Friday, September 28, 2012

Why John McCain Backs George Allen

John McCain endorses Virginia senatorial candidate George Allen's position on military funding. Click here to read his statement of support.

Youcef Nadarkhani's Letter of Thanks

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, imprisoned and sentenced to execution from having converted from Islam to Christianity, wrote a letter of thanks when released from prison in Iran. The letter has been translated into English and is online here:

Gluten-Free Recipe: Chocolate Cake a la Mode

This is in the family of desserts nicknamed "Possum Pies." Nobody wants to eat one of the small, mouthy animals known for eating garbage; Possum Pies are ooey-gooey, chocolatey, creamy, syrupy, crumb-topped confections that look like something a possum would eat. Humans like it too. Leftovers tend to be devoured, producing instant dietary imbalances, so we have to recommend serving this recipe to a large party where there won't be any leftovers.

Technically, this one is more of a serving suggestion than a recipe, but on behalf of those who feel deprived of "regular" cake and ice cream, here's a cake and ice cream confection that most gluten-intolerant and lactose-intolerant people can enjoy. To make it easier to verify that you can safely test this recipe, I've added links you can use to check out the specialty products online.

Ingredients for Gluten-Free Lactase-Enhanced Chocolate Cake a la Mode

1 box Hodgson's Mill chocolate cake mix. (Click here to find out more about this product. Unfortunately the manufacturer hasn't listed ingredients and nutrition information on the web site. The mix is available in big-chain stores like Kroger's and Food City, so you may be able to read the label where you buy it. Basically rice flour, it does contain tapioca and xanthan gum.)

1/4 cup butter or margarine (we tested with "Smart Balance")

1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer powder. (Click here to find out what this is and where you can get it, if you want it. You may substitute two eggs.)

1 cup water

1 bottle butterscotch ice cream topping. (Click here to see the ingredients.)

1 box Lactaid vanilla ice cream. (Click here to see an annoying web page that does, however, contain a list of ingredients.)

1 package Heath Bits-o-Brickle toffee candy crumbs. (Click here to see a list of ingredients.)

Vanilla and almond extract (optional)

Method for Gluten-Free Lactase-Enhanced Chocolate Cake a la Mode

1. Heat oven to 350. Lightly oil two 8" pans, one 9x13" pan, or 12 muffin/cupcake cups.

2. Thoroughly combine the butter and dry cake mix.

3. Beat Ener-G powder in measuring cup with water to remove all lumps. Add this to cake mix.

4. The manufacturer recommends adding vanilla and almond extracts to the cake batter. We didn't, because we don't bake often, don't have these things on hand, and didn't expect a packaged cake mix would need them. Since there's vanilla in the ice cream and almonds in the toffee, the cake tasted adequately flavored without the extracts.

5. Cake dough will be stiff, like yeast bread dough. Spread it evenly in the oiled pan(s) and bake as directed.

6. When cake tests done, remove from oven. Use the round handle of a wooden spoon or similar utensil to poke holes about 1" apart in warm cake, or 1 hole in each cupcake. Pour butterscotch topping over cake. Let it cool a bit. Meanwhile, let Lactaid ice cream thaw a bit; for some reason it tends to freeze solid.

7. Cut the cake. Top each slice with a scoop of Lactaid, and sprinkle candy crumbs over that.

Gluten-Free Recipe: Turkey Crumbles

This is a low-fat, low-sodium alternative to sausage or processed meat when recipes call for those things. It's also a passable topping for rice or salad, filling for omelets or sandwiches, or addition to beans, greens, or vegetable soups.

Ingredients for Turkey Crumbles

1 to 2 pounds ground turkey. Since most of the fat cooks out, the leaner the turkey you buy, the more you actually have after cooking. Organically grown turkey, or organically grown chicken, or even game is preferable to fatty, pre-salted commercial turkey; however, what you're doing to the turkey in this recipe is removing fat and any added salt.

Lots of water

1 teaspoon (or more) garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon (or less) red pepper

Up to 1/2 teaspoon total of other spice(s). Turkey Crumbles are bland enough to be a good test recipe for all kinds of spice mixtures, but the key to successfully mixing spices is to use only a reasonable total amount of dried herbs. A small amount of mixed spices will produce an exotically seasoned meat dish. A lot of mixed spices will make people wonder whether your spice rack fell on top of the stove. If you want a substitute for Jimmy Dean or Tennessee Pride sausages or Morningstar Farms Breakfast Patties, use 1/2 teaspoon of sage. If you want a substitute for Italian-type sausage, use 1/2 teaspoon of basil and three rosemary leaves, or a pre-purchased mix of basil, rosemary, and marjoram.

Method for Turkey Crumbles

1. Put the ground turkey in a saucepan with enough water to float comfortably. Set it on high heat. Don't cover, don't stir, and don't leave it alone after it begins to simmer. The minute it boils, snatch it off the heat, clap a lid on it, and let it cool for at least half an hour.

2. Skim off the fat. (Add it to a bowl of dry bread or kibble for a cat or dog treat.) Drain the water. Rinse the meat with fresh warm water.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 again.

4. After boiling out and skimming off fat the second time, turkey may be browned and seasoned by itself, or added to other ingredients to finish cooking. To brown it by itself, add just enough water to film the pan, add turkey, season, and stir it about until the water steams off. It should be light brown in spots, almost completely free from fat, and very tender.

Gluten-Free Recipe: Spicy Two-Grain Stuffing

Grandma Bonnie Peters went with a patient to see a doctor. In the waiting room, she picked up a magazine that contained a recipe for stuffing to bake in a Thanksgiving turkey. The receptionist was just going to discard the year-old magazine, so she sent the recipe home with GBP. So we found two more tasters and experimented with our own version.

Stuffings are rich, crumbly, breadlike mixtures. Traditionally they were baked in and around a whole roasted bird or animal carcass. However, it's easier to bake meat and stuffing to perfection if the stuffing is in a separate pan, and some stuffings are rich enough to make good main courses without the meat. This one contains both nuts and chicken, so only for a large crowd would you need to bake the turkey as well.

We made the recipe accessible to more people with special dietary needs by breaking it up. Stuffings were traditionally baked in one pan, sometimes bound together with extra eggs, wine, or batter. If you want to invite people with different dietary needs to one party, why not cook the stuffing components separately and let each diner combine the ones s/he can safely eat. You still have a complete feast here, and, unless you want to stretch it out to feed more than four to six people, there's no need to jam it all back into a baking pan and bind it with eggs.

So here's what we ended up doing:

Ingredients for Spicy Two-Grain Stuffing

About 4 tablespoons corn, canola, olive, and/or peanut oil

Generous 2 cups (we used a half-litre measure) of corn meal. The fresher the meal is, the better. Last week I'd observed that "Virginia's Best" white corn meal was excellent--at this time of year. This week Grandma Bonnie Peters, who grew up in Indiana, observed that Illinois-based "Hodgson's Mill" yellow corn meal tasted just like the meal they used to have ground from home-grown yellow corn.

1 scant teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1-1/2 teaspoons Rumford's baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer powder

1 litre of water, plus up to 1/4 cup more

1 package Gwaltney Great Dogs, Great Big Dogs, or Great Turkey Dogs. These are made in Virginia, from chicken or turkey as the case may be, and are my default quick'n'easy substitute for any sausage or processed meat in recipes. If you want a salt-free substitute, see the recipe for Turkey Crumbles. Gwaltney Hot Dogs, which are even cheaper because they're made from inferior meat, are not recommended for this or any recipe.

1 box Zatarain's Jambalaya rice mix. This is what most people would call a spicy Cajun dish. You can be more cautious and substitute Mild Jambalaya, or go wild and substitute Dirty Rice. If you want a salt-free substitute, boil up one bag of Success Brown Rice (add just a sprinkle of pepper, sage, rosemary, celery seed, and/or oregano if you like).

1 bell pepper

3 or 4 celery ribs (use the leaves if still attached and bright green)

1 Vidalia onion. If they're not available where you live, substitute the sweetest onion or onions that are available; you need 1-1/2 to 2 cups of chopped onion.

1 bunch scallions

1-2 cups pecans

2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Method for Spicy Two-Grain Stuffing

1. Heat the oven to 450. Generously oil an 8" to 9" baking pan. Let the pan warm in the oven.

2. Combine corn meal, salt, baking powder, and soda in a mixing bowl.

3. Measure Egg Replacer powder into your 1/2-litre measure, add a few tablespoons of water, and mix to smooth out any lumps. Then fill the measure with water and add to the meal mixture. Add 2 tablespoons oil.

4. In a saucepan, heat another 1/2 litre of water. Add sliced chicken or turkey Dogs or Turkey Crumbles. Dump in rice mix and stir. When it boils, cover the pan, turn down the heat, and time it for 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Combine liquid and dry ingredients to make batter, pour it into the pan (oil should sizzle), and bake 20 to 25 minutes. You can set one timer for both processes.

6. Pour remaining oil into a skillet. Add a few tablespoons of water to coat the pan. Slice in celery, onion, and scallions. If you like your vegetables limp, heat the skillet while the other ingredients are cooking. If you like them crisp, heat them for only the last five minutes of cooking time. Add nuts to the vegetables while they cook. Add parsley during the last minute.

7. When the timer goes off, remove the rice from heat. Quickly chop in the bell pepper, replace the lid on the pan, and let the temperatures equalize for about five minutes.

8. Remove cornbread from oven.

At this point, if all guests can eat all these ingredients, you can dump everything back into a 9x13 or 10x15" sprayed pan, toss to combine, and bake it all together. You could add eggs or batter, too. We didn't. We set this up as a buffet; the reason for warming the bell pepper in the rice, rather than with the other vegetables is that the vegan taster is allergic to bell peppers.

This is a substantial meal for 4 people, a main dish with more vegetables on the sides for 6-8 people, and if you double the amounts of vegetables and cornbread and bake it in and around a roast turkey, it will extend a large turkey to feed 20-25 people.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Constitution 101 from Hillsdale College Online

For those of us who (like me) didn't have the online time to participate in an e-class, Hillsdale College is now offering its free online introduction to the U.S. Constitution as a web page:

Lots of good stuff to use in high school or undergraduate history, civics, and social studies courses, free of charge. Overseas readers, please let us know whether this site works for you.

Good News for Southwestern Virginia

What's the good news in this alarming story?

Check out the map, fellow Virginians. Although drug traffickers creep around everywhere and can pop up anywhere, this map shows that we property-protecting, foreigner-distrusting, right-wing gun nuts are for the most part forcing the Mexicans to go through more left-wing states to deliver illegal drugs to D.C. Hurray for us. Long may this desirable state of affairs continue.

Of course, the price of liberty and other good things is vigilance. You know the criminals saw this map. You know the police did. More attention is going to be directed to the routes the drug traffickers have been preferring. So we are going to have to be vigilant, too, to preserve the blessings we currently enjoy.

Know your neighbors, Gentle Readers. Blaming Mexico is not the problem--druglords can afford to hire any number of local "mules" to do the dirty work for them. Many legal immigrants from Mexico are hardworking and law-abiding; some lifelong local residents are neither. Keeping property in families is generally a good way to preserve the quality of the neighborhood, but no system is perfect. Beware of new money, of an unhealthy interest in gun control, and of any kind of tolerance for the idea that the consciousness of able-bodied people needs any chemical alteration. Any of these things is more likely to be a tip-off than a Spanish family name is.

Walk your property. Watch your fences. If you see something the police want to know about, be the first to let them know. There is a lot of personal safety value in numbers, in looking harmless, in speaking peaceably, as well as in cell phones and weapons...but there is a lot of statewide safety value in the fact that we've kept the legal right to protect our property by any means necessary, and the scum don't know which of us have guns.

Know Your Property Rights in Bristol and Dublin

Announcement e-mailed from Catherine Turner:

September 27, 2012

Don Casey, Vice Chairman of the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights will be the featured guest speaker hosted by the Southwest Virginia Tea Party of Abingdon and Bristol on Friday, October 5th at the Woodmen of the World Center,
1997 Long Crescent Drive, Bristol, VA at 6:30PM, with the presentation starting at 7:15PM. A BBQ dinner will be served, starting at 6:30.

SAV NRV, Sustain Authentic Values, New River Valley will host Mr. Casey on Saturday evening, 6:30PM at the River of Life Church, 5311 Black Hollow Road, Dublin VA. The presentation will begin at 7:15 and dinner served starting at 6:30.

Don Casey is one of the foremost authorities on Sustainable Development / Agenda 21 in the United States, and is just returned from a speaking tour in Australia. He will have much to share on the groundbreaking anti-agenda 21 legislation for which the Alliance for Citizens Rights played an instrumental role in seeing signed into law in Alabama.

The events are free and open to the public.


Charlie Hargis, SWVA Tea Party Hotline:
OR Catherine Turner, SAV NRV (571)337-1889


Pendants for Atheists

Billy Hallowell shares two designs for pendants atheists can wear, in place of a crucifix, star, pentagram, etc...

Fifty Things Liberals Love to Hate

Yesterday's news: Facebook claims they blocked Mike Gallagher's promotion of his new book "in error" (because the title contains the word "hate"?!).

We checked. We don't know Mike Gallagher, his radio show, or his book. We do hate censorship, so here's an extra link to help make up for any "accidental" damage Facebook censorship may have wrought:

Book Promotion: Andrei Codrescu's Bibliodeath

Not (Yet) A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Bibliodeath: My Archives with Life in Footnotes

Author: Andrei Codrescu

Author's (interactive!) web page:

Publisher: Antibookclub

Publisher's web page:

Date: 2012

Length: 168 pages

Illustrations: some black and white photos

ISBN: 978-0-9838683-3-0

Quote: "The public execution of the paper book today is not an attempt to erase the content, like book burnings by the Inquisition or by is the transfer of the content to a new life in another medium."

Bibliodeath is a literary memoir about, specifically, the experience of having one's books and papers electronically archived. This is one of those mixed blessings of a long, successful career. By and large Codrescu succeeds in describing it in a witty, ironic way, without wailing.

As regular readers know, I don't have much faith in any "other medium" that's electric or electronic; as I read an advance copy of Bibliodeath, it becomes apparent that Andrei Codrescu has some doubts, too. Computers crash, burn out. Manufacturers don't support electronic technology; Salman Rushdie's computer is already classified as an "antique" that can only be simulated, not sustained, by the archivists trying to preserve his work. Even the electric current to power the e-junk isn't reliable. Paper copies won't last forever but my experience has already been that it's easier to preserve paper copies longer than it's been to preserve anything electronic.

Detachment from the "bibliodeath" of having libraries "transfer" your books to electronic archives comes with age; that's another point Bibliodeath makes. Adjusting to the reality that some baby-boomers are retiring, considering themselves "senior," even cultivating detachment, is...quite an adjustment.

Then there's adjusting to the reality that pessimistic thoughts may be a good sign. Codrescu doesn't mention Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided, nor dwell at great length on its theme, but he does mention the link between Old Soviet dictatorship and (enforced) optimism.

I affirm that we do not have to adjust to, or accept, or allow, any "public execution of the paper book." I warn readers that, if we ever really did that, someone out there would immediately "attempt to erase the content"--that that effort is already being made, often by well-meaning people who don't want to read books written by people who were never asked to overcome prejudices against the well-meaning people's ethnic group. And, when--not if--the attempt was made by people with evil, despotic intentions, it would probably succeed. When you buy a paper book or write something on paper, the content of the writing is mortal, fragile, and still outside your head, but it is yours. When you buy the content in an electronic format, you can't be sure that other people, the weather, chance, will even let you keep the content long enough to transfer it into your head. So caveat lector. Beware of e-books even if they're given away with half a pound of tea.

We do, however, have to adjust to the existence of time and mortality, and detach ourselves from the reality that brash, youthful voices gradually become detached, elderly voices. Bibliodeath manages to expound on several reasons why we need to continue buying paper books, while affirming, in a dry and detached way, that we'll probably let huge chunks of culture be erased--by greedy manufacturers, mechanical errors, and our inability to make a graceful transition out of the Waste Age without an economic collapse, if not by dictators. But that will be mostly younger people's problem.

Sometimes either readers' lack of money, or writers' success and generosity (in giving their reputations to smaller publishers), makes a writer's aging process seem less gradual. I think the last Codrescu book I had a chance to read was Road Scholar (one of the best American travel books of all time), so Bibliodeath was a bit of a shock. You, Gentle Readers, can best avoid this shock by collecting the author's intervening publications, including New Orleans Mon Amour, which are listed in no particular order at If you read them in chronological order the transition will be easier to handle.

So, what does Bibliodeath have to offer besides this emotional shock? It's a literary memoir, frequently steering readers to earlier books in which Codrescu shared memories of things other than the writing process. It's a study of how books and writers are made. It's an introduction to some of Codrescu's favorite European writers, some of whom influenced his writing in unlikely, unforgettable ways--the story of his literary relationship with one volume by Renata Pescanti Botti is a recurrent motif throughout the book.

Is a strictly literary memoir on the dry, lit-crit side, of interest to writers only? Not this one. In fact, because Bibliodeath wasn't written for NPR, it contains several of the kind of dry, literary, philosophical insights into the male experience that lead to unpublishable, but very insightful, conversations between couples.

Bibliodeath, of course, contains the standard Codrescu quota of jokes, quirks, and thesis material. One might reflect on the secular-Jewish contrasts between frequent ridicule of false "god" and an occasional respectful reference to "G-d". I, having already posted a consideration of the possible typo in "feint praise," can now say that the word "feint" recurs in the text in "correct" ways that make "feint praise" seem like a deliberate lead-in; someone writing a term paper, not a thesis, might want to chew on that.

If Bibliodeath is your favorite of Codrescu's books, you are a confirmed word-nerd and should only work as a writer, publisher, or librarian. If you're neither a writer, publisher, nor librarian, it's an enjoyable one-time read. It's particularly recommended to those who want to peek at "e-books" checking out new books from the library, this can be a good way to maximize your satisfaction with the books you do buy, as long as you remember to buy the good ones.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Greek Market Pictures

This one is especially for a local lurker who's lived in, and feels nostalgic for, Europe: you might enjoy e-meeting Zirconium, otherwise known as Peg Duthie:

Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for sharing the link.

Dolphin Born on Video

Billy Hallowell shares the video of a dolphin "calf" being born, swimming, recognizing her mother, and peeking at the camera with that permanent silly grin that makes all dolphins (and all cormorants) so amusing...

Some correspondents have tried to find out exactly why I so seldom actually watch videos. Can I see them? Depends on which computer I'm using; my own computer doesn't link to the Internet (that's a choice), so I'm always using a public access computer or borrowing a friend's. Online time is usually limited, so unless I know they're going to be very good and very short I seldom even try to find out whether they'll play on the computer I'm using. E-mails with "must-see video" in the heading automatically get deleted. On the other hand, when e-friends share videos with text transcriptions of any words (since public access computers aren't supposed to have sound), and with nice, clear, appealing still pictures, I do look, and sometimes I link.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Please Don't Register This Deer as a Republican Voter

TMH shares a news video in which a deer consistently defaces yard signs reflecting homeowners' Democratic Party affiliation:

Even if the deer were provided with equal opportunities to damage Republican signs in its territory, it's not old enough to vote!

Panda Obituary: Mei Xiang Loses New Cub

Since the Chinese government "lent" Mei Xiang, the endangered Giant Panda, to the National Zoo in Washington, the Washington Post has reported the story of her bereavement as local news:

Evaluating Ann Coulter

An individual employee of Microsoft inadvertently posted the employee's own opinion of Ann Coulter on the company's Facebook page:

Shocking! Disgraceful! Coulter's reported umbrage with being compared to Robert Reich's granddaughter even prompts me to reconsider a haiku I once published comparing Coulter with my late lamented cat Bisquit.

The difference I highlighted, back then, was that Bisquit was capable of being a mother. The similarities began with both Coulter and Bisquit being slim, blonde, and annoying, but the comparison really began with the fact that Bisquit reported news to me. When anything unusual had happened around the Cat Sanctuary, Bisquit would in fact point to the scene (with her nose); sometimes she even seemed to be trying to pantomime what she'd seen. While I wouldn't have expected a cat to be able to remember or report much, Bisquit was not an ordinary cat, and I was able to verify (by tracks in fresh snow) that one episode she reported had been even more dramatic and unexpected than Bisquit was able to show. Of course, most cats reenact hunts and fights; Bisquit didn't seem able to think of a way to pantomime the effects of weather damage, which she also faithfully pointed out to me, year after year, when it occurred.

Whether Bisquit ever understood the concept of reading or writing, I'm not sure. (The most that's been seriously claimed that some cats have been taught, usually with difficulty, to notice the difference between printed words like "food" and "sand" on identical containers. I'm not the one who took the time to teach a cat this idea.) Bisquit did, however, paw through at least one short book, holding down pages as if she had at least looked at each one; and she did once sneak into my office and type something on the computer, although what she typed was gibberish and I have no idea whether she imagined that what humans type on computers have anything to do with words.

Bisquit was not a Listening Cat. She seldom responded correctly to words; she seldom even listened to words--she usually meowed first. She was, however, the most actively communicative cat I've ever known. Like Ann Coulter, she often made me smile...and often made me protest, "That's not funny! That's not even cute!"

I suspected, during her lifetime, that much of what Bisquit was communicating had to do with the early death of her favorite littermate and the subsequent development that she was nobody's very favorite cat. She belonged to an extremely social cat family and received some affection from her mother, uncle, and sisters as well as her humans, but she always seemed to be upstaged by relatives who were even more adorable than she was. My Significant Other used to try to fill in the gaps, thus highlighting another resemblance between Bisquit and Ann Coulter: both were more appreciated by men than by women.

To be fair, I will say that I've appropriated more of Coulter's jokes than Bisquit's. On the other hand, Coulter wouldn't fit on my lap, doesn't work as a team with her relatives to keep the Cat Sanctuary vermin-free, and has not supplied the neighborhood with a clan of super-intelligent social kittens.

Elizabeth Warren: Fauxcahontas? Faux Attorney?

Having disproved Elizabeth Warren's claim to be even partly Cherokee, Massachusetts Republicans now confront her claims to be even a licensed attorney:

Becket Adams has more:

The Role of Unions in Public Education

Other bloggers discuss the question of whether public school teachers should go on strike:

Virginia Voter ID: What If You Can't Drive?

Gregory W. asked an excellent follow-up question to my comment here:

Virginia's voter identification law was discussed here in March, but we didn't discuss what disabled Virginians are expected to do...because that hasn't changed.

If you simply don't drive, you can (and should) get a state ID card that looks like a driver's license but affirms that you're not a licensed driver. Employers demand this for many jobs; you might as well have one for general use. You still use the DMV facility to have your picture processed into an official state ID card. There is a $10 fee.

Here's the official web site for state ID cards:

If a physical disability makes it difficult for you to visit the DMV or registrar's office, you need to contact the local registrar about voting by mail. Once the need to do this is confirmed, state employees will do everything possible to make it easy. A disability pension check can be used as official identification. A relative, nurse, or other employee can help you vote at home.

Virginia does not process applications for voter registration online, but does accept requests for a printed application form to be mailed to you:

However,the federal government has made it possible for any U.S. citizen to submit a request for a fee-free, photo-free voter ID card online, although registrars will still need to verify your information before mailing a card to you. One web site that's been set up to facilitate this process is

There's also a web site specifically for U.S. citizens who need to register, or may need to vote, while in a different country:

If you have reason to believe that a temporary disability, someone else's disability, or even your work or school schedule, may make it hard for you to report to the polls, you also may contact the registrar about voting by mail. Call or write to explain the situation.

If you're living with someone on the other side of a state line--whether it's your spouse, a relative, a disabled patient, a boarding house near your school, whatever--you can still participate in that person's election while voting in your own. All the law asks is that you vote only once. You can still help young people register, help disabled people vote, and host election parties in another state, city, county, or precinct, if you so choose. While living together in Prince Georges County, Maryland, my husband voted (and served as election judge) in Howard County, Maryland, and I voted (by mail) in Scott County, Virginia. Our new law, if it survives the federal challenge, won't interfere with this kind of thing. One vote per living body, but there's no legal limit on the number of additional living bodies you may be able to deliver to the election.

It's still possible, at the time of writing, to use a bank statement or utility bill, or Social Security card or school ID card, to obtain a photo-free voter ID card. A state ID card is more useful for more purposes, but if you can't scrape up $10 you can still confirm your legitimacy as a voter without a state ID card. All the law asks is that you do this in advance of the election, and don't try to use different documents to vote in different places.

Privacy fanatic though I am, I can't see this law as it stands as discriminatory to any person or group...although I can easily imagine the technology being set up to violate the secrecy of the polls, a few years down the road.

If anybody out there was really counting on being able to vote twice, I suggest planning a new strategy. You have to play by the rules to start educating and rallying apathetic voters now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rand Paul on Balancing the Budget

In a three-minute video, Senator Rand Paul argues that the United States needs a balanced budget amendment:

Some of you weren't on board last year when Senator Mark Warner told this web site that, although a balanced budget amendment seems to be working for Virginia, the rest of the United States just isn't as enlightened as we are and would not be ready to try to balance a budget. If you can use the comments section below, and would like to argue that your state could handle a balanced budget amendment in either the state or the national constitution, please feel free. If you want to post on this topic and aren't able to use the comments section below, please e-mail

Mitt Romney Ad: Hair Discrepancy

Actually it's not just the hair; if you sit through the thirty-second video on this page, you'll see two completely different images of Mitt Romney.

Exactly how Romney plans to save a way of life that's becoming increasingly dangerous and hard for anyone to sustain is another question, although we hope the campaign at least employed a real laid-off coal miner and paid him for appearing in the ad.

What I can definitely tell you about this ad is that the image of Mitt Romney on the left side of the linked page looks old enough to be the father of the one in the TV spot. Has he dyed his hair for the campaign? Had a face lift? Or spliced in old video footage? Elections are so much fun.

Shaquille O'Neal, Congressman, High School Principal: What Do They Have In Common?

What would you do if you were a rich, famous athlete, with a unique name, financially secure but ready to move into a grown-up job that would give meaning to the rest of your life? Shaquille O'Neal attacks the practice of binge drinking on college campuses. Congressman Morgan Griffith supports his efforts, as does the new principal at Blacksburg High School. Here's a quote from the Congressman's e-newsletter:

"The statistics are alarming. More than 10 million youths, ages 12 to 20, in America report they have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. Approximately 30 percent of teenagers admit that they drink to get drunk. And 36 percent of college students report binge drinking.
"As we all know, this isn’t just a problem on college campuses. More and more, we are learning that our high school kids and, in some cases, our middle school kids are also susceptible to it. As a junior in high school, Ninth District resident Brian Kitts’ life was forever changed when his mom was killed by a classmate of his. As a testament to the human spirit, once he worked through the pain and tragedy, Brian admits he was able to find clarity and strength. He has since dedicated his life to working with kids. Recently named the new principal of Blacksburg High, I commend Brian for dedicating his life to helping students."
This web site officially wishes Principal Kitts success in helping students say no to alcohol.

Jerry Jenkins Trilogy Complete

Jerry Jenkins announces the release of the third volume in the Precinct 11 trilogy:

Not the genre of novel I'd even be well qualified to review, but for those who like police stories with a Christian perspective, I can say that Jenkins generally delivers plausible, interesting plots.

Seventh-Day Adventists and Interracial Marriage

The computer reports that somebody out there found this web site while searching for material about "Seventh-Day Adventists and interracial marriage." Which means they were searching hard, because, although I've posted some things about Seventh-Day Adventists and some things about interracial marriage, I've not posted anything about that combination of topics.

In case that reader, or those readers, are still searching, I'll share this. The Seventh-Day Adventist church does not ban interracial marriage. It's a global church, and although U.S.-born White males still hold a disproportionate number of paid jobs in the church administration, efforts have been made to make all races and nations feel represented.

Some of those efforts have been controversial. Yes, in places where there are enough Adventists to make it reasonable for one city or county to have more than one Adventist church, there is likely to be a "Black church," a "White church," a "Spanish church," and in really large Adventist communities there may be additional churches that hold services in other languages too. In the 1980s some people thought the English-speaking churches ought to try to force racial integration. To some extent they are integrated--if you want to visit a church where most people will look and sound different from you, invitations are easy to get. The consensus of opinion among Adventists was that the English-speaking "Black" and "White" churches had evolved two distinct styles of services, both of which Adventists wanted to preserve.

Mention should perhaps be made of an assembly program I remember from my first year at an Adventist college. All full-time students in residence were supposed to have attended this program. Two employees of the college administration went on stage, with their spouses. There was an Anglo-American woman with an African-American husband; they said they had grown up in the same city, met at school, and spent time at each other's homes before they married, but because they looked very different, people thought it was strange that they liked each other. There was also a Latin American man with an Asian wife; they said they hadn't spoken any of the same languages or lived in the same countries before college, but because they had similar skin colors, people seldom gave them a second look.

Seventh-Day Adventist ministers are expected to warn young couples about the way any and all personal differences, even different opinions about where to set the thermostat, can undermine a relationship. Most ministers will advise against an interracial or international marriage.

Some very odd people are attracted to the Seventh-Day Adventist church, often for the wrong reasons, so there may be Adventists who show prejudice against odd couples who are already married. I never observed that, though. Older people will warn couples about all kinds of potential problems with anyone they are or are not even dating, but after the wedding ceremony Adventists are supposed to support each other's marriages.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Should We Have Gone to the Democratic Convention?

Jason Howerton asked people at the Democratic National Convention to describe members of the (bipartisan) Tea Party:

"They drink a lot of tea and dance around, yell and scream"? That would be interesting, I suppose, because it's not what any Tea Partier of whom I'm aware actually does. Then again, sometimes, as it might be when our children's school (obviously not Gate City, this year) wins the state championship football game, people do stop politicking and just plain party. There is a time for dancing around and screaming "We're Number One," and when Obama loses the election in November I'm sure many of us will get into a dancing-and-screaming mood fuelled entirely by tea.

"Hate Black people"? Hello? Has this person ever met Allen West? Many Tea Partiers, including me, are fans of Thomas Sowell. Many like Condoleezza Rice. I'm not sure why I seem to be the only Tea Partier I know who has, so far, discovered Larry Elder. (Since I seem to be the only Tea Partier I know who attended a Seventh-Day Adventist school, I can understand why I seem to be the only one who's read anything by Adventist minister Hyveth Williams.) But almost every day a Tea Party connection sends me something in support of Allen West.

Oh, those Democratic delegates. So out of touch with current reality...

Maybe I should have accepted that e-vite. Or maybe some Tea Party connections should have claimed it. Those Democrats have no clue what we're about.

I mean, crumbs, some Tea Partiers are Democrats!

Even I Shouldn't Be "Planning" Southwestern Virginia

Yesterday I posted a press release some friends upstate e-mailed about the proposal to let the Crooked Road / Round the Mountain, a tourism-promoting association, take over the responsibility for "planning" what property owners in southwestern Virginia are allowed to do with their property.

E-mail on this topic has been coming in for weeks now, and frankly, Gentle Readers, we have been speechless. When Gena Greene joined The Crooked Road, she was hoping that the kind of nice, polite, professional-looking web advertisement for which she paid dues would attract more profitable business. It hasn't. So now The Crooked Road want to take, well, the crooked road, grab more money and power, and try to force tourists to spend more money, or force local people to change our style to something they think tourists will spend more money on, or....Gena Greene takes no responsibility for these people or the mysterious workings of their minds.

(For the record, Grandma Bonnie Peters wanted to join The Crooked Road, too, but was barred because she currently lives in Tennessee.)

Well...I could be part of The Crooked Road, too; I'm a Virginia artisan, and I certainly wouldn't mind a little discreet marketing of bits of my family history as tourist attractions. I mean, discreet, to the right sort of tourists. No bus loads, no "campgrounds" with electricity and wi-fi and that sort of unwelcome intrusions of urban life. I mean, there's a Civil War battle story, and as Tony Horwitz observed, you have your "hardcore" Civil War reenactors and your "farbs," as in "far be it from us to make our act authentic," and I am only interested in the hardcores who want to hike up roads that were built to exclude motor traffic. But there is an obscure, mainly human-interest, hardcore-authentic story in these old hills, if my relatives ever agree on the extent to which we're willing to exploit it. (I am not talking about a volume of tourists that would disrupt our quiet hardcore-rural-pioneer lifestyle.)

So for those who think that a bit of dictatorship from a nice, refined group of artists, crafters, food and fiber farmers, and owners of family restaurants and bed'n'breakfasts might be just what southwestern Virginia needs, consider what I could be tempted to do with the power to "plan" just what goes on in Scott County. I certainly have the right to make these plans, because I am the epitome of what Scott County has to market. Hardcore, old-school, Granola Green, I usually choose to wear longish skirts, own a sunbonnet, have done a bit of spinning and weaving, baked my own bread when I ate wheat, raise organic crops and pick organic wild foods on the mountain, use spring water and a water-free toilet, have driven a horse, and wouldn't mind driving tourists around in a wagon. My ancestors were here long before one of them was hired to survey and lay out the eventual town of Gate City.

So it would be so easy for me to be one of those Crooked Roadies who are apparently saying, "Hmmm, the trouble with our marketing plan is that we've not been able to 'plan' enough of what our neighbors do to coordinate everything into a unified scheme of yadda yadda..."

Come, temptation, into my mind. Speak, Satan! And the tempter suggests things that would present no problem whatsoever for me in marketing what I have to offer:

1. The kind of tourists I want, which are not the kind who prefer Dollywood, would love the authenticity of riding in a mule-drawn wagon. Or even a horse-drawn "sled," which was what my grandparents usually drove and what I was taught to drive. Trouble is, motor traffic makes that touch of authenticity too dangerous. We have to ban all motor traffic from at least the west end of Gate City, the so-called Daniel Boone community and former town of Bray, which is where my family's Civil War story took place. Cars and trucks would have to be loaded onto the (inauthentic, but distant enough to be tolerated) freight train at Speers Ferry and released at Moccasin Gap. Their owners could either walk through Gate City, or pay to ride in a wagon.

2. Also, to filter out the wrong sort of people, even encouraging those of the wrong sort who live here to consider relocation, we should redesign all motor vehicles used in Scott County. In order to be legally driven here, cars and trucks should be built for a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour and a maximum fuel capacity of one gallon at a time. Also, because so many Scott County drivers don't seem to know how to use a dimmer switch, all headlights should be permanently dimmed--they won't need high beams since they won't be going fast enough to need to see that far ahead.

3. And, one thing that really puts me off the historic Jackson Street shops, appealing though some of them would be if I had a lot of money to spend, is that it's seldom possible to walk down historic Jackson Street during business hours without passing through clouds of nasty cigarette smoke. I will grant that tobacco is an authentic part of the history of southwestern Virginia. Cigarettes are not; they're an ugly twentieth-century innovation. We need to ban all cigarettes. When our Civil War soldiers smoked, which many of them did, they smoked pure local tobacco in pipes. Pure tobacco smells less offensive and contains fewer carcinogens than tobacco rolled in bleached paper.

4. Then there's the way some local people look. (Naming no names.) Did any of our grandparents weigh 250 pounds? I doubt it. They walked almost everywhere they went, did their own chores with hand tools until they became disabled, and ate mostly local produce. On that regimen I doubt that even a hypothyroid patient could be really obese. So, suppose we stop importing food, ban motorized tools, and require all obese residents of Scott County to attend weekly meetings where they weigh in and work out. (The gym that's recently opened in Gate City would be a good site.) After a year, those who've not slimmed down to a shape reasonably similar to at least our older, flabbier elders' could be offered a $1000 incentive to move out of Scott County. These funds would be taken out of the gym dues the obese would have been required to pay.

5. Now, about our toilet and sewage system...I hesitate to go here, because, historically, mountain people looked down on everyone else. In the nineteenth century the ideal lifestyle was to live near a pure mountain spring, get your drinking water from that spring, dump all your refuse into the outflowing stream below, and let the flatlanders deal with your garbage and sewage as best they could...which was why lowland communities near the Atlantic and Mississippi used to be considered "unhealthy." We are more enlightened now, I hope. Some ancestral customs should not be revived. But far too many of us are dependent on water-flush toilets that merely refine, rather than really rejecting, the hateful custom of dumping our sewage into water other people have to drink. Water-free toilets have been offered as an option for years now. We know they work. Well, actually they tend to need repairs every few years, but basically they work. What is keeping more people from installing them is mere laziness and parsimony. We could make water-free toilets mandatory. Oh, wait...the most functional design for water-free toilets is outrageously difficult for wheelchair dwellers to use, if the toilet is simply plunked down at floor level. We could make redesigning bathrooms as split-level structures mandatory. Local construction contractors would love this idea. I happen to like certain local construction contractors much better than I like certain other residents of Scott County.

Whew. Go away, Satan, you've said enough. Is everyone getting the point by now? Scott County is blessed to have me as a neighbor; Scott County should be grateful not to have me as a dictator. Even nice people who respect others' rights, leave others alone, walk lightly on the land, and try to make sure we have something worth saying before we speak, do not need to be corrupted by the temptation to make plans and decisions for other people.

Tamara Holder Is Desperate

Here's an apparently female TV talking head uttering a misogynist line that, when I was growing up, only ever came out of men who only ever intended to insult women. File this story under "hate speech"! Maybe she just wants to be one of those African-American rappers who choose some form of the Unprintable N-Word as stage names?

But no, Miss Holder tells her male co-worker that her own personal life isn't satisfying her. American manhood to the rescue! Surely somebody can grit his teeth, close his eyes, and, er, hold'er long enough to calm the frantic-looking blonde's seething hormones. Then maybe she'll be able to think more sensibly about...oh, who knows, at least etiquette, and business interpersonal skills, and perhaps even politics.

Sorry, guys. I appreciate that Michelle Malkin is more attractive than Tamara Holder, but the article says Ms. Malkin is married.

World's Skinniest Woman Rethinks "Fat-Free"

Although most of us need to balance our diets and bodies by losing fat, writer Lizzie Velasquez proves that being completely fat-free leaves something to be desired. Her body doesn't store fat. Although she can fairly be called the world's skinniest woman, she's been called the ugliest. And she's gone online to fight back:!home/mainPage

She's published two books in English, one with a Spanish edition. About beauty and fashion, yet. And yes, although her full-face pictures look strange, her "model" picture, which draws attention to her fabulous long thick hair, can fairly be called pretty.

Crime Tip for the Kingsport Police

Recently I stayed rather late at a friend's house in Kingsport, Tennessee, and so found myself walking home around 10 p.m. I don't particularly recommend this choice to other residents of Gate City, because for most of us it means getting home too late to get enough sleep, but in any case I made it.

So I walked to the top of the hill on the Tennessee side of Lynn Garden Drive, past the Higher Ground Baptist Church, and as I passed the storage barn two young men--the voices sounded like teenagers', and the bodies looked short and thin--emerged from the bushes above the storage barn. Instead of going directly to a car parked beside the road, they followed me away from the parked cars. One of them called out, "Have you got cigarettes?"

I don't have cigarettes. I wouldn't sell cigarettes if I owned a convenience store, which I don't. I didn't turn around to share that information with these guys, because I didn't want anyone to think I was talking to young men who stand around smoking on street corners. I am related to about half of Gate City. My relatives aren't obligated to be my chauffeurs, but usually, in the course of a nine-mile walk, someone or other will share a car for at least part of the way.

The guys followed me for one full city block. I decided to cross the street at the intersection above the Carters Valley Road, so that, in case anyone who knew me was driving to Gate City at that hour, the person would feel free to offer me a lift without thinking s/he had to make room for the two guys as well. But I was also starting to feel concerned about these fellows' intentions.

It's rare for young men to feel much personal interest in women old enough to be their mother, which I am. Sometimes young men tell me I don't look my age...but when young men are trying to approach women they believe to be their own age, for personal reasons, they don't do it in teams.

It's not so rare for drug addicts to mug, rob, or granny-bash in teams. And there is a drug treatment clinic on that section of Lynn Garden Drive.

So I waited for an eighteen-wheeler to pass before crossing the street, and as I stepped off the sidewalk a smaller truck swung around and, sure enough, a relative stopped to offer me a lift. This is an older relative, a friend of my father's. And all the way home I had to put up with a kind of I-told-you-so attitude, the tolerance for hatecrimes against women that was so endemic to their generation, and so annoying. Women, even old grey-haired grandmas, are just helpless rape bait who shouldn't endanger ourselves by using the public streets, although women pay taxes to maintain those streets, etc., etc., etc.

Or maybe this older relative's thinking was that, since he's somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty years old, he's entitled to see people in their forties as children, and everybody else sees us that way too. I don't know. Like most well-brought-up Southerners my age I seldom argue with people of that vintage; when I was fifteen and they were fifty I might have, but now, unless I know personally that they are still my mental equals and want to be treated as such, I write off their tiresome behavior as a sign of possible senility. And it could be more annoying; he could have been one of the older folks who still think socialism is a good idea.

However, I don't think hatecrimes against women had anything to do with what we were dealing with as I climbed into the relative's truck and one of the twerps called out, "We didn't mean to scare you, Ma'am, we just wanted to bum a cigarette." I think I was seeing something my husband and I encountered once in a nice suburb of Washington, D.C.

We had exactly two serious disagreements, neither of which was involved in his hypertensive moods, during our years together. This was the serious disagreement we were trying very very hard to resolve without anger, and we did. So to discuss the issue without anger we decided to take a soothing walk in a soothing park. We went into the park, and every time we'd sit down on a bench to bask and talk, one or more teenyboppers would pop up, stand or sit closer to us than seemed polite, and start calling to friends, either out loud or on a cell phone. We kept moving along in order to conduct our conversation away from these pushy brats, and determined that the kids were deliberately following us, herding us out of the park. And a few weeks later, local police rounded up seven teenagers in connection with illegal drug activity in that park.

When the twerps pushed up to my big, burly, grizzled relative too, I was convinced that that was what I was seeing. These kids weren't looking for real trouble...they were just trying to scare adults away from the area so they could make money by undermining the work of the drug treatment clinic.

Attention Kingsport police. I will be back on Lynn Garden Drive, some evening soon.

Attention drug-dealing scum. I don't know whether I could deliberately kill a fellow human, but I do believe in marking violent criminals for easy identification. If I lead with a cell phone in my left hand, guess what's in my right hand. And I have a lot of relatives, some as big as the one you saw, only younger, and we are clannish, and we hate drug dealers. I don't particularly want a rumble, but if you insist on one I think I can guarantee that you'll know you've been rumbled.

I would, of course, prefer for the Kingsport police to find you before the relatives and I do. They can afford to be humane. They would merely be doing their jobs.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tiffany Gabbay Outlines Libya Conspiracy Theory

How seriously should we take conspiracy theories? (Like my theory, explained earlier this afternoon, about Coca-Cola profiteering on the idea that smaller bottles of soda pop are somehow more healthy or more earth-friendly, as distinct from merely being more profitable for Coca-Cola.)

My husband used to say that unless someone has hard evidence that a conspiracy theory is factually true, we should ignore it altogether.

I'm not altogether convinced. Sometimes just calling awareness to how someone could do something undesirable, if someone tried, can help us prevent the undesirable act before it occurs. You don't have to have proof that anybody particularly wants to steal your car today before you lock your car doors, right? You know that there are a lot more cars than there are car thieves, and the odds are that no car thief is in your area, but you don't want to make it easy for any car thief who might have designs on your car.

I don't have to have proof that any specific group of Libyans or Muslims want to impose censorship on the United States, or that President Barack Hussein Obama (or anyone else) would let them try it, to agree with Tiffany Gabbay that Americans should clearly oppose all forms of censorship.

Muslims have to accept that individuals have the right to express themselves as they see fit, and the consequence of expressing themselves by making tacky, tasteless, trashy movies should be ostracism and contempt and personal ill will, as distinct from a violent crime that the United States could well choose to construe as an act of war.

How to Apologize to Your Cat

Australian Billy Browne alienated his cat, Rufus, by giving Rufus ear drops. What he did by way of a peace offering is another terribly cute video...if you can watch a five-minute video, this one's likely to make you smile.

New York Enacts Restrictions on Soda Pop

While Madeleine Morgenstern reports on New York City's nannyism...

...I wonder whether "the industry" is really opposing efforts to push smaller sodas.

What I'm seeing, here in Virginia, is that although our local Pepsi bottler is resisting the temptation, our local Coca-Cola bottler is going all out to push flimsier, skinnier bottles...for the same price as the standard bottles.

I left home earlier than usual yesterday morning, in order to stop at the computer center before going into Kingsport, and realized on the way that I hadn't brought anything cold and caffeinated with me. The computer center sells hot drinks; for cold drinks I had to duck into the convenience store at the other end of the block. There were 24-ounce Pepsis and Mountain Dews for $1.19, 20-ounce Sundrops and RC's for $1.09 or two for two dollars, and, also for $1.09 or two for two dollars, bottles of Coca-Cola and Mello Yello that looked like the bottles of RC and Sundrop...only skinnier. Sure enough, those were 16-ounce bottles of Coke being sold for the same price as 20-ounce bottles of RC!

Don't tell me those bottles use less plastic. I can jolly well see that, in order to get the same amount of soda, you're putting more plastic in the landfill. I can also tell by looking that those tall, skinny bottles will tip over easily, wasting more soda...and putting more strain on the blood pressure of home and car owners. So what's the point in even putting those stupid little bottles on the market? To make more profit for Coca-Cola, of course.

Let's not let "the industry" get away with this, Gentle Readers. The healthy, earth-friendly way to drink soda pop, if you're going to drink it at all, is to buy large bottles. Minimize the plastic...and the cost of packaging. Pour small drinks into your own reusable, recyclable glasses at home.

Seagull Films Own Flight

Liz Klimas shares a short, fun video filmed by a seagull, who flew away with a human's lightweight digital camera. Realizing that the camera wasn't food, the gull fortuitously dropped it facing the woman who was running to retrieve it!

Poor Little Rich Me

The Washington Post's promotion season is here. I don't know for how long, Gentle Readers, but for now you can get the Post free in your e-mail. Sections of the paper are e-mailed separately and will fill up the in-box. Worth the trouble if you want to follow Washington news. Anyway, Michelle Singletary's "Color of Money" column has been a great favorite for a long time. This week's article is called "Poor Little Rich Me." It's about politicians who think that telling stories about their relatively less wealthy days will win them votes from people who really feel poor. It's recommended, and the rest of this post will make sense after you have clicked here:

Maybe the difference between voluntary poverty, or at least voluntary non-wealthiness, and crushing poverty is partly a matter of personal opinion. Maybe that's the point the affluent politicians are trying to make. But it may backfire, because people dealing with whatever they define as crushing poverty don't want to listen to other people's stories of voluntary or acceptable non-wealthiness.

When I lived there Takoma Park, Maryland, was full of young people sharing acceptably grungy basements and attics, drinking soda pop from washed-out jam jars on thrift-store armchairs in sitting rooms lined with brick-and-plank bookshelves. The books, records, and tapes on the shelves were the part of the decor that defined our social status. Most of us had rich parents; some had super-rich parents. For some of us pinching pennies and not taking money from rich relatives was a point of great pride, and could even compensate for inadequately stocked brick-and-plank bookshelves. And it was cute, and we were cute, and we had fun, except when we were pining for the maturity and gravitas we now have instead of all that cuteness, energy, and shabby chic.

 Later on, some of us ventured into places where poverty was not cute. I don't think those of us who worked and made friends there would have confused our shabby-chic adventure days with the grim reality of, e.g., having a disability that qualifies you for home health care but not getting home health care because the providers were afraid to park cars on your street. (That happened in northeast D.C.)

Or, in a more affluent neighborhood, being one of half a dozen families on your block that have been making payments on nice houses for years, but then one little piece was knocked out of your personal economic puzzle, and now inside your nice house you're rationing water you've pumped into gallon jugs at the gas station because your water's been cut off, eating one meal a day, which is either peanut butter or bologna sandwiches, because you can't spend much on food.

Maybe in the classical era of Nashville music Depression survivors really bonded by sharing memories of "The Good Ol' Days When Times Were Bad," but I think that's a dubious move when people who've never felt really crushed by poverty are talking to people who feel that way now.

On Behalf of Romney...

Jeff Frank defends the idea of voting for Mitt Romney, although he doesn't completely agree with him:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Posting Regrets

This web site officially expresses sympathy for the family of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and the other U.S. citizens murdered by protesters in Libya.

Karen DeYoung shares a photo of the late Ambassador Stevens and a story that's more a report on the protest than a memorial to the victims:

[Update: The official memorial piece for the Ambassador is posted here:

And it's not that anyone regrets the loss of the private citizens less; it's that their families have chosen not to publicize their names.]

Well, the story does provoke rants in American readers...

So, one guy acting on his own bad idea makes a movie, described by the most sympathetic as tacky tasteless trash, that insults someone you respect--"you" here being a Libyan, with apologies to readers in saner countries--and you don't go and find this guy and have a little talk with him. (And I do mean talk...the experience of being talked to by twenty or thirty men expressing strong disagreement and disapproval has a very high rate of changing the behavior of Americans. Even American guys.)

You're not strong, smart, brave, or well organized enough to have a talk with him. You're not strong, smart, brave, or well organized enough even to make a movie about him that caps his insults, and be satisfied with that. In view of those things you probably wouldn't even have the fortitude to challenge even a movie geek to a fair man-to-man fight, either. No, you have to show that you're a bully and a coward and a fool by killing a lot of people who had nothing to do with the movie, whose intentions and behavior toward you have been decent and respectful. Nice going, Libyan Muslims.

I'm not convinced that Muhammad was a true prophet of God, but I am convinced that he was an intelligent and honorable man. As such, he would have denounced and disowned the lunatics in Libya.

End of rant. Sorry, Americans and others. I started to post condolences, on behalf of all Americans and Christians who contribute to this web site, and then as an American I got carried away.

Actors Who Are Chosen for Their Looks

Can Jane Fonda ever, by any stretch, act like Nancy Reagan? Well, you might salute her just for trying. Alan Rickman playing Ronald Reagan? Hoot!

Nevertheless, for a movie that's supposed to focus on someone who merely worked with the Reagans, Fonda and Rickman have been cast as the Reagans. They probably do look more like the Reagans than any other Screen Actors Guild members of the appropriate the time they're able to play seventy-year-olds, most actors have retired.

Madeleine Morgenstern shows us how much Fonda and Rickman do or don't resemble the former First Couple:

Virginia Tea Party Aroused

From Catherine Turner. I, Priscilla King, haven't even dared to touch the HTML code:

Property owners: Please note that Congressman Griffith and Senator Warner are both proponents of this designation, which is typically fast-tracked through Congress for approval---with no debate! Also of interest....all of the "public" meetings have been held---in ten out of nineteen affected counties---with thirty (30) people being the largest group in attendance.



The Liberty Confederation and SAV NRV, 
Sustain Authentic Values, New River Valley will host 
Saturday, September 15th, 
Providence Reformed 
Presbyterian Church, 11AM
190 W. Main Street
Wytheville, VA

One of the nation’s leading advocates of
individual liberty, free enterprise, 
private property rights and 
American sovereignty 
Founder and President of the American Policy Center, 
editor of The DeWeese Report, 
director of and author 
▪ Did you know that The Crooked Road, a taxpayer-funded regional tourism promotional organization is seeking National Heritage Area designation for the 19 counties it serves in SWVA, most of Congressional District 9?

▪ Did you know that such a designation could put land use and zoning decisions under the control of the National Park Service and Dept. of the Interior?
It is interesting to note that proponents of 
Heritage Areas refuse to  even consider a program to officially notify Landowners of pending  
Heritage Area 

When specifically asked to
include such notification
in their plans, they shuffle 
their feet, say there  is no
way  to  do it and then drop the subject. Of  course the ability is there. The  mailman delivers to each and every one of the homes  in in the  designated area every day.

The event is free and open to the public.
(276) 356-1259
It is interesting to note that proponents of 
Heritage Areas refuse to  even consider a program to officially notify Landowners of pending  
Heritage Area 

When specifically asked to
include such notification
in their plans, they shuffle 
their feet, say there  is no
way  to  do it and then drop the subject. Of  course the ability is there. The  mailman delivers to each and every one of the homes  in in the  designated area every day.

Feint Praise, the Pinch, the Ouch, and the Critical Eye

As noted last week, I've been given a sneak peek at Andrei Codrescu's forthcoming Bibliodeath. The book I'm reading is what's known to writers as a galley proof, a sort of mock-up used by proofreaders to spot typographical errors. It contains one phrase that might be a typo, or might be one of those insights that make multilingual writers so rewarding to read: "feint praise."

Feint praise? I savor the possibilities. The standard phrase is "faint praise," meaning weak, feeble praise. "How do you like the picture I drew for you, Mommy?" "Ummm...that's a picture, all right! Lots of colors!"

But "feint" is a word in its own right; it means the kind of faked move, especially in boxing, used to trick your opponent into preparing to block Strategy A so that you can then beat him with Strategy B. Would "feint praise" be the kind of vapid compliment used to disguise a sneaky verbal attack, as in "Everybody likes you, Tracy, and we all understand why it seems to be so hard for you to finish a project on time, but WHY can't you at least try to remember to refill the coffeepot?"

The word "feint" is what dictionaries call a cognate to the word "feigned," which could also describe a kind of praise: "How do you like the picture I drew for you, Daddy?" (Without shifting eyes away from the TV) "Ummm...great, fine, wonderful...look at THAT!" (meaning the TV)

Wondering whether this felicitous phrase will appear in the book I'm hoping to sell in an actual store next year, I think of other delights that pop up from time to time in the writings of people who are still learning to write English "correctly." Whole books of these phrases have been collected. "To protect the innocent, and the guilty, and myself" is starting to become a cliche in its own right, like "I want to be equally unfair to both sides" and "one Nation under God Invisible" and several others.

I was talking with Grandma Bonnie Peters last night, and she recalled an unusual phrase that popped out of a little girl we used to know. As her baby-sitter, I was "helping" this child write a thank-you letter to a relative. The three-year-old had scribbled on a page and was "reading" her thoughts to me. She dictated a few correct sentences, thank you for the package, I especially liked the picture book, and then for no obvious reason she said, "I am sending you a pinch and an ouch. The ouch is to say when you get the pinch."

Where that came from will never be known. The child was not in the habit of pinching people, was not pinching me, and never pinched the relative who had sent the package. But her whole extended family have been enjoying that phrase, and quoting it in all sorts of contexts, for thirty years.

Back then, every library still had copies of the once wildly popular comic novels by Leo Rosten, The Education of Hyman Kaplan and The Return of Hyman Kaplan. Really they were collections of short stories about the world's wackiest English as a Second Language class, in which a rather pedantic teacher dutifully corrected a variety of early-twentieth-century European immigrants to America, often indulging in sarcasm at their expense, and almost always having to concede a point to the ebullient student Hyman Kaplan. In contrast to shy, hypercorrect Miss Mitnick and depressive, overwhelmed Mrs. Moskowitz, Mr. Kaplan loved making a funny mistake or asking an imponderable question. He wasn't content to memorize things like "bad, worse, worst"; he wanted to argue for the merits of "bad, worse, rotten." He gave the teacher, Mr. Parkhill, headaches, but in some way Mr. Parkhill knew he needed Mr. Kaplan's daily brain-stretchers.

Maybe the adventures of Hyman Kaplan don't need to be reprinted--even when my husband and I reread them at the turn of this century, thinking how ESL teaching techniques and classes have changed interfered with enjoying the story--but the character's willingness to be ridiculous while thinking out loud lives on. One place where it lives on is in a handful of boldly comic thinkers and writers, of whom Codrescu is one, who are willing to attempt to be both witty and insightful in five languages.

Maybe it's because I'm too shy even to write blog posts in Spanish that I'm impressed by his discussion of how a poem he'd written in English, in collaboration with a Romanian correspondent, "works, but it's a different poem" in Romanian. Well, of course, isn't that always true of successfully translated poems? But how many writers dare to translate their own work? Don't most of us wait for a publisher to demand our consent to let someone else translate our stuff, so that, when (or if) that's done, we can wail about the translator being a traitor etc. etc.? (The cliche of traduttore-tradittore originated in Italian; I think by now it's global.)

Maybe all people who write successfully in five languages have to be people who are willing to laugh at their own mistakes, publish their mistakes, invite others to laugh at them too. Once you're a famous international poet, you can publish things like "feint praise," and readers will be impressed by your cleverness. However, Codrescu wasn't always a famous international poet; once he was an unknown immigrant youth who stumbled onto city buses asking "Can I buy this bus for..." and people laughed, and the driver growled, "Go buy another bus," and thought, "...smarty-pants!"

Years ago, as a young, pedantic typist in the habit of correcting foreign students' term papers, I mangled a manuscript written in admiration and imitation of Ishmael Reed. I was so young I hadn't even discovered Reed's books yet. I assumed that his admirer was trying to write standard, freshman-term-paper-type English, and not succeeding. I callously "corrected" a lot of effects that would have worked with a more mature audience, found something to flag as an unworkable mess on every page, and generally alienated a potential client.

A few years later I read one of Reed's novels. Right away I remembered the ambitious young author, and recognized what he'd been trying to do. Because Reed had got his novel published and well reviewed, I agreed that his surrealism worked, read more of his books, even recognized a family story he shared as identifying a distant relative of mine. Ishmael Reed continued to gain respect in the literary world, becoming one of the more successful male novelists of the late twentieth century. I don't remember whether Reed's admirer had even finished his novel; he never got it into bookstores. I had to wonder whether his complete novel might have worked...if people hadn't assumed that, because he was young and obscure, he was trying to write a more conventional kind of story, and not succeeding. If he hadn't found his own writing voice yet, at least he was a sophisticated reader.

I've tried at least to profit from this experience. Sometimes a hypercorrect approach ends up blocking a "mistake" that was actually a valuable new insight.

More recently, a prizewinning foreign poet was awarded a fellowship at one of Washington's universities. Having practical as well as "creative" intelligence, he used this opportunity to earn a real degree in economics. I had the opportunity to proofread his term paper. It was informative, even a good read, and a bit of a surreal read, because when I tried to parse a sentence that made good intuitive sense I realized that the poet's English grammar was atrocious; that sentence might equally well have been interpreted to mean something entirely different than what I guessed it meant. And it was a long paper, containing at least twenty sentences like that. I thought the amount of work and thought that had gone into that paper really deserved to be worked up into a book...and, at the same time, I couldn't say it was ready to be submitted as a term paper. And it was due in the morning.

But at least, while flagging the perplexing sentences, I respected the writer. I think the notes I wrote on those flags showed that respect. He was well past the stage in a writing career where writers need much encouragement from proofreaders, but all writers always deserve more of a "Did you mean this, this, or this?" tone than a "This makes no sense!" tone.

Not every messy first draft or student paper needs to be a book, but I'd like here to ask the English teachers and copy editors of this world to bear in mind that some messy manuscripts are going to become books. Good ones, too.

Sometimes critics, teachers, and editors need a pinch and an ouch.

Deviant Behavior

Billy Hallowell reports that some students at Ohio's Franciscan University are in a snit about a course listing homosexuality as a "deviant behavior" along with drug addiction and criminal lifestyles:

A little history for you kids: When I was a college freshman, in the 1980s, textbooks that were no longer required but were still recommended supplemental reading listed all forms of nonconformism, including an "arty" lifestyle, "voluntary communities" like missions and monasteries, and of course the then-innovative beatniks/hippies, as "deviant."

What "deviant" basically meant in the 1950s, which became "traditional" for the 1960s, was not lapping up every possible form of conspicuous consumption the lifestyle/fashion industry had to offer. It was like, okay, the poor sharecroppers, coal miners, and factory laborers don't look like Beaver Cleaver's TV family, and that's allowed because they are so poor they have no choice, and everybody else gets to feel sorry for them and try to offer them as many "nice things" as possible, for which they should be grateful...but when people are not poor and don't want to buy all these fashionable things and spend their days maintaining the fashionable image, that's deviant!

People my age don't write that way any more...but we read it, and we've survived.

I'm inclined to think that the university should really hammer on this idea that the oh-so-sensitive, oh-so-vocal "gay students" are "deviant." And force them to look at the history of this term. And force them to think about the built-in pitfalls of trying to make your neighbors agree with you--about anything, including any feelings they have about homosexuality--or be labelled "deviant."

Maybe the university should make the students mindful that, when I was born, left-wing political opinions still had a bit of the allure that "deviance" has for teenagers trying to distinguish themselves from their parents. And that actually helped the left wing.

Call for Content: Zambia

Regular readers may remember that, back when Associated Content existed, I had a pen friend in Zambia. At least, the computer shows that readers in Zambia do. They may be wondering about this friend. Are we still in touch, and what's the news from the Mkushi School?

(The friend we have in common, in real life, always emphasizes that it is the whole school who are pen friends, really. One man who's about our age is the designated writer of letters in English. He lives in a village, about the size of an American neighborhood, and these letters are shared with the rest of the village.)

The answer is: we're not still in touch, and I've not received news from the Mkushi School for a few years. But I'd like to.

I would like very much for the first article this web site actually buys to come from Zambia.

One reason: it's an interesting country, home of the world's most impressive waterfalls, exotic wildlife, and quaint little river villages where people still build their own temporary huts and stay in them until the next flood. Since we've evolved different immunities over the centuries, most North Americans probably shouldn't go there, but it's a delightful stretch for our imaginations to read about places like Zambia.

Another reason: A friend worked on a charitable mission in Zambia, years ago. (Despite the medical consequences, she has remained active and given birth to a son.) She stayed in one of those river villages near the Mkushi School. Although she's Jewish and the villagers are Seventh-Day Adventists, and both of those religions limit the kinds of animal protein believers are supposed to eat, she recalled that they all got hungry enough to eat caterpillars. Like most Zambians the villagers spoke a local dialect but had learned English as an official business language at school--when they went to school.

During the years when British investors were trying to prevent Zambians from competing with them for opportunities to exploit the country's natural resources, the British built a school system that sounded good in theory but, in practice, functioned to limit the number of people who could benefit from the system. Students were required to buy their own uniforms and school supplies. If unable to buy these things or keep them in good condition, as most poor children were, they would be banned from the classroom. As a result many adult Zambians have only a third- or fourth-grade education, and in the village where my friend stayed with three or four extended families, only one young man (well, he's about our age) felt able to write letters in English after she came back to the United States.

Attempts have been made to improve the school system. They feel a bit the way one imagines swimming upstream in the Zambezi River might feel. After a higher than average flood destroyed the more permanent buildings where the Mkushi students' school supplies were kept, friends in Washington collected boxes of school supplies and mailed them. We were warned that postal deliveries could be guaranteed only to the city of Lusaka, and more than one postal employee told me, "Lusaka is full of thieves." I paid to mail three large boxes of books, pencils, paper, crayons, scissors, binders, a few toys for the preschoolers, and secondhand T-shirts to line each box. Who'd steal that? Nevertheless, our friends reported receiving only books, T-shirts, and playthings.

In the 1990s, reporters who'd ventured into Lusaka described ten- and twelve-year-old children (of both sexes) competing to sell the most peculiar and painful sex services to truck drivers. I wasn't sure how much of that sort of story to believe, but, if true, that kind of situation would explain the theft of secondhand binders and cheap wide-ruled paper--things Americans couldn't imagine anyone bothering to pick up if they'd been abandoned on the street.

Our friends--her real-life friends, my pen friends--were living an incredibly frugal life, spending most of the year in the river village, eating mostly fish and garden produce, and selling most of the vegetables they raised. This made it feasible for the man who physically wrote the letters to try to bring up children on an income equivalent to US$600 per year.

People who live in Zambia have evolved resistance to the tropical diseases that used to kill visitors, but the evolutionary process is not as complete as might be hoped. It was a bit of a shock, as we all reached age 35, to read that the average lifespan of Zambians was less than 40 years...and our correspondent had just been appointed an "Elder" in his church! However, in real life the average lifespan is shortened by counting in the number of Zambians who aren't born immune to tropical diseases and die very young. A Zambian who had reached age 30 could reasonably expect to live to or beyond age 60. Our correspondent did have a few older friends.

And he does occasionally go into town and visit an Internet Cafe, so from time to time he could send an e-mail. Which is why I'm hoping that he and his children, some of whom are now adults, will be able to contribute something to this web site.

I fear that the uptick in readership in Zambia means that they've made their visit to the Internet Cafe for this season, and won't be online again for another three to six months. However, they've found the web site...that's a start.

As an aid to web searching, let's throw in some keywords and links:

Zambia has an official national web site of its own:

Zambia has a tourism board, which displays a stunning video of the Victoria Falls, zebras, and other exotic sights:

The United States' Central Intelligence Agency has compiled a web page for Americans interested in Zambia:

The British Broadcasting Corporation has also compiled a web page for British readers interested in Zambia:

Zambia also has an embassy web page: