Here's a worthwhile piece from Newsweek about the necessity of including facts, not lies, in political discussion and debate. More than that, it's a piece that uses the work of the great Ray Bradbury as a framing device. And it's by Jonathan Alter, who (like me) is a biographer of Barack Obama. Take a few minutes and give it a read.
A couple of years ago I had my hair cut by a woman who
also raised alpacas (which she called “apalacas”).She lived on five or ten acres outside Sierra Vista
someplace, and when we talked about the upkeep on that kind of land, she said
she didn’t own a lawnmower or a hand-held line trimmer, just a “rolling
weed-whacker from Sears.”Curious,
I went to Sears and found it, and later on bought my own.And she’s right.Well, almost.I still have a lawnmower, and I need a new hand-held
for hard-to-reach spots.But for
most uses, what is really called a Craftsman 22” High Wheel trimmer is
ideal.It has a 6.75 hp Briggs and
Stratton engine that starts first time, every time, even when it has sat in the
barn for 8 months.It spins the
lines with enough torque to cut down anything short of a cottonwood tree.Today I cut swaths through amaranth
that was 3, 4, and 5 feet tall, almost as easy as walking through it.The real danger with this thing is if
you want to rake up what you cut down, you need to quit cutting early because
you’ll be raking for hours.
It is the single best piece of landscaping equipment I
have ever owned.I still call it,
out of respect to the woman who clued me in, my “rolling weed-whacker.”And I still usually call alpacas “apalacas.”Some things are just too funny to give
up. But I’m indebted to her for
Garrison #5 (of six) goes on sale tomorrow. In many ways, this is my favorite issue of the series. Here's a preview of it on artist Francesco Francavilla's blog, and here's another take on some of the same pages. Take a look, and be sure to visit your local comic book store!
Every year, a pair of barn swallows nests in our carport.The same pair? The offspring of the
previous year’s?No way to
tell.They come in early summer,
build an impressive mud nest someplace they shouldn’t (they’re fond of building
on top of lights), and raise up some young.They usually lose some along the way, but they persist, and
by the end of summer the little ones are grown and flying.
At the end of summer, other swallows come and hang out,
usually for a few days, and then they all go away together.It’s much like this valley was in the
old days, with cattle.They were
branded and they ran free in the valley, until round-up time, when the cowboys
from the various outfits would ride through, gathering up their beeves and any
young they’d borne, and herd them up to Willcox, where the rail head was.Only in this case it’s barn swallows
stopping by to gather up other barn swallows.
Today Maryelizabeth came home from a jaunt downtown, took
me outside, and showed me the birds on the power lines.Barn swallows.There were about sixty on the lines
here, and probably that many again on the line that runs down the trail.This is far more than we’ve ever seen—usually
it’s twenty, twenty-five at the extreme outside.Never more than a hundred.
I couldn’t resist taking some pictures, although you won’t
be able to see much detail in the individual birds.They were nicely set off by the rumbling storm clouds,
They’re an impressive sight, but bittersweet, as it means
out guest swallows will be on their way soon.Until next year....
Another word for wildflower is weed, and a synonym for
weed is pollen factory.
We had a wet spring, resulting in significant growth,
which resulted in a very difficult allergy season for me.Over the past couple of months, once
the mesquites stopped blooming, really, that problem abated.But we’ve had a very wet summer, and
growth is out of control, and there’s a whole new allergy season under way.
I’ve been away a lot—at work, whereas in years gone by I
was usually here, and could therefore use the occasional weekday morning to try
to control the plant population, at least up close to the house—and at
Comic-Con, in New Mexico, and so on. Yesterday we tried to cut back some of the
plant life—the six-foot tall grasses, the massive weeds, and so on.But while I love my Craftsman rolling
weedtrimmer beyond all reason, it turned out I had only enough gasoline to fill
the tank once.We did what we
could, and made progress, but there remains much to be done.
And the time out in it yesterday, chopping and raking, surrounded by green,
kicked my allergies into a higher gear.Although I went into town yesterday afternoon and bought gas, I can’t go
out and do it again today and still expect to function tomorrow.One day per weekend looks like the
limit, at least while whichever pollen is getting to me now is so prevalent
(and lest you think I’m exaggerating, a sneezing fit interrupted me while I
typed that sentence).
Wildflowers?We’ve got those.The fields
are covered with yellow and purple and orange and white, the individual dots,
like in the old-fashioned comics, running together to create brilliant swaths
of color. There are poppies and globemallow and sunflowers and desert marigolds
and dozens of others.It’s
But this year it’s most beautiful, sadly, from a distance.
The great Ray Bradbury turns 90 years old today. He's a legend in his own time, and inspiration to millions, a dreamer and an achiever, and to this day he has the grand enthusiasm and sense of wonder of a 12-year-old. So happy birthday, Ray!
Ray, incidentally, shares the date with another magnificent wordsmith, the late Dorothy Parker (born in 1893).
18% of Americans, in a new poll, think that Barack Obama is
a Muslim.Are these, one wonders,
the same Americans who were furiously demanding that he renounce the words of
his one-time (Christian) pastor, Jeremiah Wright?Can you remember back two years, people?Remember the complaints that Obama had
been sitting in those pews, year after year, listening to Wright’s radical
Dr. Laura went berserk using the “N-word” on the air, as
closet racists occasionally do.Her sponsors dropped away like flies, and now she’s going on the talk
shows claiming that her “First Amendment” rights have been usurped.
That kind of statement shows how much “Dr.” Laura (whose Ph.
D is in physiology—she is not a psychologist or psychiatrist or an M.D.)
doesn’t know about the First Amendment.It prevents Congress from enacting any laws abridging freedom of
speech.It doesn’t say anything
about corporations refusing to financially support a bigot.She has promised to end her radio
show.With luck she’ll use the
time to go back to high school and learn basic civics.
When Maryelizabeth is away, the mornings are busier than
usual, since she isn’t here to help get breakfasts and lunches ready.This morning I was walking back from
taking the dogs to the corral, feeling stressed and crunched for time, but I
looked up and saw something large winging its way toward me at a stately
pace.I stood watching and the
great blue heron crossed right above the house, carving the air with implacable
grace.Great blue herons aren’t
unknown in these parts, but they’re not common.I’ve seen precisely three here, in six years, and I remember
each occasion vividly.This
morning’s encounter will join that memory scrapbook.It wasn’t until the bird was well past that I remembered my
hurry; I had been standing still, watching majesty on the wing.And a busy morning was, from that
moment on, vastly improved.
We went into Iraq on the basis of willful lies by people who knew better--not misinformation, not bad intelligence, but people who told stories that took us in a specific direction for specific purposes (that still have not been made entirely clear). By taking down Saddam Hussein's Iraq--the most powerful secular government in the Persian Gulf--we did al Qaeda a favor, achieving for them an end they couldn't achieve by themselves. We also strengthened Iran, and distracted ourselves from the real conflict in Afghanistan, with the result that that struggle is in worse shape than it should be, and al Qaeda and Taliban elements, including bin Laden himself, had a chance to escape and regroup.
However, none of that means that the American Soldiers fighting in Iraq--99.999% of them--did anything but a noble, difficult duty, and did it well. The Soldiers went after the bad guys and worked to protect the innocent, to rebuild a nation suffering under the boot of a tyrant and then with all its infrastructure demolished by war.
The last combat troops rode out of Iraq tonight. 50,000 remain there on a non-combat training and support mission, and they will be in danger, and we can only wish them the best. To them, and all those who will be stationed in Kuwait or redeployed to Afghanistan or, best of all, coming home--and to those who are already home, safe and sound, injured, or in flag-draped caskets--all we can do is offer our gratitude and appreciation for your work and your sacrifices.
We should only go to war as a last resort, and we should never again allow our troops to be committed on the basis of lies. But we should always be thankful that we have American Soldiers who can carry whatever weight is asked of them. We have asked far too much and offered far too little in return. I say let's pay teachers and Soldiers, police and firefighters some real money and let bankers, stockbrokers and hedge fund managers get by on less.