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Showing posts from January, 2011

Thank Heaven...for Little Girls

It's so tiring to keep up with all the amazing developments in the Middle East. I need to come up for air and find something light.
This winter I am putting the cold dry air to good use by walking to downtown more than in the past. It takes about 40 minutes, the back way, which is mostly dirt single-track. How nice it is to have a trail in town. Walking in town, away from traffic, is more interesting than an artificial hike in a boring forest.
First we hung out at the coffee shop, where Coffee Girl (my kelpie dog) charmed the socks off 90% of the customers. (And I tend to think there is something wrong with the remaining 10%.) Then we headed over to the food co-op (blush) where I bought all of one thing. Today I decided to wait, since there were a dozen kids' bicycles outside; they were all inside, stocking up on something.
They all came out at once. Immediately a half dozen girls, 8-10 years old, were cooing and giggling and fawning over Coffee Girl, and oh (!) how she gloried i…

A Nation of Non-Wussies

The punditry and politicians in Western democracies are offering advice to Egyptians, as fast as they can type or talk. It is sheer presumptuousness. 
They offer noble-sounding platitudes about "orderly change" and "stability" and "dialogue." Who do they think the Egyptians are rebelling against: high-minded English of the Victorian Age? You don't get rid of a dictator by gradual reforms.
The fact that Western advice takes the form of meaningless platitudes shows that Western pundits and politicians are in denial -- no pun intended -- about the kind of government we have been sending billions of dollars to, over the last thirty years. It also covers their own crimes.
Listen to their sanctimonious advice about keeping demonstrations peaceful. Did America use a non-violent approach to throwing off oppression in 1776? What country did?
What gives Westerners the right to pass judgment on the Arabs' revolution? The only merit that Westerners can claim is c…

The Romance of Revolution

The excitement in the Middle East has forked up that mouldering compost heap of half-forgotten quotes that is this old man's mind. First I thought back to the Iranian Revolution in 1979 or 1980. A feminist from the USA went over to Iran -- why, I don't know. Did she really think that mullahs and ayatollahs believed in "You've come a long way, baby!", and that she would help craft a new society?
Maybe she thought she would at least get enough publicity to lead to a career as a professional feminist; after all, fellow travelers in the Media were eagerly hoping for a modern day version of Emma Goldman in the heady days of the Bolshevik Revolution. If memory serves, the American feminist was told to get out of Iran.
Other famous revolutions started coming to mind. What was that quote from the poet Wordsworth about the intoxication of hope in the early days of the French Revolution, and something about being young? I tried BrainyQuotes dotcom. What a worthless website! …

Echo of Gdansk?

The Iron Curtain was lifted about 20 years ago. If you are old enough to remember it at all, do you remember how unexpected, sudden, and easy it seemed? It didn't seem real. Why hadn't the possibility of Communism suddenly unraveling been predicted by the Media, presidential candidates, foreign policy experts, or learned professors?
Things are happening fast in the greater Middle East these days. Is it crazy to expect something really big to happen, despite the rather modest events so far? Remember how the protests in the Gdansk Poland shipyard started off modestly around 1981?
I don't think anyone should get carried away and expect Islamic countries in that part of the world to suddenly become "normal." People in the West might start reading wildly hopeful reports about no-more-torture, democracy, women's rights, legalized wine in restaurants, and scientifically-designed playgrounds for children, but recall that most revolutions end up under the thumb of some …

A Thousand Words

The other day I wrote about our financial problems in light of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. If nothing else it was fun to consider the irony, considering who the current president is.
But the other day I saw a word applied to our financial problems that I've never seen before: pensioners are cannibalizing the young. (Sorry, I forgot the source; it might have been A picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words. This was a case in which one word was worth a thousand words. This has never happened before to me, as a reader.
American Baby Boomers inherited the mightiest industry in the world; we bequeath a hollowed-out wreck. We frolicked in the freedom of the 1960s and 1970s; we leave the youngsters a militarized-security-police state. Our parents showed us what a stable nuclear family was like; we raised the young in a bombed-out divorce culture. Just think how cheap it was to go to college or buy a house when Baby Boomers were young; now look at …

Chilly Bicycle Ride

Ice sheet, bicycle shorts, and jersey drying out in the morning.

Four Paws Four Wheeling

When I first saw this machine invading my sacred grassland I was disgusted. But I only saw the machine, not the dogs. When I finally saw them and how much fun they were having, I walked over and had a long and friendly conversation with the fellow.  Is there any form of transportation that dogs don't love, as long as they can share it with their man? His machine was quiet and he was using the land respectfully.

Finch in Winter?

Recall that it's all I can do to maintain this blog's infallibility on sex, politics, and religion. So my bird identifications are prone to occasional error. The twigs and chilly finch made me think of all the brisk, dry, and sunny days we've been having this winter. My favorite winter.

The Politics of Pigskin

Suspense is building in the sports world, now that we're down to four teams in the football playoffs; except of course for a few soul-less philistines, anti-American Europhiles who prefer their version of "football", and millions of wives who prefer ice dancing at the Olympics to the NFL playoffs.
But the drama of athletic competition can be appreciated on another level: sometimes a sports championship captures the zeitgeist, the spirit of the Age. There was a classic and famous photograph of the Detroit Tigers winning the World Series circa 1984, as Detroit and the automobile industry were making a comeback from the most brutal recession in decades. More recently the New Orleans Saints starting playing well in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's destruction of that city.
Besides being a battle between Good and Evil, the upcoming contest between the Green Bay Packers (the Good) and the Chicago Bears (the... well, you guess) symbolizes the contest between two political…

North Africa

The world seems to have been caught by surprise by the revolution in Tunisia. For Netflix customers it was an excellent time to rewatch the movie, Battle of Algiers, made in the mid-1960s in Italy and Algiers. It is a remarkable movie that seems so timely today. Of course anything is an improvement over the American media's treatment of the "War on Terror."
It's been a long time since I gave any thought to North Africa. It hasn't exactly been insignificant throughout history: the Desert Fox in World War II, the Moors invading Spain in the Middle Ages, Carthage destroying Italian small farmers and then finally the Roman Republic in classical times.
Now we watch to see how pervasive revolution in Arab countries becomes. Israel must be the most nervous country about all this. It would be prefer to be surrounded by American client states. America likes to pretend it's pushing democracy in the Mideast, but real democracy would produce Islamic governments that were …

General Essay on the Yuman Condition, part 2

The vague discomfort that I always felt in Yuma overlapped in some way with how I felt around RVers in general. The whole thing seemed like a big revolving door. Every year there's a new crop of newbies with the standard notions. The romance of pretty scenery and escapism is not long-lasting; that and normal human aging soon put them on a lot in Yuma.

Recently Peter Yates died. He directed the movie Breaking Away circa 1980, about growing up in an Indiana college town, with a subplot about bicycle racing. The best speech in the movie comes from Dennis Quaid, who plays the ex-high school quarterback. (All of the boys are 19 year old townies, bored and unemployed, and not college-bound.) With some envious resentment they watch the college football team practice one day, when the ex-high school quarterback soliloquizes:

You know what really gets me though? Here I am, I've gotta live in this stinkin' town, and I gotta read in the newspaper about some new hot shot kid, the star o…

General Essay on the Yuman Condition, part 1

Recently I was commenting on someone else's blog when the subject of Yuma AZ came up. It is a snowbird magnet, as are Sun City and Green Valley. I rented a lot there during three winters. It was interesting to me to rethink Yuma because so many issues about retirement and relocation seem to coalesce there. 
Yuma is famous with retirees and snowbirds primarily because it is the warmest place in the southwest, although not as warm as south Texas or Florida. And there are practical advantages, such as low cost dentistas and farmacias right across the border in Algodones, one of the few border towns that won't frighten middle class gringos. Years ago Yuma was considered a bargain: you could buy a gravel lot and plunk down an RV for a few months, or you could even build a normal house, although living in Yuma for twelve months per year is a perverse idea.
On the negative side, Yuma is desperately congested in the winter. Just going to the grocery store can be a nightmar…

More Hoarfrost

2012 and Interstate 80

My sporting advice to liberals is to keep blaming Palin for the Tucson shooting, despite its apparent failure as shown by recent polls. Oh dear, here comes a military metaphor: they can fail tactically while winning on a strategic level. Attacking Palin solidifies the notion that she is the front runner, the heir apparent. If Republicans fall for this and "rally 'round the Palin", the liberals will end up getting the last laugh, since she is a weak candidate. 

Palin is unqualified, dumb, and unpresidential. Is it not obvious that Palin was chosen to fight the "tired old white guy" image that McCain had? (Think Bob Dole in 1996.) Also, the first (half) black candidate for president was generating a lot of excitement on the Democrat side, so the GOP didn't want to be completely left out of the affirmative action presidential sweepstakes.

I think that trend has become passe. The example of Obama will bring Americans back to the sensible notion that a half-term …

Why so Much Acrimony?

It is a common complaint, almost a cliche, that politics has become increasingly partisan and bitter over the last few years. Everybody bemoans this, but nobody does anything about it. The aftermath of the Tucson shooting -- more than the shooting itself -- seems to suggest a frightening political volcano lying dormant just below the surface.
For a sense of perspective let's look at a quote from Boswell's Life of Johnson, circa 1770. Johnson says: I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of government rather than another. It is of no moment to the happiness of an individual. Sir, the danger of the abuse of power is nothing to a private man. What Frenchman is prevented from passing his life as he pleases?It was easy for Johnson to make that argument. No matter how tyrannical a government was in his day, it could have only the smallest impact on everyday life compared to what it can do today, whether it be tyrannical or benevolent. The machinery simply didn't exi…

Bluebird Rivalry?

Why is the old boy on top conquering the female's heart? The lower male seems more colorful.

A Comeback in Round 2?

If, in the privacy of their own hearts, many Leftists jumped to conclusions or even felt a brief moment of dark glee upon hearing of the Tucson shooting, they shouldn't be blamed too much; after all, most restrained themselves while waiting for more evidence. The most notable exception to responsible behavior was Paul Krugman at the ever-shrinking New York Times. But that was expected.
After all, the Democrats took quite a "shellacking" in the midterm election, causing it to be compared to 1994. Naturally a shocking act of violence instantly brings to mind the Oklahoma City bombing, which Clinton was able to use to his advantage in becoming the Comeback Kid.
My advice to the Left is that they not be misled by seductive analogies. So far, Obama has shown none of the political acumen or good luck of Clinton. In the mid-90s, Talk Radio was the only crack in the Leftist hegemony over the Media. (Fox News didn't hit the big time until later in the 90s.) But today the intern…

Nice Tuft

I'm not any good at identifying birds in silhouette. But the tuft grabbed my eyes from a long distance, and he let me approach.
Update: the two commenters were right. It's a phainopepia. I forgot to check my own Picasa web album before giving up on the silhouette above:

What Happened to the 14th Amendment?

There should be more pundits and "news" sources that take a time-agnostic point of view: "Oh so that's what happened today, is it? Well who the hell cares." But the Media focuses on the trivial and ephemeral. I'm afraid the internet is just making it worse, with its obsession with how things are "trending", and with who's hot and who's not.
In the political news, the Media obsesses over tweaking this or that tax policy or government entitlement program to the Left or Right. When are we going to focus on something important for a change?! We live in a Democratic age, as opposed to the earlier era of an Aristocracy or Monarchy. We think that the very legitimacy of our political establishment is based on "the consent of the governed."
And yet, we have created trillions of dollars of debt or unfunded entitlement programs that will have to be paid by people in the years of 2020-2050 A.D. Some of them aren't even old enough to vote y…


What's that brown stuff behind this meadowlark? Oh that's right, it's snowless dirt, just after Christmas. How I wish the white stuff left by the recent storm would disappear. Snow might be marvelous when it is falling or recently fallen, but soon it turns ugly. Most of all I resent any restriction to my walking and cycling lifestyles.
The recent four inches of white powder is taking a while to melt off and I was getting cabin fever, so Coffee Girl and I walked to town. It was not fun. Nobody in this town bothers to scoop off their sidewalk. So we struggled with ice or packed snow the whole way. Every time a raven flew overhead, Coffee Girl would lunge at it and nearly pull me over onto the hard surface. The hatred of the Easterner for old snow (read, ice) came back with every step.
Finally we made it to the coffee shop, where we sat outside and watched drops melt off the awning and fall onto the sidewalk with a loud splash. They were backlit by a bright Southwestern sun. Th…

The Death Cry

When I first saw this photo of Coffee Girl (black) launching an attack on Gabby (neighborhood friend) I was disappointed that it was out of focus. But notice how focused the carabiner is, on the end of the red leash. Later I started to like it because it captures the frantic earnestness of dog play. You'd think that Gabby was screaming in agony, in her very death-cry, instead of enjoying play with her best friend. Coffee Girl is biting Gabby in the shoulder, the same location that the coyote bit my little poodle about a month ago, except that the bite left a two inch long gash.

What a Way to Start a New Year

(Photo looks better after clicking to enlarge.) The blizzard hit a couple days ago and here we sit, a hundred miles from the Mexico border, with four inches of powdery snow to frolic in. Which is happier: my dog or my camera? Never before has the water in the dog bowl frozen at night -- inside the RV, I'm talking about!