Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Happy Independence Day

May your day be filled with smiles and contentment.

Please enjoy this stirring rendition of The Stars & Stripes Forever on the Majestic Bellowphone, performed by the spectacular Len Solomon:

Monday, June 04, 2018

Puppy Monday

Mochi is 6 this year, but she will always be a baby, my little guttersnipe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Two years ago today, my friend Gay_Cynic died.

In February of 2016, Gay_Cynic came to Texas for a visit, and many friends gathered and we had a grand time. He had a wonderful visit and we hoped for a many tomorrows together, hoped for a medical miracle, but mostly, we savored precious time together with dear ones. Gone too soon, and sorely missed. R.I.P., Ray.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

A word of recognition and thanks to Law Enforcement Officers

No one ever calls up 9-1-1 to say they are having a good day.

Think about that. The very nature of the emergent situations wherein law enforcement officers are called include the very worst and most tragic events that happen in our society. These situations are often not only the aftermath of a violent situation, but also frequently involve mortal peril for the responders themselves.

Our entire society is indebted to the folks who wear the uniform and who act for the protection of all of the community. LEOs will probably never tell you the horrors they have seen, or of the sheer heartbreak of senseless destruction they have witnessed. Trust me when I say that you don't want to hear these stories. Simply take for granted that despite the awfulness, that woman or man in uniform put on their belt and their badge the next day, and bravely fulfilled their vow to protect and to serve despite what they'd seen the previous day. We are in their debt.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Rodeo Velociraptor in Decatur

There's a neat art studio on one of the main drags in Decatur, just a few doors down from Sweetie Pie's Ribeyes. We stopped there on the way to Dallas last week to grab a chicken-fried ribeye sandwich, and we noticed this fabulous wall art in back of the studio. I love how the arm is 3-D and wraps in front of the pipe. Seems like he'd be pretty hard to saddle, actually!


When something doesn't quite sound right...

Remember a few years back when a news story made a splash about a family leaving a nasty-gram on their credit card receipt to the non-heterosexual person who served them in the restaurant? The story went viral, and a huge go-fund-me campaign raised many thousands of dollars for that waiter who was deemed a victim. The problem was that the family whose credit slip was bandied about the news had kept their own copy of their credit slip, and they did not, in fact, write the nasty message at all. It turned out that the waiter had written the disparaging remarks herself.

Welp. When I read the story in the Dallas Morning News on Saturday that some NRA attendees had been in Ellen's Cafe in Dallas and made vile, racist comments about the waitstaff and kitchen help, I thought immediately that this sounded wrong. I've been to NRAAMs before, and I know these crowds to be the most civil, courteous, and orderly crowds I've ever seen, so it rang false for me that someone went to the trouble of coming to Dallas for the NRAAM, only to be abusive of staff in a local restaurant. In fact, when I attended NRAAM in St. Louis in 2012, some of the custodial staff for the St. Louis facility told one of my party that they loved the crowd of this convention, because things were not torn up, and we didn't leave a lot of garbage behind. They specifically mentioned that we were the only crowd that didn't leave random beer bottles of urine around the place. So, yes, when the people who do the nitty-gritty of maintenance and clean-up after an event say that your crowd is good people, you can rest assured they are not embroidering on the truth.

In short: I didn't believe the restaurateur's claim that NRA members came in to his business speaking loudly and in offensive terms. It sounded made up to me, but I was also open to the possibility that there are outliers who are the bad eggs in the bunch of the NRA crowd. Something can be A truth about a member of a group that is not THE truth of all members of that group. Turns out that the owner of the cafe telegraphed his intentions more than a month before the convention. Even so, I do hope that no one attending the convention would have said the things he claims they did.

I won't be going to that restaurant, ever. I wish no ill upon the owner, Joe Groves, honestly. I think the best hope for American society is for people to learn how to get along, and I think this man has probably been dealing with a raft of blood-pressure-spiking stress for the past 48 hours and for the foreseeable future. I hope he learns a lesson. I am not piling on, here, and I hope that no one will read this post and go heap  more scorn on someone, even if they have earned some contempt. My greater point is that people need to be held accountable so they can recognize when they have been wrong, but there needs to be a resolution that is not merely his opponent caving in. He needs to do some serious soul-searching and realize that he made his own problem, and that maybe, just maybe, the NRA members are humans, too, who deserve to live life as they see fit, and that everyone doesn't have to agree on every little detail.

He has no business dictating the diminution of rights to which I am Constitutionally guaranteed. He and others who share his view that his deception was justified need to grow up and realize that other people have rights and valid reasons for their own points of view. I also celebrate his right to his own viewpoints, up until the point that he knowingly disparages a person or group of people to make political points. Then again, maybe he would prefer the type of patron who leaves beer bottles of urine on the premises of his business. It's a free county.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Made it to the NRAAM!

Parking was astonishing, to say the least, but we are here, happily. The crowd is massive, but this convention center seems much larger than those in Houston and St. Louis. I expected the street to be thronging with protesters, but I have only seen one with an anti-Trump shirt. I'm going to head out onto the floor and will post more updates in a bit.

For the record, this crowd is consistent with my past observation that the crowds at NRA Annual Meetings are the most polite, orderly, and calm groups of people you will see in any large venue. A large crowd is not a pleasant thing, generally, but this group is not so unpleasant as most crowds a fraction this side.

A happy reunion, and other musings.

It was great to gather with friends for a reunion meal last night in Dallas. We drank deep draughts from the meat faucet that is Texas de Brazil, whose food and staff were impeccable. It was great to see old friends, and to make some new ones. :) The parmesan chicken is as wonderful as I remember it to be, as is the wonderful picanha, which is technically top sirloin, I believe. After an appropriate cooling off period, I will look forward to my next visit to TdB!

In several hours, we will mosey over to the NRAAM, where I'll post some photos. We got to town too late to really go to the con yesterday, but it was exciting to see hundreds of motorcycle police from the motorcade near Love Field in town. 

I saw some clips online of Trump's speech at the NRAAM, and I hope he follows through with his commitment to preserve the Second Amendment. 

I am curious about the protest cohort that will be out and about tomorrow near the convention. I saw photos on FB of one sparsely-attended protest with signs that read "Nut-job Racist Assholes", "33,000 violence gun deaths/year",  and "21st Century Guns/ 18th Century Laws", among others. Winning hearts and minds, right? Considering about 12,000 of those gun deaths were law-abiding citizens protecting their own lives from attackers, it's not really rational to claim those deaths as random "gun violence", is it? I'd like to question the young lady whether she believes "18th Century Laws" on freedom of speech apply to what she says on the internet, which is a 20th century development. Finally, there might be some hideous racists who are members of NRA, but I am not aware of any, happily. Likewise, there are probably some vehemently racist people who are anti-gun, too. Something can be A truth without being THE truth, is my point. As for hate, the thing I hate most is the arrogance of someone who uses some extreme (or made-up) example as an excuse to why they should be allowed to impose on my Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. And the question of the killing of innocents really comes down to the flawed human heart-- the means by which murder is committed does not make one murder more heinous than another-- the murderer is culpable. The people killed in the bombing attacks in Austin, or killed by vans or trucks in Canada and Europe, or killed by the 9/11 attackers are not less dead because they weren't killed with guns. People being murdered by knife attack in London these days are not less dead than other dead people, and outlawing every bladed instrument on earth will not stop murder. The strict gun laws of France did not save the people murdered in the offices of Charlie Hebdo or the concert-goers in club Bataclan in Paris. People need to recognize the distinction.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Bittersweet.

Twenty three months ago on May 29, 2016, my friend Ray died. Many people knew him as the blogger Gay_Cynic, and he was a dear friend to me and many others in my blogger community for nearly a decade. Ray was a tireless advocate for a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the Second Amendment, and in addition to whatever other blogger gatherings our group could muster, we also met at the St. Louis and Houston NRAAMs. For the Houston NRAAM, Ray and I organized a gathering that was very well attended by many fine folk. 

One thing Ray and I were fond of doing was casting forward to think of how we would throw a big grand party for friends attending the NRAAM in Dallas, which happens this weekend. Rather than brood on the party that might have been, I have kept my head in my studies and tried not to think about it too much. But I know that he will be on my mind a great deal this weekend. He would have loved the fact that both the POTUS and Veep will be attending. He would have loved the dickens out of interacting with protesters, as he did to great comic effect at the Houston con. 

I know there will be a thousand instants when you will flash through my mind this weekend, Ray. I miss you. It won't be such a great party without you, but we'll muddle on as best we can. 

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Another semester nearly done.

I attend two classes tomorrow, then take a final literature exam Tuesday and do a presentation of my research paper in my rhetoric class on Thursday week, so I am nearly done. I have a tremendous amount of writing to finish. As usually happens when I should be writing, I get a spectacular amount of laundry done, dishes clean, etc. It's amazing how my industrial energy can be diverted from a task at hand. In any case, all shall be completed in eight days, and none too soon.

I will consider that I have roughly ten weeks off, as the last month before the Fall semester will be consumed with preparation for the English Composition classes I will teach this semester. I plan to get a lot of organization done on my house, and to get a great deal of gardening done. This is going to be a great summer. :)

But enough rambling: back to my writing!

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Favorite scene

I love the dickens out of Arya Stark, and this scene of her sparring with Brienne of Tarth is fantastic.
Someone had a little fun with the addition of light saber effect:


Then there's the bit where they rehearse:

Fun!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Overshooting the mark: journalism is in trouble.

On Saturday night, I was online watching a bit of the comedian who was the featured speaker at the White House Correspondents Dinner. In most years past, although all speakers take jabs at politicians and press in attendance, the spirit is generally one of detente, and the jokes that are made tend to skew to the friendly/jesting side of the spectrum, fostering a sense of shared purpose. One of the best examples of this was when George W. Bush took the podium to give some semi-humorous remarks with a comedian who bore a strong resemblance to him and who translated the remarks from the original. Bill Clinton also set a high bar, too.The effect was self-deprecating and good-natured, and set all at ease, because the occasion was actually to raise funds for scholarships for future journalists. Oh, and he and his impersonator managed to be, you know, actually funny without insulting anyone or venturing into blue territory.

Famously, President Trump skipped the second WHCD of his presidency for the second time. After all, he can hear punitive attacks from the media and celebrities-- ad hominem and otherwise-- 365 days per year, so why should he subject himself to being a captive audience to endure more of the same? If you want confirmation that he was right to skip the event, check out the video on YouTube that is entitled "Trump Destroyed by Comedian *name* at 2017 White House Correspondents Dinner." Apparently detente and gentle chiding are off the menu for WHCD. So, remind me again why anyone thinks Trump should attend? 

This year's WHCD was in keeping with the tone set last year by the WHCA with the 2017 speaker. When I heard the first jabs at Sarah Sanders, I thought "I guess Kathy Griffin wasn't available?"  As the comedian lobbed one vicious barb after another, it suddenly struck me that perhaps the comedian was actually hired by Trump to confirm what he has been telling the public about the extreme bias of the media, because her tirade couldn't have been a better campaign ad for Trump if she had begged people to vote for him in 2020. It turns out that she works on The Daily Show, which is an infotainment show that lazy people conflate with actual news, one that shills for whoever is running against a conservative for anything. Indeed, the comedy routine was so heavy-handed and polarized that I could just imagine how giddy Trump would be made by the bog-standard affirmation of what he has been saying all along about media bias. So, yes, I think she and whoever opted for a Daily Show writer for that occasion must secretly long for four more years of Trump, because this is part and parcel of how they will get four more years of Trump.

Then again, if the peace is confirmed to be finally brokered by Trump in Korea, four more years of this may not be a bad thing. 

ON FURTHER REFLECTION  (written one day later): Considering how much of Donald Trump's schtick was been predicated on yuge spectacles, this "roast" was probably in keeping with the political tenor of the times. I am a fan of vulgar humor, certainly, but I guess I am disappointed by the lowest-common-denominator face that is put forward by the WPCA. Although humor is notoriously difficult to write, it seems that the presentation could have been more sophisticated. If the goal was to shame or humiliate the president, I think that would have been more effectively done by out-classing him, rather than rushing to play the tune he's called out so effectively. Considering how the eyes of the international community are on the WPCA, vulgarian efforts to distance themselves from an embarrassing administration seem only to confirm that all strata of the American political spectrum are tacky and resolutely low-brow. 

Capybara zen

More varmint zen with this glorious video of capybara hot tub hijinks. These clever creatures luxuriate in this spa-like setting all the live-long day, and have even trained their human servants to throw fresh fruit into the water on which to snack. Sweet!


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Speaking of weasels...

I heard or read somewhere that a prominent biologist said that if weasels weighed 65 pounds, there would be no other living mammals left on earth. Amazing!

Friday, April 27, 2018

For your viewing pleasure:

I see this video and I want a desk weasel so desperately, and yet I know I can't handle a desk weasel. I have a 15 pound dachshund version of this thing, and I can't handle anything more small and wily than that. Admiring from afar will have to do for me, so here is a 2:38 interlude of desk weasel zen for all of us to enjoy:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

R.I.P., Bob Dorough

I was saddened to hear this week of the death of fellow Arkansas native Bob Dorough, who died April 23, aged 94. Most people will remember him one of the male voices of Schoolhouse Rock on television. He sang on some of the tracks, as well as composed all the Math pieces for that series, and for many of us, that is a soundtrack of learning some basics of math and grammar. While more people will be familiar with his Schoolhouse Rock work, I loved his tongue-in-cheek collaborations, like Blue X-Mas with Miles Davis, and the song he co-wrote with Dave Frishberg called "I'm Hip." Blossom Dearie did a wonderful rendition of that song, but my favorite is by John Pizzarelli:




R.I.P., Bob Dorough, and thank you for making music that makes me smile.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A few thoughts.

On Valentine's Day, a former student armed with guns murdered 17 people in a high school in Parkland, Florida. From March 2 through the 21st, a man sent home-made explosive devices to homes around the Austin area, killing two people and injuring five. Two days ago in Toronto, a man in a rental van ploughed along about a mile of pedestrian path, killing at least nine and injuring many more. What is the common thread running through all these stories, and how do they differ? Each one of these events was caused by a person who deliberately set out to kill as many people as possible. How they differ is the fact that many blame guns for the actions of the individual in Florida, but no one is protesting the manufacture and sale of the components of the home-grown explosive devices, and no one is screaming for more intensive screening processes for the rental of vans, either here or in Canada. The attacks in Austin and Toronto are a reminder that murder is caused by humans, and the method of delivery is really only a matter of semantics. So why are we bent about one method and not that bothered about the others, as a society? It is time that people focus on the real problem-- the human problem-- rather than the instrument of choice.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Broken links.

The blog links will come back, but I won't have time to track them all back down until the semester is over and the dust settles somewhat. I am grateful to my dear friend Kim for sending me my images from the blog so they could be reinstalled, because for yonks just had advertising on my blog from the place that decided to hold my images hostage. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Garden report

I can't believe how quickly this semester has evaporated. I have a great deal of writing to do to complete my tasks, but it is mostly pleasurable writing, and I hope to get at least half of it completed this weekend. I am much occupied with a handful of papers I must complete in the next two weeks, but I do have a handful of specimens I need to get planted before summer's furnace arrives (I predict we'll see it by the end of May). We've already had a couple days in the 90s, one day reaching about 97. Ugh. Still, my sympathies to our neighbors up North and East who seem to have been more piled under snow this year than not. Count your blessings, because the rest of us appear to be marching resolutely back to drought status, we lucky few who emerged from drought for a couple years.

This morning I planted a bronze fennel at the front corner of one of my rock gardens (around a boulder in the ground), and at the back I planted a lovely specimen of Agastache rugosa called "Little Adder." I think it's also called Anise Hyssop, and it is a variety of hummingbird mint. They are water-thrifty and heat-hardy, and the hummingbirds love the nectar of their flowers. Doubly-delightful, they have the most beautiful flowery/minty fragrance. I have one established hummingbird mint of another variety, and I have two more specimen to plant in the next week. I also planted a beautiful phlox in front of the porch.

My catmint is going bananas, so I'm cutting bits of it off and taking it to friends at school who have cats. It's a beautiful plant and has a lovely fragrance, too. My catmint is the Blue Wonder version, and it's beautiful. I'm thinking of planting a mess of it in another area, if I can figure out how to transplant new growth.

The new shoots are coming up on my Texas Star Hibiscus, and I am thrilled. Several perennials I planted last year have new growth coming in, and I can't wait to see how they do. Also, my Blue  Glow Globe Thistle from High Country Gardens is looking lush and lovely, and I can't wait for its spectacular blooms this summer. :) Also, High Country Gardens is a great resource for many varieties of Agastache (Hummingbird Mint), and that's where I obtained the specimen that I put in last year. I can't recommend High Country Gardens highly enough for their excellent specimens. Also, their website hosts a wealth of information on heat-hardy perennials with regional/zone breakdowns, and emphasis on plants for the particular pollinators you wish to attract (all of them!).

The upper photo is the new Agastache, and the lower one is the new shoots of Texas Star Hibiscus nestled among the canes from the previous year. Last year, there were about a dozen canes, and so far, I have counted over 30 canes of new growth. I'm leaving the other framework to protect the new shoots, since a neighbor runs their dogs through my yard. I'm just hoping I don't regret putting other new things in the area, because it's heartbreaking to toil over my flowers and then find they have been trampled.

What's growing in your garden? Please comment if you'd like to share how your plantings are progressing so far this year.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Trump pardons Sailor

So often we hear of activity that is borderline or simply outright illegal that is passed by a Grand Jury or that is not even prosecuted. In light of the fact that in recent memory the U.S. has had a sitting Secretary of State who was cavalier in her handling of the most sensitive of information, it seemed particularly chilling that a member of our armed forces would be prosecuted and imprisoned for an unwitting error. Indeed, the carte blanche enjoyed by HRC was unconscionable, considering how the life of Kristian Saucier and his family was upended, and all for a bumbling mistake. I am pleased that President Trump has pardoned Kris Saucier. Considering this is only the second pardon that Trump has issued, I heartily agree with how he is handling this privilege and responsibility.

Plant recommendation - Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop)

I have a few plantings around a boulder in my yard, and I was thrilled recently to notice that my hummingbird mint is already coming back. I had to spend about an hour weeding and prepping the area this morning, and this plant's fragrance is one of my favorite plant smells of all time. The fragrance doesn't smell so much like mint as it does a wonderful herbal smell. I would place it somewhere between lavender and mint, if I needed to put it on an olfactory spectrum. However you classify the fragrance, it is very light and fresh, and the fact that it attracts pollinators is just a bonus.

I obtained this specimen from High Country Gardens, who has a wonderful array of colors of hummingbird mint. I'm thinking of ordering a few more so that I have that wonderful fragrance all over the yard.

(In my photo, the hummingbird mint is the one in the middle. Not the best photo in the world, but this will be large quite soon, and I'll post an update.)

Early bloomer

My Raspberry Delight Salvia is already blooming, and this has never happened so early. I've seen quite a few large butterflies, and I'm ready for the garden to put on more of a show this year. :) Can't wait for my first glimpse of a hummingbird this year.

Monday, March 26, 2018

General blog disclaimer from phlegmfatale

In September 2002, I needed a creative outlet, and felt the need to begin some kind of record of the tenor of the times and how they affected my life in general. Over the years, my blogging has been sporadic, and no period moreso than in the past year. This blog was not planned, nor was it necessarily composed with future intent to read my archives, but if I should wish to, there they will be, I reasoned. Some of the commentary here has been related to things that were happening culturally and politically around the world and in the U.S., but mostly this blog's content has been a mishmash, and perhaps not a measure of anything but the world as I see it. The traffic stats seem to indicate that some folks have hung in and still check my blog occasionally, and for that I am grateful and I thank you for your interest. 

Undoubtedly, a critical eye cast back over these sixteen years of blogging would reveal that although I am essentially myself, I also have changed in some fundamental ways. I received my BA in May 2017, and I expect to complete my MA in 2019. I will post at length on my degree later on, but I feel the need to address the topic of the archives of my blog and their content and form. The archives of this blog are doubtless rife with errors of syntax and typography. I have been won over-- kicking and screaming-- to the camp of one space between sentences, but there must be many more egregious errors than that to be found within these myriad pixels. This disclaimer here is that if an error is in this blog, I made the error, and I'm not going to go back and edit the original work. They will stand as they are. 

I stand by what I have written, as well, but I do not claim that I have never written things from an emotional or ignorant standpoint. Like all humans, I am flawed, and hopefully my flaws are primarily quirky and charming, but I will not apologize for being shot through with the frailties that are the calling card of our species.

In summary: old stuff I wrote is probably flawed structurally and thematically. I'm not fixing it. Hopefully, I will do better in the future. Just call me a late bloomer.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: long overdue puppy post

Friday was National Puppy Day, so I think you deserve a peek at my little houndies. I can't believe the two elders will be 10 this year, and my baby wiener girl is 6, though with her white face, she sort of looks the oldest. Still, I will do all in my power to keep them in fine fettle for as long as possible.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

My thoughts stated perfectly by Ambulance Driver:

Kelly Grayson said this elsewhere on the web today, and I could not have said it more perfectly myself:

On kids protesting gun violence and demanding our leaders do something about it:
BRAVO.
Welcome to Citizenship 101, high schoolers. It is your birthright, and your DUTY to exercise your right to free speech and actively engage in influencing, and in a year or so, CHOOSING your political leaders.

Keep on doing what you’re doing. I’ll support you 100%.
But don’t expect me to actually buy your arguments, because you’re naive, ignorant of the subject, and have all the perspective of the world that you’d expect from a... high schooler.
And remember that, when the people who came before you felt it necessary to commit civil disobedience to make their points - and walking out of school, disrupting government proceedings and the conduct of business IS civil disobedience - they also suffered the consequences of that disobedience. They stoically (well, most of them) took their punishment, however unjust, and swayed public opinion with their courage. They eventually changed society.
You want to impress the people who think you’re entitled, pampered little snowflakes? Don’t ask for special snowflake treatment when you get into trouble.
And if you’re a parent, using your child as a sock puppet to advance your own political views? Shame on you for your cowardice.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The lesson from 9/11 that millennials have yet to learn: a call to resistance


If a young American person is lucky, she will grow up with parents who teach her about boundaries. These boundaries are founded on the principles of selfhood ranging from intellectual freedom, to the sanctity of one’s physical health and safety. However, the Nanny State tells her that everyone around her is responsible for her well-being, both emotional and physical, so they will put in place measures to protect her. These measures include legislative foam bumpers on social interactions to insure that she never has her feelings hurt, and gun-free zones that are meant to seduce her into thinking they have taken care of everything. However, the Nanny State represents itself falsely: they cannot guarantee our girl a life free of emotional pain from others, or that she will never be at the wrong end of a gun barrel. Fortunately for this girl, there is a relatively recent example in American history on which this she—and every American—may model their behavior in those off-script situations in which everything has gang aft agley: the case of United Flight 93, in which a group of people who faced certain doom determined to embugger the nefarious plans of evil people. This lesson is a prime illustration that passivity is useless, and that sometimes, we must risk the ultimate harm to ourselves to stop bad people in their tracks and keep them from harming possibly thousands more people.
On September 11, 2001, four commercial planes were commandeered by terrorists in a synchronized effort to inflict maximum damage and casualties on American institutions. Armed with razor-bladed boxcutters, a group of men on each plane killed the pilots and subdued the passengers. Two flights ended at the World Trade Center towers in New York City, resulting in the deaths of thousands in those buildings and all souls on the planes. One plane was crashed into the Pentagon to yet more disastrous effect. However, passengers on the fourth plane, United Flight 93, learned via phone calls to friends and family on land that the hijacking was part of a larger planned attack. They knew they were going to die, so they determined to do what they could to thwart the ultimate plans of their attackers. The story of those 33 passengers rushing the terrorists with little more than determination and brute strength is awe-inspiring, and they most likely saved hundreds or thousands of lives at whatever structure was meant to be the crash site for which the terrorists aimed. The heroes of Flight 93 did not need to be told about boundaries: their lives in the hands of people who were the mind-numbed products of defective cultures, Thomas Burnett, Jr., Todd Beamer, and Sandy Bradshaw, and their fellow passengers effectively said “not today, Satan. Not today.” They drew a line in the sky.
As a middle-aged woman completing grad studies at a state university, I have plenty of time to observe the behaviors of young people in hallways, common areas, and classrooms of my campus. I see many young people who do not lift their eyes from their device screens even to check for cars at crosswalks. Many students spend entire lecture periods paying attention only to a smartphone. These people are halfway checked out of their physical environs, often with situational awareness that would register in the negative range, if that were possible. Let’s call it a zero level of situational awareness. In fact, they seem unaware when mass shootings on other campuses have taken place, as though they could never be touched by such violence. These people are so immersed in their headspace that they seem less than fully present, mentally. Such people would be ill-prepared for an emergency situation, such as an active shooter, should one arise.
My mind keeps going back to the eternal question about the Jews and the Nazi death camps: “Why did no one resist? Why did no one fight?” The answers to these questions would probably be as baffling and heartbreaking as anything else about the story itself. In his superb book Ordinary Men, Christopher R. Browning tells of how during the Nazi terror in Poland, 8,000 Jews were loaded onto a train that was overseen by only 20 guards. Can you imagine this? That crowd of humans--even if only a quarter of them were of hearty health to resist--could have CRUSHED the guards, but they did not. Why do American students not rat-pile active shooters? Because they are told to be passive, to hide, to run, to hope for mercy or the dumb luck of the numbers that they will be missed by the shooter. When the subject comes up on campus, I ALWAYS tell my peers that if something like that happens near me, if I am a student or a teacher, I will do my damnedest to get to the shooter from behind and claw their eyeballs out. I could do better to stop the threat if I could legally carry a gun in that situation, but even with recent changes in state ordinances on campus carry, most buildings on campus proudly declare at every entry that they are gun-free zones, so I guess it’s down to me and my fingernails. All this is by way of saying is that even if I am the only one, and even if I must give my life in that situation to try and stop the threat, I will do so. I pray I am never tested in this manner, but in the hideous case that something happens, I at least have a plan, and I hope I can go on automatic and do what needs doing.
In this age of decrying the violent and sexually licentious among us, why is there no movement to inculcate all people with a sense that they have a right to defend their own bodies by fighting back, if necessary? I think I have the answer: for at least five decades, Americans—particularly males—have been punished for behaviors that would keep them in fighting trim for a self-defense situation. These behaviors have been lambasted under the umbrella of toxic masculinity in an effort to eradicate violence, and the net effect has been a more passive populace that relies increasingly on the Nanny State for everything. The circular effect here is readily apparent: even though a small number of physically adept student athletes could easily subdue and shut down the activities of a malicious actor on campus, they simply don’t. The bottom line is the narrative of hiding or running is not good enough. Being able to defend the physical bounds of the self is a Good Thing. Why is self-defense not becoming a part of school curricula at both high school and college levels? If school administrations make self defense martial arts part of their curricula, all members of the student body would benefit, particularly female students who take these courses.
Life is messy. Eggs will be broken. We none of us are getting out of here alive, but in a free country that eradicated polio on the planet and put men on the moon, it’s not too much to ask that every girl and boy can be in a state of choice about how they face their ultimate demise, if that demise presumes to violently present itself prematurely. Girls and boys and men and women need to think seriously about what to do in the event of unexpected violence, and how to act. It would be nice if we never had to think of this again, but these situations will not stop. And taking guns away from the NRA members who already abide by our Nation’s laws is not the answer any more than all Muslims are to blame for the extremists who killed thousands on 9/11. The instinct to defend one’s boundaries is not toxic, nor is it exclusive to men. Likewise, people who try to cross those boundaries with ill intent should be met with ultimate resistance. “Don’t let someone take your life without a fight” should not need to be said, but if it must be said, then drill it into the skulls of everyone around you. We are blessed to live in this time and this place, and no one deserves to take this away from us, and that goes for young people as well as for any adult here. When you see the ultimate evil, do everything within your power to resist it. Shoot it, kick it, or claw its eyeballs out, if that’s all you can do to stop it. To do less is un-American.


P.S., For additional information on meeting lethal force in kind, I highly recommend The Cornered Cat for information.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Literature this semester

I am delighted that I have to read some of my favorite literature for a class this semester, most notably Howards End by E.M. Forster. After so many hours spent reading stuff that feels like watching paint dry, it's a delight to read something enjoyable. Now I'm on to Sons And Lovers by D.H. Lawrence, which was tough sledding in the beginning, but which I am coming to love. Still, I will probably do my big semester essay on Howards End-- it is SUCH a good book, and one that I can't recommend highly enough. Lots of cheap copies may be found on ebay, by the way.


Speaking of bargains on books, since the professors in my graduate discipline are nice people, nearly all the books they require of us can be found used for a song on Amazon or ebay. This is a refreshing development after all the ridiculous books I've had to buy that were hundreds of dollars new, and often worthless almost as soon as the course was concluded-- could possibly be sold on ebay for $10. Meh.


Speaking of my favorite writers, Google informed me that today was the birthday of one of my favorites, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. I loved his writing, and especially One Hundred Years Of Solitude. So good. :)


Spring Break is next week, and this is the 8th week of the semester. I can't believe this one is nearly halfway over, but considering how enjoyable this semester has been, it WOULD hurry by, wouldn't it?

Monday, March 05, 2018

Speaking of gardening...

The U.S. Postal Service has a gorgeous series of stamps called "Protect Pollinators" and I picked up a sheet of them last week, and intend to get a few more before they are gone. They are "forever" stamps that will be good for one first class letter in perpetuity, even when the price of mailing a letter changes. For those of us who are concerned about our pollinators (and that should be ALL of us, since pollinators germinate the food that we eat, or the food that our meat eats), it's a beautiful way to wear our hearts on our sleeves or on our envelopes.



Sunday, March 04, 2018

A Sunday post of wondrous beauty

No credit to me, of course, but the wondrous beauty will come at the end in the form of a marvelous piece of music which I hope will delight you as it did me.


I've meant to post for ever so long, but life continues hectic in my Master's studies. This semester is a glory and a joy compared to last semester, but the work remains intensive. I am happy in my studies. Spring Break begins in about a week. Halleloo.


Yes, the banner and other images on my blog are being held hostage by Photobucket, who used to be so nice, but changed their policies so that a student like me can't afford to use them. I will try to get the images ginned back up in another form soon. In the meantime, pardon our construction.  Remember all those Geocities sites in the mid-90s with the "pardon our construction" place markers? Well, about 1/5th into the 21st century, that's about where I am with this thing. Will try to address that soon. Giant raspberries to Photobucket. UPDATE - Thanks to Himself for fixing the banner. More construction to follow, but at least we don't have the beastly photobucket shrieking all over the page now. :)


I am excited about my gardening for this year. My school schedule is such that I hope to have more time to get lots of healthy prep done, as well as plant quite a few more wonderful things in the garden. I don't use any harsh stuff on my yard, so in summer evenings, my yard is ablaze with fireflies, and I want to keep it that way. The fireflies here are not the big rascals of my childhood in Arkansas and the Ozarks. These are wee tiny little things, with much dimmer lights, but they are beautiful, and I have so many. My next door neighbors call me the firefly whisperer. I'll take it. :) A few more people wanted seeds to the Texas Star Hibiscus, and if you have not received them yet, I will be sending them to you tomorrow. Apologies for the wait, and I hope you will enjoy these wonderful things and have lots of happy blooms on them within a year or two. :) I still have enough to send out a few more, so let me know in the comments if you'd like some seeds.


So, for the wondrous beauty, I give you a glorious recording of Polorum Regina (Queen of Heaven) recorded by The Waverly Consort. There are several wonderful recordings of this setting of a 14th century text, but this recording is my favorite. The soloist has a glorious baritone that I could listen to all day. I hope this brightens your day. :)