Monthly Archives: August 2020

Ask Old Jules: Space travel, Wounded Knee, Memory of Universe, Development of America

Harper, TX 2010 123

Old Jules, suppose you had your own private spacecraft capable of interstellar flight.  So you travel to a distant world that you suspect is populated.
You see cities and towns, and  there groups at war.  In other areas there is nothing but plant life. You want to explore, so where would you land?

I’d try to find a safe place to land on each of the warring sides, try to establish communications, and explain to them they need to quit fighting because there’s a race of human beings back where I came from. Explain that once I get back and report they’re here, likely or not there’ll be human beings who aren’t much good at anything but killing, who’ll be coming along ecstatic to know there’s something new they can kill.

I’d pass on all the human weapons, defense,  and strategy I was privy to so’s to give them half a chance. Let them know they need to batten down the hatches, quit fighting, get together and figure out what kind of weaponry they’re going to need to fight off a species of lunatic savages.

 Old Jules, why did historians refer to Wounded Knee as a “battle” and what does this say about the ways in which we should evaluate historical accounts?

Calling it a battle was a means of legitimatizing what happened, a way to imply it wasn’t what it was. It says we should take a careful critical, unbiased and analytical look at all historical events. Particularly watching for nuance, implications, propagandizing and what goes unsaid.

Old Jules, has the universe any kind of memory?

Yes. The universe has both a long-term memory and a short-term memory.

The long-term memory is used to keep track of how the expansion is coming along, doing the occasional reality check, etc.

The short-term memory is used to track specific projects, such as Sol (our star) reversing magnetic poles every eleven years, that sort of thing.

Old Jules, how long did it take America to develop after its independence?

Development in the US lasted until after WWII, when the Marshall Plan began the gradual decline by rebuilding industry in Japan and Germany, creating the beginnings of US industry being unable to compete.

The slide downhill gained speed when US industrialists began selling technology and outsourcing for products produced in the Third World as a means of lowering prices through cheap labor.

Today development inside the US has pretty well halted except within a few narrow areas. Almost everything a US citizen uses in daily life is manufactured or produced outside US boundaries except for some food.

Old Jules, what is worth knowing and what would you rather not know?

It’s worth knowing that we don’t actually know anything. Then it’s worth knowing that again every time we think we know something.

The International 700-Yard Fence Olympics


We’re missing a good bet here.

How about this?

Instead of a worthless, meaningless, ineffective and costly 700 mile fence, suppose we build the same fence 700 yards long, with bleachers, ticket booths for spectators.

Anyone who wishes to compete can do so, but only after having signed away all television and media rights.

Anyone who can cross the fence, or go around the end of it carrying whatever he wants to take with him is assured a hassle-free life in the country of his choice, only having to earn an honest living there.

The starter gun fires.  All down the line Chinamen who want to go to Hong Kong or Australia, Russian and Filipino women who want to find husbands in the US, gunrunners from the US with backpacks full of machine guns who want to go to more exciting places, starving Africans, pot-bellied from malnutrition, flies swarming over them, ribs showing, who want to go somewhere, anywhere out of the sun where there’s food…. Bang! goes the starter pistol.

The competitors run, walk, crawl to the fence, examine it, and decide whether to cut through, go over, go around.  Same as they’d have done if it were 700 miles long.

The way things are going in this land, I think there might come a day when a lot of American citizens are down there, televisions packed up on their backs, pizzas and hamburgers in their lunchkits, crouched on the starting line waiting for the pistol.

I might be there myself.  A cage full of angry cats on my back, trying for some deserted island somewhere.


Relax, breathe deeply, pause

Jack wrote this in August, 2005, after Hurricane Katrina. The main post is followed by two additional entries or comments that he made afterwards.

I’ve posted this on one of the threads, but it needs to be said more than once, a lot more often than once:

Disasters bring out the best and the worst in people, in Americans.  It’s going to do that during this one.

For a while yet everything that can be done is being done in the disaster area by the people who are trained to do it, hired to do it, have volunteered to do it.  We all want to help somehow.  There’s nothing at the moment we can do except give our hopes and best wishes to the people who are there, either as victims or trying to do their jobs.

For the moment providing shelter, food, water, medication and waste disposal facilities for both victims and disaster workers is going to be the primary goal.  An infrastructure exists and is moving into place as inexorably as the hurricane moved in from the gulf.  It will take time, but it’s happening and will continue to happen.

Giving money ‘for hurricane victims’ for the moment is a bit like giving money to the schools by buying lottery tickets.  Some tiny percentage of it will reach victims, while most will be sucked up into the administrative structures of the organizations making their bread and butter off human misery.

There’s not a shortage of money for dealing with the initial phases of this disaster.  The US taxpayer has payed dearly for a long time and will pay a lot more now to handle this disaster and the aftermath.  The funds are there, and they’ll be replenished by taxpayers, supplemented by taxpayers.

We all want to help, but at the moment there’s nothing we can do with the exception of offering shelter, those of us near enough, to refugees in our own homes.  That would be a boon and a blessing.  But we’ll find not many Americans once they consider it, want to help THAT badly.  Sometimes they’ll make new friends, and sometimes they’ll lose the guns and the silverware.

Once things settle a bit and the needs are actually established in a week or three there’ll be plenty of places Americans who still remember there was a disaster can provide some assistance.  If they listen carefully they’ll learn of thousands of smaller, sometimes more difficult matters spinning off this event, sometimes involving more personal sacrifice than a dollar or two thrown into the storm.  Americans who still want to help after the emotional storm of the television blitz dies and football’s got their attention will have plenty of opportunities to do so.

But this isn’t the time.

If you want to give money, it stands the best chance of getting to the actual victims if you do it through your churches, as opposed to the relief organizations.  The pipeline’s not so long and there aren’t so many salaries and offices in between your hand and the broken domiciles you thought you were aiming your money toward.

Storms begin ‘way back, the poet said.  This one did, they all do.  Those levies have been a long time  on the road to failing, the flooding didn’t happen today…. it happened during all the years we’ve all known it was going to happen and didn’t do what was needed to prevent it.

Today is the storm and the debris.  Let the debris settle a bit before you respond to the internal scream that says you need to do something for these victims.  Human charity is too rare and valuable to be squandered by drowning it in a pool of flood water.

The television crews are doing their jobs, exciting your best emotions, your sympathy, twanging your heartstrings.  Let them do it.  Savor it.  Sympathize with those victims.  Pray for them.  But don’t do anything fast, rash, to satisfy your need for instant gratification.  Hold on to that desire to help and consider long about how you can make it count.


An afterthought, also posted on a thread:

Tough gig being a human being.

In 1993, I was in New Orleans as part of a FEMA conference with all the regional State Flood Plain Administrators and Emergency Management Coordinators involving this potential storm and others like it.

We toured the levies, discussed the problems with subsidence, kicked around ideas with the LA State Coordinator about possibilities for his disaster response plan. His problems were much as I described in a blog entry a day or so before the storm came in.

A few months from now, a year or two from now and he’ll have those same problems again after the dust settles on this one. Louisiana and New Orleans will figure it will be at least a decade before this happens again, so it will be business as usual. “We’ll take care of mitigation when the possibilities get higher for the next storm. Right now we have too many other priorities for our tax dollars.”

The victims of this disaster, it’s important to remember, a couple of weeks ago would have agreed completely with that logic.

Tough gig being a human being.

More from that thread:

Four4me commented: “And the worst part is hurricanes season isn’t over and hurricanes have a habit of following the same paths sometimes.”

Says I: That ought to be cause for a lot of concern.

It would be awfully bad if another comes in behind this one to the same area. But it might actually better to have the damage concentrated, rather than have the next one (if one comes in) hit Galveston, the FL Keys, the outer banks in the Carolinas…. further scattering resources.

It would be a tough call if someone had the choice to make it, how to direct the next storm.

I expect you’re right that rebuilding will be unimaginably expensive and take a long time, if ever. But this isn’t the first storm that’s ever hit, and our history of response has always been the same. Rebuild. Do it where it was before. As much like before as possible. And repeat the errors of the past.

We’ll pour a lot of new deficit Federal dollars into getting those folks back into homes that can be flooded again. The legions of disaster assistance program workers are already packing their bags to get down there, assess the damage, hand out deficit dollars for what’s been lost, damaged, what can be rebuilt.

I’m not complaining, if this sounds as though I am. I’m not. I’m making an observation based on a number of years of experience and a lot of years of reflection.

Mitigation is the key to all this, and mitigation requires commitment by people, planners, elected officials, taxpayers, to mitigate. To think ahead of catastrophes.

It requires people to sacrifice the joy of living in floodprone, or other disaster prone areas and live in places less prone.

It requires that somewhere somehow sometime Americans take responsibility for making decisions about their own safety and well-being a long time in advance…. when they’re building their homes, starting their businesses, discussing whether they ought to have a crash kit in the closet to throw in the car when a storm’s coming in, and to head for high ground.

But we’re a long way from all that, and we won’t be any closer when the dust settles on this storm.


The challenge of quietude

Jack wrote this in October, 2006:

Things could seem fairly grim to almost anyone trying to stumble through this new century.  Somebody always walking into a schoolhouse with a gun, someone always bombing someone else, shooting someone else.

  • A cop probably feels things are middling dangerous for cops, feels things have gotten out of hand, feels threatened.
  • Store employees fearing their bosses, merchants fearing their employees, all of them fearing the dangerous potential of every customer.
  • Politicians fearing the opposing party, fearing the voters, fearing the prez.
  • Gangbangers fearing opposing gangbangers, fearing the cops, fearing their brother-gang-members knowing they’ll sell them out for a plea-bargain in a minute if faced with a long-term sentence.
  • Druggies fearing the dealers, fearing the cops, fearing the high-cost of a habit, fearing other druggies, fearing their families, fearing do-gooder mammas and sisters, angry wives who might give them to the cops ‘for their own good’ after a long series of attempts to kick that didn’t work.
  • Christians fearing Muslims, Muslims fearing Christians, everyone fearing what the price-sign above the gas-pump’s going to show the day after the November election.
  • Single women fearing they’ll grow old without a man, married people fearing they’ll lose their partners to disease, to war, to accidents, to infidelity, to abuse.
  • Everyone fearing for the kids, for their safety, their increasingly brainless approaches to reality, for their futures.
  • Everyone watching the television screen, everyone shaking his head with the latest thing happened somewhere.

We’re in one of those niches in human history during which mass-hysteria prevails.  An erosion of faith, a lapse of memory as a result of the bombardment of news submerging the mass-consciousness into the goldfish bowl of NOW.

The reality is that things aren’t worse now than they’ve ever been. 

Death still comes one-to-the-customer.

Kids, cops, gangbangers, birds, whales, baby seals, druggies, Christians, Muslims, every living creature is going to cross the finish line, same as they always have.

People aren’t killing one another more frequently than they’ve ever done.  They’re doing it about the same amount as they always have.  Killing and stomping one another, enslaving one another, robbing one another, invading one another.

Life’s a tough gig if we forget we’re going to die.  It always has been.

The challenge to man has always been putting himself above all that.  The courage to accept he/she will die, the kids will die, their kids will die.

The challenge is in the courage of acceptance, of distancing the self from the daily events creating the illusion death is somehow foreign, unnatural.  Tragic.

The challenge lies in living in the knowledge we’re going to die while behaving as though we aren’t.  In the courage to transcend the inevitability and allow ourselves to understand those other folks, the kid-killers, the gangbangers, the druggies, the cops, the government goons, the Christians and Muslims, the sheeple, all of them are just the same as us.  All stumbling around trying to get through this life.

The challenge lies in forgiving them for forgetting, forgiving ourselves for forgetting we’re going to die and submerging ourselves in fear and brother hate.

The challenge lies in transcending the forgiveness enough to be grateful for the moments, every one of them, between the crying and the dying.  Grateful for the pain, the hardship, the loss, and the spiritual growth potential.

The challenge of acceptance that it ain’t all flowers and honey, never  has been, never was supposed to be.  That this life isn’t about what happens across the ocean, in Washington, in the crack-house down the block, or in the next bedroom where the kids are sleeping.

This life is about this side of the ocean, this city, this block, this house, this bedroom, right there where you are sleeping.

The impression you are making in that mattress, that pillow is where the minutes are ticking away, that’s where opportunities to become something better are located somewhere in a flash of life and time that’s ticking, ticking ticking trickling sand into the bottom of the glass.

The courage to repudiate the mind-games of others.

Others shouting to you that where someone else dies matters.  Others demanding you pretend you won’t have to die, if you hire more cops, hand more of your personal decision-making over to the government, watch more television, put more people in prison, send the army off to stomp bad guys somewhere.

Ignoring the cowards whispering if you avoid different ingredients in your food, buy the latest health miracle and don’t breath second-hand smoke you won’t have to die.

That’s the challenge.  Same as it’s always been.


Eternal Wisdom Of Young Writers

From Poems of the New Old West, by Jack Purcell, copyright 2003:

Eternal Wisdom of Young Writers

Some things can be depended on
Some things never change
Flies still swarm around
The ripe carcass of a horse

English departments
Still deride
Robert Frost
Entirely ignoring now
Edgar A Guest
(Carl and Eddie
Didn’t make the cut)
Not even
Remembered well enough
To enjoy the scorn
Of these
(How demeaning!)
Those two
Dead ‘poets
Of the people’

Pointee headed
And unpublished poets.
Repudiate the works
Of their unpublished peers
By calling it ‘Frostian’
Do they?
They do.

How it tingles
How it rings
After all these years

Old Robert
Old king Robert
Old published poet
Laureate Robert
The Frostiest
Of the
Would have smiled

And written a poem



Ask Old Jules: Kitsch, Life at age 18, Christmas, Moral standards, Maintaining motivation


Old Jules, what’s your definition of kitsch?

Kitsch is the bumper-sticker rendition of all thought-forms, art-forms, music-forms and media.

Old Jules, what were you like at 18, how are you different now, and what have you learned?

I was a soldier in the pre-Vietnam War army. Not an enthusiastic one. I was confident, considered myself mature, and had made my own way for a considerable while. By hindsight, I was a babe in the woods.

Old Jules, how did you celebrate your Christmas day?

I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I’ll spend the day with my cats and chickens. As I spend most other days. I’m spared the need to indulge in holier-than-thou rhetorical manipulations concerning how others should spend their days by virtue of not being a Christian. For which I’m eternally grateful. Edit: I’m awfully fond of Robert Earl Keene’s Christmas humor, however.

Old Jules, who sets the moral standards, and gauges them?

You’re the only one who can for your own life. The intruders and busybodies tend to try doing it for others while conveniently overlooking their own, but the straight fact is that every human being in the planet can attempt to establish your moral values for you and short of armed intervention can’t cause you to adopt what they among themselves believe you should agree to. Which is why there’s so much armed intervention. Treating your moral choices as your own affair and not behaving conspicuously out of step will keep you off the radar.

Old Jules, how can one maintain motivation in their accomplishments?

How does an undisciplined individual acquire the discipline to acquire discipline? It isn’t a philosophical question. It’s called bootstrapping. Pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. There are plenty of methods of acquiring discipline. Martial arts. Zen. Silva Mind Control. But they all require discipline to follow through once the new wears off. A person who has no discipline hits and bounces off them just as you’ve bounced off everything else you’ve attempted. Bootstrapping is the answer. But that has to come from within you.

Bonfire of the vanities

Jack wrote this in June, 2006:

Morning blogsters:

It’s been a while.  I’ve done a lot of reflecting over the past month, or so, listening to the ground, the wind, the dry.

I generally thought nothing much could surprise me anymore, but I was wrong.  Even knowing we’re in what will someday be known as the Post-Constitutional Era, I’m still surprised.

If there’s any truth to the various blog-feeds, the western governments are tuning up for a war with Iran.  Evidently it’s an open secret involving firm plans to re-institute the draft in the US, round up those who protest, and creating all manner of tomfoolery a person ought to be able to confidently not expect from his government.

According to infowarnews (Yahoo) groups, the plan’s to generate a lot of phony terrorist scares this summer to get the juices flowing in the cattle before they begin drafting their sons.

Crazy times we live in, a sleeping, complacent public, a news media cheer-leading for the party in power and the flag-wavers doing their job.

But, I don’t think it will fly:

  • If infowarnews knows what’s happening, so does Iran.
  • The public might well sit by watching an all-volunteer military get itself shot up, but they’ll take a different view when it’s their own sons and daughters coming home in bags.
  • We’ve come about as far with this Presidential War thing as we dare, it seems to me.  When we began those after WWII, they had a sort of logic, though it didn’t hold water for protracted wars… immediate response capability appeared to be needed when the Russkies and ourselves were aiming ICBMs at one another.  But that’s all over.  When the 900th son or daughter spills blood on Persian soil for reasons no one understands, someone’s probably going to remember the US Constitutional requirement that wars are supposed to be declared by the US Congress.


Update from Jeanne- August 16, 2020

Hi everyone,

I head back to my job as library clerk in an elementary school this week. Kids arrive back Sept. 8th… around 500 coming to library class every week. Our district is putting lots of safeguards in place, but there is no doubt that distancing will be problematic at best, and the numbers of Covid cases in our county are not great…we’re in the “yellow zone.”

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has read Jack’s writing recently and thanks to the few new subscribers. Obviously, this is more of a memorial to Jack on my part than an effort to gain readers, but I do appreciate the hits and the comments. It’s a weird situation blogging for someone who has passed on, but the grief process takes a lot of forms and apparently this is how I go through this. We had lots of projects we worked on together over the years and I miss that.

The blog posts are pre-scheduled through December of 2022. They are random for the most part.  I have far more Q/A posts in the latter months of the time period. (There are far more of those in my files than I can use). I have just transcribed some letters he wrote to me and my family that I thought were entertaining.  Sometimes I find something really witty and want to publish it sooner but the rearranging of pre-scheduled posts is a pain, so I just add them in as a see a space even if it’s 2 years out.  I’m also trying to track down appropriate photos for some posts that would be improved with them. (If you have a lot of photos, take the time to label them… we did not… it’s now a nuisance that we did not!)

I will keep watching for comments and so forth, but this project is shifting to the back burner now as my schedule changes.

I have another blog for my own art work, if you want to take a look. There is not a lot of writing, but when I finish a painting or some other creative effort, that’s where I post it. Some of the links in the headers aren’t accurate any more, but blog maintenance issues will have to come later! Maybe if they cancel school!

Thanks again for reading,


Jack wrote this in March, 2006:

Morning blogsters:

This morning there was a newspaper in my yard.  I don’t subscribe to newspapers, but I figured since it was there, and since I haven’t seen or heard any news for a while, maybe it was the coincidence coordinators had something I was supposed to see, or maybe it was Dancing Lessons From God, which I try to keep alert for.

Front page was full of some cop in Tijeras got himself dead by some parolee.  Cops doing a major man-hunt, roughed up some kid who looked like the suspect and drove a similar car…. warned him he’d be well advised not to drive the car until the guy is caught, hinting dark possibilities resulting from mistaken identity.

Hokay.  Every day there’s a homicide or three in Albuquerque… several more in the rest of New Mexico.  A little over a year ago a good friend of mine was murdered, and when it wasn’t obvious who did it they said, ho-hum.  Forgot about it.

So, where’s the difference here?  People getting killed all over the place and nobody gets more than a sigh from the police.  But a man who happened to volunteer to be a soldier for the bureaucracy knowing his life might occasionally be risked and we get a Chinese Firedrill.

Every time.

Why is the life of a police officer worth more than the life of an 80 year old man they accidently shot when they were kicking down the door to the house next door and he came out with a flashlight to see what was happening?  Ho hum.  Mistaken identity.

Why is it worth more than a kid, a mother, anybody?

We all know why.

When you own the system some people are just more equal than others.  Orwell said it first.

Anyway, the big news of the day in New Mexico is some cop got killed in Tijeras.  Ho hum.

You newswatchers and readers hereabouts brace yourselves for a couple of weeks hearing about how frequently he brushed his teeth and what color the brush was.


Music, Chickens, Hawgs

Jack was on a Yahoo group for chicken lovers and posted these entries for that group:

Something got one of the guineas out of the treetops last night, nothing left but a pile of feathers. At twilight [dawn] I went out to the chicken house and smelled a skunk, came in and got a shotgun and the spotlight, found it out under where the guineas sleep in the trees, shot it but the guinea feathers were off west of there some distance. I don’t think it was a skunk got him. I was walking around when it got light enough to see and about 12-15 grown big hawgs crossed west to east in the clearing between here and the Honig fence line. I’d been hearing them but rejecting what my ears were telling me.

For some reason the skunk had dug a lot in the garden area but didn’t dig under the chicken house wall.

I gotta get music going. No ifs buts nor maybes.

March 15

My old amplifier went out for a couple of weeks and it was silent around here for the first time in 18 months or so, though for the first year it was only Gregorian chants and Carlos Nakai flute, which didn’t seem to have a universal repellent side for predators.

But within a few days after the amp died nature descended like locusts around here. The deer started to think the nighttime chicken pen was a good source of grain, an owl or something else picked off a guinea out of the trees and a skunk arrived to try out the surroundings for regular visits. Coyotes were all directions and close enough so’s we’d consult in pre-dawn howls and yips about whether I was going to put up with them.

Even though the neighboring ranch has hired professional animal killers to come out by helicopter a couple of times and shoot up the hogs and other predators they could see, the injured ones making their way to die in the grader-ditches, a good many of them, yesterday or day before I saw the biggest herd of wild hawgs I’ve ever seen, a dozen or 15, all full grown, crossing the clearing 100 yards to the north. I prioritized getting the music rolling again. Come dawn I’ll see if it made a difference.

Yesterday night or the night before when I killed that skunk, even though I asked myself three distinct times and looked more closely before I fired, whether that could be my old cat Hydrox and clearly saw it wasn’t, once I’d fired I immediately convinced myself it was him I’d shot and didn’t have whatever it takes to go look until I saw him sometime after daybreak.

I’ve never been weak on the insanity ration, but I think it might be getting worse.