27 March 2017

Much Ado About Porridge [1970]


[Written 27 March 1970]
[Thunder. Enter Goldilocks]

Gold: Blow winds, blow; hurl thy sulph’rous fires;
Let loose thy cataracts of furious water
Till all the earth is drenched, till Neptune’s realm
Doth overflow the land. With thunderbolt
And lightning strike the palaces of kings,
Tear sun and moon from sky, break mountains down,
Level the earth, till all lies dead and ruined.
[She pauses]
What use is there, to rail on the element?
The horrid thunder, nor the roaring wind
The sheets of fire, nor the blasting rain—
The senseless elements will neither hear me
Nor be my ministers. I should do better
To seek some shelter. [thunder] This night’s tyranny
Is more than man can bear. But what rude hut
Doth meet my gaze? Perhaps beneath this roof
Some shelter may I find to put some shield
Between ungentle heavens and myself. [She goes in]

[Enter three bears]

2 Bear: A fierce and horrid night you picked to walk.

1 Bear: How could I well predict the heaven’s fury
The monstrous storm, disorders ’mongst the spheres?
When all the gods to choose to hurl chaos
At we poor mortals, crawling on the earth
Beneath their gaze, should I be called to account?

2 Bear: These late eclipses of the sun and moon
Did presage some great evil.

3 Bear: [aside] Ay, they blame their own defects on the unoffending planets.

1 Bear: Didst thou speak?

3 Bear: I said nothing.

1 Bear: Nothing will come of nothing.

2 Bear: Last night a dream did greatly trouble my soul.
Methought a bolt of lightning struck this house
And toads did croak (their rusty voices seemed
To shake the world); creeping things did crawl,
And bats did fly. But groaning voices spoke
Saying, Beware. And then a head of gold
Arose from ashes—

1 Bear: Woman, be silent. Thy dreams always augur ill.
Let us go in.

3 Bear: Ay, and quickly too. I am soaked and half frozen, and the other half like to be food for crows.

[they go in]

[Enter Goldilocks]

Gold: That meal that I ate did warm my bones,
Yet still within me I feel some unease.
Last night a lioness bore in the streets
A two-headed cub, alive and all the while
Ghosts did shriek and fiery warriors fought
And old graves yawned, and yielded up their dead.
A burning comet hurtled through the air
And fell into a pond outside my house.
Can these disorders mean me any good?
When comets die, there are no dangers feared
The heavens themselves protect the lives of men.
So I shall rest. [She goes within]

[enter 2 Bear]
2 Bear: Help! Thieves! Murder! My porridge stolen,
The chairs thrown and broken, the house disordered
And all as still as death!

[Enter 1 Bear]
1 Bear: Quick, let us seek the malefactor out—we
Have not sought throughout the house.

3 Bear: [within] Help, O help, a fiend!

[Goldilocks in bed discovered]

3 Bear: See, I have discovered the culprit.

1 Bear: O monstrous villain! False woman! Accursed fiend.
Thou art as opposite to every good
As the antipodes are unto us.
Or as the South to the septentrion.

Gold: [aside] I think tis time to leave this woeful stage.

1 Bear: Woman, thou art on thy death bed.

Gold: But not yet to die. [She leaps up]

1 Bear: Stop! Halt!

Gold: I am gone forever! [Exit, pursued by a bear]

26 March 2017

The Deep Game


T
he collapse of La Tromperie’s ill-thought-out attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act with something his base would like better should put paid to the notion that Our Elected President is playing some sort of deep game. We put a guy with no relevant experience into the driver’s seat of the big rig we’re all riding in on the strength of his looking so good in the bumper cars at the amusement park, and we’re getting pretty much the results you’d expect. The guy likes to beep the horn and play with the lights, but is in way over his head when it comes to dealing with the traffic on the open highway.
It makes me kind of glad I never finished (let alone posted) some of my earlier entries in the forty-fifth presidency—like my “Give Trump a Chance” piece in which I suggested he might rise to the occasion and surprise us all. Not that I actually expected that, but I really wanted to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Surely somebody wouldn’t go to all the trouble of running for president, deluding millions of people into supporting him by making false promises, just to loot the public coffers and otherwise use his position for his own financial gain, right?
Okay, that’s actually what I did believe, but I was sure hoping to be proved wrong.

25 March 2017

Last Day of Vacation [1979]


[Passage from my journal, 25 March 1979]
♇♇
—On this last day of vacation I am taking out a little time to write to my folks. Nothing worth mentioning is happening here—I spent the last few days at my aunt’s reading and so forth. I am thinking of enclosing a xerox of the long-lost Wasp chapter of Through the Looking Glass and telling them to put it somewhere safe—I hope they don’t lose it.
I got my story sent out to ASF. I wish the MS didn’t look so unprofessional, what with the machine and all, but what the fuck. Maybe it will change my luck a little. If my fairly decent manuscript was rejected repeatedly, maybe an awful one will make it. I revised it too, in a couple of places, for what that’s worth. It won’t make the difference between a sale and a rejection slip, but the product may as well be as close as possible to the best I can turn out.
10:18 pm PST—I’m feeling something I haven’t felt in years, the old Like-On-Sunday feeling of end of vacation, irreparable loss, loss of self, return of the hellish ordinary world. It’s over. I’ve been mildly down the last couple of days.
And I wish to God I had never come here to this appalling place, that I had never decided to go back to school, that none of this had ever happened. Why the hell didn’t I have the guts to pull that trigger a year ago? Why did I live to see 27, let alone 28? Yeah, smile you fucking bastard looking over my shoulder as I write this, you social worker, historian, psychologist, or future self, smile and be damned to you.
I guess I should count my blessings. At least I’m not depressed, not yet anyway.

24 March 2017

A Good Old-Fashioned Imperialistic War [2003]


[From my pre-weblog, 24 March 2003]
I
 never thought I’d get to see an actual good old-fashioned imperialistic war myself, the kind they used to have in the nineteenth century, but here we are. The US invaded a small country on the flimsiest of pretexts, out of fear that the government of that country might choose to use its weapons of mass destruction some time or other (weapons which it claims—though without verification—to have destroyed), or it might pass on said weapons to a third party, perhaps a terrorist group with which it is on the most unfriendly of terms. Coincidentally the country in question happens to have the second largest known reserves of oil, the substance that still runs all the world’s economies. It’s a bit thick, no matter how you cut it—and I say that as a long-time hater and despiser of all things Saddam Hussein, even back when he was our friend and ally.
The invasion seems to me to be going fairly well, all things considered, though apparently the public (at least) was surprised that the Iraqis didn’t welcome the troops with open arms. More disturbing are the reports that the Bush II administration was surprised by this. All you have to do is put yourself in their shoes—are they going to welcome an invader? Or rather rally behind their leader, bad as he may be? The answer to me at least seems obvious. One Iraqi (an expatriate I think) observed that he was all for liberating Iraq; he just felt that the Iraqis should do it themselves. I would expect that to be the attitude.
Also disturbing is this bizarre insistence by the US authorities that Saddam Hussein is too dead or wounded, no matter how many times he appears on TV. Maybe they know what they’re talking about, and when all the cards are on the table we’ll see that they were right all along, but right now it’s embarrassing. It looks to me, and I think to the world, like Rumsfeld (or whoever was responsible for that hare-brained gun-jumping that started the invasion) is determined to justify the decision somehow, and just can’t admit that it didn’t pay off. I admit that I was suspicious of that first appearance myself, but the explanation is getting more and more strained to explain subsequent appearances. Sure, maybe Hussein anticipated his death or injury and put together a series of taped appearances in advance, allowing for different possible future scenarios, but gee whiz, how many people would actually do that? I might, maybe, but it’s not the normal approach. Anyway I wish they’d drop it and move on.
The Iraqis have been handling their press conferences fairly well up to now, with their making good their claims of having prisoners of war, and a downed helicopter, and so on and so forth. But today one of the officials announced that the Americans were running away from battles, which doesn’t even seem like good propaganda to me, in that we can see them on TV (thanks to the “embedded” journalists) and they’re not running. Lots of other screwed up things are happening (as they do in war) but not that.
And another thing—this “shock and awe” campaign sure seems to have fizzled. At the very least it has failed to live up to the advance booking, and I frankly think it has been a colossal failure, no matter how much the authorities claim otherwise. But the troops continue to advance, and the invasion grinds on, and really, things seem to me to be in pretty good shape.

23 March 2017

The Development of the Gospel of Mark [1999]


[Written 22–23 March 1999, with 2017 updates in brackets]
O
ne of the things I’ve been playing with for the last bit is a commentary on the Gospel of Mark, sort of what the Anchor Bible ought to have done instead of that crap they actually did. [This refers to the 1986 C. S. Mann commentary, not the excellent 2000 Joel Marcus commentary that replaced it.] God, what a waste. My commentary would be based on the assumption that Mark went through at least three stages—a pre-canonical stage (the version used by Matthew and presumably Luke), Secret Mark, and canonical Mark. [The Secret Mark stage is not necessary if the Clement of Alexandria letter discovered by Morton Smith is a twentieth-century forgery, as has been rather unconvincingly charged.] Personally I think an earlier stage yet is also detectable, in that there are episodes (the feeding of the four thousand, the rejection at Nazareth, the death of John the Baptist, for example) not in Luke’s Mark it seems to me. Luke either leaves them out altogether or substitutes a late version probably from an oral tradition. Behind Mark I can de­tect a couple of sources maybe from the 40s—the Controversies Source (akin to that sequence in the Recognitions in which mem­bers of various sects raise their particular objections) and a passion narrative also used (as I see it) in John and Peter. I suggest that the peculiar situation we find among the various Passion Narratives where now one and now another appears to be more primitive reflects developments—a long series of developments—before we ever get to the canonical (and quasi-canonical) stages. So anyway this suggests the following:
(1)    Sources: at least the Controversies Source and the Pas­sion Narrative. [In my current understanding I would delete the Passion Narrative as such and add two sequences of stories covering Jesus’ career from John the Baptist to (presumably) the resurrection, arbitrarily designated Form A and Form B. Form A lies behind Mk 1:5–6, 1:16–20, 6:1–6a, 6:45–52, 6:53–56(?), 7:24–30, 8:1–10, 8:22–26(?), and various bits of the Passion Narrative. Form B lies behind Mk 1:2–4, 2:13–17, 3:19b–35, 4:35–41, 5:1–20(?), 5:21–43, 6:30–44, 10:46–52(?), and likewise various bits of the Passion Narrative. A Form C lies behind certain stories in John.]
(2)    Mark I [Proto-Mark]: As used by Luke. Missing a long sequence as well as scattered stories elsewhere, but including a longer ver­sion of John’s prophecy and the temptation. [In my current understanding Form B was expanded by the addition of the Controversies Document, a Capernaum sequence, a collection of parables, the Synoptic Apocalypse (assuming it wasn’t the conclusion of the Controversies Document), and other items to form Proto-Mark, which (along with Q) was one of Luke’s major sources. Luke, conscious of its (apparent) defects, attempted to supply certain stories (the call of Peter, the rejection at Nazareth, etc) from oral tradition.]
(3)    Mark II: As used by Matthew. Reshaped, by the addition of stories like the call of the first disciples and the rejection at Nazareth, and by the addition of a long duplicate sequence including the feeding of the four thousand. [In my current understanding Form A (like Form B) was expanded by the addition of other material, including a source discussing defilement, signs, and leaven; an editor created Mark by combining Proto-Mark with the expanded Form A. This early version of Mark was used by Matthew.]
(4)    Mark III: In my view, Carpocration Mark. At least the story of the raising of the young man (presumably with the “naked man with naked man” bit), as well as further bits and pieces, some of which are still in the document. [While the possible existence of variant forms of Mark used in Alexandria provides hypothetical insights into the final stages of the document, until there is more solid evidence that Clement of Alexandria did in fact write the letter in question, I prefer to leave it out of consideration.]
(5)    Mark IV: Secret Mark—an attempt to counter Carpocratian Mark by pulling out some objectionable material, but still leav­ing some in. [Again, until there is more convincing evidence that Secret Mark ever existed, I am inclined to leave it out of consideration.]
(6)    Mark V: Canonical Mark—a still further attempt to re­move objectionable material from Secret Mark. [Canonical Mark differs from the early form Matthew used in several particulars—the extreme abbreviation of the temptation narrative (1:12–13), the addition of the saying about the Sabbath being made for man (2:27), the addition of the parable about the seed growing secretly (4:26–29), the reference to James and John being called sons of thunder (6:17), and so on. The manuscript from which it was derived appears to have been very defective; it begins and ends in mid-sentence, implying that both the beginning and ending are missing. It should be noted, however, that the differences between it and the form Matthew had in front of him are clearly minor—nothing like the differences between either of them and Proto-Mark, for instance.]
Another point for the commentary on Mark is the issue of Papias’s bizarre remarks on the origin of something or other that may bear on our gospel. As usual here, I’m working from memory, but the point is that Papias says that Mark is based on what Peter used to say (Mark was an “interpreter” of Peter (whatever that means) and used to follow him about writing things down as he spoke), and that Matthew is oracles in Hebrew. None of this sounds very promising in regard to our gospels. It is painfully obvious that his story about Matthew is not about our gospel (whatever the later church writers have to say about it), and frankly, I doubt that his remarks on Mark have anything to do with our Mark ei­ther. I mean, does our Mark look like the reminiscences of Pe­ter? I’d be looking for something more like the Kerygma Petrou—something Petrine at the very least. Even the Gospel of Peter seems more promising. What I think happened is—well, when the early church writers were looking for pedigrees for their anony­mous gospels they latched onto these remarks of Papias that had nothing to do with anything, and applied them inappropriately to our present works. In my view Papias gives us some interesting information about certain early lost Christian writings, but tells us nothing about the origins of our present gospels—and worse yet, since the various church fathers are clearly dependent on Papias for their versions of the origin of Mark, we lose all information on their origins. The other alternative is that Papias, who is demonstrably badly wrong on Matthew, is simply thoroughly unreliable. That whatever tradition existed had been thoroughly corrupted by his time, and that therefore anything he has to say on the subject is probably completely worthless. But I prefer the first option; I think Papias is writing about unknown early Christian works that have no connection to our pres­ent gospels. [I now lean toward the second option, but in any case the only reliable information we have on the origins of the gospels is what we can see for ourselves in the documents as they have come down to us, and in their literary interconnections. The stories recorded by the early writers are demonstrably wrong, and have to be disregarded.]

22 March 2017

Government Cheese [1984]


[From my pre-weblog, 22 March 1984]
I
’m watching satellite news twenty-four hours a day now, god knows why. Sleeping fitfully with that goddamn eye on the world glaring at me, bringing me live coverage of trials, congressional debates, and relentlessly updated news. I woke up the other day in the middle of the Senate vote on school prayer, a bad idea whose time has long since gone.
What extraordinary things people say they believe on TV! I see a woman who claims that it is impossible to force someone to engage in oral sex, a man who claims that no woman in this coun­try is afraid to report a rape, another man who says there is nothing wrong in appointing people to important positions in the government in return for cash. I see millions of people support­ing a president who has brought us defeat and disgrace in the Middle East, increased pollution throughout the nation, increased poverty, hunger, acid rain, unemployment, debt—fucking hell with it.
I stood for three-quarters of an hour the other day in a cheese line and watched prosperous middle-class women claim food intended for the starving (“Hey, our tax-dollars paid for this, right? We have a right to it…”). Nobody cares. It’s all propaganda, that’s all. Newspapers claim that a vast array of goods are going forth—cheese and butter and cornmeal and all kinds of good stuff—but when you get there all there is is pow­dered milk.
Peace talks collapse in Switzerland, Libya bombs Sudan, and a kidnapper is murdered before my eyes. Reagan defends Meese. Soviet and U.S. ships collide at sea, Iraq gasses Iran, and a kidnapper is murdered before my eyes. New Bedford protests (not the rape, but the conviction of the rapists), Jerry Falwell threatens, and a kidnapper is murdered before my eyes. Every fucking hour a kidnapper is murdered in front of me, and I don’t know if I even wanted to see it once.

21 March 2017

Supper of Sorts [1992]


[passage from my journal, 21/22 March 1992]
♇♇
 after 8:29 m PST—Today. I got up around 6pm or so. My father was here, and he told me that my brother and the children had just taken off. He had bought some new toys—a tv for me and a small gas grill for the household. We had a supper of sorts here; leftover cabbage, potato, and corned beef, with some newly-steamed asparagus. The pleasure of the day was somewhat muted by our discovery that our pet spider had died—a pretty striped-legged creature that has lived in our kitchen window for about a year. My father took off for Canby after a bit, and I worked some on family documents [my great-uncle’s cricket poisoning account for one], and watched tv. I tried to watch Americathon, but our copy was so bad that I couldn’t stand it for long. We have to get a replacement, I guess. I’ve been screwing around recently with the so-called intertestamental period again; get­ting nowhere, but enjoying it. I started feeding Milik’s trans­lation of Aramaic Enoch into the word-mangler here, in hopes of having it available when needed.

20 March 2017

Three of My Cues Had Been Cut [1969]


[Passages from my journal, 20 March 1969]
8:06 am PST—So far today I arose, ate eggs and toast for breakfast, and left for school. I left somewhat late, due to the fact that I couldn’t find my Bi­ble. There were 47 people on the bus. Day 128. I’m in Advisory. 24 minutes to go.
12:12 pm PST—I went to Latin and watched a couple of chess games. There was a substitute for Mr. Bonnell there.
12:50 pm PST—I continued with perseverance unto Math. Not much happened—Chris left in the middle of the period. At the end of the period I went on to Contempt. For the first forty minutes or less we saw a film on the middle-east. This succeeded in boring me completely. When it ended, Connie presented a series of partially true, mainly distorted, partially false views that were supposed to represent the Arab view of the Israeli situation. It did little or no credit to Arab intelli­gence. They are supposed to have been presented by a man from Lebanon. One of the worst errors was that the Zionist movement was simply an imperialistic expansionist movement that originally wanted to settle Uganda. That Uganda bit comes from an early British offer to the Zionist Jews. They refused, of course since their purpose was to settle the holy land. The next detail was a policy statement by each member of the class. Since everyone merely stated the same thing, when it got to me I refused, saying that I had nothing to add to the discussion. This created a disturbance that lasted the rest of the period. When the bell rang, I asked Jonelle about Russian leaders and discovered that it was possible. Mr. Keire said that I should have given the class the benefit of my vast knowledge concerning the Bible (not in those words, of course). After the interview I went quickly to World History, where we had a long film presentation (actually slide) of Romantic paintings, and I wrote two more lines in my journal.
9:40 pm PST [at Portland Civic Theatre]—I next went to Lunch, and from there to the library for English. I spent much of the period reading Steppenwolf. Then, behold, a great sick­ness came upon me, my head ached and a fog surrounded me. And a halo came and surrounded the light and a thousand angels sang. And behold, a shaft of light illumined the room, and in the light I saw Chris. Then I saw an angel of the Lord and in his hand he held a book and on that book was written “The Abington Bible Commentary.” And I opened the book. A drum repeated, banging through my head. A great noise split the heavens, and I saw people shuffle through endless halls and I was in Study Hall.
♂♂ 8:05 am PST—I waited, feeling very sick, for the bus. I got on the bus. We rode home in almost record time—11:50—best is 11:45, next is 12:30. I arrived home and, although I felt sick, was taken by my father, who was going to Seattle, to the orth­odontist, where my teeth were tightened (at least, that’s what it felt like) and my archwire, which had come loose about a month ago, was put back in place. My mother arrived and took me home. I ate. I then argued with Bryan for awhile about Israel and Arabs. Then, gathering up my possessions, my Interpreter’s Bible Volume 2, Oxford Annotated Bible and Steppenwolf, I was taken by my mother with Bryan to the Portland Civic Theatre, where I immediately saw Pete, who directed me to the sound equipment in the closet up­stairs.
♂♂ 9:21 am PST—After getting out the sound equipment I found that three of my cues had been cut, leaving me only two during the entire play. Pete set up the sound equipment and eventually the play started. Beyond the fact that the settings on most of the lights had been changed, almost nothing went wrong. I arranged for Bryan to see the play Friday and at 11:15 my mother picked me up and took me home. Upon arriving I did my home­work and at one or so was able to go to bed.

19 March 2017

The Mouse Party Dream [1997]


[Written early on 19 March 1997 about a dream I’d had 17/18 March.]
I
 dreamed about mice in my room. My brother and I were watching them run about on the molding towards the top of the room. Flame [the cat] ignored them. There were three mice, two of them quite large. My brother said I should watch where they went, and they went into a hole in my ceiling. My brother said we should block it up; that’s where the heat was escaping to. I went up into the attic to find that the mice had really taken over up there; it was like a goddamn mouse party. There was oatmeal all over a sort of table like our old train table, and there were meal­worms in it, and the mice were munching on them like party treats. I got the hell out of there, and when I got back down from the attic my brother was talking to our father my father’s room. He had his beeper and was working on some plans for the television sta­tion. I said to him “I’m sure glad you’re back,” and he told me, “I’m not back really. You can’t come back from the dead.”

18 March 2017

In Relation to What? [1969]


[Passage from my journal, 18 March 1969]
ⲡⲁⲣⲉⲙϩⲟⲧ 22, 1685
9:45 pm PST—(rain, 3.0) Today I got up and went to school. I didn’t take the bus. Day 126. I read in the Inter­pret­er’s Bible (Samu­el). Schedule: Advisory (Language club meet­ings), Latin (Mike went to his second meeting of the Latin Club—he’s emperor of the club. They decided that I should play the record­er for the Roman Ban­quet. I am not a member of the club), Math (we got our tests back; I got two wrong), Con­tempt (Dr. Apsler spoke on the Arab-Is­raeli conflict), World Histo­ry, Lunch (our table is gone), Eng­lish (library), Study Hall. I took the bus home. I checked the dittoed material my father brought home, talked, ate, bathed, talked about Samuel, and went to bed.

Brent: In our school we have a day where the students teach the classes and run the schools.
Bryan: Do the students have complete control?
Brent: Well, there are teachers around so things don’t get out of hand.
Bryan: Ah, a token concession from the estab­lishment administration.

Any of those things is always deep in relation to what, you know.—The Guru

words to learn: asinthrope

17 March 2017

The Motor Chums in Alaska: An Underhanded Scheme


[passage from The Motor Chums in Alaska, or, The Search for Incan Gold, written 16–17 March 1979]
“T
his won’t do,” muttered Tom. He spared no glance to the others as he went into a conference over strategy with Ersatz.
Ned was accosted by a teammate. “What do you think of Skyways Transport?” he was asked.
“Forget it,” was Ned’s response. “Motor Chums Industries has it sewed up tight.”
“Maybe so, maybe not,” said the other. “My father says it looks an up and coming venture, and he knows where he can get a couple hundred shares.”
Ned looked impressed, then remarked, “Probably nothing to it. If there was a couple hundred shares around, Tom would already’ve grabbed ’em.”
The other laughed. “I bet my dad knows a few things Tom doesn’t,” he said. With that the bell sounded for the second round.
During this round the Badgers held their own. Bingo Wright got to fourth on a puffed foul, while Ned blatted a triple whinger into the backstop. Harry exhibited some fancy footwork in stealing two bases and gained four points for the team. Although penalized for a moving violation, the Dragons were also brilliant; Fred Hoffman in particular knocked off two of the Badgers with a sharply-kicked field goal. But the unquestioned “star” of the round was Tom, who not only managed two run-ins, but virtually kept the opposition from scoring during his chores in the pitcher’s booth.
“That glory-grabber,” sneered Clarence Ashton, “Even when he’s going to throw the game, he has to look good.”
“That young ruffian ought to be jailed for the rest of his life!” burst out a stranger.
Clarence turned to the newcomer. “You talkin’ about our school hero?” he asked.
“School hero? Reform school hero, maybe—I’m talking about Tom Wilshire!”
“Say,” grinned Clarence, “You’re not a bad fellow for a Jeffersonian—but I think they ought to hang him from the school flagpole.”
“What has the miscreant perpetrated against you?” asked the other curiously.
Clarence glanced around shiftily. “You won’t tell anyone?” he asked.
“Of course not,” said the young man.
“By holding my debts over my head,” hissed Clarence, “he forced me to sign an apology to a colored lad.”
The stranger let out a whistle. “Well, after that what he did to me doesn’t look so bad—he merely stole my car and kidnapped a young lady-friend of mine.”
“You want to get back at him?” demanded Clarence. “I got a scheme. After the game we can talk with a friend of mine about it.”
The situation did not look good for the Badgers. At the beginning of the third round they still lagged behind by a good many points, and Tom had been replaced in the pitcher’s booth by Larry, who though well-thought-of, possessed none of Tom’s “brilliance” in the rôle. But the Dragons too had their setbacks. Fred Hoffman, the star player, was removed from the game when his stick exploded, while another had to be benched for his conduct in a pile-up on the free-throw line. As a result the team was badly crippled and barely scored, while without Fred’s pitching the Badgers were able to rack up several points.
“Can Tom save the situation?” was Ned’s anxious question.
“We seem to have the situation well in hand,” Harry replied. “We’ve had buy orders from as far away as Denver.”
“Not Skyways Transport,” snapped Ned. “The game.”
“There’s no necessity for worry on that score,” Harry informed him. “Tom and Ersatz are putting together some invention to save us at the last moment, as usual.”
“It am done, Marse Harry, deed it am,” shouted Ersatz, running up to the chums. “We’s inbented a Dragon-blaster dis time.”
“We sure have,” agreed Tom, “Wait’ll you see it in action. We’ll show the Dragons what the Badgers are made of.”
And as Tom predicted, in the last round the Badgers really showed their stuff. One by one the Dragons fell away, unable to cope with Tom’s pitching pyrotechnics. Although it took Ersatz five minutes to put out the stadium, all agreed that Tom’s flaming arc-ball was worth the cost, and his shooting-star spectacular so dazzled the Dragons that they were worth little for the remainder of the game.
Although the Badgers were delighted with the outcome—several hundred percent return on investment—others were not.
“Ruined!” shrieked Clarence angrily. “The bastards ruined us!”
“What do you mean?” whined Ben Hangdog nervously. “Let’s talk in my office.”
“Say, do you have your own office now,” Clarence Ashton asked enviously. “I’ve been School Bully now for six months and haven’t got mine. Anyway, since when is the school toady entitled to an office?”
“I’ve been promoted,” snickered Ben, “Cancher read? I’m th’ school sneak, now.” And the brass plaque on the door read “Ben Hangdog, School Sneak.” “Who’s th’ dude wicher?”
“I’m Herbert Waverly the First,” the lad introduced himself, “Ashton here says you two have a scheme on.”
“We did have,” blustered Ashton, “Till we were wiped out by losin’ the bets in the game.”
“We were gonna blow up Tom’s workshop,” said Ben Hangdog, “An’ then beat him to th’ Gold City while he’s still buildin’ his airship.”
“The Gold City!” exclaimed Herbert. “How do you know about that?”
“I heard Tom talkin’ about it with his gang,” said Clarence.
“Th’ main thing is, we need an airship,” said Ben, “An’ we need ter steal Tom’s map.”
Herbert produced the parchment with a triumphant flourish. “Here’s the map!” he exclaimed, “I had it off a certain young lady the ruffians kidnapped. And I’ll pay for the airship. That’s a low underhanded plan you’ve got.”
Ben grinned from ear to ear. “Thanks,” he whined humbly.
“I know who we can get to build and run it,” blustered Clarence. “You know Orville Risley?”
“The famed aviator?”
“And long-time foe of the Motor Chums,” snickered Ben.
“He’d be glad to do those bastards a bad turn,” boasted Clarence moodily. He turned to Ben. “You got anything on them now?”
“Lemme look at my files.” The little sneak walked over to a booth literally stuffed with file drawers and removed one, labeled “Motor Chums—April 10-17, 1910.” “Here we are … let’s see … they’re using a front to build an airship—something called Skyways Transport.”
Waverly’s jaw dropped. Ashton groaned. “I own a couple hundred shares—” began the rich man’s son, while the bully said, “I been doing promotions for them.”
“Those tricky bastards,” whimpered Ben Hangdog.

16 March 2017

Black-Is-White Thinking [1984]


[From my pre-weblog, 16 March 1984]
N
othing much to report, I guess. I just got finished watching CNN’s replay of its coverage of this Massachusetts rape case—watched one of the defendants tell his version of what happened which sounded like a hasty improvisation to me, but what do I know? In other news I see that Congress is again trying to cram school prayer down our throats, that California official­ly endorses job discrimination against homosexuals, and that a woman who had herbicides dumped on her cannot collect for person­al damages, but can collect for the damage done by the stuff to her property…. Madness.
Black-is-white thinking continues to reign … Fundamentalists are being cruelly persecuted because they aren’t allowed to require classroom prayer, while some peo­ple want to infringe upon the rights of bigots to discriminate against whomever they please.
I’m watching Reagan continue bumbling around in the mideast—one of the things that amazes me is that although Reagan’s mishandling of this Syrian crisis eclipses any American foreign policy disaster since Nixon’s Vietnamization of that war there has been no wave of public revulsion against him. I can understand the rats follow­ing the piper, but why don’t they desert the sinking ship?
I can’t stand watching/listening to/reading the news any lon­ger—it always pisses me off and ruins the rest of my day. Bet­ter to live in ignorance it seems to me.
Emotional weather report: clouded and gloomy, with a pro­found low blowing in from the north … stay tuned for sports.

15 March 2017

Jury Day [2001]


[Passage from my journal, 15 March 2001]
☾☾
 12:24 m PST—Jury day. I got up on time, caught the bus down, and then mostly sat around doing nothing. I read some. Not all that long before lunch time a bunch of us got called up for a jury, and—just when I was thinking I wouldn't see anything new—we got contaminated. We were asked whether we knew any of the potential witnesses, and one lady said she was a legal secretary or something of the sort, and had had some professional involvement with one of the officers who would be testifying. In what connection, the judge wanted to know. It was during his trial for police brutality, she said. And that was it for us. Back downstairs we went, where I read until we were let out for lunch. I went racing home to check on things, grabbed a little food and a change of books, and went racing back. Then another long wait, and then another call, and this time it was a trial for selling cocaine. I was the last juror to be seated—twenty-five out of twenty-five or something like that. The prosecuting attorney was a real jerk, but I didn't have any chance of getting on the jury even if they had got down to me—the defense attorney asked me about my conviction lo those many years ago, and I flat out told them that I was wrongly  convicted by a corrupt system that had depended on perjured witnesses. The prosecuting attorney didn’t get much joy out of the ex-cop he asked about using informants, either. After saying that it was a necessary part of the job, he added—on being asked about how credible he would regard a witness with the background of the nark for the prosecution—in essence that he wouldn’t believe a word she said. Well, neither of us made the jury. Neither did the lady who had mentioned police brutality in the previous trial—she said she didn’t believe in the anti-drug laws, and in this one declined to say in what connection she knew one of the officers who would be testifying. I had the impression that this was the same guy again, but maybe it was just a similar name. Or something. Anyway I then went home, talked with my brother (who came by the same time I got there), and crashed out. Thank god that’s over.

14 March 2017

The Motor Chums in Alaska: A Field Trip [1979]


[A passage from The Motor Chums in Alaska, or, The Search for Incan Gold, written 12–14 March 1979]
“Y
ou want me to sponsor a field trip to Alaska!” exclaimed Mr. Kemp incredulously.
Tom nodded as Harry spread out maps and contracts in a businesslike manner. Ned glanced nervously at the clock. “Tom,” he observed, “the game’s just about to start.”
Tom waved him off. “We feel,” he said firmly, “it would be an educational experience in several dimensions, allowing the students of Horatio Alger High to optimize their latent capabilities in a novel environment. It will enhance decision-making skills, ability to verbalize needs in stress-situations, and provide conflict-resolution for certain key students here.”
“Our plan,” added Harry, “is to follow a westward route over the Great Lakes, which will allow us to look over such sites of interest as Detroit and Kalamazoo. Then reaching the b order of the Federated Northern States, we will pass into Dakotah territory and perhaps examine a tribe of Wild Indians.”
With that an interruption was felt as an apparition with a water bucket broke in. “Marse Tom! Ise done closed de bettin’ windows.”
“Good,” said Tom briefly.
“The game!” exclaimed Ned. “Tom, we have to get out there.”
“Our route will touch on several scenic spots,” Harry continued, “passing over Yellowstone Park and Snake Eyes or Dry Gulch Canyon in Wauregan.”
“A pause for refueling in Seattle—a brief glimpse of the frontier backwoodsmen and raw lumberjackery—and then it’s off for the Sootka Valley in the heart of unexplored Alaska,” finished Tom with a flourish.
“I’m not going,” said Mr. Kemp with finality. “It is a trip entirely without value, and dangerous besides. I cannot justify spending class time on such a project.”
“But it’s the chance of a lifetime!” protested Ned.
“A chance to end our lives miserably in the Alaskan ice floes,” said Mr. Kemp. “Do you lads have any idea what travel by dogsled is like?”
“We’ll be going by airship,” said Harry.
“That’s worse than ever,” said Mr. Kemp, throwing up his hands, “If we don’t crash into a mountain or blow up, we’ll have an engine failure in the wilderness.”
“All us Motor Chums are skilled aviators,” said Tom, “There is no danger of anything of that sort happening.” He pulled a magazine from his pocket. “This is yours, isn’t it, sir?”
The Audifax Society Bulletin,” read Mr. Kemp. “I haven’t seen a copy of that for years.”
“I believe you were fired from Harvard for an article in this issue,” said Harry. “‘Corporate Rape of our Natural Surroundings.’”
“I’ve marked a couple of passages here,” said Tom. He read, “‘Little good can come from emissions of toxic gasses into the air from smokestacks across the nation.’”
“Here’s another,” said Ned, “‘Wanton interference with the natural order, especially on foreign shores where these matters are little understood, can only create catastrophes and perhaps sow for the FS a harvest of hate.’ As if we weren’t bringing the blessing of civilization to places like Africa and Europe!”
“And, ‘If F.S. Steel has its way there will be no wood in 1950,’” read Harry.
“I won’t be blackmailed,” said Mr. Kemp. “I’m sure you could stir things up royally, but I will not give in. I will not sponsor a field-trip to Alaska.”
“Sir, you leave us no choice,” said Harry, “We had intended to keep it secret, but now we must reveal the real purpose of our trip. We have good reason to believe that a hitherto unknown civilized race may inhabit the fastnesses of the Sootka Valley.” Briefly he described the evidence, suppressing only all mention of the Gold City.
“Can’t you fit this trip into your scientific expeditions, sir?” Tom demanded politely. “Last year you looked in on the Melanesian Ngrillas. The year before you studied the Philippine Tasmanians. Surely this year you could chart the Eskimos or something.”
Mr. Kemp sighed. “All my life,” he said, “I’ve been searching for utopia. I suppose I may as well search in Alaska as anywhere else.”
“Then you’ll sponsor the trip?”
“I will,” said Mr. Kemp. “But no good will come of it,” he added ominously.
The lads were too excited to take notice of this, however. With a happy “hooray!” Ersatz threw his water bucket high into the air, distributing the contents about the room. Ned turned a cartwheel while Tom strode briskly through the door. Harry paused just long enough to gather his papers, and then joined the other lads in following their collective leader.
As they reached the locker room Bingo Wright and Larry Lawton shoved the helmets on their heads and gave them their gloves. “Come on!” Larry said, “They’re waiting for you.”
The team took the field in high spirits, for by Tom’s capable management, they expected to turn a good profit. Perhaps the spirits of Tom and his friends were higher than most, for Motor Chums Industries owned a good percentage of Badger’s, Inc., but all stood to gain. A deafening cheer rang out when Tom took the pitcher’s box, for he was known and liked for miles around, and the Badgers therefore offered a small discount in ticket price to those who agreed to provide this moral support.
The first round went against our heroes. Although Tom’s work was as good as ever, Bingo dropped a hop fly on the twenty-fifth and even Dick missed an easy liner to the goal. The sole run was scored by Dick, and neither Tom nor Harry even came to bat. The score stood 14-3½.
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