The Popcorn Guy

Many years ago, my wife worked at a law firm that employed a man I’ll call the Popcorn Guy as an office gofer. He was slovenly and grossly overweight, but laughed a lot, and so seemed to get along, more or less, with the staff. They even gave him so sort of employee award at some company dinner or other. Management had nice things to say about the Popcorn Guy’s cheerfulness as they awarded him.

Being nearly as low on the totem pole as the Popcorn Guy, my wife had a different perspective. To her eyes, the Popcorn Guy was always angry about something, had a very difficult time taking even basic instruction, and was all and all not a pleasant person. Once, they got some sort of office popcorn maker to which one added oil as well as popcorn (hot air evidently not having been invented yet). The Popcorn Guy asks – doesn’t look at the instructions, just asks – how much oil to put in. Several people say some tiny amount, along the lines of a tablespoon or two. Popcorn Guy proceeds to put in several times that amount of oil, pops a bowl and eats the greasy results with no fear anyone else will want any.

Management wanted him to be some sort of jolly fat guy, a colorful and lovable character, and so they pretended he was and failed to see he wasn’t.  A little while later, he was let go. Don’t know what precipitated his firing, but it seems management’s view of the Popcorn Guy caught up with the understanding of those who actually worked elbow to elbow with him.

No profound insights or anything here, just an observation: not only are we sorely tempted to see what we want to see, we tend to understand people’s behaviors against whatever slot we’ve put them in. We’re able to reinterpret away behavior that would otherwise contradict our pre-judgement. At least, until we can’t.

My own interpersonal skills and impulse control, while within ‘normal’ ranges for a 20th century man, are not particularly good, probably below the mean (pretending here that we could measure such things numerically in some non-farcical way. But you get the drift.). I seem to function OK. But I sometimes wonder if my role isn’t something like the child who points out the Emperor is naked, not because I have any superior insight, but just because a lot of the posturing goes right over my head. Or I’m just kidding myself – it would be hard for me to tell, wouldn’t it?

Saw that our president was catching flak over having misspelled “Philippines” in a tweet, complete with grave ponderings over what it means that such a careless person holds the reigns of power. As a somewhat spelling-challenged person, I’ll point out that Philippines is not only a tricky word to spell, but it’s one of those evil words that doesn’t look wrong when you misspell it. Anyway, I have a difficult time extrapolating from misspelled tweets to Apocalyptic Danger.  Spelling errors in informal communications don’t shake the foundations of my world, even when the president makes them.

This brings to mind Dubya’s constant mispronunciation of “nuclear”. For people who assumed, contrary to all evidence, that Bush the Younger was singularly stupid for a politician, this common mispronunciation was maddening proof – a moron stole the election from Gore the Brilliant!! Woe and Ruin!! I, not really caring much beyond being happy that with Bush as president, at least the arrogant hypocrite tool wasn’t (I take comfort where I can), saw an Old Money Blue Blood Yankee with elite Ivy education playing a calculated card: my supporters, for most part, either mispronounce “nuclear” themselves or have loved ones who do so. Therefore, it will make me seem more like them (along with the fake-ish Southern accent and cowboy boots). That it will only infuriate those who would never support me anyway is also a plus – makes my opponents look like petty weasels to my base. Win-win!

As far as intelligence – an admittedly hard to define idea – goes, seemed to me that, of the presidents during my adult life, Reagan and Dubya were similarly intelligent – pretty darn smart, Bush the Elder was a little smarter, Clinton was very, very smart – and Carter and Obama were clearly less smart. I say this based on their actual achievements and having heard them speak *off the cuff*.  Let’s take them one by one:

Carter seemed completely overwhelmed as president from day one, like all it would take is a well-timed ‘boo!’ or a stiff breeze to cause him to collapse in a heap. What came out of his mouth off-script was often sheer nonsense. We – I include my 18-yr old self, who voted for him – tended to overlook that because he seemed like a good man with his heart in the right place. But objectively? A muddle-headed do-gooder (a dangerous type to have in power!) who was way over his head as president. His post-president role with Habitat for Humanity seems much more suited to his skill level.

Reagan got his big breaks by being tall, good looking and having a super-sized dollop of ah-shucks boyish charm. The intelligence kicks in when he played that hand to stardom, presidency of the Screen Actor’s Guild, governor of California and then the Presidency. Because, frankly, that’s just not that good of a hand. Thousands of people who never made it in Hollywood had that hand, and more. Reagan was also able to express himself very well on or off script. He seemed to have a deep understanding of where he stood on things, and was able to get it across. That’s no mean skill.

People loved or hated Reagan because he consistently said the big ‘No’: No, this whole Progressive thing isn’t on the Right Side of History, but on the murdering, impoverishing, enslaving side – as history itself shows. And they knew, in their hearts, it was true. Can’t get any more heroic/hateful than that!  And then he went and succeeded, pretty much. And the Soviet Union fell.

So Reagan has his own wing on Mt. Olympus or bolgia in Hell – take your pick.

Bush the Elder is by all accounts a very smart man, and an honest to goodness war hero for which he will always have my respect. His big break was being born into the Bush family. At least early on, there seems to have been a strong kicked-out-of-the-nest go-do-something-with-your-life ethic in the Bush tribe, with of course the advantage of old money being able to kick down doors. Again, as in the case of Reagan, that’s a good start, but not enough, at least at the Bush family’s level of wealth. That’ll get you opportunities and maybe promotions, but won’t make you a lot richer or get you elected to Congress. Bush played the hand he was dealt quite well.

Unlike Reagan (or even, to some extent, his own son), H.W. doesn’t give the impression of a clear-headed True Believer. One always suspects he’s not saying what he really thinks. I think that’s part of the reason he seems to babble off-text. All in all, I have the least clear impression of Bush the Elder than of any other presidents on this list, except that he’s not stupid by any stretch.

Clinton is the clear intelligence winner on this list, it seems to me. Very smart man. I will here mention what should be obvious: intelligence doesn’t equal goodness, or in fact have all that much to do with it. I don’t like smart presidents any more than less smart ones for that fact alone. It’s just one item in a mix.

Clinton got few breaks aside from being very, very smart, and charming as all get out, which gifts he played to the hilt. He gets the Don King ‘dug myself out of the damn ground just to reach the starting line’ award here. Both his academic achievements and the way he managed his political career speak of one very sharp dude. Greedy, unscrupulous, dishonest, manipulative, self-destructive – sure. But way smart.

Dubya seems like a pretty typical Ivy dude trying hard to pass as a normal human being. As the ‘nuclear’ story illustrates, I think there’s a calculated side to him that his critics seems to always miss. You have to be pretty smart to carry that off convincingly enough to get elected president, which he did twice. Plus the stories about him assigning nicknames to everyone shows a man with a clear grasp of how one reinforces Alpha-male status. You are what he says you are, no matter how playfully it may seem. Frat bro trick.

As hinted at above, I think Dubya really truly believes – something. If he were clear-headed enough to allow the thought to crystalize, probably something along the lines that he and his kind really, really need to be in charge – for our own good. Nothing scares people accustomed to generational leadership and control more than the idea that we don’t actually need generational leadership and control. But I’m not sure how Bush understands this, just that he seems motivated by convictions of some sort.

Aside: politics comes from culture which comes from family, so nothing could be more natural than for an old family to suppose that they must be in control, since 1) they and their peers are families; and 2) they are cultured and carriers and transmitters of culture. But a good, solid culture coming from good solid families doesn’t need for some elite to be in control of politics generation after generation. Politics exists as an expression of the need to protect and promote family and the community life that results from family. Once personal rights got severed from family and community rights and duties, we were doomed. How we reestablish those connections, if they can be reestablished, is the big question. Onward:

If it weren’t for Trump, Obama would be the president with the widest chasm between what people think of him – project on him, really – and what he really seems to be. My take is tainted, perhaps, by having spent far too much time in and around colleges and schools. What I see, and saw the first time I watched O in action, was every star pupil, every teacher’s pet, I’d ever known rolled up into one.

What I see is the Warren G. Harding of this generation, except without Harding’s humble self-awareness. Harding, it seems, was aware on some level that he had no business being president, that his wife and friends and cronies had put him up to it because, frankly, he looked and sounded like a president:

Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865 - 1923) - Genealogy
He had a lovely and convincing speaking voice as well. Critics often pointed out that he said empty nonsense very beautifully.

Obama strikes me as what happens when a kid has been patted on the head his whole life and told what a smart boy he is. He comes to believe it. Coupled with his good looks, photogenic family and decent (wildly overrated, IMO) oratory skills, all he lacked was Harding’s big break –  somebody else to decide he’d make a good president. Good for that somebody else, at least.

O is no better than Dubya at speaking off script. It is very telling how Dubya’s mistakes off the cuff were reported as harbingers of the End Times, while O’s equally goofy mistakes were nothing to be alarmed at. If we were honest, we’d know it’s very, very difficult when speaking off the cuff to keep it clean and clear. Most of the time, such stumbles should carry little if any weight. It’s a rare gift to not stumble around when put on the spot like that. (Netanyahu seems to have it, or just rehearses very, very thoroughly. Small sample size.)

The praises heaped upon Obama’s oratory and brilliance have seemed wildly hyperbolic from the start. This is a brilliant man and orator for the ages? Truly, projection in the service of wish fulfillment has no bounds.

Nope, nothing in O’s history or performance suggests anything above a high-normal intelligence – right about where I’d place Dubya. He’s a smart man, but nothing special, EXCEPT he grew up in an academic world, with an academic for a mom and grandparents, and academic aspirations and expectations.

Just as Dubya’s family expected him to get through school – Ivy, of course – and then get out and get on with making something of himself, O’s family expected him to do well in school – Ivy, of course – and then aspire to something approved of by academics. So he became a professor, then, after the degenerate hopes and dreams of modern academia, a community organizer.

As mentioned above, I’ve spent a lot of time around academics, both as a student and socially (I even stepped in to co-teach a college class once. I should tell that story sometime.) Since I got out of highschool, I’ve routinely signed up for classes wherever I could – my transcripts look insane! I’ve gotten credits from at least 7 institutions (off the top of my head). Hung around with a Stanford crowd for a couple years – choir – including a number of elite professors. And:

Academics – and there are of course exceptions – are among the most hypersensitive egomaniacs I’ve ever run across. This is in inverse proportion to the ‘hardness’ of their specialties: Math professors are comfortable in their skins, accounting profs can be. They know that their positions depend on objectively verifiable and valuable expertise. Business ethicists? (Yes, I had to take that class.) My sample brooked NO challenges, while of course presenting as laid back, open-minded and above all FAIR. Comp Lit? Right. These types know that, really, there are a lot of people who could do the part of their job of any value, and that they got that job only due to luck or the fact that they gave the hiring committee the most boxes to check off.

And don’t even go there with various ‘studies’ professors. Yikes. They know deep inside that not only did they get their job to fill some quota, nothing they know or teach has any intrinsic value to anybody. That’s why they’re so loud – can’t give the small quiet voice any chance to be heard.

So: when I meet academics – and, let’s be clear, I tend to like academics, they’re often very interesting if you get them talking – I start wondering. I don’t immediately go to: this is a member of the intellectual elite, to whom I owe some obsequious bows. I think: here’s a guy who might know something interesting about some narrow field or other, and, to paraphrase Chesterton, was smart enough to get the degree and dull enough to want it.

So, back to O. I’m not impressed that he was a professor of constitutional law. Of all the areas of law, that’s the one closest to philosophy and farthest from real life. Thus, susceptible to conquest by posers. Show me something. Second, give me a guy who has run a corner store in a iffy neighborhood over a community organizer, if I want someone who understand the downtrodden. So, not impressed. O would not dominate the faculty lounge, nor could time in the ‘hood be expected to teach him anything – he expects to teach them.

But what O did do, like Harding, is attract the attention of ambitious people. The people who run Chicago. People who know how to get things done. People who know *ahem* how to get people elected. Unlike Harding, O seems to believe his own PR.

Finally, Trump sure polarizes people, so that folks like me, who don’t think he’s either some glorious savior nor the the new He Who Shall Not Be Named, have to explain, it seems, why we don’t love or hate him the proper amount. Because, ultimately, he’s just a guy? Who will be president for at most 8 years? Who has given no indication he has any plans for internment camps nor mass deportations? (Unlike Antifa, which has announced its deep hope for a chance to kill a few tens of millions like other good Communists. But I digress…)

Cunning is the word that springs to mind when considering Trump. He’s certainly no dummy, as he will happily tell you. I worry more that he’s a true believer – in Trump. As mentioned in other posts, he went from old school New York liberal to crusading conservative with whiplash-inducing suddenness. What gives me the most hope: his ultimate agenda seems to be to stick it to the people who pooh-poohed him – and, frankly, I’m on board with that. As also mentioned elsewhere here, he seems to make the right heads explode.

And, if we accept spite and vengeance as the operative premise, the dude is very, very cunning. As far as intelligence goes, there are many different flavors, and looking to the one Trump is working with here, he’s a genius. He wouldn’t, and doesn’t, get any respect in the faculty lounge, but as a wheeler-dealer street-brawler type huckster, he’s absolutely brilliant.

The above opinions are worth what you paid for them.

The Fluidity of Blame

So, as they say, grab some popcorn. We all have front-row seats to Pandora’s box’s grand opening: Once the smallest cracks in the raw political power of the big shots in entertainment (and elsewhere – we’ll get to that) began to show, people who’d been silenced for years began to spill their stories of ‘sexual misconduct’ a catch-all term for any sexual activities that have yet to be normalized.

Not sure what it means to say that all that’s coming out now is what everybody already knew – I’d have to assume everybody except proper law enforcement agencies? Or are they in on this, too? (Sadly, one could easily imagine it. Think of the pressure that could be brought to bear on the Hollywood or even LA Chief of Police by a bunch of famous millionaires. The kind of people who throw political fundraisers for the right kinds of politicians. The kind of people who’ve made a lot of money off Kevin Spacey flicks. Not hard to imagine some aspiring actress or crew member being advised by the police to, in so many words, shut up and take the money. Not saying this is what happened, just that it’s not hard to imagine.)

Now this catharsis, if that’s what it is, has spread to other areas. Apart from his fine last name, I know nothing of this Judge Moore person, except that the Democrats of both parties loathe him and that, one month before the election that would put him into Congress allegations of sexual misconduct from 30 to 40 years ago have been raised. Reactions have ranged from ‘he should step down immediately’ all the way to ‘he should step down immediately if the accusations are true’.

Judge Moore has vehemently denied the allegations and pointed out the very convenient political timing and the fact that these women have had decades to make their accusations but did not. Unfortunately for him, the Hollywood situation appears to take the wind out of that last point. In Hollywood, the story goes, a climate of fear prevailed that only now (magically?) has been breached. Decades of silence in the face of such institutional intimidation is understandable and even to be expected. That no case (that I’ve heard of) has been made that Moore was part of such an institutional reign of terror seems to be missed.

I’m in no position to judge the believability of Moore’s accusers. Neither is anyone else, really – that’s what trials are for. That’s also the point: there will be no trial, or, at the very least, no trail before the elections. The accusers have no chance to make their case; Moore has no chance to clear his name. As I’ve said, I have no opinion on any of these folks, don’t know them from Adam and Eve. The situation, however, stinks.

What I wanted to address here today is strategy, and how the political divide is also of necessity a strategic divide. Moore takes the classic position: he denies the accusations. Politically, he forces people to either say: Moore is tainted, he must step down *even if* he’s innocent (that last part is optional – his enemies want him out, and don’t care if massive injustice is committed doing it) OR accusations are cheap, a man is innocent until proven guilty, and the timing of all this is very questionable at best and pure political character assassination at worst. Moore should carry on.

In other words, Moore’s strategy is to rely on personal responsibility – he either did stuff, or he didn’t. If he did, throw the book at him; if he didn’t, throw it at his accusers. In the meantime, stay the course and get into Congress. If the accusations prove true, you can throw him out. Moore seems confident (but of course he would have to to follow this strategy) that he will be exonerated.

But the other side is not playing that game. Weinstein, who never really denied the accusations, instead headed for 6 whole days of therapy somewhere out of reach of US law enforcement, to be cured of his sickness. Based on the miraculous cure Weinstein reported, Spacey, after the most tepid of excuses, headed for the same clinic. I expect similar scenarios – call it the Polanski Option – to play out over time.

Various articles have been published on the culture of Hollywood and even the culture of the 70s (Weinstein’s own personal absolution) to explain why these men behaved as they did. It’s the culture! Don’t blame *me*! I’m another victim here, just like the adolescents I sodomized!

These criminals are sick, you see, and not to be held responsible, or at least not completely responsible, for their actions. The culture the poor innocents were raised in made them that way! You don’t want to beat up on sick people who threatened, bullied and raped your daughters and sons – that would be mean! Instead, we need to fix the culture! Recalibrate the power dynamic! That’s the only real solution.

One is tempted to point out that Judge Moore’s approach is that of a man who hopes to be proven innocent. Whether he’s innocent or not, he would at least have to believe that the legal evidence against him is not overwhelming.  Weinstein, Spacy and the growing bandwagon of famous perps would only pursue the strategy they do if they knew the evidence was overwhelmingly against them. The day in court where their victims presented their evidence would likely be the last day they walked free for a long, long, time.

Here, Critical Theory in all its evil glory intersects with reality: if all unhappiness is the result of power dynamics, and if all rights result from how well one conforms themselves to true consciousness – how woke you are – then the only thing that matters is achieving and spreading enlightenment. Actions can only be judged by how well they further the Revolution. The individual is nothing, the collective is all, as Trotsky and other true believers have pointed out.

So, just as Stalin’s slaughter of millions of unarmed men, women and children cannot be judged evil in itself, but must be weighed against the glory of his ultimate goal – the dawning of the Workers’ Paradise – so Weinstein’s crimes – weaknesses, really – are more than offset by the good he does promoting Progressive causes – that old Workers’ Paradise, again.  (Can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, as Walter Durante, a non-egg, pointed out.)

So: I predict Weinstein will get a full or partial pass by a distressingly large number of people. Not much of a prediction, since it’s already happening. And that Judge Moore will be held in contempt even if he’s totally exonerated. Again, not much of a prediction, since there’s already an unquenchable hatred for the guy in many hearts.

One last point, one often evidently forgotten or forcibly suppressed: A system of law and justice only works when personal responsibility is conclusively assumed, where one can say if A murdered B, A is guilty of murder. If class determines blame, then all that needs to be done is to show membership in an innocent class – and repent from membership in any guilty classes (ah, the joys of intersectionality!). So, if Weinstein, Spacey et al can prove they’re on the Right Side of History ™ and grovel enough for being rich, white and male – well, all will be right as rain! Judge Moore, on the other hand, is white, male, heterosexual – the list of blame and evil goes on and on – and unrepentant. No mere facts could ever absolve him.

Image result for this little rat is guilty
This little rat is guilty!

We’ve reached the Cliffs of Insanity.

Updates: Airports & Atlanta & Reading

(Taking this up from yesterday evening.)

A. Sitting in the T Terminal (named after the fashion of D-Day, I suppose) in Atlanta International. I like Atlanta and its airport, mostly. Not getting a chance this trip to walk the long subterranean corridor connecting terminals A through, I dunno, Z? which has some interesting art as well as a bit of a spelunking feel about it. The narrower and darker-feeling  passages one walks between well-lit art areas and busy shuttle train stops are tiny little adventures, with few boring businessmen or travelers of any kind taking them. The bright and fast shuttle trains beckon, Siren-like.

At least, that’s how it used to be. Things have changed at ATL. I had several hours to wander T-Terminal, and found it had been remodeled. My memory, which also ain’t what it used to be, recalled that T had the best food options of all the alphabet terminals – e.g., a hip-looking place that dispensed good fresh salad, and, I think, a better than average burrito place. These are things you find out when you travel for business a lot. I did so a decade ago, not so much the last 5-6 years. My information is both dated and faded.

So I got a veggie footlong at Subway. Hate sitting in a ‘real’ restaurant by myself, and Subway was the next best thing.

Compare and contrast with SFO Terminal 2, out of which I flew to ATL. It’s been years since I’d last been there – I tend to fly out of Oakland – OAK – because it’s closer and smaller. But I’ll drive a bit for direct flights, and the cheap ones were out of SFO. Anyway, due to a confluence of forces (missed noon flight, next one out was a redeye), I was stuck there in Terminal 2 for a number of hours.

The food options were, frankly, awesome. They had, among other nice choices, very nice Mexican food, a sushi bar that always had a line, a gourmet burger place, two Peet’s, frozen yogurt – in short, all my on the road food whims were abundantly addressed. Ended up having marvelous fish tacos for lunch, and 5 hours later, a very good burger for dinner. I don’t recall anything remotely this nice from the last time I was through, but, as noted, it’s been a while and my memory is not Dante’s.

Don’t know what to make of this. Terminals get nicer, mostly, while the flights themselves get more like Greyhound bus rides without the gritty charm. The economics of all this are not transparent – while many travelers including me shop price first and foremost, leading to bare-bones flights, we evidently are willing to drop $30+ on fish tacos, guacamole & chips, and a beer? Or are the airlines competing for one set of customers – bottom feeders – while the shops and restaurants in the terminals compete for the money of the 1st and business class people? Airlines compete across a wide range of factors, so provide a wide range of options. But you couldn’t find a Taco Bell in Terminal 2, nor a sushi joint in T-Terminal. Whoever is leasing out terminal space seems to make a narrow call, intentionally or not, that attracts a set of retailers with a fairly narrow target market.

I’m sure MBA papers have been written on this. I’ve about exhausted my curiosity for now.

B. MARTA is one thing I like about Atlanta. As long as your destination is along that north/south corridor, MARTA’s hard to beat for convenience. So far, over the years, all but one of my Atlanta customers and conventions have been on that artery. I get to grab my luggage and walk to the ATL MARTA station, and, for a couple bucks, take a nice clean train to within a couple blocks of my destination. Sweet.

But mostly I like people watching & interactions. This trip, after my red eye, I was catching the train at 5:30 a.m. There was one man asleep – his feet were sticking out – and a couple more people who did not look like travellers.

(On the ride back, a woman struck up a conversation with me and three other conventioneers who were together because we were all heading back to California – she took MARTA to work from the airport, because it was easiest for her mother to drop her off there. So, even at the end-of-the-line airport station, it seems a lot of the passengers are locals.)

As train filled up over the next couple stops, I noticed I seemed to be the only white dude on the train. It was filled with black folks going to work or school. Later, the sleeping man awoke and sat up – the two of us were the only caucasians. Later still, as it filled up more, we lost that distinction.

Emotionally, this was like noticing I was the only bald guy – little more than a curiosity. Maybe if I lived there, and did this every day, it would seem different? As it is, it reinforced something I’ve noticed ever since I started traveling: race relations in the South are much mellower than they are in the North.  Again, small sample size and all.

I stood for a woman who was standing, motioning for her to take my seat. Instead, she mumbled something about getting off soon and gestured to another woman, who took the seat. Totally normal interactions. But then, a few stops later, after the first downtown stops where many people got off, the seated woman got up to leave and made sure I sat back down, and said thanks. Again, perfectly normal stuff, but not what I’d expect in, say, Chicago or Boston. Atlanta? Seems perfectly normal.  YMMV.

(Pretty soon, I may start getting the Old Guy deferral, and have women insist I keep my seat. Hasn’t happened yet, whippersnappers!)

C. Now back home. Read Lyonesse – Spring 2017 (vol 1) on the planes, most of the way through Storyhack Issue 1 as well. And I read some other anthology/collection on my Kindle, but can’t remember which one (I’ve got a dozen or more on there…) Anyway, some reviews coming up.

Also reading Writing the Breakout Novel, which is proving inspiring. Maybe I’ll get back to more ‘serious’ writing than just this blog. It would help, maybe, if I at least kept the blog moving… Aaaand – Nichomachean Ethics. Because I had this thought, and wanted to know what Aristotle thought about it, dimly remembered it was addressed somewhere in Nichomachean Ethics, and – you know. Now I’ve forgotten why I started, but feel committed to the reread.

Kinda stopped reading Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy, only because it is long and was becoming somewhat repetitive, and I suspect I should have read Livy first. Discovered that Livy’s Histories are very long (even though the surviving version is some small fraction of the complete work!). Sooo – maybe later? Got a fair pile of half read books at the moment. Didn’t used to do this – I’d either read it, or stop. No twilight zone of half-read I’ll finish this eventually books. AHHHHH! I want to retire and read and write. At least 3 years to go.

Book Review: Tithe to Tartarus

Highly recommended. Book 6 in John C. Wright’s 12 part Moth and Cobweb series, Tithe to Tartarus completes (for now, one hopes) the adventures of Yumiko Moth, AKA the Dark Avenger’s Sidekick, begun in  Book 4: Daughter of Danger and continue in Book 5: City of Corpses. A totally fun and uplifting series, suitable for kids of all ages yet plenty action-packed and deep enough for any adult as well. These are the books we need – heroism, high stakes, lovable and honorable characters, suitably villainous bad guys, yet with a theme of redemption offered again and again despite the evil done. Even the perpetrators of the most vile crimes can still turn from them, an eternal and eternally needed message!

Just as in the tales of Arthur upon which these stories are built and in many movies from the 30’s, Christianity is simply assumed. Nice, for a change. Whatever your beliefs, if you enjoyed le Mort d’Arthur and It’s a wonderful Life, I’d bet you’ll like Moth & Cobweb.

Through the first two books, Yumiko has struggled to discover who she is after awaking in a hospital bed with a near-complete loss of memory. The last thing she remembers is a dream or vision, in which a beautiful lady told her that her life was being given back to her, that all her previous vows were void, and that she needed to save the one she loved. She is also to relay a message to the elves and other twilight creatures she meets. She has somehow also acquired a magic ring.

By this the third book Yumiko has learned she is a ninja assassin with a sacred ghost-slaying bow and gadgets to put Batman to shame, as well as a magic super suit wherein to keep it all. She has found and lost a cousin and friend, a magical half-human fairy  Elfine captured by an elf knight, and learned that her beloved is to be sacrificed to Hell. She now knows her mother, a Grail matron, was murdered in the line of duty. An order of anarchists strive to overthrow all laws human, elfish and divine. She is the disowned former sidekick to a winged vigilante, who has told her to kill herself in dishonor (she refuses).  And everybody wants her magic ring, especially the anarchists.

So, in the next couple days, she hopes to free Elfine, save her beloved, avenge her mother all while keeping the Ring out of the wrong hands. She is aided more or less by the Last Crusade, which consists of a young Dominican friar Matthias, the Swan Knight Gilberec Moth and Ruff the Dog, everybody’s favorite pooka.  Gil wields a sword of blue flame that sets the blood of enemies afire, Matthias uses an exorcist’s tools and prayers as well as some hidden magic to defend against evil, and Ruff, as he repeatedly says, is a very smart dog. (Ruff is pretty much everybody’s favorite character. He is a Good Dog.)

Adventures ensue. There’s love, horror, heroism, magic, sword fights, and all manner of creatures eldritch and fell. I was sad to see it end, especially since the next book isn’t out yet! Noooo!

Get these books, read them, give them as presents to your friends.

A Further Comment on the Previous Post

Identity Politics, with its substance being acts of division into Us and Them, would invite its victims to hate not only the mother and father that gave them birth and then betrayed them, but by extension the very idea of  Family. David Warren explains how the breakdown of the family gives rise to identity Politics, which then further undermines the family.

But why stop there? Unfortunately, even when family has been destroyed babies keep getting made, albeit with decreasing passion and increasing clinical detachment. The betrayed and lied to child, learning to hate as one only can when love is denigrated and despised, turns in his pain to the very act of fruitful coupling itself, and hates it.

Gender Theory appeals to people who hate the fact that their existence resulted from good old fashioned sex. To the damaged child, denied an identity as the son or daughter of a real and present father and mother (and as brother, sister, cousin, nephew, niece, uncle, aunt and so on), any and everything else sexual must be preferred to that which gave birth to their pain.

Rather than marvel at and eventually enjoy all that traditionally surrounded sex – courtship, weddings, babies, whole webs of relationships upon which culture is built and politics tamed – the damaged child is merely enraged by them. All those relationships, denied the child and thus the forcefully unacknowledged source of his pain, must be burnt to the ground. Gender Theory is the torch.

David Warren & Identity Politics

(Aside: Crazy busy, and under stress. Playing the piano gives relief; writing spirals to a stop as my mind clutters like a bridge downstream of a debris-choked flood. Hope to get back to blogging regularly soon.)

David Warren, here, says in part, in reference to the violence and vileness of combox warriors and pettiness of sports figures ‘protests’:

The nice term for this is “identity politics.” Mary Eberstadt, a writer and thinker I have long admired, has just written an excellent piece on the phenomenon under title, “The Primal Scream of Identity Politics” (Weekly Standard). She traces it very plausibly to the destruction of the family through the progressive innovations of the last half-century.

My own views run along this line. We have people from broken families whose identities are now acquired from other sources; people by now extremely uncomfortable in their own skins, who seek to blame someone. But all whom they could validly blame abandoned them in childhood; left them prey to the demonic influences of the very ideologies that brought collapse. Self-organized through the new social media, they now travel and hunt in packs. Or alternatively, moulder on opioids. Mandatory progressive schooling has likewise left them inaccessible to reason.

Truth is (TMI warning!) I’m a nearly antisocial introvert hiding behind a talkative exterior. Crawling off to be alone is my normal reaction to almost everything. So, I read, and think, and have a mind stuck on high – not high intelligence, exactly, just high RPMs, which is in some ways the opposite of intelligent. At least, I suspect it keeps me from wisdom more often as not. No small quiet voice has a chance in there.

I mention this to offer a lame (and no doubt boring – sorry about that!) background to explain my joy at finding people like David Warren and Mike Flynn. I often get the thrill of recognition when I read them, the idea that, however much better they may say it and understand it, I can still recognize in some of their writings the basic outline of ideas I’ve formed in the anxious tumult of my own muddled mind.

The above quotation is a prime case. I’ve said things like that here on this blog – not as well, surely, not as pithy. But I can’t help – I am indeed weak! – feeling something like relief. Maybe I’m not just some bitter crazy, cherry-picking a million pages to find the lines that confirm my nutty theories. Maybe some of this stuff is as obvious upon intelligent inspection as it seems to me.  One can hope. One can learn.

Don’t know how anyone could put up with me. Yet I have a wife and kids who love me. Talk about unmerited blessings! End TMI.

“We have people from broken families whose identities are now acquired from other sources; people by now extremely uncomfortable in their own skins, who seek to blame someone. But all whom they could validly blame abandoned them in childhood”. My God! I see this daily, the evil of parents (themselves recapitulating the damage they endured, sometimes running back 3 or 4 generations now!) enforcing their raw wills on their defenseless children. For what defense could a child have against his own parents? It is their lot to suffer, no matter the tepid surrender or violent rejection with which they react to the imposition of parental will. They thing they cannot choose is to not be hurt. A child can only take it and react. Rather than having parents share in and perhaps mitigate their suffering, the child receives that suffering from them in what can only appear an unnecessary and arbitrary act of will.

The kid doesn’t matter. His will doesn’t matter. His needs don’t matter. Only parental will matters.

No amount of pretend band-aides make any difference. No amount of apologies and new promises make the pain go away.

And everybody knows this.

They scream in anger and pain against an oppressor, who can be anyone besides those actually responsible. And then they, in turn, recapitulate until we reach a generation who have, as one wag put it, a dog and an abortion instead of children.