Category Archives: Commonplace

They Mean to Break Your Spirit

SINCE TUESDAY NIGHT I’ve been trying to maintain an even strain, not obsessing over counts, not clicking the update button every five seconds. But it’s hard. It’s plainly obvious that the Democrats a being true to type in trying to steal the election — as they say — “By any means necessary.” The media is not giving an inch. They are trying to dispirit the opposition to the theft. It’s not working, but they will keep grinding it until they win or we kick their asses.

There is however, hope in the darkness. A site called “The Donald” is out there and reporting on the fighting. There doesn’t seem to be much movement in either legal fights or official election calls, but there is more on the ground than the MSM is allowing to be reported.

And, we need to start thinking NOW (well, twenty years ago, but let’s be real) about what happens after we win. Me, I’d say the Democrat machine needs to be the target of RICO investigations and prosecution. Yes, they will whinge about how this will have a chilling effect on their right to free speech. So we don’t go after them for what they say, but for what they DO. And, if the end result is that the Democrat party is burned to the waterline, THIS patriot will not be concerned.

The Really Astonishing Thing

IS NOT SO MUCH that these home truths are being voiced at all, but that they are being voiced in — of all places — Newsweek.

Let me be clear: progressivism is an existential threat to the American regime of liberty, or what remains of it. A free, self-governing constitutional republic is incompatible with a progressive regime of total central planning.

As Abraham Lincoln recognized long ago, a house divided against itself cannot stand. The United States cannot endure permanently half slave and half free, half planned by progressive experts and half chosen by self-governing citizens.

Given Twitter’s Mendaciousness

OVER THEIR CENSORSHIP POLICY (Call is what it is.) Why should the NY Post trust them as to the mechanism for regaining control over their account. Freedom of the Press is a constitutionally guaranteed right of the people, which is being violated, here. It is incumbent on the government to secure an defend that right.

Idea Endorsed

I THOUGHT BACK IN Ought-Nine that the Tea Party was going to be the replacement for the Republican Party, just as the GOP, when it was new, was a replacement for the Whigs. That didn’t happen. Because the Republican Party tried to strangle the newborn Heracles in the cradle. That betrayal should be marked down as the instant that the New Republican Party began. The Tea Party patriots have wormed their way into the guts of the Right, just the way that the communists have infiltrated the Left.

Writing at Conservative Review, Daniel Horowitz proposes the next — I should say, the next logical — step. RTWT.

I like the idea. So should you.

Our Friend Cedar

SANDERSON has a new post up on the subject of broken windows policing. You know, the way Rudy Giuliani is credited with cleaning up New York. The neat part is that she chose some of Alger’s photography to illustrate it. Guess who’s chuffed.

Book Loft Revisited

AS I WROTE SUNDAY NIGHT Toni and I went for our usual weekend photo safari on an overnighter to Columbus’s German Village tourist area and Ohio’s Hocking Valley. Left Saturday morning in the rain and came back Sunday night to news of high water all along the Ohio and tributaries.

Funny… We were driving in the rain, saw plenty of watercourses in spate, lots of drowned farm fields, but I — at least — didn’t get many pictures of “the flood”. I haven’t seen many that Toni took, either.

Sunday morning, we got up, got breakfast at the Bob Evanos across the road (there’s always one across the road), complimented the waitress on her (red) hair, and headed back into Columbus for a little toddle around German Village and a revisit to the Book Loft.

Saw more of GV than we did Saturday. Judging by the looks of the houses — mostly brick one- and two-story, with some three- — I’d guess the place was built over a short period in the early 19th Century, somewhat as Over the Rhine was in Cincinnati, by German immigrants. Thus the brewery district nearby. It doesn’t seem as though the housing stock was allowed to deteriorate as badly as OTR’s before gentrification set in.

Made a shorter visit to the Book Loft this time, then set out to the southeast of Columbus to do a little sightseeing in the valley of the Hocking River. As promised, interesting pix:

Book Loft Reified

SUNDAY EVENING as Toni and I were finishing our lunch at the Frisch’s on Lila Avenue in Milford, we estimated it would take a little under a half hour to get home and we wouldn’t get unpacked at all that night. A half-hour after we left the restaurant, we stumbled through unloading the car, staggered across the street, with all our impedimenta, and I was unpacked and in PJs a half-hour later.

We had just spent something over eight hours in the car and a half-hour stumbling around in the Book Loft for the second time in one weekend, since a Bob Evans breakfast that couldn’t be beat. That second time in a weekend is critical to your understanding of the matter.

You see, last week (Monday) I had shared a post of interest, featuring some words about a fascinating-sounding bookstore in the German Village section of Columbus called The Book Loft. Which store comprises 32 rooms in what turned out to be two floors of shotgun flats from the 1890s (I guess) on South Third Street. It is the kind of place that makes a bibliophile horny with the want-to-buy’s and can have your last dime burning a hole in your pocket. The sign claims 500,000 volumes in 32 rooms. I’m not even going to challenge their count, though I remain skeptical. That’s a lotta books. But, even so there’s a lotta books there. A good time was had by all. Money spent, and a lot of climbing of stairs (There’s a stairwell every two rooms it seems like, and, as the old mechanic at the service station used to put it, “Y’cain’t git theya from heeyer.” The place is definitely not ADA compliant nor friendly to the mobility-challenged.). I got a book and Toni got two. Would have spent more, but budgets must; when needs drive, desire sits in back.

Toni came back with the suggestion that we leave for Columbus after she got off work on Saturday, spend Saturday night in a hotel (Red Roof. Note: there’s one on South Front Street, four blocks from the Book Loft.) We reserved a room at the Red Roof in Grove City (about 7 miles away, and right by the exit off I71 North. We checked in and headed over to German Village. It was raining, so I had hassles with the traffic. Someday, I’ll learn.

We were lucky enough to find a parking spot on South Third Street, right across and half-block down from the Book Loft. Only had to cruise the neighborhood once. This is another key point; if you are at all mobility challenged, the closest parking lots are several blocks away — too far to hobble on a cane. It’s worthwhile to orbit the block, looking for an open spot. Plus: do a recce so you know what all the signs mean before you have to pick or reject a spot based on legalities. Also, if you have a handicapped placard, be prepared to wield it.

Go expecting to spend some serious coin. I think Toni and I spent close to a hundred dollars in two cursory visits. If we had been willing to hang in the store for what it’s worth and able to spend three or four (or five) figures, it could have been done. Most readily. I can see myself dropping ten grand in there on a weekend, though I can’t see myself having that much to spend, if you get my drift.

They don’t shy from high price tags, although I suspect nearly every book in the store is marked down somewhat. I bought a book on Art Noveau, for example, that lists about fifty bucks, but got it for under thirty. But you can be tempted, believe me. On the way out Saturday night, I spotted a book still in the publisher’s shipping box: The Complete Little Nemo by Windsor McKay. I oo’d and ah’d appropriately, but knew without asking that I couldn’t afford it. Plus: we don’t have room for it in our house. Not shelf space, mind. That I could come up with — or build. No. I’m talking about room absolute. The thing is a coffee-table book. As in: put legs on it, it’d be one. What would you guess? $150? $500? I don’t know myself, but, as I said, I know I can’t afford it.

Saturday night after the book store, we went to a place Toni had scouted out in advance. It was close to our hotel, didn’t sound like a chain (we discovered otherwise later) and sounded promising on food and priciness. It was on Stringtown Road in Grove City and called Planks. It was an OSU hangout. Not that people from OSU hang out there specifically, though I’m sure a few do, but that it is a sports bar whose focus is local Columbus-area teams, including the Buckeyes. (The area’s like that. You’d have thought from all the O’s on people’s foreheads, that we were somewhere close to campus, but no. It’s that the Bucks are more popular in Central Ohio than the Bengals are around here. I forget what Toni had, but I had my old standby, a club sandwich with fries, washed down with Yuengling draft. (Happy hours during the week, they serve Yuengling draft for a dollar a glass. Mine went for $6.50. Oh, well. Win some lose some.) Our waitress was top-shelf. Very efficient and professionally friendly without the usual smarm that chains like Longhorn burn into their wait staff. Judging by appearances — both staff and customer — ours was hardly unique. I think the whole staff is aces. Big tip. The sandwich was huge. Turkey, bacon, ham. I’d guess four ounces of each. On a toasted double-decker with vegggies I didn’t even notice. And I think there was cheese, too. It was good. I almost had to leave the toothpicks in, it tried that hard to fall apart in my hands.

The fries deserve special mention. First, it was a huge serving. They’re billed as “Fresh cut” which sounds good. I think they used two or three Idahoes to make mine. Wowsa. I almost freaked when they came to the table (and you should learn from my experience and have faith). They looked like they were burned — dark from the oil. But they tasted like a little slice of heaven. Toni speculated that the seasoning my have darkened them somewhat.

The place has a Cheers-like atmosphere you’d expect from a big-time, historical sports bar in a big sports town like Columbus. (The photo at top was taken from our table through the servers’ door down the length of and behind the bar.)

As with the Red Roof, we discovered that there is a location of Plank’s (no idea how closely related, though the signs look the same in both places, so the assumption they are sisters seems legit) near German Village. Word to the wise. It seems worth noting that the German Village is neighbored on the West side (South Front Street) by The Brewery District. it’s not like Cincinnati where there’s a brewery on every block at the bare minimum, but there do seem to be a few, including the one this fellow represents. I don’t really know enough about local brands to say what breweries may be resident in the district (if any are) and which are not exactly local (like: some of the craft beers served in pubs (there was an Irish pub on Front Street, I seem to recall) and bars might have come from as far away as Cincinnati. But I don’t know.

Also to notice that the German Village area is about six blocks by six blocks, extending east from Front Street (though it would seem that the district proper doesn’t get really going until you cross South Pearl Street or City Park Avenue.) and South from East Livingstone to Thurman, just below the city park referred to in the name of CPA. (I never caught its formal name, but it looks as though there’s a statue of Christopher Columbus in the middle of it. (Kind of like the Statue of Alexander Hamilton on the Main Street of his namesake city.) The hitching post at right stands in front of a house on City Park Avenue. There are several of them and in between them are limestone blocks which look as though they were placed there to help (possibly inebriated) gentlemen to mount their horses, said horses having hitherto been hitched at the hitching post.

After dinner, we returned to the Red Roof, showered, changed into PJs, hung out and read for awhile, then went to bed.

It shouldn’t reflect on the motel, but it does, that there were stomping elephants overhead and a herd of water buffalo parading outside our door and bitching at each other in teenage voices. It made getting to sleep difficult, so I sat up late and made notes about the next day’s itinerary from our road atlas.

I’m beat and need to go to bed, so I will continue this tomorrow. It will include lots of neat pictures.

Staring at the Walls

Mural at Katharina’s Cafe-Konditorei, 8th & Washington, Newport, in progress at post time. (Click to embiggen.)

WE SET OUT WITH A specific collection of goals — places we wanted to photograph on this trip: the new Edie Harper on the American Building, the new image of Rosemary Clooney (?) at Liberty & Pleasant Street, Central Fairmount School, and so-on.

As usual, our tendency to follow our noses once we got started sidetracked us almost immediately. Leaving the Bob Evans in Newport Shopping Center, where we had breakfast, Toni wanted to stop at a McDonald’s to get a cup of Diet Coke to sip on over the afternoon. I knew that there was a McDonald’s a block or two further out Monmouth street, so we headed there. Sitting in the drive-by lane, I was struck by the shape of a tree looming over the houses opposite.

It stands curbside between two houses on Linden Road which runs between Newport and Southgate, a gorgeous little neighborhood of funky craftsman houses mixed with early Victorian brick.

Rolling north on Monmouth, Toni spotted something and requested a detour. I don’t recall the exact sight that drew us aside, but we soon ended up circling (four or five times) the same blocks between Saratoga, Washington, Sixth and Ninth, with an occasional jog over to Monmouth. Along the way, the mural seen in my rearview mirror (above) caught my eye and we ended up circling blocks to get to within snapping distance of that.

Of course there are a lot of pix taken I’m not putting up here. I have plans for them, though. Toni has put up a bunch of what she took (including better shots of the mural above) on Facebook, so, if you’re her FB friend, you can check those out.

One of the cooler things that Cincinnati does is permit this group of artsy types, called Art Works, to paint murals on walls — buildings, retaining walls, you-name-it — to beautify the city. It’s been going on in one form or another since the ’70s, when the effort was called Urban Walls and there were a half-dozen of them all over downtown. Now there are hundreds, scattered over the whole city and in other cities as well. (There are a couple in Newport, for example.)

One of our famous families here, immigrants from a town upriver on the Kentucky side, are the Clooneys. Rosemary, Nick, and George. I’m pretty sure that this mural is meant to represent Rosemary, who was an icon in local TV and radio in the forties and fifties. It’s on the side of a building of railroad flats at the corner of Pleasant and Liberty Streets in the world-famous Over the Rhine.

Oh, and we did finally manage to get to one area I had as a goal for the day — Fairmount. The city is building out a project called the Lick Run Greenway between Queen City and Westwood avenues from State/Beekman out almost to Wyoming where it comes north down from Price Hill. I had noticed in Lyft trips through the area that there was rapid demolition being done and that, if the picturesque scenes were to be captured before they’re all gone, we’d have to get out there toot sweet. It’s not an area I suspect anybody is nostalgic about. For as long as I can remember, it’s been a low-rent dump, blighted, benighted, and all that, which is why the city is tearing it down and building a monument to the politicians spending our tax dollars on it. No doubt, it will be pretty.

There are a few gems being lost in the process. The old St. Francis Hospital, (featured a week or so ago on this blog), being one. Another is a bit of a surprise, nestled on a hillside alongside vertiginous White Street — Central Fairmount School. Which, as far as I know, is to be abandoned or torn down, unlike many of its contemporaries elsewhere in the city.

Reservoir Wall, Eden Park, 8-19-17

SOME FORTY-ODD years ago, the Park Board blew out the south wall of the reservoir in Eden Park and built a new reflecting pool atop it, providing the park’s users with a bilevel play field. In the time since, the upper level has been used mostly for quotidian recreation — frisbee throws, dog chases, et al and fairs and festivals, while the lower level is used a a baseball diamond, basketball court, and so-forth, while the top of the wall itself is used as a place for romantic walks and imaginary lovers’ leaps. (Never heard of the last, but it could be done.).

(Click to embiggen.)

I’ve always thought this to be a subject best treated in grayscale, thus the utterly desaturated tones.

Observatory with Clouds

A BRIEF DEPARTURE from my Cloud Observatory department, the Cincinnati Observatory — atop Mt. Lookout on Cincinnati’s East Side — with dramatic clouds. (Image composited in Photoshop.)

Extra Texture

THIS ONE CAUGHT MY EYE while I was on a ride with passenger. And, for the first time ever, I circled back around after I dropped her off and went to where I could get the shot.

The building is in the South Avondale neighborhood of Cincinnati, right by Walnut Hills and Corryville, at the corner of Union Street and Reading Road. I took the shot from my car while standing on Bowman Terrace, a block away. Minimal color processing in Photoshop.

(Click to embiggen.)

How We Spent Our Sunday

AS IS BECOMING A CUSTOM here of late, Toni and I set out in the short bus for an afternoon of picture shooting. Well. No. We didn’t set out to do that. We were going to go to breakfast and then check out this urban ruins location Toni had read about in one of our local free news sheets. It was to be a one-shot, not an entire afternoon. The site is a compound of abandoned Victorian (pre-Civil War) houses, called Alexander Circle in Tower Park, in the Northern Kentucky suburb of Fort Thomas.

On the way there, we passed an interesting-looking cemetery in the city of Southgate, next door to Fort Thomas.

“Could we go in there?” Toni asked.

I allowed as how I’d never seen it posted no trespassing, so we probably could. “Want to on the way back?” I asked.

“If we come back by here,” Toni said. And I mumbled something about how that could be arranged.

Alexander Circle proved all that was promised. It’s the kind of place that makes your mouth water and your fingers itch for the pen to sign the papers. Nothing we could afford, mind, but much one could want. The houses are all huge and, as the sign notes, basically the officers’ quarters for the Fort. They’ve been abandoned since — I imagine — the Fort was decommissioned and are in sad condition, barely on the cusp of condemnation, and deeply in need of some TLC. There’s a sign posted that it’s U.S. Government property and trespassing is verboten. (Which, I imagine, no matter the town’s manifest patriotism, must stick in the craws of the community-oriented folks of Fort Thomas). But we managed to circumnavigate the circle, even if we couldn’t get into the actual street itself.

Then, on the way back, I returned north on Alexandria Pike to Evergreen Cemetery, no doubt familiar to all those who know the general area. The cemetery stands on some 250 hilly acres in the city of Southgate, Kentucky, a hop, skip, and a roll from the I-471 exit to US 27. You glide through the wide, wrought iron, double gates and enter a gentler time.

A time in which Rust may not have slept, but from which it surely entered into eternal rest. We took dozens of pictures each, strolling around the grounds, stopping for interesting sights and views. I’m sure that you’ll be seeing many of them from each of us, here and on Facebook, in times to come.

An afterword: I have complained a good bit lately about the inadequacies of my cell phone’s camera (Samsung Galaxy 6s). While I cannot afford to buy a real camera at the moment, I will be making plans to obtain one in the near-ish future. Meantime, I’ve bitten the bullet and charged up my late, lamented Nokia Lumia, in order to use its absolutely brilliant camera. We will see in the next whenever how much better I can do using it per preference. Watch this space.

Pro tip: Word Press will throw an error if you try to upload a media file while it is still open for editing in Photoshop. Word up.

Oot and Aboot

THE IDA STREET Bridge planters. Ida Street is one of the main streets of the Cincinnati neighborhood, Mt. Adams — a 600-700-foot-tall hill looming over the downtown area and the river. It’s a trendy, yuppified bohemian enclave (my mother once likened it to Greenwich Village), with inflated property values and no parking on its narrow, twisting streets. The bridge is an Art Deco arch which forms an elegant backdrop for views of the west side of The Hill (as Mt. Adams is known to the locals) from down in the basin. These planters caught my eye when I was traveling through. Saturday, I was up there again and had a moment to stop on the bridge and snap a few shots.

Click to embiggen.

A Second Hearty Eff-You to Facebook on This Subject.

I POSTED A photograph to Facebook. Without even asking — and certainly without permission (which would be absolutely denied) — the Fartbook decided to crop it in a way I neither approve or welcome, and make it into a panable image. I reproduce the approved (and copyrighted) version here (caption below). I shall take the original post down once this one goes live.


Old St. Francis Hospital (Central Fairmount, Cincinnati), from the light at Quebec & Westwood. I’d like to get a shot clear of wires, but that means getting out of the car and standing on the sidewalk the other side of the stoplight on Westwood Ave — a fraught proposition for someone with my mobility problems. Still, the logitistics of it aren’t impossible, so…

Gorgeous Light

ON THURSDAY AFTERNOON Cell phone camera demonstrates its inadequacies. Not that I couldn’t have gotten what I saw using it, but that I couldn’t get it in a snapshot.

Taking time to set up a shot and work the meter to get the desired exposure is not something that’s easy to do when one is behind the wheel.

The Cincinnati Club at Fourth and Broadway. Layered in Photoshop and foreground and sky separated to allow for exposure adjustment.

The Cloud Observatory: Observation 005, 03-05-17

I’m Sure Most of You

WILL HAVE HEARD but just in case you haven’t. The Dear and priceless Connie du Toit has passed, leaving the world bereft of her scintillating presence. And her beloved Kim is now alone in life and reaches out via a renewal of his blogness at Splendid Isolation Go. Read. Register so you can comment. It will doubtless be a lively community and participation will only be possible via commentary.

Dolly and I will attempt to keep up, though I’m dead certain Kim will set a lively pace.

“I Still Cry In the Night” — How I Torpedoed My Career

AND THREW AWAY THE DREAM JOB OF A LIFETIME in two or three keystrokes. It was really that simple.

Lawyers and others who deal in confidences place these mouse-type disclaimers at the bottoms of their emails (one assumes by default) to the effect of “This is privileged communication. If you’re reading it and not the intended addressee, stop, and discard the email. Notify the sender.” And such-like. Over the years, I had thought maybe we at Otto should have such a disclaimer on our stuff, but never did anything about it. It probably wouldn’t have helped me in my terminal situation, but I might have had at worst one leg to stand on, instead of having them both cut out from under me.

In the middle of a work week last December, I was, among my other tasks and duties, engaged in an exchange of emails with a person who was very thoroughly playing the asshole. They were jerking my chain and generally revealing themselves to be someone with whom I would never have a comfortable relationship. There have been others like that down the years. You meet lots of them in life … But this person was an unique specimen of the breed.

Watching a documentary on Netflix over the weekend: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — Running Down a Dream, I found myself nodding in agreement with Benmont Tench (at least I think he was the one who said this), relating of a time he found himself disillusioned with the music business — how sleazy it is and how many slimey and corrupt, individuals — how many malignant narcissists — there are in it… and then allowing that he came to the realization that most business, indeed most of life, is like that and the music business is hardly unique in that way.

Well, moving along, I was begging to be relieved of the burden of dealing with this particular individual. But it’s matter of policy (one I myself can lay claim to, as a matter of fact) that we didn’t say, “No.” That there was always a way we would try to meet a prospective customer’s needs or demands, no matter how unreasonable they might seem. And, as it had been my prospecting efforts which had brought this person to light, I was kinda stuck with them. Nevertheless, I bitched. And there were sympathetic ears in the office for me to bitch to, as it was agreed that, good customer service aside, this person was pushing the outside of the envelope.

One morning, I found a message from them in my InBox. It was insulting in the extreme, full-on unearned condescension and a good deal of malign spew. I probably would have been justified in simply ignoring it. And, if I had, you probably would not be reading this sad tale. I forwarded it to one of those sympathetic ears with a note asserting that it was not our place as a business to tell a customer not to behave like that, but…

At least, I thought I did.

Turned out that, instead of hitting Alt-W to forward the message, I must have hit Alt-R to reply, because it seems my little mini rant, couched in terms virtually guaranteed to inflame your garden variety malignant narcissist, was actually sent to the person in question. I called a spade a spade, making no bones about it, albeit laying out said calling in a way that was not truly actionable. I didn’t say, “You, (sir or madam) are a douchebag,” I said, “It’s not our place to tell people not to behave like a douchebag.” Nevertheless, they threatened to sue if I weren’t fired. I’m at all not certain how libel can be shown to be the case in a private communication, but … whatever. My defense, pretty lame as it was was that I had not intended the message for the individual, but for my coworker, and, in my view, they had improperly intercepted a privileged communication. But I was quickly persuaded that wouldn’t fly. Although the matter clearly was not actionable, the mere bringing of a suit and the cost of defending it could prove ruinous, so, I had to — so to speak — lean in and take one for the team.

Of course, it would have been nice if my employers had said, “Scroom. You’ve been a loyal employee for 35 years and nobody dictates our personnel policy — NO BODY.” But it’s business and they didn’t. In fact, they couldn’t get me out the door fast enough.

None of which is the point of this plaint. After a tearful goodbye to my work wife, I cleared out my desk, changed what passwords I reasonably could, and handed over the rest, and rode the elevator down and out of the world that had been my life for 35 years, spanning five decades, three cities in two states, my marriage, and all the rest.

Last fall, a video crew from Kentucky Educational Television had been shooting in the loft and, in a conversational moment, I asserted to the producer/reporter that “Most of what’s on the walls here (framed passes and RIAA platinum disc awards) is mine.” In the course of my exit, my work wife repeated that back to me. I hadn’t even realized she’d heard me. How could 35 years of a life simply be thrown on the scrap heap like that? I still cry in the night.

Tonight I lay awake, thinking about it — running over the sound track of the aforementioned documentary in my mind — and wondered how many, of all the hundreds and thousands of people I’ve met and worked with over the years even know I’m gone? How many, when they find out, will even care? Will any of them miss me — miss the things I did for them? Over the years, I’ve tried to teach the front line folk that their job is first and foremost to be the customer’s advocate. Will that ethos survive in a bottom-line kind of atmosphere?

I think, in the intervening months, I’ve heard from two of my former clients: one the touring director for a top country act, the other the tour manager for a Mexican folk singer. Both I have known since the early eighties. I’m still active on LinkedIn and Facebook. You’d think SOMEbody would write or call to ask, “What happened to you?” But: crickets. I sometimes wonder if the person who got me fired (Do they know they ruined my life?) is glad of their kill and wears my figurative scalp on their belt with pride.

I guess it’s true, what Orwell said. In a time of universal deceit, truth-telling may be seen as a revolutionary (or criminal) act. Be careful who you tell the truth to. They may not like hearing it.

In My Early Teens, Despite Never Having Been…

OUT TO SEA, OR EVEN out on water in anything more substantial than a car ferry, I designed a sailboat. Which, to my delight, my nautically-inclined leatherneck uncle pronounced a fair-looking craft. He even thought it would float.

In world building my ficton for the Baby Troll Chronicles, I’ve included in my back story a character who is partly attached to the modern stories of the adventures of Gabrielle “Dolly” East, her karmic predecessor, Gabrielle Francesca East, called the most successful Childe of the East in the long history of Upothesa, who held that office from 1838 to 1863 and founded East College of the Americas, which is the main venue for most of the stories.

During her tenure, GFE1, as I call her for short, served for a time as the chief factor of the commercial enterprises of the Greek God Hephaestus — Olympia Trading, Ltd. As such, she was required to travel the world at some length (indeed, spending all of her 20s at sea, participating in such various historical events as the founding of Hong Kong and the Crimean War). Her vehicle for these travels is an iconic sailing vessel, which I have early on typed as a sloop and christened Bella Donna (Italian, meaning Beautiful Lady). The choice of sloop seemed appropriate at first, as it could be crewed by a small complement, but would be seaworthy for long voyages, given opportunities and resources for resupply.

Here recently, I’ve been exercising my love of sailing ships and conning them across the open water by gathering images of tall ships on a Pinterest board I’ve called Tall Ships, Blue Water. Along with that, I’ve been reading about sailing vessels — renewing my acquaintance with the types. And I’ve come to think that the sloop is not so much the appropriate type for Bella Donna, the first Gabrielle Francesca’s yacht and have settled, perhaps, on a schooner, such as The Lady Washington (left below) or The Pride of Baltimore (right), although a three-masted, ketch-rigged, fore-and-aft, topsail schooner would fit the bill completely, which takes us into the realm more of a brig or a brigantine.

As I take up my pencil and pens to re-up my drafting chops, I find myself eager to try drawing a sailing vessel of some type, albeit not one so complex and sophisticated as those above. Wish me success, please.

For some reason, the embed code for the pins of the ship images above is problematic. If you can’t see the thumbnails and want to see the full images, click on the box(es) to be taken to the Pinterest board in question. There’s a wealth of reading on the subject at Wikipedia, and, being as the subject is not one where opinions are as heated as, say, whether or not Hillary Clinton is a double-damned dirty traitor or Donald Trump is a money-grubbing parvenu, most of the articles may be trusted as relatively accurate.

That Would Make Today — Again This Month…


Possible Approaches

TO STORY by Georges Polti.

I Remember Back in the Early ’70s

JOHN W. CAMPBELL, shortly before he died, saying something to the effect of, “All those space-ships and time-travel and telepathy, and not one of us anticipated the digital computer.”

And it’s true. Even as late as 1964-65, when Heinlein was inventing that Dinkum Thinkum, Mike, one gets the impression that computers a hundred years down the road would still be made of massive steel frames holding racks and rows of racks of vacuum tubes manipulating limited computing resources in an arcane art and science managed by engineer-priests.

And, even so, the state of the art just then was the DEC PDP11, if memory serves. The VAX, 8088, and the microcomputer were still in the future.

My point being not to disparage the greats of the Golden Age of science fiction, but to point out (for the billionth time) the futility of trying to predict surprises in so chaotic a space as the enterprises of men.

You wanted a flying car? How about a flying truck?

Play with that notion for a moment. How far down the — pun intended — road do you suppose this development will come? Get ready to defend your flyover rights.

Quote of My Morning

A dreamer is someone who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

— Oscar Wilde, 1888

Found courtesy of Courtney Galloway on Facebook.

Quote of the Day: July 25, 2013


There’s a saying from firearms instructor Clint Smith, “If you look like food, you’re going to get eaten.” I used to explain to my classes that criminals were as good at their chosen career as the students were at theirs. Criminals are experts at picking out victims, and they prefer the suckers who aren’t paying attention. If you look like work, they’re probably going to pick somebody else to victimize. If you’re paying attention you’ve gone from “food” to “work” and if they wanted to work for a living they’d get a real job.

Want to preserve that. Plan to use it in fiction some day.

Sea Turtle Eggs

Lepidochelys_olivaceaWATCHING A NATURE SHOW this evening, in which the practice sea turtles have of laying eggs on beaches to hatch at the full moon, it occurs to me…

A group of sea turtles will lay thousands of eggs. Five percent make it to the water. The other ninety-five percent get killed and eaten by predators and scavengers. It’s a part of nature. By this, the predators and scavengers get fed — at least one meal. It’s not what the system is designed for, and the turtles as a species would probably be better off if more babies survived. The system is designed to reproduce the turtle. The rest is mere by-product. The very definition of collateral damage.

Photo: Bernard Gagnon, 2006. Wikimedia Commons

A business might employ thousands of people. As has been demonstrated here recently in the Twinkie situation, frequently, a business can survive and deliver its product employing substantially fewer people. Which is a desirable state of affairs. The business does not exist to employ people. That is, rather, a collateral benefit. But the business will not survive if its employment costs are beyond what its sales can support.

And, of course, the same is true of governmental entities.

These are fundamental economic lessons. Lessons which the so-called ruling elites of the world seem to have either forgotten or never learned in the first place.

As Glenn Reynolds puts it: the country’s in the very best of hands.


SYFY CHANNEL is running a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon Sunday and … ? Monday?

One of the episodes played was “Becoming” Part II, the finale of Season Two. Heartwrenching. The last few minutes feature a Sarah McLachlan song, Full of Grace, which never fails to jerk a tear.

And this is a writing post, because I find myself wondering if you could take the beats from the two parts of “Becoming” and make a novel from them, or if they depend too much for the exposition and story arc of the rest of the series to that point.

What do you think, writers?

This is a fan-edited take on, not just that episode, but a collection of heartbreaking beats from the entire series. You know there’s a reason Joss Whedon is so popluar.

A Charming Turn of Phrase


…[C]hallenging writers to simply cunt up and write.

Not ordinarily a choice of words I’d ratify — or even make for myself. But somehow, in the context, it has an odd, rough charm to it. As a male writer who writes a lot of female characters (dunno why, that’s just how they appear to me), I appreciate it lots when a real grrl steps off the pedestal. It helps me make my own ladies more breathable. Or however you’d put that.

And, yes, I recognize the male antecedent of Lily’s phrase. No need to state the obvious in comments.

To My Mind, This Guy’s Actions Are Very Much

AKIN TO POISONING A WELL. As such, hangin’s too good for him.

The Part I Don’t Like About

THIS NEW CATEGORY regime at Amazon is that you can’t roll your own. And they don’t have a Human Wave category.

Should we start a mail-writing campaign?

Drive an Atheist Crazy


TELL HIM THAT religion and not agriculture may have been the impetus for the beginning of civilization. Archaeologists excavating at Göbekli Tepe think that may be the case.

Since I”m writing a series of novels steeped in all the myths of mankind, this is of great interest to me.

I’m also re-reading The Norse Myths (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library), a modern update based at least in part on Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda. The author/translator deprecates a certain medieval translation because its compiler advances the notion that the Norse gods were really men. Since this is quite close to my working hypothesis, I’m telling myself I need to get my hands on that translation.

AFAIK, it’s in Latin. Shucks.

Commonplace of the Day

I’M NEANDERTHAL, YOU’RE Neanderthal, and Og, the Neanderpundit, is doubly blessed.

Why they think so.

Just a Snatch-and-Grab

FOR THE COMMONPLACE BOOK this page linked from Borepatch (I told you he finds the neatest stuff!), on Ice Age Civilizations. As BP put it, the earliest cities built by humanity are probably under water. And not in the sense of their mortgages being more than the property is worth.

As one of the “races” of my ficton comprises the Gods of Olympus — putatively 10,000-40,000 years old — and the Aegean was considerably smaller than now, one might assume that the earliest settlements of the Doric peoples were in that region, rather than, as I have assumed, in the Peloponnesian highlands.
It’s still fascinating to include the Atreides in the East families lineage, but I’ll have to hint that earlier ancestors came from other locations.

A Braw Lassie

My character, Jeep (Gillian Mary Katherine Elizabeth Paul — GP or Jeep), is a lot like in the the projected personality. Sure, Jeep is from Glasgow and Katie here is from Edinburgh (correction: St. Andrews), she’s a musician while Jeep is a limner — a visual artist. But the two are more alike than different, I ween.

I love this performance for its spunk and spirit.

The Problem of Earning a Living at Art

IS PRODUCTION. The artist whose work is displayed in what can only be fairly called thumbnail graphics at the link (and whose own blog is here) has such a painstaking and physically demanding process that one of her paintings would have to sell for ten or fifteen thousand dollars in order for her to manage a decent standard of living.

And they might well. They’re certainly good enough, but there’s a certain set of imponderables in the valuation of an artist’s work, not the least of which is the price he himself puts on it. And that has to do with often foggy perceptions of what the traffic will bear. I myself have only ever done one single work which commanded five figures, and that was a commissioned work-for-hire, for which I have never and will never see a dime. (And it will probably never be used for the purpose for which it was
intended.) I have done any number which commanded four figures and quite a few annually of what might be called design sets — not standalone single images, but groups of images on a theme.

It takes a lot of hard work. I could do more, but the demand is limited. I wonder what the market is for Ms Adams’ work. Since I really like it, I hope for her it’s rich and she gets to enjoy the fruits of her labors.

Back in the Early Days of the Blogosphere

THERE WAS A BLOG WHICH purported to be by and about a poor little rich girl on the run from her rich and powerful — and cruel and overbearing — father. It was a fascinating read. I was never really sure whether it was truth or fiction, and not really certain it matters either way. The headspace the entries put you in was exciting, mysterious, eldritch in a non-fantastic way, and a wonderful (in a sense-of-wonder sense) head twist.

Another story — more palpably fictitious, but no less wonder-ful for all of that — that had a similar effect was that of Methuselah’s Daughter, which is still ongoing, albeit at not quite the same frenetic pace.

And, of similar delight, though I never could get into flash fiction, is the epistolary novella in tweets by Steven Soderberg. Just the idea of offering strobe-lit 140-character glimpses into a world and telling a story through them excites a frisson in the mental pathways.

I wonder what story of Dolly’s I could tell in that fashion.


I REALIZED FRIDAY THAT Dolly comes out of a desire to write a character like the girl described in Al Stewart’s “The Year of the Cat”.

NOW you tell me! All I need is that silk dress? Sheesh!

How Much of What Science Might Know

RESTS UNEXAMINED IN university or museum store rooms?

Did You Know There Was

A LIST OF eponymous laws? There is.

Speaking of Commonplace Book Themes

OK, ACCORDING TO THE formal definition of “commonplace,” this doesn’t fit because it’s not on a specific topic. But, since I decide the topic, it fits. This is a collection of Yogi Berra quotes. I doubt it’s dispositive, but it seems fairly comprehensive. I love these because they strike me as being at least half-playful, as in wordplay being the sign of a high intelligence at play. Or… you know. Reminds me of a similar trait in Dolly.

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

–Yogi Berra

A Commonplace Book

BEFORE I BEGIN a post about distractions, I have this: if other people’s minds work remotely like mine, it is freakin’ amazing that anybody has a long enough attention span to get ANYthing done. My morning commute to the Patch Factory is about 19 minutes, if traffic is good. (It usually is.
I’m going the other way compared to the majority.) Tuesday morning, I wrote three new chapters for Report from New Xenaland (New working title:
The High T Affair.), had about fifteen great ideas for various projects at work, and had a closely-reasoned argument (about 15,000 words) with myself on the topic of abortion which, if I could ever capture it, would make a great series of blog posts. But, of course, were I to try, I’d get about fifty words into it and… SQUIRREL!.

But you degrease.

But I degrease.

I have long had the intent of using this blog as a sort of commonplace book, dragging home all the neat stuff I find and posting it — or posting about it — here for the delectation of all. Sort of my version of Good Shit. For example, as Erin noted on Facebook the other day, (well, tangentially, anyway), we could really have a Nice Tits department. They say that looking at boobs is good for your blood pressure or something. It would be a kind of a public service. A win-win. (Get it? “Win-win.” Two… Oh, never mind.) But it would mean I’d have to spend maybe as many as hours a day combing through porn and cheesecake sites for acceptable shots.

May the Lord smite you with it!

Dolly? Stifle.

But that’s actually beside the point. ‘Cause most of the time, the really neat stuff I find is research for whatever I’m writing and I’m in the heat of the auctorial moment and need to get back to writing and don’t have time to write a blog post right then and by the time I get back around to it I’ve forgotten about it so I never really get back to it and I forget all about it so it never gets posted and…

Gotta run.

Tonight in History


YEAH, YEAH, YEAH. I had chapter and verse how historically inaccurate this is in school. Shut up. It’s still an American legend. And people who hate America and the sources of American patriotism will never be satisfied until all the heroes of America are torn down, their feet of clay shattered on broken pedestals like Ozymandias in the desert sand. Those people are sick and you shouldn’t let them define the limits of your life. Might as well say The Lord of the Rings is historically and scientifically inaccurate and not even good Christian theology — and for about the same reasons.

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, – “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light, –
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said good-night, and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somersett, British man-of-war:
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon, like a prison-bar,
And a huge, black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack-door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed to the tower of the church,
Up the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade, –
Up the light ladder, slender and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still,
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay, –
A line of black, that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride,
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now gazed on the landscape far and near,
Then impetuous stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely, and spectral, and sombre, and still.

And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height,
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village-street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed that flies fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

It was twelve by the village-clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river-fog,
That rises when the sun goes down.
It was one by the village-clock,

When he rode into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon

It was two by the village-clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning-breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British regulars fired and fled, –
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard-wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, –
A cry of defiance, and not of fear, –
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Long-winded bastard. You should read his Hiawatha.

As I noted yesterday, I was baptized in the Old North Church, so this has always had a special resonance for me.

Partial Core Dump

THIS IS ME doing my robber-bird number. Saw something bright and pretty and snatched it up and brought it home. Doesn’t matter I can’t use it right now. (Who has time.) I can see it feeding my ‘satiable curtsiosity in the future.

The roll below is stolen from a WordPress plugin done up by a project called Ancient World Linked Data.

Since I don’t blog nearly as much as I might like to about the Classical World, I suspect I wouldn’t get much use out of the plugin. However, the list of sites… Well. Talk about your wikiwanders.

Ancient World Linked Data for WordPress

Arachne (
Encyclopedia of Life (
Internet Archive (
Library of Congress (
Munzkabinett Berlin (
Nomisma (
Numismatics (
Open Context (
Papyri (
Pelagios (
Perseus (
Pleiades (
Portable Antiquities Scheme (
Sudoc (
Trismegistos (
Wikipedia (
Wikipedia FR (
Worldcat (
Yale Art Gallery (

So I just wanted to park this until I get a moment to put it someplace I can refer to it and explore it and amuse myself with it. Perhaps some of you might find it interesting, amusing, enlightening as well. If so, enjoy.

As I massaged the links and formatting, I found myself reminded that schola means “leisure” in Greek — because you can’t be a scholar if you have to grub in the dirt for your daily bread and that stoa was a porch, and the Stoics was just a bunch of dogs up on the porch who understood what it took to join the big dogs on the porch.

Or something like that.