Friday, August 27, 2004

Walking down Lick Log Branch yesterday, I saw every pool rippling with "minners" as the man walking with me called them jokingly. This time of year usually finds the pools small if not vanished, and I am glad to see the fish darting around looking for someplace to hide from us. In seconds they are invisible, but I can see that there are more here than just young of the year. Grownups have found refuge well upstream of their normal summer habitat. In the largest pool I can see the tell tale Tennessee volunteer orange slash of a Warpaint Shiner. The rest of the little beasts will remain known as minners though I know there are probably Creek Chub and other species that would still be a mystery to me even if I had my fishing binoculars handy. The mating color of the peacockish males is fading now as fall comes on, but you can still see it on some of the darters.

There has been a Lick Log Branch everywhere I've lived. Not as many of them as Piney creeks, of which there are several fairly close to my house: Big Piney, Little Piney, and, cutest of all, the Tiny Piney. To me, the best creek name is the one from my childhood in Laurens County Georgia, Hunger and Hardship Creek. I wonder how it got the name? Some of you are high school friends of mine. Let me know if you ever find out. When I was about eleven, my great Uncle brought me two baby alligators he picked up while fishing the creek. I named the two gators Hunger and Hardship, of course, and built a fenced in pool in the back yard to keep them in. They were killed by the neighborhood children.


As I looked into the clear pools of Lick Log, I wondered why the most environmental President we have had during my lifetime could be Richard Nixon, an otherwise evil and distasteful man. Nixon signed The Clean Water Act which is probably the only reason these fish survive in the waters of what is no longer "The Greenest State in the Land of the Free"...Any body else remember the Ballad of Davey Crockett? Nixon originally ran on a ticket to win the Viet Nam War, and then he ran again on a ticket to end the war. Then he announced a policy called something like "Withdrawal With Dignity", which sounds more like a Catholic birth control plan than a war policy. I remember watching on TV as people were screaming and throwing their children at the open door of US Army Helicopters as they abandoned the roof of the American Embassy. Very dignified!

It may be time to resurrect old Tricky Dicky. I can't remember how many American Soldiers he got killed (30,000?) after he started ending the war, but I believe more died after he took office than before, when we were just fighting for who the hell knows what reason... pretty much the same boat we find ourselves in now. Or should I say helicopter, which begs the question: Why is it, that after thirty years, the most technological society on earth can't make a helicopter that can't be shot down with a squirrel rifle?

Of course it would be simpler if we just stopped sending them into places where there are people who actually have squirrel rifles, or a reasonable facsimile, and want to shoot down American helicopters...We're hunting terrorists where the light is better I guess, and getting the crap shot out of our kids! Is it too much to ask that somebody stand up and say, "Whoops! Bad Idea! Sorry!" and let's leave? We could bring all our kids home and work on an energy conservation plan that would stop those creeps over there from having enough money to buy their danged rifles in the first place. See! No rifles, no helicopters, and presto, they are back to trying to raise goats in the desert again. Maybe one day someone will even tell them that it's the stupid goats that are the reason they have all that desert in the first place, and that brings us full circle back to "Hunger and Hardship"! One day I plan to write about how safe sex could stop most wars, but for now, you can just sit there and try to figure out how in the heck Steve decided goats forced humans into an oil economy, and that resulted in the Iraq war. At any rate lots of people are deciding that this war is down right stupid and we should never have started it.

Did I mention how much I love barbecued goat?

Miss Molly Ivans names names, opening the closet door on the list of conservatives who think we shouldn't have strated the Iraq war. Molly calls for all conservatives to repent their lust for war in Iraq, and points out that quite a few of them already have. Big time conservative names like Wlliam F. Buckley have turned on the war. Molly says it best so I'll let her:

Rich Baker voted for George W. Bush in 2000. He is going to vote for John Kerry this November. He was known as Navy Lieutenant Baker during the Viet Nam War...He commanded a Swift Boat.
"Every Swift boat officer gave his all in Vietnam, but Kerry stood above the rest of us," said Baker, 61, of Scott, a former Navy lieutenant and Swift boat commander. "He was number one as far as courageousness and aggressiveness. He set the tone."

"George Bush has two silver dental fillings in his teeth to show what he did during the Vietnam War," Baker said. "John Kerry has a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts."

"John Kerry should not be alive today," Baker said. "He was aggressive -- more aggressive than the rest of us. That was his nature, and everybody who was there knows it."

But, Baker said, these men never criticized Kerry until he became the Democratic presidential nominee. Baker specifically recalled a 1995 reunion of Swift boat crews in Washington at which praise for Kerry's service in Vietnam was unanimous. Kerry then was the pride of the group as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

Here is my choice for quote of the day:

Ordinary Americans have been manipulated into imagining they are a people under siege whose sole refuge and protector is their government. If it isn't the Communists, it's al-Qaeda. If it isn't Cuba. it's Nicaragua. As a result, this, the most powerful nation in the world - with its unmatchable arsenal of weapons, its history of having waged and sponsored endless wars, and the only nation in history to have actually used nuclear bombs - is peopled by a terrified citizenry, jumping at shadows. A people bonded to the state not by social services, or public health care, or employment guarantees, but by fear."

...The mandarins of the corporate world, the CEOs, the bankers, the politicians, the judges and generals look down on us from on high and shake their heads sternly. "There's no Alternative," they say. And let slip the dogs of war ... Terrorism is vicious, ugly, and dehumanizing for its perpetrators, as well as its victims. But so is war. You could say that terrorism is the privatization of war. Terrorists are the free marketers of war. They are people who don't believe that the state has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence ... Human society is journeying to a terrible place ... Of course, there is an alternative to terrorism. It's called justice."

It is from Arundhati Roy. Here's where I found out about her:



I love barbecue! I get sauce all over my face and smile big. It's a red neck thing...sorry. I like to think of myself as an environmentalist, too. Some body has to save the world from boneheads like the ones in charge right now. There's a conflict...always is! Try this from Grist:

"In fact, a 2003 study found that Texans, who like to say that they "live and breathe barbecue," may be doing exactly that. In Houston -- with some of the worst air quality in the country -- meat smoke wafting up from restaurants and grills makes up a somewhat significant part of the pollution mix."

So that means that Bush is not one hundred percent responsible for the lousy air quality in Houston and the rest of Texas. If you are a Republican that lets him completely off the hook to you, since he is never actually responsible for anything bad that happens in your mind. It's Clinton! Well actually in this case, it's dead pigs!


Well, we here in Tennessee get a fair bit of bad air contribution from Texas. While it would be bad enough if all we got was Tom Delay, the poster boy for pesticide misuse, the Texas air is not enough by itself so we have TVA and 1000 foot smoke stacks to help make it hard to be a living thing all the way up to the peaks of the Smoky Mountains.

I wonder about the things I do and how they affect the rest of the world. I would never be able to be a good conservative. Now I find out that my gas grill is a boon to the environment:

Though barbecue purists would probably fight to the death to keep their charcoal grills sizzling, the truth is that natural gas and propane are hands-down the most eco-friendly. Both charcoal and wood burn dirty, producing tiny soot particles that pollute the air and can worsen chronic heart and lung problems.

Further bad news...Beer is not an antidote! Dang!


I may have to come to grips with the fact that people I have respected in the past are willing to be lying weasels to help their side win, regardless of the long term cost to America. I voted against Bob Dole but I respected him.

I'm over that. Bob Dole is now officially a Republican weasel. He told a lie and then refused to take it back when confronted.

Alessandra Stanley writes in the Times:

"Mr. Dole suggested (on CNN) that John Kerry was in a rush to obtain his Purple Hearts to meet a regulation that allowed soldiers to leave the war zone after winning three. "I mean the first one, whether he ought to have a purple heart - He got two in one day, I think. And he was out of there in less than four months..."

Bob Dole lied!

Right on National TV and should have been branded as such right then and there. Wolf Blitzer knew exactly what the dates of Kerry's war wounds! Kerry recieved the Purple Heart for being wounded in action on Dec. 2, 1968, Feb. 20, 1969, and March 13, 1969. Hardly the same day, and hardly the way one wounded war hero should treat another. Blitzer did not confront him right away but waited until later on a phone conversation:

"I wasn't trying to be mean spirited. I was trying to say all these guys on the Republican side just can't be Republican liars."

Well, yes they can, and as it turns out, yes they are, and Bob Dole knows it! Welcome to the ranks of Republican liars, Bob! You, and what's left of your honor, aren't going to fit in very well.

Now George Bush has come forward and called the anti-Kerry ad "False and Libelous"

This is the same guy who said, "We've found the Weapons of Mass Destruction." Of course that turned out to be a weather balloon trailer but hey, Republican Weasels, remember?


I listened to NPR this morning and began wondering what strange beings we humans are. Every where I turn there is evidence of a grave mental illness that has infected a large number of us...the inability to think in any direction except toward a preconceived conclusion that may be completely false.

There was a guy who said that he disagreed with most of what Bush is doing but he just couldn't get "That Picture of Kerry and Jane Fonda together" out of his mind. Do you remember "that picture"?

It is a fake!

It shows Kerry and Jane Fonda sitting very close together at a war protest. It was generated by the P.R. firm used by Karl Rove. Kerry was at one event that Fonda also attended but never met her. Actually I think Jane is not all that far from being a good and principled person who still takes a lot of scorn for being on the right side during the Viet Nam war years. OK, she screwed up big going to North Viet Nam letting herself be used as a propaganda tool, and she's a quite bit out there, but She was right about the war! Our government was wrong! Who disagrees with that? Ok, the far right wing and no one else. Why does this guy still associate her with something bad? He has the disease. Why does he still think Jane and John Kerry were in cahoots to undermine American soldiers when what both of them were trying to do is get them home alive? He has the disease.

Why can't this man accept that the offending picture is a lie and that he is being manipulated and that anyone who would do such a thing is evil?

He has the disease!

We must help these folks. Be kind to them for they are our friends, and brothers, and fathers, and husbands and wives. We love them and want them healed.

If there is one failure I can point to in the American educational system it is this disease. It is the inability to engage in Critical Thinking. It is the Scientific method. The ability to determine fact from fiction and choose fact over wishful thinking. Political parties, Religions, and the Chamber of Commerce all count on American's inability to identify lies and the worst of all, half truths. It is how political parties function and steal our money and our communal possessions and stay out of prison. Cool Hand Luke kept winding up as a victim of a "Failure to communicate". We are victims of a "Failure to think."

The guy on NPR should simply say, "Wait a minute! The picture is a fake. Bush is lying to us!"...and start supporting the good guys in this country...but he has the disease!

John Kerry was trying to save the lives of his fellow warriors anyway. Somewhere around 50,000 of them died while he was trying to get them out of Nam. The ones that came home were nearly all wounded in one way or another. Ask a Viet Nam vet how he feels about the war. Most of them won't even talk about it. They are all victims of the disease.

We all are. We all have this tragic disease! It cannot be cured... but it can be controlled. That is one reason why I write this stuff as often as I can. I have the disease too and I have to make myself think to control it.

I guess that makes you guys victims of my cure!

Try this simple test to see if a Bush supporter has the disease in virulent form. Ask them why they are for George Bush? Listen to the answer. When I have done this I get two forms of replies. "He's decisive." is the least common. The main thing I hear is some kind of slam on Kerry.

"I support Bush because I can't get that picture out of my mind." (diseased!)

"Have you seen the pictures of Kerry's mansions?" (diseased!)

"Kerry didn't deserve one of his purple hearts!" ( really freakin' diseased!) This one is way sick! Just because they don't give medals for desertion and Bush doesn't have any is no reason to trash a genuine hero)

"Bush shares my values!" (terminal stages of disease!)..and what values would that be, exactly? Hates queers? Likes to torture folks? Lies easily? Believes his own lies? help me here, I 'm really curious about this one.

The enemy of a political lie is critical thinking. They don't teach it in church. They don't teach it in "home school" programs. They don't teach it in Marketing class. They don't teach it on TV. They don't teach it at Bryan College and Jerry Falwell condemns "...those who would poison our young people's minds with unclean thought known as Critical thinking."

You might learn it in science class. Where ever you can learn it, you owe it to your children to get with the program. Start thinking right now today! You can do it, I know you can. There are support groups to help you. There are public buildings in nearly every community that have reservoirs of science books in them. They are called Libraries. But I know you are lazy so I am going to give you a list of self help sites you can go to on the internet. I am working on a "Twelve Step Program" but it is not quite ready so you'll have to do this yourself for now.

Step one is "If you can't turn off the TV at least turn off Fox News!"

Step two is surf these web pages.

The first one is Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit. The second is the Ralph Waldo Emerson home page. It gives me peace when my head hurts from all that thinking so that's why I put it in here. Then you get into the hard stuff. have fun and don't believe all you see.

Think about it!


Monday, August 16, 2004

Oh boy, I'm home!

What have you folks done to good old muggy Tennessee while I've been in Utah? I get back and find the best August weather in years: sunny, coolish, and humidity well below the normal 90%. I can take this!

I was at the Outdoor Retailer show lusting over things I disdain in my conscience...consumer goods. I am not a good shopper. I walk into a store, get what I came for, and leave. Women, my long suffering wife chief amongst them, think I am the worst of males for not looking at 59 different shirts in four different stores before going back and buying the second one I picked up. The only time I really understand what shopping is about is in a bookstore. Then I understand what it means to make choices. Do I keep the book on cabin architecture and put back the collection of Edgar Allen Poe novellas, or break the budget and take them both home? Ah, the rush!

The outdoor show takes up most of Salt Lake City. The merchants and purveyors of life's necessities feed upon us like leeches, sucking our blood from every tiny capillary near enough to the surface of our skin for their mouth parts to eviscerate. The combination of fundamental Mormonism and capitalist blood lust is a frightening concurrence, so evil in nature that I decided to take my 17 year old son with me. Hey, a boy's gotta have some fun in life, eh?

The LDS church fathers want our money so badly that they roil in hypocrisy, soiling the waters in the streets surrounding their holiest of temples with booze, strip joints, and the most polite of drunken panhandlers in every nook and cranny of downtown Salt Lake.

The city fathers have resorted to all sorts of ploys to reduce the numbers of homeless at our convention. Over in the next state, Las Vegas officials cried "Foul" when it was discovered that the LDS members who dominate local and state government had overwhelmingly supported a secret plan that gave the homeless some cash in their pocket and a bus ticket to Las Vegas. Hey, sin city. here they come!

Of all the places in America that you are most likely to get wet while walking around the city, SLC is foremost. Not because of the rain, it's a near desert after all. No, it is because of the water sprinklers that they keep firing off to keep the homeless from being able to sleep in the shrubbery and on the grass next to the sidewalks. It took me years to learn to ignore the sprinklers because you dry off in seconds with the desert humidity. It's funny to read the daily paper about the water crisis while walking by millions of gallons a day running down the side of the city streets and into the sewer lines. Really smart folks, those city fathers.

They do put on some good music for us, though. I could not get to all the shows I wanted to because there was so much happening. After the first full day my feet were killing me from walking and standing around. It is apparently illegal to have a chair in your display booth. Must be! We are required to stand up and smile and look other tired folks right in the eye until we drop. So there I was, at the free outdoor concert in the town square, listening to Richard Thompson sing about a truly evil bastard who rides a rather old Vincent motorcycle hitting on a poor but luscious Irish girl named Molly. Thompson's voice sounds like he is singing about the Edmund Fitzgerald with a British accent, but he rips you apart inside and everytime the "thoroughly dangerous man" gets his insides blown out by the shotgun of a man he is about to rob, I cry for him. The only good news is that Molly gets his bike. Since it is a free concert, I am standing next to a six foot five guy smoking like an incinerator, and wearing a "cat in the hat" hat which made him half a foot taller than Keith Van Horn the Utah Jazz basketball player who I had just walked by inside the Marriot. He was wearing a tuxedo and going to a fundraiser for cancer, where they will raise money by auctioning off giutars signed by great humanitarians such as Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, and Willie Nelson. Less than 1000 feet away I was standing next to a goofy guy wearing a Dr. Seus hat and scaring children by merely leaning over and boming a "Hello, young man!" at them with a big goofy tobacco stained grin. If this guy wasn't homeless, he missed a good chance. He kept taking a huge drag on his cigarette and leaning almost down to the ground to get in my face and tell me how he knows all the great musicians I've never heard of, exhaling in the process. The saving grace was that he, at least, had had some sort of bath recently, though my airways had closed up to the point that I couldn't have told by that time.

Richard Thompson was playing the hell out of a guitar with his hands and ripping our hearts out with his voice while all this was going on. Jerry Douglas, maybe the best Dobro player period, was next. He had three of the best musicians you could want to hear playing with him but without Allison Kraus singing, It just couldn't find anything left in my soul to grab but I watched and listened and promised my feet I would do nice things for them, maybe next week, but for now, they would just have to suffer because I'm listening to all the music I can and that's that!

Two blocks from the Mormon Temple is what used to be the Dead Goat Saloon. It was a funky music bar where Canoe Magazine has traditionally thrown a party for their advertisers, with free beer, live music such as the immortal "Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs". Canoe had the venue booked again this year but three months before our show, the owner decided he could make more money running a strip bar and changed the name to the Wild Goat Saloon and brought in the girls who were serving the beer and telling us to come back tomorrow night when they would not be wearing all these skin tight barely covering anything at all clothes. It was an interesting night, starting with the fact that they would not let my seventeen year old son past the front desk. While I was checking with my buddy who was the Editor of Canoe to see if he could work anything out, Joseph was chatting up the girl out front, or vice versa in his version.

"Where's your fake ID?" she asked him. "This is Salt Lake City! You have to have a fake ID to have any fun in this town! Don't you know how to use the Internet?"

Joseph asked her, "What happens if I come back in an hour with an ID? You already know me."

"You'll get in." She beamed a 500 watt smile at him and he beamed a 1000 watt smile right back at her.

"Forget it!" said the dad. The son and the girl both smiled at each other as I dragged him away to seek food. "Think about it!" I told him, "At seventeen, you have now been thrown out of more bars than your father in his entire life." We got thrown out of two more bars that we thought were restaurants before the supper was secured. We finally got served in the sleaziest place we went to. How it managed to be a restaurant and not a bar was beyond us. The City Fathers know best, however. Who are we to question? The barbeque was decent.

The next night I was back in the Goat, but upstairs in the "restaurant" part for the American Whitewater gathering. AW is a non profit that saves rivers and does a damn fine job of it. They have good and dedicated people trying their best to do good for the world with not enough money. They had managed to rent a room and get us some food. After that it gets weird. Downstairs is the Crazy Goat "Gentleman's club" which is bullshit for strip bar. Upstairs, we were in a nice old wooden floored room with a wet bar and a "restored factory" decor, except for the incongruous glass chandelier hanging overhead indicting it's new incarnation. I can hear the deep voice of the announcer:

"Imagine if you will, the dedicated and serious people, gathered together in a small room for purposes of saving the world. As speeches are being made and the participants think of higher things, Girls walk out of the side room that now serves them as a place to change into their dance outfits...which is to say no outfits whatsoever. As they step out of the dressing room, "dressing" is conversely the wrong name for this room, They walk hurriedly across the floor, exactly between those speaking and those listening, through the only open space there is in the room. One of them has a Teddy bear and has trouble closing her robe and hanging on to the little bear at the same time, as she reveals what is to be revealed on her way to the stairway that leads to the underworld below where there will be a small platform in the middle of another slightly larger room. The dedicated and serious people up above are trying not to notice the girls who are headed down below. They are trying not to think about the teddy bear. There is no restroom up here. It is down below and you have to walk across the room which has the small platform to get there. Some of the men in the upstairs room containing high minded and dedicated people have now realized that they have to pee really bad.

"Welcome to the Twilight Zone!"

I left to go hear Richard Thompson before I myself needed to go downstairs. I am still wondering about the bear, but I shall never know, unless those who know who they are but shall remain nameless in this essay, tell me.



Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A Prize at Water's edge

Just talked to the Sheriff.

Very interesting.

Some of you folks will know that we have several mysteries hanging in the air waiting for some kind of resolution. Did they harvest the "garden" that my son found while turkey hunting last May? What ever happened to the girl whose purse we found? There was no workable scenario that we could come up with that explained all the details of that one. If you don't remember all the juice, you can go to archives and check for a refresher on the details. Here's the short version.

The girl is fine.

She was hanging out with friends, I read that to mean camping out and partying for the weekend, when they got a lot of rain and the creek rose, washing away her purse and its contents. Must have been partying really really hard for that to happen. I can only imagine....

We found it on the creek bank, looking like it had spent some time in the water and mud. but the contents had been emptied out on the bank. There were sunscreen, sunglasses, money, a cell phone, and a small pipe and a film canister of a suspicious oregano like vegetable substance, and her driver's license. A beach towel was lying beside the purse and we found her car keys sticking out of the sand under water in the edge of the creek. What is unsolved is how the contents got scattered out on the bank but the money and pot was not taken, which would most suredly be the case is a person had found it. One other thing we found up in the woods away from the purse when Officer David and I searched the woods originally...candy wrappers and an empty chip bag. We didn't pick up on what that meant at the time. I had all sorts of scenarios where the purse was stolen and the perp was interrupted before they could make off with the money, being scared by someone else going down to the creek to swim or whatever.

Just so you'll know, raccoons are genetically endowed with the knowledge of how coolers open, as well as zippers, and that candy bars and other goodies live inside purses.

A prize at water's edge for the lucky beast.

Officer David says that, other than a talking to, nothing will come of the pot. They have to catch the perpetrator with it in possession...could have been placed there by a felonious raccoon, after all, in a clever attempt to frame this innocent young girl.

Then we have the real reason the Sheriff called...They have made a new home for one of my neighbors from up on the Mountain. Bill, as we'll call him, looks to be the next horticulturalist at one of our fine institutions of correction here in Tennessee. He is very very good at growing things, according to the Sheriff. If you remember the "garden" my youngest son found, it was quite orderly and looked to be the work of a very concientious gardener. Turns out, Bill had several gardens. Not only that but he had them well documented in his books that he kept at home. They found Bill's home by following the well worn path from our original garden back through the woods, connecting several other gardens to Bill's nice little cabin.

At last count the authorities had harvested well over 2500 of Bill's well cared for high quality Marijuana plants. As with any good horticulturalist, Bill kept good records, with every garden having a name, of the variety of its plants, their watering and feeding schedule, growth measurements and history. I am impressed!

Doesn't it make you wonder that, if Bill could be that diligent and hard working, why couldn't he just work a regular job? With his work ethic he surely would have risen to the top. As it is, I predict he'll be promoted to trustee in no time at all.

You go, Bill!



ps: There's actually more to this story but you'll have to wait. I can't tell you all I know just yet. We'll see.