Friday, June 29, 2018

Bill Carrico on Independence Day Parades

Love a parade? Southwest Virginians can expect to meet State Senator Carrico at these three:

This Independence Day, I hope you will take the time to reflect on the liberties and freedoms unique to our American democracy. Too often, we forget we live in the single greatest country in the world and take our good fortune for granted. Please feel free to join me in celebrating around the District at the events below, have fun, and God bless!

  • Parade - Independence, VA - 10 AM
  • Parade - Fries, VA - 12 PM
  • Parade - Bristol, VA - 4 PM

Why You Should Choose Me to Write About Life with Chronic Conditions

(This post is basically a project "pitch" to a funder who demanded both a document and a link, but if anyone else wants to fund a similar project, why not? For spreading awareness of the chronic condition I've inherited, any publicity is probably good publicity. I'm not sure why the webform stipulated a video link; there is no video link for this web site or any of its members--GBP did have a cell phone that took videos once, but it died in 2012.)

I’m a celiac. What I have is not the kind of “gluten intolerance” that’s breaking out all over, these days, but the real thing found almost exclusively in certain Irish families.

My story used to be about how all I have to do to stay healthy (since you build up fantastic strength and fortitude by being an undiagnosed celiac) is to avoid social eating.

There are also the stories of other celiacs and gluten-sensitive people I’ve been able to help, and people with different sensitivities, intolerances, and genetic quirks I’ve been able to support, at least morally.

Currently, though, my story is about how I’m being made sick again—and watching other people being made sick—by the insane use of glyphosate, a weedkiller, not only on wheat fields but directly on food as a preservative...and in the air...and in the water...(And I don't mean ill; I mean sick. Nufsed.)

Other “pesticides” and “bioengineered food” products affect other people too. I’m interested in their stories too.

From the Soros-funded “protest” websites? This week, a whimper about “disordered eating” as an emotional problem. The writer’s friend has confirmed Hashimoto’s Disease but the writer wants to construe her food avoidance as an emotional problem, rather than an unguided experience that although she can’t predict why (since pesticide residues aren’t on the labels of food!) some foods make her sicker—which is something Hashimoto’s Disease patients often do observe. I cry foul. Eating things that make you sick, feeling sick for no obvious reason, causes some kinds of emotional problems. It is not primarily an emotional problem.

I’m a motivated activist about this. I’ve not been doing travel and interview articles because I’ve not been paid to do them. I can do them--just add money.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Correspondents' Choice: Book Links for June

This will probably be my last post until the tenth of July. I've not been reading e-mail very faithfully this month; here are the most irresistible book links I did make the time to find and follow:

Amazon is evolving to keep up with changes in international publishing policies. U.S. readers can now order this farm-woman-and-her-cat story from, but the site won't give me a short link to recommend it. Oh well...once in a while this web site does share a book link just for fun, not for profit.

Here's one recommended with reservations...On the one hand, I'm not into Cthulhu at all (although after some Very Bad Days I've thought the real city of Kingsport belonged there). On the other hand: Gaiman.

(Oh, let's explain that inside joke for the European readers. Cthulhu is a fictional "mythos"/universe/series created by the late H.P. Lovecraft and maintained alive by fans. Lovecraft named a fictional town Kingsport, apparently in the belief that that wasn't the name of a real town. It is.)

If it's recommended by Oprah Winfrey, does it need any additional recommendations? All this web site is saying is: we're interested. Prison reform and life after release is not a main theme at this web site. It is a main theme for some writers whose books we've publicized, and for a neighbor we see at church in Gate City. It's primarily something men, and (to this country's shame) especially Black men, need to be leading. So, over to that neighbor. None of us has been there. But we do empathize.

As Tweeps know, I don't even click on every book whose author tweets "Buy my book," or even "Other people like my book" or "Here's a sample of the kind of pretty picture / funny joke / fun fact / etc. you'll find in my book." This one is special, because it's (1) about North American wildflowers, (2) in French, (3) by someone who's demonstrated on Twitter that he's taken some gorgeous wildflower photos. If you want to learn the French names for things you may have been calling "weeds" even in English, let's create an international demand for this Canadian book.

Due to incomplete international coordination between and, I don't even get a commission, but click here.

Once again, let's find out whether this book link gives due credit to Heather's, Samantha's, and Serena's e-friend Mudpie. (Serena doesn't yet know what e-friends are. Samantha could hardly have told her, since Samantha is not "serene" enough to cuddle up beside the computer, as Serena does. Serena is only a kitten. Going into her sixth week on this planet, Serena didn't even realize that the news that she'd learned how to make a puddle all by herself, without anyone massaging her back end, would be a source of anything but joy to anybody. She accomplished this feat just before completing the fifth week of her life. She typed a bit, though, before being banished from the office room until she learns to control her new skill...but only on the arrow keys, not the letter keys.)

Amazon will link pictures directly to my account, they claim. I have to use a caption to insert a link to Mudpie's Human's account.

First in the order these links were actually received: Vanishing Grace is available in paperback.

A new China novel, local readers! (There is more to Asian literature in English than China...maybe it's all so overwhelmingly exotic to some local lurkers that China feels almost familiar?) Although I'm not finding a suitable vehicle for the Link Logs, sometimes it does link to books I'd like to read...There's a sequel. I'd like to begin with volume one.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Book Review: Return to Gone Away

Title: Return to Gone-Away 

Author: Elizabeth Enright

Publisher: Harcourt

Date: 1961

Length: 224 pages

ISBN: 0152022635

Gentle Readers, I still don't feel free to take the time to upload the next batch of book reviews. I'm still hauling this laptop home every night, wearing the little thing out, and when not working on a paid job or socializing with e-friends I want to look at something that's not this screen. Maybe youall know this feeling. It'll pass, I'm sure...I can't say when.

But this morning a random tweet on Twitter reminded me...I am most likely to write a book review when (1) someone has sent me a new book for review, or (2) I've weeded a book I don't want to keep out of my collection--and only (3) I've been sitting at the computer considering what to write, and decided to write about a favorite book I've loved for a long time.

The Twit posted a picture of a little boy's review of a storybook, written on a form handed out at school. "Would you recommend this book to a friend?"--"No, because it is my favorite and I want to keep it."

This web site's book reviews can seem that way. I'm most likely to post about a book I give "ten out of ten," a book I've enjoyed every few years since the Nixon Administration, only when I've picked up a duplicate copy and put the better-preserved copy up for sale. It's unusual for me to turn to the computer right after rereading an old favorite and deciding to keep it.

Today, also, Paypal notified me of a new trick that may allow me to offer Paypal links without the bother of (1) shutting down other sites, (2) going to Paypal, (3) creating a specific product link, and (4) pasting that button into the page. Paypal does not actually care if I've listed a thousand different books I can resell for $11 online. Why would they want to store a thousand buttons? If it works, this Paypal link system will allow you to choose new or used books, or other items that may displayed here, pay with one click, and need only to e-mail salolianigodagewi to specify what you're ordering. The link will give the total amount of US$ to send, including $5 for shipping and usually $1 for that pesky Paypal fee; all you do is click and tell Paypal where to send it from (your Paypal account, linked bank account, etc.), then e-mail me about what you're sending it for.

And finally, shared this new e-acquaintance's review of a book I first enjoyed during the Nixon Administration. This is a story about a 1960 family buying a fabulous old house in an abandoned lakeside resort town, exploring the resurgent natural environment and abandoned antiques in the other posh "summer homes" the very rich had built in the 1890s, so the children can be close to two retired friends who've come back to the summer home of their childhood to spend their last days. Lots of adventures, some funny and some scarey; delightfully detailed drawings, and a nice introduction to (by now these two) periods of U.S. history for middle school readers. What I particularly like is the indirect lesson: Nobody tells Mr. Payton and his sister Mrs. Cheever "You're too old to be living alone in these crumbly old houses, miles from town, with no phone and only an ancient clunky car blah blah blah"; the younger family just move into another crumbly house beside them. This is a happy story for seniors as well as kids.

Right. New blogging tricks begin today...let's see how they work! I promise not to post links to other people's reviews of books unless I've read the book and agree with what the other reader says about it. I fully endorse Samantha Bradshaw's review of Return to Gone-Away.

Samantha Bradshaw's review begins:

Return to Gone-Away is a children's book written by Elizabeth Enright, which is the sequel to the book Gone-Away Lake and discusses how the Blake family buys a house in Gone-Away. The book was first published in 1961. Plot introduction: When Portia learns of her parents buying Villa Caprice, a tumbledown Victorian house close to Gone-Away Lake, she is excited. She, her brother Foster and her cousin Julian enjoy learning about the "new" old house, with the help of elderly neighbors Mr. Payton and Mrs. Cheever.

To read more:

To buy it new:

To buy it used:

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Understanding the "Don't Care" Jacket

What was all the fuss about the “jacket” Melania Trump wore on a humanitarian mission last week? If you're like me, your immediate reaction to all the tweets and e-mails was, "Who cares?"--but you should care. This is why.

I didn't care. You can take the model off the runway but you can’t take the runway out of a real supermodel. With her trademark ability to look fabulous in colors that make normal human beings look either dirty or jaundiced or both, Melania will probably look as if she were struttin’ and stylin’ the latest color-you-can’t-wear in her coffin, long after her baby-boomer critics are gone. Left-wingers, spare your envy, I thought. Generation X are grown-ups now. Deal with it.

I saw the official photo of her leaving the plane in something cream-colored. Shirt, jacket, dress, who cared? We all know designers fight for the right to get the First Lady to wear their designs. If the cream-colored item was her “Don’t Care Jacket,” straight from the studio of whoever fancies himself or herself the next Christian Dior, I saw nothing newsworthy there.

But no, somebody said, the message “I don’t care” had actually been painted on the jacket. A “rain jacket” she’d worn while changing planes in the rain.

Say whaaat? Number one, they obviously hadn’t seen the same plain white top-piece I’d seen. Number two, although everybody knows the message of rain gear painted with “I don’t care” or “Let it snow” or “This is my ducky day” is that you don’t mind the weather in your warm dry gear, since when do Washingtonians wear rain gear other than the classic trench coat?

Little kids might get the “I’ll be your sunshine today” treatment, but not for long. I’ve seen (and bought for The Nephews) classic trench coats in children's size three. 

Nobody makes Washingtonians do this. Newcomers to the city bring other rain gear, but soon learn: There is no garment more appropriate to Washington’s climate than the classic London Fog. 

Some frown on the trench coat’s surplus-store look, but Melania, never averse to documenting that she looks healthy in olive or khaki, has been known to wear shirts and jackets inspired by actual soldiers’ uniforms.

So what kind of “rain jacket” had Melania chosen, and who had begged or bribed her to wear it? This I had to see, so I clicked over to the Daily Kos, which is a left-wing group blog similar to The Blaze, only shriller. (I subscribe to both blogs’ e-mail updates but seldom click through because both sites are cluttered and behave badly.)

Yes, there was the Queen of the Runways, modelling an olive-drab hooded rain jacket. (The hood was a nice effect, not unlike the button-on hoods sold with some of the better classic trench coats.) On the back someone did indeed appear to have painted “I don’t care and neither do U.” A prank by one of the fun-loving Trump children, perhaps? No, said Kos readers, it was a design currently for sale in an online store (link), from Zara.


Zara that’s reportedly still refusing to pay laborers for work they did in 2016?

(Just to be clear, these laborers in Turkey are petitioning for back wages they earned but weren't paid during a corporate takeover. Reportedly most are still working now, but have yet to collect what they earned then.)

So this is not the normal little-kid “I don’t care how hard it rains” motif.

This is not just the often reported, sometimes quite amusing, “foreigner plays with unfamiliar writing system as art motif.” 

Anyone who’s wearing anything from Zara is telling the world “I support companies that fail to pay workers.”

That’s  "The Rrrest of the Story" behind the Daily Kos report (no link to a messy page) that Zara has been cranking out designs with all kinds of messages calculated to raise a fuss in the English-speaking world, issuing bogus apologies for one garment after another emblazoned with bait for one hypersensitive demographic after another. I didn't see the specific garment that upset Holocaust survivors (now that's a group with a valid reason for being hypersensitive) but I did see a "Gluten Free" design that raised screams of "Don't you even caaare about celiacs?"

Don't you even caaare about companies that just abscond with the wages their workers have earned, online shoppers of America? And if you don't, why should those workers give a flyin' flip whether their "edgy new urban styles" offend you? My guess is that they're printing up the most obnoxious slogans they can think of, short of obvious robot-censor-triggers like "I Hate U." 

It's called sabotage. It's the next step after sewing into clothes little notes that read "I made this garment but I didn't get paid for it."

I care, Gentle Readers. So should you. And so should Melania Trump.

She probably didn't see the original story; the First Lady of the United States does not actually have a lot of time to hang out online, and some criticize her even having a Twitter account. Well, here's the story, being tweeted specifically to her--or her social media consultant, rather. It would be great publicity for Melania Trump to investigate the story behind her famous rain jacket.

In theory Americans can't do much to help laborers in Turkey collect money owed to them by a company in Spain. In practice, being as famous, as rich, and as pretty as Melania can fairly be considered a super-power; Melania Trump just might be able to resolve this situation.


Amazon book link? Why not? For those whose minds didn't replay the distinctive sound of "The Rrrest of the Story," a selection of the fun facts Paul Harvey Aurandt used to narrate on radio under that title:

Phenology Post and Status Update: Am I Overwhelmed Yet?

What? No daily book reviews at this web site? What's going on? And where are the eight "good" blog posts (not book posts, not status updates) I owe various local readers? Here's one; seven more will follow.

Here's what's going on: For the past month I've been going online five days a week, instead of four, to produce linky and up-to-date guest posts for an e-friend's blog, while also ghostwriting historical fiction. It's been fun but time-consuming, especially as I've tried to read as many as possible of yourall's blogs, tweets, and articles too. I still have a six-inch stack of printed manuscripts plus about fifty book reviews actually uploaded into Word files on this computer; I've not made the time to transfer those book reviews to this web site yet.

In theory the laptop I use to work online (which was formerly owned by Grandma Bonnie Peters, and thinks its name is "bonnie") lives in town; at home I use my beloved modem-free desktop (which thinks its name is "Office of Tax and Revenue"), and as a backup I use the laptop some readers may remember as the Sickly Snail (which thinks its name is "Owner"). In practice, the desktop's in the shop and I've been burning out this laptop, hauling it home and using it at night. And a good part of my own personal memory--like the accounting information I've stopped posting online, as stipulated in a hack writing contract--is on the desktop computer.

Additionally, about a day after I posted thankfully that so far the insect population crash had at least meant a mosquito-free spring, two things coincided: raspberries and cherries began to ripen (distracting my cardinals from eating insects), and this year's mosquitoes hatched into an almost waspless world.

Mosquitoes that are native to the Blue Ridge Mountains will bite any other living creature before they bite me, so I used to recognize them only as things that annoyed my mother.

Asian Tiger mosquitoes, Aedes albopictus (they have tiny bright black-and-white stripes that glitter faintly in shade), are here to equalize the situation. They ignore everyone else and try to bite me first.

You can substantially reduce mosquito populations by not letting water stand long enough for mosquito larvae to mature in it, but Asian Tigers' big survival advantage is that their larvae can mature in a bottlecap, or a crevice between plant roots, that humans don't even noticed as a pool of standing water. And they teem in underground sewers, like roaches; they have no problem with any of the other contents flushed through oldfashioned water-flush toilets.

Luckily I'm still able to see, hear, and swat those suckers, and delighted to report that nine out of ten of the ones I kill haven't bitten anybody, but they are undeniably a distraction--not a pleasant one.

"Can't you apply some sort of treatment to get rid of them?" asks somebody, out in what Rush Limbaugh calls Rio Linda, the Land of the Chronically Clueless.

Well, no. Spraying poison never, never, never gets rid of a nuisance species for longer than one generation of that species. Spraying poison destroys the natural predators that hold the nuisance species population down. Predators tend to be bigger animals with longer life cycles, so it takes longer to get them back, and meanwhile the nuisance species rampage unchecked and become real pests. Nobody should even think about trying to poison Asian Tiger mosquitoes. They deserve it, but the people they attack do not. The most natural ways to kill them are also the humane and also the effective ways: by ones.

I thought of doing a whole post about this. Do you say "by ones," "one by one," "one at a time," or "by the each"? I'd heard the other three before Wal-Mart moved in, but only in a post-Wal-Mart world have I heard "by the each." Whichever...that's the way to kill anything you have to kill. Whack the ones that endanger you or your family. Let other living things live.

Before my parents were born, when the Blue Ridge was recovering from intensive logging, someone slick-talked one of my great-uncles into planting cinnamon vines for quick'n'easy ground cover, to stop erosion. Everyone in the family has been pulling these nuisances out of gardens, lawns, and orchards, and blaming the great-uncle (who died old, 35 years ago), for almost a full hundred years. They grow like kudzu in warm weather; every time I walk through the not-a-lawn I pull up a few more, all...summer...long. By ones. I'm the only predator the cinnamon vines have. I prey on them diligently, but the last thing I want to do is poison the native plants, or even the introduced specialties like privet, hibiscus, or tomatoes, the cinnamon vines are trying to smother and choke. Encouraging the plants that are not cinnamon vines is the point. So I pull them out and burn them. One, by one, by annoying little one!

I've been dismayed lately as an e-friend who never seemed the type confessed, and then a real neighbor who never used to be the type caved, to poisoning plants as they grow older. I don't live in their bodies--I'm not even a practicing massage therapist any more--so I don't know how bad the weed problem feels for them. I feel 99% positive that handling poisons will make them feel worse, though.

I will say, for the benefit of my timid neighbor, that feral wineberries are not poisonous. Although they invaded our non-lawns as invasive feral plants, people who think the super-prickly red stems are pretty actually paid to plant these things in their orchards and gardens. The brambles aren't actually harder to handle than blackberries (most of the prickles aren't sharp), and the berries are as edible as raspberries. I see people just assuming that the plant is poisonous because its super-prickly stems look intimidating. When they see only the ripe fruit (popped out of its husk) they assume it's a normal raspberry, eat it, and like it. People who normally enjoy a variety of fresh red, black, and yellow raspberries, and notice the distinct flavors of each cultivar, notice wineberries as a different breed. To most people, a ripe wineberry is a big red raspberry.

Photo By Wouter Hagens - Own work, Public Domain, . Wikipedia mentions ( that some people hate and try to eradicate wineberries. That's reasonable if you're trying to cultivate purebred raspberries and don't want the more aggressive species taking over your field, but not if you just feel intimidated by the plant's natural defense against insects. Get a grip, neighbor!

Japanse wijnbes rijpe vruchten.jpg
Photo by Rasbak: , showing wineberries ripening and bursting out of their husks. (Plants aren't toxic but, like most mature plants, inedible.)

Wikipedia's page on wineberries contains a fragment, "Chemical control via...glyphosate," which ought to be completed, " a crime against humanity." Attention, ignorami of the world: If you can't control weeds by ones, yourself, you should take your rightful place in society as an employer and pay someone who can. I will happily dig up your unsprayed wineberries and transplant them to a loving home. I wait for the husks to pop and reveal the berries within, pick the berries out, and enjoy them, just as you could if you had the brains God gave a goose...gooseberries grow in husks too.

And for a reasonable fee I'll also happily dig up your poison ivy...I don't replant it, but I can get it out of your yard, fast, without poisoning any innocent living thing.

And I also move paper wasps and white-faced hornets; if and when mine recover from whatever's caused the colonies to collapse, I'll adopt yours. Compared with mosquitoes they're positively lovable. Anybody who sprays poison on our native hornets and paper wasps deserves to have his head smashed into a hornets' nest.

I'm overwhelmed by the stupidity of the American people. If we can just get a good solid legal requirement that in order to get a permit to buy poison sprays people have to obtain the consent of everyone living within a mile of the proposed site of poisoning, I'm sure I can cope with the strain of generating silly novels and a culturally diverse blog (it's anonymous, but written from the perspectives of different demographics--ages, backgrounds, interests, and opinions, all predetermined by SEO algorithms) at the same time.

But I need to let everyone know that, in any case, between July 1 and 10 I won't have regular Internet access. Fortuitously, one client has scheduled a vacation for exactly the same time as the cafe's. I'll still be writing, and may or may not get online, during the first ten days of July; I hope to spend at least nine and preferably all ten of those days at home.

Y con suma suerte some of you local readers will use the time to let me help you resolve any wineberry, or poison ivy, or paper wasp, or similar problems you may have, instead of buying something that's likely to kill friendly songbirds and make humans sick.

They thrive and multiply on "pesticide" sprays, Gentle Readers--especially the ones aimed specifically at mosquitoes, but they love glyphosate fallout, too!

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Hospital as War Zone

Elizabeth Barrette is unfolding a new work of fiction about a science-fictional hospital. We discussed it this morning here:

As a tribute to EB's fiction-in-free-verse form, here's a bit of very slightly fictionalized memoir in free-verse form, sharing the memory EB's phrase triggered...

Jack, veteran of the color war,
remembers the hospital as neutral territory
from 1969, when the neighborhood around it burned.
He senses that he's dying of cancer
but does not yet know for sure,
so his two wives, his friends, his doctor
urge him to keep up the labor of living.
"Drink water, drink water," they plead.
Not "Would you like," but "Can you eat another orange?"
"Everything tastes of hospital here," he says.
"Your minerals are still unbalanced," they tell him,
"it's as sweet and juicy as any orange north of Florida."
"I have to go, I have to go," he says
ten or twenty times a day, each time he wakes up.
"Untie me now before I wet the bed."
"That's the catheter. Let go--wide open--if you can;
it helps a little. No worries, man!
A clean sheet's right there, if you soil the bed."

Joe, veteran of Vietnam,
remembers the dying men begging for water
from 1969, when others died from loss of blood.
Nobody imagines that what he has is cancer
but what could cause a massive bleeding ulcer
in the worst possible place, they're trying to find out,
so his doctor ordered no food, minimal water,
and tied him to the bed next to Jack's bed.
(His doctor was born in 1976.)
"Water, water," he yells
five or ten times a day, each time he wakes up
from dreams of blood-soaked shrapnel on the ground.
"You don't get water," students yell around the door.
"I've not eaten in five days," he yells as the lunch trays pass.
"You're not meant to," the kid pushing the cart sasses.
"Change the bedpan! Clean the wound! Oh gawd, it hurts!"
"Only an R.N. or M.D. can clean that wound!
Don't touch him, lady! We could all get sued!"
(Jack's wife had started to offer Joe a pan of water,
watching Jack's vital signs spike when Joe screams.)

Only a curtain separates their beds,
about six feet apart, and when the students
are led in to observe the marrow test procedure
the curtain's rolled back; they perch on Joe's bed, too.

Both men wake up from nightmares lost, confused;
are tied so IV drips stay in their arms,
untied, once wide awake, to watch television
and wash themselves one-handed if they can.

"Let me go home to die in peace," Jack says
softly, while Joe is watching sports on TV.
"I liked lying on my own bathroom floor."
"But what if they can cure you?" says his wife.
"Well...I suppose I'd rather live...if they're sure I will.
Don't leave me alone for a single minute.
I saw those kids pawing through the closet
before they saw that you were there, and asked
if I still wanted clothes to go home in,
and I believe my roommate's killed a man--"
"In Vietnam, he meant. He had a nightmare."
"Don't leave me alone with him, in any case."
"I wrote your son: he can have all the money
if he comes back in time to make peace with you."

"I enlisted for the job, not for any of you
but you young whelps are worse than the Viet Cong!"
Joe yells, tied face down over a pan of filth.
"At least y'might help with the odor in here!
Don't youall smell it? What is wrong with you?
Is this America? I'm a combat veteran!
I've been a cop on the city's meanest streets!
I might have saved some of your worthless lives
for all you know! What happened to Black solidarity?
That foreigner over there gets food and water,
two gorgeous nurses fight to clean his back side,
and his doctor's come to see him three times today.
I was here sixty hours before I saw my doctor
if that kid is a doctor, which I doubt,
and all he says is 'No food, no getting up
while we run a few more tests.'"
"That wound of yours needs special treatment,"
the R.N. says when she comes in at last.
"Ouch! And when they send a nurse, a little girl!"

On the sixth day Joe's family come in.
"Tape the Super Bowl for me, will you?" he asks his son.
"We'll watch it together on your VCR
when I go home. They say I can go on Sunday."

What man won't watch the Super Bowl
when it comes on? Jack waits, drugged but not that dopey,
on Sunday afternoon, while Joe cranks up
the sound on a boring documentary
("For 'football widows' to manipulate their husbands?")
about life in an "exclusive" neighborhood
in a city a thousand miles away.
"No use watching anything else over that noise.
Anyway he's sure to watch the Super Bowl"....
Joe leaves at seven. The Super Bowl is over.
The team Jack wanted to cheer for has lost it.

"Not such a bad fellow," Jack and his wife
and doctor all agree. "That was smart revenge
instead of the violent kind, and who could blame him?"
"That for your juicy orange!" his mother-in-law says.
Jack even laughs, himself.

"If I'm dying of some obscure disease,"
Jack says, "will someone please tell Joe that."
None of his friends or relatives ever learn
Joe's real name, or his address.

All these years later...Joe, I hope you know
Jack died of cancer early that July.
I hope your family are all together
and all at peace.
I hope the bleeding man they left for dead
has told you, in a dream, that he forgives you.
I hope you'll do as much for me
another twenty years from now.

Whether in this world or in a better one
I'm absolutely certain you know, now,
that every person on the urology wing
would have done more for you, sooner, had they dared.

But must hospitals be so money-grubbing
they cram two patients into every room
and never think how that can feel, to patients?

(end of "poem")

Gentle Readers, if this post struck a chord, it's probably because you know a disabled veteran. Please go and do something nice for that person now.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Another GMO and Glyphosate Regulation to Comment On (Updated)

(Edited to reinsert a sentence that should have been visible yesterday and wasn't.)

In the excitement generated by California's success in banning glyphosate, this web site has not forgotten that there are other contaminants and GMOs out there that may be doing some of you more harm than glyphosate and "Roundup-Ready" (E. Coli) corn are doing you.

Sensitivity to these things is genetically determined. This web site basically belongs to two celiacs who are super-sensitive to glyphosate, with some help from a Cherokee who has much more trouble with sugar and alcohol than with gluten and glyphosate. I got into a conversation about this with a gentleman I met at church, who is Black. He said, "But what runs in my family is sickle cell anemia. My son has asthma, too--but when you were reacting to glyphosate sprayed along the railroad, he had no reaction at all, even though he lives two blocks above the railroad." If I'd been observing the young man, I might have noticed some reaction, but I don't doubt that he lives with other reactions that are much more unpleasant for him. And although none of us has noticed a reaction to BT corn (the other popular kind of GMO corn that most of us were eating before E. Coli corn hit the market), this web site used to have e-friends in India who claimed that people there were reacting to BT corn the way caterpillars react to BT infection, which is a horrible thing to watch; we feel for those people.

So I opened an e-mail about this proposed change in USDA regulations, which would require clear, readable labelling for most but not all GMO products in food...First, the link to the USDA site:

I'm on the mailing list of an organization that's come up with a clever idea for processing these things. They send everyone a form containing some facts, and if you click on "submit" the form to the appropriate agency, a tab pops up with a form that requires you to add an original comment that shows you're a human with some human interest in the issue.

Here's what I typed. (You can refer to this Comment Tracking Number, or make your comments entirely your own. You can send them your own documents.)

Your Comment Tracking Number: 1k2-93tw-9ijf
Your comment may be viewable on once the agency has reviewed it. This process is dependent on agency public submission policies/procedures and processing times. Use your tracking number to find out the status of your comment.
Comment:GMO corn and soy may have been modified specifically in order to treat them with glyphosate. As you've probably noticed, there's a mania for "gluten-free" food these days because many people who don't even have the celiac gene (which I have) are having celiac-like reactions to grain products. We now know that glyphosate affects celiacs just as wheat gluten does, only more intensely, and has similar effects on some non-celiacs. We need no loopholes. In order for people who've invested heavily in producing "gluten-free" food to serve their market, and for celiacs and glyphosate-sensitive people to have any chance of being healthy, we need not only to have ALL GMO products plainly marked on food labels, but to have specific GMO's identified. (Celiacs can tolerate BT corn but have drastic reactions to E. Coli or "Roundup Ready" corn; on the other hand some immune-compromised people have horrible reactions to BT corn.) 

In fairness, I'm a celiac and the highly refined GMO corn syrup in some things I eat has not noticeably affected me--apparently the glyphosate is processed out of it. So I understand the argument that highly refined GMO products might not count. But others might not be so lucky, or the buildup of glyphosate residues in the environment might make me more sensitive too...and since other people will undoubtedly be sensitive to any new GMOs as those come on the market, you can save those people years of pain by requiring all GMO products to be not only clearly but SPECIFICALLY identified on food labels.

(I don't have a file to upload for you, but if anyone wants to read about the experience of a celiac with glyphosate-contaminated and GMO gluten-free food, I have a blog: It has a search feature you can use to skip all the book and cat posts and read only the ones with "GMO" and "glyphosate" as topics, or, alternatively, click on the "Labels" at the end of this post: I'm terser and raunchier about this on Twitter, as @5PriscillaKing, and my recent relevant tweets probably show up under #GMO, #glyphosate, and #Monsanto or @MonsantoCo.)

Note that the fact sheet I'd already forwarded to them cited some of the information you can find at, about what's in the proposed new rule, what needs to be in it, and who's being blamed for the loopholes. Your comments may actually be more interesting to the USDA if you read and cite this information yourself rather than sending them one more form...I don't know who's reading these things or how tired their eyes are.

(As Real Twits know...Twitter does not have a contract banning any potentially erotic content, so my Twitter account has no rule against mentioning body parts and I've even retweeted some graphics containing unprintable words. And I've tweeted some gruesome details about the celiac reaction to gluten and glyphosate. All this web site is going to tell you about that, due to our contract, is that this reaction is much more of a gross-out than our posts about cold-blooded animals.)

The Teacher Who Preferred Judy Blume to Narnia

(If this two-legged train wreck had been one of my teachers, I probably would never have gone to college. She was a college classmate. The idea of her seeking employment as a teacher grossed me out...enough to goad me to write one of the few "poems" I wrote in college that I'm still willing to claim.)

This woman does not trust the mind
that could conceive a thing beyond
its sensory memories recombined:
she’d shelter children from the thought
of flying carpets, talking beasts;
she’d have their fantasies confined
to games, to holidays, to feasts;
mere repetition’s all they ought
to know of big mysterious words
like honor, courage, faith, and joy,
which they’ll repeat like trained, caged birds;
if they must read, let them be taught
stories of real, common things,
of driving to the shopping mall
and stealing brass and plastic rings
and hoping that a boy will call
and dreading friends who might betray
their staring long into a glass
and picking at their face all day,
but never high adventures where
the stakes are more than children’s play,
no gratitude for sacrifice,
no sacrifice for friendship’s sake,
nothing but muck beneath each pond:
how else should it be for such a one
who’s spent all her days in the silver chair

in the land that never saw the sun.

Frosty Book Review: Fascinating Womanhood

Book Review: Fascinating Womanhood

Author: Helen B. Andelin

Date: 1963

Publisher: Pacific Press (how could you?!)

ISBN: none

Length: 343 pages

Quote: “This Book...will teach you...How to obtain those things in life which mean so much—things...for which you are dependent upon your husband.”

Often this web site presents a book with enough reservations to offend the writers we're trying to encourage. I regret this, but the truth is, when a bookseller posts an honest review that says something like "This book should appeal to very few people: these are the ones," the writer may think the review should have said "This book is great and should be required reading for everybody," but the cautious, tepid review is likely to cause the copy of the book I own to sell within two weeks. Once in a while, however, I read a book that makes me glad the writer has gone beyond discouragement. If ever this web site praised a book with faint damns, or marketed it to a limited audience by disparaging it, this is the book. I would not have wanted to encourage this writer while she was alive.

It is possible to read Fascinating Womanhood as a joke. Almost every page contains a line guaranteed to make adult readers say “Hah!”

“You will welcome the most tedious monologue as giving you an opportunity to observe the man’s character and to seek out the admirable qualities.”

“She wants a strong arm to lean on, but the man backs away from his position...She should reason that someone must lead and that he is more qualified than she.”

“What happens when comes in contact with an obviously able, intellectual and competent woman...? He simply doesn’t feel like a man any longer.”

(Competent women wish! If only it were so simple—if, say, a girl who made Phi Beta Kappa at McGill could just count on not being asked for a date until she met a fellow who made Phi Beta Kappa at Stanford. No such luck. Though far from being either the cutest or the brightest young thing who ever made the Dean’s List at Berea, I remember that for at least twenty-five years the line of creatures that were obviously never going to become men, in the sense that my close relatives and the men I took seriously were men, but they all wanted to show me that at least they had male body parts, seemed to have no end. Well over fifty, dressed like a nun, with my grey hair chopped off short and visible sweat on my unadorned face, I met one of them during the typing of this post. We as a society really need to work harder on training little boys to understand that Real Manhood begins with the appearance of an aversion to making unwanted babies.)

The sad thing is that, in 1963, real couples were trying to take this kind of idiocy seriously. The world might not come to an end if older women had pink-collar jobs, after they couldn’t possibly have any more babies, but if they earned fair wages for those jobs, men would just fall apart at the seams! Nobody could live happily ever after if women admitted that most of us can balance checkbooks! Marriage wouldn’t work for anybody if some women persisted in living alone, travelling alone,doing jobs...if any bride was ever prepared to survive as a widow!

Some women really tried to crawl back into the nursery, to become “childlike” and “helpless,” to believe that no woman could possibly be worth half as much as a man on any job. I remember some of them. They tried to recruit my mother into their belief system, to convince her (and themselves) that her and her mother’s and sister’s medical problems were proof that God didn’t want women to be competent wage earners and also devoted wives and mothers. (To be fair, little was known about the celiac gene.) In the 1970s, when her mental function was obviously being impaired by her physical condition, Mother tried buying into that bill of goods. It did not serve her well.

The immediate result in our family was a drastic increase in domestic unpleasantness for all of us. Andelin falsely claimed that, if her audience noticed increased unpleasantness, it was a temporary effect of a transition process, rather than the beginning of a long-term effect of a dysfunctional family dynamic. Dad didn’t leave, or try to pressure Mother into going back to work—she was ill—but he could hardly help noticing that her effort to stuff herself back into the cradle did not make her more lovable, or happier, or anything of the kind. Indulging her hypothyroid sluggishness was the worst thing any of us could possibly do for Mother. I grew up thinking of being a housewife as a sort of Nightmare Life-in-Death, having seen Mother’s every step away from “careerism” and toward domesticity coincide with a visible loss of ground to her illness. My natural sister grew up hating all things “feminine,” then reliving a dysfunctional model of marriage because that was what had been preached to her, then losing the overgrown little boy she’d married anyway and turning against men.

I did eventually embrace the idea of marriage, monogamy, even submissiveness...but not because society-as-a-whole was denying women’s competence; because I’d found a man who respected my competence, whose competence I respected, and we’d become Partners for Life. When people become a synergistic team, it’s because they have complementary talents; each has something to learn from the other. My husband had a gift for making money. I was glad he had that gift. I respected his talents, asked no questions, was the kind of “childlike follower” Andelin advised all wives to be as far as his money was concerned...and that’s the one thing I’ve regretted most.

Andelin and her fans overlooked a few essential biological facts: Women tend to outlive men their own age; yet women also tend to grow up faster than men and, for that reason, marry men who are older than they are. Nobody wants to be a widow a minute before it’s necessary but, realistically, most wives who don’t become divorcees eventually become widows. It is irresponsible for women to become wives without being prepared to survive as widows.

And what about the men? Does their happiness really depend on everyone’s working, throughout their lives, to help them continue to believe a story more palpably false than the Tooth Fairy? Men may be wired to want to compete and prove that they can do things “better” than other people do them; since most individuals can do at least a few things “better” than most other individuals, men probably can outscore their wives in some kind of competition or other. And the sensible wife will cheer when they find out what kind of competition that is, because about the only group advantage men have over women is upper body strength—a talent for taking out the garbage—and most of them don’t keep that for very long. (I'd agree with Andelin, and with better authors, that the sensible wife ought to be the head cheerleader for whatever individual advantages, talents, achievements, etc., her individual husband has.)

And it may be true that extroverts are incapable of working in synergistic teams or of feeling True Love, so that Andelin’s way of thinking did may have done its worst damage to only about forty percent of the population...Women brought up to confuse femininity with “childlike dependency,” and men brought up to confuse masculinity with delusions of superiority, are very unlikely to be able to find and marry Partners for Life. Rushing into premature marriages based on money and/or physical feelings, people grow up to lead parallel lives for the sake of their (too many) children (born too soon; emotionally scarred by having immature parents and too many siblings). If they don’t blame the children and each other for their lonely, frustrated lives, they’re saints. That wives who had been carefully prevented from learning how to earn a living really might have starved, if their husbands walked out, may have kept some husbands at home; it also motivated several murders. If your wife is nothing but a sort of house pet who can’t survive on her own and can’t be adopted by some other family, and you’re no longer doing what you acquired her for the purpose of doing, isn’t the humane solution to have her put down?

Nor should we overlook the damage the Fascinating Womanhood model of marriage did to Christianity. People claimed this dysfunctional model of marriage was based on the Bible. It’s not. It’s based on the French Socialist philosophies of Comte and Rousseau, which were developed with a specific intention of displacing Christianity as a dominant influence on French culture.

What the Bible actually says about marriage reflects a radically different culture from ours. Far from upholding an ideal of housewifery, the Bible comes from a culture in which people did not necessarily want to maintain houses. (Abraham was living in a house, probably a two-story brick house with a gravity-fed fountain of running water tinkling in the courtyard, when he was called to leave the city and live in a tent.) Most marriages were contracted by parents; romantic love was nice if it happened after marriage, but not necessary. The Bible mentions two young men daring to choose their own brides—by way of explanation of why both were despised and cheated by their in-laws. In practice most house-dwellers, in Bible days, probably lived under one roof, but tent-dwellers lived in individual tents; Isaac’s mother’s tent was not his father’s nor his own, although he was the heir who had the right to give it to his bride after his mother's death.

The Bible includes stories of six couples, plus what may or may not be meant as a single coherent story in the Song of Songs, that are told in enough detail to be considered romantic: Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Moses and Zipporah, Boaz and Ruth, David and Abigail, Ahasuerus and Esther. Five of these couples, plus the couple in the Songs, meet “at work,” and the women are considered attractive because they’re doing heavy physical work (just like a man, and better than some). Moses specifically defends Zipporah and her sisters against male bullies. Abigail’s act of virtue includes leading a crew of male employees in defiance of the orders of her husband, “The Fool”; she expects him to die in a fit of bad temper any day, and he does. The Songs specifically mention the girl being sunburnt “black” from working in the field and meeting her lover while herding sheep.

And that’s the cultural background behind Proverbs 31, “The Alphabet of the Perfect Wife.” The perfect wife is a diligent worker, a shrewd investor, and a clever scholar. She teaches. Far from being “childlike,” she’s a good manager. She starts small, selling surplus fabric she’s woven after “all of her household are clothed in double garments,” and continues working and saving until she goes into real estate: “She considers a field, and buys it; she plants a vineyard by the strength of her hands.”

In ancient Semitic culture fat women seem generally to have been considered prettier than thin ones, and pale, veiled ones prettier than dark, sunburnt ones. A woman following the Proverbs 31 model of femininity would not have had much time to sit around growing fat and pale. Perhaps that’s why the observer noted, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,” rather than commenting on how pretty the ideal wife is; the Bible writers weren’t shy about mentioning the physical beauty of men or women. In practice, hardworking women tend to be healthy as well as trim-figured, and, unlike some lazy “beauties” who sat around sewing cushions to loll on all day, the Proverbs 31 Lady lives to be an active grandmother. The husband’s reaction is that he “can safely trust in her,” and with her as a partner he will be “known among the elders.”

For me, reaching a marriageable age (in my case, thirty) included identifying and resolving the genetic condition that handicapped my mother, aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother, and other relatives on that side. It included establishing that I knew what I wanted to have and where I wanted to be, could get a reasonable amount of what I wanted for myself and enjoy it by myself, and honestly preferred being with my husband in “our” house to being alone in “my” house. (“My” house was in Virginia; “his” house was in Maryland; “our” house was near our business in Washington.)

And it also included observing what became of those women who preached “childlike dependency” for all women. The advocates of domesticity who could be said to finish strong in life, Dale Evans, Phyllis Schlafly, Beverly LaHaye, never had spouted idiocy about women being incompetent; they merely defended full-time mothering and home health care-giving as legitimate “jobs” that can’t be paid in cash because there’s not enough money on Earth to pay for them. The ones who really tried to stifle their talents and become full-time parasites did not age well at all. Most were divorced, some hospitalized, and a few had committed suicide, before I was old enough to choose a Christian marriage.

In my mid-twenties I even spent some time “crazy-sitting” a divorcee whose selfishness had erupted after years of suppression, leading to a midlife spree of disorderly conduct and a quick tour of various state institutions most people prefer not to see from the inside. Did that woman ever ruin her life! She’s still living so I have no right to tell her story, but yes, she has well and truly ruined her life. Let’s just say that her children, who never asked her to “sacrifice her life” for them, are unlikely ever to “rise up and call her blessed.”

And that’s the relatively intelligent, sober specimen of the “helpless, dependent, childlike” school of femininity, the one who’s unvisited by her unmarried adult offspring in a state nursing home today. Others, who sought pharmaceutical help to maintain that Stepford Wives manner, died twitching and gibbering on urban back streets or locked hospital wards, long ago.

Thank God I grew up with more role models of older women who were their self-employed husbands’ Partners for Life, in small farms and small businesses, and who eventually became grief-stricken but otherwise reasonably well-off widows. For them being full-time mothers, while their children were young enough to need such, was no handicap. Far from it. Mothering skills are basically management skills. But the woman who hid her own light under a bushel to maintain her husband’s ego in a state of unhealthy artificial inflation, agitated for other women to be underpaid or unemployed to inflate the egos of incompetent men generally, refused to learn to take care of herself in her own home, might as well have added physical suicide to her list.

Before selling a copy of Fascinating Womanhood I feel obligated to say that of course I think women should go ahead and do anything they can do, just like a man and better than some. It won’t cause all the inferior men to declutter themselves out of your life, but it will thin the herd a bit, and every little bit helps. (We do have to live with our hormones while waiting to find Partners for Life; the fewer warty toads we’re tempted to handle, the better.) The man you really want to marry, younger sister, shares your passions to some extent; he probably is stronger than you are (for now) and undoubtedly does some things better than you do, even beyond taking out the garbage, and you don’t need to be told to admire his talents. And he probably thinks your ability to do your thing, your way, even if your thing is being a soldier or a mechanic, is cute.

I knew one couple of Partners for Life where the wife was bigger, stronger, and older, at first, and also she was the one who became disabled first. And he was the home care-giver—when both of them were well past eighty.

More often the husband becomes disabled first, and dies first. That’s when the advantages of the competent wife over the “childlike, dependent” kind really come into play. Little Miss Makes-Big-Boy-Look-Good falls apart long before Ms. Competent would say the real trials begin. I knew a “childlike, dependent” wife who at least cleared herself out of her husband’s and children’s way, while her husband was still able to walk, just because she’d been told he had multiple sclerosis. Hah. He is still walking. I wonder whether she still paces around the hospital? 

So, is all the advice in Fascinating Womanhood altogether bad? (I did once review a book with an allusion to one of Dorothy Parker’s deadliest reviews, “I suppose ‘a’ and ‘the’ are all well enough...”) No...Andelin was a Christian, albeit a very confused one, and some of what she had to say about marriage was valid for relationships generally.

Page 45: “[S]uggestions and pressures do not change men [or women]...But in a miraculous way men [or women, or children] are apt to improve when they are fully accepted.”

We can test this with female friends too. Consider the dorm mate who seems “interesting, but perhaps lonely,” who overtly rejects any effort the old prep school crowd may undertake to make her over in the image of their little look-alike clique. She has developed her own style for her own reasons; the list of people she may want to please does not include them. Barging up to her with a mental attitude of “Oh you poor dear, your mother didn’t bring you up right at all, let me take over that job,” is a good way to get your face slapped—literally slapped, if you happen not to be older than her mother! If the prep school crowd are ever going to claim her as a friend, the friendship will begin when some of them find ways to show appreciation of something she does.

Page 208: “It is always stay at arm’s length from someone else’s problem, rather than to defend what is just and right...No one likes to get involved, but if wrong can be brought to light and justice rendered, then we should not hesitate to take action.”

Most women seldom disagree with their husbands on major moral issues, and when they do, “wrong needs to be brought to light” is likely to be an understatement; this one, too, is easy to test in same-sex friendships. Sometimes it’s peer pressure that needs to be defied by “direct action.” Sometimes an effective way to defy oppression and punish evil happens to involve acting like a gracious, mature lady: rejecting the products of the unethical corporation, or ignoring the nasty gossip about the friend who’s not interested in fitting into the clique...

Page 321: “[N]ever doubt a man’s ability to solve a not give him the impression that you expect it will be easy.” Unfortunately Andelin ruins this idea, which Shaunti Feldhahn has explained much better, by suggesting that women ever can or should confuse our children’s fathers with our own fathers, which I find obscene.

But try thinking of it in terms of human competence and liberation. Which is more important: reaching Point B on my own schedule, or going out with a friend in the friend’s car? If the former, it’s up to me to get myself there. If the latter, common courtesy tells me to sit back and enjoy the ride. Or, what do we want our husbands to do when our needlework is tangled up—barge in and start slicing off the tangled threads with no idea what we intended to do with any of it? Carelessly say “Oh, that’s no problem, you’re always doing that kind of thing anyway, you can always do it all over”? This is a valid bit of insight into any personal relationship, even if Andelin did step on it.

Even so, I say, nobody should read Fascinating Womanhood for these tidbits of good advice. The good advice in this book can be found, usually better expressed, in better books. One should read Fascinating Womanhood for the insights it offers into why women ever thought that abandoning the whole idea of marriage might be liberating, or maybe becoming political lesbians would be. During the fight for fair wages and hiring practices, why did some women seem to bring so much anger to a position that could easily be supported by simple facts? This is why. This book is a museum piece but it needs to be preserved as evidence.

To buy it here, send $10 per first edition, or $5 for an easier to find "updated" edition, plus $5 per package and $1 per online payment, as discussed at the Payment Information Page. Depending on whether we find the hardcover or one of the paperback printings for a better price, you can add three, seven, or maybe more books to the same $5 package.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Local Readers Can Meet Kaine Staff in Duffield Thursday

There's no book review today. I've been very busy with scheduled hack writing and unscheduled work around an ailing computer. However, this is time-sensitive, so you need to see this morning's e-mail from U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA):

Dear Friend,
On June 21, my staff will host Kaine Connects office hours in Duffield from 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM.
Although I can't be there in person, this is a terrific opportunity to get personalized and undivided attention from my staff. Please make an individual appointment by emailing Walk in visitors will be accommodated upon staff availability.
LENOWISCO Planning District Commission Office
372 Technology Trail Ln
Duffield, VA
June 21, 2018
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
For more information on upcoming Kaine Connects, click here.
[that signature graphic Google doesn't like: Tim Kaine]"

Here's my immediate reply, headlined "Can I just say it in e-mail?" First-time readers will find a row of "Labels" at the bottom of this post; clicking on "GLYPHOSATE" will pull up the posts to which the e-mail refers:

Hello, Laura Blevins,

How are you feeling this morning? I hope you're feeling healthier than I am.

I'm a celiac. The first thirty years of my life, my celiac mother and I worked very hard at "being healthy" and were, at best, only just noticeably less healthy than other people. When I developed full-blown celiac sprue, that was alarming because it doesn't usually appear before age 50, but at least we finally had the key to making all the other "healthy lifestyle" tips work. I achieved normal health, energy, productivity, stamina, etc., with the trade-off of never being able to eat socially with non-celiacs again.

It felt great. I never looked back. Mother and I became models for other people in southwestern Virginia who were finding out that they had the celiac gene, or didn't have the gene but had some sort of other reaction to wheat products. As my sister's children grew up, they were tested for the celiac gene, and the ones who share it had their chance to be healthy, energetic, even athletic kids.

Unfortunately, about five years ago I started having unmistakable celiac reactions to things that weren't wheat--corn, soy, rice, peanuts, potatoes, and who knew what next. I observed that these were not reactions to these natural foods themselves. They were brand-specific, and varied from season to season. Others observing similar patterns pinned the real cause. While no "pesticide" has ever been completely safe for humans, and problems have increased with exposure, glyphosate is specifically poisonous to all celiacs. It affects us as wheat gluten does, only moreso. After exposure to airborne glyphosate around roads or railroads, I don't even have to eat anything to find myself rushing to the bathroom, passing what feels like gas but is actually blood, as this genetically specific (Irish Genocide!) poison shreds my colon.

During one of these poisoning episodes I spent a day in town, watching people who had been healthy suddenly become ill. The range of non-celiac glyphosate reactions includes almost every acute physical and mental symptom you can think of. Thanks to corporate propaganda, people were blaming flowers that had not been bothering them all week, "allergies," "a cold going around," "age," whatever--they weren't taking the time to see that everybody in the Friday Market was noticeably sicker than they'd been an hour ago. Well, I was. And I know that some of these people, in their ignorance, went home and made themselves and their children even sicker over the weekend. "Ohhh, my allergies. Oh, I'm getting old. Doctor, does my child need antibiotics? 'Roundup' only affects weeds."

I have a blog where I've been documenting these things, encouraging people to complain to companies and demand glyphosate-free food, for years now: PriscillaKing dot blogspot dot com.

Today, once again, I'm working through what normal people would call a sick day. This was normal for me as a child and young adult; I spent my formative years feeling that I was always backpacking uphill when everyone else was coasting downhill. I've worked hard to make normal health normal for me, and I deserve to enjoy normal health today. Unfortunately other people are being allowed to make me sick again.

What I'd like from my elected officials is not face time (although I'm available to go to Richmond or Washington to speak on this issue, for a fee), but solutions:

1. A total statewide ban on any use of glyphosate, or any similar chemical, under any circumstances.

2. Educating the public to understand that all pesticides are poisons and become poisonous to humans after a few seasons. "Herbicides" should not be allowed at all. If people can't cut back or dig up their own weeds, they should pay other people to do that.

3. Educating the public to understand that when we poison plants and animals outdoors, we kill their natural predators, so we are actually just breeding more of what we don't want. We can't go on poisoning the environment year after year. Poisoning mosquitoes to stop an epidemic is the kind of heroic effort people should plan to make once in their lifetimes, not twice. I know farmers who've been depending on insecticides will find it very hard to break their farms' addiction, but they need encouragement to make the change.

If saying this to you in person can make the message any clearer, I will walk into Duffield to meet you on Thursday. I'd be pleased, though, if the e-mail is clear enough that you can give the face time to Duffield people who'll be chuffed at not having to come into Gate City.

Priscilla King

And here, for what it's worth, is the reply...I don't blame Laura_Blevins for this. The office computer had been programmed to do it.

Thank you for your email. I will be out of the office until Wednesday, June 20, 2018 and will not have regular access to email. If you need immediate assistance, please call Senator Kaine's Richmond office at 804-771-2221.

Duffield readers, you know how e-mail works. Those of you who want to talk to your senatorial staff should go ahead and e-mail Laura_Blevins anyway; she/they will see your e-mails in the order received and are likely to plan appointments accordingly.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book Review: Jeeves

Title: Jeeves

(Interestingly, Amazon reports that although several people claim to have some version of this edition, some date-stamped 1943, what some of them are actually selling is a reprint of the text scanned into a computer. What I physically have is a pocket-size paperback book printed in 1939. A computer printout might offer larger, clearer type; I'd have no problem with it but I do understand how it might disappoint someone looking for the original vintage book.)

Author: P.G. Wodehouse

Date: 1923 (U.K.), 1939 (U.S.)

Publisher: Doran (U.K.), Pocket Books (U.S.)

ISBN: none

Length: 244 pages

Quote: “Jeeves...always floats in with the cup exactly two minutes after I come to life.”

Up to 1950, before telephones took over, living alone was almost unthinkable. Bachelors normally lived with parents or siblings; anyone with a steady income hired a “companion,” and anyone without an income could make “companionship” a job.

These relationships often went wrong. Ancestor-snobbery, the idea of a servant class who couldn’t possibly be fit to inherit property, had its base in the need to keep hired companions from murdering their employers. Though the whole hierarchy of hired companions, valets, tutors, nurses, butlers, housekeeper, ladies’ maids, and others, were at the top of the servant class, often well educated and (as servants went) well paid, they could still be “ruined” by a single false accusation.

But sometimes the relationships went right. Bertie Wooster, the rich, charming, witty, immature twenty-something “gentleman,” and Jeeves, the quiet, discreet, unctuously polite, older and wiser “gentleman’s gentleman,” are a comedic parody of the best-case scenario where the employer and employee become each other’s best friends. 

Jeeves and Bertie use very formal manners to balance the excessive intimacy built into Jeeves’ job. Jeeves calls Bertie “sir” and Bertie, who naively narrates all the social blunders from which Jeeves tactfully rescues him, doesn’t seem to know whether Jeeves has a first name. They know each other’s secrets and always act in each other’s best interests. In real life they would probably have disagreed about Jeeves’ wages and social life too, but in the stories they always disagree only about fashion; Jeeves always cooperates with hardly more than a reproachful look, and always gets his way—meaning he gets Bertie to discard a tacky-looking fad item—in the end.

If Jeeves had been real, everyone would have wanted to know him, even after his natural life expectancy was over. Eighty years after his “birth” as a mature man in this novel, one of the first reliable search engines was called “Ask Jeeves.”

And this is where it starts. Jeeves begins with an episode that was also published as an independent “short” story (although it’s not very short), in which Jeeves not only spots the jewel thieves at the hotel but recovers the stolen jewels, and continues through several similar adventures until Bingo gets married. I read most of the other Jeeves, Blandings, and Psmith stories before I found this one. Knowing with whom Bingo was going to live happily ever after did not spoil the comedy of Bertie’s reluctant participation in Bingo’s love life for me.

That would be enough to say about this novel if I hadn’t found reason to disagree with the introduction to the reprint I have, on two points. Few people have read all of Wodehouse’s books—there were 97. I’ve read more than half of them, and I believe they contain evidence that Wodehouse became a target for political persecution because his first great comic character (based on a real person) made himself memorable by a political joke. I’m positive they contain evidence that Wodehouse was able to write clever, funny, lovable female characters who might have been played by Lucille Ball.

Wodehouse wrote several stories that grew into series of books. The one that launched his career was Mike and Psmith, in which Wodehouse expanded “Mike,” a sports story, into a comedy series by giving Mike a dorm mate who sought distinction by adding a silent P at the beginning of his name. Psmith introduced himself in an unforgettable scene that included the classic line, “I’ve become a socialist. It’s a great scheme. You work for the abolition of private property, and start by collaring all you can, and sitting on it,” as he staked his and Mike’s claim to the best “study” in the house. Young readers would probably have bought one of those endless series, like the Bobbsey Twins, that would have kept Mike and Psmith at school forever; Wodehouse let them grow up, and spun off their series into the Blandings Castle and Jeeves stories. The characters in these stories are part of the same fictional world and know each other slightly, but each appear as major characters in their own series. Wodehouse thought of most adventures for the large family at Blandings Castle. It’s possible that, having based Psmith on a real teenager he knew slightly, Wodehouse simply couldn’t imagine a long adult career for him—but, considering how long Wodehouse kept other characters young and how many other characters shared Psmith’s kind of cleverness if not his effrontery, it seems unlikely. I suspect Wodehouse was advised to abandon Psmith, then punished later for having written him, anyway, because Psmith summed up socialism so unpardonably well.

From time to time Wodehouse tried working a different comedic vein. There was a series of short stories told in a club restaurant where tellers and listeners are identified by their orders as “Eggs,” “Beans,” “Crumpets,” etc. There was a working-class character, Mr. Mulliner. Wodehouse wrote several stories about golf. He was also attracted to the American crime fiction genre; he wrote several comic crime parodies. The crimes mostly involved stealing paintings and jewelry, the criminals were sympathetic goofs, and although in theory Wodehouse’s criminals spoke U.S. criminal jargon with a few fashionable British slang words they’d learned from movies, while his British aristocrats spoke upper-crust British English with a few fashionable bits of criminal jargon they’d learned from movies, in practice they all sounded more like Wodehouse than like other members of either group. In any case the golf, crime, restaurant, and Mulliner stories sold, but never so well as the adventures of the British elite group that included Psmith, Bertie, and Blandings. Wodehouse kept going back, by popular demand, to that improbably extended, improbably sunny, summery prewar England where the biggest problems on people’s minds were whether Bertie ought to wear purple socks and which of the Earl’s nieces and nephews had misplaced which Blandings family treasure on purpose to manipulate which of his siblings into agreeing to what.

By and large Wodehouse’s characters paid less attention to politics as their fictional world faded further into the nostalgic past, every year. Jeeves and Blandings stories don’t mention years, but the slang and fashions and other details suggest that, just as it’s always summer for these characters, the year is probably in the 1920s, surely no later than 1940. Hostility about Psmith’s summary of socialism, however, died hard. Wodehouse was no fan of Mussolini—he made fun of an unsympathetic character who did admire Mussolini in one of his novels—but he got stuck in Italy while Mussolini remained in power, and was forced to state on radio broadcasts that, though held prisoner, he was being treated well. There was a war on. Wodehouse was banished from Britain as a traitor, falsely accused of being the person who'd broadcast really anti-British propaganda as "Lord Haw-Haw," and forced to immigrate to the United States, which his fans tried not to make too much of a hardship for him. He stayed in the U.S. after clearing his name and died old, rich, and famous, but always scorned by some people because he hadn’t jumped on the socialist bandwagon.

Later a complaint arose that he didn’t like women characters. This complaint was based on selective reading of his best-selling novels only. There’s no question that Wodehouse, having gone to all-male schools and all-male clubs, made fun of those male-bonding sites more effectively than he made fun of happy families. Bertie’s pal Bingo Little, the commitment-phobic social butterfly in Jeeves, reappears as a comically clueless but happily married minor character in both Jeeves and Blandings novels. Part of Bertie’s comic ineptitude is his fear of women. Bertie is, for all practical purposes, married to Jeeves. Wodehouse used several versions of a story in which some other young man, less afraid of women generally but still shy about approaching the one he wants to marry, heeds a bit of bad advice found in pop culture of the period: “You must take her in your arms and say, ‘My mate!’” Despite this handicap all the more competent Wodehouse heroes married.

There are even a few Wodehouse heroines. Wodehouse seems to have liked the name Sally; he gave it to at least three characters who combined Jeeves’ presence of mind, Psmith’s cheekiness, and whatever style of prettiness was in fashion that year. The Sally stories made me laugh too. One Sally became the main character in a book. But other authors wrote about girls like Sally and men like Mr. Mulliner. However much he liked writing about those characters, Wodehouse did like money. He kept going back to his male-bonded upper-crust Englishmen. He was working on a novel that didn’t seem planned to end the series, published posthumously (incomplete) as Sunset at Blandings, when he died.

Wodehouse was more justly criticized for writing, or rewriting, frivolous unoriginal stories that aimed for hilarity at the expense of Literary Merit. There's no real suspense about a Wodehouse story; you know nothing very bad is going to happen to anybody, some characters are always going to be incompetent, others are always going to have all the answers, people who are especially tiresome are going to be embarrassed, everyone will laugh and make up at the end, and three-quarters of the plot in one story may be the same as three-quarters of the plot in another story. You don't read to find out what happened, but strictly to laugh. Writing this way can be defended as a separate art form but Wodehouse didn't write, and can't be read, in the way Shakespeare, Mark Twain, or even Dave Barry wrote and can be read.

Wodehouse’s “genius” contemporary, Charles Williams, whose weirdly mystical novels show a repressed sense of humor, had a character explain uncontrollable giggling with “It’s comes in a book.” Possibly Williams envied Wodehouse’s gift of literary clowning; or perhaps he wanted to avoid a pun that seems obvious to anyone who majored in English Literature. Medieval English writers did not make a clear distinction between wood, meaning wood, and wode, meaning demented. The character’s giggling when strange and alarming things are going on raises suspicions...No fear, Gentle Readers. Laughing out loud physically relieves pain and the long-term effects of stress, and if you Choose Laughter to prevent becoming wode in times of stress or pain, this long-gone author can help.

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