Friday, December 28, 2007

Hunting guilt...

When my hunt sends electric mail announcements- meet changes and such- the secretary always appends an "E Hunt Tip" at the bottom- don't let your horse kick hounds, things like that.

Today's message ended with:

"Editor’s Note: Because of the format of these e mails, and mostly because of the tremendous guilt with which each of you live, I receive many comments questioning whether the „E Hunt Tip“ is directed at you personally . . It is.

Happy New Year"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The mess that Greenspan made...

This post is by way of an introduction to themessthatgreenspanmade, a new blog roll entry. He's been warning about all this stuff for years now. Though to be fair, we statistically ALL wanted the money.

Free money. You get what you pay for.

Like anyone who understands that money's value is subject to supply and demand just like anything else (Thank you, Dr. Freidman!), I've seen the new inflation coming for years. The media have decided to call it a "housing" or "mortgage" bubble, but that's just merchandising.

As though mortgages were not just one of the conduits (like the war and the usual corporate, welfare, and medical subsidies/bribes) for pumping up the money supply.

Plus it will allow next year's class war candidates to talk about those "evil(R)bankers". You know, the ones who lent you "good (D) working people" money even though they knew you were deadbeats.

And of course it will create whole new swathes of dependents on government. Starting with the Chairman of the Deadbeat Bailout Administration.

But it's not a bubble, or connected directly to any commodity except fraud by our political servants. It's a plain vanilla money supply inflation- a general decline in the value of a particular currency.

Hold hard there, aren't house prices (the value of houses in relation to money)falling?

Yes, they are. At least the sales of houses are declining, I don't see them actually selling at a discount. But no other price is. U. S. dollars are sliding down the scale of value in relation to commodities and other non U. S. dollar controlled stuff like euros or gasoline.

Because the increase in the money supply drives down money's value, it took more and more to buy houses (and soldiers). While the newly created money was plowed into houses and blown up in humvees, its effects were less apparent. But gradually they have wormed their way into other parts of the economy, to the extent that people have stopped being the greater fool borrowing money, or have just decided to hold off spending it on non essentials.

The declining value money has stopped chasing houses, and started chasing dinner. At least that's my theory.

My projection? MORE inflation, when the bribe/bailout gives the deadbeats even freer money. And the war and subsidies are still driving merrily along.

Borrow to the limit now, buy solid assets, and pay back with less value cash. The same investment strategy that always seems to work in a fiat money economy.

Longer term, don't forget about the 401(k) Tax Forgiveness Act of 2012 (or 2016). The free money created to replace the deferred taxes the boomers won't want to pay will dwarf the mortgage write offs.

Anyway, welcome to the blog roll!

Hitler was right...

about tobacco, limited access highways, and Volkswagens.

If you are a vegetarian, he was right about that too.

If you're Senator Schumer or Boxer or Clinton, then you agree with him about the great public benefits of disarming the people.

Jackie Ballard or Paul McCartney? You are fully on the Fuhrer's team with that animal rights stuff.

And if you have ever espoused the "chickenhawk" argument, or believe that only soldiers should make military decisions, then Hitler is absolutely your man. Of all the significant twentieth century heads of state, he had far and away the most distinguished and serious combat record.

Poor Will Smith. Conservative yet?

As an aside, it interested me to see in one of the news articles a capsule biography of the late Chancellor. It said "Hitler's totalitarian leadership as Fuhrer during 1934 until his eventual suicide in 1945 resulted in the persecution of an estimated six million Jews in the Holocaust, and his invasion of Poland in 1939 led to the start of the Second World War."

(Yes, Hitler did that. All those cheering crowds were extras from Hollywood.)

I suppose fifty years from now the war will be a footnote to the camps. Or the war will have in the public mind happened because of them, like the emancipation of the slaves whoops, the enslaved- has become the reason the American Civil War came about.

Disturbing foods of France...

Most of the food was excellent. But this tea appears to be made from elephants.

And this, from woodchucks.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

After two days in France,

struggling with the language, some people have difficulties. We were at the Boarhound meet, and one of the riders came by with some fairly odd spurs. R. pointed at them and said, "Look at those spurs, they have (holds hands up in fiddly gesture) round, round things on them."

"Rowels, R. I still speak English."

By the way, remember- low spurs mean high petticoats!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas at Auschwitz...

Or maybe "Last train to Dachau".

Is it just me who thinks this Christmas plate is not as festive as it might be?

Reminders of War in the Hunting Field...

One of the interesting things about hunting in the north of France is that one constantly comes across reminders that the ground is consecrated and the flora fertilised by the blood of millions of men.

First are the names. Soissons, Chateau- Thierry, the Oise, the Aisne, the Marne. All names I heard as a child, from people who had not come here as tourists.

Then there are the memorials and cemeteries. Huge ones, of course- the American ones are immense, as are some of the French ones. It seems like every other sign directs one to the Carriere de l'Armistice.

In a way, even more powerful are what I call the solo pilot memorials. About a half dozen time this trip, I came upon these. They were all out in the woods, not signed or visible from a road, you wouldn't know they were there until you arrived. Each was modest and all different, probably put up by family, landowner, private subscription or local authority.

Each was to a single pilot who had crashed at that lonely forest spot. They gave details of name and date, sometimes a little more, but not much. The most elaborate, from 1940, still had the wig spar f the airplane there, with pictures of the pilot and his squadron. Trite but true, all so young.

Each one of these memorials was clearly being cared for by someone- they were cleared and clean. Whoever is doing t, thank you.

And then, there was this...

One day out hunting we barreled around a corner, up a road, and stopped. I stepped into the woods- right into a 105 howitzer firing pit. I looked left and right, and there were half a dozen. Across the road, another battery worth. Poorly sited, too- right along the road.

But they were still perfectly usable, all it would take would be cutting the trees that had grown up in them. I estimate these were from 1940, judging from those trees.

Just as spooky as could be.

I hope the men we gallop over rest in peace, if they can't share in the fun somehow. They made it possible after all- among his many awfulnesses, Hitler was an anti.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rudeness, Thanking Service People and The Gratitude Campaign...

My penultimate day in England, I experienced rudeness and something good.

I stopped by a little pub, about quarter after twelve on a Thursday. It was cold and rainy, and the place was deserted- two women in their 60s running the place. I ordered lunch, which came cold.

How did they do that?

And wrong, too.

But the rudeness was in a couple of comments. "Well, it looks like we are going to have a depression because of your bad mortgages", and "I would never go to your country because I don't like guns."

No wonder the place was empty.

But toward the end of my lunch, an older man came in and started talking with one of the women about Christmas cards. He mentioned how pleased he was that he'd had a card from a Gurkha friend whom he'd met in India during the war, which of course meant 1939-45.

So naturally after I paid, I mentioned to him that I'd overheard his comment and that we were grateful for what he and his friends had done for us. Even though it was long ago and far away, lots of people are still mindful that exchange.

Which is by way of introducing The Gratitude Campaign. It's simple- the sign language word for "Thank You".

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

L'Amour des Sanglier...

Courtesy of F. These wild boar always looked prehistoric to my eye. But I love the "smile" on the near one.

The photographer is Stephan Levoye. The pictures he makes are beautiful. Here are a couple more:

I am injured again...

What is my problem? My friends up north have a new horse which suddenly refused to load. Really refused- turned backwards to the ramp over the leader, truly just defiant. It had always loaded fine before.

So idiot me offered to help. They had one of those heavy racing whips, and I stood to the side. When he reversed and backed up, I gave him a good thwack- at which point he swapped ends and kicked at me hard! Truly vicious, aimed right at my face with just one foot.

It's a good thing I have quick dodging reactions, but he still got my right hand fairly hard. Then of course he walked right up the ramp into the van. Just checking what he could get away with.

Too clever by far, this one.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I’m going to stop giving the names, locations, and dates of hunts. More on that later, but so it is.

@#$%^&*@#$%^&*#$%^&*#$%^&* antis.

Monday, December 10, 2007

To France...

We DROVE to France on Tuesday. So strange just to say it, never mind do it. In F.’s ride, a baby Jeep. They call it a Jeep Cherokee here. I suppose writing “Liberty” on the outside of a car contravenes some health and safety regulation. The tunnel is very smooth and an easy ride. We left Exmoor at six and were in our hotel at four.

Hotel is l’Abbaye at Longpont. Imagine my surprise when we arrived, it’s the place where I stopped to try to get dinner after the last day’s hunting there last year! A decent place, no flea bag.

Outside the hotel.

Most uplifting sight of the trip so far...

They came to the end of that bit of country and had to pick up to move to the next draw. In doing so we passed through Acton Turvil where I saw the most uplifting sight of the trip so far. Hounds went past the primary school, and it was recess. Every one of the children, fifty or so, lined the school yard wall to watch and cheer hounds. You can’t buy or force the grins we saw, or the whoops and cries of “Wicked!”

Most entertaining sight so far was the teacher. As her charges flowed like a tsunami from their usual games to the passing parade, she was obviously very upset. She shot a quiver full of disgusted looks at the brutal hunters, savage hounds, and deluded children. Then she turned angrily toward the building and stalked back. Clearly her pupils had failed to receive the message, and further indoctrination WOULD follow lunch.

Poor children. But eighty years from now, there might be some old old English man or woman who tells a child – almost secretly, because hunting is one of those things like slavery and the Empire about which we must appear to be ashamed- about the day the lovely hounds and powerful horses with their gorgeous riders passed right by the school grounds. Over there, where the MacTesco parking lot is now, beside the tower block apartments and the Mosque. And like the navvies and the knights, we will have become barely imaginable giants of the past.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Beaufort power changes...

Speaking of navvies, one of the feat-chahs of Badminton are the smoke towers. Back when the railroad came through, the old Duke gave permission on condition that the road be buried under the earth where it would otherwise be visible from the house. Since the smoke had to escape from the tunnels, big ventilating shafts were driven up to the surface. You see them in the midlands here and there, ten or fifteen foot circular walls (to keep the sheep from falling in, they are just the right height to overbalance a yokel) out in the middle of a field.

Well of course a round wall would just remind the Duke of what was underneath them, so he had crenellated towers built for a picturesque effect. A hundred and fifty years of vines nd trees have grown up around them now, and they look as though they really are medieval. Except for the odd proportions and straight lines.

As I looked at them, I reflected on the fact that the entire horizon was laced with electric pylons, and just behind me ran a four lane motorway.

Tempora mutantur.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

East Cornwall meets the Beaufort...

Wednesday, we went north. A few months ago, Captain Farquhar was saying (at a hound show I think) that his hounds could hunt any country. The master of the East Cornwall took him up on it, and they traveled to Bodmin. Today the favor was returned, and the scrappy little rock crawling provincials trod the sacred soil of Badminton.

The meet was crowded. Some thirty ECH subscribers made the trip- TWO WHOLE HOURS!! There were another hundred and a few Beaufort people to add on. So it was about like one of their typical Saturdays. The ECH hounds were smaller and somewhat more varied than is typically found here, but they looked keen and were well scarred up. As all of my faithful reader know, I tend to like a hound with plenty of dings and nicks from getting in there and drawing. Dogs and bitches hunting together, too.

They found pretty quickly and hunted in a big loop around. Just as we do, they have a freeway right through the country. When it was built, the Duke of that day managed to insure that the wire along the verge was buried in the earth at the bottom. So it’s a physical barrier to quarry and hounds rather than an accident waiting to happen.

Hounds sounded wonderful, plenty of varied cry. It’s striking how after just one day under two hound rules in Somerset how much one misses the sound of a full pack.

So we hunted along some more, including a good long bit in a bog covert near the cross country course. Twice hounds came up to right where we were, but the quarry must have turned back. It was beautiful to listen to, though- the air was heavy and the cry really rang through the forest, that fragmenting and regrouping of sound waves colliding with the trees, the atmosphere, and each other. Just lovely.

When we stopped for second horses, I had the opportunity to meet Martin Scott, who is one of the great hound breeding experts of all time. He talked about the fact that the Beaufort had sent hounds to our pack in the 1930s. “But probably none of that line survive, because I believe there was a terrible distemper outbreak in your kennels a couple of years later.”

Encyclopedic knowledge does not begin to cover such a mind. Here he was in the middle of a field and upon being introduced to some American visitor, immediately upon finding out to which pack he belonged, was able to whip out information connecting the visitor’s pack with his own.

Nor does civility begin to cover his bothering to do that. Just to let a visitor feel noticed.

So at horse change, we stood around and waited among the hounds. They were a bit varied, smaller than the usual English hounds and more lightly built. I pointed out one bitch who was very like the black marked strain in our pack.

There was a girl there, a groom or hanger on, who was just lit up being with hounds. Very difficult to watch.

So off we went, and hounds drew hard into the first covert. Out came the quarry, and we watched it off across two fields into another wood.

Then there was another clear illustration of my pet variability of scent from hound to hound hobby. Hounds came out of covert on the line, and checked at the fence line. They milled and then cast themselves beautifully around the crossing spot. Only a couple of the 20c or so even noticed the line, which was at most 3 minutes old in cool, damp conditions across an empty grass field. (And the leading hound was the black one I had pointed out, thank you.)

And on we went, hounds hunting hard but most of them just couldn’t hold on to anything at all for long. A pity, their cry when rolling was beautiful.

And afterward, a feed in the village hall. The Beaufort was very welcoming and generous, once again defying the stereotype our enemies paint of us as exclusionary aristocrats.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

#$%^&* BBC !

So all day I've been driving in England. Every half hour I hear, "A gunman opened fire on a crowded mall in Omaha Nebraska, killing eight. The gunman, (annoncer says name) left a note saying he wanted to go out in style".

ONCE AGAIN, from April 17,

Wouldn't it be fine if Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, or the editor of the Chittlin' Switch Morning News issued a statement like this?

"We hereby announce the following policy concerning coverage of mass killings. The people who commit these crimes will receive absolutely no coverage in our outlets. Their names will be unspoken, their goofy pictures unshown, their silly notes unread. Their lives will not be explored. Their trials and tribulations will not be exposed. Their families will not be interviewed. They are unpersons here. Anyone employed here who violates this policy, or refers to such killers with any terms other than killer, trash, coward, or loser will be discharged forthwith.

Go ahead and kill people, but you won't get any fame here."

My thought on all this is, doesn't just ONE media outlet have the decency and courage to not give the killer fame? These people do these slaughters because they know everyone will finally see and hear them. We'll read their rants, torment their parents and friends,know their names and faces.

The next mass killer is watching, too.

Last Hunting Day in France...

As usual, please click on these pictures- they have lots of detail in the larger versions.

The next day, stags at another forest. This was the pack that got me premonia last year in the mighty Oise. This time we met some distance away, in a somewhat rougher forest. The day was clear and warm, and the people very welcoming and friendly as they had been last time.
Even the ones who recognized me. R and F riding again, on rougher looking horses than day before yesterday.

Last year, I recall the huntsman telling me that they had several D&S hounds. I told him I could tell which ones, and pointed to several. “’ow did you know?”

I just pointed to the ones with one eye, or an ear off, missing teeth.The French hounds were all preeeeetty, ours looked like they had been in a lifetime of bar fights.

So on that day, they had been cussing and swearing at “Mascot”, a D&S transfer. At the meet this time, whose name do I hear?”

“Arrrrette, MASCOT!” He must hunt like crazy.

Off we went, I was in a car with three generations- grandfather, son, and grandson, all chasse followers. The youngest was even named Hubert!

They drew a recently cut area first.

I had a bit of excitement when a stag jumped from cover so close that he spattered mud on me! Not a huntable one though, too small. Then they picked up and moved, and I saw te only western style rider on the trip.

Moved on, to find in another block of forest. This one was less well maintained and parklike than Compiegne, and far hillier. The first stag was too small, a “dague”, what we call a pricket. Then they jumped a foursome- a good stag and three prickets. And, off! Hounds ran off and on, but they could not really hold tightly. One run was longish and fast, in a big loop. But it petered out, to be followed by long draws.

Some of the hunters were not so thrilled.

French hunters don't drink while out like we and the English do. But smokes were snuck.

It was an awfully pretty day.

Clearly there was not much scent, and hounds soon couldn’t cope. There was one point where a hid and calf crossed a hill side only a minute or two before hounds drew the same spot- not even a head down.

The huntsman tried hard, but had no luck. They overran a baby boar, which apparently does happen. After the self serve pork chop lunch, they did very little. Again not for want of trying by the huntsman, who really did make an effort. You can see from these pictures the sort of country with which he had to contend.

There was some confusion when he had to pick up hounds and move in response to viewings of deer in other places, too.

Then about three thirty it came on cool, and they struck. A quick run through the woods and toward a village, but again scent failed.

They kept trying, though. The run died out at the edge of some broad water meadows, a lovely end to the day.

Still a beautiful and interesting day.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Exmoor courtship...

While putting a log in the stve, F. was explaining how a local young lady of her acquaintance was trying to seduce a local young man. The friend had dressed in something slinky, put on music...

And at that moment the stove gave a thump. I said, "Whoa!"

And R. said, "That's more effective on Exmoor. Forget the lingerie, she can make fire!"

Cathedral and art musings...

Sunday, to Exeter at 110 mph! It’s a rental… Went to the Cathedral. It looks small and dense from outside, but as always glorious inside. The fan vaulting is a joy to gaze at, peaceful and powerful at once. As always, a marvel that they were laid out and built by men who had no conception of area, volume, or angles. They didn’t even have the numbers to do the math if they had thought of it!

Perhaps one day people will look at a Saturn V and make a similar comment.

Some think of these as means of social control, saying to people in mud huts “Look what our God can do!”

But I don’t know. The people did the actual construction work, and they would have known that the priests needed them to do it. I’m still inclined to see them as cooperative efforts of praise. To my eye and mind they are too graceful and welcoming to be the work of slaves.

Another thing occurred to me, reading about and thinking what it must be like to be an artist. Last week I was in Salisbury Cathedral, and yesterday the one in Exeter. Both are magnificent beyond description.

But I can imagine someone who designed one coming to visit the other. "Oh, this is so much better than mine! This vaulting is more delicate, and there is so much more light! I am awful!"

Whatever drives us to our best natures also shows our worst to us in the harshest light. That's the deal. Like violence or evil, the artistic end of the bell curve can't exist without the self critical. You wouldn't rather be stupid, insensate, and accepting of the ordinary, would you?

It seems to me that artists- people who envision, express, and make those real- must have it rough. That thing inside them has to be like the steam in an engine, expanding almost beyond control, driving them with a force they can't really contain. If they don't convert it to something, they will blow up like a boiler would.

R. said tonight that a particular artist was "disturbed", meaning mentally ill. But I wonder if artists are innately disturbed, that there is somehow too much inside them- the disturbance is internal and an element of who they are. A couple of people in my own life have been like that. So huge in the present moment that there was neither past nor future, just now. It's great to feel that way- sometimes I almost can again- but it's awfully strong.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nothunting a fox...

Next day with the D&S. Two hounds of course. A pretty day on the moor, hounds tried and did succeed in flushing hinds. It really is amazing how “exempt hunting” is able to provide sport still.

Friday with foxhounds. Again hard hunting hounds in lovely country. Fine loud cry and plenty of drive with precipitous coombes. Like this one...

Under the new dispensation of course we are nothunting foxes, so there is no holloaing of foxes. Since we are nothunting them. So imagine my difficulty when we heard hounds running about a quarter of a mile away down the end of the coombe. And then…

Up and over he came. And just after he slipped over the ride, along came a whipper-in with half the pack! Uh oh…

Nothing. Ten or twelve couple went right over that fox’ track no more than half a minute after he crossed, and not even a sniff! Talk about no scent! Yet the other halfish of the pack was roaring right along. Not on this fox I might add, their quarry went along the coombe at the other end.

Monday, November 26, 2007

First day with the Quantock...

A half a mile down the road! We met a local fellow who once hunted actively, but had a bad brain injury. He had walked, in the cold rain, a couple of miles to hunt! We took him on board and carried him around through the day.

This day was “flushing”, that is, according to the Court’s judgment, we’re supposed to push deer toward guns. Here’s how ignorant the court is- how many guns? One for every deer in the woods. Sheesh.

Weather was drippy rain and cold. Very Homehunt like in that we were right in the forest, with no visual contact at all. Still both hounds worked hard. Two hinds were shot, I helped drag one out- backwards, with no rope.

One interesting incident happened at hanged man’s tree,a little forest clearing. We were waiting there, and a couple of little old ladies parked too- one was the bag lady. It’s an irritant to me that "those damned foot people" park their cars in such a way as to partly block the roads, angering and endangering every non hunting voter who comes along.

So anyway, bag lady parked half in the road on a blind curve in the woods. Then suddenly I heard a groaning and moaning- here came a CEMENT TRUCK barreling along. Fortunately he swerved, but it was close. Ah yes, making friends.

The guns are something you wouldn’t see in the U.S. They are break open twelve gauges, but they have some sort of barrel constriction which takes them out of the “shotgun” class and into the “firearm” class. Shotguns are the least regulated class of guns here, requiring far less formality to possess. The barrel is short, less than 24 inches, which puts in in the class of “slaughter weapon”. This means that it can be used near a road. They have open sights and are loaded with buckshot.

Seems like a slug and a dot sight would do better.

Afterward we went back to kennels to watch the carve up of the deer. It’s interesting how little fat there is on an animal compared to even a fit human.

The Fall o Frome...

The Fall o Frome

Flight was uneventful, my seat mate was a ten year old boy of Indian descent, with his family traveling to London. Very quiet, I slept through all but five minutes.

Went to the car hire and signed off, an upgrade! A small car rather than a tiny one. And off!

On to Frome, where I spent the night. I stayed in a modern sort of hotel outside town, then went in to have a feed. You know this talk about binge drinking in our city centres? Even here! I went in to dine at the George Hotel, whoa! The bar room next door was booming, aggressively tarted up girls and criminal looking men staggering in and out of the door, shouting and screaming. THREE big burly bouncers! In FROME!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Overheard in England...

'I'm not as gay as I seem like I am',


'My French vocabulary does not extend to the names of ecclesiastical buildings'.

On separate occasions.

More tomorrow, I'm restricted to dial up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Stripper goes to the psychiatrist...

"Doctor, I have this recurring dream where I'm at work, everything is fine and then suddenly I'm wearing slacks and a blouse..."

The other day I was driving along, musing on anxiety dreams. I too have dropped out of dream school, and quit dream work too. (So now that am I a dream illiterate bum, where's my dream welfare?)

Aaanyway, I was thinking about the dreams I once had where I'm at work, and everything is fine, and then I realise I'm undressed below the waist. No one else minds, that's how I know it's a dream.

And the thought jumped into my mind, if I were a stripper would I dream I had trousers on?

At what point would the dream adapt? When I was a groom, the dream was being unprepared- the extra girth not packed or the spare stirrup leather still in the trunk instead of on me. When I changed to a credentialed, grown up profession I became prepared but naked.

How about part time, this is just temporary strippers? Are they naked at the day job instead? Both? How about other naked(ish) workers- life guards, Olympic divers? Do ballet dancers dream of climbing boots?

I don't know any strippers, but the internet does, so I started googling and found Dreams From A Sleepy Stripper, which is now on the blog roll. I too am at times fascinated by dreams and what they, and the act of dreaming, and our shared dream worlds, mean. Good movie, animal, and death insights, too. It's worth a look!

I still want to know if strippers dream of wearing clothes, and now I have plenty of new things to think about!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thank you, Google...

For recognizing Armistice day.
An Adrian helmet next time too, for our French, Italian, and Portuguese allies.

But thank you.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Speaking of social skills,

I was reminded of something my littermate said to me years ago, when I was first talking about divorce.

LM- "You know, a lot of the women out there have children. I'm... wondering... how you will deal with that."

SH-"Of course I will treat them just as well as I would anyone."

LM- "That's exactly what I was afraid of!"

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Disgusting behaviour in the hunting field...

I cannot believe that this happened, in MY home pack! In plain view, even of children. What a terrible example to the hunters of the future.

I know, people pawing each other is perfectly unexceptionable.

But these two are married.

To each other!

Hunting is going to hell on a greased skid.

A commenter writes, "Pot Kettle Black".

SO not true. If married people want to be affectionate, there are plenty of places to do that. The hunting field is not one of them. Exhibitions of marital devotion will ruin the reputation we have fu-, er, worked so hard to obtain.

It's bad enough to see these giant mushroom helmets that make us look as though we are afraid of a little more dain bramage.

I once hunted with a Master who was proudly described by the members as "the greatest adulterer in England". If people start thinking we are all devoted and monogamous and stuff, then all we have left of the brand is drink and stupidity. We may as well be football devotees then.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


FMD restrictions are lifted!

Hunting holiday is BACK ON.

It looked as though I would have had to go to France for the whole time.

Whooooooooo WOOP!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Magnet school madness...

Please help me understand here. I read this article, and the "Magnet School campers" were mildly amusing. Good to want a child to learn, and all that.

But then I got to the antepenultimate paragraph, and had a question. I thought "magnet schools" were supposed to be success greenhouses?

And then a bigger question. I thought this was AMERICA, and we had done away with public priviledge based upon inheritance. I mean, the NEA is always talking about how great public education is.

So why on earth are highly competed for places at this special first rate school reserved for

siblings of current magnet students, children of teachers and students who are held back?!?!????

Thursday, October 11, 2007

National Enquirer versus the New York TIMES...

So the Enquirer has alleged that the Breck Girl is carrying on. I don't know, but I will say this.

If I had to bet on the accuracy of a NE story over a MSM one, the NE would get the wager.

In my own experience, when I have been personally involved in stories reported by them, the NYT, WaPo, or network's story will contain a mistake- ranging from significant errors to easily fact checked things like names and dates- about half the time.

On those occasions when I have been personally involved in NE reported stories, they have been dead right in every detail. Often their stories are exactly the sort of thing that will cost them millions if they are wrong. They don’t often get sued.

Handling dynamite makes one careful.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Fake mysteries...

In trying cases, I often have to guard against jurors' desire to create a mystery where none exists. Sometimes things ARE exactly what they appear to be, and sometimes the mysterious is just random.

Here's an interesting post on that whole idea, starting with a famous naked woman and including Faust, x ray analysis, supermarket displays, and horoscopes.

...take a dull thing, like some broken Chinese plate, and jump from there to talk about the soul.

Yes, I know hunting people's brains are mostly between our knees and our breast bones, but some of my reader could be stuck with nothing to do. So perhaps boredom might inspire some above the neck thought.

Since we're not hunting BECAUSE OF @#$%^&*#$%^&*#$%^&* DEFRA and its evil overresponse to foot and mouth.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

#$%^&* global warning...

It's supposed to look like this by now!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More wildlife doom pottery..,.

Pass the sugar, please!

Mmmm, mmmm!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Obama Girl's military song...

Military motivator posters...

Sorry, truth hurts.

Thanks to:

the military motivator


Thursday, September 13, 2007

I think I remember this plate...

There's a whole field of collecting built around children's alphabet plates. These nineteenth century teaching tools had the alphabet around the rim, and when the meal was finished the little one saw whatever the maker had put in the middle. Sort of a reward.

Sometimes didactic...

Or a pretty genre scene, perhaps to associate learning with pleasant times. Like this one...

or this one?

Yes, that's what it is...

"Eat your porrige, so you can see the seal clubbing!"

Friday, August 31, 2007

World's most beautiful libraries...

This sumptuous volume contains Höfer’s famously ascetic images of the British Library in London, the Escorial in Spain, the Whitney Museum and the Pierpoint Library in New York, the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, the Villa Medici in Rome and the Hamburg University Library, among others.

Thank you, Coolhunter!

$%^&* lawyers...

Trying to sell my late dam's house, I had a lawyer yesterday spend twenty timed minutes telling me that I couldn;t get something done in the next hour. Maybe if you would stop saying there isn't enough time...

They can cause more trouble than they are worth.

"But Staghounds, YOU are a lawyer!"

No, I have a law license. A law license doesn't any more make me a lawyer than a driving license makes me a driver.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Post FUNeral reception...

At the risk of further offending all my reader-

So, after the funeral there was a reception, and we worked the room as we were supposed to do.

Two funny things happened.

My sire died when I was little, some 30 years ago. (That wasn't funny, wait for it.)

Of the mourners, maybe two dozen came up to me and said the same thing, something along the lines of:

"I was sorry to hear about your mother. I knew your father, he was really something."

Delivered as a nine year old might say,

"I finished brushing my teeth. And TOMORROW"S CHRISTMAS!!!!

Interesting that at her funeral, he was the one on their minds. Both my littermates remarked on the same phenomenon, so it's not just me this time. About twice a year, someone seeks me out or hears my name (I'm actually Staghounds III, he was Staghounds Jr.) and tells me what a fine fellow he was. He must have been.

The second funny thing, a former neighbor a few years younger than the departed came up to me:

FN- "I was sorry to hear about your mother."

Staghounds- Yes ma'am, thank you for coming."

"I heard that you divorced a few years ago, is that true?"

"Yes, ma'am, it is."

"Well (name of daughter) always thought you were cute, and she's not attached either. Here's her number, give her a call if you like."

Come to think of it, there was another daughter-of-a-friend-of-the-departed who was decked more for a club than a cathedral, and who was awfully friendly.

(Not that I'm looking, but a compliment is always welcome.)

We are practical and direct people. I like that about us.

And the pineapple was ripe and fresh.

Later we went to the old drug store by our neighborhood. My sister sat beside a stranger who had tater tots, a delicacy unavailable in her flash European capital of residence. So she asked him for one and he said "What?"

"Come on. We just went to our mother's funeral."

Later, she looked around nostalgically and sighed.

"Ah, the drug store. Yet another place where our mother us in public."

Good times.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Putting the FUN in funeral...

First, for the sensitive soul among my reader, let's just say that my littermates and I used to dream that we lived in the warm emotional peace of 426 North Bristol Avenue.

(Pre death, my littermate said to the doctor, "Isn't there something you can do to... send her off?")

So anyway, the funeral came on and there were many laughs. To start with, the obituary. The dam had a sister, call her M, and a Brother, call him E. My littermate wrote the obituary. When we got to the cathedral M went up to Littermate.

M- "You left my name out of the obituary."

LM- "Sorry, I didn't know sisters and brothers had to be mentioned."

"You left my name out."

"As I said, never did this before."

"I thought you did it on purpose."

"No, just didn't know."

"You left E's name out too."

"AS I said, I don't write many obituaries. I'll do better next time."

Staghounds- "The torch has been passed."

So, into the cathedral. The ashes, in their 9x9 inch cardboard box, were on a stool up by the altar, covered with a white cloth. The service wends its way to the "homily", the saying of nice things about the star of the show.

The dam was very, um, unreconstructed in her racial attitudes. She didn't dislike black folks, but she thought of them as domestic animals. Teaching them to read or allowing them to vote were just bad ideas.

So the priestess who was preaching the homily, after an advert for the Wednesday healing service ( not so effective, in this case) said,

"I am reminded of a poem by May-a Angelo (Yes, pronounced that way).

After I mentally corrected the pronunciation, I looked at my littermates. All three of us were chewing our tongues and checking the ash box- I SWEAR I heard it rattle a bit.

Then I looked back at the crowd. One could tell which of them knew the old bat AND knew who Maya Angelou is, because those people were also chewing THEIR tongues and looking for the ash box to explode.

It was PERFECT. The departed hated the very IDEA of Maya Angelou. I can't imagine anything that would have angered her more than to have old May-a quoted at her funeral.

So after it was over, out we went. I was carrying the ashes, and walked up to the car.

Pop the trunk, threw in the box. THUNK.

Closed the lid, WHUMP.

Staghounds- "THAT was satisfying. Let's hear that again."


SH- "Wish we could have done that ten years ago."

LM- "It wouldn't have been nearly as satisfying, what with the flailing arms and the screaming."

As I said, putting the fun in funeral.

Tomorrow, post funeral reception giggles.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Politician calls Moslems poor losers...

The Danish courts just dismissed the MUSLIM RAGE (tm) lawuit over a Danish politician's remarks during the cartoon nosense. So what does the politician do?

Kjærsgaard said she was relieved the case was over and called Ahmad ‘a poor loser’.

Can I move to Denmark and vote for her?

Saturday, July 14, 2007


My dam just died. Give me a few days to "grieve", back posting July 20.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Are black people dangerous to the environment?

EPA To Investigate Effect Of Emission Controls On Blacks.

I can give you the answer right now, for nothing.

It costs them $10 and 15 minutes to do the test, and if their cars put out too much gunk they can't register them. Same effect it has on Asians, Hispanics, and blue eyed devils from the frozen caves of Europe.

I could have thought of that...

Buy that.

Sell this.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I mock golf, but awwwww....

I don't play golf, but I was a child. Praise for whoever started this promotion, what a clever idea to bring parents and children together.

Click on "Games they will never forget".

Friday, June 15, 2007

Evil trash loser Nifong quits, disbarred...

AWH is right- so rotten even the other lawyers noticed. And NO CREDIT for admitting it.

Now go hang youself.

Bad Army Recruiting...

Or at least I think so. I'm sure the Tommy depicted is brave, tough, and competent, but this picture

probably doesn't convey that to the

front page of the recruiting advert.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A fantastic academic idea...

My friend K. told me about this. Once at school she wrote a paper about the Ethiopian famine, and she submitted it in to FOUR classes- English, History, Economics, and Philosophy.

3 As and a B.

I bow in awe, could have done that so often if I'd thought of it! Grr!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More people going to heaven...

I like charities that give people the means so do better for themselves rather than "stuff".

What's more basic than clean water?

Thank you to cruella, who is not in favour of child abduction.

Monday, June 04, 2007

If the Cape Buffalo have to come and get you...

they are bringing an ass kicking with them. Amazing film.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Shameless plug for socialist program...

Yes, I despise and hate socialism. But occasionally it does something right, usually in harness with private liberty.

So here's the plug- a couple of weeks ago I happened to hear a bit of a Mountain Stage concert with Mary Chapin Carpenter. (Yes, another Bolshie, but I don't think the evil kind and very talented.)

But the music was so lovely I had to pull the car over- I was too breath taken to drive. I only heard a snippet.

So after asking Adam Harris if there was a way to listen and download, he informed me that there is, for just this week.

So thanks to all the government programs and lefties- Mountain Stage (the concert), NPR (the radio program), DARPA (the internets), AlGore (also the internets), Steve Jobs (this mac), Mary Chapin Carpenter and her band (the gorgeous music), whoever thought up mp3s, the taxpayers who provided all this stuff, and- gasp- Franklin R--sevelt (TVA).

You have gladdened the tiny heart of this eurocentric, gold standard missing, poor folk oppressing, stag, fox, & coyote hunting, gun owning, SUV driving conservative. Tears of joyful appreciation roll down my face as I listen.

Thank you, America.

Click here and you can listen too. "Here I am" spoke for me. "Elysium" made me gasp. And those piano arrangements...

A country that fears lipstick needs to think...

Once again Fred Reed rolls one over in the open.

Maybe a country that fears lipstick needs to think.

It reads well along with

Dynamite, Manhattan, 1939: ...If you were a 1930s man, woman, or child, Henry Ford or a resident of the tightest-packed block in Harlem, society's ought was an all-day, everyday hand on your shoulder. It checked your freedom and cramped your style. You would have been more comfortable without it. But in the end, like the man's stiff collar and tie or the woman's girdle, it was something you got used to; it was tolerable; it was even, maybe, not as bad as it looked. We rebel in our very souls nowadays against the idea that conventional behavior, dress, and manners could possibly matter. We abolished all those rules with the best of intentions. But there is no getting around the fact that in the 1930s, people simply got more practice in acting as they ought than we do. I can't say what all that dogged practice was worth when push came to shove. I do know that in 1939 you could leave a pile of dynamite unguarded in the middle of New York City.

Joseph Wambaugh's brilliant "The New Centurions" takes its title from a scene in which an old policeman and a young one watch the burning of Watts in 1966. The old policeman muses on the idea that a couple of thousand years ago, there might have been two Roman guardians of order wondering about these Christians- how they were different, they were discarding the old Gods, the old ways, the old don'ts. But the Cristians were replacing the old dont's (and oughts) with new ones. The rule Luddites of the 1950s and 1960s were replacing the old don'ts with nothing.

That was a tragedy in some ways and a blessing in others. Some of the old dont's were evil- ostracism of homosexuals, black folks on the back of the bus. Some oughts- like neck ties at the ball park- just inconvenient admissions of social obedience.

But we have to have some dont's and oughts. Some social obedience for the sake of obedience, some rituals of belonging.

The Freudians, hippies, jumped up academics, guilt ridden bourgeois, worn out greatest generationers, political hacks and weak aristocrats destroyed an irrational, crazy warren of social rituals and obligations, grown up like a medieval town. Product of centuries, millions of adaptations, made by the people. They wanted to replace them with appetite and license.

Which is the law of tooth and claw, isn't it? I believe that the bien pensants thought (and think) that imposed order is the cause of human unhappiness, because it's the cause of theirs. But the rituals and don'ts have to be there. And they have to come from someplace.

The smashers didn't believe that. But order and ritual believed in them. And they left only one source for rules, didn't they? They chose to use the government/academia/press beast to plan, prepare for, and impose the new rules.

So now we have a society where black people don't have to go to the back of the bus. And where "diversity coordinators" exist in private businesses to spend the owners' money on hiring people whose main qualification is their black skin.

Not saying that's worse, just pointing out that both are artificially crazy.

The two columns I cite are more than nostalgic whining. The America of 1910, 1939, and 1960 looked and felt pretty much the same. The America of today does feel different.

I'll give you an example in the next post but one. Have to get a thank you out of the way first.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"Wicked" quotes...

"Do I believe in the next world? I have great trouble at times believing in this one."

"...and by not deciding yes, decided no."

"He could not be kept from hunting, but he did not catch much either."

(From the book that inspired the musical.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Pennsylvania says the Founders were "terrorists"...

  • That's all I can figure from the state's website. Why else would they put a minuteman- the armed anti-government insurgent of his day- on their page about anti-government domestic terrorists?
  • My littermate kills again...

    She went to some third world hole and played golf at a course next to a national park. THWACK, the ball went into the water.

    AFTER it killed an innocent duck swimming there!

    Her comment "It should have stayed in the nature preserve".

    "Again, blood on your hands."

    "Not this time. Feathers on my balls."

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Prince "Harry" resignation letter...

    For those who haven't heard, Prince Henry of Great Britain will not be going to the war with his soldiers. The Army commanders have decided that threats against him make sending him more trouble than it's worth. Zaqarwi is pleased to discover that he is now the Household Cavalry's adjutant.

    The prince is said to be disappointed. I'm sure he can write a better letter than my draft:

    " My troop of Guardsmen has been ordered to active service. I have been ordered to relinquish my post and will not accompany the men I trained with, serve under, and command into battle.

    I am told that this is because I am at greater risk that every other soldier in the campaign, and that my presence would increase the danger to my men and hamper their pursuit of victory.

    I accept that judgement of my superiors.

    I was trained and assigned as a combat officer. These orders tell me that although I may train, I may not serve fully in the army. Considerations other than my abilities will always govern my service.

    My Uncle and Great Grandfather were permitted to share the greatest duty of citizenship with their fellow sailors. My purpose in entering the Army was to serve my country.

    It is now clear to me that I will never be permitted to share that duty. I have been made a fraud and my training has been largely wasted. My superiors have decided that threats against me personally will control where I am assigned. I do not believe that it is in the best interests of my country, my regiment, or my comrades to put the Army in a position of appearing to cravenly obey the rantings of our enemies.

    I know that combat service is not the only honourable or necessary post in war, and I take this step without meaning to disparage soldiers who serve in non combat positions. I have been trained at great expense to my fellow subjects. For that reason, I hereby request reassignment to a non combat position until my service term is completed. This will free a soldier whose life is less valued by our enemies than mine. When my current service term ends, I will resign my commission and seek other ways to serve my fellow subjects."

    When threatened with blackmail, the great Duke said "Publish and be damned to you".

    The best response to threats is always, "Do your worst." I expect that the guardsmen who would have been in the Prince's armoured car would agree, and there would be a long list of volunteers for those seats.

    Starting with my own personal crush, I'll bet.

    There's no way to polish this lump of crap. The British Army has altered a combat assignment because of threats by the enemy. Every one in Iraq who is fighting the barbarians or helping their victims is a target, and they all know it.

    Everyone knows who won this little battle. Without a shot being fired. Again.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    George Patton and Oprah Winfrey...

    "A man who is not himself is nobody". (GSP Jr. 1944)

    "I stand here as a symbol of what is possible when you believe in the dream of your own life. Don't be afraid. All you need to do is know who you are." (OW 2007)

    They would have hated, respected, understood, and been proud of one another.

    Some people are all upset about Oprah Winfrey's commencement speech at Howard, and the "good white folks" sound bite.

    Seeing racism in this snippet of the speech is falling into the mind of Sharpton.

    She is not seeing racism everywhere, she’s talking about historical fact. I grew up with black servants and I can imagine exactly this conversation going on. When Miss Winfrey was born, little southern black girls had a very limited future and her (or Secretary Rice’s) trajectory was almost unimaginable. Fortunately for all of us the white and black people around her, and the white and black people around hundreds of thousands of other Americans who happened to be black (and girls), let themselves imagine. And they worked, white and black, to create ways to let the imagined become real.

    There are PLENTY of reasons- good, human, American reasons- to read this sound bite as not a racial artifact. Rudy Giuliani’s grandparents might have said something similar. The POINT of America is that with liberty, the cream can rise to the top despite all kinds of disadvantage. The POINT of good families, schools, and societies is that over generations, they inspire and permit their members to persevere and strive.

    I believe those were General Howard’s points when he founded his schools, too.

    Getting knotted drawers over this “sound bite” also betrays the ignorance of an outsider in time and culture. It IS an artifact of the speaker’s history.
    My grandparents were of exactly the class and era and place that employed her grandmother. Though I disagree with a lot of her opinions and deplore plenty of her actions, I’m as proud as I can be of Oprah Winfrey. Her grandmother’s “good white folks” would be, too. Because in a perverse yet very human way, she’s part of the family.

    People not from the south, or not from her or my background, or of a much newer time, have a very hard time really understanding that.

  • I notice the complainers aren't mentioning what she said about young black folks- "They don't know what you know. They're falling and they're failing. They're dropping out at rates of 50 percent and higher because we, our generation, didn't teach them who they are. We have a responsibility to raise them up, to lift them up, to save them, to liberate them from themselves."
  • Monday, May 14, 2007

    Mad Hutters!


    Immediate, direct, efficient charity in the best American can do tradition.

    Perpetuating and encouraging failure and neighborhood blight.

  • Maybe both. Certainly looks like a fun way to spend a day.
  • Thursday, May 10, 2007

    You can't make trust out of anything else ...

    You can't make trust out of anything else .

    I actually believe I thought that phrase up. Google never heard of it yet, anyway.

    It came to my mind once upon a time, when I was being romantically recultivated by someone who had been seriously dishonest with me. This was someone who could seduce for England*, yet despite the former flame's absolutely championship efforts, there was a great big space. Nothing else could fill it, and the things that once would have driven me mad with joy were meaningless. They felt false, like sitting down at table for a fantastic meal and suddenly being struck with a head cold. No amount of enticement could replace the intimacy of trust. Without it, everything else was ashes.

    I've been musing on that idea off and on for a while, most recently when a friend told me a little story. Friend works for a State agency, one of four people in the same senior "rank" position. The Agency is changing its political leadership, and the new folks want to give their friends the senior positions. There are contract questions, so the Agency's new bosses are trying to threaten the four seniors to quit to make room. Loss of pension through demotion, that sort of thing.

    So Friend was at a function, and Important Politico, boss of Agency bosses, came over to him. IP told Friend that this was all about getting rid of the other three seniors. They wanted to keep Friend, though, and if Friend would step aside, he'd be hired to a lucrative consultancy doing a job he likes.

    "We're cheating and betraying the OTHER people. But we like you, trust us."

    My desk neighbour at law school was from Alaska and told me about a saloon up there with a sign over the bar, "WE CHEAT THE OTHER GUY AND PASS THE SAVINGS ON TO YOU".

    So, how does one deal with that? Once one enters the realm of trust from that of the arms' length transaction, is there a way out? Can we trust those we see betray others? When one is lied to, how much bribery does it take to buy trust back? Can it ever return?

    No point here, just a muse. I'm rather proud of the phrase though, it gets to the point.

    Probably should have put this on an emo** blog, but it has general application.

    *For my American readers, it's a fairly commonplace British term to denote an Olympic level of skill at and enthusiasm for an ordinary activity. "My mother in law could complain for England."

    **emotions. I don't keep a blog devoted to them, but many people do.

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    The Letter Project...

    No, it's not where epistles are herded into proximity with only each other and kept dependent on handouts in exchange for votes while they reject civilisation and breed themselves further and further into Hobbesian anarchy to the accompaniment of rap, the stupidity machine, and cellular telephone ring tones.

    It's another man who's going to heaven.

  • "The Letter Project is simple. You ask for a letter, I mail you a letter."

  • And, instead of that six pack, second pizza, box of ammo, or bag of weed,
  • send some joy.
  • Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    Stop reading my stuff...

    If you haven't first consumed the work of Bill Whittle. I had him at the top of my blog roll once, but it felt presumptuous.

    His latest essay is one of the most, no other word, brilliant pieces of memoir, parable, persuasion, history, teaching, exposition, logic, clarity, and originally combined ideas I've ever read. Here's a taste:

  • It doesn't rain often in Los Angeles, but it rained the night I read that book. Its author, David Lifton, claimed that Kennedy was shot from the front, but then the body was secretly taken from Air Force One to Walter Reed Army Hospital where extensive surgery 'reversed' the trajectory of the wounds to make it look like poor patsy Oswald was the real assassin.

    When I finally got to the payoff a shot of electricity went through me. I realized that I was now in possession of such history-changing information that I distinctly recall getting up, opening the door and peering out into the rain to see if I was being watched. I felt, truly, for one half-hour that my life might be in danger. I wish I could say I am making this up.

    That sense of uncovering deep layers of ancient cover-ups is what drove the sales of The DaVinci Code. There, too, a web of truths, half-truths and outright fabrication spun a story that left the reader with a palpable sense of awe. It made you feel important, like you knew something absolutely essential that very few others ever were privileged to know.

    Now most normal people do not look at life from within a pit of failure and despair. Our lives are measured by small successes -- like raising children, serving in the military, doing volunteer work at your church -- or just doing the right thing in a thousand small but important ways, like returning money if someone makes you too much change.

    These are simply the small, ordinary milestones of a life of value. They give you a sense of identity.

    But if I didn't have that sense of identity rooted in my own small achievements, I wonder how likely it would have been for me to grab onto that sense of sudden empowerment, of being an initiate in some arcane club of hidden wisdom. I wonder what might have happened to me if being the Holder of Secret Knowledge had been my only source of self-esteem; the one redeeming landmark in a life of isolation and failure. Indeed, I wonder what power such a worldview would have over me if I could believe that behind the scenes lurked vast and unknowable dark forces -- forces that could topple a president and perhaps even explain why a person of my deep, vast and bountiful talents was not doing a whole lot better in life?

    I wonder what might have happened to me then.
  • Thursday, May 03, 2007

    Marijuana for Children...

    Following up on "Why Mommy is a Democrat", here's a lefty's reverie on teaching a child about dope.

    My favourite part is where the child catches the 'rents getting high, and thinks they are smoking a CIGARETTE!

    That, and hippie mother dresses the little girl as a patriarchal, racist, murderous, classist, trained killer, weapon worshipping feudal oppressor of women, the poor, and the weak.

  • Because, after all, it's just a plant. Like hemlock, dhatura, and cotton.
  • Monday, April 30, 2007

    Woo Hoo, John Ford convicted...

    HOO. RAY. I was with two non-government people when we had the news, we were all shocked. A sad commentary that even "civilians" EXPECT a jury to not do the right thing.

    And what a shame that the old stuff him in a sack full of animals punishment isn't still available. Though having to gnaw on John Ford is a cruel fate for a bobcat.

    On to the next trials...

    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    French stag hunting meets the projects...

    So, the other day I have a school robbery case. Victim was in the locker room when an older and bigger boy hit him and took his wallet.

    Victim is a child from the projects, 14 or 15. Portly and shy, he told me he was changing for band practice when he was attacked. I didn't go to "high school", but I know what "band kid" means. This boy is one.

    I asked him what instrument he played, and he told me the French horn. Hmmmm...

    So while he waited, I went in to the office and ran up some Youtubes of St. Huberts-

    Then I took him in and told him about the origin of the French horn and how it's still used in hunting today. Then I played the films, LOUDLY.

    He was just fascinated. I could see that he had never heard of this stuff in his school or in the housing project where he lived. It was fun to give him a sight of a wider world, and to let him see there was a connection between himself and people from far away, long ago, and very different cultures.

    His mother called me the other day and told me that he's still talking about it, looking history things up, etc.

    Sometimes it's not ugly.

    Monday, April 23, 2007

    "Once upon a time I thought I might write...

    "Once upon a time I thought I might write, but life always overtook me."

    Just a lovely sentence by S. Quinn.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Virginia Tech Media Statement...

    Wouldn't it be fine if Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, or the editor of the Chittlin' Switch Morning News issued a statement like this?

    "We hereby announce the following policy concerning coverage of mass killings. The people who commit these crimes will receive absolutely no coverage in our outlets. Their names will be unspoken, their goofy pictures unshown, their silly notes unread. Their lives will not be explored. Their trials and tribulations will not be exposed. Their families will not be interviewed. They are unpersons here. Anyone employed here who violates this policy, or refers to such killers with any terms other than killer, trash, coward, or loser will be discharged forthwith.

    Go ahead and kill people, but you won't get any fame here."

    My thought on all this is, doesn't just ONE media outlet have the decency and courage to not give the killer fame? These people do these slaughters because they know everyone will finally see and hear them. We'll read their rants, torment their parents and friends,know their names and faces.

    The next mass killer is watching, too.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    Gell - Mann Effect...

    Described and named by Michael Crichton...

    (N. B.: the original article, like the rest of Dr. Crichton's stunning commentary about the global warming panic, has been scrubbed by his heirs from its original site, so all the link gets you is the front page. A pity, he was a clever and original thinker.)

    Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

    That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I'd point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

    But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn't. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

    Or stupidity.

    Thanks to Jason and the Wayback Machine, here's the entire speech:

    My topic for today is the prevalence of speculation in media. What does it mean? Why has it become so ubiquitous? Should we do something about it? If so, what should we do? And why? Should we care at all? Isn't speculation valuable? Isn't it natural?

    I will join this speculative bandwagon and speculate about why there is so much speculation. In keeping with the trend, I will try express my views without any factual support, simply providing you with a series of bald assertions.

    This is not my natural style, and it's going to be a challenge for me, but I will do my best. I have written out my talk which is already a contradiction of principle. To keep within the spirit of our time, it should really be off the top of my head.

    Before we begin, I'd like to clarify a definition. By media I mean movies television internet books newspapers and magazines. That's a broad definition but in keeping with the general trend of speculation, let's not make too many fine distinctions.

    First we might begin by asking, to what degree has the media turned to pure speculation? Someone could do a study of this and present facts, but nobody has. I certainly won't. There's no reason to bother.

    Today, everybody knows that "Hardball," "The O'Relly Factor," and similar shows are nothing but a steady stream of guesses about the future. The Sunday morning talk shows are pure speculation. They have to be. Everybody knows there's no news on Sunday.

    But speculation is every bit as rampant in the so-called serious media, such as newspapers. For example, consider the New York Times for March 6, 2002, the day I was asked to give this talk. The column one story that day concerns George Bush's tariffs on imported steel. We read:

    Mr. Bush's action "is likely to send the price of steel up sharply, perhaps as much as ten percent.." American consumers "will ultimately bear" higher prices. America's allies "would almost certainly challenge" the decision. Their legal case "could take years to litigate in Geneva, is likely to hinge" on thus and such.

    In addition, there is a further vague and overarching speculation. The Allies' challenge would be "setting the stage for a major trade fight with many of the same countries Mr. Bush is trying to hold together in the fractious coalition against terrorism." In other words, the story speculates that tariffs may rebound against the fight against terrorism.

    You may read this story and think, what's the big deal? Isn't it reasonable to talk about effects of current events in this way? I answer, absolutely not. Such speculation is a complete waste of time. It's useless. It's bullshit on the front page of the Times.

    The reason why it is useless, of course, is that nobody knows what the future holds.

    Do we all agree that nobody knows what the future holds? Or do I have to prove it to you? I ask this because there are some well-studied media effects which suggest that a simple appearance in media provides credibility. There was a well-known series of excellent studies by Stanford researchers that have shown, for example, that children take media literally. If you show them a bag of popcorn on a television set and ask them what will happen if you turn the TV upside down, the children say the popcorn will fall out of the bag. This effect would be amusing if it were confined to children. The studies show that no one is exempt. All human beings are subject to this media effect, including those of us who think we are self-aware and hip and knowledgeable.

    Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

    Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

    That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I'd point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

    But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn't. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

    So one problem with speculation is that it piggybacks on the Gell-Mann effect of unwarranted credibility, making speculation look more useful than it is.

    Another issue springs from the sheer volume of speculation. Ubiquity may come to imply a value to the activity being so assiduously carried out. But in fact, no matter how many people are speculating, no matter how familiar their faces, how good their makeup and how well they are lit, no matter how many weeks they appear before us in person or in columns, it still remains true that none of them knows what the future holds.

    Some people still believe that the future can be known. They imagine two groups of people that may know the future, and therefore should be listened to. The first is pundits. Since they expound on the future all the time, they must know what they are talking about. Do they? The now-defunct magazine Brill's Content used to track the pundit's guesses, and while one or another had the occasional winning streak, over the long haul they did no better than chance. This is what you would expect. Because nobody knows the future.

    The second group that some people imagine may know the future are specialists of various kinds. They don't either. As a limiting case, I remind you there is a new kind of specialist occupation-I refuse to call it a discipline, or a field of study-called futurism. The notion here is that there is a way to study trends and know what the future holds. That would indeed be valuable, if it were possible. But it isn't possible. Futurists don't know any more about the future than you or I. Read their magazines from a couple of years ago and you'll see an endless parade of error.

    Expertise is no shield against failure to see ahead. Paul Erlich, a brilliant academic who has devoted his entire life to ecological issues, has been wrong in nearly all his major predictions. He was wrong about diminishing resources, he was wrong about the population explosion, and he was wrong that we would lose 50% of all species by the year 2000. His lifelong study of these issues did not prevent him from being wrong.

    All right, you may say, you'll accept that the future can't be known, in the way I are talking. But what about more immediate predictions, such as the effects of pending legislation? Surely it is important to talk about what will happen if certain legislation passes. Well, no, it isn't. Nobody knows what is going to happen when the legislation passes. I give you two examples from the left and right.

    The first is the Clinton welfare reform, harshly criticized by his own left wing for caving in to the Republican agenda. The left's predictions were for vast human suffering, shivering cold, child abuse, terrible outcomes. What happened? None of these things. Child abuse declined. In fact, as government reforms go, it's been a success; Mother Jones predicts dire effects just ahead.

    This failure to predict accurately was mirrored by the hysterical cries from the Republican right over raising the minimum wage. Chaos and dark days would surely follow as businesses closed their doors and the country was plunged into needless recession. What was the actual effect? Basically, nothing. Who discusses it now? Nobody. What will happen if there is an attempt to raise the minimum wage again? The same predictions all over again. Have we learned anything? No.

    But my point is, for legislation as with everything else, nobody knows the future.

    The same thing is true concerning the effect of elections and appointments. What will be the effect of electing a certain president, or a supreme court justice? Nobody knows. Some in this audience are old enough to remember Art Buchwald's famous column from the days of the Johnson Administration. Buchwald wrote a "Thank God we don't have Barry Goldwater" essay, recalling how everyone feared Goldwater would get us into a major war. So the country elected Johnson, who promptly committed 200,000 troops to Vietnam. That's what happens when you choose the dove-ish candidate. You get a war. Or you elect Richard Nixon because he can pull the plug on Vietnam, and he continues to fight for years. And then opens China.

    Similarly, the history of the Supreme Court appointments is a litany of error in predicting how justices will vote on the court. They don't all surprise us, but a lot of them do.

    So, in terms of imminent events, can we predict anything at all? No. You need only look at what was said days before the Berlin Wall came down, to understand that nobody can predict even a few hours ahead. People said all sorts of silly things about the Communist empire. I can't quote them, because that would mean I had looked them up and had facts at hand, and I have promised you not to do that. But take my word for it, you can find silly statements 24 hours in advance of the fall of the Russian empire.

    So I say again: NOBODY KNOWS THE FUTURE.

    Now, this is not new information. It was Mark Twain who said, 'I've seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it never came to pass." If speculation is really worthless, why is there so much of it? Is it because people want it? I don't think so. I speculate that media has turned to speculation for media's own reasons. So now let's consider the advantages of speculation from a media standpoint.

    1. It's incredibly cheap. Talk is cheap. And speculative talk shows are the cheapest thing you can put on television, They're almost as cheap as running a test pattern. Just get the talking host, book the talking heads-of which there is no shortage-and you're done! Instant show. No reporters in different cities around the world, no film crews on location. No research staff, no deadlines, no footage to edit, no editors...nothing! Just talk. Bullshit. Cheap.

    2. You can't lose. Even though speculation is correct only by chance, which means it is wrong at least 50% of the time, nobody remembers and therefore nobody cares. People do not remember yesterday, let alone last week, or last month. Media exists in the eternal now, this minute, this crisis, this talking head, this column, this speculation.

    One of the clearest proofs of this is the "Currents of Death" controversy. This fear of cancer from power lines originated with the New Yorker, which has been a gushing fountainhead of erroneous scientific speculation for fifty years. But the point is this: all the people who ten years ago were frantic to measure dangerous electromagnetic radiation in their houses now spend thousands of dollars buying magnets to attach to their wrists and ankles, because of the putative healthful effects of magnetic fields. They don't remember these are the same fields they formerly wanted to avoid. And since they don't remember, you can't lose with any future speculation.

    Let me expand on this idea that you can't lose. It's not confined to the media. Most areas of intellectual life have discovered the virtues of speculation, and have embraced it wildly. In academia, speculation is usually dignified as theory. It's fascinating that even though the intellectual stance of the post modern deconstructionist era is against theory, particularly overarching theory, in reality what every academic wants to express is theory. This is in part aping science, but it's also an escape hatch. Your close textual reading of Jane Austen could well be wrong, and could be shown to be wrong by a more knowledgeable critic. But your theory of radical feminization and authoritarian revolt in the work of Jane Austen-with reference to your own childhood feelings-is untouchable. Similarly, your analysis of the origins of the First World War could be debated by other authorities. But your New Historicist essay, which includes your own fantasy about what it would be like if you were fighting in the first war...well, that's unarguable. And even better, how about a theory of the origin of warfare beginning with Paleolithic cave men? That's really unarguable.

    A wonderful area for speculative academic work is the unknowable. Religious subjects are in disfavor these days, but there are still plenty of good topics. The nature of consciousness, the workings of the brain, the origin of aggression, the origin of language, the origin of life on earth, SETI and life on other worlds...this is all great stuff. You can argue it interminably. And it can't be contradicted, because nobody knows the answer to any of these topics-and probably, nobody ever will.

    Then there is the speculative work of anthropologists like Helen Fisher, who claim to tell us about the origins of love or of infidelity or cooperation by reference to other societies, animal behavior, and the fossil record. How can she be wrong? These are untestable, unprovable, just so stories.

    And lest anyone imagine things are different in the hard sciences, consider string theory, for nearly 20 years now the dominant physical theory. More than one generation of physicists has labored over string theory. But-if I understand it correctly, and I may not-string theory cannot be tested or proven or disproven. Although some physicists are distressed by the argument that an untestable theory is nevertheless scientific, who is going to object, really? Face it, a untestable theory is ideal! Your career is secure!

    In short, there is now widespread understanding that so long as you speculate, you can't lose.

    Now, nowhere is it written that the media need be accurate, or useful. They haven't been for most of recorded history. So now they're what? What is wrong with it?

    1. Tendency to excess. Mere talk makes drama and spectacle unlikely-unless the talk becomes heated and excessive. So it becomes excessive. Not every show features the Crossfire-style foodfight, but it is a tendency on all shows.

    2. Crisisization of everything possible. Most speculation is not compelling because most events are not compelling-Gosh, I wonder what will happen to the German mark? Are they gonna get their labor problems under control? This fact promotes the well-known media need for a crisis. Crisis in the German mark! Uh-oh! Look out! Crises unite the country, draw viewers in large numbers, and give everyone something to speculate about. Without a crisis, the talk soon degenerates into debate about whether the refs should have used instant replay on the last football game. So there is a tendency to hype urgency and importance and be-there-now when it's really not appropriate. Witness the interminable scroll at the bottom of the screen about the Queen Mother's funeral. Whatever the Queen mother's story may be, it is not a crisis. I have even watched a scroll of my own divorce roll by for a couple of days on CNN. It's sort of flattering (even though they got it wrong.) But it is surely not vital breaking news.

    3. Superficiality as a norm. Gotta go fast. Hit the high points. On to our next guest. Speculation adds to superficiality.

    4. Endless presentation of conflict may interfere with genuine issue resolution. There is evidence that the television foodfights not only don't represent the views of most people-who are not so polarized-but may tend to make resolution of actual disputes more difficult in the real world. At the very least, they obscure the recognition that we resolve disputes every day. Compromise is much easier from relatively central positions than it is from extreme and hostile, conflicting positions: Greenpeace vs the Logging Industry.

    5. Interminable chains of speculation pave the way to litigation about breast implants, hysteria over Y2K and global warming, articles in the New Yorker about currents of death, and a variety of other outcomes that are not, by any thoughtful view, helpful. There comes to be a perception-convenient to the media-that nothing is, in the end, knowable for sure. When in fact, that's not true.

    Let me point to a demonstrable bad effect of the assumption that nothing is really knowable. Whole word reading was introduced by the education schools of the country without, to my knowledge, any testing of the efficacy of the new method. It was simply put in place. Generations of teachers were indoctrinated in its methods. As a result, the US has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the industrialized world. The assumption that nothing can be known with certainty does in truth have terrible consequences.

    As GK Chesterton said (in a somewhat different context), "If you believe in nothing, you'll believe in anything." That's what we see today. People believe in anything.

    But just in terms of the general emotional tenor of life, I often think people are nervous, jittery in this media climate of what if, what if, maybe, perhaps, could be...when there is usually no sensible reason to feel nervous.

    Like a bearded nut in robes on the sidewalk proclaiming the end of the world is near, the media is just doing what makes it feel good, not reporting hard facts. We need to start seeing the media as a bearded nut on the sidewalk, shouting out false fears. It's not sensible to listen to it.

    We need to start remembering that everybody who said that Y2K wasn't a real problem was either shouted down, or kept off the air. The same thing is true now of issues like species extinction and global warming. You never hear anyone say it's not a crisis. I won't go into it, because it might lead to the use of facts, but I'll just mention two reports I speculate you haven't heard about. The first is the report in Science magazine January 18 2001 (Oops! a fact) that contrary to prior studies, the Antarctic ice pack is increasing, not decreasing, and that this increase means we are finally seeing an end to the shrinking of the pack that has been going on for thousands of years, ever since the Holocene era. I don't know which is more surprising, the statement that it's increasing, or the statement that its shrinkage has preceded global warming by thousands of years. The second study is a National Academy of Sciences report on the economic effects to the US economy of the last El Nino warming event of 1997. That warming produced a net benefit of 15 billion dollars to the economy. That's taking into account 1.5 billion loss in California from rain, which was offset by decreased fuel bills for a milder winter, and a longer growing season. Net result 15 billion in savings.

    The other thing I will mention to you is that during the last 100 years, while the average temperature on the globe has increased just .3 C, the magnetic field of the earth declined by 10%. This is a much larger effect than global warming and potentially far more serious to life on this planet. Our magnetic field is what deflects lethal radiation from space. A ten percent reduction of the earth's magnetic field is extremely worrisome.

    But who is worried? Nobody. Who is raising a call to action? Nobody. Why not? Because there is nothing to be done. How this may relate to global warming I leave for you to speculate on your own.

    Personally, I think we need to start turning away from media, and the data shows that we are doing just that, at least from television news. I find that whenever I lack exposure to media I am much happier, and my life feels fresher.

    In closing, I'd remind you that since we're awash in this contemporary ocean of speculation, we forget that things can be known with certainty, and that we need not live in a fearful world of interminable unsupported opinion. But the gulf that separates hard fact from speculation is by now so unfamiliar that most people can't comprehend it. I can perhaps make it clear by this story:

    On a plane to Europe, I am seated next to a guy who is very unhappy. Turns out he is a doctor who has been engaged in a two-year double blind study of drug efficacy for the FDA, and the study may be tossed out the window. Now a double-blind study means there are four separate research teams, each having no contact with any other team-preferably, they're at different universities, in different parts of the country. The first team defines the study and makes up the medications, the real meds and the controls. The second team administers the medications to the patients. The third team comes in at the end and independently assesses the effect of the medications on each patient. The fourth team takes the data and does a statistical analysis. The cost of this kind of study, as you might imagine, is millions of dollars. And the teams must never meet.

    My guy is unhappy because months after the study is over, he is in the waiting room of Frankfurt airport and he strikes up a conversation with another man in the lounge, and they discover-to their horror-that they are both involved in the study. My guy was on the team that administered the meds. The other guy is on the team doing the statistics. There isn't any reason why one should influence the other at this late date, but nevertheless the protocol requires that team members never meet. So now my guy is waiting to hear if the FDA will throw out the entire study, because of this chance meeting in Frankfurt airport.

    Those are the lengths you have to go to if you want to be certain that your information is reliable. But when I tell people this story, they just stare at me incomprehendingly. They find it absurd. They don't think it's necessary to do all that. They think it's overkill. They live in the world of MSNBC and the New York Times. And they've forgotten what real, reliable information is, and the lengths you have to go to get it. It's so much harder than just speculating.

    And on that point, I have to agree with them.

    Oh-and by the way? Almost none of the speculation in that story about Bush steel tariffs proved true.