Garbage In… Clean Energy Out?

Moving out of a house where you’ve lived for twenty years is a bit like being the caretaker of an old graveyard.  I can’t remember what Italian novel I read whose speaker was a sexton’s son… but in the Old World, space is at such a premium—and some bodies have been buried for so many centuries—that part of the custodial work consists of excavating decayed remains and depositing them in a kind of dustbin called a charnel house.

A lot of stuff that I kept from previous moves, and that apparently I expected to keep forever, has at last gone to that charnel house called the garbage can.  Copies of bitter letters that might once have ended up in a courtroom have now not only surpassed the statute of limitations, but even the limit of memory.  I literally can’t recall the details in some cases… and why in the future would I ever waste my time trying?  If God should call me in eternity’s amplitude to be a witness against one of these desperadoes, I’ll have to shrug and say, “Sorry, chief.  I’ve forgotten the specifics.  I’ve almost forgotten the name.”  Of course, the records in eternity are flawless and won’t need my corroboration.  God will smile and answer, “Just checking.”

An entirely different class of charnel-house material includes utterly obsolete technology.  What can you do these days with video cassettes?  I still have a functioning VCR, fortunately—and some of those ancient recordings have become treasures.  But many have not, and all are quite bulky by present standards.  I hate to chuck them in the bin for a one-way trip to the landfill… but am I, then, supposed to keep them forever despite their bulk and uselessness?

One can usually find an operation that accepts old TV’s and computers (for a fee), then mines them for recyclable parts.  That may ease the conscience… but I’ll bet I know where the parts end up that are not recyclable.  Never before this spring have I had occasion to reflect seriously on how much irreducible litter our society produces.  Oh, I’ve seen the documentaries about floating islands of Styrofoam packaging, plastic “carrier rings” molded to hold six-packs, lost bikini tops, flip-flops without mates, crumpled clear-plastic water bottles, kids’ paddle-boards, and various and sundry other mass-produced, mass-marketed items of advanced artifice that have clumped together.  Actually, I have sometimes wondered if such insipid flotsam doesn’t have a benign side.  Why would a real island, full of natural material like moss and captured silt, not eventually form around these drifting effluvia?  Why would that be a bad thing?  Maybe the island’s formation could even be “encouraged” with artifice taken to new heights (or depths).  If it floated, at least the Chinese couldn’t claim it as part of their ancestral domain.

But a substratum of earth dedicated to old video cassettes… no, I’m hard put to imagine how that has a happy outcome, even millennia in the future.  I promise that I am not not going to launch into a Philippic against capitalist waste and moral bankruptcy that constantly drives consumers to have “new and better”—and hence to send last year’s Christmas haul to the bulldozers and the sea gulls.  I understand the power of such outrage.  Yet I usually find it a) hypocritical, because the illuminati who lecture us have their own varieties of wastefulness that they conceal from themselves and everyone else; and b) unhelpful, because the progressive/high-tech genie is out of the bottle, and accusing others of removing the cork won’t get him back in.  (For that matter, aren’t the accusers here the very same crowd that clamors for universal health care—and where would advanced medicine be without cutting-edge technology, with its rafts of disposable plastic cases and bottles, used hypodermic needles, etc.?)

Here as on so many issues, the only antidote to progress that I foresee is further progress: another damned genie to restrain the previous one.  In the matter of my ancient cassettes, for instance… why do we not have a way of manufacturing energy from all such waste?  If you dumped the whole lot into the Kilauea volcano, wouldn’t it obligingly incinerate?  And if the released energy could somehow be tapped like the coal burned in power plants….  Yes, I understand that the toxic byproduct would likely be exponentially worse than coal’s; but I ask, with all the ingenuousness of someone would performed indifferently in high-school chemistry, couldn’t we find a way to knead this byproduct into something at least anodyne, or even valuable?  Why are people of such creativity reduced to such block-headedness as soon as the party’s over and the floors need to be mopped?

Certainly this is a large part of the eventual solution to gun violence: i.e., produce weapons that function only for their legal, trained owner.  Though well within reach, such a solution isn’t much discussed because too many anti-gun crusaders don’t really want an independent populace capable of self-defense: they want a servile mass abjectly obedient to an elite leadership.

Garbage does not have any covert advocates that I know of, however.  Why can we not put our oh-so-clever heads together and clean up this mess by means of some profitable new industry?

Abortion, Human Sacrifice, and Satanism: The New Woman Travels a Very Old Corridor

On Friday, May 25, Irish voters elected to repeal their Eighth Amendment, which stood as one of the few remaining legal restraints upon abortion to be found anywhere in Europe.  As I observed the “discussion” from the sidelines of Twitter, I felt far more disgust than shock—though, I must admit, I was unworldly enough to register much of the latter.  I had not realized that so many young Irish women had become such a cesspool of mutating slogans and ostentatious plangency.  I might as well have been overhearing the casual chatter of coeds in a graduate English program.

I can understand that a dutiful Catholic wife who has borne six children might not wish to bear a seventh.  I saw no indication that the referendum reflected her anxiety.  After all, this is 2018, not 1818.  The number of Irish wives held prisoner in some “pregnancy dungeon” by Sean the Terrible can probably be counted on one hand.

Judging from the language used on Twitter, I at first concluded that the Emerald Isle must have a substantial residue (from centuries of economic suffocation) of what we call “poor white trash” down South.  One heavy-hitter mused, “Now the Church has learned not to f**k with gays and not to f**k with women.”  The devil in me wanted to write back, “My guess is that the Church may be the one thing in Ireland that is not f**king with you.”  No, I didn’t indulge that salacious inspiration; it’s not classy to kick a girl when she’s down, and young women who verbalize in the terms of drunken sailors tend to be the barefoot tenth children of some dumpster-diving hag in the trailer park….

Or do they?  Then I remembered my experience of graduate school, already decades in the past, and also my late exposure to undergrad “literature” majors in the somewhat rural outlier of a red-state university system.  For about forty years now, educated young women have been egged on to talk like soldiers in a foxhole.  Why is that?  Is it simply because whatever outrages bourgeois values and expectations is good by default?  Or is it (in a closely related chain of reasons) because doing whatever you damn well please and speaking as though you suffered from Tourette’s Syndrome are viewed as maximal assertions of individual freedom?

Many of the young women who voted down the anti-abortion law apparently flew in from parts abroad where they had preserved Irish citizenship in self-exile.  Such affluence doesn’t fit the profile of “trailer trash”.  Here I was thrown into an even deeper perplexity, then: if these girls are so well educated and affluent, why can they not ex out three days on the calendar during which to abstain from sex, assuming that the intricacies of contraception stymie them (or that, like Sandra Fluke, they don’t have five bucks in their bank account)?  Indeed, heterosexual sex has grown very passé in the lanes traveled at top speed by these lasses.  So why does abortion remain such a pressing issue if so many of their partners are so seldom contributing sperm to the encounter?

I keep returning to the phrase “young women” because pregnancy is actually rather difficult to achieve for females over thirty who haven’t borne children previously.  In trying to apply a little basic logic to the profile, I was emerging with a subject in her mid-twenties.

But applying logic clinically to a Dionysiac behavior without admitting any nudge from intuition produces little enlightenment.  Here’s my ultimate best guess about what’s going on.  Abortion is our contemporary version of human sacrifice.  It is the initiation rite into the inner circle of true believers—of “illuminatae” who reject all natural limitation and claim the right to make themselves over however they wish.  Though female, they mate with other females.  If they conceive in a heterosexual episode, they choose NOT to be pregnant.  If their hair is blonde, they’ll make it purple—and they may just shear it all off.  They will not be told what words to speak.  If presenting a doctoral thesis, they may decide to pull all their clothes off (have you not heard about that one?).  In their somewhat understated version of Satanism, they modify, “Evil, be thou my good,” to, “Obscene and profane, be ye my beautiful and sacred.”  They have no original, unconditioned objective, you see: they can only invert and parody mainstream practice in an effort to create “free space” that turns out to be an utter vacuum.

Our “young women” need abortion because their religion demands that they deposit a chunk of flesh into an antiseptic bin, just as their distant ancestors were required to toss a bound victim into the peat bog at a given time of year.

Two concluding comments: one is that you cannot confine this rabid cult to a diseased pocket of society, as a libertarian like me might tend to think.  I’ve said and written before that the gays should be given all of San Francisco in which to play, if they have the votes: let them make of it their Promised Land, as the Mormons did of Utah.  But that won’t work.  Neo-Satanism is as much a faith of proselytizing zealotry as is fundamentalist Islam.  The human-sacrifice crowd will never be content with any given piece of real estate within which to practice their dark cult unobstructed.  Permission must be extended universally.  They must be allowed to perform their rites in your neighborhood.  The existence of a single resistant city block is insufferable.  Prominent among the abortion-crusader Tweets was a smoldering fury at having to visit other shores of Europe to have to victim lanced.

And speaking of Islam, finally… there is much consternation in parts of Germany over the coercion of female children—well under the age of puberty—to cover their heads at all times in public schools.  I cannot disagree with the frequent observation that, if such practice truly reduces the sexual titillation of males, then we must be talking about a culture of pedophiles.  Yet with what moral authority can the West lecture Islam any longer?  When our most educated young women exhibit the behavior of sex addicts, spew obscenities like demon-possessed harpies, and murder their children with such gusto that they appear to seek out pregnancy only to that end, then how do we find the nerve to turn our attention from them and wag a finger at the hijab?

Denver, Part Three: Graveyard of Western Civilization

Gravitational center of nineteenth-century mining booms, cattle drives, and railway expansions… contemporary continental military hub, global tourist Mecca, and universal sporting paradise… scene of Indian massacres (Sandy Creek is just down the road) and anti-colonialist leftwing zealotry (the next Democratic convention may well happen here); home to a Christian revival movement flourishing alongside the newly legal pot industry… Denver is in microcosm the soup of incoherence which is American society past, present, and future.  But how long is our collective future to run, with so many strains pulling it in different directions?

As if in dramatization of all these worrisome paradoxes, the city’s international airport has for years been rumored to sit upon vast catacombs covertly and regally equipped to be a Dr. Strangelove kind of super-bunker.  The bizarre murals sprawling fully above ground at the same venue are said to encode an apocalyptic vision of how evil imperial forces will exterminate common humanity.

The business climate here is explosive, for the moment.  None of the city’s many skyscrapers dates beyond about half a century, and mega-engineering is ongoing to handle nightmarish traffic congestion.  Small shops in various subdivisions reap a bonanza off of selling sugar-free doughnuts or beef-rich burgers, kale salads or over-caffeinated coffee, mountain bikes or noisy ATF’s, exotic bongs or leathery cowboy boots.  Millionaire refugees from West Coast socialist republics converge upon the opportunities as fast as campesinos from Chihuahua; and both groups, in some perverse fatality, import the taste for paternalistic government whose consequences have driven them from their homes.  The nearby utopianist haven of Boulder has just banned “assault rifles”, indifferent to the phrase’s vacuity as a definition and also to the fact that most gun crime is perpetrated with pistols.

You don’t do things in our progressive urban centers because they are undergirded by logic or have a promise of practical success: you do them because you’re smarter and better than ordinary people, and it’s important for you to produce evidence of that superiority in every legislative cycle.

The girl who serves you at Mad Greens may show exemplary patience with your struggles to choose between a “Poe” and a “Ty Cobb” and even tender useful advice politely; then the same girl, a few hours later, may flip you off if you dare to park a car along the scenic boulevard where she’s biking.  There are rules that good people, the right people—the “better” people—all know, and you don’t belong here if you can’t divine them out of the thin, clean air.  Oddly and superficially, they seem to encode a high regard for rulelessness; but if you do not shred expectation and inhibition in just the proper way, you’re likely to suffer the fate of the clueless yokel who dares to take a Sunday stroll in the Puritan New England dissected by Toqueville.

I’ve been hard on Denver in my remarks over the past weeks; but what I’m really chafing at is the incoherence of our entire contradictory and (I fear) suicidal society.  Denver, like so many great cities, simply represents the vanguard of our rush to the abyss.  The traffic is horrendous and insane, infinitely more dangerous than any Rifle from Hell—and I’m sure that Big Oil is much to blame for landing us in this outer circle of Inferno.  But the “green” alternative is always to produce more mass transit, which invariably invites more waste and corruption as politicians and contractors feel each other out in the frontier whorehouse of “progress”.

An acceptable coping mechanism for the trauma of modern living is to get high in one of several ways—and this, too, is good for business. Not just pot-growing and selling, but Hollywood’s parallel universe, video games, the paraphernalia-cluttered option of sports fandom, the kaleidoscopic music scene in nightclubs… the gear-intensive hobbies of camping, hiking, and biking… let’s go anywhere, as long as it’s out of this world (in Baudelaire’s phrase); and, by the way, let’s be sure to bring our wallets.  Don’t let us forget to take the checkbook to church, either.  For even our contemporary version of Christianity (and I reiterate that I’m not just talking about Denver now) is marijuana without risk of lung disease: love everybody, peace everywhere, judge no one and nothing, fly and sing and swoon!… and even our churches, with their multiple ministries and high-tech delivery systems, are big business.

What we all need at the most basic spiritual level is stillness, quiet, and a welcome predictability that comes of benign routine… and I don’t know if Denverites find any of these or not as they bike up bare slopes in constant view of other trekkers (and their dogs).  Whatever epiphany they access in their churches seems to me certainly more akin to last night’s multi-decibel nightclub adventure than this afternoon’s race to hike across the park before the next cloudburst brews up from nowhere.

What we all need at the most basic material level is food, water, and shelter; but the twenty-first century has decreed that these needs may be supplied only through wages or through highly centralized and impersonal delivery systems to which we have a “right”.  Not only can we do nothing directly for ourselves: we’ve forgotten what it is that we need to do.  Most of us can’t grow a potato, collect and filter rainwater, or repair a leaky roof.  Instead, we clamor for jobs, jobs, jobs; and then, when the soul-numbing drudgery of racking up designer clothing or flipping burgers overpowers us, we demand a guaranteed minimum income.  We wave in destitute Mexicans to perform the tasks that “Americans just won’t do”.  Eventually, however, even mopping out toilets will be rendered obsolete by a robot named Hazel who sterilizes surfaces with a laser.  Our “guest workers” are already insisting upon their shared human right to “live with dignity”—and we can scarcely counter that the work we ourselves disdained was dignified before Siri and Alexa and Hazel took it over.  So…

So where do all these downward spirals end?  If we do not recover the power individually to produce food and water from the earth and sky and to make clever adjustments to our living conditions with our own hands, what good will it do us to puff away and listen to some contemporary John Denver croon about his Rocky Mountain High?

Denver, Part Two: Tilting at Unenergetic Windmills

Don Quixote concluded that the giant who had cleverly morphed into a windmill in order to unhorse him was the work of an evil sorcerer.  I wonder if the grotesque titanic claws defacing our Southwestern horizons are not similarly the product of some squalid hocus-pocus magically worked between policy-makers and private-sector sleazes as an idiot public gapes and applauds… or am I as insane as the Knight of La Mancha for asking so many questions?

Properly speaking, this bit of musing has little to do with Denver; but when you drive across West Texas and through Oklahoma or New Mexico into southeast Colorado, you see thousands of wind turbines (not hundreds—thousands).  Therefore, turning (or not turning) blades have come to be associated in my mind with bronco country.

Besides that, the progressive lunacy justifying our plague of wind turbines has something distinctly Denveresque about it.  So… here goes:

Why are wind turbines spread so far apart?  Yesteryear’s clipper ship was able not only to pack sails one beside another on her masts, but also to create productive drafts from the proximity that channeled greater thrust into sheets farther forward.  I would estimate that no turbine is within ten blades’ length of its neighbor.  Why is this so—why do these monstrosities have to take up so much real estate?  Is it a safety precaution?  If the blades are likely to fly off and helicopter over that kind of space… aren’t they a menace to every nearby farmhouse?

Can blades be turned to draw most effectively on the day’s prevailing winds?  If the wind backs from north to southwest (as it frequently does in these states at certain times of year), can the rig be rotated to tap the shift?  I think the answer has to be “no ‘; for why, otherwise do so many blades stand utterly motionless on a given day?  If turbines cannot be thus rotated to a new quadrant, then doesn’t that introduce immense inefficiency into the system?  But if they can indeed be shifted (a confirmation which all of the gung-ho wind energy websites I viewed suspiciously evaded), then how much energy is consumed in the shift, and what proportion of the turbines’ daily yield does this gnaw away?

Why are some blades, once again, oriented differently from others in a large group if all turbines are not fixed inflexibly?  If the issue of adjustment were ever to be addressed, I suppose the operation would have to be centralized; you couldn’t very well send out a crew to dither with each one in a forest of hundreds.  I catch the malodorous scent of hidden cost once more. Either a centralized or a unit-by-unit adjustment would introduce astronomical expense.
And in the matter of centralization… if wind energy is such a great idea, then why cannot individual residences be equipped with half a dozen windmills on their roofs?  We seem to be saturated with images of futuristic domiciles sporting solar panels… so why not spinning blades?  Why is there no private enterprise addressing this market as there is for solar power?  Why must the harvesting of wind be centralized?  Such complications as wind variation could certainly be addressed much more promptly and thriftily on the micro- than the macro-level, at least when the individual consumer is putting money in his own pocket by being attentive.

And on the subject of blades… why blades?  Why not sails, and why not a horizontal rather than a vertical mount?  That is, what about a kind of double bicycle wheel with sails between its spokes and perched parallel to the ground on a great axle?  Several wheels could actually be mounted up and down a single axle.  This rig would turn whether the breeze was blowing north, south, east, or west.  It would also be far less likely to interfere with avian traffic.  Passing birds might be grabbed up in the revolving door and slightly accelerated in their flight plan, but they wouldn’t be guillotined by a mighty arm descending invisibly from nowhere.  Who decided upon the present design?

Was it a band of engineers working for oil companies?  Because our wind turbines, you know, are primarily constructed of petroleum products like epoxy.  The popular assumption that their gargantuan fingers are clean of any association with black gold is the kind of canard which industry insiders and their bought-and-paid-for political shills find so easy to sell to the iPhone generation.

When we discover within the next ten years—as we surely shall—dramatically cheaper and more efficient ways to produce energy, what we will do with all of these tens of thousands of insolent middle fingers across our landscape?  I suppose they’ll stand there giving the bird to our lichen-brained “green” voters for the next five or six centuries.  Removing them will be unconscionably, prohibitively expensive.  We’ll just have to let them sit and scoff at Don Quixote’s crumpled body.  Even an EMP won’t make them budge.

All of us do stupid things every day.  What so irritates me about wind turbines is their “emperor’s new clothes” quality (and, no, the iPhone generation will not recognize the folkloric reference).  All of our progressive, morally superior, intellectually scintillant young people (picture David Hogg in a biking helmet and riding a skateboard) are “down” for turbines as soon as the words “wind” and “energy” are juxtaposed.  I realize that many of my questions reflect a basic ignorance of the process: that’s why I’m asking them.  I lack information.  Maybe the emperor is wearing some kind of diaphanous space suit.  I’m just remarking that, to me, he looks naked.  At least I’m observing and asking—but our “savior generation” acquires less information on a subject that you could squeeze into a Tweet, then calls everyone who fails to march lockstep with them a Nazi or a mass-murderer.

Well… guess what, young Einsteins?  You will have to live with the consequences of these choices a lot longer than I will—always barring an EMP.  Google that.

Another Slaughter of Children—Another Round of Staged Whining

I wanted my next post to pursue the reactions that I registered during my Denver trip, and I have something all ready to go for tomorrow.  Another high school shooting has intruded into our shared world, however—we who share nothing any more but some real estate on a certain planet—and I need to clear my mind.

More “ban the guns” chanting from the Left, which is too dishonest (among its elite architects) or too stupid (among its tail-wagging minions) to admit that the endgame here is an irresistible centralized authority with an Obama-style “national police force”… more “paid shills of the Nazi NRA” baiting of anyone who proposes a serious analysis of the problem… more staged “how many of our children have to die?” whining from the crowd whose favorite comics and sitcoms joke about slaughtering babies in the womb…

I’m so sick of this.

Here are my questions.  Primo: how does a kid wearing a trench coat on a humid 90-degree Houston morning walk into a high school unchecked in 2018?  How in hell could that ever happen?

Secundo: why do idiot legislators in places like California and Boulder, Colorado, continue to brandish the mean-nothing phrase “assault rifle” in cases like this, where the murders were apparently perpetrated with a shotgun and a pistol (snitched from their legal owner)?  May we not at least converge upon sufficient coherence in this “debate” to admit that the gun designation du jour is arbitrary, and that the real target is every gun in private possession?  This sorry little prick also planned to ignite a number of bombs—but that atrocity, if successful, would likewise not have shifted the tone of whining on the Left in any way whatsoever.

Tertio: is it not clear by now that the bad-boy infamy heaped upon these pathetic ghosts of the social-media Limbo actually draws more of them to atrocious action?  The press dedicated to the Parkland, Florida, butchery has not yet subsided, though the same press corps utterly ignored a machete massacre (with killed and wounded numbers around 30 and 100) about a month ago in China’s contested Xinjiang province.  If you were a sociopathic punk who wanted to post a selfie that no one would ever forget, would you drive over twenty cheerleaders in your dad’s pickup, or would you shoot five of them with your dad’s Glock?

Quarto et ultimo: why is “entertainment” a dead issue in these discussions?  I’ve virtually given up on network TV and movies because of the gratuitous violence.  It sickens me beyond my endurance-threshold.  All of my son’s generation, at least among the males, consider Breaking Bad to be a classic.  I’m appalled.  How does a normal human being sit comfortably in his armchair and watch a young woman get executed with a bullet through the back of the head as her gagged lover is forced to look on from a van, on one side, and as her toddler stands in the front doorway, on the other?  This is entertainment?  The weaning of an entire generation on such nihilistic vomit of perverse creativity—on such hard-core pornography of the inner soul—cannot be free of consequences, especially when such “cool” diversions have become the stuff of contemporary tee-shirts and trivia games.

But Brian Cranston, the dark star of this bituminous epic poem, is an outspoken, even virulent anti-gun advocate.  Oh.  I guess all is well, then.

I can’t write any more, unless I am to lapse into a long string of four-letter words.

Denver, Part One: Beneath the Shifting Smile of Unfriendly Skies

My wife and I appear to have survived our semiannual trip to Denver for a visit with our son.  Since we’re still picking up physiological and psychological pieces, I can’t guarantee that Humpty Dumpty will be back together again by the end of the week.  In fairness, I cannot lay this trauma at D-Town’s mountainous doorstep.  A fifteen-hour drive would be a tall order for two sexagenarians even with the Pearly Gates as its destination.  Neither of us has flown in years—the slaughterhouse chuting and prodding and penning up that goes with air travel these days makes my libertarian blood boil.  Yet car trips of long duration in any direction tend to give me horrible migraines.  The Extremely Low Frequency Waves transmitted constantly by the vehicle’s motion do something really painful to my nervous system.  This time I kept a bag of quartz crystals behind my neck to draw off some of the energy, and that worked pretty well (quartz is an All Star conductor of electricity); but I’d still rather be on foot in strange places, as I was when I walked two different 600-mile tours of the British Isles in my twenties.

About now, you’re thinking, “Gee, this guy sounds like he should fit right into Denver culture.”  I know, I know: it has been my lot as a true conservative throughout my life to puzzle people on both sides of the aisle.  Faux-cons can’t understand why I don’t warble excitedly about the benefits of technological progress for the free market and individual economic opportunity.  (But wouldn’t such excitement indicate… oh, I don’t know—maybe progressivism?)  Meanwhile, what has very carelessly come to be called the “liberal” manifests a concern for preserving life’s natural rhythms… up to a point.  The trouble with “liberals” (and I wish that faux-conservative propaganda would allow me to call them “progressives” without ambiguity) is that they know little about nature and nothing about life.  They play at knowing and loving both; and in their childish fantasy, they usually end up destroying one without soaking up any wisdom from the other.

Which brings me back to why I just can’t stand Denver (or, for that matter, contemporary Austin, where I passed the happiest years of my childhood): The place is a Disneyworld sitting on the crater of a supervolcano.  This is quite literally true, inasmuch as the next eruption of the subterranean dynamo upon which sits Yellowstone Park will most certainly prove a Hiroshima event to Colorado.  Yet what I have in mind is more figurative.  Denver society is a stew of fantasists.  Like Austin, it has a substantial hippie-refugee population; and the abuse of the word “refugee” reminds me that both cities are also “sanctuaries” for adventurous migrants in search of tax-free cash and tax-funded freebies.  The old hippies, to the extent that they recognize the eventual collapse of the commonwealth in open-border politics, cheer the ruin of the capitalist system.  The younger ones…

I know you don’t call them “hippies” now, and I haven’t heard “space cadet” used for years.  I have no single word for them.  They wear rings in any or all portions of their face, sport tattoos in places that clothing used to cover, design their hair with hedge-clippers before dying it with whatever’s among the kindergarten art supplies, select mates for a week or a month without any apparent attention to gender, devote most of their loving attention to small screens in their palms, and will probably bequeath whatever wealth they may amass in life to their dog.  Dogs… wow!  Mates come and go, children are a rare sight unless trailing after a Third World migrant in staircase order—but the shaggy canine is lover, child, and very best friend.  (I think the Denver word for that is “bae”, a term to which I was first exposed through a Littleton  billboard that showed a white chick and a black chick in lip-smacking embrace).  If a dog’s legs could only pump pedals, you’d see human-canine pairs, both helmeted, on their Schwinns all around the town.

So what’s my big problem—I who drive balancing a bag of quartz behind my neck—with thinking outside the box?  My problem is that I don’t perceive the thinking: I see only children dressing in outlandish combinations of clothes while Mom and Dad are away and the babysitter is taking a nap.  Question: if you have to overhaul city streets expensively amid great swirls of dust and pitch in order to create biking lanes, how is bike-riding a boon to the economy or the environment?  Or if you drive up into the Rockies three times a week with your bike strapped to your 35-mpg buggy, aren’t you nevertheless contributing to tremendous traffic congestion while also overrunning the wide-open spaces along with other cycle-meditators of your faith?

And as for religious faith… why are Denver churches never Baptist or Methodist or Episcopal?  Why are they the Gopher Gulch House of Love or the Cowboy Christ Worship Family?  Just because you can’t abide subordinating your thoughts and inklings to any established designation doesn’t mean you’re a free thinker or a true believer.  It may mean you’re a mush-head who has no notion of how to think or feel about anything profoundly.

And speaking of marijuana… one really devastating, perhaps fatal, unforeseen consequence of legalizing weed may well prove to be the legislative magnet thereby created for unproductive social leaches.  As a quasi-libertarian myself, I understand the appeal of the general argument; but the practical effects of making “artificial paradise” readily available include drawing in people dedicated to fleeing reality.

I’ll bet native Denverites are every bit as dismayed at what has happened to their homeland as my grandfather was by what happened to Austin.  I feel for them.  Their dream—yesterday’s reality, now a fantasy as remote as any socialist utopia—is irreparably shattered.

I’ll close this ramble with one more example of reality slamming into Playtime at Daycare.  I’ve always dreaded Denver weather.  The bottomless violet dawns are invariably traitors: by mid-afternoon you may be running for your life from a hail storm.  During this trip, however, I began to notice how many contrails immediately start collecting across the sky as the sun strokes the mountain peaks.  There are two commercial airports and one military strip in the Denver area.  It’s unimaginable to me that the dizzying accumulation of cirrus streaks from all the jet activity plays no role in the region’s schizophrenic weather.  While all the conscientious young liberals are denouncing us as planet-murderers for not outlawing industry and legally requiring of everyone the purchase of a 35-mpg Virtue Buggy, a much more credible and observable engine of weather change (who knows what long-term climatic effects it may have?) is air traffic.  What would the “wee brainy things” (as a Scots woman aptly termed them during one of my European tours) do without their jets?  How would they get to the next climate conference?  How would they get home for Thanksgiving, or how would they get to Seattle to rekindle an old flame for a weekend?  With 87,000 flights per day in U.S. (out of 100,000 worldwide—and those figures are likely just commercial jetliners), we are directly and immediately seeding the upper atmosphere with heat disruptive of natural pattern.  Yet we’re supposed to be worrying about SUV’s?

What a place.  It has its charms, as do all amusement parks; but as a viable major metropolis whose influence increasingly dominates the Midwest, Denver is a nightmare-in-becoming to this tree-hugging conservative.

Academic Feminism Infantilizes the Literary Classics—and Literary Scholars

The pulverization of literary taste and finesse under the massive, trundling mill wheel of feminism continues.  As the month of May began, I graded the last round of student essays on Homer that I’ll ever see.  I had anticipated a bittersweet, slightly nostalgic feeling… but most of that was overcome by a sense of exhaustion and despair.  I’ll skip over the butchery of grammar (e.g., “possess’s” for “possesses—this from graduating English majors), though I don’t really understand it.  If these same students are writing twenty-page research papers for their other professors, as they claim, then why have they not learned how to spell?  But then, they also say that the papers are written according to strict guidelines (meaning that they seldom express any of their own ideas) and that the submission date is invariably at the end of the semester (meaning that the professors in question needn’t annotate and return the work).  In short, it does seem to be possible to compose hundreds of pages as a literature major over four years and never learn how to write.

Yet what depresses me far more than ignorance of the apostrophe’s purpose is the moral bankruptcy of feminism applied to literary criticism.  How many times in recent years have I read the indictment that there are no women in the Iliad except for Helen, and that Helen is just another pretty face?  “On rare occasions when she does speak, she degrades herself.”  Oh, yes, there’s also Briseis—Achilles’ trophy-girl, a concubine whose husband and family he had slaughtered in the expedition’s early days.  Hector’s wife Andromache is about the same thing, in this view: a hero’s sex toy who knows how to weave.

In the first place… yes, the Bronze Age was a man’s world in the sense of force majeure and “might makes right”.  Since guns weren’t around yet, your fate as a woman was either to be defended by one man or carried off by another.  Helen, to her “credit” (and I’m shocked that feminists don’t frame the issue this way, though the argument remains morally bankrupt), appears freely to have chosen elopement with Paris: Herodotus writes that everyone east of Greece recognized as much—and that the Greeks feigned ignorance only to nourish their pretext for a plundering expedition.

And, yes, Helen was stunningly beautiful… and, yes, her few speeches are oddly self-deprecating.  Oddly, but fascinatingly.  How many times in “real life” have people who were somewhat spoiled and vain due to their good looks harbored a suppressed sense of inferiority because no one (including themselves) ever noticed their inner qualities?  My father’s generation would cite the tragic Marilyn Monroe.  Ariosto’s Angelica certainly belongs on the list, as perhaps does the Welsh Branwen.

But let’s not forget the real issue, according to the feminists: men are getting all the glory on the battlefield, and women are just cheerleaders or contestants in a beauty contest.  Don’t start obscuring the outrage here by talking about characterization and psychology!

The handling of Briseis and Andromache in this vein particularly upsets me (speaking of outrage).  Achilles has exterminated the families of both and will end up making both widows; Andromache differs from the slave-captive only in that Hector had married her and transported her to Troy before the deadly Achaean superman invaded her native island.  Briseis clearly deserved a better fate, and the subtle Patroclus (he’s a man, you know) is indeed seeking to secure her a superior status as the hero’s wife when he is slain.  The saner, more humane world toward which these two lesser characters (Achilles’ concubine and his adoptive brother) struggle in vain is nothing less than the Iliad’s implied indictment of the whole warrior/reiver culture.  Achilles himself is at last rendered miserable—and “forever glorious”, for what that’s worth—by scorning or neglecting the domestic intricacies of life and refusing to acknowledge that “weaklings” have the power to make our time here on earth tolerable.  The tears he sheds with Priam come too late.  His beloved old father Peleus, his best friend Patroclus, his might-have-been bride Briseis… all can be viewed now only through the veil of lost opportunity and imminent death.  The “man’s world” hasn’t worked out so very well for him.

“Yes, but… but he made Briseis his whore.  That’s all she’s good for—Homer’s telling us that women are good for nothing more than that!”  And this is what you’ve learned after an advanced study of literature for four years?

As for Andromache, no figure of either sex is more tragic than she, in the whole of Greek myth.  Even Niobe somewhat deserves the loss of all her beautiful children, thanks to her boastfulness; but Andromache wants nothing more than to be left in peace with her young husband and infant son.  The Greeks slay the former and murder the latter (lest he grow up and avenge his father: the Iliad doesn’t relate the atrocity, but Homer’s audience knew that it loomed).  The fact that this tortured woman can only weave away as the battle rages beyond the city walls is of course a portrait in the concentration of the condemned as they await execution: and, yes, it’s a horribly passive role.  Far easier would be some cathartic exit through the gates with sword and spear—as Euripides’ Medea famously declares in her first long speech… and, oh, how feminist critics love Medea!  But the sorceress’s notorious comments in the later play about wishing she could go to war aim at manipulating her naive hearers: she’s setting everyone up for a vengeance that will include killing her own young sons (speaking of passive, defenseless victims).  In the “real world”, the weak and humble indeed have no option but to endure.

Is it an outrage that Andromache cannot transform herself into Wonderwoman?  Would this have helped either her husband or her child, in Homer’s world (which turns out to be more realistic than our Hollywood/comic book alternative)?  What exactly are these students of mine envisioning as the option that a later Andromache should be supplied in a better world?  Homer, I think, is trying to alert us to his world’s serious flaws precisely by crushing us with the woman’s tragedy.  Is a better world one where women have hook-ups but no permanent commitments, abortion on demand, the occasional designer-child raised in government-financed daycare, and a piratical freedom to curse and pillage and swagger up the career ladder?  Can we at least spend a few moments appreciating Homer’s portrait of the human condition in its own terms before we start grafting some new HBO mini-series upon it?

No, apparently not.  And the final kick in the gut for me is to realize that these coeds aren’t just making it all up as they go along in subjective bursts of pique: they’re drawing upon the feminist critics whom they’ve been required to cite—repeatedly—in their other courses.  They’re being “scholarly”.

Definitely time for me to hang it up.  Idle question: I wonder if the feminist scholars whom my kids have spent so many years citing know when to use an apostrophe?

Big Brother’s Tentacles Begin in Paperwork and End in WiFi

I was shocked recently to discover that my state university campus (from whose hallowed halls of ivy I am retiring) has a policy against destroying any and all student papers of whatever age.  This is a bit insane.  Maybe it strikes me as more so because I’ve always required that my students do lots of writing.  If everyone in my department levied similar demands, a small room or large closet would be filled up with papers by the fifth year, I’m guessing.  The result would be more than a waste of precious space: it would constitute a fire hazard, and even a health hazard.  (Roaches love old papers; and while they don’t spread the bubonic plague, they’re dirty little critters, and plenty of students haul their Starbucks purchases into our classrooms.)

I should clarify that I actually give most of my papers back—with written comments, representing the most exhaustive part of the job.  I would so part with those papers, at least, before our curriculum started to shrink and I found myself teaching almost nothing but composition.  At about that point, the paperwork started viciously boomeranging back on me.  The freshman composition instructors (whose director can’t abide the word “freshman” and insists on “beginning student”) were suddenly commanded to round up all the semester’s essays in portfolios which a select few would sample and brood over in order to generate reports satisfying accreditation boards, state officers, etc., etc.  The “portfolio years” numbered about three or four, as I recall, before they were declared null and void and we were newly commanded to shift everything to an online campground.  I resisted, because I knew that I had just one more year left.  Now I’m almost sorry that I held out.

For this imbecilic decree from the bureaucrats of higher echelons (possibly, again, the state capital) to create and preserve vast document cemeteries has suggested to me why our campus rolled out its “go paperless” initiative: mere survival.  I’d assumed that the shift of all assignments to the digital was a marketing tactic, meant to titillate the public with “cutting-edge technology”—or else a marginally legal political payback, engineered to nudge business in the direction of certain software and hardware providers.  It clearly wasn’t done out of any genuine consideration for students, many of whom do not like entrusting their arduous labor to the vagaries of e-space; nor did it take into account the much higher probability of deliberate thought and careful proofreading that accompanies the preparation of hard copy.  But as a means of not drowning us all in dusty, moth-eaten cardboard boxes, the digital crusade was likely a pretty smart move.  I just don’t know why we have to sacrifice teaching efficacy on the whim of some idiot board of mandarins.

Or perhaps I do.  It almost has to be some sort of prophylactic move against lawsuits, doesn’t it?  What kind of lawsuit?  Oh, I don’t know… a student’s claim that his papers were never graded because of his green Martian skin—something in that genre.  If there’s a chance in a million of needing your ordinary trash as an exhibit in a court of law, then you will not be allowed to empty the trash can.  Our legislators are all lawyers themselves these days, so they all think the same way.  They’re all scared stiff of frivolous legal wrangles because they know only too well how successful frivolity can be before a sleeping judge or a cerebrally challenged jury.  They’ve played the game themselves enough times—and won at it—to know that, for instance (and I’m not kidding), no horseshoe arrangement of tables can be permitted in a classroom lest a fire occur and some unhappy person prove too clumsy or stupid to find the way to the exit.

I could go on teaching for years: there’s nothing wrong with my health, thank God.  But in doing so, I would probably shorten my life as my blood pressure rose and my dismal sense of the futility overhanging every corridor of Western civilization grew darker.  We increasingly resemble the old Soviet Union, dead of arterial sclerosis as its mammoth bureaucracy eradicated flexible elements from every element of society.  The things we do make no sense except as answers to concerns entirely extrinsic to quality of job and initial purpose.  We’re designing a plane that won’t fly because the mechanics’ union demands wings 200 yards long to justify its wages and every interior seat requires wheelchair access.

Finally, I’ll also admit that I worry about the ramifications of these permanent document reserves.  Is there not a Mueller in every department now who will potentially nab all of us sooner or later for saying, “Man up!” or, “God help me!”?  Might I be tried five years from now for sexual harassment because of scrawling on a paper five years ago, “You’re a beautiful and talented young woman, and you should write with greater confidence”?  Where does it end?  Only this morning, after one of the last email log-ins I shall ever trudge through, an announcement reached me of a seminar in “microaggressions”—how to spot them in oneself and how to purge them from one’s speech.  Could the shift of everything to the digital, in fact, be intended to create a readily searchable database for incidental infractions of Groupthink?

Call me paranoid, if you like.  I’m retired now—I don’t give a damn.

Outrage Over “Cultural Appropriation” Is a Symptom of Degenerative Morality

There’s really nothing more that a sane adult need say about the idiocy of “cultural appropriation”… is there?

My DNA is Scottish (on the Harris side) and Welsh (on the Davis side), with a lot of English (a.k.a. Sasanach) stirred in.  The stirring actually raises the first critical point about the absurdity of equating culture with genetics: all of us are mongrels.  To the extent that Scots were Celts, they were dark (like me); but we often picture a kilted Scot as tall and blond—Scandinavian characteristics imported by the Vikings.  Likewise for the Welsh, and indeed the Irish: as much as red hair is associated with those groups, it is owed to interbreeding with the Norsemen, for the true Celt was, like Cu Chulainn, a “little dark man”.  And who knows what streams had flowed into the Celtic river?  Many northwestern Europeans are up to five percent Neanderthal, meaning that quite a few of us are not even entirely products of a single species.

Now, equating a particular kind of dress or food with a particular culture would be almost as preposterous as equating culture with race.  How many cultures graze upon a form of bread that looks something like a tortilla?  How many wear kilts or bonnets?  I don’t really know—but I know that the answer is, “More than one.”  And again, if we could confine the chili pepper to Central and South American cultures, how could we possibly maintain that so broad a swathe of real estate demarcates a single culture?  And how can we call that culture “Hispanic” or “Latin” when the chili pepper itself is a New World vegetable “appropriated” by Old World invaders who more or less fused with the natives?  And how do we sort out the natives?  Where did the Maya come from?  Why do some Cherokees have blue eyes?

It is also quite dumbfounding to see “offended snowflakes” whimpering over the “appropriation” of a dress’s pattern when they embrace none of the deeper values of the culture they claim to hold dear.  Ask them about gay marriage or sex changes or abortion or the right to self-defense, and you open the spigot to a slurpy spate of sentiments about expressing oneself and exploring one’s identity.  What happened to honoring the ancient culture that was supposed to determine that identity?

Personally, I don’t care if someone directly “insults” my culture.  Big deal.  I grew up seeing images of a winking Scotsman on Safeway’s cans of Scotch Treat frozen orange juice—the message behind the brand being that your stereotypically stingy Scot would smile at these prices.  The imputation of tight-fistedness never bothered me.  Pinching a penny is a smart way to achieve independence.  Non esse cupidum pecunia est, wrote Cicero: “Reducing your needs is an easy way to give yourself a raise.”

And as for “welching” on a deal… well, I never really thought about the word’s origin until our hyper-neuralgic culture of offense brought it up.  I didn’t care before then, and I didn’t care after.  No, the implicit stereotype isn’t very charitable—but I’m a hundred thousand times more offended by the Erectile Dysfunction flyers that show up in my box with graphic illustrations, making me grateful that we no longer have young children in the house.  And the source of my irritation isn’t my “bourgeois Christian culture”: it’s my sense of common decency, and also my moral conviction that sexual appetite shouldn’t be supercharged any more than anger, greed, or the other passions.  Culture can reinforce morality, but only as a subordinate reinforces his commander.

Maybe being a Southerner has insulated me from keen cultural sensitivity.  As a white male who happens to have ancestors galore from Virginia and South Carolina, I was a despicable bigot before I exited the womb.  Nothing I could ever do would change the fact that I was scum in the eyes of the Beautiful People… and so I got on with my life and left them to pose admiringly in their hall of mirrors.

There is one final observation, however, that needs to be made about the current wave of pseudo-cultural consciousness—of tribalism in search of a pretext.  I’ve offered this insight before in other contexts, and it continues to grow upon me: the healthy, vibrant spirit exhales itself—not in ego-assertion, but in self-effacing self-discovery—into the surrounding universe, but the “genius of evil” sucks energy in like a black hole.  The wicked forces behind “cultural consciousness” (and some of this lot are indeed deliberate in their mischief) are seeking to persuade people to sever their ties with the rest of the world.  You are… a woman, an Asian woman, a professional Indian woman who has broken with the patriarchy and found new roots in the Harvard sisterhood and some reformed variety of Buddhism.  You are… a young gay African-American of the male sex but identifying more as female who observes Kwanzaa and eats soul food.  The pathetic stew of garage-sale titbits that such “movements” include in order to achieve a viable caricature of cultural rigor goes beyond my mimicry.  What it all has in common is the aim of reducing the cultic participant to a figure so severely defined that he or she spiritually suffocates.  Music can no longer be enjoyed unless it has a “cultural” connection.  A sublime mountain view becomes loathsome because the Trail of Tears passed somewhere this way (so they say).  The person whose imagination has been snared by such clever devilry is spiritually bound up the way a spider balls a fly into a corner of her web.

It’s evil, this boa-constrictor occupation of minds—and cultural practice is no excuse for wickedness.  Indeed, where culture does not exist to confirm basic moral teachings, it has no reason to exist at all.

Utopian-Fantasist Obtuseness: The UFO Crowd’s Strange Flirtation With the Left

I was commenting the other day (okay, I was tweeting: my son says it’s the only low-budget way to find an audience) about the premier episode of Ancient Aliens’ new season that aired on April 22.  It was dismaying that several regular commentators, like journalist Linda Moulton-Howe, were all but jumping into the tank for Hillary at the end of the episode.  If elected (went the narrative), Hillary would have gotten to the bottom of all the UFO secrecy; she would have demanded transparency of the Defense Department; she would have fired anyone who refused to pony up with complete disclosures, etc., etc.  Now, I can vividly imagine Hillary conducting bureaucratic purges: that would have happened even without the UFO issue.  I can also imagine her riding roughshod over sensitive security matters because she felt like it.  She has what they call a “proven track record” in that regard.  What I cannot imagine is her pressing a point from which Bill had previously backed off.  The Clinton who successfully pursued the presidency once confessed candidly (if semi-confidentially) to one of his buddies in the press that poking about the UFO issue could be very bad for his health.  He represented the response given to him by nameless career insiders as practically a threat on his life.

It has been said that Hillary knows a thing or two about silencing inconvenient witnesses.  Whatever the truth of that, she most certainly would have known about the ominous wall of men in black that had terminated her husband’s country-fried snooping.  Hillary was playing the UFO-truther crowd for an easy endorsement.  John Podesta, no doubt, was playing Ancient Aliens for a bit of public exposure readily parlayed into speaking honoraria (for who remembers John Podesta these days?)… but Moulton-Howe should have known better.

Why didn’t she?  Why, indeed, does UFO-mania tend to lean so far leftward?  It shouldn’t, if a recurring theme is the abusive secrecy of big government.  Apparently, centralized authority is evil when it’s in the hands of the military-industrial complex; but when Tinker Bell utopians are promising to sprinkle stardust over every aspect of our private lives, the faintest libertarian tinge of resistance is abandoned.  Bestowing dictatorial powers upon a Beloved Leader so that he—or she—may cashier all the would-be dictators in uniform makes perfect sense to the Left.

But why, I repeat, do alien enthusiasts lean left?  I myself am pretty sure that our planet has been visited by extra-terrestrials—and that hasn’t made me want to book a flight to Cloudcuckooland.  In some members of this group, perhaps many or most, I perceive a disturbing tendency to cultic religion.  Everything in every ancient literary text is potentially a sign of “extra-terrestrial visitation”.  Zeus’s thunderbolt can’t be a sublime image coined out of primitive reverence for natural forces: it has to be an advanced technology that Stone Age minds didn’t comprehend.  Our history is also of no interest except as a reservoir of clues about ET activity.  How did the bubonic plague come to spread so rapidly and wipe out so many populations?  Must have been a bid on the part of hostile aliens to thin out our numbers.

This sort of thing reminds me for all the world of the m.o. I’ve seen working in academic feminism and Marxism for decades.  Are you given a novel to read from a few centuries ago?  Look for the woman or the peasant: there’s nothing else worth paying attention to.  If you can’t find either one… well, why are they being excluded?  Must be a conspiracy!  Are you presented with a historical period to study?  What’s going on with women at this time, or with the underclass?  Not much information on that?  Well, there wouldn’t be, would there?  Males and the upper classes have sought to airbrush all those significant details from the record for millennia.

Ultimately, the driving force behind such cultism is the adoration of progress.  A better tomorrow for women, for the poor… a better future for Earthlings once they are told by aliens where their destiny lies.  All of it shares a boredom, and indeed a disgust, with the present and an indifference to the past except insofar as years past and present supply steps to the ascending staircase.  The faithful of these cults seem tormented by a distaste for the contemporary world and for human nature generally: they crave a transformative experience, an orgastic Nirvana that will mystically show forth as a photographic negative of hateful realities.  They so long for Scottie to beam them up!

Alas, not only does such delirium not draw us any closer to the truth behind UFO’s: it discredits serious attempts to find that truth by tarring all sincere investigators with the stick of childish fantasy.  We may be moving farther from the truth than ever.