must be some bad chemistry there.
Mad Mike called early this afternoon. You will remember that he's in Hawaii. I had flaked out for a nap but my wife caught the call. So, he calls from Maui to get a phone number out there in the islands for a supermarket because he wants to lay in some typhoon supplies and a pair of tin snips to cut a cast off one of the boys. Don't ask … I think it had something to do with cell-phone minutes.
And my niece reports from the other side of the world, England. She has, she says, seen the Tate, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and London Eye, whatever that may be. Plus, she's been to a 1920s theme party with a friend. How is it that all these people are in faraway places doing exciting things while I'm not?
And my primo went to the opera in Santa Fe last weekend, said it was great.
On the other hand, here in paradise, a friend brought by a ham from a wild pig. I'll find something to do with that.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hard times

The big dry we are living through impels some of our little critters in closer. We try to remember to keep water in the birdbaths out back. If I were a truly decent person, I'd keep a large dishpan full in the back yard. A skittish neighbor reported last week that a skunk was nosing around outside their house. I told him I expect our elegant little friend was simply looking for a drink and some dinner. The possum is a baby yet and still kinda cute in a rat-like way. He was dining on the vermin chow on the front porch and maybe looking for a sip of water. A grown possum is a pretty unattractive creature and certainly one of nature's dumbest children. It's amazing that the species has survived for so long, innit? Notwithstanding, it's fun to see them.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Doomed city

I remember when Detroit was one of the places working people went to make it. Black folks from all over the South, hillbillies from Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, all went up to Dee-troit to find prosperity. If you could catch on at a plant your fortune was made, or at least you could lodge comfortable in the middle class, which is harder and harder for working-class people to do these days. All the auto prosperity's gone long since, and the city has been in a death spiral for forty years. A guy does a blog called Sweet Juniper that has some fascinating pix and interesting writing:
I've seen "feral" used to describe dogs, cats, even goats. But I have wondered if it couldn't also be used to describe certain houses in Detroit. Abandoned houses are really no big deal here. Some estimate that there are as many as 10,000 abandoned structures at any given time, and that seems conservative. But for a few beautiful months during the summer, some of these houses become "feral" in every sense: they disappear behind ivy or the untended shrubs and trees planted generations ago to decorate their yards. The wood that framed the rooms gets crushed by trees rooted still in the earth. The burnt lime, sand, gravel, and plaster slowly erode into dust, encouraged by ivy spreading tentacles in its endless search for more sunlight.

Here's the link to the blog. Go all the way to the bottom. The abandoned zoo is haunting and the empty schools are heartbreaking.
And then further on Detroit:
But the food crunch is intensifying, and spreading to people not used to dealing with hunger. As middle class workers lose their jobs, the same folks that used to donate to soup kitchens and pantries have become their fastest growing set of recipients
That's from a CNN money story, and you can read all of it here.
Detroit was a big union town, so the paper had a very good contract … high wages, good conditions. Friend of mine went up there from Chicago and worked a while. When he came back someone asked him how the cost of living was in Detroit. "Cost of living's same as it is everywhere," he said. "Every damn penny you make."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The Corpus PBS channel is on a fund-raising tear, something they seem to do about every other month. I notice that when they go looking for money, they apparently target the, you might say, older segment of their viewership. You can go a long time without doo-wop specials anywhere, but let them start a drive and you're gonna find the Drifters and the Coasters and all those Philadelphia Italians that were so much fun back ca. 1959 and "Duke of Earl" and 'Still of the Night" and other such delights. The old boys and girls are a little the worse for wear but still willing, if sometimes unable to hit the high notes anymore. It's fun to see them. Other night I turned on the PBS channel and someone was singing "The Wayward Wind," a distinctive song that starts with a flourish of French horns and is full of restless wanderer angst. Came out in 1956 or I'm slipping. I assume the very matronly singer was Gogi Grant, who did the original. I don't recall Gogi Grant ever doing any other song that amounted to anything. The funny thing was that there were in the audience people leaning on walkers and boogieing along with her. Really, walkers. Somehow that just ain't right. Or maybe it is.
Tonight Willy and Merle and Ray Price were on and still pretty good, though here, too, the old vocal range is diminished … but the spirit is willing. That is a great lineup. If you want money, go for the AARP crowd.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I swore i'd leave Sarah Palin alone, but …

Who can resist such as this? It's all pretty much the same story: [You'll have to go back to previous posts.]
These thx to my Alaska connection.

Too-Damn-Many-People dept., et alia

Sorry I haven't written … dog-days ennui plus the ever-increasing weight of entropy. We had a young relative out Sat night along with her sorta new light-of-love and had a good time, ate tortilla de patata in the Spanish style and steak and seared green beans and a fine lemon ice and drank wine in two colors, then brandy and seegars out where the seabreeze cools the front yard. Not bad, not bad. We wondered what the pore folks was a-doin. The world continues its own losing battle with various inexorable laws of nature. This from the LATimes on the hot, dusty, and crowded road we rush down:
Environmentalists tend to avoid the topic of population control. Too touchy. But the politically incorrect issue is becoming unavoidable as the global population lurches toward a predicted 9 billion people by mid-century. Will there be enough food? Enough water? Will planet-heating carbon dioxide gas become ever more uncontrollable?

Read all the rest here.
With crude oil north of $71/bbl on Monday morning, this from The Independent of Britain:
The world is heading for a catastrophic energy crunch that could cripple a global economic recovery because most of the major oil fields in the world have passed their peak production, a leading energy economist has warned.

Read all of that here. When you read some economist happily babbling about the wonderful advantages of growing populations, remember the E. Abbey remark, 'Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.' Economists need to go have lunch with biologists about once monthly for a chat about population density and carrying capacity of land and social effects of overcrowding. Just because we could theoretically cram some hundreds of millions more people into this poor nation doesn't mean we should import Third-World peasants and do it.
And also from The Independent, just for pilón:
… Jacques Mesrine may have been a clown but he was also a vicious, professional criminal with an unusual capacity for abstract thought, an impressive writing style and an instinct for public relations. He was a Franco-American cultural hybrid, a kind of criminal version of Johnny Hallyday: American in many of his influences and, at the same time, utterly French.
As a middle-class boy growing up in the middling Parisian suburb of Clichy (only a couple of miles from where he died), Mesrine was a greedy consumer of American gangster books and films. He bore a curious likeness not to Vincent Cassel, but to Charles Bronson.
And yet his own literary works, L'instinct de mort and Coupable d'être innocent – written in prison and on the run – read in parts like a pastiche of Albert Camus. Mesrine tried to present himself in print as a kind of existentialist gangster, or, in his own words, "a kamikaze of crime".

Read it all here. There is much about the French that is a little peculiar. I'd never heard of this guy.