Monthly Archives: August 2011

Did You Ever Fake Reading a Book?

The e-newsletter  Shelf Awareness  occasionally includes author interviews where a standard question is “What book have you faked reading?”   This brought to mind something I can tell  now because I don’t think they can take my high school diploma back from me.

When we students who began school in the first half of the 20th Century in Portales, New Mexico entered Junior High in 1957, they explained a lot of what we had to get done during the next few years if we wanted to graduate from high school. If those years passed and we hadn’t done each thing on the list we’d be pumping gas the remainder of our lives.

Among the various academic requirements was Major Book Report every year. I didn’t see this as a problem up front. I was a heavy reader and couldn’t imagine a deadline arriving on that one without me nailing it in plenty of time.

But somehow the 8th or 9th grade came along and spang, there I was, with Mrs. Wilbanks standing before the class announcing day-after-tomorrow our big book reports were due. Suddenly I was in a panic. I’d read plenty of books, but none that came to mind as qualifying for a big book report. Those normally had to be cleared with the teacher ahead of time, which somehow slipped by me for one reason or another.

I don’t know what made me decide to invent a book that didn’t exist.  It seems insane all these decades later.  But I suppose  I concluded I just hadn’t read any Big Books after I went to the library and saw the lists of the ones other kids had been thumbing through and dogearing.

But I got out my Esterbrook fountain pen with the turquoise ink and set to work inventing a Big Book I’d read.  “Chessman”, by Borden Deal .  It was a good book and I regret Borden Deal never wrote it.  I turned in the book report on time and sighed thinking I’d cheated death one more time.

A few days later Mrs. Wilbanks brought the graded book reports in and prepared to pass them back, but she cautioned us to just look at the grades and corrections, then hand them back in.  They’d go into our permanent files with our other Big Book Reports until we graduated High School.

Then she pulled out a book report from the stack I could recognize from my desk near the back of the room.  Sloppy, turquoise handwriting on yellow paper.

I don’t give A+ on Big Book Rep0rts, but I’ve made an exception this time.”  She lighted up the room with her smile and gestured toward me with it while I sank into my seat.  “I believe this might be the best Big Book Report ever written by one of my students.”

Knowing that book report was up there hanging over my head as evidence bothered me a lot.  When I left Portales and headed for another school my 11th year, I hoped they’d let me carry my records so I could snag it, but it wasn’t to be.  Next year I changed schools again and again didn’t get an opportunity to steal it back.

Not until I graduated in 1961 did I again get my hands on my Big Book Report on “Chessman”, by Borden Deal.  I packed it away with all my other important papers and kept it until Y2K, when it went into the fire after one last read.

If you haven’t read the book I recommend you write it.  It’s a winner.

Old Jules

The Coasters – Charlie Brown

Déjà Vu All Over Again – Ways to Be a Good American Without Waving a Chinese-made Flag

Lose the God-Damned Bigotry or Quit Calling Yourself an American -You’re Walkin’ on the Fightin’ Side of Me


Paid for by Americans to Restore Freedom, Austin, TX 1970

A word in advance:  About the time Merle Haggard was reaching the top of the charts with “The Fighting Side of Me”, and “Okie From Muskogee” a war over forced busing was being fought in cities all across the country by good Americans.  The poster you see appeared on telephone posts, taped to the outside of doors, windows of public places, scattered on the streets. 

In 1970 a friend and I came across a guy taping one of these up near the University of Texas.  He had a ream of them beside him on the concrete.  We discussed it with him and his noggin required surprisingly little thumping to persuade him to give us all the posters and swear he would not do it anymore.   He didn’t have the strength of his convictions.

I suppose I kept a few of them  boxed up with other curiosities from  over the decades.

The administrator for this blog found a few of them among some boxes of scribblings and asked what it was all about.

Merle’s had a change of heart, repudiated a lot of what he said and did during those times, says we all make mistakes and we all eventually grow from having made them.  But interestingly, instead of vanishing from arena of public bias, the past two years has seen a re-emergence of surprisingly similar material intended to assist in denouncing the US president.

Being a good American and a good human being isn’t about waving a flag, hating Democrats or Republicans, Muslims, or people who say ugly words about political leaders.  It isn’t about fear, hysterical dialect, consumerism and waste.

Being a good American and a good human being is about personal responsibility.  About having enough confidence and courage not to feel threatened by every little thing.  About assuming the responsibility of not being part of the problem any more than is absolutely necessary.  About self-reliance.

Sometimes it’s not obvious how a person might accomplish those things.

  • On a personal level your life will find itself a lot better place if you can recognize the fact you are going to die as a means of exiting it.  Maybe disease, a car wreck, any of a thousand common ways that don’t have a damned thing to do with any foreign country, foreign leader, foreign war.  You are going to die.  No point in going into frenzies of terror and hate because the death you get stands a billion-to-one shot at being the act of a terrorist.  Trust me on that.  You are going to die, and I’ll only be the tiniest, most microscopic bit of a liar when I tell you it won’t be from anything any foreigner does  to cause it.
  • On a personal level you’ll find it’s a hell of a lot better place if you can learn what is your own business, and what isn’t.  If you can change it, it’s your business.  If you can’t, it ain’t worth concerning yourself with, getting all worked up about.
  • On a personal level you’ll find your life’s a lot better place if you spend considerable energies looking at it, instead of other places, looking at what you like about it, and what you don’t like about it, and changing what you can.  Looking in a metaphorical mirror at the sort of person you are and asking yourself if that is the sort of person you want to be.  You can’t change the kind of person the prez of bongobongoland is, but you can change the kind of person you are into someone you have more respect for.  No one respects a dishonest, hysterical coward, including you, when you see it in others.

If all of us could pull that off our own lives would be a lot better, and America would be a better place for it.  But insofar as personal responsibility and being a good American, we can expand on that a bit.  Here are a few things a good American might do without having to shout from the rooftops about what an admirable person he/she is:

Dependence on hydrocarbons is the ultimate problem of this nation you say you love.

  • Be conscious of your own energy use.
  • Every plastic grocery or garbage bag, every foam-plastic hamburger box, no matter where it was produced, drives up the price of oil.
  • Every time you fire up that hair-dryer you drive up the world-wide price of hydrocarbons.
  • Every made-in-China yellow ribbon ‘SUPPORT OUR TROOPS’ you buy to stick on your car drives up the price of hydrocarbons world-wide, increases the demand.
  • Every made-in-China flag made of nylon you wave drives up the price of oil and increases worldwide demand.
  • Every new plastic radio, CD player, computer monitor.  Every plastic wrapper from that frozen pizza pie.  Every cellophane cover and foam plastic bottom covering the piece of animal you’re having for supper and sending to the landfill afterward is driving up the world-wide competition for oil.
  • Sure, there are the other obvious things.  The things Jimmy Carter used to beg you to do when he was prez, to help you quit relying on foreign petroleum products.  Turn down the heater.  Turn up the thermostat on the AC.  Don’t drive anymore than you have to.  Which, of course, you didn’t care for then and immediately forgot when he left office (which is part of the reason you’re in the fix you are in now.)

But there’s a lot more to being a good American, as opposed to a good human being.  Here are a few more ways you could try to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem:

Quit buying ANY foreign product if you can avoid it.  Even if it saves you a few cents.  Just say no.  Refuse and make it clear why you’re refusing.  If US workers didn’t manufacture it and you can live without it, don’t buy it.  If your old one’s broken buy a replacement used in a thrift store, garage sale or flea market.  If it can be repaired take it to a local appliance repair shop and let a US worker repair it.  Every dollar you spend on a new foreign-manufactured product reduces the value of the dollar you’ll get next paycheck because of the overwhelming trade deficit.

If this country is going to survive another century the population is going to have to begin manufacturing what it consumes, energy-wise and every other wise.  Building hamburgers to sell back and forth to one another isn’t enough to keep a country sound.

Americans are going to have to produce products, and the other Americans are going to have to buy them.  We can’t continue indefinitely sending our chunks of our trade deficit off to bongo-bongo land for petroleum, to China for plastic bags, television sets, seat covers and rubber monster toys.  We can’t starve out our farmers by buying agricultural products from Mexico and Argentina.

Being a good American involves a hell of a lot more than getting angry when some foreigner says something ugly about it.  Loyalty to America and Americans is about keeping America alive, productive, self-reliant, healthy economically.

If we can do those things we’ll find we’re spending a lot less time hurling empty rhetoric back and forth, hating the owners of bongo-bongo land oil, a lot less time bombing the hell out of foreign lands, a lot less angry and full of fear and hatred.

And we wouldn’t need to wave flags to prove we were good Americans.

Old Jules

MERLE HAGGARD – Fightin’ Side Of Me

Afterthought:  Tffnguy’s got a rant on similar but not identical subjects you might find worth a read, along with comments by a number of oldsters on my blogroll.

Drought, Starving Wildlife Stewardship and Paradox

Looking for solutions

There’s an irony in this picture.  Gale, the man feeding the deer, owns this 300 acres I live on.  One of the reasons he originally bought it had to do with the passion for hunting he spent most of his life following, which, 40 years ago was a passion we shared and was one of the ties leading to our becoming friends.  Between us we’ve killed more large mammals than either of us can remember, though I don’t recall we ever hunted together.

Each of us following the routes our lives took us gradually and independently lost any interest in killing any more if it could be avoided.

Which is still a long way from sitting on a rock feeding tame deer every evening.  I’ve never arrived there.  I’d far prefer the deer staying out in the woods tending their own affairs and leaving me to tend mine, which they refuse to do.

Now, along comes the extended drought.  Today he’s feeding a herd of 30-40 starving deer up there, spending $100 + per month on corn, range cubes and hay.  If he tried to feed them enough to get them beyond near-starvation he’d bankrupt himself doing it.  He’s picking cactus tines out of the lips and noses of his tame deer because they’re so hungry they’re trying to eat prickly pear cactus.

I’ve got another 20-30 down here I’m not feeding intentionally.  ‘Mine’ are so desperate for food they constantly hang around waiting for me to feed the chickens, refuse to be run away further than I can throw a rock, and even come onto the porch for the cat food when any is left outdoors.

But watching a herd of deer starve to death, whether you’re feeding them and given them names, or are just some guy trying to mind his own affairs and have them forced on him as unwelcome guests, is a troubling position to be in.  A few days ago he and I were discussing it trying to come up with some means of providing them more to eat without him having to spend a lot more money doing it.

Eventually it came to me people in Kerrville are probably still mowing their lawns, bagging the grass clippings and putting them out on the curbs to be picked up by the city.  We talked about this a while and considered the fact the bags of grass ferment when sealed, creating a feed we’ve both been around called silage, which livestock love.

Next time either of us goes to town we’ll be looking at lawns to see if we’re right in believing they’re still watering grass and mowing it.  If they are, I’ll soon be putting up a post on Kerrville FreeCycle Yahoo Group asking if any of them would,

  1.  be willing to allow a trailer to be positioned on their lots where others could bring bagged grass clippings so we could haul them off weekly or a couple of times per month to feed the deer, and
  2. if such a lot and such a trailer were in place in Kerrville, would they be willing to carry their clippings there instead of just to the curb in front of their homes.

But this mightn’t work, and even if it works it’s only a partial solution to the problem.

I’m looking for ideas and information.  You others living in drought-stricken areas, do you have any idea what, if anything, locals with starving deer populations are doing to supplement their feeding?

Any ideas or experiences that might lead to even interim or partial solutions will be appreciated.

Thanks,  Old Jules

Money isn’t the solution to this problem, but the performance in Cabaret does seem apropos somehow:

Cabaret- Money

White Trash Repairs and Fixes – Owls and Rock ‘n Roll

[Plus Gregorian Chants, Chuck Wagon Gang Gospel, Navajo flute, Beethoven’s 9th, Mozart Horn Concertos, old-timey country, cowboy and hillbilly, bluegrass,  big band, folk, blues and songs of the Civil War, WWI and WWII thrown in for the discerning night predator]

Bear with me here.  This is a bit complex for a dumb old redneck to explain.

The problem:  If you’re a person trying to keep free ranging chickens some of them will insist on sleeping in the trees.  If you also keep guineas, all of those will nest in the trees.  The guineas tend to bunch up in several clumps in the treetops, and they whisper and burble to themselves or to one another in their dreaming.

Enter, the owl:

“An Owl’s range of audible sounds is not unlike that of humans, but an Owl’s hearing is much more acute at certain frequencies enabling it to hear even the slightest movement of their prey in leaves or undergrowth.

“Some Owl species have asymmetrically set ear openings (i.e. one ear is higher than the other) – in particular the strictly nocturnal species, such as the Barn Owl or the Tengmalm’s (Boreal) Owl. These species have a very pronounced facial disc, which acts like a “radar dish”, guiding sounds into the ear openings. The shape of the disc can be altered at will, using special facial muscles. Also, an Owl’s bill is pointed downward, increasing the surface area over which the soundwaves are collected by the facial disc. In 4 species (Ural, Great Gray, Boreal/Tengmalm’s & Saw-whet), the ear asymmetry is actually in the temporal parts of the skull, giving it a “lop-sided” appearance.

“An Owl uses these unique, sensitive ears to locate prey by listening for prey movements through ground cover such as leaves, foliage, or even snow. When a noise is heard, the Owl is able to tell its direction because of the minute time difference in which the sound is perceived in the left and right ear – for example, if the sound was to the left of the Owl, the left ear would hear it before the right ear. The Owl then turns it’s head so the sound arrives at both ears simultaneously – then it knows the prey is right in front of it. Owls can detect a left/right time difference of about 0.00003 seconds (30 millionths of a second!)

“An Owl can also tell if the sound is higher or lower by using the asymmetrical or uneven Ear openings. In a Barn Owl, the left ear left opening is higher than the right – so a sound coming from below the Owl’s line of sight will be louder in the right ear.

“The translation of left, right, up and down signals are combined instantly in the Owl’s brain, and create a mental image of the space where the sound source is located. Studies of Owl brains have revealed that the medulla (the area in the brain associated with hearing) is much more complex than in other birds. A Barn Owl’s medulla is estimated to have at least 95,000 neurons – three times as many as a Crow.

“Once the Owl has determined the direction of its next victim, it will fly toward it, keeping its head in line with the direction of the last sound the prey made. If the prey moves, the Owl is able to make corrections mid flight. When about 60 cm (24″) from the prey, the Owl will bring its feet forward and spread its talons in an oval pattern, and, just before striking, will thrust it’s legs out in front of it’s face and often close it’s eyes before the kill. Click here to see a Great Gray Owl using it’s hearing to catch a small rodent concealed under snow.”

Got all that?  The feathered cones or funnels around the eyes of the owl act as parabolic sound receivers.  They work in concert using parallax to locate the positions of prey.

In a sense it works similarly to an array of electron telescopes  positioned some distance apart to provide parallax to measure the distance from earth to celestial objects.

Or the way this vintage pocket range finder used parallax to accurately provide distance for photographers:

Okay.  So how’s a poor old redneck who has guineas sleeping in the trees being picked off by owls carrying secret weapons, a guy who has four cats he needs to consult regularly on important matters, a man with a herd of free ranging chickens supposed to curtail such nonsense?

Answer:  Echoes.  Noise reflected from all directions 24/7.

I began by looking for castoff disk harrow blades, woks, pot lids and parabolic tv dishes and placed them in strategic locations around the place.

At the time my CD player would only take five CDs, so until the player wore out it was Gregorian Chants, Mozart Horn Concertos and Carlos Nakai Canyon Suite [Navajo flute] here day and night, outdoors maximum volume.  But by the time that player went Communist,  months had passed and I hadn’t lost any more guineas at night.

So there I was knowing how to keep the owls somewhere else, owning a couple of hundred CDs, but cats, chickens, guineas all mutually agreed on one point:  it was time to broaden my horizons music-wise.  Even the coyotes were sick of Mozart and the cats were beginning to open confessional booths for the chickens.

Enter the Coincidence Coordinators:

A lady on the Kerrville FreeCycle Yahoo group advertised she’d like to give away a Sony 200 CD disk player because she was using an MP3 or some such thing for her music.  I called her and made a special trip to town to pick it up, swing by the Habitat for Humanity Recycling Store to buy an old receiver and a pair of speakers large enough to wiggle the ears of the deer population.

Eventually that player wore out.  But as luck would have it, I found a 300 CD player at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and a willingness on the part of the guy at the counter to do some horse trading, which I’ll describe another time, that horse trading in thrift stores.

Yeah, it ain’t the way the smart alecs save their chickens from predation by owls – I don’t know how they do it.  But this old white trash redneck fixed them owls but good and the chickens and cats are in Rock and Roll Heaven.

Old Jules

 Rock and Roll Heaven by the Righteous Brothers

News from the Middle of Nowhere

El Palenque

El Palenque doesn’t think;
Knows his only job
And does it;

Perfection without

Old Jules copyright 2003 NineLives Press

Escape artist

Unless the Great Speckled Bird is closed up in the other pen so the younger roosters can’t open a can of whoopass on him I keep them separated here:

”]and every night deer, coons and other critters break into the cage for leftover feed or as a possible access to the fortress.  Before I let the two roos into the pen at daybreak each day I go around the base and make repairs with wire pinchers and tie wire.

And every few days this guy finds a way out.  So I herd the Great Speckled Bird off to the other pen for his own protection.

Mr. Leon Trotsky, I swear to you, is pushing his luck.


Meanwhile:  My personal


for the most ironic news item:

Quick News: American flags made in China


A couple of other blogs I especially enjoyed today:

Old Fools Journal: Toast or How I sometimes make briquets using the “Lot of Smoke” method.

Cardboard Reality Interventions #237 – The Outaspaceman



Swatting Flies in the Last Century

A letter to 6 year old Julia in Kansas before Y2K:

Sunday, Nov. 7, 1999
The Great Divide

Good morning, Julia.

I’m sitting here in the cool dawn, sipping a cup of coffee, listening to the chickens crow and being heckled unmercifully by the blacks for favors. The two polish roosters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are beginning to try their hands at crowing without notable success. They tend to be off on their time and they cut the crowing short of the ur-ur-urrrrr of the more mature birds.

But enough of this chicken news.  I began writing this to discuss the subject of fly swatting with you, certainly a more worthy focus of discourse when watching the birds in their activities, which reminded me how gratified I was by your interest in the various flock members during your visit. So I’ll finish the chicken component of this letter by saying you are right to be interested in them.

The importance of chickens in human life, now and in the past, cannot be over-stated. Even the great human philosopher, Plato, in the Socrates dialogues, put mention of a chicken in the final words of Socrates, prior to his death. Socrates, pacing, reflecting, and finally on the verge of succumbing to the hemlock he’d taken, spoke abruptly; almost as an afterthought, to Crito, (one of his yes-men): “Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Please pay without fail.”

So there you are. In fact, one of the deeper philosophical questions of this and earlier times contemplated by wise men everywhere is, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Why, indeed. However, as I’ve said, the subject of this letter was intended to be fly swatting, not chickens, and I’ll not have it compromised by endless meanderings on lesser matters. The prowess with the flyswatter you demonstrated during your visit demands nothing less.

I’ll begin by saying that when I was a youngster (back when the 20th century had only begun its interminable mid-life crisis), it was widely, almost universally,  recognized that children are far more adept at killing flies than are adults. Probably because of their lightning reflexes and sharper eye. This wisdom has suffered neglect partly because of screen doors, refrigeration, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and other curses of modern life.

In my day, anytime there was a gathering of adults for dominoes or canasta, picnics or outdoor parties, even if there was only one child present, he would quickly be given a fly swatter and put to the task. When more than one child was present, usually it was thought that the rowdiest, most rambunctious child, the one most likely to lead the others to acts of courage, bravado, or cunning, would be the best suited to ridding the affair of the fly nuisance.

I can promise you that in those days my fly swatting skills were second to none. However, over the years I’ve lost my razor edge. My reflexes are no longer as sharp, and the keenness of eye is largely gone, as the case with most adults.

Of course, the proper tools are also the victims of disuse. There were giants in the earth for fly swatting tools back then. For a dime you could purchase a fly swatter with a limber wooden handle and a flap of heavy rubber or leather that was equal to the most severe fly nuisance. My granddad had one he’d made himself of tooled leather that could sometimes send three or four flies at once off to the hereafter.

In those times the fly problem was probably worse than it is today. I’ve never seen it happen, but I was told many times by adults who had themselves seen it, of incidents where a child lapsed in the task he’d been assigned, fell behind, and was actually carried away by swarms of the angry insects.

Anyway, I’m sitting here, a burned-out has-been in the fly swatting arena, hoping to give you a few tips – the old worn out champ passing on a few tricks to a future talent who is yet a novice. Even with the fly swatting tools available in stores today, I firmly believe you can hone the skills with diligence and patience to become, as Marlon Brando coined the phrase in, “On the Waterfront”, a contender.

First off, it’s important to recognize that flies frequently jump backward or drop downward in their efforts to elude the slap. If you anticipate this and lead them a little, you’ll find what would otherwise have been a useless swing that did little more than knock over a lamp or a porcelain knick-knack, will result in the satisfying trophy of a fly in the dishwater or in a large bowl of coleslaw underneath the target area.

Secondly, you need to always keep in mind that while fly killing is a high priority to adults when they put you to the task, the priority invariably changes when they see a dead fly dropping into their drink. So, unless you do it unobserved, I’d suggest you’ll be more widely acclaimed for your skills if you steer well clear of anything but the most subtle or inadvertent trajectory of a defunct fly into any food or drink which is in view of an adult or older child who can’t be trusted to remain silent in the shared joy of secret knowledge. Most can’t, I myself learned in the hard school of experience.

Thirdly, the swing, or swings. Usually the fly swatter, (the tool, not the child wielding it) works best with short abrupt flicks of the wrist from an area only a foot or so above the insect. With the lighter tools of today’s world, the swing probably needs to be handled with vigor and with a little attention to the follow-through. On a window or other surface where the flies are thickly gathered, sometimes a series of rat-tat-tat slaps can net a goodly pile of carcasses and numbers for your growing record book.

Keep in mind that even on days when you are approaching previous records, adults are unlikely to be impressed when a previous record broken is accompanied by fly remains smeared across the front of the refrigerator or permanently embedded in a window screen. Fly killing is a matter involving politics, philosophy, and judgment, as well as the keenness of eye and lightening reflexes mentioned earlier.

I suppose the thing that got me started thinking of writing you about flies is the abundance of them in this house the last couple of days. I don’t know why. Usually they are attracted to areas where there’s livestock. But here there is no livestock. Just the three cats, the chickens, and myself.

You might tell your mom and dad I’ve been using my wood stove the last couple of days. It’s enough to roast a human out of the house with a single large log burning on a cold night. But getting it hot enough to cook food requires a lot of smaller wood. With large logs inside it won’t boil water between now and the day you, Julia, become the bride of some fortunate suitor.

Your dad will want to know the thing I went through the wall with did fine with normal fires, but when I determined to stoke it full of small wood for a breakfast fire and coffee this morning it charred the paper front on the insulation around the outer pipe. Of course, the stovepipe was glowing red through that episode, which is to be avoided.

You might also mention that trying to erect a stovepipe along a wall by one’s self is a thing you haven’t really lived until you’ve done. Cartoons used to show shanty houses with zigzagging stovepipe. I never knew why until now.

Hanging the kitchen cabinets alone was also one of those experiences which, like the man who decided to carry a cat home by the tail, will most likely remain burned in memory for a while.

I’m not inclined to regret anything in my recent past and hope I never will. The person I now am differs from the person I was at your age as a result of cumulative lessons I’ve learned from choices I’ve made between that time and this. However, there’s nevertheless a temptation to gnash my teeth a little for not having taken advantage of your dad’s kind offer to help with the electrical wiring from the windmill, solar panels, inverter, and batteries, into the house. I’m reminded of that offer each time I fiddle with the connections and the hidden short somewhere shuts down the inverter.

Hmmm… this letter has gone on and on. There’s nothing particularly personal or confidential about it, except the tips on fly killing, so feel free to share it with your family. Or keep it until you are able to read better and read it yourself.

Best wishes to your brothers and your mom and dad.

Old Jules

Note from Julia in 2008:
I honestly don’t remember this at all. This is by far the best letter ever written to me, I’m just glad I can read it and appreciate it now!
~ Julia

Burl Ives– Blue Tail Fly

Who Has Been an Inspiration in Your Life, and Why?

I’m not an admirer of human beings as being particularly inspirational, on the whole.  Yeah, a lot of human sentences find themselves trapped between quotation marks in fragments people find supportive of viewpoints that won’t stand on their own hind legs.  Pithy wisdomoids giving authority to vapid premises.  Often this does happen in a synthetically inspirational context.  But the sources of those quotes usually don’t appear so wise or unblemished under careful scrutiny.

Maybe ‘inspirational’ isn’t the appropriate word to capture the concept I’m hoping to convey.

Maybe ‘has had an influence on your life you believe helped you to be a person you came nearer admiring than the one you were previously’ would more accurately describe it while filling the need for cumbersome rhetoric.  The inspiration derived from firing wisdomoids back and forth at one another isn’t made of the strong stuff I’m trying to communicate.

For instance, I used to be acquainted with a Vietnam vet, who lived in an Econoline van in Albuquerque.  He had a route of parking spots and a time schedule he’d follow to hang around each place for a while.  The street guys who were dumpster-diving knew his schedule.  They also knew  he’d pay a fair price for  anything he could get his money back on that they’d salvaged out of the trash.  After making his rounds, the Econoline would head to the flea market and he’d sell first to the crowd, then whatever was left to the flea market merchants.

By reselling it from homeless guys dumpster-diving, he provided them a means of getting some cash for a lot of things they’d have no way to sell  for themselves, or would have had a lot of difficulty getting more than a few cents for.  His route superimposed an economic network devised to offer those submerged in hardship a trickle of income, a safety net.  He provided a valuable service.

But what I particularly admired was that, when he came across someone he believed was ready to try drug or alcohol withdrawal he’d pack them up in the van and head off somewhere to the middle of nowhere, usually a small town with a restaurant or grocery store where he could pick up food and supplies. Once out of the city environment, he’d keep the addict in the van a week, two weeks, a month, drying them out, getting them clean, being there for them.

I came across him once parked at Vietnam Memorial Wall park in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  I didn’t realize at first what I was seeing.  I just saw his van with the white Ministry sign roughly painted on the side and recognized it and him outside it.  I stopped to chew the fat with him, then heard the moaning in the Econoline.  He caught my eye and shrugged.

“Trying to kick smack.  He’s on his second week.  It ought to start getting better in a few days.”  The odor of vomit, urine and human excretions was strong near the truck, so we drifted further afield as we talked.  Probably he was used to it, but I wasn’t.

Christian guy.  One of the Christians I’ve known that kept me believing there are honest-to-goodness bona fide Christians in the world.

I surely admired his guts, his determination and compassion.  There’s a lot about him I’d admire in myself if I looked inside me and surprised myself finding it there.

Nice to come across a Christian occasionally who isn’t all hat and no cattle.

I wonder what Jesus thought about sin.  Jesus did his talking about loving neighbors, compassion, peace-making, mercy, that sort of thing.  Hardly said anything about sin.  If he could speak his mind today I wonder if he’d forgive Saul of Tarsus the way he did Judas.”  Josephus Minimus

Here are a couple of blogs you might find of interest:

Urbandumpsterdiver’s Blog

Doing It Homeless

Old Jules

Kingston Trio-Reverend Mr. Black

John Lennon– Cold Turkey

Learn a New Language with YouTube

Hi blogsters:

I rarely talk to young people, though I’ll confess to craftily observing them when I can, watching their interactions reflected in a plate-glass window, sneakily watching them at another table in a restaurant, trying to hear and understand what they’re saying.

The problem is, mostly I can’t understand what they’re saying.  As the years have progressed I’ve noticed that, even in convenience stores and fast-food joints I often can’t understand the simplest thing that’s being spoken.  I tilt my head, ask them to repeat, explain I’m a bit hard of hearing and ask them to repeat again, and finally usually give up and just smile and nod ‘yes’ if that seems it might be appropriate.

I don’t believe it’s entirely my hearing doing this.  I think there’s something new and different going on with language, but more importantly, inside the heads of people who sound as though words should be spoken through a mouth full of something, and really fast.

Mostly I don’t have a clue.  Frequently my curiosity taunts me.  I don’t know who these people are.  I don’t know what, nor how, they think.  To me it would be easy to merely mutter to myself, these kids are incredibly stupid, illiterate, and so whacked-out on television and public school brainwashing it’s a wonder they can function at all.

But I’m trying to insist to myself that the human race hasn’t truly devolved all that much in only a couple of generations.  These aren’t subhumans, though it would be easy to conclude they are, based on a lot of their mannerisms and behaviors in public.  I think these creatures probably think and feel, but that they don’t express those thoughts and feelings in ways that allow me to fathom them.

Enter, the blessing of YouTube.  When they aren’t too long, it rarely takes more than half-hour download on my dial-up.  But it’s a chance to actually decipher something one of those people thinks, feels and expresses, in a way that bypasses the mouth full of marbles and the speed with which the words come to the fore.  Once it’s downloaded it can be repeated until near-understanding arrives.

Old Jules

Steve Goodman– Talk Backwards [Edit: hope one of these links will work better]

(Cee Lo Green) “Fuck You” sign language performance

Note: Thanks to Monique Maes for her photo.

Four Limericks on Life

He goes by the surname of Fauna;
From platypus to the iguana:
He hunts and he stalks
And he ceaselessly talks
Of death and the killing he want’ta.

She goes by the surname of Flora.
She’s plankton; she’s trees, a plethora,
But lives in a dread
Avoiding his tread;
He’s Sodom; he’s death; he’s Gomorrah!

He eats, he digests, he excretes her;
She’s worried each time that he meets her.
It’s not so dismaying
To find him decaying:
His syrup of nitrogen treats her.

Submerged in a hostile reality
Humanity flirts with finality.
He yearns to transcend
But his carnal self wins
And he wastes all his life in banality.

Old Jules

Copyright © NineLives Press, 2004


Interesting aside:

“The midnight sun is a sore trial for amateur astronomers in the high North,” says Fredrik Broms of Kvaløya, Norway. “But now, after a long summer without stars (save one), darkness is falling again. Last night when I was watching the beautiful conjunction of Jupiter and the Moon, the first auroras of the season suddenly appeared!”

“I am looking forward to a great season with lots of activity on the sun!” says Broms


GEK, the friend who owns this place is going into high gear preparing for the Hatch Chili Festival coming up soon in Hatch, New Mexico.  Last night he sent me a pic of his latest creation involving Siberian wolf fangs:


Upcoming White Trash Repairs Project – Soon to be a nesting box

Getting the guts out of there without destroying the aesthetics is the challenge A layer of dead leaves or horse bedding chips in there and the Great Speckled Bird explaining the operation, they'll be right at home.

“Life after death will take care of itself howsomeever it plays out.  Finding something useful to do with yourself when the future passes you up without volunteering yourself for the burn pile is a this-lifetime matter worthy of concern.”  Josephus Minimus

“I am a Long Tall Texan” – Bob Luman

The Rez – “Where commodity cheese rules!”

Johnny Cash– Ballad of Ira Hayes

I was browsing Native American forums, blogs and websites, reading about ethnic supremacy.  One NA has a signature mentioning the Navajo Rez, “where commodity cheese rules!”

Don’t get me wrong.  The NAs on those sites weren’t complaining about all the privileges they get that non-Native Americans don’t.

But the accusations and complaints about racism in this government and among non-Natives got me thinking on the subject.

Ethnic supremacy manifests itself in a lot of ways.  Including patronizing, providing special privilege and freebies for no explainable reason.

I had to conclude, after thinking on it a while, they are absolutely right.  I can’t fathom any other explanation than ethnic supremacy for the commodity cheese, health care, tax-free land, and all the rest:

  • Do you (and your government) believe Native Americans are stupid?
  • Do you believe after more than a century of generations being schooled the same as your own children, that Native Americans are more ignorant than non-Native children when they come to the legal age of maturity?
  • Do you believe they are lazy and irresponsible?

I’ll bet you answered no on all counts.


So think about it.

Why are you providing Native Americans free commodities you have to pay for?

Why, exactly, do you believe Native Americans can’t get jobs, same as you do, to pay for their own food?

Why do you provide them roads and schools on the reservations with your tax money, when you have to also pay for the roads and schools in your own communities?

Why, exactly, do you believe Native Americans can’t pay taxes to build schools for their children and roads in their communities with their taxes the same as you do? 

Why do you believe they shouldn’t pay property taxes on their lands, same as you do?

You have to worry, try to find health insurance, pay for dentists, plan and save, give up other things so you can assure when you or your kids get sick there’s a doctor, a hospital.  Braces for their teeth, dentists to drill the cavities.

Why do you believe Native Americans can’t provide for their own health and dental care, same as you do?  Save, sacrifice, plan.  Same as you have to do in your own life?

The reason is obvious enough.

You are an ethnic supremacist. Somewhere inside yourself you believe now, today, Native Americans are more ignorant than you, less intelligent, less responsible, shiftless. 

Almost 150 years after your ancestors finished killing off as many as they could catch and sending the surviving ancestors of the ones living on the Rez today to live on reservations you’re still thinking of them exactly the way your ancestors thought of them.  Still telling them indirectly there’s something primitive inside them keeping them from being able to function in a modern world.  Still telling them they’re victims, even though they were born naked same as you and I were.

You believe they are a bunch of lazy drunks and can’t work, can’t plan, can’t take responsibility for their own lives.

No matter how much you pad it with sensitivity and phony warmth, with sentimentality and fantasies about how sweetly they love the land, with excuses about how badly men who have been dead centuries treated other long-dead men, the bottom line is you believe they can’t make it the same way you do. 

If you didn’t believe they were all those things, you’d scream to high heavenInstead, you wrap yourselves with good feelings about all that’s being done for the NAs.  Give yourselves warm hugs.

And they hate you for it.
Nobody loves an ethnic supremacist.

Old Jules

Afterthought:  Ira Hayes didn’t die drunk in that ditch because of anything white men did to his ancestors.  He didn’t die in that ditch because of anything white men did directly to him during his own lifetime.  Ira Hayes died in that ditch because he didn’t come home from WWII and do what the other men pictured in that flag raising did when they returned.  He died in that ditch because it was what was expected of him.