Saturday, October 31, 2009

An old profession offers new opportunities … Arrrgh

Tom Sawyer would be happy to see the present-day possibilities in the pirate trade. There is piracy all over the globe, though most commonly off the Horn of Africa and on into the Indian Ocean. Here is a Slate story about the Brits negotiating with Somali pirates who've grabbed a British couple.
And here is the Weekly Piracy Report from ICC Commercial Crime Services.
And if you want to see the geographical distribution of piracy, here is a map of pirate attacks. You can click on the pointers and get details of attacks. A lot of it sounds like petty thievery carried out in port.
Better future in piracy than print journalism, plus there remains some public regard for pirates.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Well, Col. Travis, use your cell phone to call for reinforcements

The results of hiring callow, cheap help are often really funny. The Vicad's Erica Rodriguez writes about the theater in Ganado, "Alvin Svoboda never thought a job as a 15-year-old video projectionist would play out this way." Swoboda is – get this – 71 years old, which is to say he started running movies more than fifty years ago. Poor little Erica doesn't know that a half century ago, movies were on film and running a projector was a skilled job. Read here. An editor should have caught something like this, but …

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In case you lack a natural talent for bad writing …

An old-and-dear sends along to me a link to a blog called How to Write Badly Well. Written by a Brit named Joel Stickley, it's a grin or two. Under the heading Always use a thesaurus:
She manipulated the garment in a cogitative mode.
‘Hmm,’ she vocalised. ‘This attire is verifiably marvellous. What is it constituted from?’
‘From the most meritorious velveteen,’ defined her interlocutor, simpering coincidentally.
‘Is it?’ iterated the party of the first part. ‘That’s felicitous.’

And on further in that vein. It's got various samples of bad writing. Read it all here. I don't know how far he can stretch this gimmick, but it might be worth checking back occasionally.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not just bad weather here

From Yahoo News:
Figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations show that average daily [newspaper] circulation dropped 10.6 percent in the April-September period from the same six-month span in 2008. That was greater than the 7.1 percent decline in the October 2008-March 2009 period and the 4.6 percent drop in the April-September period of 2008.

Read all here.
I saw Alfalfa there at the Vicad claiming a 50-50 advertising-to-editorial ratio. Perhaps he is innumerate, like so many editors, or perhaps he doesn't understand that full-page ads placed in the Vicad by the Vicad aren't actually revenue-producing pages.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weather, &c

There's a cloud to the south that fills up the sky, and we had a little rash of thunder and lightning earlier. Wunderground has us at 100% for rain tomorrow. You don't see that very often. It's still nicely cool, though muggy. Cooler weather brings certain joys, including the pleasure of stews and pot roasts and such. Occasionally of late, H-E-B has had whole pork loins, all bagged up for a buck a pound. I snap one up every time they do that; pork goes for something less than half of comparable cuts of beef. When I'm at the meat counter I like to mutter 'swine flu - swine flu- swine flu' under my breath. Just want to keep the price down. One of my top-five meals is a stew made from pork and turnips. It came from the NYTimes about ten years ago and calls for lovage, celery leaves, or parsley, and white wine, chicken stock, or water. I like it best with celery leaves and wine, though I've never tried it with lovage. For the recipe, go here. Try it … it's really great. Pork gets nice and tender and the turnips are sweet when browned and braised.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Socialism for the Realtors

Saw a Victoria real-estate guy on TV this week arguing that the $8k tax deal for first-time homebuyers should be kept on.
From the Big Picture econ blog:
A recent Brookings Institute analysis (found via Barrons) demonstrates persuasively that the $8,000 subsidy actually costs $43,000 per extra house sold; worse yet, the new $15k tax credit will ultimately cost $292,000 per home.

Read it all here. What the real-estate business needs is to let house prices find their proper level, not bloodsuck gummint money to hold on to glory days now gone. Lot of people that holler a lot about the free market and the oppressive gummint are first in line when the gummint's handing out cheese.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dead souls

Paul B. Farrell, who writes on MarketWatch, has come to be one of my favorite Web commentators, mostly because he sees the existence of a strong moral factor present in our unhappy financial situation. Faber writes:
Jack Bogle published "The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism" four years ago. The battle's over. The sequel should be titled: "Capitalism Died a Lost Soul." Worse, we've lost "America's Soul." And worldwide the consequences will be catastrophic.

This piece was published on Oct. 20; it's titled "'Death of Soul of Capitalism' Bogle, Faber, Moore." Look here. The unhappy truth is that most of our present problems are attributable to ugly and unfettered greed as practiced by a bunch of amoral greedheads in the financial sector of the American economy. Not denying the role of mindless acquisitiveness in the general public, but the heaviest guilt lies at the doorstep of the Wall Streeters, who are still grabbing it with both hands and glibly justifying their greed as a just reward for their great work. Someday the people of this country will snap to what's been done to them by the bankers and hedge-fund managers. I hope things get vengeful when they do snap.

Bleed, bleed

I was reading in the NYTimes the other day about more reductions in the number of newsroom employees at that paper. Fewer reporters, less news coverage.
The New York Times plans to eliminate 100 newsroom jobs — about 8 percent of the total — by year’s end, offering buyouts to union and nonunion employees, and resorting to layoffs if it cannot get enough people to leave voluntarily, the paper announced on Monday.

Read all that here. Then, when I went from that story to my Gmail, i found that a guy who sends me stuff had sent me a thing about TV stations running high-dollar obituaries in markets where newspapers have faltered. Read that here. Gonna be hard for the genealogists of the future to look up the ancestors on those clips. In a few years, the technology that records those deaths will be obsolete, unlike print, which stays current forever. Every day I note the large number of big death notices in the Vicad. The paper's management may be happily booking the big bucks from paid death notices [and some days the paid obits must compose a large part of the revenue, but the obits should be listed as liabilities, as all those old people gone are newspaper readers, irreplaceable in these post-literate – hell, illiterate – times.


Been watching TV stuff about the shortage of H1N1 flu vaccine. The customary bunch of anti-vaccine people have come bubbling up, discouraging people from getting the inoculation. Robin Cook, MD and pop novelist, writing on the Foreign Policy site about the possibilities of an Influenza A pandemic behind a genetic mutation by the crafty flu virus;
… What the world needs -- and considering the current swine H1N1 pandemic, it needed it yesterday -- is a real plan for rapid expansion of its ability to produce vaccines against influenza A, so that output at any given time can be quickly ramped up to meet the sudden need associated with the appearance of a truly dangerous, new subspecies like our might-be novelistic killer H5N1/H1N1. Governments in both the developed and developing world must take on the job, as this is a worldwide threat. Although vaccines are a 20th-century technology, they remain the most powerful weapons we have for the very real 21st-century threat of influenza A. That is not to say that basic viral research should not also be encouraged and strongly subsidized. The more we know about these mysterious entities the better, as there surely will be far more efficacious small-molecule antivirals in the future as well as antiviral biologics, which might even have more promise in the long run.

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Free Town Hall Meeting!

Pore ol Vicad's been touting the meeting to discuss the relative credibility of on-line and print publication. Bunch of peasants with pitchforks intended to go to ask questions about other problems. My wife even intended to go but decided she didn't want to make the drive to town. We figured we could watch the livestreamed cast of the meeting and know what was happening. When we dialed it in, there were a total of four watching. Then the cast wouldn't cast, so they just gave up. I don't know whether to cringe or snicker … is there a word for that sensation? This round goes to print, simply because a paper doesn't suddenly fade in your hands and become illegible. I trust someone who attended will file a report on a blog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My favorite paleocon

Pat Buchanan tickles me; about half the time he seems dingdong loony and about half the time he's dead on with his observations and proposals. He writes:
If jobs are available in the United States, Americans should go to the front of the line to get them, ahead of illegal aliens. And as there are six Americans out of work for every job opening, it is time to call a moratorium on immigration. Why are we bringing into the United States over a million legal immigrants a year to compete for jobs against 15 million to 25 million Americans who can't find work or full-time jobs to take care of their families?
Who is America for – if not for Americans first?

You can read the rest of this column here. He also disapproves of our foreign adventures and mucking about in places where we have no business.

Cajun charcuterie

At the muddied-over Festival Acadiens we sat through a demonstration on Cajun smoked meats presented by a charming lady from Poché's in Breaux Bridge. The next day we went out there and had a wonderful lunch of crayfish etouffée and barbecued chicken with excellent sides of the down-home sort. Then we went through the meat market at the front and bought andouille, smoked sausage, and tasso. Dropped ninety bucks on stuff the doc wouldn't approve of. I've already used some of the tasso and smoked sausage in a couple of beany deals, frozen andouille against gumbos to come. They ship, as you can see here. Acadiana is such an entertaining place.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Press stuff

Edith Ann, a sanctuary-seeker from the Advocate blogmess, has a quote today from A. J. Liebling: “People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.” For years after WWII, Liebling had a column called 'The Wayward Pressman' in the New Yorker mag. Nothing like that around today that I know of. Liebling was, for my money, the most entertaining journalist in the country in the middle third of the 20th Century. Contemplate this great lick, the opening lines from his biography of Louisiana politician Earl Long: 'Southern political personalities, like sweet corn, travel badly. They lose flavor with every hundred yards away from the patch. By the time they reach New York, they are like Golden Bantam that has been trucked up from Texas – stale and unprofitable. …' Know anybody writing today that has better chops that that? Today is Liebling's birthday … bow your head in a moment's homage to an ace writer.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Public service announcement

Maybe a year ago I was listening to KVRT while I was driving – the only time I listen to the radio – and they gave a green-bean recipe that sounded wonderful … fresh beans, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes. It sounded so good that I came home and found it on the Web site. Been making it ever since and recommend it highly if you want a change from green beans simmered with pigmeat in the classic Southern fashion. Had some for dinner tonight. Here's the recipe. I recommend it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Art Camp rolls on

Another painter due in for the ArtBoat session this fall is the aptly named Rebecca Byrd Bretz of Austin. A couple samples herewith, 'The Heron' and 'Buk-buk McCluck.' Byrd's her middle name and apparently birds are her interest. It's always fun when Art Camp's in session.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rose's bar

This sculpture is on the grounds of the local tourism bureau in Lafayette. It kinda tickled me.
The newspaper in Lafayette looks pretty healthy, with lots of retail advertising. The focus of the rag is on local news, very thoroughly done, less worry about the affairs of the wider world. They may be on to something. The local alternative rag also looked sound for ads.

& back from Lousiana

Maybe twenty years ago, when we first went over to Lafayette, a friend gave me a list of places to eat. I think the first was Dwyer's, a solid old joint right downtown where everyone in Lafayette is likely to eat sometime during the week. They feature a buffet meal at noon, a meal we have learned is the end of the day if you eat it. We usually go for the breakfast, featuring homemade biscuits and grits, if you fancy grits, and good, strong Cajun coffee. On Wednesday, a bunch of locals gather to sing old Cajun songs in French, and it's one of life's more valuable experiences.
Lafayette looks prosperous, no doubt off of oil prices. The streets are full of late-model cars and real estate prices are way above what they were in the past. That notwithstanding, the town has a singular feel to it, and a spirit that must be ancient, or anyhow a couple of centuries old. My primo maintains that the Cajuns are so much fun because they are the only tribe of Southerners that aren't pissed off all the time. 'Tis true; they are good-natured folks with sunny souls, not to mention superior cuisine.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hi Ho … off for Louisiana

We're about to set off for a long weekend of unabashed gluttony at the Festival Acadiens in Lafayette, La. Our customary approach in Louisiana is to eat, waddle around, then eat again. The festival provides the opportunity to hear some Cajun music and look at crafts between meals. If I lived in Louisiana, I'd weigh 300 lbs.

New lows

Just when you think things can't get any worse, they do. Guy who sends me stuff sends me a link to David Mann, the Contrarian, writing on the Texas Observer blog, who in turn links to a painful column, purportedly written by a staff dog, in the Waco Herald-Tribune, a formerly respectable publication:
Daily, I sit in queenly fashion up in my daddy’s downtown Waco office building, greeting visitors with barks. I enjoy watching them dance about the room as I nip merrily at their shoes or attack their pants legs. That includes the postman, whom I attack as if I were a Doberman.

For all the Waco piece, go here.
Mann writes
Obviously, this column was meant to be cute, but I find it rather depressing. The Trib is far too good a newspaper to waste precious column inches on material like this. Especially when all across the country non-canine reporters and columnists are losing their jobs.

For the Observer blog and the rest of Mann's comment, go here.
All is lost, fellow readers. Cutesy, untalented amateurs seem to rule the pages of our newspapers.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


From a Vicad blog comment a little while back: "[K]eep in mind the old saying; 'Do on too others, that which you would want done on to you.'" Makes me wonder if Geo W is posting …
The paper seems to be making war on its own editorial page, given the poll it ran about reader preferences for the page. Advertising's been quite light lately; I eyeballed the paper late last week, maybe Friday, and estimated that there was no more than about 20% ad content. You can't pay the electric bill, buy newsprint, and put gas in the trucks on that kind of revenues. Interesting to watch, that sad deterioration in what was a pretty good little paper. My prediction is that we'll see a reduction in editions per week, maybe after the Christmas advertising season.

Not too common

Barry Commoner was a biologist and genteel rabble rouser. In 1980, he formed the Citizen's Party and ran for president with LaDonna Harris, Fred Harris's wife. His scientific training made him acutely aware of the degradation of the natural world. He said, "The peak of the [Presidential] campaign happened in Albuquerque, where a local reporter said to me, 'Dr. Commoner, are you a serious candidate or are you just running on the issues?'" Ran across Commoner mentioned somewhere lately and thought we could do with more of his sort today, people who just run on the issues. I don't believe he gave a damn what Goldman Sachs wanted.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pistol-packing Celts

Herself took a genealogy class at the Victoria Public Library last week and enjoyed it. One tidbit that was funny was that the instructor said that you could accurately track westward migration of the Scotch-Irish by looking at states that issue carry permits to residents. Makes sense when you think about it … people who believe you have a right to go armed make it legal to go armed.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Homeopathic ER

These Brits take some really funny whacks at goofy alternative medicine in this Youtube vid of a homeopathic ER. On the same vid you can click on another that pokes some wicked fun at vegetarians.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jes cuz it made me grin

Ed: "What's that mark in your nose?

Ned: "That's from my glasses."

Ed: "Have you considered switching to contact lenses?"

Ned: "Yeh, I tried them. But they don't hold enough beer."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fire the copywriter

Noodling around, I came across a little site for tourism in Morelos, Coahuila, that brought a smile:

To satiate the palate, there is goat, tripe and sweet caramels with walnuts.

Think that's gonna pull in the foodie tourists? Let me note that I am fond of goat and of tripe and certainly have nothing against sweet caramels with walnuts, but somehow the juxtaposition of the three is jarring in some real basic way. Not the three courses in my Platonic meal. If you ever thought you might like a visit to Morelos, Coahuila, go here and think about it. Looks like they run match races with quarterhorses. That might be interesting.
Maybe eighteen, twenty years ago when I was wasting a lot of time at Manor Downs, little quarterhorse track outside of Austin. I was watching a card of qualifying races for some futurity, deal where they may run eleven races with ten horses per race to find the fastest ten qualifiers for a race for a big purse in a couple of weeks. A race opened that had one horse in the porgram showing no form at all – no past races, no workouts, owners from down in the Valley, which was usually taken to mean doper money behind it. Horse opened at something like 15-to-1, proper odds from its record. In no time, it dropped to short-priced favorite, something like 7-to-5. The race ran, the mystery horse won, and I went looking for a friend with shedrow connections to find out what the hell. He said, 'Oh, that horse's been winning match races on airstrips on ranches all over northern Mexico.' Ahhhh. That won't be in the program.

Oh boy, ArtBoat's on

Dieter Erhard came in today from Guatemala, bringing a French guy and two of his fellow Germans, to hold his third Artcamp. It's a lot of fun … the resident artists work on projects from the 9th of this month until Nov. 1 then hold a two-day show. The Frenchman, Marc Duquesnoy, does concrete sculpture, as does Dieter. One of the Germans, Sascha Banck, does large-scale paintings, and the other, Daniel Berger, does large-scale concrete sculpture. Then, from Oct 24 until Nov. 1, they will be joined by four Texans: Cynthia Aldrete, Dion Laurent, Olivia's own Aubrey Parker, Russ Thayer, and Don Williams. Artcamp show will be Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 from 10 a.m to 7 p.m. It's a bunch of fun; you can talk to the artists and see what they've done.
The ArtBoat was featured on Texas Country Reporter a little while back, and Dieter has a Web site at It's always nice having the artists in town. They are a bit of exotica in our little fishing village.