Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Random Barking: Turkey Day

Sad Vlad Eyes The Menu

Click To Enlarge -- It's Easy And Fun !

Sunday, November 22, 2015

November 22

We Interrupt This Program For An Important News Bulletin

CBS News' Broadcast Interruption: 12:48PM CDST, November 22, 1963

For longer than I want to remember, I've been gnawed by a feeling that the world has deteriorated since JFK's assassination. Inexorably gone, right into the toilet. And, it's not possible to consider that without also remembering Martin Luther King's. And Bobby's. But this isn't a conversation about conspiracy, so much as the relevancy of November 22nd to America in 2015.

On November 22, 1963, it was as if the universe had shifted on its axis in Dealy Plaza... and later, on the second floor landing of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis... and then in a service corridor near the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.  And without those events, my sense is this world of 2015, in all its dangerous splendor, might not have happened.

It's just a feeling, not a fact -- and given that humans (and Dogs) tend to remember the past as a time when things were more secure, more full of promise than the present, it's no surprise that 1963 seems better. But even with that understanding, my feeling won't go away.  Every year on this date, I take that sense of things out of the memory box and look at it again.

Most Americans unconsciously accept the notion that we're special, god-blessed, preeminent in the world; we are best representatives of human civilization. It's a High School Civics Class view of who we are: a narrative of endless natural resources and boundless personal opportunity, in a democratic Republic protected by two huge oceans and two pliable geographic neighbors.

Our country developed in response to the tyranny of the Old World -- where powerful cabals ran things and murder to advance their interests could be common; where royalty could imprison you, or take what little you had, on a whim. They owned you from birth, and when you died they would rent your children pennies to place on your eyes.

The New World, The United States Of America, was a place where that couldn't happen -- because here all are equal before The Law, and all have an equal shot at becoming rich as princes themselves.
You're agent Hoffman, yeah?... German extraction? ... My name's Donovan. Irish -- both sides, mother and father. So, I'm Irish, you're German -- but what makes us both Americans? Just one thing... the rule book. We call it the Constitution. We agree to the rules, and that's what makes us Americans; it's all that makes us Americans. So don't tell me there's no rule book -- and don't nod at me like that, you son of a bitch.
-- Tom Hanks, as James Donovan [speaking circ. 1960], Bridge Of Spies (2015)
It's tempting (particularly if you were there for it) to believe the early 1960's were a golden age. JFK's assassination was a tragedy -- but it's too simplistic to use his death as just a metaphor for everything that's gone wrong after. I happen to believe the metaphor (the most favored was Camelot; the death of Arthur and the end of a golden age) has a good deal of truth in it -- but his assassination means something more seminal for all of us than the death of a noble man. Context is everything.

The Cold War defined the post-WW2 age. The West had seen Churchill's 'Iron Curtain' descend, then the Berlin blockade; an ugly proxy war in Korea; the suppression of Hungary by Russian troops. Finally, Cuba's 1959 revolution was too close to home; the CIA (as led by John Foster Dulles) was already attempting to assassinate Castro, or remove him through a planned invasion by CIA-backed anti-communist Cubans at the Bay Of Pigs. 

Richard Nixon, Eisenhower's Vice-President, was a known quantity for the Pentagon and 'The Company'. It isn't much of a stretch to imagine they hoped for a Republican victory in 1960.  In their plans to defeat the Reds, JFK wasn't supposed to have become President.  Nixon would rubber-stamp whatever the CIA had developed.

But the 1960 election was the most closely contested presidential race in the 20th century: Kennedy beat Nixon in the popular vote by just 0.17% -- less than two tenths of one per cent. But he also beat Nixon in enough key precincts in key states to win more than 270 electoral votes. In that contest, it's the only math that matters.

However, there were hints of voter fraud which benefited Kennedy in some of those key precincts. Immediately after the election, influential Republicans tried convincing Nixon to demand a recount, but Tricky -- wounded, angry and self-pitying -- rejected the advice... luckily for America, and the world, as it turned out

JFK wasn't Nixon, but he agreed to the CIA-backed invasion of Cuba.  When it failed, within hours of it's start, the military begged Kennedy to commit American air, naval and ground troops to support the invasion force. Kennedy refused (an Admiral asked JFK about sending in Navy jets and was told, No. "Why not?" the admiral asked. JFK, amazed at the question, replied, Because they're American planes! The admiral paused, then asked, "Well, what if we paint out the [aircraft identification] numbers?"). Attacking Cuba would be a first strike without a declaration of war, Kennedy said, and America's declared policy was never to act 'like the Japanese at Pearl Harbor'. 

Kennedy believed that Dulles and his CIA had lied, and attempted to manipulate the country into war: the sheer arrogance of it nearly left him speechless. Eventually, Kennedy fired Dulles and the head of the CIA's Operations Directorate, Richard Bissell, and said he wished he could "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds"  

(This was a dangerous mistake. Kennedy believed he understood politics, and how tough things could get -- but in the end, people didn't kill each other. He assumed that the CIA, for all its power, was just another government bureaucracy. As President, he never appeared to understand that the agency might contain persons deluded and arrogant enough to have him killed -- if, in fact, that's how it went down.)

A year later, JFK was President when Soviet IRBMs were discovered in Cuba,  in part as a response to the Bay of Pigs. Only by careful backchannel diplomacy, by defying the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and luck, did Kennedy and his core advisors avoid a full-scale nuclear war.

We know now there were nearly 60,000 Soviet troops on the island, possessing tactical nuclear weapons under the control of local commanders. If Richard Nixon had been President in the fall of 1962, I doubt he would have resisted the advice of the Joint Chiefs to bomb the missile sites, followed by a full invasion of Cuba.  I doubt any of us would be alive to read this.

In 1963, Kennedy was murdered, in public; later, so were MLK and RFK. I understand how it can feel true that the world has gone to hell in a plastic bag since, but the currents which created our present situation had been in motion long before that morning in Dallas.
You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West... There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.
-- Ned Beatty as Arthur Jensen; "Network" (1976), Written By Paddy Chayefsky
Commerce had been globalizing beforeWW2.  Intelligence agencies, once a backroom adjunct to diplomats and the military, became secret, unaccountable instruments of U.S. foreign policy (in the eight years of the Eisenhower administration, Dulles' CIA destabilized governments and arranged the murder of national leaders -- actions Americans had never done before).  Industrial processes and chemicals that affected our water, air, and food chain were used on an increasing scale with little or no oversight.

The Cold War paranoia of the McCarthy era was still in the air, and it lasted for decades. Even in the 1970's when applying for jobs, I had to sign a Loyalty Oath to the Constitution and the government, a requirement to swear you were not then and had never been a member of an organization advocating the violent overthrow of that government. Hoover's FBI keep track of anyone of interest.

And underneath it all, like an underground river moving in the dark, was our unacknowledged history of disenfranchisement, slavery, exploitation, prejudice, hypocrisy and inequality. The facts about what business and intelligence connections were doing wasn't common knowledge, but people sensed things in America were... not right, but in the social contract of 1960, you didn't acknowledge them. If you did bring them up, it was -- well, impolite: Don't make waves. Don't be disagreeable. You can't fight city hall. Don't spoil the party for others. And, You don't like it here, go to Moscow !

I don't pretend to know who was responsible for killing JFK. I don't believe we will ever know. A Gallup poll taken in November, 2013, noted that eighty per cent of adults contacted replied that they believed Kennedy was killed as the result of a conspiracy.  Who ran that conspiracy -- the Mafia, the CIA; Lyndon Johnson; the Commies, or Space Aliens -- is less clear.

The common wisdom is that 'They' killed him. And Martin. And Bobby.  That whoever 'They' are, They're powerful enough to murder an American President, his brother, and a Baptist minister who was the spirit and conscience of Black America. Powerful enough to keep it a secret for 52 years.

Woody Allen's joke in the mid-1960's, that he was "still waiting for a non-fiction version of the Warren Report", made people laugh -- not because it was funny, but because it struck a nerve: the Report's conclusions were Official History and almost everyone sensed something was wrong with it.

After November 22, 1963, The Sixties that followed, everywhere, were partly driven by a shared understanding that we were living in a lie. The cognitive dissonance between the Official History of America, and that feeling we weren't being told the truth, ended up fueling a tremendous amount of social change.

This is the real metaphor of JFK's assassination. His murder and the inquiry that followed was a lie told in public and made into Official History. His death was like some original sin, the truth of which would bring down empires if known. So other acts, more protective lies, grew around that original sin like scar tissue.

It almost doesn't matter any longer who killed him. What matters was that we were lied to in order to hide the guilt of those responsible. In America, murderers aren't supposed to be above the law -- but these are. By birth or wealth or influence, they're exempt from the kind of accountability and punishment an ordinary American would face. 

JFK's death is symbolic of that gulf between the narrative we tell ourselves about America, and the truth of where we've been.  The greater the difference between the two -- the further we are from the Freedom, Equality and Opportunity, from the Equal Justice Under The Law in our national story -- then the more we feel cheated, manipulated, lied to.  The more we feel like We, The People, aren't more than chattel for someone else's enrichment and amusement.

... That's where we are today. And, at least for me, that's what November 22nd represents.
A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.
-- John F Kennedy; Amherst College Address: October 26, 1963

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Once Again, The City Of Lights

Once again, we sit and watch violence being done in the heart of France and one of the capitals of human culture.  Offer up a prayer, in whatever way you conceive of that to be, for the victims, their friends and families.

Some are going to say that the Russians have shown the way in dealing with the thing that is ISIS -- simply, we will have to kill them all. 

Others will say that after "Lil' Boots" Bush's imbecilic, unnecessary invasion of Iraq, western governments can't do as the Russians have done. We can't send troops -- no government in the Middle East wants our military (or France's, or the UK's) in their countries. America can't afford another military commitment economically, and neither the Right, Center or Left in the U.S. can afford it politically.  It's why, so far, we've only sent fighter-bombers to strike IS positions, and a limited number of special-forces soldiers.

Still others (like Little Rupert and his issue) will use yesterday's events to raise the overall climate of paranoia and fear ...in order to sell advertising time or space, and to support their pet, right-wing politicians (I swear before Almighty God: If Hitler were to reappear, Fox/News Corp would give him his own half-hour show).

The Middle East may be a snake pit of clan, tribal, national and religious loyalties; a tapestry woven out of blood feuds thousands of years old, into which outsiders step in at their peril (A Fool Lies Here / Who Tried To Hustle The East).

I don't know how it all will end.  I've been in situations where violence was the common denominator (or, simply, common).  Violence will be required to remove IS; that is their raison d'etre and they want to cause as much of it as they can. But if the way all the events in the region conclude is through violence and only violence, then we've learned nothing. We are facing global issues that demand we act interdependently, cooperatively, with compassion.  Violence will not help us, our friends and families, and strangers bound to us by a common humanity, to survive.

For any broader solution to be more than window-dressing before the next proxy war or excess of evil: the only way to end violence is simply to stop. Some will be amazed at how crazy or stupid I must be to offer up something so simplistic -- but I must be crazy, because it seems just that simple to me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

He Rises

Elekshun 2016

More soon to come from the Land Of The Brave and the Home Of Whatever We Are, as the Republikannerfest becomes stiff, nasty, and something that goes Bump In The Night -- and the Zombified Ronnie Rayguns comes once again to eat eat eat lead America out of our Slough Of Despond, once again to reclaim the mantle that is Mickey and the Name That Is Legion.  Arooo.


Reprint Heaven: Two Men From Utah Beach

(A reprint; for November 11th.)

Infantry Under Fire, Huddled At The Utah Beach Seawall,
June 6, 1944 (Smithsonian Collection; Public Domain)

Today, the New York Times, one of the last newspapers where publishing Obituaries is an art form (one of the last newspapers, come to that), reported two men who had once been at Utah Beach at the same time on D-Day -- J.D. Salinger -- author of Franny And Zooey; Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters; and, aber natürlich, Catcher In The Rye -- and Louis Auchincloss ("Wall Street lawyer from a prominent old New York family who became a durable and prolific chronicler of Manhattan’s old-money elite"), died at ages 91 and 92 respectively.

Portrait Of Auchincloss By Everett Raymond Kinstler, 2008

Auchincloss was a member of America's hereditary, monied elite. He was raised in a world of town houses, summer homes on Long Island and Bar Harbor, Maine; private clubs and servants, debutante parties and travel abroad. However, as a child Auchincloss thought of himself as "neither rich nor aristocratic": In a 1974 autobiography, A Writer's Capital, he noted, “Like most children of affluence, I grew up with a distinct sense that my parents were only tolerably well off. This is because children always compare their families with wealthier ones, never with poorer."

Facades Of Brownstone Mansions, New York City 2008
(Photo: New York Times Online Real Estate Section)

His path through life was predictable enough for one of his class -- a comfortable childhood, preparatory schools; guaranteed entry to Yale in 1935; he seemed predestined for the life of a Gentleman of his class; a man with means who did little beyond tending and adding to the Family fortune. But it was in his Junior year at Yale that the wheels came off his little Bourgeois wagon.

Not For You And Me: Summer Home In Bar Harbor, ME

Auchincloss yearned to break from the well-travelled path of the monied and privileged and wrote a novel. When it was subsequently rejected by a major New York publisher, Auchincloss decided “that a man born to the responsibilities of a brownstone bourgeois world could only be an artist or writer if he were a genius.” He dropped out of Yale, which he found suffocating, and decided upon taking up a profession, one that his milieu wouldn't reject, and entered the University of Virginia Law School on the eve of WW2.

He was surprisingly good at the law -- and, Trusts and Estates law, at that -- a specialty almost solely devoted to the hereditary wealthy. In WW2, he volunteered for the U.S. Navy, was commissioned an officer and served in Naval Intelligence (typical for a Knickerbocker), but left that to command an LST at Utah beach on D-Day at Normandy, then in the Pacific after V-E Day. Even with his normal duties, he had completed a second novel, but "threw it in the trash".

It wasn't until 1947 that he completed The Indifferent Children, published after he returned to his law practice. It appeared under the pseudonym Andrew Lee, in deference to his mother, who thought the book “trivial and vulgar”, and feared it would damage his career (the horror of publicity, too, a trait of the rich).

Auchincloss At His New York City Home, 2005

I remember reading a New Yorker portrait of him several years ago while waiting in my Dog Trainer's office, and was struck with how much a man of his class he was -- and yet, he wasn't. He felt no sense of guilt at who and what he was (there isn't a trace of it in his writing). And, although I haven't read much of his work (which, like a wine, had hints of Edith Wharton and John Updike-ian highlights, though Auchincloss was far below Updike), his characters were drawn from his own world, and in chronicling their human failings, Auchincloss pointed up the value of at least an ethical rectitude if not a moral one.

The very wealthy are rarely seen by the likes of you and I. Where they live, where they eat, travel and shop is inside a Magic Circle of privilege and exclusivity. If he hadn't been an author, and his books hadn't possessed some merit, Auchincloss would have moved through life inside that Circle, acting as lawyer to his own tribe; his mark would have been made in helping them to preserve and maintain wealth accumulated over generations. His friends and clients would have been "his crowd... the right sort", who knew people he knew, summered where he did, voted Republican, and may have had their suits, shirts and shoes custom-made by the same Gentleman's tailors and reclusive cobblers.

But that wasn't his life -- or, not all of it. When he was writing, he was temporarily freed of the bourgeois world he swam in so easily. Auchincloss couldn't escape what he was as a man, but as an author he tried to see further, explore the human condition and bring back an artifact from his travels for a wider audience.

Commenting to an interviewer for some Tony Manhattan publication in 2007, however, Auchincloss reminded us that the world of the wealthy never really goes away in what are, for the rest of us, good times or bad:

Even near the end of his life, Mr. Auchincloss said the influence of his class had not waned. “I grew up in the 1920s and 1930s in a nouveau riche world, where money was spent wildly, and I’m still living in one!,” he told The Financial Times in 2007. “The private schools are all jammed with long waiting lists; the clubs — all the old clubs — are jammed with long waiting lists today; the harbors are clogged with yachts; there has never been a more material society than the one we live in today. Where is this ‘vanished world’ they talk about?” he asked. “I don’t think the critics have looked out the window!”

J.D. Salinger, Surprised By A Fan's Camera In Cornish, NH,
On His 89th Birthday In 2008: "woe betide any of those fans
who track him down just to explain that they, like, totally
love him and can so relate to his retreat from a world of
phony bastards. “No you don’t,” he told one such visitor.
“Or you wouldn’t be here."

Jerome David Salinger was once groomed by his father for a career in the ham business, which, fortunately for American letters, never quite congealed. He was born in New York City, attended Progressive and Prep schools; he had just begun to publish short fiction -- in The New Yorker, no less -- when he was drafted in 1942. Initially a rifleman in the 4th Infantry Division, he was transferred to serve as a Counterintelligence specialist, trained to interrogate prisoners and review captured documents and maps -- meaning Salinger had to possess an above-average ability with spoken and written German.

Camp Ritchie, Maryland, During WW2 (Contemporary Postcard)

(Training for all CIC specialists was conducted at one location -- Camp Ritchie, Maryland, and is detailed in the book, Germans, by George Bailey [1970]. I wonder if Salinger and Bailey knew each other; they were at the Camp at the same time, 1943, and had to know the same instructors, characters, and fellow voulnteers, many of whom were German-Jewish refugees from the nazis who had taken U.S. citizenship.)

Salinger went ashore on D-Day at Utah beach with elements of the firat wave of the 4th Infantry. I've wondered from time to time whether Louis Auchincloss, commanding an LST in carrying that first wave in to Utah on June 6th, ferried the future author of one of America's enduring, classic postwar novels that day; it's not impossible.

In December of 1944 and into 1945, Salinger fought in the Battle Of The Bulge -- when everyone on the line, for weeks, no matter what their MOS*, were riflemen. After The Bulge, he was was hospitalized with "battle fatigue", the forerunning terminology for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

[*MOS = Military Occupational Specialty, a term more familiar to Vietnam-era draftees]

Salinger, In The U.S. Army, Circa 1944 (Unknown)

After release from hospital, he remained in Germany for at least a year, helping Allied authorities track down nazi functionaries wanted by the Occupation powers. He married a German woman, briefly; very little is known of her, or this period in Salinger's life.

(We might be able to infer what some of his duties may have been, again from George Bailey's book: Many of the CIC specialists in 1945-46 also helped to resettle refugees from the Soviets in various small German communities -- who were under Allied military jurisdiction and had no choice but to, uh, follow orders.)

(This involved a degree of subterfuge, quick wits, and a sense of both the scale of physical and moral destruction the nazis had brought on Europe and their own country; and a heightened sense of the kind of absurdity peculiar to the U.S. Army, which appears in novels like Catch-22 or Slaughterhouse Five.)

Returning from the war, Salinger also returned to New York City and in 1948 published a short story, "A Perfect Day For Bananafish", in the New Yorker -- a kind of shot-across-the-bow to announce a different kind of writer was in town. After several other short stories were published by the magazine, in 1951 Salinger's seminal novel, Catcher In The Rye, was published.

Salinger had A Major And Serious Jones for attention as a literary genius; and, he'd proven he had the chops for it. While in college, he had bragged about his literary talent and ambitions -- and his short fiction had marked him as a real talent. But, when Catcher became a runaway bestseller and critical success, being in the 'eye of the comic book hurricane' was more than he bargained for.

Salinger On The Cover Of TIME, 1953: From The Bulge
To National Notoriety In Less Than Ten Years

It wasn't just being lionized by the Establishment press and New York literary mafia; the book was a landmark of postwar American alienation. Salinger seemed to give a voice through his narrator, Holden Caulfield, to the conflicted, shamed, vainglorious, and noble patter which runs through all our heads on a daily basis; Caulfield was nearly an archetypal figure -- and the novel resonated.

What I like best is a book that's at least funny once in a while...What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.
Holden Caulfield, Catcher In The Rye

And it did resonate with the feelings of being lost, an undefined longing, in so many people who read the novel that Salinger was subjected to what eventually would be termed 'stalking' from readers -- some enthusiastic, many others troubled; but all of whom believed Salinger had a finer perception of the world we live in, and could be that "terrific friend" and help them. They wanted answers to The Big Questions.

(Sometimes, it's the author of the moment you look for. In the 70's, after The World According To Garp had appeared, four friends from my time in New York and I borrowed someone's car and drove up into New England; there was talk of trying to get a glimpse of Salinger -- rejected by the eternal Mick Koznick [A guy as big as Lucca Brazi, drunk, in black leather jacket and Ray-Bans, punches you in the chest with a forefinger and says, "M'eye right? I'm right. M'eye right? I'm right"] as "too bourgeois" -- turned into a search for Putney, Vermont, and author John Irving; which might have succeeded, but for the fact that we were most of the time drunk.)

First Paperback Edition Of Catcher In The Rye

The response of college students to the work of J. D. Salinger indicates that he, more than anyone else, has not turned his back on the times but, instead, has managed to put his finger on whatever struggle of significance is going on between self and culture.
Phillip Roth, 1974

Eventually, Salinger told his editors that he was “good and sick” of seeing his photograph on the dust jacket of Catcher in the Rye and demanded that it be removed from subsequent editions. He ordered his agent to burn any fan mail. In 1953, Salinger moved to a 90-acre parcel of land in Cornish, New Hampshire, which had a long history as an artist's colony.

And, for the most part, Salinger was never publicly seen again. He was rumored to have achieved a mystical state of satori and left the physical plane; or to be writing novel after novel to be published after his death (and so removed from attendant publicity); or to have decayed into an abberated, Howard-Hughes-like paranoid, long-haired recluse. College students tried staking out his property, or -- once it became known he had a PO Box in Cornish -- his local Post Office. sightings of Salinger were few, and brief; the man was smart and quick.

James Earl Jones As 'Terence Mann', The Salinger Character
From W.P. Kinsella's Tale Which Became Field Of Dreams

In the early 80's, when W.P. Kinsella wrote his novel, "Shoeless Joe" (turned into the film Field Of Dreams in 1989), he put J. D. Salinger into the novel, going to New Hampshire to bring him back to Iowa and the magical baseball field Ray Kinsella has built in his cornfield. Salinger would have nothing to do with the production and didn't want his name used; the reclusive author figure played by James Earl Jones became 'Terence Mann' ("I don't have any answers for you -- and I don't know the secret of life. So piss off").

In 1997, Ron Rosenblum wrote a piece for Esquire magazine, "The Haunted Life Of J. D. Salinger": The silence of a writer is not quite the same as the silence of God, but there's something analogous: an awe-inspiring creator, someone who we belive has some answers of some kind, refusing to respond to us, hiding his face, withholding his creation.

Still, Salinger could be seen in and around Cornish, if you were diligent. He would be outdone in the reclusiveness department by Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr., author of his own engrossing postmodern novels ( V.; Gravity's Rainbow; Crying Of Lot 49; Mason & Dixon; Vineland; Against The Day), who has only been publicly seen twice between the early 1960's and the late 1990's -- and not at all since.

Thomas Riggles Pynchon, Jr., In 1953: One Of Seven

Only seven published photographs of him known are to exist -- six yearbook photos, and one as a seaman in the U.S. Navy in the mid-to-late 1950's.

Okay, Pynchon's done a few 'Simpsons' voiceovers, where his cartoon character has a paper bag over his head; and Robert K. Massie thanked Pynchon in the afterword to Massie's amazingly good 1991 book, Dreadnought; but he still makes Salinger look like a publicity hog.

Unlike Salinger, Pynchon (who is 73 this year) isn't demanding, Garbo-like, to be left alone; he simply prefers anonymity. Doing the occasional 'Simpsons' guest spot is Pynchon's way of mocking his own sense of privacy -- something Salinger would never have done, and proof that hanging out with Tom for an afternoon or over a beer wouldn't be a waste of time and might even be fun.

Wikipedia notes: In the early 1990s, Pynchon married his literary agent, Melanie Jackson — a great-granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt — and fathered a son, Jackson, in 1991. The disclosure ... led some journalists and photographers to try to track him down.

[I]n 1997, a CNN camera crew filmed him in Manhattan. Angered by this invasion of his privacy, he rang CNN asking that he not be identified ... "Let me be unambiguous. I prefer not to be photographed." In 1998, a reporter for the [South African] Sunday Times managed to snap a photo of him as he was walking with his son.

I don't know enough about Salinger's inner life, or Pynchon's, to know why they removed themselves from the barest hint of the public spotlight. But, I don't have to. Their lives -- like mine, or yours -- are no one else's business.

I don't agree with John Fowles' autobiographical-fictional narrator in his novel, Daniel Martin, when he notes that creative persons put themselves up on a public soapbox and suffer all that doing so entails. I'm a fairly private person, and Pynchon (or Salinger)'s ire at being stalked like a Snow Leopard by a National Geographic film team is wholly appropriate.

“Here’s your quote. Thomas Pynchon loved this book. Almost
as much as he loves cameras,” a reference indicating that
Marge Simpson’s novel sucks Brontosauruses. Fellow Recluse
Salaman Rushdie describes Pynchon as "Still Crazy After All
These Years".

Salinger was married several times, and divorced; in the 1990's, his daughter would publish a book about being the child of an obviously brilliant and obsessive-compulsive man, the only look into his world anyone had been granted in almost forty years. One tantalizing glimpse from the book: Salinger had a bookcase in his Cornish home, packed with what very well may have been manuscripts written over the years.

Salinger And His Wife, Circa 2009 (Paul Adao, NY Post)

About the same time, in his early eighties, Salinger married a nurse "considerably younger" than himself, but did not change his reclusiveness or irascibility. His new wife adopted Salinger's desire for privacy. He only had his name brought back into the public spotlight when forced -- as he did last year, when a Swedish author wanted to publish what amounted to a sequel to Catcher, titled "Sixty Years After". The Swede claimed it was a parody, like Jane Austen With Zombies. Salinger was plenty steamed, and a court agreed with him.

After breaking his hip this past winter, his health declined rapidly, and he passed away -- peacefully, it was reported -- last night. Like Auchincloss, he lived his life on his own terms; not comfortably provided to him, but -- for better or worse, like all of us -- one made by his own hand. But I believe Salinger will be missed, and his works read by new generations (Catcher In The Rye still sells over 250,000 copies a year) long after Louis' writings fade into a genteel obscurity.

I hope to hell that when I do die somebody has the sense to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody.
Holden Caulfield, Catcher In The Rye

Sunday, November 8, 2015

You Cannot Un-See What You Have Been Shewn

Not The Details, But The Journey

The three persons and the Superintelligent Parakeet who read this blog know that Before Nine isn't exactly a repository of the sunny, perky, fun-filled bits of Life's flotsam, or warm moments featuring Kitties or Small Dogs. Rather the opposite -- but we do try for Teh Funny. In the Words of Saint Roger The Rabbit: sometimes, it's all we have.

When we bring on the funny bits, though, they usually leave a ring of Schadenfreude around the Tub 'O Culture that we collectively bathe in here in Blogtopia. It's a tall order, but someone has to fill it -- and passing these items on frequently results in rioting, bad press, and muttered threats about being hit on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.

... and today's offering is no exception:  I discovered a web news outlet which, on its face, looked like a virtual fountainhead of Teh Crazy: "Now8 News First In News", where we were told employees at a Target store in Kansas City (Missouri, or Kansas, wasn't specified) found a young woman lying on the floor of the Women's bathroom, pleasuring herself with an 'Olaf' hand puppet from the store, while singing "Let It Go" -- a recognizable tune from the Disney CG cartoon film, Frozen, which features little snowman Olaf as one of the main characters.

My first thought: Jeez; what a pathetic attempt to increase hitcount to this news site.  Or, it could be even more evidence of the Decline of Western Civilization, our being purchased by Commie Red China, and forced to sing "The Great Helmsman Is, You Know, That Guy".

The saga continued:
Kansas City Target employees walked into a scene in the woman’s bathroom on Tuesday that they say left them “speechless.” A 26-year-old woman with a history of mental issues ... was taken into custody after employees found her lying next to the trashcan in the woman’s [sic] bathroom crying as she sang the popular song from Disney’s 'Frozen', “Let It Go.” But ... [a]ccording to the employees... it was what she was doing while she was singing that left [them] in utter disbelief and shock. 
One of the employees described the woman in the bathroom as lying "on the floor with her pants around her ankles [and] with an Olaf puppet in one hand and a carrot in the other. What she was doing ... I don’t even have words for it."  The employee added that the scene would be "etched into my mind forever". Regarding the hand puppet, the employee said, "We definitely can’t restock that item.”

Another Now8 Story, And Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo
Then, showing Team Target loyalty, they took an opportunity for a cheap shot at a competitor: "We really pride ourselves on not seeing these types of things at Target. This is something you usually see at Walmart, not here.”
The [woman in the bathroom] ... kept repeating the same thing over and over again until police arrived: “Let it go, let it go, can't hold back anymore, turn away and slam the door!” ... Police say that [she] was listed as a missing person two weeks prior to the incident and had been off of her medication for schizophrenia / bipolar disorder.... [she] is currently under psychiatric hold in a Kansas City Hospital.
I laughed. I laughed hard enough to break things. It was straight up-from-the-gut laughter you can't stop. I laughed hard enough to involuntarily wet myself -- something which isn't that embarrassing for Dogs, but an event usually confined to literature, or very old persons. However, last week, I couldn't find my glasses for ten minutes; and together with this new incident, it seemed like another proof that soon, I'll be taken to the Vet and Put To Sleep.

Time passed; I padded back to the kitchen for some Single Malt, calmed down, and began writing this... and then saw a link on the "Now8 News" site, to another story -- one about a 61-year-old man, one Marshall Leonard, who set off an explosive device in a Tupelo, Mississippi, Wal-Mart parking lot because police would not allow him to have sex with a goat.  The article stated 13 people had been killed, and the goat taken to an animal shelter for treatment of, uh, abrasions in the neither regions.

As a Dog who has worked in both news reporting and law enforcement, and as a blogger who routinely Photoshops images to increase their humorous potential (example below), something about the Goat Story was off.

Obligatory Fake Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Thing
 It was the reference to Goat injuries, is what did it.  Even if you're a hack writer, you don't follow a paragraph about the death of thirteen people with a reference to a goat's, uh, "lacerations". If you're a news editor, you don't allow such manifestly poor reporting to see print, or you'll be explaining it to the Managing Editor the next day. And, with all due respect -- would your average Target employee use such a phrase as, "It will be etched in my mind" ? Maybe. Just maybe.

A look at a legitimate Mississippi news site yielded a story about 61-year-old Marshall Leonard -- the same person mentioned at the Now8 site -- appearing for a bail hearing. It seems Leonard was angry that a local sporting goods store would no longer sell the Mississippi state flag (with the Confederate States' "Stars and Bars"), so Leonard tried setting off a bomb made of fireworks in the shop's parking lot. Fortunately, the device made smoke and noise, but injured no one.

Then, we hit the Google machine to search local crime sections of legitimate news sites for Kansas City Missouri, and Kansas City Kansas, searching on the phrase, "Target store":  plenty of references to Target's planned layoffs, and to a Target employee arrested for "up skirt" photography in women's dressing rooms. But, no references to a crazy woman doing the She-Bop with a Disney character in a bathroom.

Just by chance, I did an image search on the photo of the straw-haired blonde who appears on the Now8 News site as the "26-year old woman" in the now-infamous Hand Puppet Incident.  As it turns out, the photo is actually of a 35-year-old woman named Tracey Mabb, who had "stripped off her clothing on a highway near Pompano Beach, Florida.
[Mabb] was "vulgar and indecent" as she pulled up her long shirt and showed passing motorists and pedestrians her breasts, vagina and buttocks while hanging out on the South Dixie Highway...  She refused to stop exposing herself and said, "I don't give a f---" to police officers...
The Google machine wasn't working quickly for me earlier; my initial search ("is now8news a hoax site") hadn't come back while I took the long road through Tupelo and Kansas City. When it finally coughed up its results, Snopes.com, for example, did have a longish list of Now8News stories that were, as my Oma would say curtly, "Falsch"; not true.

Proving Godwin's Law (Photo: Hoaxbusters.org)
But, we live in a time when all opinions are equally meritorious and all are given equal weight, rather than offend anyone or suggest an appearance of prejudice. In my Google search results, no one definitively would state that 'Now8 News' were purveyors of bullshit -- humorous bullshit; but, still.

So what started as an odd news story led to side-splitting laughter, momentary minor incontinence, intimations of mortality, single-malt whiskey, and then on to the kind of follow-your-nose stuff that reminded me of The Old Days -- before the Google machine.  It was all fun, and in the end didn't matter if the original story was true or not. The journey was good -- and as in so much else, that's what matters.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Everything But The Headline

Trumpola !

The Republican party continues its descent: In a Reuters / Ipsos poll, 31 per cent of Republicans believe Donny is "the Republican candidate most trusted to manage the economy, deal with foreign leaders and serve as commander in chief."

And, more Republicans "would trust him with the nation’s nuclear weapons than most of the rest of their party's presidential primary field."  When asked, these same Republicans believed Elvis may have faked his own death, and that the Occupy! movement was financed by Commie Red Chinese Island-Building Oligarchs. 

"We need someone like Trump to stand up to the Chinese," said Bigelda Hure of Steeltown, Ohio. "It's time to kick butt. We need more narcissistic, sociopathic brinksmanship in our foreign policy. We need leaders who will continue to impoverish the vast majority of Americans for the benefit of 'The Owners'. That's what will make America great again. That, and more megamergers."

Meanwhile, Jebby ! attempted to reignite his flailing campaign. Standing in front of several people and a Superintelligent Parakeet at the parking lot of a Foodway in Tampa, Younger Bush waved away the advice of his critics. "I can't be someone I'm not," he said. "Chang The Mystic Warrior told me to say that." The Parakeet narrowed its eyes at Younger Bush, a sure sign that all is not well and will not be well.
Superintelligent Parakeet: Cute, But Don't Waste His Time. Ever.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Doldrums Before The Descent

Your Color-Coded Weekend

Most people I know feel uneasy about the future. Climate change; the unending brutality in the Middle East, and the tide of Refugees... heartbreaking, even as it affects the map of internal European politics.

In America, our political landscape resembles more than the usual Pestidental Year struggle -- it's not just between Liberals and Conservatives, but between an honest Populism, Business-As-Usual politicos who Fluff the same Old Order that's paid them for generations; and the Rebels -- Buffoons, our own Xtian Taliban, and Tea Partei Randians.

The Homeland Security Advisory System was created in the wake of Nine-eleven, during the reign of "Lil' Boots" Bush (appointed Pestident by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000). It was criticized, like the peevish dullard who approved it, as being "vague and ineffective", with alert levels that simply remained either Yellow (Elevated) or Orange (High)

It was replaced in 2011 by the National Terrorism Advisory System, which does not use color-coding and consists of two stages, "Elevated" or "Imminent".  This was replaced in 2015 by the current color-coded system, based on the "share how you feel" ideas of the current administration.

Given that Fred Thompson is dead, Little Paulie Ryan is Speaker-To-Animals In Da House, Republikanner Candidate Trump !  is in second place to a religious zealot that makes Grand Turtlebear Bachmann look sane (Sehr Aber Schade, Jebby ! ), and Hillary ! allowed herself to be questioned by the Tea Partei in Congress without hurling blood curses against their firstborn in front of the media, we feel we'll need it in the days ahead.

If you don't believe me, above is an unretouched photograph from Australia's Division Of Inland Rooways, advising motorists that for about the next 75 miles, they can encounter Wombats and Kangaroos that are are large as Camels. 

Crikey. That's one serious country. Now, the fact of Lil' Rupert starts to make more sense, mate. I get up in the morning expecting The Weird Stuff to appear, but it isn't often acknowledged in advance by a Road Maintenance department.

Friday, October 23, 2015

It Is An Awesome Day

This is your day. There will never be another like it, and it is yours.

But, given that you inhabit a planet with nearly seven billion Others, you must share. And celebrate -- for today there are official events, places and items which are nonsensical and bizarre special. It is mandatory that you give a moment to consider, in bafflement wonder, at the things with which we occupy our time. 

October 23rd won't come again for another year -- and what will happen to us in the next twelve months? Who knows. Four Billion years of evolution, and we get all this.  And, of course, Hillary !  Jebby !

(But wait -- it could be Hillary versus The Jesus !  And wow, that would be different.  Right?  Of course it would. And if Benny were somehow to become President?  Along with punishment and domination, the American Taliban are all about Profit and Business -- signs of god's favor [Well, somebody's god, anyway] to his Elect.  George Leroy Tirebiter and Corporate America wouldn't care if our country resembled Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale", so long as they can make money and sell things. 'Individual Liberties' are just so overrated. And who cares what happens to the 'Little People' ?)

October 23rd is the official Mole Day. Pictured here is the greatest of all Moles, the character, "Mr Mole", from the 1984 stop-motion animation Teevee version of The Wind In The Willows.

It is the day of the Boston Cream Pie.  Don't poke it -- you'll only make it angry, and we won't be responsible for what happens to you after that.  You must eat it. It's your density *.
It is National Talk Show Host Day. Larry is frightening, but he is safely in Russia now, receiving money from Sad Vlad, The Putin, through his Teevee network. Larry's much younger wife probably doesn't like cold weather. But she will be happy about the money part, especially because they don't have a 'Good Vibrations' franchise in that Russia.

Today is national Slap Your Irritating Co-Worker day -- brought to you by the League Of Human Resource Professionals. Guaranteed that if you do slap an irritating coworker, HR (wherever you are) will have you in your manager's office so fast it will make you a believer in the speed of light as a universal constant.

It is national Pharmacy Buyer's Day. How often do you ever give a thought to the poor Pharmacy Buyers, who labor so? It's a Mitzvah, so get right on that, okay?  Have an aspirin. It's good for you.

It is National Canning Day ("We Can In Canada", for our northern neighbors, eh. Good day.)

It is also national San Juan Capistrano day. Swallows everywhere are too busy eating 1.4 times their body weight each day, just to stay alive, so they don't have time to notice.  And, it is national iPod day, but we include no photos of iPods because Apple is a wealthy corporation and can afford its own advertising.   Enjoy.

Extra-special bonus fun points if you picked up on the original "Back To The Future" reference here. Step forward -- and claim your Tub Of Slaw™. 

** Extra-Extra Special fun bonus points if you made the psychic connection between "Firesign Theatre" and "George Leroy Tirebiter" or "Tub Of Slaw™". 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ad From Days Of Future Past

Faux Ads From that terrible Dog;  Click & enlarge; it's easy and fun !