Archive for January, 2011

Rush Limbaugh is at it again. This time he displayed his linguistic talents to the world by doing his imitation of a speaker of the Chinese language.

Rush’s insensitivities and biases are well known, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with his absolute disdain for anything and everything in the universe.

Unfortunately, a legion of arguably average Americans agree with him. That’s sad. We’re better than that but we seem intent on convincing the world otherwise with our incessant criticisms of everything beyond our borders.

And this despite the fact that almost everything American today originated elsewhere, including some of the basic principles in the U.S. Constitution. And our most revered institution, the invisible hand of the marketplace, got its start in Scotland.

As for the Chinese, we should thank them. They gave the world gun powder and more Chinese restaurants than any other country in the world.

Most Americans are probably unaware that the Chinese supported the United States against Japan in the Second World War and were instrumental in our victories on the mainland of Asia.

Today, a few department stores would probably go out of business without cheap goods from China.

And, of course, we all know that China is one of the largest holders of U.S. debt in the world. If they decide to call it in, the United States would be in deep kimchee (which, by the way, is a Korean dish).

Rush is either too ignorant to know these things or he doesn’t care if he insults more than a billion Chinese people. I lean toward the latter. Its classic Rush.


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I’m in the Lone Star State and I’m scared.

Texans are tough. I was in the service with a bunch and, in the street level vernacular, they “took no shit from the company commander. “

In those days, we were ammunition handlers, driving truckloads of bombs and bags of black powder and such from the storage point to a nearby runway where the bombs would be loaded on airplanes and then dropped on bombing ranges as practice for the real thing. I don’t know what happened to the black powder, but I always had a sneaking suspicion the Texans were rolling and smoking BP roaches.

My Tejas Compadres rode their trucks like they’d ride bucking broncs or bulls at the Houston Rodeo while the rest of us pussy-footed wimps inched along the road as if a single bump would blow us to hell and back.

Just to illustrate how really tough Texans are, practically the whole Arkansas Razorbacks football team was once made up of Texans who couldn’t make the Longhorns.  And Arkansas was perennially ranked among the Top Ten football teams in the nation.

Depending on their geographic locations, Texans wrestle alligators or rattlesnakes, gulp slabs of bleeding beef in a single swallow, and say “Yes, Ma’am” to women.  They drink their beer from longnecks while leaning against the bar, one booted foot propped on the rail and the other at the ready just in case some damned Easterner or Californian who needs an ass-kicking walks by.

Texas, parts of it, anyway, has always been a state of memories for me. My granddad was a foreman on a Texas ranch. So it is said. I’m always mindful, though, that two chickens equal a ranch in Texas.

My grandmother died of the flu in Texas. No one knows exactly where she lived at the time or where she’s buried. I’m still researching the mystery.

My mother loved Texas and Texas music. Her favorite kind was Texas Swing and her favorite song was San Antonio Rose. If anyone ever spoke ill of Gene Autry, she’d likely lay a skillet alongside their face. She had a hell of a temper and it didn’t take much to set her off.

I was trained in the arts of war in Wichita Falls, Texas, where, while undergoing basic training in the middle of the coldest winter in the history of the Earth, my testicles shriveled and turned blue on a 50 yard march from the barracks to the mess hall one February morning.

There is a great deal more that connects me to Texas, not the least of which is, one of my beautiful daughters lives there. As long as I’m with her, I can handle anything those tough Texans throw at me.

Her husband is a police officer. He owns enough weaponry to outfit an infantry division with some left over. I’m not kidding. A couple of months ago, he broke out his personal collection and just for the heck of it, I handled a few just to see if I retained any of the old feel. Not hardly.

One of them was a frontier rifle, a Remington something-or-other, I believe, that looked like a Red Ryder BB gun. I distinctly remember the old Red Ryder’s. Some dumb ass kid was pretending to be the Rifleman or someone by twirling a Red Ryder gun around and firing from the hip.

When I saw the gun pointed at me, I ducked behind a pile of cotton hulls. Too late. A BB hit me right between the eyes where the bridge of the nose meets the skull. A millimeter one way or the other and the tiny pellet would have gone in an eye. As it was, the BB felt like it was the size of a large marble. The thing broke the skin and blood started running down my nose. Other than that, the pellet did no harm. But it was a momentarily frightening experience.

That’s what I thought about as I handled that real, live lever-action Remington. I wasn’t afraid. The memory of Red Ryder just popped up in my mind and then just as quickly went away as we talked. I certainly would be afraid today if some adult dumb-ass shit-for-brains started playing Red Ryder, whether I was armed or not. Guns are dangerous toys, and Texans own a lot.

But guns are not my major fear when I visit Texas. The Texas cuisine is loaded with enough cholesterol to slow the water over Niagara Falls. A person in Texas is probably more likely to die of arteriosclerosis than from a gunshot.

But, Jay-Dus, Tex-Mex food is freaking Delicious with a Capital D. If I can make it back to Hawaii without crapping out at the Texas Generic Roadhouse, I’ll count myself a fortunate man indeed.

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As a product of the No Color Collar Class, I believe I can safely say that America’s kids prefer a Grilled Cheese Sandwich to any other sandwich 10 to 1. And when I say kids, I mean real kids as well as those of us who have never grown up.

I have no statistics to back me up. I’m relying on anecdotal evidence. Consider:

·        Have you ever been in a family restaurant that didn’t have a grilled cheese sandwich on a separate kid’s menu?

·        Think about how often you’ve looked over a menu and finally said, “I’ll have a grilled cheese.” You don’t have to add “sandwich.” Everyone knows what grilled cheese means without further elaboration.

·        Do you remember the many times your mom or your wife said, “We’re having grilled cheese tonight” and everyone cheered?

·        Or, you married men or men in a relationship, how about those rare occasions you were alone in the house and fixing a late supper was solely on your shoulders.  You fiddled around with a couple of slices of bread and a piece of cheese until you became disgusted and headed for Mom’s Eats (why isn’t there a Dad’s Eats?) for a grilled cheese.

·        And women, isn’t it great to be alone on a cold winter’s evening, all snuggled up on the couch in front of the TV with a steaming hot eggnog in hand and a grilled cheese on a platter on the couch next to you while you watch Viggo Mortensen bare his chest for the benefit of Diane Lane?

·        Or the time you first heard Dad utter a profanity? He pulled the old tan 78 Ford Fairmont 4-dr family sedan into the drive-thru lane and ordered a grilled cheese. “Shit!” he muttered when the attendant said, “Sorry, Sir, we’re temporarily out of cheese. Please come back again sometime.”

Why is grilled cheese so popular? My guess is that the answer lies in the American preference for simplicity. We’re a Gulp and Go society. We don’t like to sit around and suffer through the torture of waiting for the next course in a seven course dinner.

And there really isn’t a meal much simpler and appealing to our fast-paced life styles than a grilled cheese. Two slices of bread and a slice of cheese. Slap the cheese between the two slices of bread and then pop it on the grill, turning it occasionally to get the bread evenly brown. Finally, squashing it a few times with a spatula to meld the melted cheese and the bread. Squashing also tends to push a little oil or grease into the bread, thus enhancing an otherwise bland taste. Serve it with or without whatever. Occam’s Razor in action.

My personal preference is to avoid adding anything to the basic ingredients. No ham, no tomato, no lettuce, nothing. When we add a slice of ham, for example, we have a grilled cheese and ham, not a grilled cheese. If you like additional ingredients, fine and dandy. It’s our individual taste preferences that count.

Just remember, if you add other items, you aren’t, technically speaking, eating a grilled cheese. Calling it a grilled cheese muddies the waters of gastronomical purity and evokes professional sensitivity among short-order cooks.

Moreover, serving a kid a sandwich of bread, cheese, tomato, pickle, and jalapenos, and calling it a grilled cheese is fine if you don’t mind a kicking, screaming, head-pounding temper tantrum.

Okay, I’m off to a little café I stumbled across on 24th Street near Vicksburg in San Francisco for a grilled cheese. And I mean Grilled Cheese with a capital G C.

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I’m hoping you will visit The Strix Fix. It’s a site developed and operated by Rachel Kiernan, a woman of superb writing skills, an incisive mind, and a wit that might nail you before you know what’s going on. To top it off, she’s got guts and doesn’t hesitate to let her opinions be known.

Her latest effort is a masterful analysis of the recent massacre in Tucson. She asks: Gabrielle Giffords and Violent Rhetoric: Is Anyone to Blame for the Tucson Tragedy?

Her basic point of view in a nutshell is the innovative analogy, “No single snowflake ever thinks it’s to blame for the blizzard.”

That is, of course, the message we hear from the purveyors of vitriolic political speech.

“I didn’t do it.”

“He made a conscious decision to kill.”

“He pulled the trigger.”

“Not me.”

The speakers of these words deny their exalted positions as “leaders” and the effect of their words and opinions on others. True, they are single snowflakes, but together and with their followers, they are the blizzard.

I first ran across Rachel on Open Salon. She went by the handle RenaissanceLady and was a prolific poster of intelligent essays with quite a loyal following. I’d just established a blog on Open Salon and she was one of my first commenters. We began to comment back and forth and eventually became fast Facebook friends.

She, like I, hasn’t been active on Open Salon lately, but as a South Westerner and a decent human being, the tragedy in Tucson awakened her latent sense of empathy and she quickly posted the essay I referred to above

Hopefully, she will continue. But, like many of us, she has to make a living. Common sense tells us that her professional authoring for money will take precedence over her gratis contributions to a few blog sites.

In the meantime, though, we can continue to check into her sites and wait for her next essay. She’s worth the wait.

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There was a time when I was gun crazy. Oh, I wasn’t loony or anything like that. I was merely a card-carrying member of the gun culture. Guns were like air, all around, unnoticed unless we decided to head for the countryside and shoot whatever moved. I couldn’t imagine a life without guns.

This was in a Southern state that I will not name because I still have a lot of relatives living there and they are all still deeply engrossed in the gun ownership and user society. I don’t mean that any of them would come after me with guns blazing, but they sure as hell would burn up E-mail circuits and leave caustic messages on my phone.

These are the same people who once were kids like me, kids who bathed in a Number 2 washtub in the backyard under a peach tree in the summertime and then just as quickly rolled around in the grass and dirt until all signs of our Saturday bath were gone.

Like me, they read the Shooters Bible and dreamed of owning one of the sleek automatic shot guns depicted in full-color on slick pages designed especially to appeal to budding manhood.

And when we were older, like me they’d tromp down  to the hardware store for a duck-hunting license that we’d pin on the upturned brim of a hat just like the men and swagger around the main street until the newness wore off.

Later, on warm summer nights, we’d load our guns and a few girls in an old heap and tool on out to the gravel pit where we’d blow tin cans and rocks to smithereens to the musical accompaniment of roaring 12 gauges and 7 mm Mausers while the girls sat on the car’s fender with their legs crossed oohing and aahing.

One of us, a football hero we all admired, brought a pistol one night, a revolver with a barrel almost as long as a rifle, and we’d practice pulling and shooting with hardly a thought that we might put a bullet in a leg or a foot if we snagged a finger on our pants or something.

And another guy managed to come up with a double-barreled 10 gauge shotgun with those curly-cued hammers that looked like the hammers on an old blunderbuss.  That gun sounded like a cannon when someone fired it, and on a couple of occasions, a guy fired both barrels at once. The blast threw him backward and he went down on his butt.

As for me, I had a couple of simple guns, a single-shot 22 caliber rifle and a single-shot 12 gauge that once belonged to my granddad. Flame would erupt from the barrel of the shotgun when it was fired, and I delighted in shooting it at night in the gravel pit.

Like the rambunctious young men we were morphing into, we often engaged in dangerous activities.  We’d climb a fence in a posted area where the county stored dynamite and hunt rabbits. We’d ride down a country road at night with the headlights on and shoot rabbits when they came into the lights.

But the dumbest was a game we called Shotgun War. We’d divide into two groups and head for opposite ends of a patch of woods. Then we’d fire our shotguns in the direction of the other group. The birdshot from the other group would whistle through the leaves over our heads as we ducked, hoping that a stray pellet wouldn’t ricochet off a limb and drop on us. Those things sting.

Shortly after our Shotgun Wars grew old, we decided to enlist. In basic training, we enjoyed most the firing range. We were accurate, much more so than the guys from some of the big cities who had never fired a rifle. A few of them continued to shoot into the ground 20 yards or so in front of the firing line in spite of the extra training they received. Us country boys, though were always on the mark.

Later, after my discharge, and service in the Air National Guard, I was invited to become a member of the squadron rifle team. By then, however, my interests had begun to change and I declined.

Little by little, with hardly any conscious deliberation, I became disinterested in guns as a hobby. Yes, I kept a shotgun around the house but I probably never fired it more than once or twice. One day, a guy offered me ten dollars for the gun and I sold it and that was the end of my personal gun culture.

I don’t know why I changed, but it probably had something to do with becoming a parent, working my buns off to support them, and coming home tired after a day of dodging verbal bullets from very ambitious co-workers.

More importantly perhaps, I no longer lived in the old town and no longer hung around the old gang. We are, after all, a good deal like the people we hang with. The gun culture became a thing of the past.

But a little tiny thought still nags me. In all of those young years we tromped around the woods and fields firing indiscriminately at rabbits, squirrels, quail, pigeons, and pheasants, I never killed a single animal.  And I was a damned good shot.

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Whenever a tragedy happens in America, blame flies thick and fast in all directions.

As soon as the attempted assassination of Representative Giffords of Arizona and the murders of innocent bystanders reached the public’s attention, the political left immediately piled on the Tea Party for its vitriolic rhetoric and on Sarah Palin for her crosshair approach to defeating Democrats.

No sooner had these accusations been voiced than the political right fired back, accusing the lefties of creating the conditions in America that ultimately lead to violence. The assailant himself, Jared Loughner, was branded a Blue Dog Democrat and a rabid left-winger.

The media laid it all at the feet of the heated political rhetoric, primarily from the Republican Party.

A few commenters on blog sites and in the media blamed the easy availability of guns.

Even mental illness reared its head. Reports are surfacing about Loughner’s bizarre behavior and his increasing distance from reality.

The suggestion that Loughner may be possessed also came up today when one source reported a large number of requests for information about exorcisms.

It seemed that everyone and yet no one was at fault, and in the end, the assailant Loughner was the only individual who could be directly pinned to the crime. According to the sheriff of Pima County, Arizona, he planned the assault, purchased the gun he used, and pulled the trigger.

To confound the matter, no solid evidence of Loughner’s political affiliation or beliefs has so far been uncovered.

The American mind simply cannot tolerate loose ends. If we can’t figure out Loughner’s political ideology, we’ll create it. We’ll interpret various and sundry of his actions through the prism of our own political beliefs and, being decent Americans who would never commit such an act, assign the opposite beliefs to Loughner.

How is this tragedy going to play out? If reaction to the blood-letting  follows the usual pattern, we’ll pass through the accusatory phase, soul search a little, wring our hands over our political divisions, hold a hearing or two, maybe even tone down our rhetoric for fifteen minutes or so. Michael Moore might even film a documentary about it.

Then, we’ll forget the incident. We are great at speculating but lousy at changing things.

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Sometimes, I think about doing things I’ve wanted to do for years but couldn’t for any number of legitimate reasons. Like, I want to drive across the U.S. from Seattle to New York. I’ve done the Southern thing and the Heartland drive, but that was when I was younger and drove like a bat out of hell to reach my destination.

Now, I’m in a more leisurely frame of mind. I want to meander. Like a lot of things, though, there’s a hitch. Embarking on a trip like I have in mind is just a boring drive unless there is someone else along to share the driving and chat about the sights along the way.

Unfortunately, everyone today is busy making a living, except one of my cousins, who likes to catch snakes and make durable goods out of snakeskin. I’m afraid the guy would want to pull over somewhere in Wyoming and tromp through the brush looking for a rattler. I have absolutely no desire to drive down the main street of Cheyenne with a bunch of rattle snake skins flapping from a side view mirror. So, on this fantasy, the drive is still alive but my cousin is out.

In addition to cruising across the scenic U.S., I have other adventures in mind. Here are a few.

  • Pack a sky diving parachute for Michelle Bachman
  • Bungee jump in tandem with Lady Gaga
  • Referee a cage fight between Nancy Pelosi and John McCain
  • Become a long haul big rig driving philosopher-disk jockey
  • Light the fuse on the first manned space flight to Mars
  • Dance with the Stars
  • Be attacked in an elevator by Diane Lane
  • Write, produce, direct, and star in a movie of my life
  • Develop a political ideology based on E=MC2, where E equals Extraneous Gas, M equals Open Mouth, and C equals the Speed of Flapping Lips. In plain English—Extraneous Gas equals Open Mouth times the Speed of Flapping Lips Squared
  • Perform miraculous, life-altering brain surgery on John Boehner on the day the anesthesiologist calls in on sick leave

Okay, those are some of my fantasies. What are a few of yours?

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