Thursday, May 31, 2018

Tim Kaine on NDAA

More computers for the schools, he says? What about our contractual obligation to provide a decent choice of health care, including home health care, for disabled veterans? From U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA):

In case you missed it, I wanted to share some good news with you: We were able to include key wins for Virginia — including my reforms to help reduce military spouse unemployment — in the annual defense bill (the National Defense Authorization Act) that we wrote and passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.
Over the past year, I met with military spouses to listen to their concerns about the difficulty of getting and keeping jobs because of their families’ frequent moves and transfers. I’m so glad my colleagues agreed that we need to tackle this issue in the defense bill by including my provisions to improve military spouses’ access to jobs and childcare. These changes will strengthen military families’ financial security and help ensure our servicemembers are able to do their jobs.
In addition to supporting military spouses, the bill will also support shipbuilding, fund a pay raise for servicemembers, authorize over $266 million for 14 critical military construction projects throughout Virginia, and more. In addition, the bill continues my years-long effort to expand access to cyber education in Virginia, encouraging the Secretary of Defense to establish new cyber institutes at schools with ROTC programs.
This bipartisan legislation will advance our security, support our defense community, and provide our troops with resources they need to keep our country safe. Please know I’ll keep working to support Virginia’s shipbuilding industry, defense community, servicemembers, military spouses, and their families.

Ambien and Other Chemical Moments

"Racism is not a side effect of Ambien," says the manufacturer of the pill Roseanne Barr blamed for her latest lapse of judgment, failing to credit Katha Pollitt:

I took Ambien a few times to help me sleep. It was lovely! Then I heard it might cause me to become an obnoxious racist, so I stopped.

"...While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication,” Ashleigh Koss, Head of Media Relations, North America, Sanofi US tells

Cowardly of the manufacturer, Scott Adams opined on his podcast, of which I wish he'd posted a transcript.

I'll comment on his summary of what he said, because it does relate to something I've been noticing, and mentioned on this site twice during the past month:

First, let's get it clear: "Ape" is not a racial insult. It's one of the large group of personal insults that compare a human to some other species of animal. Here are some data points that I'm reasonably sure form part of Roseanne Barr's mental map of things "ape" can mean:

* Planet of the Apes was a novel, which I vaguely remember having read, which was made into a movie and an unsuccessful TV series. It was sort of a remake of the end of Gulliver's Travels: a man visits an alien world where the dominant species who speak and invent machines are hairy (and were played by men in gorilla suits in the movie), and the species that look like humans seem incapable of learning language. All the major characters were male, which, along with a simplistic and outdated view of "animal" intelligence, put me off the book--the only "woman" in the story was the human-looking "dumb animal," with whom the human character didn't want to mate--but people who watched the movie claim it had a female character, played by a woman with a little baby face similar to Valerie Jarrett's. (RB's "racist" tweet did not call Jarrett a jungle gorilla or anything similar; it referred to Planet of the Apes, so that's probably what she had in mind. I don't claim to know this; I didn't watch the movie and the only other celebrity face that comes to my mind as resembling Jarrett's would be Tammy Faye Bakker's.)

* "To ape" means to imitate someone in a superficial, literal-minded way. British author Percy Wyndham Lewis, for example, once referred to his fellow arts patrons, the Sitwell siblings, as The Apes of God, meaning he thought they took too much authority upon themselves.

* "Ape" has also often been used to describe a person, usually male, as being big, tall, long-armed, hirsute, and/or aggressive. Contemporaries who didn't care to call former President Abraham Lincoln "Father Abraham" or "Honest Abe" often called him "the Illinois Ape." In this context I once heard an old (White) man describe two (White) bad cops, during the "color wars" of the mid-twentieth century, as "two big apes beating an old cullud man."

* "Go ape" means to act greedy or overenthusiastic, grabbing and uttering exclamations of excitement, as your political opponents might be said to do about bad policies.

* And of course there's always the basic implication of any comparison of a human to any other species, in English, that the person is stupid or at least inarticulate, a "dumb animal." One set of jokes Roseanne Barr is particularly likely to remember, because it's part of the canon of comic writing by twentieth century women, stereotyped P.T.A. (Parents and Teachers Association) members as "Partially Trained Apes."

* All of those uses of "ape" predate the infamous Darwinian image of African Man as an evolutionary stage in between Gorilla and British Man. Interestingly, although one medieval English ballad unmistakably describes a woman being considered extremely ugly because she had physical features we might summarize as "Black," the "Black ape" association seems to have started with Darwin...and it never was the most common way "ape" was used as an insult to a human.

So RB could claim that she wasn't thinking of "Black ape" when she mentioned VJ in connection with Planet of the Apes, about as plausibly as she could claim that her inexcusable reference to Muslim terrorists was based entirely on Jarrett's public political statements (twisted and exaggerated). "Valerie Jarrett" is not an Arab or Persian name. VJ is another of those multiethnic types, like Doug Wilder, Eric Holder, or Toi Derricotte, who go around telling people they identify as Black because merely looking at their faces leaves people wondering what ethnic identity they claim, if any. I was aware that VJ considers herself Black but, before yesterday, I hadn't heard that her particular ethnic mix also includes Iranian. Maybe RB wasn't aware of that either. Maybe she was thinking "pro-Arab statement plus resemblance to obscure actress," rather than "Iranian and Black American ancestry," when she typed that insult to VJ.

Let's say for the sake of argument that she was. Let's interpret RB's infamous tweet as merely personal, not noticeably justified (do they know each other in real life?), ugly, unfunny, and mean. Let's say it's only the sort of tweet that, when I find in a Twitter "conversation," prompts me to imagine it's coming from a nine-year-old. When adults pay adults to provide adult-level entertainment, are the ones paying fully justified in firing a professional comedian whose idea of a joke has regressed all the way back to the middle school "Computer + rattlesnake = you" formula?

Should ABC and Viacom at least contain their wrath, recast the New Roseanne Show as the Ann Coulter Comedy Show, and let all those other people be funny about the transition from RB to AC? Yes, that'd be a nice move...Laura Ingraham and Michelle Malkin are witty, and also nice, but so far as I know neither of them can clown the way RB does when sober. Ann Coulter can't clown like RB, either, but she definitely does clown...I'm not sure to what extent she knows she's clowning. RB has a very special talent and I hated that it seemed to have been ruined, when she was writing her second book, by drugs.

Now...this Ambien moment. Does Ambien cause racism? Of course not. Does it cause impaired thinking? Lapses in taste and judgment? A mind that normally works on a grown-up professional level lapsing back to a middle school level? I'm not familiar with specific effects of Ambien, but don't a lot of similar pills have that type of effect? Yes. They do.

Actually, anything that causes people to feel tired, sleepy, or sluggish does. This was something that got a lot of testing at Berea College when I was there. All Berea freshmen have very high I.Q. scores; that's a given. All Berea freshmen are very good test takers. Nevertheless, the point spread obtained by giving them different tests on different days can be amazing.

For purposes of comparison...In the early twentieth century, much was made of the fact that Black Americans from poverty-stricken areas consistently lagged behind White Americans, on various tests, by five or ten I.Q. points or the equivalent. (No use sugar-coating it: lower-income Americans still lag behind, and it's still caused, not by physical features, but by nutrition and general health.) If, however, you can offer good enough bribes to obtain rigorously defined groups of Berea freshmen who are and are not dehydrated, or are either coming down with or recovering from flu, you find the dehydrated and/or flu-fighting group trailing by ten or twenty I.Q. points. At the extreme of the curve, I once caught and tested a public school student and obtained a 32-point gap on different I.Q. tests for the same freshman when she was coming down with flu (low score 119) and recovering from flu (high score 151).

Most of us retain enough use of our brains to be considered competent, intelligent, responsible adults when we're feeling low. We do our jobs. But haven't you noticed how the quality of blog posts deteriorates when bloggers mention minor health problems or physical stress? (At some blogs it doesn't--that's an indicator of either (a) a group blog or (b) a blogger who's written some "good" posts in advance, and doesn't actually write while fighting the flu.)

I mention seeing a worker make minor mistakes when other people are showing symptoms of physical illness because it's obvious to me that these lapses, which she doesn't normally make, are her characteristic way of showing symptoms. My nose runs. I don't work in food service. If you work in food service, you can't be seen with your nose running. So either her nose doesn't run, or she's able to use pills or an inhaler to stop it running. And then she blurts out things she normally knows better than to say in public, or starts pouring a drink into an in-cafe cup for someone who's ordering take-out lunches.

Flomax, a drug prescribed for men with urological problems, is one of the worst. I've seen patients using Flomax lapse all the way into momentary insanity or incompetence. They suddenly lose the ability to steer their own car into their own driveway, or forget having put something into the oven to get it out of the way when they light the oven. I once watched a teacher panic because he hadn't written a test, when in fact the test he was scheduled to give his students was in their textbook.

Motrin notoriously affects neuromuscular reflexes and muscle control, such that patients using it are ordered not to drive cars. Anesthetics and pain blockers generally have side effects that range from making patients slur their words and drive out of the road, to making them black out altogether.

There's no way I'm buying the excuse that Ambien caused Roseanne Barr to type a "joke" that not only sounded like a racist slur about Valerie Jarrett's parents, to those who knew their ethnic identity, but also sounded like a lame, petty, personal middle-school sneer rather than a joke, to the rest of humankind. But I do believe that it's probably true, and should be more generally known, that any medication may cause the kind of performance on any job that causes people to notice, "You can do so much better than this."

Roseanne Barr of all people ought to have known...I remember her original show, and her first book, being funny. Raunchy, edgy, yes--but funny. Then she tried Prozac and wrote a second book that wasn't funny, that was full of what sounded like classic Prozac pseudomemories--no fun to read at all--and her comedy act deteriorated. Poor Thing faded out of the world of comedy with a physical display she tried to pass off as a comic parody of male clowns, only male clowns didn't do it in that situation, it wasn't funny, and it was a classic reaction to a classic pattern of pain produced by SSRI reactions. I've given massages to people having that type of cramp, and I think RB was doing well, in her last performance for several years, not to scream out loud. It was sad, not funny; it was time for her temporary retirement from clowning.

Raunchy clown comedy is not my favorite genre in any case but I think Roseanne Barr mixes in enough intelligence to do it well--when she's sober. But if that dig at Valerie Jarrett, even if it was strictly a dig at "public political statements + individual facial features" rather than "yo' Mama + yo' Daddy," is what comes out of her brain after using sleeping pills...RB should take a vow of abstinence even from aspirin during the week before she says anything in public.

And the rest of us should know that this is our brain, too, on otc drugs, or while fighting the flu, or having an allergy reaction. We too do things that...most of us have a self-protective brain function that seems to protect us from remembering most of our lapses. We all make mistakes. Most of the time we forget them. Only when our errors in judgment are written down, or otherwise recorded, is attention likely to be called to the fact that a comedy star's sense of comedy suffered the same way an ordinary person's memory for shopping lists, or sense of what not to say at work, or ability to add up numbers, suffers when the person is tired or ill or overmedicated.

Book Review: The MacLeod Place

Title: The MacLeod Place

Author: William H. Armstrong

Date: 1972

Publisher: Coward McCann

ISBN: none

Length: 188 pages

Quote: “If they ever decide to finish that highway along the mountaintop, all these cussed up-and-down roads will be straightened out.”

And the home of seven generations of MacLeods will be destroyed. The active generation of MacLeods, Torm and Logan, were killed in The War. The grandfather, Angus, who is bringing up young Tor MacLeod, won’t have much left...

William H. Armstrong had just achieved fame with a novel called Sounder, about a Mississippi sharecropper’s son and dog waiting grimly while the sharecropper serves time in jail for having stolen the Christmas ham they enjoyed. One can imagine his friends in Virginia asking, “Why don’t you write about our poor people?” So in The MacLeod Place he documented how the federal land-grabbing that built the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, and specifically the Skyline Drive, caused as much pain to as many children as unequal pay and sentencing did in Mississippi.

The story naturally includes a lot of Virginia history. Angus’s explanation of “new ground” is much nicer than the way my elders described the Clearing of the Forests, though believable. His oral history of his ancestors' experience of slavery rings true. His sheep-keeping lore is informed by Armstrong’s own sheep farming experience. Angus’s history includes the often overlooked Mennonites, too; in the end the MacLeods’ friendly relations with a nearby Mennonite settlement are what save their family from emotional collapse.

As in Sounder, Armstrong’s voice can be oldfashioned and ornate. Angus feels that “time was running a fast race even at the snail’s pace of a man trailing behind a plow.” Not all of his generation agreed that Hemingway’s style was better than Bryant’s. Since my grandparents could sound like Angus, I find Armstrong’s style quaint but pleasant. It does remind me, though, that although the publishers tried to blur it into a could-be-happening-somewhere-now kind of story, this story is taking place in the 1940s; Angus’s “Pa” was running the family farm in 1859; Angus was probably born in the 1870s or 1880s, Torm around the turn of the century, young Tor about 1930.

What hurt this novel’s sales was not the perfectly appropriate oldfashionedness of Angus MacLeod, but the fact that it’s not a feel-good story. Like Sounder, it’s a protest against social injustice. Characters suffer, survive, and achieve a reasonably happy ending, but the point of the story is that the things that cause them to suffer ought not to have happened. Sounder’s Human shouldn’t have gone to jail and Tor MacLeod shouldn’t have had to give up a single corner of the MacLeod Place. The reaction of our chattering class is instructive. Sounder called out people it was fashionable to blame: those racist trash Virginians prefer to imagine living only in places like Mississippi or Alabama or big cities up North. More, more, the (mostly left-wing) chattering class cried. So Armstrong gave them a novel that calls out the greedy federal government, specifically the Roosevelt Administration so many older Virginians so loathed because stories like The MacLeod Place were true. The silence of the Literary Left was deafening.

Armstrong admits that Angus made mistakes too. Profoundly introverted and self-directed, Angus is too busy with his own work to verify that his farm is scheduled for destruction, to talk with other farmers who do or don’t want to sell their farms and determine whether a reasonable compromise would satisfy everyone (as it probably would have done). Tor, young and optimistic, wants to imagine that adults will naturally reach a happy compromise; he thinks his grandfather’s dislike of noisy motors  is oldfashioned, and secretly looks forward to the day when he’ll have the right to farm the MacLeod Place with tractors. Nevertheless the greedheads in the federal government completely ignore the protests of Angus and likeminded farmers, claiming that “many” (how many?) want a highway to run all the way along the mountaintop, all through the most valued farms, where litter and petrochemical residues will wash down into all the towns below.

A different novelist might have written a longer, richer, more densely textured story with some insights into the lives of the people who didn’t join Angus’s first protest in time to make a difference. I suspect there was a good bit of Armstrong’s personality in Angus. Armstrong prefers to focus on only the one man and the one boy, with only cameo roles even for their closest friends. It works, as it worked in Sounder, because these novels were written for self-absorbed teenagers. We see why even Tor thought his grandfather’s activism was too much, too soon, right up to the moment when he realizes that in historical fact it’s been too little, too late. We’re left to fill in from our own store of understanding not only why some of the neighbors didn’t join Angus’s petition, but how Tor would have been studying at school how this whole story was exactly the sort of thing his ancestors came to America and put all that work into farms like the MacLeod Place to avoid.

Our ancestors didn’t want to be either victims or profiteers from any “law of eminent domain.” The melodrama to which that evil “law” leads should never have been dramatized in an American story. It has already been written in the history of ancient Israel (see 1 Kings 21 through 2 Kings 9, inclusive), where King Ahab, the definitive coward, having mortgaged his wealth to boost The Economy, offended God and humankind by seizing just one little vineyard, and how this led to the violent deaths of his whole family and the ultimate collapse of his country. We failed to purge “eminent domain” out of our law in the United States, and it may yet destroy our civilization.

Ironically, because The MacLeod Place is a grim wake-up call that too many left-wingers ignored, Sounder now reads like something long ago and far away, but The MacLeod Place is remarkably similar to contemporary stories like Little Pink House. If you’re going to read one of Armstrong’s books, The MacLeod Place should be the one. White Americans particularly need to know that, although cultural misunderstandings and racist bigotry were real too, everything that greedheads like Martin Van Buren were allowed to do to Native Americans is something that the current incarnations of their greed would be delighted to do to fellow White, English-speaking, nominally Christian Americans. Without improving our federal law with a provision like, “Government may claim the right of first refusal when private property is sold, but may never under any circumstances seize the homes of law-abiding citizens,” none of us is really secure in our own homes.

Never a big seller, The MacLeod Place is now a collector's item. To buy it here, send $10 per book, $5 per package, and $1 per online payment to the appropriate address. (Postal money orders to Boxholder, P.O. Box 322, Gate City, Virginia, 24251-0322; Paypal payments to the address you get by writing to Salolianigodagewi @ yahoo; or use the Paypal button below, if you see one.) Shipping charges are separate because packages may contain more than one book. For example, Sounder, Sour Land, and The Mills of God would fit into the same package with The MacLeod Place; or, alternatively, you could scroll down and find books by living authors you might want to support.

Actually, buying a book from this web site gives you the right to pick other books from Amazon, of which this web site may not have been aware, and order them and post your own reviews of them here...within reason. (You could order Fifty Shades of Grey or The Turner Diaries and post favorable comments about those non-Google-approved titles here, but I'd have to edit out extended quotes or graphic details.) You could add all kinds of things to the package when you buy one vintage book from this web site.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Book Review: Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Cookbook

Title: Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook

Author: Amy Vanderbilt

Date: 1961

Publisher: Doubleday

ISBN: none

Length: 765 pages plus 42-page index

Illustrations: drawings by “Andrew Warhol”

Quote: “Many people have said, since the publication of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette in 1952, that it should be followed by a complete cookbook. For, of course, I can cook.”

Modest wasn’t she? Dutch-American, super-rich, European-educated, and the sort of stickler for usage who insisted that it was Miss Vanderbilt although she was also Mrs. Knopf, Amy Vanderbilt was probably more fun to know than her reputation would suggest.

It would be hard to collect this many recipes and not include something that will appeal to everyone. Vanderbilt wasn’t aware of special diets but she was brought up with that obsession with “balanced meals” that, when followed, guaranteed everyone that almost every meal would include something they could eat. None of the menu plans is vegan but each includes enough vegetarian dishes to leave a vegan guest feeling well fed.

Vanderbilt and her friends had also lived through The War, when shortages created demands for sugar-free, egg-free, wheat-free, meat-free, and similar kinds of recipes. Some people hated the ersatz or “war” recipes. “War Cakes,” which tended to be heavy, egg-free, and sweetened mainly by preserved fruits, gave some Americans a guilt-soothing sense that at least they were suffering along with bombed-out London and the boys in the trenches. Yet War Cakes could be palatable, if they were done right, and became some families’ favorites. My mother taught her children to recognize and bake War Cakes; Vanderbilt’s collection of fancy baked deserts includes a few. The idea of rationing eggs so farmers could kill one another disgusts me, but it did generate recipes suitable for people who are allergic to eggs.

But of course in 1961 the war was over and the Waste Age’s economic bubble was near its fragile height. The appeal of cookbooks like this one was that not only the super-rich, but almost everyone who had a kitchen, could revel in waffles mixed in a blender and baked in an electric waffle iron, in things that had to be refrigerated or frozen to reach the right consistency, in all kinds of dishes that called for special pudding molds and rice cookers and seafood steamers. It was not considered a disgrace for young women who’d quit work to stay home with young children to figure out that rice can be cooked in an ordinary saucepan and cake batter can be whipped up in one bowl with one spoon, but if she didn’t imagine that the mixers and blenders and whisks would make cooking better, and more fun, she might be coming down with beatnik tendencies. And it seemed so, oh, American that Vanderbilt enjoyed canned soup and packaged baking mixes as well as long-simmered stocks and hand-rolled pastries.

So her cookbook is a period piece. Exhaustive though it was, it does not include recipes for several things we cook now. Vanderbilt mentioned arugula at the very end, as “rugola,” in a short list of garden herbs that (surprise!) were edible. She’d heard of pizza, and observed that my generation (then “the teenagers”) liked it, but she made it on a base of baking-powder biscuit dough. Yes. On the other hand, you might agree that her black walnut bread, gingerbread men, turtle candies, eclairs, and ribbon sandwiches deserve to survive.

The copy I physically owned sold in its third hour on display, but you can still buy copies online for $5 per book, $5 per package, $1 per online payment. This is a thick book; only one more of the same size would fit into one package, or two standard-size books would.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Book Review: It All Started with Nudes

Title: It All Started with Nudes

(Amazon had a good clear image of this book's cover but, since it's a cartoon of a nude figure, this web site has chosen to use a truncated, blurry one instead. Click on it to see what the jacket drawing really looks like.)

Author: Richard Armour

Date: 1977

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

ISBN: 0-07-002271-2

Length: 158 pages

Illustrations: drawings by Campbell Grant

Quote: “Since it was hard to hang a picture on the walls of a rocky cave, the Stone Age artist wisely drew pictures on the walls instead.”

Do readers remember Richard Armour? He was America’s family humorist during the mid-twentieth century Best known for short light verses, many of which appeared in Parade (“Shake and shake the ketchup bottle. None’ll come, and then a lot’ll”), he’d written fifty-four books before this one. Seven of those books were jocular looks at history, with almost one joke per line and with titles beginning with It All Started with...In alphabetical order, his historical studies started with Columbus, Europa, Eve, Freshman English, Hippocrates, Marx, and Stones and Clubs: studies of North America, Europe, gender, literature, medicine, politics, and war.

Armour did research for these books, although he wrote them like stand-up comedy scripts. Those facts that weren’t obviously turned into jokes were said to be perfectly accurate. Teachers encouraged students to use the jokes to help remember the facts in passages like:

“According to Herodotus, it took one hundred thousand men twenty years to build the great Pyramid of Khufu. Whether the architect was still alive to collect his fee is not known.”

“The Romans invented mosaics. These were more complementary to building than many Roman portraits were complimentary to their subjects.”

“Leonardo...invented a flying machine and would have been ahead of the Wright Brothers if he had possessed one essential part—some sort of engine."

“El Greco painted religious themes religiously, but his Cardinal Guevara brings out all the meanness and cruelty of this head man of the Inquisition If the Cardinal saw his portrait and failed to have El Greco executed, he wasn’t such a bad fellow after all....He is wearing glasses in the portrait.”

“Thomas Jefferson” [invented] “the swivel chair and the dumb waiter (not the human kind).”

If his comedy could become predictable, at least Armour kept it clean. Despite the cartoon of the nude blonde on the cover, there’s not a rude word and hardly a smutty thought in this book. It All Started with Nudes would not have been a good gift for my grandmothers, who didn’t think even cartooned nudes belonged on the front covers of books, but many people who are active grandmothers now would find it nostalgically sweet and oldfashioned.

To buy it here, send $5 per book, $5 per package, plus $1 per online payment to the appropriate address (details are in the "Greeting" post). Four of Armour's "It All Started With" books would fit into one $5 package.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Book Review: Andy Gibb

A Fair Trade Book (maybe)

(Amazon has a page for this book, but no picture. Clicking on the picture above should take you to the Amazon page for the book. The picture is public domain, supplied to Wikipedia By Photograph C1299-9A, White House Photographic Office: 1981-89 Collection (see large PDF with description and link to photo contact sheet here). From the The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum., Public Domain, .)

Title: Andy Gibb

Author: Connie Berman

Date: 1979

Publisher: Xerox

ISBN: none

Length: 122 pages

Illustrations: black-and-white photographs

Quote: “He’s had three number-one hits on the record charts, and one of them, ‘I Just Want to Be Your everything,’ lasted longer than any single since Bobby Darin put ‘Mack the Knife’ up there in 1959...He is, after all, only 20 years old.”

And his career was destined to end around the time the target audience for this book were 20 years old.

In the late 1970s an otherwise bad popular movie made superstars of the Brothers Gibb, three young men known for harmonizing in such high tenor voices that audiences thought they might be a girl group. In fact Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb had sisters who sang in the band at times; brothers and sisters were said to sound very much alike. Then there was baby brother Andy, who rose to fame as a singer while his brothers were slipping down the charts.

In 1979, in Virginia, the music news was that the Original Carter Family, both Sara and Maybelle, died. I remember 1979 as the year local radio stations wore out their records of “Wildwood Flower” and “Sunny Side of Life.” Who knew, who cared, what might have been popular in the rest of the world. I remember a phrase that was becoming popular in 1979; it described the sub-genre of rock the Bee Gees sang, and it suggested infantile qualities to innocent teenaged girls, who used it liberally for that reason, although the phrase was apparently coined to suggest male homosexuality. I don’t remember hearing “I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” although pop music stations broadcast a lot of teen-romance caterwauling, so maybe I heard it and didn’t notice.

It was sung by the cute boy on the cover of this book,the one whose wavy ash-fair hair looked prematurely gray, worn in a fashionable “bob” curl a little longer than Dorothy Hamill’s or Diana Spencer’s, with the pendant around his neck, and the chest hair sticking out the front of his shirt, because what else was there to prove he was supposed to be male. Meh. Less attractive faces were in the news in 1979; the vice-president of the United States was Walter Mondale; but this face does nothing for me. The schoolmate it most resembles was a girl. Ordinarily I wouldn't pick on a fellow for having been a fashion victim in 1979, but the thing was, girls my age were frequently insulted by an assumption that we were all lusting after characters like Andy Gibb, and that never was the case. I don't think he had a single fan at my school.

The story of Andy Gibb’s life before 1979 is, like that life, short. He was born. His brothers formed a band. He grew up. He wanted to sing all by himself. He did. So far so good: that’s a plausible biography of a 20-year-old singer. Then the writer drivels off, “He’s the type who would buy you flowers and surprise you with something special...” Would he really? He’s asking?

Andy Gibb seems to have been a nice kid but it’s hard for me to imagine how anyone can live down the shame of having been marketed as a Teen Heartthrob, of hearing people say, “That’s what you like, isn’t it?” and, “That? Per-lease! Ick ick ick!” Possibly that mortification had something to do with Gibb's flameout on drugs. And if you think this web site is going to take sides in the debate whether the immediate cause of his death was drugs, AIDS, both, or merely being extra-vulnerable to infections because he'd used drugs, you are mistaken. All I'll say is that in 1979 a lot of people, especially in the music industry, believed cocaine was a "safe," non-addictive drug. 

Anyway Connie Berman, who's made a career of writing biographies of popular actors and musicians, had time to write a short, sweet book about the short, sweet part of Gibb's short, bitter life. This is it. Berman doesn't seem to be active in cyberspace but she's written Real Books about more current celebrities, fairly recently, and bookseller sites still speak of her in the present tense, so this web site is guessing she's still alive. If you buy her book here, $10 per copy, $5 per package for shipping, and $1 per online payment, we'll find out for sure and, if she is still living, we'll send $1.50 per copy to her or a charity of her choice. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Book Review with Sermon: Abiding in Christ

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Abiding in Christ

Author: Cynthia Heald

Date: 1995

Publisher: Navpress

ISBN: 08910-98879

Length: 110 pages

Quote: “We are the branches, and we must stay firmly connected to the Vine in order to mature.”

Daily devotional reflections are thought to help people stay firmly connected to God, and here is Cynthia Heald’s devotional—for only one month, not a year.

For a hardcover book, it’s an awfully little one. I’m aware of that littleness, from time to time, throughout this book. I wonder, now, whether the book’s small size is catching my attention because...actually it’s not that the contents are too small (some of these devotionals are substantial), so much as that they’re written for the wrong time of day.

Well—why should a hardcover book be so small? It’s not pocket-sized; the hard cover would be an awkward fit even in a coat pocket. It’s not written for children, although the subtitle “Becoming a Woman Who Walks with God” brings puberty to mind. It’s light enough for reading in a hospital bed, but if I had to spend a lot of time in a hospital bed I’d look for a book without firm corners.

When I read most of the individual passages in this book I don’t notice words like “little” and “lightweight” coming to mind, but when I try to describe this book as a whole, relative to other “Daily Devotional” books, I do. The sheer physical packaging suggests thoughts like “light enough for even your poor trembling hands,” and the whole style of this book...I like soft, pretty things like the images of the rose and the brook that blur together on the cover, but it’s possible for softness and prettiness to be taken Too Far. When I consider this book as a whole I don’t feel charmed with a soft, pretty little thing. I feel...coddled.

I think of pale, frail Victorian characters, not Poor Little Beth (in Little Women) so much as delicate sister Clara in Caddie Woodlawn. Clara isn’t dying, but she’s a wimp. She’s encouraged to be a wimp by the culture of her day. The story is mostly about Caddie exulting in the freedom of living in the country, roaring around with her siblings and their dog, because she’s being encouraged to grow up “brown and strong” rather than “pale and delicate” like Clara. Clara hardly ever speaks, in the story, but in each chapter there’s some reference to her “soft voice” and “slender shoulders” and the way she mopes around sewing all the time, even when Caddie and Tom and Warren and Hetty are out running and swimming and having fun. Abiding in Christ is a book for sister Clara, and no girl, however girly she wanted to be, ever read Caddie Woodlawn and wanted to be Clara.

Well...the mere fact of a book being short and thin does not usually affect me in that way. There are different ways to fold and cut a full-sized sheet of paper as it comes off a printing press, and some people like a short book. It’s the contents, too, in this one. Twirly-curly script headings and terribly tasteful general topics aren’t bad things. Topics like staying connected to God, taking time to pray, planning to read the whole Bible each year, living one day at a time, aren’t bad topics. Having a “personal relationship with God” gives a slight suggestion of a desperately lonely soul trying frantically to believe in God as Imaginary Friend, but that’s how some people talk about a sane and viable Christian practice...There is probably a tipping point, a precise number of times I can leaf through a book’s pages and see words like “calm,” “patient,” “trust,” “rest”—and it probably depends on how many words like “awake,” “decisive,” “firm,” “vigilant” occur in between them—before I ask myself, “Is this a guide for normal healthy young girls who are ‘becoming a woman,’ or is it strictly bedtime reading for hospital use?”

I don’t know. There does seem to be a market for the kind of Christian thought that is helpful when addressed to women in hospitals, but positively alarming when it’s handed out to women who are doing jobs and rearing children too. There is a difference between the “work” of recovering from chemotherapy and the work of managing an office or teaching a class. Blurring that difference may seem to publishers like a way to sell more books to more readers, but there’s also the danger of alienating readers.

Maybe some stressed-out yuppies, people trying to be extroverts, frustrated corporate ladder-climbers, etc., had their personalities and characters formed by spending their early years in day-care centers where somebody was always whining and as a result everybody else spent a lot of time kicking and screaming too. Maybe some of these people never had enough lullabies sung to them.

Personally, I had all the lullabies and snuggle-up-for-naps time a child could possibly want, and more...and because my mother had increasingly severe hypothyroidism, I saw firsthand that there’s a point at which calmness and soothing and naps are good things, and then there’s a point at which they literally, physically make people sick, even disabled. I inherited a tendency to be slightly hyperthyroid, big-eyed, skinny, fast-moving—when I’ve been walking or exercising fast or drinking too much coffee, positively jittery—which is the reverse pattern produced by the same genetic quirk that allowed Mother to become hypothyroid, dull-eyed, fat, sluggish, and bland. I also observed firsthand that being fat, sluggish, and bland was not normal or comfortable for Mother, that she felt miserable about it and fought hard against it, that when she might have seemed mellow and lovable to other people she was in fact ill. Maybe that’s why I can tolerate a little feminine "soothing" behavior, but then that sound, or image, starts to set off alarm bells. “You’re not calm, you’re sick! Get up! And move!” Too much snuggling and soothing made Mother more sluggish and me more restless; in all the mornings of our lives both of us will always need physical movement, not “calm.”

If you are medically underweight, if your blood pressure is routinely over 140/100, if your resting pulse rate is over 90 beats a minute, if you don’t sleep at all for three nights in a row...then, dear sisters, there’s probably some more serious medical reason for this, but what you need is probably not to try to lull yourself into that false appearance of “calm.” You need vigorous aerobic exercise! Trust me on this—both hyperthyroid and hypothyroid tendencies need to be checked before they become a serious medical problem, and usually the way to check them at that point is to make sure you stay active! “Calm” comes naturally after movement!

On the spiritual level, real life it’s not particularly difficult to know the difference between the genuine peace of mind people have when they have done what they needed to do, and the pseudo-calm people have when they are not doing what they ought to do and can’t bear a single hint that they may need to get their minds off their feelings and start doing something different. Not at all. But Christian women’s groups can be confusing for new Christians, because they tend to be Dead Seas of spiritual sluggishness. Some middle-class American women (enough of them that even Deborah Tannen was able to mistake this minority of Earth’s women for “women” as a whole) have been socialized into a pattern of “We don’t actually want to change or improve our lives in any way, we just want to clump together, grumble and giggle about them, and go on doing exactly what we’ve been doing.” And this is not entirely bad; sometimes, as when mothers of toddlers get together, that cozy whining routine can be a helpful way for everyone to remind herself that the years when children are neediest and most draining are also the years when they’re most adorable. But it is not the way Christians build character—or achieve real peace of mind. Sometimes, instead of “Let’s all just focus on calming down all of our emotional feelings,” Christian women really need to be narrowing their focus and attacking the specific things that provoke unpleasant emotional feelings.

Jane Doe does not need to try to feel calm about the fear of having another baby. She needs to be taking steps to make sure that, preferably without giving up her marriage, she’s not placing her faith in unreliable pills and gadgets but is making sure she’s not starting any more babies.

Mary Smith does not need to try to feel calm about being unemployed and on the dole. She may not need any more emotional grief and guilt about that situation than she already feels, but she needs to focus on getting herself off the handouts by productive self-employment, and her women’s group need to be guiding and supporting her in that.

Susan Brown does not need to try to feel calm about her fear that she’ll develop breast cancer at age forty just as her mother, sister, aunt, and grandmother did. She needs to learn more about the carcinogens to which they were exposed and the antioxidant factors in her diet. If she’s going to develop cancer in any case, if the best she can do is postpone it until she’s fifty, at least she could be working toward the peace of mind that comes from knowing she did the right thing, rather than the false calm that comes from denying unpleasant reality.

If you and your friends are drinking too much, popping pills, shopping compulsively, gossipping, hoarding, tossing, neglecting your children, cheating on your husbands, cheating your customers, participating in an unethical business, getting sucked into TV soap operas, stuffing down anger at other adults and then yelling at children or kicking your pets, consciously opposed to a lot of things you've heard about in the news but not even so much as shopping or tweeting in conscious opposition to those things...don't worry about "calm" just now. Fix the facts first, and a feeling of calm will follow.

At the end of a day of facing reality, engaging with reality, taking responsibility for the reality around you and doing what you can do to change it, then it’s appropriate to think calm, restful thoughts before bed. Abiding in Christ consists of sweet, soft, pretty little thoughts that are appropriate for bedtime reading...except that too many of them are written for morning reading, and morning is the time when we need to get out of that cozy warm bed, when that feeling of chilliness is nature’s way of telling us to move our bodies.

And later in the day, a feeling that hard work is unappreciated may be nature’s way of telling us to stop working so hard to please the unappreciative and do what we want; a feeling of “struggling...striving and live the Christian life” may be nature’s way of telling us to stop sinning; a feeling of “anxiety about the ‘what-ifs’ of our lives” may be nature’s way of telling us to work harder toward material security, or to give up some insecure material “goods” that aren’t all that good, depending on where we are, but either way that feeling needs to be acknowledged as part of our reality and not swept under an inadequate little rug of illusive “calm.”

For some of those hypothetical readers in hospital beds, it is too late to do things differently, and all they can do really is to say prayers of penitence before they die. And the only way they can be said to abide in Christ is to lie down and die quietly. Life does come to an end.

However, in nature...abiding in Christ the way branches abide on a vine does not mean just passively moaning, “Calm...calm...” while our lives fall apart. It means growing, developing, sometimes even pushing other things out of the way...

How often in the last few years somebody who wants credit for being a Christian has oozed up to me to whine piteously, “I worry about you walking alone in the heat/dark/cold/rain/snow, but I couldn’t share my car with you because I don’t have passenger insurance and my money is so tight with all the other expenses that...” that the person knows very well I’ve been living without, in some cases for all my life including the years of financial prosperity. And any mention of that fact would be likely to trigger a more painful pre-programmed wail, “Everybody wasn’t born ‘smart’ like you and can’t be happy writing and reading and working all day! Everybody wasn’t born ‘strong’ like you and can’t walk everywhere they feel inclined to go, any time of any day or night! Everybody wasn’t born ‘pretty’ like you and can’t just wear what feels comfortable and let her real face show!” I was born with abundant reasons to consider myself anything but “smart” or “strong” or “pretty,” probably less so than the whiner; when people decided I was those things it was the result of my working through and around a lot of the same mental garbage that is impeding the function of her brain as she speaks, so if the conversation does go there nobody is having fun any more... 

Deep breath, please. You do not have to become a self-actualizer all at one plunge, although that is what, deep down, your mind is trying to tell you—that you too could be the woman or man you're meant to be. All the Spirit is calling you to do, with that one little feeling of discomfort you’ve identified, is deal with it as reality rather than trying to smother it under insanity.

Listen to yourself. Your worry is telling you what you ought to be doing. If you’re worried about me walking in extreme weather, that’s nature’s way of telling you that you need to share your car—either forgetting about the passenger insurance, paying for it, or working to make it a mandatory part of all motor vehicle insurance with no exemptions. If you’re worried about the victims of the latest natural disaster, that’s nature’s way of telling you something else; whether it’s to offer beds to people, or send money to people, or something other than those likely possibilities. If you’re worried about your parent, child, your dog for that matter, that could indicate that you need to be a better daughter, mother, dog owner. You may have imagined that self-actualizers—the type of people who, in any religious group to which they belong, are recognizable as the “good, mature” ones—were born “worry-free,” or else given the “gift” of worry-freedom during a dramatic spiritual moment...No such. Studies of the lives of self-actualizers, of all faiths or none, have been made, and they’ve shown that if anything we tend to be born worry-prone. This worry-proneness is likely to be what forced us to address the realities and eliminate the anxiety triggers.

Once you’re doing those things, you will know it, and then there is no spiritual danger (or feeling of disgust) in reading a book like this one that has just a little bit too much to say in praise of calmness-as-such, early in the morning. There’s a time for sleeping, and you’ll know it when you come to it.

If you're looking for a one-month bedtime devotional and don't mind the occasional reference to morning in it, send $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to the appropriate address, as discussed in the Greeting post and shown again at the bottom of the screen. Probably eight or ten more books of this size, if you happened to find them, would fit into a package along with Abiding in Christ. It's a Fair Trade Book; we'll send $1 per copy sold to Heald (yes, she's still alive and active) or a charity of her choice.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Status Update: Ill Wind Blows Nobody Any Good

Well, doesn't everyone in the Northern Hemisphere always enjoy May, but this morning was an especially lovely day, even for May. Temperatures around seventy degrees Fahrenheit, moderate humidity, enough clouds to keep the sun from becoming painful, pleasant little breezes gusting through the marketplace in different directions. The market started early and remained busy. People looked cheerful. The chatter I heard was good-natured. The people who wanted to talk as if they knew me at least guessed names from the correct generation in the correct family. The shopper who claims the oldest age parked his neat little car neatly and walked all the way through the market. The people who usually stand tall and walk briskly were standing tall, walking briskly, and smiling appropriately. All the children I encountered were behaving well, toddling efficiently beside parents or grandparents, moving right along on the way to school. All the shoppers seemed to be feeling well, buying or not buying, talking to their friends, rather than venting unpleasant feelings through harassment and verbal abuse. It was a lovely market day, and profitable, up until about 10:30 a.m.

Because other people came in earlier I didn't get the spot I usually choose, so I found myself facing a different lot of "neighbors" across the row. They looked middle-aged, rather than retirement-aged, and had a nice selection of junk that seemed to move briskly enough. One still had ash-brown hair, one faux blond.

Then one of those merry little breezes blew in another scent along with the predictable privet and honeysuckle blossoms. I had time to classify it as a chemical odor before my nose clogged up. It reminded me of something our neighbor in Maryland, the one who succumbed to kidney failure, used to spray on his roses when my nose used to clog up there.

It was only a breeze. I blew my nose a few times. The breeze died down. I didn't feel suddenly sick and tired, as has happened some other times when I've been exposed to airborne poisons.

Suddenly the old man across the row hobbled over to me...Old man? Hobbling? Yes, this was the same man I'd previously noted as looking forty or fifty years old, healthy, without even grey hair. The skin on his face was not thin, dry, or wrinkly, but was starting to sag in the ugly way skin sags when people are sick. He'd been walking normally, and now he was hobbling, bent over, one hand pressed against his shirt front. He asked if I wanted a special deal on some things before he left. I wondered whether he was faking illness for sympathy as he wheezed, "I'm retired...and the heat...gets to me..."

Heat? What heat? It was such a perfectly comfortable spring day! But I watched him pack up and leave, and he continued to move as if he were having a genuine attack--asthma or angina, or maybe that all-over, all-prevailing weakness I've had after just a few whiffs of "pesticide" more than I'd had today, when the poison is actually attacking the kidneys and, yes, it really is possible that the person might black out and never wake up again. His partner seemed unaffected, but if I'd been his partner I would not have let that man drive.

It wasn't even eleven o'clock, and it was such a lovely day, and the shoppers kept cruising through and buying things. Nevertheless, at eleven o'clock people who normally stay to or past twelve were starting to pack up their merchandise. Possibly they were going to Nickelsville. Nickelsville's Friday Market usually opens in the afternoon but on some special occasions it starts early.

But some of them were hobbling; some of them were stumbling; a shopper walked past looking glassy-eyed and clutching her chest. These were people who had seemed perfectly healthy half an hour ago.

One woman who's only about seventy-five seemed especially pitiful because she's always been especially well preserved. Slimmer and more active than some of her children, she flaunts a head of particularly lush grey hair so people can generally guess who's the mother and who's the daughter. She strode into the market like a model for her expensive "casual" outfit, every inch of her original 5'10", waving and calling out to all her old friends, making a scene as only rich and good-looking people do. She remembered everyone's name, and probably all the conversations they'd had over all the years. She's a good shopper who carries plenty of cash; she can be pushy, but all the vendors like her.

Then she wilted. On her return trip past me, on the way to her car, she hardly looked taller than I am. She recognized me, but her cheerful conversation didn't make sense. Someone who had a truck got up to sit on the tailgate and made her sit down on their portable chair. Someone else led her the rest of the way back to the car, after she'd rested for ten or fifteen minutes, to take her home.

And still there were people in the crowd, and this time I was one of them, looking as if that ill wind hadn't done us any real harm at all. It was still a bustling market. If I'd dared to bring out more different kinds of merchandise than just the soda pop and the seal-top plastic bin of books, which I could leave, and the two knitted blankets, which I could carry away, in case the expected storm blew in ahead of schedule, I would have made more than $29. Some people were still feeling cheerful. Some were having fun. Some were making money. The barely-adult with the permanent limp, who always wears that prison-pants look, I suspect to get his baggy britches over a clumsy brace, was positively hopping and skipping as he replaced things on his display.

And still other people were clutching at excuses they'd obviously made many times before to explain to themselves, as well as other, what they were feeling.

"Allergies"? Funny how they hadn't had "allergies" to the same flowers that were blooming earlier in the morning, or the same meals they'd eaten earlier today or yesterday, isn't it?

"The heat"? "The sun"? From time to time the sun might have dazzled people's eyes, and when the sun stayed out from behind the clouds for a few minutes the temperature started to rise, but then when the clouds and the merry little breezes came back the temperature dropped again. It was a perfect day, not only for strolling, but for working outdoors. Let's just say, if I'm not perspiring--which I wasn't--I'm not buying "the heat" as an excuse for other people's sudden wilting. I'm sure they were feeling overheated, but that would be because they were ill. A thermometer would hardly have got past the eighty-degree mark all morning.

"Getting old"? Oh, right...they were about the same age at midday as they'd been in the morning.

"Been a long day"? Well, watching other people droop, or even collapse, does make a day seem "longer" than usual. But last summer I watched some of these people work the market till two o'clock on days when the temperature was well past eighty degrees.

"Had a stroke, and sometimes..."? Yes, Gentle Readers. Strokes as such existed long before glyphosate did; it's likely that a particularly obnoxious old character, known as "The Fool" apparently for his gluttony, drunkenness, and bad temper, had a fatal stroke--to everyone's delight--that was documented in Old Testament days. But I've worked with people recovering from strokes, and whether they noticed other symptoms or not, exposure to glyphosate causes stroke survivors to lose muscle control they've worked hard to recover. Exposure to large quantities of glyphosate has been documented to cause paralysis in patients who've not even had strokes.

I was sitting there, humming a tune that could use new lyrics, looking comfortable. Apart from not being able to think of a good song I was even feeling comfortable--almost. Except for the way the market was turning, before my eyes, from an ideal Friday Market scene into a rerun of the neighborhood poisoning I complained about earlier this month. I was trying to write a nice snarky song, and my brain was self-distracting with the thought, "And there you were, planning to test whether it was the beans or the tomatoes that made you sick last week, over the weekend. Thought you were recovering, did you? There is no escape. Before we can get a ban on glyphosate, you're going to die."

That merry little breeze with the whiff of poison on it was well and truly an Ill Wind that Blew Nobody Good, this morning.

Most of the people fleeing the market before midday had no idea what had hit them. (If they'd felt themselves suddenly "nodding off to sleep," and never awakened, I will say that has to be a painless way to die.) They'd been hit all right, and with the sun shining less than half the time, there's no way to blame the sun. But very likely some of the ones who were hit hardest are the ones who went home planning to go out and poison their own gardens, tomorrow, if they feel better after the cold drinks and cold showers they were promising themselves on their way out of the market. The poor slobs believe the lies the chemical companies are so eager to tell them.

By now there's no way even the chemical companies can believe that glyphosate is safe for humans to breathe, touch, or swallow. And I've picked on glyphosate because glyphosate happens to produce especially disgusting, painful symptoms when people who share a particular minority gene, which I happen to have inherited, are exposed to it. That's not to say that any of the other "'cide" chemicals is safe for humans, either--or that some of the others haven't made me more obviously ill, faster. Many have killed other people. Some have been used in murders. Glyphosate didn't seem likely to be used to murder humans in 1990, but that was before repeated exposure had built up levels beyond tolerance in wild animals, domestic animals, and some humans...those of us who inherited the gluten intolerance gene, or those of us who've worked with glyphosate and accumulated higher levels of it in our bodies.

Me? Oh I'm all right--for now. I'm still feeling youthful, cheerful, and energetic, now. I'll notice sudden bursts of rage that make me think, "But that was actually settled twenty years ago, so why am I even thinking about it?", probably, this evening. I'll start having to race against various eroding parts of my body to the toilet, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow morning, to pass gassy gushes of frothy blood-flecked diarrhea followed by gassy gushes of pure blood. Last night another bloke who might be the age of a son I might have had tried to flirt with me--I will admit that that's always a hoot, and I even let him kiss my mostly black hair!--and this weekend I'll be an old sick hag who just might take a nap and never wake up. This is not even about Middle Age, Gentle Readers. This is something that is happening to teenaged celiacs, too. The celiac reaction to glyphosate is observed in little children. Somewhere in some glyphosate-poisoned neighborhood it might be a four-year-old child who lies down for a nap and never wakes up.

And somewhere in my little poisoned town some little child of Irish descent will probably be misdiagnosed as having "allergies" to some harmless flower or animal that barely even aggravates the reaction that's actually being caused by poison, likely poison sprayed on harmless daisies or vitamin-rich blossoming clover. Or maybe it'll be "mood disorders" or "learning disabilities." Or "gluten sensitivity, even if you don't have the celiac gene." Or "Yes, s/he has full-blown celiac sprue at age seven"--only just going gluten-free, burdensome as that is for a child, won't fix it.

I came back up to the cafe; a crowd was there. Someone was blethering about "allergies." Someone was muttering about "a lot of that going around." (Lot of what? Airborne poison, that's what. Trust me, if there were an active virus or bacterial infection within a mile, even strep, after all these poison-triggered celiac reactions I'd be down with it.) I stood behind someone ordering take-out lunches for half a dozen people and watched the woman who bagged up the take-out boxes mindlessly start to pour the drinks over ice for in-shop consumption. (This was the same young lady who was blurting out things like "I can't wait for the day to be over," in front of customers, the last time the town was poisoned.) Well, the drink she put on ice before the customer stopped her did look good. I bought it. And I remembered that cognitive function is most definitely linked to kidney function, too. There will be a lot of stupidity in our town this weekend. Years go by when we don't have a murder case but, if we have one this year, this weekend could easily be when it happens, or when a homicide-by-stupidity or major property damage case happens.

Like the major property damage case I remember best from last year. "I don't know what happened. I was just driving down this straight, level two-lane road in this car I've been driving for years, and I started to pull into the gas station I've been using for years, and I heard a crash, and instead of having pulled into the gas station I had pulled into the side of a car parked in front of a house on the left side of the road." Alcohol or reactions to prescription medication would be the obvious explanation, but the driver hadn't had any. They don't test blood levels of glyphosate.

Right now what I'm feeling is...strange. It's called cognitive dissonance. There's a part of me that wants to find all the fools who are killing me by torture because they're too damned lazy to dig up a dandelion, string'em up in a large multi-user toilet room, jam funnels down their throats and just pour "Roundup" through'em till they share this very special blood-gushing experience celiacs have when they poison their yards. On live television. And then there's a part of me that's going, "But a lot of the worst offenders are the sickest people. They honestly have no idea how much damage they're doing to their own fool selves. The old friends and neighbors, the favorite teachers, the parents' favorite cousins, a good half of the people who are what I have for friends now that my father, brother, and husband are dead: they're the ones who are suffering the most, today, and they're the ones who are causing all this suffering, too. They didn't see what happened in the market, even if they were there and even if it happened to them, BECAUSE ONE OF THE EFFECTS GLYPHOSATE PRODUCES IS STUPIDITY!"

And I generally think we have too much government in this country, we're Taxed Enough Already, and of "lead, follow, or get out of the way" the one thing government could do that would be most useful would be to get out of the way...but even I have to admit that this is one time when we could use bigger, more intrusive government. Somebody needs to ban these pesticides.

Go on Twitter. Type in the hashtag #glyphosate. A few poor dumb idjits are tweeting about how "glyphosate is vital" and they're so proud of their lush crops of winter wheat and summer beans, because they're poisoning their fields with glyphosate. Even on the hashtag #phenology a few fools are tweeting twaddle about "protecting their plants from tent caterpillars."

Tent caterpillars. Right. Harmless, even rather pretty, little animals that are native to North America, so the trees they infest are a textbook model of insects and host plants having evolved a near-perfect symbiosis that self-corrects when the caterpillars overpopulate and succumb to plagues. At the stage of growth when you don't want a tent caterpillar nibbling on a fruit tree, you can see the individual caterpillars visiting it, reach up, flick'em off, and whack'em with a stick. The only way a tent caterpillar is ever going to do you a bit of harm would be if you ate the poor little thing, and anyone stupid enough to poison a whole neighborhood, to get rid of tent caterpillars, ought to have to eat a whole nest of them. By ones. Fur, and illusive big black stuffed-animal eyes on the backs of their brainless heads, and creepy-crawly feet and all. And the nest full of cyanide-laden tent caterpillar frass, too. On live television.

So what we need is government--local government rather than federal, first, for choice, because this administration likes that idea generally--to ban all the'cides. Every one of'em. Require permits that specify that emergency use of any chemical that's designed to kill things can be authorized once, but not twice, in fifty years, and if the things to be killed are plants the chemical has to be in a form that does not become airborne and is painted on or injected into the specific plants. In order for me to be sure I'll be able to vote for anybody in November I need glyphosate to be banned right now, but really, Gentle Readers, we need all the poison sprays banned--not only the ones that have immediate effects on me.

Then let the idiots see for themselves how much younger and healthier and food-tolerant and allergy-free and able to enjoy nature they will be, when they're forced to stop killing their chemically stupefied selves.

DDT was not unique. DDT was typical. First the'cides appear to be harmless to most humans, and then the humans who don't have horrible reactions right away start to become ill and die. We have to stop relying on any kind of'cide to manage any kind of plants or animals.

Senator Carrico Promotes an App

It does sound appetizing!

From Virginia State Senator Bill Carrico, R-40:

New Virginia History Trails App
You can be a tourist in your own town this summer by using the Virginia History Trails App presented by American Evolution. The Virginia History Trails app, a customized digital platform, is the smartest way to explore Virginia history. The app features 20 trails and 400 stories from all across Virginia. Use the app to find the historic sites and stories in our district. Put history in your hand and download the Virginia History Trails app on Google Play or App Store, today.