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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Friday, April 30, 2004

OK. Now What?

I've had this weblog up for about a week now, and it might become a going concern, despite the fears I had about my inability to do anything each and every day, except the involuntary acts.

At least the site is basically up, though I have yet to post a picture or move the comments line close to the bottom of the post to which it belongs and away from the previous post. Also I have yet to install a counter, though that is fraught with risk. I will probably start playing with the colors and the fonts soon enough, and capitalizing the weblog title. I'm infamous in chatrooms, instant messages, and emails for assiduously engaging in such Internet no-nos as using capitalization and punctuation, and I even still remember how to spell stuff. No point in stopping now!

I see that a trackback option is there, though I don't know why or how, because it remains mostly a mystery to me.

But now the big question is, how will I conduct things here?

For sure I won't run out of material any time soon, especially if I keep following the "inanis et vacua" model of one post a day, no more, no less. But it won't be as heavily political as things are in almost all the weblogs that I've linked and the others that I also read now and then. But it'll be political enough. It will probably be lighter than most on links, too, as I have all these things resident in my mind to run down to whomever.

--Or, more likely, to no one at all.

But that'll be okay. Trees that fall in the woods DO make a sound, even if no one hears. For the last 25 years now I've lived in the midst of some serious woods, and I've decided that. Yes!

Another good thing I could do is to write a novel on this weblog. And that would be easy.

On finding that I've written some novels (all of them unpublished so far but still completed and all of them worthwhile I think -- I do have two biographies published), people like to say that they would like to do the same but can't buckle down to it. So I try to tell them the surefire, easy way I've found to do it.

You just resolve to write at least three sentences a day, rain or shine, no matter what, and never ever stopping till you reach the end.

That's it.

The point is that some days it will be excruciating to write those three sentences, while on others it will be difficult to stop 10 or more pages from gushing out onto your screen.

In three or four months voila! You'll find that you'll have a real life, rooting tooting novel on your hands, written entirely by you. You almost certainly will suffer a letdown at that point, and your work will almost certainly need some heavy revision, but you'll have your novel and you'll be at last ready to confront the Ages.

But maybe I won't write it on this weblog. Blogger allows you to have more than one weblog, and I have a second, unused one, called "Mixed Reasoning." And the novel I'd like to write has been stirring strongly through my mind for months now and I even have most of it almost fully sketched out, and it may serve as a much-needed therapy of sorts.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

The Talent in the Room -- Pt 3

Here are more appraisals of the links:

"Bartcop Entertainment" is a site run by a woman whose industry and dedication leaves me awestruck. Her name is Martha. I met her while competing against her in NTN trivia -- she was nearly impossible to beat. I doubt that she's missed updating her page one single day in the past two and a half years, with lots of new info each time. Her site is that unusual thing, a subsite to another but in no way larger page. Her politics are in the same worthy place as Bartcop's, but she doesn't drink as much Chinaco tequila or play as much poker or inexplicably stay on Tiger Woods' case, as Bart does, and so she far outclasses him. If you want to know all the good stuff that's on the tube every day, this is the place to go, and that's just for starters.

I've been reading "Buzzflash" and "Common Dreams," especially the latter, for a long time with a great deal of appreciation. (You've divined by now, if only by my choice of links, that I'm that most unforgivable of humans -- a bonafide liberal progressive bleeding heart partisan Democrat all the way.) I figure that "Buzzflash" must have a crew, rather than just one person as in Martha's case, to be able to gather up so much political news from so many quarters.

"Common Dreams" is calmer than "Buzzflash," consisting as it does entirely of fleshed-out thought pieces by a wide array of writers. However, sometimes it is less progressive than might be expected. For instance, when Nader declared this time, "Common Dreams" ran a number of articles praising his move. Nader is progressive when he's fighting for the consumer but when he runs for President, his doing so -- at least so far --turns him, willy-nilly, into a key member of the pre-Fascist team.

"inanis et vacua" is the work of a maverick in more ways than one, named James. He seems to be a complete loner, not networked into anything. He usually writes one new post per day, and each is always highly interesting if sometimes a little hard to follow, because he operates on a quite elevated highwire, in language and in thought. I have no idea how much traffic his weblog gets, but his posts rarely draw comments, a fact that I expect bothers him hardly at all. Maybe intimidation on his part plays a part! He doesn't leave much room for you to stick your finger into a hole and pull. However, his posts aren't impenetrable, and they're invariably rewarding.

"Raed in the Middle" is the male counterpart of Riverbend, both of them being young Iraqis who are giving us firsthand reports from Iraq and not at all liking what they see. Raed isn't as eloquent or controlled as Riverbend, but he's just as worthwhile to read. And from his site you can link to other weblogs that are being maintained by members of his family, also stuck in the midst of all that bedlam.

"The Angry Arab" lives up to his name, but he seems to jet here and there, and so his posts often consist just of numerous snippets connected to links. That's too bad because he's very interesting, with wry, understated humor, when he has time to stretch out in his writing. His account several months ago of his interview with, if I remember correctly, the leader of Qatar, is a classic.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Today I have to complete the planting of five small trees. I did three yesterday.

Getting those plants was a lucky stroke. I used to be an active beekeeper, and that means I have lots of equipment still on my premises, and the other day a young woman came with her parents from north in the county and picked up a pickup truck load of boxes, preparatory to going back into beekeeping herself. Her venture will be on a small scale but still risky, because scientists still haven't found a satisfactory way to deal with the two kinds of mites that have been so devastating to honeybees in the last 10 years.

We bartered, and in return she gave me these plants from the nursery where she works, here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, in western Virginia, betwixt Lynchburg and Charlottesville. They sell only trees, shrubs, and the like that produce stuff you can eat, hence its name, Edible Landscaping. They have a neat website at, naturally, www.ediblelandscaping.com.

So now I have two edible dogwoods, two pawpaws, and one che-fruit. The last-named produces a small seedless red fruit that she says tastes like watermelon but her catalog says it tastes like figs. Dogwoods grow wild and in great profusion here in our 20 acres of largely oak woods, but until a few days ago I didn't know there were such things as edible dogwoods. The edible parts are the pretty red berries that appear in the fall, and last year big flocks of birds appeared for a few hours and went from tree to tree, gorging themselves. Hitherto we hadn't noticed them doing it in such concert.

I am planting these trees with much excitement and also considerable optimism, because as you know, with the exception of Paradise trees -- also variously called junk trees, trees of Heaven, and oleanthus -- the growth habit of trees is not the speediest, and I already, as they say in Europe, have 72 years.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Talent in the Room -- Pt 2

Continuing with the weblogs that eventually sent me to my own:

I think of NTodd Pritzky's "Dohiyi Mir" as the central figure in a family of weblogs, because I have the impression that most of those other sites were inspired by his. Or at any rate I discovered all those other weblogs by reading "Dohiyi." For some odd reason I check out that site every day and usually first, and I post comments on it more than I do on any other. I think it's become just a habit. I don't feel particularly close to things there, because I am quite sure that early on I got on Mr. Pritzky's nerves.

I wasn't a big Kerry man but I was strongly in favor of the absolutely essential ABB. So after noting how NTodd and his colleagues went so strong for Howard Dean and were so bitter about his not getting the nod, I stirred myself to loudly question whether they would be able to shift their full support over to John Kerry. That didn't go over big with any of them.

But NTodd got on my wrong side, too, because of chess.

As a longtime serious chessplayer, I was attracted to his site in the first place because it was the first one I saw that featured a chess diagram. But then he and the proprietor of "Rooks Rant" started what they grandly billed as the first ever Bloggers Chess Match. In reality you've never seen anything so ridiculous.

If you say you're going to play some chess, then you should do just that -- play chess and be timely about it, and never mind taking long holidays out for allegedly more important stuff, like making a living! Very quickly NTodd gave away an important piece for nothing, and this while taking weeks to make moves that really needed only a few minutes. And now, after barely a dozen moves, the pair seems to have just abandoned the game, without, as far as I know, extending onlookers like me the courtesy of saying they've exited through checkmate, resignation, or any of the other regular routes.

Except for the volleyball reports, however, "Dohiyi Mir" is always interesting and highly informative, with lots of the proprietor's own expert photographs on neat things -- even deer droppings -- mostly in Vermont.

"Rook's Rant" is graced by Guy Andrew Hall's very large and distinctive sense of humor, but as in chess, or at least as in his comments about such, sometimes he doesn't seem to know what to do with himself. Also I wonder if he's colorblind. You need a flashlight for looking around in his space, unless, like him, you think medium gray on black makes for easy reading.

Here are the other members of Dohiyi's "family" that I check out now and then:

"Blogamy" is run in tandem by a wife-husband team, avid Dean supporters Amy and David. Amy is on the fiery side, while David is somewhat more sedate. "Words on a Page" is the work of Wanda, a very pleasant woman, who, however, also sometimes gets fired up almost to the point of losing it. She speaks from the interesting perspective of an ex-Republican. "The Yellow Doggerel Democrat" is run by Steve Bates. He is a longtime activist, especially against the death penalty, very eloquent (but then all these weblogists are) and a hardcore Texan, and I wonder why he's in that most questionable of regions, just as I wonder why Bartcop stays in just as bad a fix, dwelling next door in Oklahoma. "Collective Sigh" is the weblog of Andante, who bills herself as "a white, middle-aged Southern Belle Don't-Wannabe." She, like Dohiyi Mir, tends to reveal more of herself and her doings than do most of the others. I have been unable to determine the gender of Mustang Bobby, who has "Bark Bark Woof Woof." For a long time I assumed a man, but lately I've seen things that suggest a woman. She or he is a playwright and so has a lot to say about the theater. We seem to collaborate whenever someone adopts a color scheme that threatens our reading comprehension, but I'm less polite about it, which is funny, because everywhere else, online and off, I'm regarded as being even excessively polite. "Musing's Musings" is written by Michael, an angry but controlled young guy, who is studying what went on in Nazi Germany back when I was a child but he wasn't on the planet as yet. That subject greatly interests me, too, especially because it's so relevant to what's been happening in the U.S. since the elections of 2000 and the airline suicide attacks of the following year.

All those weblogs are well worth reading, though they're small compared to the likes of "Eschaton," "Pandagon," "Daily Kos," and "Political Animal, who cover the same ground. I read those, too, occasionally, but their sheer number of posts and comments makes it a trial. In the more modest weblogs above I can get my head around things much easier.

That's it for this instalment. As an old time Southern preacher said, I'll be back one day -- most likely tomorrow. I'll just ask to say a word.

Monday, April 26, 2004


I absolutely can't stand the sound of cloth tearing. It makes my skin crawl and my head hurt. There's a name for this kind of thing, but right now I can't think of it. Other people most often experience it when hearing chalk scraping on blackboards.

Almost as jarring to my peculiar sensibility are the titles of certain books.

One is Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God." (In my view eyes are instruments, and it is actually the possessor of them and not the orbs that are doing the watching.) Another is Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." (In the ordinary context of things, that statement sounds too obvious to be said, though in his "Cosmos" Carl Sagan reminds us that the Sun actually doesn't rise or set at all and that instead once a day our little point on Earth, wherever it may be, turns once more toward and later away from Sol.)

Another painful title is Maya Angelou's "Gather Together in My Name." (Arrogant) And another is "The Way Things Should Be." (Even more arrogant. In his addled mental condition Russ Limbaugh strikes me as one of the last persons who should even whisper his notions about the way things should be.)

But the worst is a book that came out a decade or so ago and was and still is taken seriously, though I think its title shows a great disrespect for the language, or a cynical attempt to attract notice, or a seriously arrested point of view -- or any combination of those. In it a Francis Fukuyama announced that "The End of History" had arrived. But I would think that instead history is set to keep rolling for eons more, with and without human governments of any kind.

You shouldn't have to read a book just to discover that with his title an author was just being ...precious, unless, while I wasn't looking, certain meanings of words and expressions have changed drastically in recent years. That's possible. Lots of things have slipped under my radar recently or fallen victim to my tendency to shift more and more things, even those that are still thought to be gospel, over into the status of being bullflop.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Vicious Bastard

I have a game for my PC called "Giants." In its introduction, two adventurers are in an aircraft flying over an unexplored planet. One climbs outside the ship prior to landing via his portable jet, but the canopy closes over his jetpack as he is reaching for it. He yells. His buddy, the pilot, opens the canopy too soon, and the unfortunate adventurer drops away and down onto an unintended spot on the hostile planet.

The fellow quickly picks himself up, shakes his fist at the sky with all the rage at his command, and with his definite English accent screams from the very depths of his soul, "YOU VIC-C-IOUS BASTARD!" Then, in the next second, he whips out a Union Jack and jabs it into the ground. A second later, while his back is turned, a pterodactyl-like bird swoops in, scoops up the flag, and flies off with it.

That scene is done in such a way that I never tire of watching it!

Cut to a recent issue of "Awake!". It's the more interesting of the two periodicals that the Jehovah's Witnesses always leave, because it contains informative articles and briefly noted items of a decidedly side-off-the-wall, non-religious nature. This time the article that caught my eye was about a island that, following an earthquake, suddenly rose into view just outside the territorial waters of Sicily, back in 1831. Very quickly it reached a height of 200 feet and a width of two and a half miles.

The first few observers just gaped, but then a British warship happened along, and a lieutenant in the crew became the first person to step ashore. He stayed just long enough to plant a Union Jack and claim the new island for ye olde English. He also gave the island a name, "Graham Island," after the then Lord of the Admirality.

Somewhat tardily the Sicilians then claimed the island and named it "Ferdinand," after their king. Then the French happened along and planted their flag and named the place "Julia." Apparently the French weren't in as much of a brown-nosing mood as the British and the Sicilians, because they satisfied themselves with citing merely that glorious month in which I was to be born exactly 100 years later, July.

After just a couple of months, however, Julia sank back into the sea and hasn't been seen since. But geologists say the spot is still active and the island could show up again. If it does, the U.K., Italy, and France all stand ready to renew their claims, and in some quarters a fight is still being waged over the island's ownership.

I like the conclusion that the "Awake!" writer reached:

"The tale of the island that appeared -- and then disappeared -- has thus become another sad page in the story of human rulership."

Cut to my childhood and what the globe looked like then. I've always been intensely interested in geography, and in those days a great deal of the countries were colonies, which were given the colors of the colonizers. And since the British had been so assiduous about grabbing territory, it was a running geographical joke that so much of the globe was pink. I always marveled at how such a little island was able to claim so much of the planet.

It was technology that did it for the British, rather than vision, the same as is happening for the U.S. today. They managed to get big leads in shipbuilding, communications, weaponry, navigation, military organization, and other fields. So it was easy for them -- much of the time -- to get there first with the most. Plus the British had the tradition of the Grand Tour, which they extended from mere pleasure outings to Italy and Greece to braving all the mysteries and dangers that our planet still had to offer.

But eventually, by the latter half of the 1800's, the British began to think that they might be over-extended, and when in 1886 an unbalanced Ethiopian warlord named Theodore imprisoned a big bunch of English citizens who'd had the temerity to visit and even to work in his beautiful mountain land, the U.K. bent over backwards to avoid invading. But eventually they felt they had no choice -- purely, they said, for the purposes of rescue.

It's truly a wonder to read, in "The Blue Nile" by Alan Moorehead, about the incredible amount of preparations that the British made for that incursion. It sounds very similar to what the Bushes did in the case of Irag, 1991 and 2003 combined, but more impressive, due to the times and the much more difficult terrain of Ethiopia.

I say all that to lead up to this quote from "The Blue Nile," which was published more than 40 years ago but sounds so familiar:

"In the end, as always happens in every expedition, Napier [the British commander] found that he had underestimated the number of men he required, or rather, by a sort of military Parkinson's Law they multiplied themselves."

Napier was successful. His situation was simpler, however, and he was smarter and he did all his homework. None of that can be said for the present "guests" in Iraq -- in which, after the English were already burned badly in that country just 80-some years ago, another Britisher has managed to let himself likewise get sunk hip deep in mire in the same place. But so far Blair has avoided shaking his fist at his uncaring buddy, Bush, up there in the cockpit.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

From Dreams

I salute modern technology. Because of it I can finally give substance -- to the extent that anything in a computer online has substance -- to a recurrent dream that I had for years, though not recently. In it I was apparently writing a book that consisted of jottings on practically any subject. This dream flattered me by giving the impression that these snippets always got to the heart and the ultimate truth of things.

I was always left totally convinced of the reality and value of this book, though it existed only during my sleep, and only between intervals of years.

The title of the book was "Mixed Reasoning," and that may yet become the name of this weblog as well. I understand, however, that this weblog exists purely in the world's conscious state, and here "the "heart and the truth" of things will be strictly hit and miss, most often the latter.

Friday, April 23, 2004

The Talent in the Room -- 1

I finally started a weblog a few days ago after being content for a long time with posting comments, almost all of them more than one-line shots, on a number of other peoples' weblogs. (I don't use the word "blog," as it sounds too close to "bog" and to "blob." This is one of a number of unpopular peculiarities I have about words. Wait till you hear what I have to say about "black" and "white," as those terms are applied to people!) Since I've already put links here to some of those weblogs, I thought I'd say a few words about them.

"Baghdad Burning" is my idea of a truly outstanding site. It's written by an Iraqi woman whom people refer to as Riverbend. She's said to be only 24, and she's been living with her family throughout that maelstrom in Iraq's capital city. Her posts, though infrequent, are always extremely well written and full of poignance, character, wisdom, and insights.

Bizarrely "Crymeariverbend" is a weblog that I don't recommend at all, because it was started solely to cast a very critical and disparaging eye on each of River's posts as well as those of several other Iraqi webloggers who don't use a comments system. Usually the frequenters of that site can only find fault with those Iraqi posters, whereas I only see reasons for praise. I link the site only in case you don't believe how ridiculous the ironasses of this world can get.

"Bartcop" strictly speaking isn't a weblog. It's more like an Internet comic book, though quite often the humor isn't obvious, unless you're the kind that can't get enough of seeing things driven into the ground. It started long before weblogs came in, and its main drawback, aside from the hangups of its proprietor, is that it lacks a true comments system. More self-controlled people like Riverbend, Juan Cole, or Josh Marshall don't need one but a "let it all hang out" guy like Bartcop absolutely should have one, instead of just a system of emails, the great majority of which he never sees and deep-sixes. But his site is the richest of any I've seen in graphics, and he is truly funny when he speaks of his own foibles, which are numerous, and he's incredibly honest and open in revealing them.

Otherwise Bart can get on your nerves pretty badly, but somehow you always return to see what that rascal is up to now!

Well, that's all I feel like writing about other weblogs right now.

Meanwhile the title of this post is taken from a very interesting article that Norman Mailer wrote 40 or 50 years ago, when he decided to evaluate his literary contemporaries. I tried to think of a good substitute title but failed. I hope it doesn't sound presumptuous, as I've only just now started a weblog. But I've spent so much time and effort responding on other weblogs that I feel safe in taking this liberty.

First Truth

"A chicken ain't nothing but a bird."

I was told that as a child, back in the mid-1940's. In the many years since, many other surefire facts have been debunked, demythologized, and what have you, but not that one.

It's great that despite the acid tests of time and sophistication, a few basic truths can still remain with their integrity as solid and intact as granite boulders.

Greetings! This is the first post that has survived my various shenanigans since I created this weblog two days ago.