August 2014

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I'm in my seventh decade. You lose a step along the way. You try things that don't fit with who you are.

I’m in my seventh decade. You lose a step along the way.
You try things that don’t fit with who you are.

I don’t know. Maybe I was going for an Old Man of the Mountain thing. My father and grandfather both sported mustaches late in life. Well, my grandfather always had a mustache. And snow white hair from the age of 21. Try to compete with that.

I know it's not Wolverine, but white hair overnight at 21? From the rest of his bio, I'm pretty sure he was the first X-Man.

I know it’s not Wolverine, but white hair overnight at 21? Imagine.
From the rest of his bio, I’m pretty sure he was the first X-Man.
Of course, he was my age when this was taken. So much more dignity.

My dad spent his life living up to him. My rebellion was that I didn’t try to live up to either of them. Couldn’t be done. So I went my own highly individualistic way. Freedom!

Until, like all stupid young men who get older and smarter only gradually, I realized I was always, obsessively, trying to live up to both of them. The consequence of being the son and grandson of men.

Strike that. The son and grandson of gentlemen. My father was critical of me, but he also criticized himself to me when he (rarely) transgressed his own code. He was in many ways opaque, but his courage was to tell me when he had been deliberately rude to a man who, in retrospect, didn’t deserve it.

This is, ultimately, a sad story. What all the young men will ultimately find life insists on. Nothing rational about it. Life is finally poetry, and justice is not measured in official outcomes but splinters of insight.

Do you want to hear? Probably not. It’s a mere anecdote that spans half a century. But maybe it will explain why, in my musings, I succumbed briefly to a desire to hide, which is always the function of beards.

In the early 1960s, we lived here and my parents socialized with all the local social lions, some of them fabulously rich. As I’ve also explained. One night, one party, shortly after the election of JFK, whom my father despised as a shanty Irish, drug addicted hood. (No idea to this day where he got that idea.) After a few drinks at a ritzy party, he announced “I hate all Democrats.” Just as a local unrich Democrat state senator entered the room. My dad was too embarrassed to apologize. So he didn’t.

Subsequent to that, I was, well, coerced into becoming a Cub Scout. Good for my socialization, I suppose, since I spent so much time reading and exploring by myself in Little Egypt.

The pack was located in the colonial village on whose outskirts we lived. They had their own history and tribal customs. While the Bostonians dumped tea into a harbor, these folk burned tea in the public square. The residents were mostly descendants of the tea burners. They didn’t like the wealthy outlanders. I discovered too late that I was one of those. They beat me up at every meeting, once punching me so severely in the groin that a doctor had to be called. The ringleader of the bullying was the son of the man my father had inadvertently insulted.

Pressured by the doctor and my parents, I told who had done it. My dad called the parents of the kids involved. All but one blew him off. One night I was called downstairs to see someone at the door. It was that man with his son, whom he brought expressly to apologize to me. I accepted his apology. There were no recriminations. From then on, he was my friend.

My father told me afterwards, “I’m in his debt. He proved to me he was a gentleman. I’ve never proved to him that I am.” But I think he did. There were no fisticuffs. Both were gracious, honorable men.

I’m more aggrieved at myself for what happened many years later. By an accident I was living in that very village not 15 years ago. I remembered the man and his wife. She was lovely, with a windswept hairstyle I wish would come back. But the story in the village was that they had both come to grief. She was incapacitated and nearly catatonic, I don’t know why, and he was physically debilitated, confined to a wheelchair. People described the two of them sitting in what should have been their perfect retirement home, staring listlessly at one another. He’d been a realtor, an earnest local politician, and she had been the mother of three. And their inheritance was unimaginable ruin.

Then, one day, I saw a sight I will never forget. A man in a motorized wheelchair wheeling down the exact center of the wide road called Ye Greate Street. He looked neither left nor right. I think, just once, he wanted to see the Cohansey River again. I’ve had that feeling myself. I told myself I know that man, know who he is, that proud jaw, that stolid substance. I should run into the street and introduce myself and tell him about the example of fatherhood, manhood, he had shown me.

But I didn’t. He whizzed slowly by. Now I know how my Dad felt.

Why people grow beards and hide behind them.

Forgive me, Mr. Robert Webber. I coulda, shoulda, didna.

But I’m older now. Hope to see you later on. Clean shaven.

For you, for me. The ineffable Cohansey River.

For you, for me. The ineffable Cohansey River.

Float me on a wooden boat on that river. I’ll be content.

P.S. No intent to deceive. Best pic I can offer. Just can’t take the flash of the camera. Sorry.

I am everyone's worst nightmare.

I am everyone’s nightmare. I don’t care what anybody thinks. I have spent all day avoiding two terrible posts I knew I had to do. Sorry for the eye slits. Can’t keep them open when the flash goes off. I chose to do this egotistical post instead of the harder ones. Sometimes two posts are too many. Sometimes five are not enough. Why I’m just treading water.

But look. If I’m not St. Nuke, I’m Johnny Dodge. Still everyone’s nightmare. Count on it.

And, yes, I do have eyes.

I see everything.

I see everything.

Seventh decade of watching. That’s worse than the NSA. Because it involves actual insight.

An old, famous New Yorker cover. How it works in the benighted province of Manhattan.

An old, famous New Yorker cover. How it works in the benighted province of Manhattan.

She was a pioneer. A female standup comedian who started at it fairly late in life. A boundless font of energy who motored on through personal travail, tragedy, and controversy. She idolized Johnny Carson, then was betrayed by him. She could have given up and spent the rest of her life repeating old routines in Holiday Inns. But she never did. (I saw an ex-Tonight Show staple standup opening for Sinatra at an open-air concert in Cincinnati. He was doing, word for word, the last monologue I had seen him do for Johnny Carson twenty-some years before.)

Sure, she’s controversial. She got married late in life, had a child late in life, continued busting comedy barriers by getting bluer and bluer over the years, and she endured the vicissitudes of life — her husband’s suicide among other traumas — and kept on trucking. She got addicted to cosmetic surgery, a horrifying refuge of the insecure, and augmented her comedic income with shopping channel hucksterism because her husband left her penniless and there were all those face lifts to pay for.

In some ways, she’s the ultimate stereotype of a New York Jew, bossy, foul-mouthed, obnoxiously liberal, and sometimes just plain ugly in her insistent egotism.

But hold up for a second. Take a look at the map up top. It makes me think of another trailblazing comedienne named Minnie Pearl.

Yeah, the price tag on the hat was part of her Schlick.

Yeah, the price tag on the hat was part of her schtick. She was from Tennessee.

Do you know of her?

Pearl’s comedy was gentle satire of rural Southern culture, often called “hillbilly” culture. Pearl always dressed in styleless “down home” dresses and wore a hat with a price tag hanging from it, displaying the price of $1.98. Her catch phrase was “How-w-w-DEE-E-E-E! I’m jes’ so proud to be here!” delivered in a loud holler. After she became an established star, her audiences usually shouted “How-w-w-DEE-E-E-E!” back. Pearl’s humor was often self-deprecating, and involved her unsuccessful attempts at attracting the attention of “a feller” and, particularly in later years, her age. She also told monologues involving her comical ‘ne’er-do-well’ relatives, notably “Uncle Nabob”, his wife “Aunt Ambrosia”, “Lucifer Hucklehead”, “Miss Lizzie Tinkum”, “Doc Payne”, and, of course, her “Brother”, who was simultaneously both slow-witted and wise. She usually closed her monologues with the exit line, “I love you so much it hurts!” She also sang comic novelty songs. She often danced with Grandpa Jones.

Pearl’s comic material derived heavily from her hometown of Centerville, which in her act she called Grinder’s Switch. Grinder’s Switch is a community just outside of Centerville that consisted of little more than a railroad switch. Those who knew her recognized that the characters were largely based on real residents of Centerville. So much traffic resulted from fans and tourists looking for Grinder’s Switch that the Hickman County Highway Department eventually changed the designation on the “Grinder’s Switch” road sign to “Hickman Springs Road.”

Parochial in the extreme. But I think Joan Rivers was exactly the same, just as parochial. Just as everything about Minnie Pearl was ultimately Tennessee, everything about Joan Rivers was ultimately New York. She went to Barnard College at Columbia, she had the pre-feminist hunger to succeed, to prove she could best the men at wit and in monetary gain, and she was big city relentless in her ambition.

People carp about her cruelty on Hollywood red carpet events. She was a ruthless fashion critic. What hardly anyone seems to realize is that she was at base a New York fashion snob and an extraordinarily candid old fashioned Jewish girl. Famous women who insist on dressing and acting like whores offended her. She made it the stuff of comedy. But the dripping venom of her jokes was unacceptable to the nouveau riche of Hollywood. She got fired from red carpet coverage. And so reinvented herself again. Now she would be the ‘Fashion Police,’ in which capacity she tirelessly slammed the rising young survivors of the casting couch and used her earthy Jewishness to make anatomical jokes no one had ever heard from a woman, let alone one in her advancing old age.

Yeah, she occasionally slammed conservatives generally and Sara Palin notably. But look at the map. It’s like Minnie Pearl claiming George Gershwin never wrote music. Consider the source.

I just saw what may be her last episode of Fashion Police on the E! Channel. A 90 minute special about both the Video Music Awards and the Emmy Awards. Her very last joke on the show may be one of those perfect last lines. The climax of Fashion Police is always the awarding of the title “Fashhole of the Week.” This time it was for someone named Amber Rose, who went to the Video Music Awards in this:

Really? Really?

Really? Really?

Joan has made herself famous at Fashion Police for vagina jokes. She once gave herself an award for the thousandth one she’d told. Sorry. I should have been outraged. But I kept seeing an octogenarian little Jewish girl fighting back against moral rot in the only tool she had at her disposal — aggressive, uncompromising, disdainful wit.

Her last joke?

“This dress reminds me of a chain link fence at the border. Hundreds of Guatemalans tried to escape across her vagina.”

Add your own final punchline. Did they escape by going over, under, or through that chained up vagina?

Joan was 81. No saint. Hardly anyone who makes it past 50 is, if you want to know the truth of it. I wish her well. And hope the map of her heaven looks like a certain New Yorker cover.

Get up, Joan. Let me tell you the Eddy Rickenbacker story.

Get up, Joan. Let me tell you the Eddy Rickenbacker story.

He was in a commercial airline crash in 1941:

When Rickenbacker arrived at a hospital, his injuries appeared so grotesque that the emergency surgeons and physicians left him for dead for some time. They instructed their assistants to “take care of the live ones.” Rickenbacker’s injuries included a fractured skull, other head injuries, a shattered left elbow with a crushed nerve, a paralyzed left hand, several broken ribs, a crushed hip socket, a pelvis broken in two places, a severed nerve in his left hip, and a broken left knee. Rickenbacker’s left eyeball was also blown out of its socket.

He was dying. Until he heard a radio announcer proclaim that he had died. With his remaining strength, he smashed the radio to bits and proceeded to recover.

As I said. Get back to work, Joan. More than half the population have vaginas. That’s many more jokes to be made. Get better soon.

UPDATE. This doesn’t sound good. Camille Paglia weighing in with less to say than I have said but somehow more finally. Wake up, Joan!

Don't look like me.

Don’t look like me.

Daddy has the same eye effect as Rae. A Scottish thing, I guess.

I know. You think I don’t know. I’m the eternal outsider. But after ten years together, I have to take some responsibility for my wife’s children and grandchildren. Not a lot of responsibility. Just being nice. They’re all awful. Starting with the great grandchild. He’s a bruiser. His daddy’s a veteran. His mommy is small. I haven’t met him yet. But I’ll be resentful for sure.

Which leads to my first rule of grandfathers.

1. Don’t overdo the love babies thing. Babies do lots of disgusting things. When their moms ask you to hold them, plead frailty.

Unfortunately in this day and age, grandchildren are likely to come in assorted ages. I have one who is so mean and selfish that she reminds me of me. And she’s not even Scottish. Though she’s six. Which is the exact emotional age of most Scottish men. Thank God she’s Irish. But. She’s so predictable, she manipulates everyone, stares at me until I stare back at her, which makes her giggle, leading to Rule two.

2. Horrifyingly nasty granddaughters need to be teased, stared at, and told what to do.

I know it sounds impossible. It isn’t. Take it from me, Instapunk. My granddaughter thinks I’m really cool. She peeled pistachio nuts for me last week. Two for him, one for me, she announced. I told her she was okay.

3. Teenage granddaughters turn into women overnight. But the older you get, the more you remember they’re still little girls.

Have a college girl granddaughter. I think she likes me because I’ve actually tried to talk with her. Successfully. But to me she still seems fourteen. So I disapprove of all her boyfriends automatically, and she’s able to bridge the gap because she calls me Robert.

You know what, though? I’ve told her exactly what my hopes and fears are for her regarding education. And she listened. She’s getting A’s now, but I fret about her living alone at home in the old neighborhood.

There’s a grandson or two too. One too old to think of any connection. But I think we might be moving toward at least a rapprochement. It’s a long leap we have to overcome. His father is a construction worker. He’s a computer scientist who sidelines as a construction worker. I used to be in the computer business, after having been a truck driver in a lumber yard. No chance of any commonalities.

4. Grandsons think you’re deadmen. Don’t disabuse them of their presumption. Surprise them with your longevity.

It takes boy children a long long — did I mention long — time to recognize that men might have advice for men.

Annoying. We didn’t all run out on our families screwing every babe at the country club and every secretary in the office, but… Enough of us did. Which is screwing our sons too. And our daughters.

Grandfathers have to field every kind of ball bouncing out of the infield.

5. Grandfathers have to hold the line. Right is right, wrong is wrong, even if your granddaughter has a crush on her cousin. Even if they seem to be moving drugs around. Somebody has to be willing to levy judgment. (Not saying this is happening. Just being hypothetical. Another GF task.)

6. Grandfathers have to be willing to die for rules one through five. Sorry.

7. Don’t look like me.

If you need any clarification of the rules, I’m happy, or at least willing, to oblige.

I'm right, I'm right, I'm right, Goddammit.

I’m right, I’m right, I’m right, Goddammit.

So. Brizoni is finally ready.

I haven’t dismissed these arguments. I’ve dismantled them. [Yeah. I saw the movie. Shutter Island. Lots of dismantling there.]

I’ve been plugging away at yet another dismantling of everything you said in your last email, point-by-point. Marshalling evidence, refining arguments. Don’t want you to think I’ve ignored anything. Gonna be massive. Mozart, Michelangelo, Dante, Bacon and Magellan [uh, where is it, big boy, this massive evidence, any sign whatever that you know more about Mozart, Michelangelo, Dante, Bacon and Magellan than I do? SPOILER: Not here. He brings not only no massive evidence but no evidence whatsoever. He just attacks me.] But I keep getting hung up on this:

“I like to hear you say,

In my view, Ayn Rand has done this successfully.’ Yes, in your view she has. In my view, she hasn’t. Would John Galt have done anything to stop the Holocaust or the Killing Fields? It doesn’t actually come up in Atlas Shrugged, does it? Rather, there’s a sense of letting the dumb-ass victims be dumb-ass victims while us smart ones run away to the Colorado Hole in the Wall Butch and Sundance were aiming for.

What you have can’t be called a “view.” It’s a mostly uninformed opinion. [As opposed to your own uninformed opinion.] I know you think you Get It, no sweat, because that’s what Robert Laird does. Not this time. You read Atlas once in high school, didn’t understand it***, retained less of it as the years wore on, and now have a bad picture of her philosophy sketched from too few facts. Add those facts together and you maybe have half a clue, at most. [No facts whatever in Atlas Shrugged. It’s pure ideology.]

Since you don’t know what you’re talking about, you inevitably attack straw men. [Atlas is completely about straw men, not my response to it.] The theme of Atlas is, to cop the lexicon, the role of man’s mind in human life. Which it dramatizes by showing how quickly, and how totally, human life falls apart when the mind withdraws. [Hardly. The book is a cartoon, starring Dagny, the curious winner who keeps losing… and talking.] The book is demonstrative, not prescriptive. If Rand had thought Galt’s Gulch was the way to go in real life, she would have gone there. [uh, Dagny went there.] She could have built the place with her own money if it came to that — she died with a couple million bucks stuffed in a Savings and Loan across from her apartment. [I thought Ethan Frome was a good capitalist parable too, all that gold stuffed under his mattress.] It could have been many times that if she’d ever cared to make any investments whatever. She never did. [Everything under the mattress is the Russian way.] All she wanted was the freedom to write. The rest was gravy. She didn’t flee to a secret paradise and watch the world of fools burn. She thought the world was worth trying to save. Can you say the same? [Really, you callow clown? You dare ask that of me?]

I thought about linking to a debate that answers many of your entry-level objections. You should at least know what you’re rejecting before you reject it. [I’m well aware of everything I’m rejecting. I’m a fucking polymath and a genius. You’re a lowly rote-Randian with pretensions.]

I’m not sure I should bother. I worry you flat-out, full-stop, don’t care to think any further. That you’ve reached a comfortable stopping point. [Acute observation. Ask anyone. They’ll all swear I’m quitting hope tomorrow. Or the next day.] You’ve had your fill, thanks so much, and what kind of monster am I to force more down your gullet. Fact? Proof? No such thing as either, if you squint hard enough. Maybe the universe began ten seconds ago, with history intact. Yooooooooou can’t “”””prove”””” it didn’t, can you? Pigeon strut. And a sigh of relief that God is safe and sound behind the veil of unreasonable doubt. [What worm has eaten your brain? What have you ever proved? Name any one thing you’ve proved. Except your own idiocy? If I squint hard enough, I can see a fool blowing up his own life in a narcissist fantasy.]

Why you think the Byzantines had the right idea. [???!!!] Stagnation is fine as long as you’re content. Who needs Mozart when you’ve got your grandfather’s hymnal? Who needs Michelangeo when you’re surrounded by all these perfectly fine frescoes? Who needs Dante when you can just read Matthew 24 again? Who needs Bacon at all — never mind that medicine has had no new ideas for five hundred years. [???!!!] Who needs Magellan when everything’s awesome right here? [You’re insane. Utterly. I told you more about these people than you ever knew before.] Spend your days like a soft white belly, basking in the sun. What a lovely retirement for a worn-out old man. Peace without life. [You think what you’re doing is life? lol. When it comes to minds, you’re the soft white belly. The jelly of not quite knowing much topped by the deathly flesh of not believing in anything but the screeds of an ancient Brit homosexual.]

Hell with it. Here’s the link. You’ll skim it for an excuse to ignore it. If even that. Religious freedom means the the [sic] freedom to lie to yourself about whatever you want. Without so much as being called out on it. Facts be damned. [So keep on lying to yourself, dude. Don’t let me stop you. I’m just twice your age and twice your IQ. No prob.]

Go on. Prove me right yet again. [Yet again? You’ve never proven a single damned thing.] My expectations are as low as a casket.

In which it is proved once and for all that the once vaunted Brizoni is now an incoherent meth-head. When he comes to his senses, he can call me. But he’s not now in my league. Never will be. But not many are. Sorry. I’m in a mood. Not a mood for pretending.

That would be the notorious pigeon strut. Which I do every day. Notwithstanding being a worn-out old man.

***”Didn’t understand it.” Where does such arrogance come from? I understood it fine. Loved it. I was fourteen. Brizoni is now twice that age and more. He’s still mentally fourteen. Sorry, folks, I’m tired. Shouldn’t have reopened this can of worms. I apologize. He really is a moron. Past help.

P.S. I’m all done pretending now. Brizoni is a junkie. Anyone reading this who knows him get him some help. He would never have written or argued this poorly without being in serious trouble mentally. Mother? Wife? Anyone who follows his Internet exploits. Get him some help.

P.P.S. Just saw the ‘smoking gun’ of Brizoni’s rant. Should have detected it before. My error. Highlighting mine.

I’m not sure I should bother. I worry you flat-out, full-stop, don’t care to think any further. That you’ve reached a comfortable stopping point.

“Full-stop”is a Britishism, their affectation about avoiding the use of the simple grammatical element known as the “period.” Probably related to their aversion to all things female, which is so pervasive that they use the words “twat” and “cunt” exclusively as insults to men. They’re too afraid to use them on women, except under the most extreme circumstances.

At any rate, this usage by a boy from the Pacific Northwest is proof positive that he has been reading the tweets and other spontaneous Internet defecations of Richard Dawkins. But here’s the interesting thing. Being the butt slave of both Ayn Rand and Richard Dawkins has to be a rending experience. No chance that Dawkins would regard Rand as anything but a capitalist twat. No chance Rand would regard Dawkins as anything but a pansy Brit cunt.

Gotta be tough on poor Brizoni.

Gotta be tough on poor Brizoni.

Rather than deal with the polar opposites in his own religion, he chooses the much easier alternative of attacking me and mine. Sad.

But also funny. Time to man up, rent boy.

Doesn't look the same. In fact, not nearly as good. Permit me to explain.

Doesn’t look the same. In fact, not nearly as good. I can explain.

In child rearing, everything is upside down these days. People, parents, children are upside down. I show you the picture above because it’s where I grew up. Not to impress you with my personal provenance but to make a, to me, valuable point. This thing looks like a McMansion. Whoever has owned it since my parents did has destroyed it.

My dad bought it for about $2,500 in the late 1940s. It was a ruin, suffocated by ivy that was actively sucking the mortar from the bricks. The yard, all two and a half acres of a six acre plot surrounded by farmland, was a jungle. The previous owners had torn out supporting walls and annihilated the plumbing. The kitchen was a disaster, the second story leaked, and everyone on both sides of the family thought my parents were crazy for buying it.

It did have a name. The Samuel Tyler House. The middle part that looks a smiling face was built in 1732. The larger wing to the left was added in 1815. A frame addition that has been replaced on the right was built during the Civil War. It was a rolling architectural history of America that my parents set about restoring.

When my sister and I came along we were loved but we were also labor. Scraping, painting, mowing, working. Vacations were not trips to Disneyland but projects. Heard the term house poor? That was us.

We had a pool in the shape of a fish. Left behind by the previous farm owners. No drain, no filters, but by God it was in-ground and we prepped it every year. The sewage pumpers came every spring to remove the muck of winter, and then we waded in to paint the interior and watched happily as the garden hose filled it was clear water. The tails of the fish had steps, so that’s how we learned to swim. Sit on the step, walk slowly into the deeper water, and daddy was always there to catch us.

As I got older, the lawn, the grounds, expanded. I mowed and mowed and dad kept increasing the size of the lawn. It was a dictum of his that weeds cut often enough would turn into grass. And at least, nicely mowed, they did look like grass.

As I’ve noted before, we also built a tennis court. Where I learned to play not well enough.

Throughout, the house and grounds kept getting better. The ivy was removed. The wings were united by white paint and period shutters my parents hunted at antique fairs or building demolitions.

The inside of the house was transformed. My dad turned an inside storeroom into a library he named the den, whose books I spent my childhood reading (and listening to all that Sinatra). The rotten floor of the 1732 portion of the house was replaced, for reasons of expense, with a concrete pour covered by thick carpet. But it worked anyway because there was an eight foot wide fireplace in which we had roaring fires, popped popcorn, and before which we played Anagrams and other games designed to make us smart. That room became our dining room. The place where I learned what utensils to use, how to use them, how to ask politely for someone to pass the bread, the butter, and the salt, and how to remember the state capitals when asked. But the utensils were sterling silver.

The house was, in spite of its provenance, never luxurious. Despite six fireplaces, the place never had any insulation, and we were cold all winter. There was one bathroom, not big, and a downstairs lavatory that was almost too small to use although the well water from there was always frigidly delicious.

If you go back to the picture, you can see a wing added on the left. My dad did that. (We all wire-brushed the ivy tendrils off the bricks of what was once an outside wall but now the centerpiece of a colonial kitchen.) It was time to get my mother a decent kitchen instead of the collapsing ruin of the Civil War frame mess, which got rehabbed into a study, a laundry, and a downstairs shower bathroom. We were living high by then.

You may have gotten the idea that my parents controlled my life utterly. But not as utterly as this:

A whopping 68 percent of Americans think there should be a law that prohibits kids 9 and under from playing at the park unsupervised, despite the fact that most of them no doubt grew up doing just that.

What’s more: 43 percent feel the same way about 12-year-olds. They would like to criminalize all pre-teenagers playing outside on their own (and, I guess, arrest their no-good parents).

Those are the results of a Reason/Rupe poll confirming that we have not only lost all confidence in our kids and our communities—we have lost all touch with reality.

“I doubt there has ever been a human culture, anywhere, anytime, that underestimates children’s abilities more than we North Americans do today,” says Boston College psychology professor emeritus Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn, a book that advocates for more unsupervised play, not less.

Truth is, I always had a kind of freedom few kids know these days. This patch of ground we called home was surrounded by farmland. I had hours every day in the summer when I could go back into the woods to a place called Little Egypt. It was my own private Middle Earth. There was a creek, a pond, trees to play Cowboys and Indians or Secret Agent in, and I did all that. First place I threw myself over my bike handlebars. With no one to tut tut. I could be there for hours and hours without any worry back home. Trees and vines and skunk cabbage and cap pistols and my dog, a German Shepherd named Mattie.

When I was fourteen I bought a truck to drive to Little Egypt. Bought it with $100 saved from mowing neighbor lawns. My dad initially resisted, thinking I’d been cheated, but he helped me paint it and turned me loose on the dirt farm roads. Mattie always rode with me. She died the first night I spent away in college.

You know, life is not supposed to be all fun, all penalty free. Even kids are responsible for what they do. But life should be some fun, as long as we can manage not to hurt ourselves too severely before we know what we’re doing. Risk is always part of the picture. My parents let me adventure in Little Egypt. Unsupervised. But they’d done their own homework. They knew that I knew what was right and what was wrong. And that’s why they trusted me to be entirely alone for four hours at a time.

The house in the picture. Don’t get it. I can hear the cell phones buzzing. Same address. Different place. God help them.


Not Raebert. But exactly like him, It’s the deerhound way. Also the human way. Times we believe he doesn’t love. But he does. In his remote, mythic way. There’s the Tasmanian tiger yawn after what looks like coma. Then he kisses.

I took a video of Raebert’s magic eyes, which do not do red eye but blue eye. My wife posted it to Youtube with a deerhound tag, which despite the occasional wolfhound or Afghan intrusion, surfaced other deerhound videos. So I couldn’t resist one more post on the subject here. I was particularly taken by the one above.

His eccentricities continue, as if he’s inventing them to remain mysterious. His latest is pawing food out of his bowl and then overturning the bowl altogether. Not for me, but for the missus. He much prefers her Danishes and sticky buns, the last bit of her sandwiches, and every chip and sweet and hors d’oeuvre that emerges from the well stocked cupboard by her desk.

I think his all around insanity might be keeping us sane through some challenging times.

But I don’t want anyone to forget he’s not just a couch potato. He has all the physical capacity to do this too.


Not Rae, though I’ve seen him run… But this isn’t Deerhound Diary either.

It’s daunting to live with. Sometimes after an outing he comes bounding up the stairs at something like top speed. If he couldn’t stop on a dime, as he does, there would be broken bones.

Then he subsides. As I do after a strenuous post. 100 percent on and 100 percent off. Like a switch being thrown. I know the feeling. I guess the appropriate term is ‘extreme personality.’

Sorry for interrupting. Go on about your day.


Turn up the sound. A brief exchange between Rae and me. Not a trick.

Most of you are familiar with Deerhound Diary. Thought you might want an update on Raebert’s mood. He’s not pleased with all the end of the world stuff that’s going on right now.

But neither am I.

Just posted a picture of Christians being crucified. Join that to this pic, snapped in front of 10 Downing Street in the U.K., meaning, uh, the prime minister’s residence. The Breitbart reporters covering the event were rounded up by the bobbies and ferried to the railroad station with orders to get out of town.

Right. Hitler. Cool?

Right. Hitler. Cool?

It’s not just about Hamas, or Hizbollah, or Al Qaeda, or ISIS. This isn’t principally or even slightly about Palestinians. Nobody but European and American lefties care about them at all. It’s about a rapidly metastasizing caliphate state, ruthless, murderous, well financed, and almost unbelievably malevolent. Signing on belatedly to support Israel is not the end of our obligation. Many, many, many more Christians have been murdered in the past couple of years than Jews. (And how many women of all faiths have had their genitals mutilated or daughters stoned to death in the name of Allah?) Why does nobody in the so-called Christian world care? Is everybody crazy?

Turns out one of the most potent fifth columns supporting Islamist objectives is in the U.K. Why? Because this ancestor of the U.S. has entirely forgotten its own roots and is now a quasi Third World nation plummeting toward self-extinction.

The Church of England annihilated its own theology and is now a moral relativist nightmare celebrating the state over humanity — thanks, Dawkins! — and sharia over the tradition of English law. Here’s a taste of what I mean. If the Brits were a U.S. state, they’d rank below every single state but Mississippi. They’re exhausted, hopeless, indolent, and deranged. The triumph of technocratic rationalism over individual conscience. Which is, somehow, suddenly, irrelevant. Doom awaits.

[How outrageous contradictions become nearly invisible. Dawkins is moral because his atheist rationalism makes him objectively right. Never mind that there is no basis for morality of any kind if you don’t believe in the possibility of something beyond and better than the human propensity for sin, error, and crime. Empty the churches. Do what you feel like doing. You might as well kill everyone who gets in your way as long as you can get away with it. And declare, as a matter of the new anti-faith, that all religions are the same religion, all equally corrupt and deluded. Two Islamists minus two Christians equals zero. That’s atheist arithmetic. Obviously completely right. Unless that equation actually results in a massive negative sum.]

Unfortunately, the same is true, more or less, of France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Scandinavia, and the rest of the EU. People who refuse to reproduce and are willing to trade away their civilization for peace with barbarians in Russia and the Middle East.

Imagine every great culture in the west putting a gun to its head and pulling the trigger. Same thing is happening here with the current administration. Death before honor or simple virtue.

Why we get crucifixions and nobody seems to care.

If you consent to appease barbarians, what will you get? More barbarians. And more horrifically mutilated dead bodies.

Are you content with that outcome? Or is it okay if your neighborhood seems calm for the time being? Decide. There are times when you must.

Yeah. These are Christians crucified by ISIS. Didn't know? Why?

Yeah. These are Christians crucified by ISIS. Didn’t know? Why?

This is highly irregular for me. I always try not to reproduce an entire column by another writer. I’m doing it this time because I think he wants to get the word out. Which is what I’m doing.

Ronald S. Lauder: Who will stand up for the Christians?

The following opinion article authored by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder was first published in the ‘New York Times’ on 20 August 2014.

Why is the world silent while Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East and Africa?

In Europe and in the United States, we have witnessed demonstrations over the tragic deaths of Palestinians who have been used as human shields by Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza. The United Nations has held inquiries and focuses its anger on Israel for defending itself against that same terrorist organization. But the barbarous slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Christians is met with relative indifference.

The Middle East and parts of central Africa are losing entire Christian communities that have lived in peace for centuries. The terrorist group Boko Haram has kidnapped and killed hundreds of Christians this year — ravaging the predominantly Christian town of Gwoza, in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, two weeks ago. Half a million Christian Arabs have been driven out of Syria during the three-plus years of civil war there. Christians have been persecuted and killed in countries from Lebanon to Sudan.

Historians may look back at this period and wonder if people had lost their bearings. Few reporters have traveled to Iraq to bear witness to the Nazi-like wave of terror that is rolling across that country. The United Nations has been mostly mum. World leaders seem to be consumed with other matters in this strange summer of 2014. There are no flotillas traveling to Syria or Iraq. And the beautiful celebrities and aging rock stars — why doesn’t the slaughter of Christians seem to activate their social antennas?

President Obama should be commended for ordering airstrikes to save tens of thousands of Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion and have been stranded on a mountain in northern Iraq, besieged by Sunni Muslim militants. But sadly, airstrikes alone are not enough to stop this grotesque wave of terrorism.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is not a loose coalition of jihadist groups, but a real military force that has managed to take over much of Iraq with a successful business model that rivals its cold-blooded spearhead of death. It uses money from banks and gold shops it has captured, along with control of oil resources and old-fashioned extortion, to finance its killing machine, making it perhaps the wealthiest Islamist terrorist group in the world. But where it truly excels is in its carnage, rivaling the death orgies of the Middle Ages. It has ruthlessly targeted Shiites, Kurds and Christians.

“They actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick” a Chaldean-American businessman named Mark Arabo told CNN, describing a scene in a Mosul park. “More children are getting beheaded, mothers are getting raped and killed, and fathers are being hung.”

This week, 200,000 Aramaeans fled their ancestral homeland around Nineveh, having already escaped Mosul.

The general indifference to ISIS, with its mass executions of Christians and its deadly preoccupation with Israel, isn’t just wrong; it’s obscene.

In a speech before thousands of Christians in Budapest in June, I made a solemn promise that just as I will not be silent in the face of the growing threat of anti-Semitism in Europe and in the Middle East, I will not be indifferent to Christian suffering. Historically, it has almost always been the other way around: Jews have all too often been the persecuted minority. But Israel has been among the first countries to aid Christians in South Sudan. Christians can openly practice their religion in Israel, unlike in much of the Middle East.

This bond between Jews and Christians makes complete sense. We share much more than most religions. We read the same Bible, and share a moral and ethical core. Now, sadly, we share a kind of suffering: Christians are dying because of their beliefs, because they are defenseless and because the world is indifferent to their suffering.

Good people must join together and stop this revolting wave of violence. It’s not as if we are powerless. I write this as a citizen of the strongest military power on earth. I write this as a Jewish leader who cares about my Christian brothers and sisters.

The Jewish people understand all too well what can happen when the world is silent. This campaign of death must be stopped.

Finally a few of the traditionally lefty constituencies are starting to side with Israel against Hamas.

About 190 high-profile Hollywood players, including studio heads and actors, have reportedly signed a pro-Israel petition criticizing Hamas’ barbarism.

The statement began circulating about two weeks ago and includes signatures from Sylvester Stallone, Ivan Reitman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman. The entire list can be found here.

The list unites celebrities from both sides of the aisle, from hard-leftists like Aaron Sorkin and Bill Maher to conservatives such as Kelsey Grammer.

But who is speaking up for both Jews and Christians? You tell me.

You know. The way women act in horror movies. They can’t start a car. They fall down in the woods and sprain their ankle. They scream a lot. They can’t ever do what they’re told, like “Don’t make a sound,” or “Stay here. Do not get out of the car.” You know.

As soon as you tell a woman what to do, she will do the exact opposite. Tell her it’s instantaneously important to do something to save her life and she will say, “What? Why?”

The older I get, the more tired I get of these cliches. No, I don’t think women will win Ninja competitions, but they can do better than serial killer accountants.

So, there’s a horror movie that goes against the grain. If you’re squeamish, don’t watch. It does get gory. Thanks especially to our heroine.

The rest of you — watch. Aussie bitch doesn’t fall down, doesn’t scream, doesn’t do anything to reduce her chances of surviving. Maybe even cheerleaders could learn a thing or two.

Although. As soon as you tell a woman what to do, she will do the exact opposite. God himself can’t change that.

Don't ever ever mess with her.

Don’t ever ever mess with her. Pay no mind. She’s right of center…

A fairy tale. There was once a woman who gave her life to a great purpose. Then she got hit.

You might think justice would prevail. Not a chance.

What’s left is fighting back, whatever it takes.

And then, the satisfaction of luxuriating in the victory.

Once you’ve scraped it off, there’s always the usufruct:

What don’t you understand about Bar-Bari-Ans? We’re Celts, dude. What do you think Boudica did after slaughtering Romans for a day? Use your imagination.

No Comments required or wanted.

No Comments required or wanted. Roundheads.

Not a great day in the IP household, at least initially. The missus had to swing for the fences with two out in the ninth of game seven of her career. But she poled the spitball she was thrown into the upper deck. As I hoped she would without being certain. Life, you know, is not always fair.

Tired me out waiting, I don’t mind telling you. Wanted to give this particular bit of frippery a pass. B-u-u-u-t, I couldn’t. Don’t ask me why. Something about the Brizoni exchange. Something about pomposity and media ambition disguised as virtue. Even something about the difference between morality and mere posturing. Yes, Brizoni, some vocal Christians are as empty as you think we all are.

Erick Erickson, whom I’ve written about before (And before that, too), is playing the Christian card, as if he owns the whole deck. He has a post today that I just can’t let go without comment. He begins by damning his own commenters.

Were I to recreate this site, I think it would have no comments section. Disqus is just horrible. I do not recommend it to anyone. And it just helps further what I see on so much social media these days. As much as the internet can bring people together of like mind, it also can help shrill minorities of people think their views are more mainstream than they are. That then emboldens them further.

Why? Because some conservatives violate his personal definition of Christianity. He specifies:

To start, Christian conservatives were roundly assailed by other conservatives for daring to provide aid and comfort to children whose parents had shipped them across the border. Some could not distinguish between giving a child a teddy bear and supporting Mexican drug cartels. It was all one or all the other. In fact, many Christians, myself included, want expedited deportations and a secure border. But we also want to make sure the children, some victims of human trafficking, were taken care of, fed, and comforted.

But to some on the right, that is aiding law breakers. The anger and hysteria directed at conservatives engaged in private charity had all the makings of a leftist police state making us care about how we choose to spend our own money.

The second was bringing Dr. Brantly and his co-worker back to the United States. The number of angry calls into my radio program from well meaning conservatives, comments across social media, opinion columns, agreement thereto, etc. really boggled my mind. Here are two Americans risking their lives to help others and we are supposed to turn our back on them, leave them there, or criticize their decision to go in the first place? That’s not the America I know or love. The level of outright anger, fear, and bitterness over the decision to take care of American citizens and the lack of knowledge and understanding that formed the foundation for the anger, fear, and bitterness really left me wondering what is going on.

The last is the present situation in Ferguson, MO. The rush to win a fight and lay blame instead of mourning a loss and praying for a situation just leaves me perplexed. The rush to “change the narrative” with bad facts to replace bad facts by some folks who keep the ichthys [sic] on their car unsettles me.

The paragraph that set up this listing of grievances is priceless.

In the past several months there have been three incidents that have solidified for me that my faith and my politics are starting to collide. While I am a firm believer in the idea of a conservative populism, I see a dangerous trend within the mix of unfortunate shrillness and hostility. That trend is playing out in the comments here at RedState and on social media.

Awww. All of his items of offense are presumptuous, misleading, or just plain rock headed.

To deal with his first outrage, I’ll quote someone else, a commenter at Hotair, who responded to Erickson’s claim that it’s unchristian to think teddy bears are not a solution.

Because we surmise that this “let’s help these kids” will eventually turn into saying we should grant them amnesty. We’ve been down the road before. It starts with a call to compassion for their current well being, then after we are softened up on that front, a call for amnesty of “just these kids” and then that expands, and expands again, until every illegal is amnestied. We are not as stupid as you think we are Erik.

And, we also realize that sometimes being nice does more harm in the long run. The more compassion we show to those who make it here illegally, the more that will likely come illegally.

I have not been at RedState for a long while – because Redstate was always more of a republican site than a conservative site – but in some of my last forays there – during the Bush push for amnesty – the writers there were all pro amnesty, and they were vicious in calling anyone against amnesty racist, etc. Moe Lane was particularly eager to call everyone who disagreed with him about amnesty a racist.

So, this argument by Erickson is disingenuous. It is an attempt to use “faith” to push his politics…

I’m not saying we should always be nasty, or always angry, or always take the low road. But, this argument that we must never be any of those things is absurd. And note, these people don’t pull this argument out when conservatives are mean or angry about other things – only when it is about something where they disagree – immigration.

I’ll handle the other two papal denunciations myself.

Erickson is also offended, like many, about Coulter’s takedown of the sainted Ebola doctor who was just released from hospital yesterday. Couple points. Coulter is always Coulter, more than half serious and more than half satirical. The extra is the mileage she gets from long blonde hair and very short skirts. She was making, despite the sarcasm, an interesting point.

Whatever good Dr. Kent Brantly did in Liberia has now been overwhelmed by the more than $2 million already paid by the Christian charities Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA just to fly him and his nurse home in separate Gulfstream jets, specially equipped with medical tents, and to care for them at one of America’s premier hospitals.

Yesterday he thanked God for his salvation. Okay. But the god that saved him strikes me more as a classical “deus ex machina” than the savior of his faith. An American jet plane descended into Africa to save an American doctor and nurse and whisk them to safety back in the land of their origin, at great expense and with miraculous results. Where else have we heard of people recovering from Ebola?

Maybe that’s not what he intended. But we never had the headline, “Saintly doctor refuses to be jetted back to America for space age treatment of deadliest virus in the world.”

Not judging him. I’m sure he’s a good man. But Father Damien he ain’t. At least not yet. Talk to me in a few months when he does or doesn’t have a million dollar book contract. Until then he’s the luckiest, most privileged unselfish altruist on earth.

And, yeah, Erick is upset about the Jefferson fiasco too. Because Christians have no right to be ticked off about looting and lynch mentality as a substitute for the rule of law.

For his information, National Review has become the dullest literate publication in the nation during the last week, because despite countless articles by multiple outstanding opinion writers, the refrain has been numbingly the same: We don’t know what happened, we can’t judge facts we don’t have, and all we can do is encourage everyone to reserve judgment. And btw we hate looting and rushes to judgment. How unChristian can you get?

Erickson. Product of a new force in political culture. Naked ambition clothed in traditional virtue. No, he doesn’t hate America. He’s just willing to be a kind of new Cromwell, imposing his own righteousness on the rest of us in the name of what he presumes we were always supposed to believe in.

Sad thing is, I think Glenn Beck is way way ahead of him in this particular race.

Even farther ahead are most of the rest of us. Who regard them as transparently ambitious fools. A fairly pitiful minority. Even conservative progressivism has no legs. It’s just another dead, and frightfully deadening, end.

But I ‘ve been wrong before. God knows.

"It blowed up real good."

“It blowed up real good.”

Haven’t wanted to get into the Ferguson, Missouri, story. Nobody knows what happened yet. But that’s my point today.

It reminds me of the Tour de France. The time when the sprinters start positioning themselves for the finish. Who’s going to break first for the final run, who’s waiting to be ready to overtake, who’s just setting up his team leader?

Guess I’m talking about the Tour de Media. That’s all these things are.

Something happens. It’s kind of a flash mob thing. A single spark, a tweet, an event that lights up a preconceived narrative and makes it go viral. It doesn’t have to be important. It can be but that’s not necessary. It just has to have legs and lungs and loads of larcenous leeches attached.

The Trayvon Martin case was perfect. No facts. No evidence. No common sense. The Ferguson case is like Sharknado 2, the sequel we’ve all been waiting for. We want it so bad the actual facts don’t matter. We just love the plot and the chance to indulge our favorite emotions — blaming others for things we know nothing of — until we get to feel incredibly superior about our position, regardless of whether it’s left or right.

I used the term bomb. That’s all it is. Everybody involved, anyone near the epicenter, gets hurt, often fatally. It’s the rest of us who derive the entertainment from the spectacle.

My own favorite culture bomb was the Duke Lacrosse scandal. Hey, we got to destroy the lives of four spoiled rich kids. Cool. (Always hated Duke.) The spark is struck, the tweets fly, and suddenly there’s a humongous explosion of newsprint, TV pundits, and sanctimonious opportunists frigging us to self righteous orgasms. Woweeee!!! That’s right. We’re the explosion. We’re the bomb.

This time, the victims include multiple media types. MSNBC had rocks thrown at them. Rush Limbaugh got ahead of the story, which he very rarely does, and had to retreat, grudgingly, to neutrality. This is what happens with culture bombs. The only safe place is well away from the action and the script. Why you don’t see me pontificating just now, as I could, about militarized police or black on black crime. That’s like flinging hand grenades into a nuclear reactor. For now I’m just a spectator.

But we spectators are always okay. Whatever happens is what we take credit for. I knew he was guilty. I knew he was innocent. I always had the situation nailed. Nobody can fool me.

In the meantime, you’ve been suckered one more time by the magician’s misdirection. One dead guy in Ferguson. 42 shootings last week in Chicago. How many hundreds, thousands, dead in the Middle East? In Ukraine?

The whole purpose of a culture bomb. Keep people fired up, blown up, about zilch.


Less prosaically, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Feeling better now, are we?

Yeah. There was a Christ.

Yeah. There was a Christ.

I was going to overlook it, but my wife’s critique of my response to Brizoni stayed with me. She said it read very Episcopalian. I wanted to object, but then I realized, because I didn’t want to double the size of the post, I had failed to address his reference to a “false Story.”

It’s a can of worms. I was trying to be polite, which means not taking particular issue with his charge that I never deal with substance. Which is so patently, ridiculously untrue that I just didn’t want to get into it. You know. To be civil.

So, in fairness to myself, I’m going to link this. And give you an excerpt. A fraction of what’s in the post. A reminder that the cheapest debating trick in the world is to pretend that your opponent hasn’t really thought about what you’re so expert at.

Now then. I still propose to take the position that the secularists are demonstrably wrong and that the evidence favors the Christian perspective more than it does the secular perspective. Some of my arguments are old, and some are, well, new. But how can I dare to make such an argument in the first place? Because when it’s impossible to find some external point of comparison to use as a control (i.e., some other example of intelligent life that grappled with matters of divinity and meaning), we are compelled to look inward and learn from the recurring or exceptional patterns of our own experience at every level of scale. All our evidence about existence and its meaning or lack of it comes from the sum total of human knowledge and experience to date. If we can’t find external points of comparison, we must resort to internal points of comparison, of which, it turns out, there are virtually infinite examples. If these consistently resonate with one another, we can begin to extrapolate some universality, even about dimensions of existence beyond or below ourselves we know little about.

For example, let’s consider one of the prime axioms of science. If there is a large measurable effect, there must be a powerful cause. A dropped brick falls to the earth. The moon orbits the earth without wandering away. Related effects across a range of scales. There must be a cause. The more universal and consistent the effect, the more powerful the cause. Gravity. One of the four known forces of the universe that explain its operation. At one extreme lies black holes, where gravity is so powerful it sucks in everything that comes within its remotest influence. At the other extreme lies what? A sparrow, a butterfly, a mosquito, a gnat that falls to earth when it dies. No one has ever seen gravity itself, only its effects. The secularists have exactly the same problem with Jesus Christ.

It is true that no one can prove Jesus Christ ever existed, let alone prove that he was a superposition of human and divine identities who died for all of us and rose again from the dead, offering eternal life after death and eternal redemption from something called sin. But the effects of this invisible cause, whatever it was, are far too huge to ignore. Indeed, the effects are so stupendously enormous across all scales of human experience that it is laughable to credit objections based on sharpshooting the verifiable historicity or lack of it of the Bible. Note, expressly, that I am not postulating the accuracy of the four gospels when I use the word laughable in the context of Biblical criticism. What I’m saying is that secularists are faced with an incredibly intimidating Christian mystery of their own — if Christ didn’t exist and wasn’t who he said he was, how do you explain what happened afterwards?

And let’s not make any mistake about what happened afterwards. The cultural changes wrought by Christianity on our earth are the single biggest ongoing act of creation that we know of since the origin of life and the still theoretical Big Bang. This invisible cause, whatever it consisted of, redefined human consciousness to such a degree that it led to everything we now take for granted about ourselves — our sense of ourselves as individuals, the proliferation of competing interpretations of the originating events in the form of hundreds of variant denominations of “the faith” that continue blooming to this day, the egoistic impulse toward liberty across lines of class and in defiance of authoritarian aristocratic governments, and the curiosity that spawned modern science in the first place, including cosmology, medicine, chemistry, biology, zoology, anthropology, evolution, psychology, and even economics. Without that invisible, unverifiable cause, all but a few of Christianity’s fiercest critics wouldn’t exist at all.

The messiah who wasn’t somehow also fathered atheism, marxism, existentialism, absurdism, and the Matrix. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Hitchens who mocks Christianity wouldn’t even exist without it. The mind that he applies to the argument, the self who experiences such a volatile antipathy to what he perceives as the tyranny of misbegotten myth, would be empty, undifferentiated, and mute. Indeed, his is the greater solipsism by far than any he imputes to Christians. For he, like most secularists, imagines that somehow he could still be who he is in all his rancorous ridicule, without the 2,000 year intellectual, artistic, philosophical, and political tradition that produced him, which is overwhelmingly Christian.

Which is to say that he wishes to bask and preen in the effects of the Christian tradition even as he presumes to subtract from that tradition the cause his scientific allegiance demands must exist.

Christopher Hitchens is himself a kind of proof of the Christ.

As I said, there’s much more to the post. Things that deal more directly with the demands for evidence. Also a nicer graphic than we can post here.

Bottom line? Yes. I believe The Story. Maybe that doesn’t make me a Roman Catholic, but it makes me an Episcopalian before the Episcopal Church scooped the heart out its own theology.

Are we clear?

I don’t know what art is anymore. Especially when it comes to women. There’s a performance artist who simulates birth with paint, in public, creating paintings by “delivering” the colors onto canvas from eggs stuffed inside her vagina. (Don’t look.)

Then there’s this woman, who is far less grotesque but still baffling. She’s a photographer. Every year, on her birthday I presume, she arranges for a self portrait, always bare breasted, sometimes with members of her family, sometimes alone. Like this:

Nice but for the... you know.

Nice but for the, you know, giant panties.

Thing is, she keeps at it. All the way into her sixties. It’s clear she’s not modest. Like, there’s this one:

Which is, if not actively weird, not modest.

Which is, if not actively weird, not modest either. Is that her dad? Don’t tell me.

There’s not much in the way of explanation. She just does it year after year. And I have to admit I’m wondering, not about the exhibitionism per se, which I can understand, but why 40 years of mommy panties?

Bikinis okay. Nothing, better. Dare I say more artistic?

Bikinis, okay. Thong, better. Nothing, best. Dare I say more artistic? Unless you prefer l’orteil du dromedaire.

It’s not exactly as if she’s all about coverup.

Very little left to the imagination, actually.

Very little left to the imagination, actually.

Is that the art? It’s not finally about her at all but about mommy panties? Do they mean something? Symbolize something? Tell us something we desperately need to know?

I give up. Help me see what’s going on here. If you can. She’s 67 now.

Liking her persistence is not the same thing as understanding it.

Liking her persistence is not the same thing as understanding it.

Oh well. Life is deeply mysterious. But not as mysterious as women. People who think they know all the secrets of the universe should bear this in mind. Women are always out of this world.

The hardliners keep wanting proof. They think science applies. It doesn’t. Here is the proof of that. Whatever you do, don’t look at it.

I TOLD you not to look at it. The way people are. Men can’t wait to look at it and, having been warned, couldn’t possibly be deterred. The women, having been warned and told not to look, have to look BECAUSE they’ve been told not to look. And then they’re both disgusted and outraged. On this dichotomy hangs all the friction between the sexes. They see the same things, for different reasons, and have exactly opposite reactions.

Why we keep going round and round in our beautiful dance together. Only God knows how and why we still manage to snuggle. But we do, don’t we? Now, if we could just solve the mommy panty problem, all would be right with the world. Is that the challenge being posed by a lifetime of strange photographs? Lose the damn panties?

Sigh. Hell if I know.

But I guess there’s always hope. A millennial put it to me succinctly the other day. “I believe in God because BREASTS.” Hard to refute. I feel much the same way, although my logic is different… because VAGINAS. Either way, something in red is a good idea.

Sometimes life is simpler than it seems.

Memory is a tricky thing. Sometimes it doesn't work work. Other times it doesn't work.

Memory is a tricky thing. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Other times it doesn’t work.

Geez. It was 15 years ago that I wrote an autobiography of a future president before I’d even heard of our current president. It was in Shuteye Town 1999. And I’m pretty sure mine was funnier than his, though equally factual.

Me Slave

Chapter 1

I was always too proud, Mama said. It was probably a veracious assertion, but what else can you do in a hood where you’re owned by the Man. Before they sold off my father, he said to me, “Kareem—“ (He named me Kareem Abdul, but Abdul wasn’t our last name. We didn’t have last names then, back in the days before there was even a Martinlutherking, if we had even known there would be such a mentor, which we didn’t, because we weren’t allowed to go to school or take correspondence courses in Black Studies, or anything. It was for shit in 1856. But to resume our tale…) “Kareem,” quoth my father, “you’ve got to be proud. Don’t let any man dis your name, your female companion, or your wheels. That is the name of that melody.”

Ah, how young I was, how less than fully mature, mayhap even callow. For it seemed to me ironic indeed that my beloved pater would specify his wheels as a particular object of pride. I myself found them humiliating, an unending catalyst for blushes and lamentably thin excuses. What Afrian-Amerian lad past puberty could tolerate being observed in the rumble seat of an 1842 Buick? Worse, the tape player was an eight-track, and the only cartridge my father possessed was an anthology of Henry Mancini, in whose lush overuse of the violins I was certain I could hear the dark white heart of oppression.

It would not be until years—nay, decades—later that I would recall the ephemeral bliss of sharing with my father, in that ludicrous wreck of a vehicle, the liberating AM voice of our only real heroes, the stars of the suppressed and poverty-stricken Negro Leagues. Such is the miracle of radio, though. For us it was impossible to hear the worn seams of Satchel Paige’s glove, the holes in Josh Gibson’s Nike’s. It sounded altogether as wonderful and rich—yes, rich—as the broadcasts of the fabled New York Dodgers, who in those days were white as a bleached bone, with nary a thought of choosing Jackie Robinson in the college draft, or Reggie Jackson, or Hank “The Hammer” Aaron—whose names we, of course, had never heard in the cotton fields of Virginia, and wouldn’t in our lifetimes. Thus was the wretchedness of an existence without more than a handful of positive role models. It made one feel as if there was no chance to attain stardom, to find the so-called good life out in the western paradise of Californica, where only white people were allowed to find gold and buy property in Beverly Hills. I had dreams, but they had to be kept small to avoid disappointment, or so I used to suppose.

Suppose, suppose. I have done a lot of that over the years. Suppose my Uncle Darrell hadn’t contracted AIDS, or cholera as we called it then. He was the only family my Mama had, and how she cried when he confessed that he had shared the rusty nail he used for a hypodermic with Michael, the young ne’er-do-well who lived in the next hut. “But he’s gay,” she wailed, her whole real-sized frame shaking with sobs. “You’ll catch the cholera from that N-word person!”

Yes, she was colorful in her language, at times outrageous. If I flinched at her use of the N-word, however, it couldn’t have been much more than a precocious foreboding of days I would never live to see. For in our piteous little hood, the N-word was ubiquitous, if not peripatetic. It was “N-word” this and “N-word” that, so that an outsider might have been pardoned for believing that we Afrian-Amerians had no given names, only this one all-encompassing descriptor to which we answered like so many dogs.

And so, it seems, we have completed a circle, returning once again to the matter of pride. My pride. Which was continually offended by everyone and everything. Until the day I determined upon an answer of sorts. An answer that seemed to me perfect, complete, and incontestably inevitable. Escape.

Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.

No. It was created for Richard Dawkins.

No. It was created for Richard Dawkins.

I know. People think I’m impossible. But I’m not. I reached out to Brizoni on the subject of “Talking.” We went back and forth. The heat got dialed down to an acceptable level, sort of, and I promised I would respond to his manifesto. Since he accused me of evading his points, it’s in the form of a Fisk. But only because I’m trying to be directly responsive. He’s in plain text and I’m in Italic.

****************

This isn’t working. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get through to you. Maybe it’s time I took your advice and started over. From the top.

I agree. Not working. I told you I’d respond but I confess a deep weariness at the prospect. I can feel your certainty arising even at the end of this brief email. You want to win. But I’ll do my best to remain civil even as I rehearse arguments I’ve already made which you simply dismiss.

There is serious, incontrovertible doubt about God’s existence. For that reason, God’s will is impossible to determine with any level of certainty, and he cannot be relied on to reward the virtuous or punish the guilty. In this, or any hypothetical other life.

Serious but not incontrovertible. The latter word does not apply to doubt, which is a state of mind not science. That God cannot be relied upon to reward the virtuous or punish the guilty is equally an emotional judgment, not a finding of fact. What constitutes reward? What constitutes punishment? I suspect you have narrower, more rational materialist definitions of these words than I do. A scoundrel dies rich with his name on hospitals. A mother suffers through life because her toddler died of cancer. I’m sure you have a kind of conceptual scorecard of these outcomes. I don’t. Because I’m old. If there is a God he might be tuning us all individually, because we are not digital units but individuals. There is no calculus capable of predicting who experiences peace of mind at the end or fear, agitation, and desperation.

This does not mean you have to stop believing in God. It does mean you ought to admit God doesn’t work as a foundation for morality or a social contract. The honest cannot be inspired by being part of a Story that is more likely false than true.

The first sentence is a ruse. You have constantly insisted that I not believe in God. The second sentence is, well, I don’t mean to be rude, ludicrous. For you to maintain the supremacy of an atheistic philosophy in our time is outright absurdity. The most successful cultures in all of recorded history, in terms of quality of life, acquisition of knowledge, and stability of social contract have been the Christian dominant civilizations of Europe and North America. The deterioration we’ve seen since a decade or two before your birth have to do with the abandonment of simple Judeo-Christian principles. That marriage should occur before childbirth. That the family is a sacred institution. That community is a function of finding a moral consensus about right and wrong, not an endless process of splitting apart, grievance, and revenge over fancied differences. Have all these cultures been without sin? No. Of course not. But to the extent that there are parliamentary democracies around the world today that are based on the rule of law and the rights of individuals to have a say in their lives, it is a function of the Christian elevation of individuals rather than subjects and slaves. It didn’t magically appear from math and the scientific method, whose roots you conveniently amputate from the continuum, just as you amputate the beginning of the universe from the tom-tom beat of Evolution as you understand it.

The power hungry cannot be humbled (The Scottish Perspective) by a God who lets the Holocaust and the Killing Fields happen. The solution to this “problem” is to root morality in demonstrable reality. Specifically, the actual requirements of human survival and human flourising. In my view, Ayn Rand has done this successfully, whatever mistakes one can glean around the margins of her thought.

I like to hear you say, “In my view, Ayn Rand has done this successfully.” Yes, in your view she has. In my view, she hasn’t. Would John Galt have done anything to stop the Holocaust or the Killing Fields? It doesn’t actually come up in Atlas Shrugged, does it? Rather, there’s a sense of letting the dumb-ass victims be dumb-ass victims while us smart ones run away to the Colorado Hole in the Wall Butch and Sundance were aiming for. (Btw, your link supports my points about moral degradation more than your argument for a New Rational Morality.)

Not trying to be glib or snarky. Rand was fighting the rational ideological “purity” of Soviet communism with an equally rational ideological opposite. She sets up a straw man and burns it to the ground. I loved it when I first read it, but it leaves out all the messy human parts. The Nazis murdered maybe 15 million innocents. The Soviets maybe 50 million. The Chinese maybe 100 million. They ALL thought they could replace archaic religious beliefs with superior rational constructs. And somehow they managed to make the behavior of their good soldiers indistinguishable from what you decry in religious fanatics. Except that the gods they chose to worship were not larger than life except in their posters — moral midgets named Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

I haven’t always made the case for this clearly (though more than once I certainly have). The fact that a universe of self-sufficient natural law makes more sense than a universe that needed creation is a related, but seperate argument. I’ve conflated the two in the past. My bad.

No. You never have made the case for this in any clear way. You declare that you and some unknown set of like-minded folk have divined a rational morality that absolutely must be accepted as truth. All the rationalist disasters of the twentieth century are mere error. The real, honest, absolute, final, ineluctable truth lies with you and other subscribers to the arrogant anti-religious pronouncements of Richard Dawkins, who insists that all who disagree with him are idiots, fools, and unworthy of decent human respect.

What I’d like from you is, at long last, a good faith rebuttal (pardon the pun?). Without any rhetorical tricks hiding a lack of substance. No straw men. No straw fiat. No dishonest syllogisms (you have trouble keeping your distortions straight– why put rationalism “in quotes” if reason is only “a tool for making arguments”?). No collapsing into a heap of sneers at the mere mention of Ayn Rand. No splitting hairs about what like counts as like “demonstrable” anyway maaaan, or what the meaning of the word “is” is. No pretending to be stupid to make stupid points. Give me logical or fact-based (preferrably both!) reasons why I’m wrong. If you think most people simply can’t handle living without Sky Dad to keep them going or Sky Cop to keep them in line, say so openly. If you have evidence for God’s will other than fingers-crossed wishful thinking, don’t hide it under a bushel!

This is called projection. Everything you accuse me of, you are thrice guilty of. Note the return of your old tone in re Sky Dad and Sky Cop. Never used or intimated either. (Uh, rationalism isn’t philosophy, as you seem to keep implying. That’s why I specified it as a tool for making arguments.)

If you can’t prove me wrong, then it’s time to admit I’m right. If, of course, I’m wrong about you and ingetrity matters more to you than your pride in your plan to save Christianity.

I can’t prove you wrong. Never claimed I could except in matters of historical fact you cribbed from Google. I have no plan to save Christianity. If we’re in for another Dark Age of secular barbarism, we are. You seem to be okay with that.

****************

None of this has been about my pride. You are not right. You are you. Which is a function of your free will and okay. But your continuing demand for acquiescence is the saddest thing about you. You see, we could talk about other things we likely agree on. But you are stuck on this absolute need to be right about God and somehow compel me to admit it. I’ve written before about my belief that the existence of human intelligence, such as you value in yourself to the exclusion of all who dissent, is also proof that there is intelligence in the universe itself, built in, exemplified by a physics of the universe that could not be more precisely set up for what we find ourselves living in. The only scientific rebuttal for this anthropic cosmological principle is the Multiverse theory, which rests on no shred of observable, measurable scientific evidence but our determination to believe in an unintelligent universe. Except for really smart guys on Earth in the 21st century, of course. Which begins to sound a lot like your own idea of Old Testament scripture, a fantasy of Man-centric hubris…

You oh so certain guys make me laugh.

Why my acquiescence is not going to happen. I think about my sins these days. It’s helpful, enriching if frequently painful. But none of them is addressed by anything Ayn Rand ever wrote. Maybe that’s the appeal when you’re young, invincible, and certain of your mission. I’ve been there. It wears off eventually. Then you need more.

P.S. Brizoni linked to my old post The Scottish Perspective because he believes it proves that we are in a post-Christian world ripe for his better answers. Two points. Loss of faith does not mean that Christianity is wrong, just harder than people of little character can live up to.

Second point. The post dates back to October 2008. It included this prediction:

It is only religion which has the irrational force to declare that one human life can be equal to or greater than the “greater good.” But Americans have allowed themselves to be slowly driven backwards into a philosophical model that replaces faith with cost accounting, appetites, and organic chemistry. You want “free” healthcare. You will get it. And you will learn that the price of it is accepting a death sentence from the state when your life is too expensive in dollars to perpetuate. But you have spent a very long time already learning that despite your avowed faith, everything important in life is measured in dollars. Otherwise, there would be no way to buy your vote by promises of punishing rich people with higher taxes.

Six years later. Is the prediction wrong, funny, as dumb as Brizoni thinks my theology is? What happens when the supposedly smart people start making rational decisions for the rest of us?

The death of values which sustained us for generations does not mean those values are wrong. It only means that we have lost our faith. The pretenders who offer us new and improved values in place of the old ones are not to be trusted. Take a look. They’re all still wet behind the ears.

P.P.S. Serendicity. Just saw it this morning, I swear.

My own (un)favorites are the women who write as if they understand men. I know, I know. The big story is supposed to be that men don’t understand women. Sadly, we mostly do. I can understand all kinds of women except the ones who are worthwhile. Those few are cause for endless rumination. The ones I particularly don’t like are the ones who regard themselves as philosophers. Women make terrible philosophers. When they try, they turn out to be fanatics, nihilists, or sociopaths. Then there are the ones who don’t see themselves as philosophers. The realm of the good ones, the best of all of us. They do what they think is right without regard to who said anything. But it’s also the realm of the precious and perniciously mundane. The ones who think the obliviousness of men is a sign of spiritual weakness.

Some of these are the women who think they are writers. Of this lamentable group, the most baffling (apart from the Brontes and Willa Cather — and don’t even get me started on Margaret Mitchell) are those who presume to write mysteries. As if they were somehow solving life. Not gonna happen. But they insist on making the same mistakes again and again.

The ones who think adjectives ensure verisimilitude.

Solving the mystery of life takes close observation.

Solving the mystery of life takes close observation.

‘D’ is for Description

Chapter One

She was waiting for me in the office, which is on the second floor of a large yellow brick insurance building with concrete floors covered in the kind of tan linoleum that has blue flecks which always make it look in need of a thorough washing. She was sitting in the black metal chair in front of my scarred gray-green metal desk, and she was wearing a bulky, pinkish sweater made of acrylic or something that pills like acrylic. She couldn’t have been over twenty-four-and-a-half, but her hair was died the color of the background on the can of tomato paste of the brand that everybody buys, and I could tell that she had dressed in a hurry because her left sock, a dark off-navy knit, was still inside out so that you could see the seam above the edge of her green and ecru Nike sneakers.

“Are you Kelsey Dogbone?” she asked. Her voice was buttery but not real butter, more like the hot drippy fatty stuff they give you on popcorn at the movie theater.

“Yes,” I said. It was true. I’ve been a private detective so long I tend to forget it, but I still look exactly like Kelsey Dogbone, which means I have short dark hair, a neat little face that’s maybe more sexy than pretty or so I‘ve been told, and I dress in a cool no-nonsense fashion, very casual and unadorned, except for the little black dress I keep wadded up in the back of my battered, old, fawn-colored Volkswagen, so that if I have to I can whip it out of the trunk, wriggle into it in the back seat and, with the aid of an attractive silk scarf somebody gave me, emerge looking fit to attend a formal dinner or the christening of a thirty-five five foot fiberglass twin-screw yacht.

“I need you to find out who killed my sister,” she said.

“Your name?” I asked, because I always like to do things in order, one thing after another thing, until the end of the book.

“Mabel Underman,” she said. “My sister’s name was Norma. She died last week and I think her boyfriend killed her. His name is Mike Nutty. He lives at 657 Newborn Road beside the old gas station that used to be a Shell but now it’s a Sunoco.”

“Those were my second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth questions,” I told her. “Who do the police think did it?”

She looked at me with eyes the color of that corduroy upholstery they use on Barcaloungers, kind of a cold blue but when you turn to a different angle, it’s more of a weak sea green. They were sad eyes, like someone who had recently lost a sister before her time. I was starting to feel for her. I try to keep things professional, but when I get on a case I just go and go and go and go, and I could feel that starting with me now, on this case.

“They think she died from choking on a stale roll at the diner,” she said.

“Which diner?” I can’t help it if I’m abrupt. I was raised by my grandmother and she was abrupt too. “Don’t waste time yakking when you could be taking in the furnishings,” she always told me.

Mabel was trying to remember the name of the diner. “I can’t remember the name of it,” she said. “But it’s the one on Route 68 with the stiff plastic curtains that have blue flowers on them, not roses, but more like peonies, only they’re blue and peonies are pink, of course.”

“I’m on my way,” I said. “I’ll call you.”

I left her sitting there because I was on the case now, and there was no time to interrupt my pursuit of the killer by saying goodbye to her or musing about facts that weren’t yet in my possession. She probably thought I was on the way to the diner, but my first stop was going to be Newborn Road, where if I was lucky I’d get a read on why Norma had died and whether Mike Nutty really was the killer.

It was a small bi-level with blue vinyl swirl-grained siding and a yard full of chickweed and dandelions that hadn’t been mowed for more than a week, which could have meant that he was in mourning or just lazy. His car was parked in the driveway, one of those brown, bean-shaped Japanese sedans that have chimes and voices that tell when you buckle to your seatbelt and lock the door.

The door was light green with three little square windows like stairsteps, as if aimed at different heights of callers. I got looked at in the middle one, because I’m not short though I’m not tall either, being more medium in height, which helps me fit in when I’m on a case. I could hear the deadbolt being drawn back, which could have been a sign that he didn’t want to be disturbed, perhaps by the police, even if they were still clinging to the stale roll theory, although, after I got done taking a look at Mike I planned to get some inside information from my friend in the police department, who wants me even though he’s married, which is a shame because I want him too, and his marriage is one of those on-again off-again enigmas that had burned me more than once, because even though I’d never admit it to my old grandmother, I did sleep with him once and I’ve described it elsewhere, maybe in “B is for Boring,” but let me tell you it was really hot, with lots of metaphors and heavings and, as I stood in the entry of the bi-level remembering, I could see that Mike wanted me too, which was bad luck for him because mostly I don’t think about sex or men at all, especially when I’m on a case, and hardly ever any other time either, because I’m a professional, and I have to look at suspects and witnesses with a detached eye.

He was a tall slim-waisted male with no shirt on and a pair of shorts that bulged in the front as if he were well endowed, which I wouldn’t notice as a rule, except that I’d had that momentary lapse thinking about Jim, my police friend, and now I couldn’t help noticing that Mike also had very well developed pectoral muscles, and bright white teeth, which has always been a thing with me, because I brush my teeth ten times a day, except when I’m on a case and all that’s available is one of those gas station sinks that have weeks of filth encrusted on them, and even then I’ll make do by buying a bottle of water and brushing my teeth in the car until I can do it right later. His legs were tan with firm but not too prominent thigh muscles and just the right amount of leg hair, because there’s nothing I dislike more than too much hair on the body, because even the thought of a man with a thick pelt of fur on his back makes me want to take a bath and withdraw for a week into the top bunk of the cute little doll-sized apartment I live in, next to the clean well-kept house of my old but still attractive landlord. But now it was time for me to resume my professional perspective and so I started taking in the house, from the entryway.

It was one of those bi-levels where you could see into every room from the front door. On my right was a large, beige-wallpapered sitting room or family room, if he had a family, which I doubted, because the curtains were the kind of neutral invisible pattern you get off the shelves at Walmart, and the wall-to-wall carpeting was the thickest available grade of shag, that shade of blue which initially seems electric but is really colder than that and paler, more like the blue of faded but not too faded jeans, and I don’t mean the professionally faded jeans that have designer labels but the jeans that you fade yourself by washing and wearing them a hundred times. Anyway, I didn’t think the neutral curtains or the blue shag or even the beige wallpaper were the interior design work of the kind of woman that Mike Nutty would marry, because that kind of woman would care about appearances, and she probably wouldn’t have bought the orange and green checked couch in front of the large Motorola television next to the fake Chippendale coffee table covered with old issues of Playboy and Soldier of Fortune, because the orange checks were huge, maybe six inches square, and they were that harsh bright hue that just screams “orange” at you so overwhelmingly that it turns any green into the color of pond algae, which wouldn’t bother a slab of beefcake like Mike but it would bother a woman, and I started to wonder if it had bothered Norma too.

“Hi,” Mike said. “I’m Mike. And you would be…?”

It had been only a moment since I had stepped inside the door but it seemed longer than that to me because there was so much to taken in all at once, the way a professional has to, like the brown and yellow-striped dinette area to the left, opposite the sitting room, where the blonde, poorly constructed, Swedish design dining furniture was a poor match for the Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.

And the ones who think the perpetual disobedience to women of men is a mortal sin.

We're supposed to accept the primacy of Me. Because I have feelings and you don't.

We’re supposed to accept the primacy of Me. Because I have feelings and you don’t.

M.E.

Chapter One

I parked my expensive car in the parking lot and walked briskly into the stainless steel entry hallway of the pathology lab where there’s an office with my name on the door, Dr. Kat Scarlatti, ME. I had too much to do, and I hadn’t had a bite to eat for three weeks because when you’re the Medical Examiner for the City of Richland and you’re also a consulting pathologist on the Board of Forensic Pathologists for the Commonwealth of Vagina, you don’t have time for a private life, and it doesn’t even matter if you’re so beautiful and talented and elegant and cultured that you can get away with smoking cigarettes for several books—as long as you don’t overdo it—because it’s practically the only sensual enjoyment you get out of life, other than showing everyone how unfazed you are by the nude, raped, decapitated, decomposing bodies that lowlife foul-mouthed police detectives keep waking you up in the middle of the night to go see.

“Good morning Dr. Scarlatti,” said my secretary Midge. “I don’t know how you do it. I know you haven’t gotten any sleep in three and half months and you haven’t eaten in three days, but you still look unbelievably beautiful, and I just can’t stop being so impressed by the fact that you’re a woman and a beautiful one at that, and you have a medical degree and a law degree, and everybody in the lab calls you sir, and if women weren’t so much more mature than men, I’d probably be green with envy, because there isn’t a woman alive who wouldn’t rather be an eminent, brilliant pathologist than, say, a hack detective novelist who maybe didn’t even go to college but still likes to get her picture on the back cover looking as brainy as any pathologist, if you know what I mean.”

I could tell that Midge had already had her tenth cup of coffee for the day, even though it was five-thirty in the morning, but when you work in the ME’s office in Rich-land the day starts early, and if you are ME, it doesn’t end until at least sixty people have told you how beautiful and brilliant you are. It was time for me to get busy.

Out in the corridor I could hear the wheels of a gurney, no doubt bringing in a new, sad, pathetic, destroyed victim of the sick, twisted, sexually monstrous soul of some typical man, and so I gulped down two cups of coffee and smoked a cigarette on my way out to take a look. There in the hall, next to the gurney, stood Lieutenant Moroni, the only man who really is a fixture in my life, because he serves as such a good example of how men are… but I couldn’t think about that now because he was dying to tell me about the case. He looked terrible, like a man who hasn’t slept for several days, and he was just as overweight and balding and trashy looking as ever inside the cheap ugly wash-and-wear suit plainclothes policemen wear.

“Morning, Doc,” he said. “How the fuck are you this morning? Looks like you’re still as fucking brilliant and beautiful as ever, and I thought maybe you could help me solve this fucking case, which is really a fucking shame, because this poor fucking loser of a corpse has been raped and decapitated and left to decompose in a laundromat dryer for six fucking months. I’ve got to find the motherfucking motherfucker who did this and tear his motherfucking head off. What do you think?”

I was thinking there was no chance I’d be getting to the wedding that afternoon of my niece, who is almost as beautiful and brilliant as I am, except that she’s marrying her college professor, who is brilliant but not beautiful and bears more of a resemblance to Janet Reno than she does to me, Dr. Kat Scarlatti. My niece, whose name I can remember by concentrating over a cigarette or two, would be very disappointed. But she also knows that when you’re the Medical Examiner of the City of Richland, weddings have to take second place.

“Phone for you,” Midge told me. “It’s Boris Evil, the Chief Administrator of the Board of Pathology of the Commonwealth of Vagina.”

I knew there was something wrong. Boris never calls me except when he’s found some way to make me a suspect in one of the murders of the nude, raped, decapitated corpses that make up my life.

“Hello,” I said to Boris, smoking three cigarettes and gulping a quick half dozen cups of coffee.

“Where were you last night?” he asked me over the phone. “Where were you six months ago when that dead, nude, decapitated hooker was being stuffed in the dryer at the laundromat?”

I sighed. The suspicion I’d had since coming into the office had just been borne out. I was at the beginning of another incredibly long book, and we wouldn’t be done until Lieutenant Moroni had said “fuck” another twenty-six thousand times. I lit a cigarette and arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.

We didn’t get to the intellectuals, did we? Life is awful, unfair, and irrational because women menstruate and men have all the poetic talent. Which means that nothing means anything and while it’s still important to be British, it’s a locked-in requirement to hate life itself. God Save the Queen.

Ooooooh, shiver. Men are, ugh, oh so thoroughly, ugh, men. And while we women can can get inside their heads and write their thoughts, we can't be chided for hating their fucking impotent retarded thoughts. May the peace which passer hall understanding be upon you.

Ooh, shiver. Men are, ugh, oh so thoroughly, ugh, men. And while women can can get inside their heads and write their thoughts, we can’t be chided for hating their impotent retarded thoughts. May the peace which passeth all understanding be upon you…

Bounden Duty


Chapter One

The little girl named Sally walked the three miles from school every day, across the bleak yellow wasteland which had once been fields but were now little more than the wide, unhealed scar of a strip mine. A mile-and-a-half into her journey stood the one tree which had struggled futilely out of the raped soil to put forth a handful of leaves that turned yellow and fell off almost immediately, as if sickened by the land itself. The tree was the one milestone Sally looked forward to, and she had acquired the habit of counting the number of footsteps to the tree, and then from the tree to the featureless granite cottage where her mother listlessly waited to give her a joyless greeting. The number of steps to the tree was usually between three thousand-one-hundred-nine and three thousand-one-hundred-thirteen. If anyone had counted as Sally had in her doomed young life, they would have found her body at step number three thousand-one-hundred-seventeen. As it was, the Constable wrote down that he had found the body of the strangled schoolgirl at a distance of about ten feet from a dying aspen tree. Her mother didn’t weep when they told her, but she made a dry, hacking, empty sound in her throat that could have been a sob.

Inspector Alan Dogleash of Scotland Yard stared gloomily out the window of his office. The view was drably anonymous, as if the slate-colored modern building to the north had no name or sponsor but had merely appeared one day, like some appropriate fungus of technology. Pedestrians and cars passed in front of its facade without looking, as if they knew it had no identity and could not look to it for affirmation of their own. The inspector thought of the first line of a new poem, so cheerless and grey that it needed to be written down at once, and he was in the act of looking for a pencil when his secretary told him about the request for assistance from Minetown, the barren industrial city where he normally took his holidays.

“What did they say?” he asked, trying to remember the fugitive line of verse before it escaped into the mildewed dungeon of his unconscious.

“They requested assistance,” said Mrs. Awful with some asperity. She regarded all questioning as interrogation and beneath her. “They said they could probably solve it themselves but they’re all too tired and they’re still getting used to their new anti-depressant medication.”

Dogleash sighed. Minetown would be the perfect break in his routine. He had never known any place more destitute of beauty and hope. Perhaps he could extract another book of poetry from the experience.

Constable Down greeted Dogleash with polite uninterest and told him the details, such as they were, over a cup of black, astonishingly bitter tea. There was a fireplace in Down’s office, and its small flame crackled mirthlessly in the grate, warming neither the room nor the toneless voice of the constable.

“She had been strangled with her own knee sock,” Down reported. “No sign of a struggle. And there should have been. The ground there is always muddy, and it’s a clay mixture that retains its shape for quite a time. I’ve tried to think what that might mean, but I don’t have the energy. Do you want a scone?”

“No,” Dogleash replied, absently.

“Good,” said Down. “I’m out of scones. Haven’t had any scones for months.”

“What about the mother?” Dogleash asked. “Did she have any ideas?”

“I haven’t seen her yet,” Down said. “I was waiting for you brainy blokes from Scotland Yard.”

Dogleash sighed, and then, just to do something different, he yawned.

The granite cottage where Sally’s mother lived had been built twelve thousand years before, and the only improvements that had been made since then were the addition of a cheap single-pane window, a wireless in the sitting room, and a trio of small ugly appliances in the kitchen.

“Do you want a scone?” asked Mrs. Crap.

“No,” Dogleash replied, absently.

“I’d love a scone,” Down offered, with unusual vigor.

“Don’t have any,” Mrs. Crap told him, as if she, too, had been sconeless for months.

“Did Sally say anything unusual the week before?” asked Dogleash.

“The week before what?” Mrs. Crap looked dully bewildered.

“The week before the murder,” Dogleash said, gently.

“Oh. She said she didn’t know what it was all about.”

“What?”

“Life.”

“Oh that,” said Constable Down. “That’s nothing.”

Dogleash wondered if it was really nothing. It was true that all the people he knew and all the people he ran into on and off duty were always thinking about life, and how miserable and pointless and tedious and unbearable it was, but he couldn’t quite remember if little girls spent their time engaged in such thoughts. Weren’t they somehow involved with dolls, and dress-up, and little-girl pursuits like that? He put the question to Mrs. Crap.

“Not Sally,” said her mother. “The only thing she ever talked about was life. She said she supposed life might be worthwhile to some people, but she knew she was English, and so the only thing she could do with her life was try to figure out exactly how bleak it was, in the most excruciating possible detail, for sixty or seventy years, unless some merciful stranger would do her the favour of strangling her with one of her own knee socks.”

“You’re right,” Dogleash conceded. “It was nothing.” Sally had been, after all, a typical, ordinary girl, and there would be no sudden break in this case. It would unfold like all other cases, for hundreds of pages of cheerless fires, soporific conversations over tepid cups of tea, and thousands of incredibly depressing British innuendoes about the pure suffocating meaninglessness of it all—in short, the whole long drawn-out routine that had made his crime-solving exploits so popular throughout the English-speaking world. Well, he supposed it was time to get on with it. He thanked Mrs. Crap and Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.

…and remain with you always. Dux femina facta. But why?


The exception. But there’s always an exception. Why the mirror is always crack’d.

As you were, ladies. I’m just having my fun on a sunny Saturday morning. We’re going camping later. No wonder I’m rebelling.

Green and merciless.

Green and merciless.

Here’s the condescending precursor to today’s game, as published by Youtube.

Here’s the condescending CBS treatment of the first round LLWS game today against Tennessee.

Not about race or sex. It was, for most of us, about Philly sports teams.

Not about race or sex. It was, for most of us, about Philly sports teams.

We watched, enthralled and engaged. Philadelphia has never had a team in the Little League World Series. Generations of political incompetence and corruption have thrown out all the parochial schools, all the possibilities of middle class participation such as the LLWS represents. But a visionary coach fought his way in, and we are cheering them all on. Yes, Mo’ne (pronounced like the artist Monet) is a gifted pitcher, but she’s also backed up by the kind of team Philadelphians recognize as their own. Daring and gifted fielders, bad ball hitters at the plate, risk takers, loyalists to one another, and endowed with that grim determination to prevail over the usual anti-Philly propaganda.

Philly won.

Watching them today was an emotional throwback to the batting antics of Mike Schmidt, who habitually went 0 and 2 on the first two pitches. Then he just stayed alive, fouling off the strikes and waiting for the balls. He led the league in walks as a rule. Schmidt, being the best third baseman in history, also often ended his at bats with a home run. But the Taney team accomplished something just as important as a homer when you have an ace competing with an ace. They fouled and fouled and fouled a power pitcher until he finally ran out of pitch count and had to be benched. Little League relievers are at a disadvantage. They’re not closers. They’ve been playing the game in other positions. They have control problems when they’re suddenly called to the mound.

Philadelphia did what Philadelphia does. Stick with what’s working. Mo’ne did not strike out as many as the Tennessee ace, whom you could almost see ten years from now on an MLB pitching mound. But she finished the game. She didn’t need as many pitches to finish her innings. Sometimes she needed only eight pitches to get three outs. And she was her own closer. She struck out the last four batters she faced.

Through the course of the game she never changed expression. When she needed a big play her teammates provided it. They love her. City of Brotherly Love.

Even the Tennessee ace acknowledged her with a fist bump after her last at bat and his last inning. America is not about race and sex. (Although I’m thinking a bunch of power hitters from Tennessee are scratching their heads tonight…)

City of Brotherly Love. Not about separation, demographics, divisive narratives. Watch the kids. A team is a team because it suppresses all those things in the name of working together.

But gunfighter eyes don’t hurt.

Happy conservative Mary Katharine Ham.

Happy conservative Mary Katharine Ham.

This stuck in my craw the other day. Hotair’s MKH thought fit to lecture the rest of us about how we should feel regarding the progressive opposition.

Many of you will likely disagree with Andrew WK and my lauding of his philosophy, but I loathe the idea of a world where my every relationship and every decision is governed by adherence to my political ideology. I want to be friends with people of all stripes and see whatever movie and eat whatever pasta I feel like without running each of them through a political rubric. Not everything that is not of my political sensibility must deeply offend my sensibilities. One of the reasons I’m conservative is because if you increase without end the number of areas in which the federal government meddles from afar, the more politics infects every corner of our lives. And, frankly, that’s a drab life. I recognize the irony that I somewhat inadvertently made politics my life in an attempt to rid our lives of them as much as possible. But, these days, I figure it’s my public service and the service of my fellow political junkies to pay attention to this all the time so others may be spared.

I object. The left is assaulting every traditional value in the United States. The republic and its constitution are being actively targeted for replacement by a voracious totalitarian state. Every single aspect of life, from the names of sports teams to the casting of TV sitcoms to the content of church sermons and the freedom of expression of people who oppose the administration, is being assaulted by federal agencies ranging from the DOJ to the IRS and EPA. All of which have, suddenly, their own SWAT teams.

Sorry, Mary. [Smile]. Hate to break it to you. I don’t want to be friends with anyone who endorses or apologizes for these developments. Because I know there’s something seriously wrong with them. They are stupid, sick, or evil. [Smile].

I’ll give you just three citations, though I could go on forever. The first has to do with the stupid ones.

Remember that liberals are the ones who are always claiming to have superior powers of empathy and tolerance — and a more sophisticated sense of science, which has shown us that conservatives are actually the ones who are better at seeing things from the other guy’s point of view. An experiment by psychologist Jonathan Haidt (sometimes called “an ideological Turing test”) asked liberals and conservatives to put themselves in the other guy’s socks for the duration of a test and ask them: How would your ideological opponent answer?

Conservatives were far better than liberals at this game, though that should have been easy to guess. When a conservative goes to the movies, picks up nearly any newspaper or watches TV news on any channel but one, he gets the liberal point of view. Liberals, especially in a place like New York, can easily seal themselves off from principled conservative thinking and many choose to do so. A result is that they haven’t a clue how conservatives think.

Liberals also kid themselves that they’re better at arguing than conservatives, but calling your opponent crazy is an appeal to emotion, not reason. It’s also a lazy schoolyard taunt, and it fails an elementary rule of debate, the prohibition of ad hominem remarks.

Stupid? Of course. Then there’s sick. Which is the land of impossible contradictions.

…how can liberals have such hate for this tiny, wonderful democracy of Israel. They’re supposed to be liberals — they have women’s rights, they have gay rights, they have freedom of the press, freedom of speech — and they hate this nation like no other nation on earth.

And they look at the Palestinians, and the Islamists, and the Arabs in general — not the Arabs in general, mostly the Islamists — and they see them as the victims. How can it be? How can they report… why do they do this? It’s because if you start out saying that the Arabs and the Israelis are equally good cultures, if you start out saying, as they must, these reporters must start out with the notion, that the Jews and the Palestinians both want peace. After all, the Palestinians would be a bad culture if they didn’t want peace. So, they’re not allowed to think that. That just might be their prejudices.

So they must start with the conclusion that both sides want peace. Then why are the Palestinians doing such horrible things? Why are they blowing up buses in Israel? It has to be… it can’t be their culture… so it has to be something the Jews did to provoke them. Now they will look through and cherry pick, and spin, and manipulate, oh wait, didn’t a Jew build a house in Jerusalem three weeks ago? Oh, that must be… and that becomes the salient part of the story.

And the more heinous the attack, the more evil the provocation must have been. Indiscriminateness of thought does not lead to indiscriminateness of policy. That’s what the liberal believes. That if you eliminate discriminating thought, you’ll eliminate things to disagree about. We won’t fight, we won’t kill each other, we won’t scream and yell, we won’t hurt each other. If you eliminate thinking, they’re going to have this Paradise, this Kindergarden of Eden.

Adults who think, like Barack Obama and Ron Paul (et fils) that if we don’t hurt their feelings, they won’t want to kill us. Ramses the Second knew better than that four millennia ago. Sickness.

And then there’s evil. Who connives at the misrepresentation of reality for the purpose of enhancing their own power, prestige, and privilege? People who don’t care about anything but their place in the pantheon of plutocrats. The press has become evil.

On March 24, 2008, another kind of scandal struck. All three broadcast networks covered the news that Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had been indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. Somehow in the who-what-where reportage there wasn’t room for any of them to insert the word “Democrat.” On August 7, Hizzoner was sent to jail for violating the terms of his bond. More national coverage. Still no party affiliation from either ABC or NBC.

Republicans don’t fare as easily with the news of their felony charges. Four months after Mayor Kilpatrick was indicted, so too was Alaska senator Ted Stevens, allegedly for failing to report gifts. All three broadcast networks covered the story. Amazingly, they used identical language to describe him as “the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate.” Three months later (October 27, 2008), during the waning days of the election campaign, Stevens was convicted. Every network covered the story, and every network labeled him a Republican.

Compare that to Rod Blagojevich, the bizarre, loud-mouthed and foul-mouthed former governor of Illinois. He relished the klieg lights and seemingly was everywhere (until he landed at a more permanent address: prison). “Blago” was removed as governor on January 29, 2009, after being arrested and charged with corruption. ABC, CBS, and NBC gave major consideration to the story yet somehow managed not to inform their viewers that he was a Democrat. Blagojevich was convicted in June of 2011, and it happened again: major coverage by ABC, CBS, and NBC, with absolutely no Democratic label in sight.

So too former U.S. representative William Jefferson of Louisiana. On August 5, 2009, he was found guilty on charges of bribery, racketeering, and wire fraud. ABC and NBC covered the story on their evening newscasts, but only ABC labeled him a Democrat. CBS Evening News ignored the story altogether. The following morning all three filed stories. ABC and CBS ignored his party affiliation.

We’ve gone past the point of jovial political disagreements. Mary Katharine Ham, bless her heart, is having a career in the media. She may wish not to see that she’s swimming in evil. But she is. And it will take her down as it is taking all of us down. No Pollyanna feelgood psychobabble is going to change that.

Our country is under assault. I will not shake hands with or speak nicely to anyone who identifies himself with this stupid, sick, AND evil location in the political landscape. [Smile].

Oh goody. I'm a conservative and I play nice. [Smile] [grrrr]

Oh goody. I’m Mary Katharine. I’m a conservative and I play nice. [Smile] [grrrr]

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