The Bookworm Beat 7-25-15 — the Lazy, but interesting, edition

Woman-writing-300x265As you may have gathered from the number of things we did every day on our recent trip to Virginia and environs, ours was not a restful vacation. I capped off the fatigue with a cold and, since our return, have been having a very hard time motivating myself to do anything. My theme song for the week has been Irving Berlin’s Lazy, although I’d have to add fatigue and inertia to the laziness mix:

Still, despite my laziness, I have managed to peel myself off the couch and find my way to the computer occasionally, so I do have some posts to share with you:

Made You Laugh

Before I get to the depressing stuff — and, lately, all the news seems to be depressing — I wanted to tell you about a weekly column my long-time friend Gary Buslik is starting at The Blot. I first introduced you to Gary a few years ago when I reviewed his outrageously funny book Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls: A Novel of International Intrigue, Pork-Crazed Termites, and Motherhood. I’ve since read, though shamefully neglected to review, his delightful travelogue, A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean: A Grump in Paradise Discovers that Anyplace it’s Legal to Carry a Machete is Comedy Just Waiting to Happen. In both books, and in the various travel articles of his published in anthologies, Gary’s voice is true: erudite, wry, mordant, snarky, self-deprecating, Jewish, and very, very funny.

Since Gary just launched his weekly column, there’s only one week’s worth of writing, but I think you might enjoy it: The Great Jewish Dilemma.

Yes, Martin O’Malley’s link between ISIS and climate change is crazy

Democrat presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley came in for a good deal of derision for saying that ISIS’s rise can be tied to climate change. The obvious reason this is a laughable point is because the most direct tie to ISIS’s rise is, of course, Obama’s retreat, which created a giant ISIS-sized vacuum. My friend Wolf Howling sent me an email which I think nicely summarizes the Obama/ISIS link:

A fascinating article in the NY Review of Books states that it is the Iraqi organization originally founded by Zarqawi, the utterly sadistic terrorist we sent off the mortal coil in 2006. The movement obviously survived him, and this really throws into stark relief the wages of Obama and the Left cutting and running from Iraq in 2010. ISIS is like a bacteria that survives a stunted course of antibiotics. Had we stayed in Iraq, there is no possible way that ISIS could have had a rebirth.

The author of the article tries to make sense of the rise of ISIS. You can read his ruminations. My own theory is two-fold: One, ISIS is preaching the true Salafi / Wahhabi purist doctrine that makes of the world a thing of black and white, where all things that support Allah are pure, while everything that does not is evil and can be dealt with without regards. Thus it is a draw to young Arab men. If you want to see how, here is a fascinating article by Tawfiq Hamid, a doctor who became a terrorist, who discusses the lure of Salafism / Wahhabism and all its deadly toxins.

Two, the ISIS ideology is a draw because it is utterly without bounds in its sadism or cruelty. This also is a draw to a particular segment of Arab men. It is the Lord of the Flies. It is going into a scenario where you will have the power of life, death, and pain with virtually no restrictions.

The fact is that ISIS should not be around today. My word, but Obama has so totally f**ked us in the Middle East . . . . He makes Carter look like Nixon by comparison.

I only wish I’d written that, but at least I can share it with you. So yes, O’Malley is an ignorant moron.

Still, never let it be said that the Left doesn’t protect its own, so The Atlantic has tried to throw a life saver to O’Malley: Martin O’Malley’s Link Between Climate Change and ISIS Isn’t Crazy. The article’s premise is that there’s a connection between drought and unrest. To which I say, “Well, duh!”

Any student of history knows that in primitive societies (and Muslim Middle Eastern countries are extremely primitive when it comes to food production, due to natural limitations, societal factors, and the transfer of food crops to biofuels) anything that interferes even marginally with food production has devastating effects, with war one of the most common ones.

However, as my reference to “students of history” makes clear, droughts have always happened. O’Malley wouldn’t have been a moron if he’d said “the drought they’re experiencing in the region no doubt was a contributing factor to unrest in the Syria – Iraqi region.” But instead, he had to throw in “climate change” — and what makes that so laughable is that we’ve come to the point  which climate change is responsible for everything. I’m awaiting the day when we get an article saying that Caitlyn Jenner’s unfortunate transgender habit of dressing like a male chauvinists’ dream 1950s pin-up girl is also due to climate change.

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A few thoughts about my delightful introduction to the American South

imageBefore this summer’s trip, my exposure to the American South had been extremely limited. I’d been to Washington, D.C., and I’d visited Florida and lived in Texas — both of which are technically a part of the Confederacy but are, because of their unique cultures, are rather sui generis when compared to the core Southern states.

This most recent trip, however, really gave me a chance to drop below the Mason-Dixon line. We traveled almost entirely in Virginia, that core Southern state that sent so many early presidents to the White House, with small detours into Maryland. I came away with a few impressions that I’d like to share with you:

It seems as if every inch of Southern soil has historic significance. No matter where we were, there were connections to American history, whether the settlement in Jamestown, the Colonial era in Williamsburg, or the Civil War in Fredericksburg and Manassas, just to name a few examples.

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Technical difficulties

Yesterday afternoon, my phone died. I went to the Apple store where they concluded that it had a problem that was under the warranty and they issued me a new phone. That was at 7:00 p.m. my time. Now, at 3:00 p.m. my time the following day, I finally got my phone running again. The problem seems to have been that no single person — and I dealt with multiple people at Apple, Sprint, and Best Buy — had sufficient knowledge to solve the problem. Instead, every person to whom I spoke, starting at 8:00 this morning, had another piece of information to add to the puzzle. And of the many people to whom I spoke, only two were useless. The rest were very helpful and very kind. But I’ve still spent my day bouncing from phone call to phone call and store to store on this treasure hunt.

I’m incredibly happy that the situation is finally resolved, but I regret the lost day. I’m only now getting to the business of the day. It’s a reminder that technology is wonderful . . . right up until the moment when it’s not.

Aargh!

Getting back in the groove

Back in the grooveWhen I’m on the airplane heading home from a vacation, I always mean to dive into blogging the moment I get home, but I never do. I’m always a bit tired, often a bit jet-lagged, usually have a cold I caught on the trip (as is the case this time around), and have mountains of things that I have to attend to after having been away.

So here it is, 5 in the afternoon, and I’m only now getting around to reading the news. I’ve been tracking things a bit but, to be honest I’ve found the news of the past few weeks so deeply depressing, I was grateful for a vacation intermission — even if that intermission took me to the tragically blood-soaked battlefields of the Civil War. Contemplating Antietam or Gettysburg was actually nicer than thinking about the Iran debacle, or the Supreme Court’s unconstitutional arrogance, or any of the other toxic issues poisoning not just the headlines, but the world we’re about to hand to our children.

I’ll be back in the blogging groove tomorrow, but for today, I’m opting for the music and a blank mind:

And a fun cover of an old song:

Washington, D.C.

We did another of our mad dash tour days, once again in D.C. We made lightening visits to the Air and Space Museum (crowded and cheesy), the new Native American Museum (gorgeous building paired with slender hagiographic exhibits); the Botanical Garden (very beautiful); the Capitol (under construction and reeking of hypocrisy as gun-control Congress-critters are heavily protected by armed guards); the exterior of the Supreme Court (I truly felt like egging it); the Library of Congress (too self-consciously awe-inspiring, but I was in fact awed by the Gutenberg Bible); and the Natural History Museum (I adore the mineral and gem collections).

Here’s a kaleidoscope of pictures:

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Tomorrow is a travel day. I’ll be returning to blogging on Wednesday.

Travel diary — Montpelier, Bull Run, Gettysburg, and Antietam

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Sorry for the long silence. Yesterday was a tiring travel day that ended too late for writing. This post, like myothers, will be brief since I find it difficult to write at length on an iPhone (so please pardon typos too).

We started yesterday at James and Dolley Madison’s beautiful and homelike Montpelier. Their home has the study in which Madison researched the best form of government — which resulted in our much-abused Constitution. I couldn’t take interior photos, but in addition to the view of the front, above, these few photos give a sense of its lovely setting (and the extensive archaeological digs):

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From Montpelier, we headed to Manassas, scene of the first and second Battles of Bull Run. As is typical for all the battlefields we’ve seen, it was hard to connect the peaceful setting with the tremendous carnage that occurred there:

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This morning, we got up very early to take a horseback tour through Gettysburg led by a licensed guide. Just as we were mounting the horses, word came that a thunderstorm was coming in. The gal who owns the touring company refunded our money and, because we couldn’t stick around for the 2:00 ride, the tour guide offered to take us around — so we got the pleasure of a sopping wet thunder-and-lightening storm (a rare pleasure for people who live in a drought-stricken region that never has thunder and lightening at the best of times), plus a personal, in-depth tour of the battlegrounds. Owing to the rain, I have only a few pictures. The panorama is of the view from Little Round Top:

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From Gettysburg, we drove to Boonsboro, which is near Antietam. Romance writer Nora Roberts owns an Inn there, and was apparently at a book signing, for the streets of this exquisite old town were swarmed with happy looking women, many standing in line outside a bookstore. I’m not sure this picture captures the site, but I offer it anyway:

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Our next stop was Antietam, but the childre melted down at this point — literally, given the high heat and humidity affecting their coddled California bodies. We went to that famous sunken, bloody lane so that we could say we were there. Even now it’s a sad place:

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Our final stop was Arlington, where we so the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I actually found even more moving the seemingly endless rows of markers for those who served our country, with some dying because of that service and others living out the full measure of their days. The most moving gravestone was the one naming an entire Air Corps crew that died together in 1944. Even as we were fighting the racist Germans, that doomed American plane included an Anglo, a Scot, an Italian, and a Jew among its ethnic mix of names:

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Travel Diary — Richmond, Monticello, and Charlottesville

Finally at the hotel and too tired to write. Also hard to take photos today, and the hotel internet is excruciatingly slow.

Short version — Jefferson Davis’s home was a hideous mid-19th century amalgam of clashing colors, randomly mixed patterns, and unbelievable clutter. No photos allowed.

Monticello was graceful and imaginative. For the first time on our trip, the tour guides were dreadful.

Charlottesville: unexpectedly charming and beautiful, with a Mennonite chorus on the street corner.

No photos of Richmond, but a few from Monticello and on from Charlottesville:

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Planned Parenthood in Perspective

DenethorFor my first post as a guest here at Bookworm I was contemplating many different topics, mostly concerning dealing with the Social Justice Mob. But then I saw the horrific undercover video of Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola admitting and conspiring to sell fetal body parts. Seeing that video, with Nucatola eating and drinking wine while non-chalantly discussing how they will alter procedures based on the body part in need struck a nerve. That momemnt reminded me of a scene from Lord of The Rings, The Return of the King where Pippen is tasked to sing as song for Denethor as he sends his son out for sure death.

UPDATE: Well that didn’t take long. Google removed my video mashup that intertwined the planned parenthood video with the LOTR cut. No worries though, I give them two you side by side. It is quite obvious as the director\doctor from Planned Parenthood so casually discusses “the menu” of body parts while sipping wine and stuffing her face with salad; you get the drift.

Regardless of what you think about abortion you should be horrified and saddened at what Planned Parenthood is doing. To think that they are turning babies breech to save heads, adding unnecessary complications for the sake of a sale. To think that they could be advising a young girl to have an abortion knowing that if they talk her into it they would have another part to add to “the menu”. This is beyond reprehensible. As Pippen said, “we have no songs for great halls in evil times”.

Travel diary — Jamestown and Yorktown

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We visited Jamestown and Yorktown today. They are an interesting matched set because Jamestown marks the beginning of the British presence in the New World and Yorktown marks its end.

I found Jamestown unexpectedly interesting. We started off at the Commonwealth of Virginia’s site, which isn’t on the original archaeological spot, but is nearby. It consists of reproductions of the ships that brought the settlers there in 1607, of the Indian village, and of the settlement compound. It was all very well done.

As is always the case, there is no one who tells history better than the passionate amateur. The people who are playing roles clearly adore what they are doing and are happy to share it with anyone who has a question, even if it’s the same question over and over and over again.

I liked even more the actual archaeological Jamestown site, which is part of the National Park System. It was only identified in 1994, and has been heavily excavated since then. One has a real sense of history there.

I’m sure that part of my pleasure was due to the wonderful NPS guide. He had a marvelous deep, gravely voice and was so excited by the story he told. I took a picture, but it doesn’t show his dynamism.

Yorktown was a bit less interesting. The area dedicated to re-enactments is in the early phase of its development so there wasn’t much to see.

The young people who worked there however were delightful and well worth the price of admission. They knew what they were talking about and conveyed it lucidly and with charm and humor.

We ended the day driving from one pivotal Yorktown siege site to another. The kids were tired and overloaded at this point, though, so we didn’t get too much out of it. Tomorrow, we head for Monticello and parts west and east.

Finally, I have to say once more how staggeringly beautiful Virginia is. I would be in love with its lushness even if I weren’t living through a drought back home in California.

As always, please pardon typos. Because I took the pictures on my iPhone, I’m doing the blogging on my iPhone which is a challenge to say the least.

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Colonial Williamsburg open thread

We spent today at Colonial Williamsburg. It’s quite breathtakingly beautiful — another triumph for a harmonious partnership between man and Nature. I discovered that I found it fascinating when the people plying a trade talked about their work. It was less interesting to see actors pretending to be famous people.

Of the latter, though, by far and away the most interesting (and the best performer) was the man who played the black Baptist preacher, arguing scripture with a Church of England cleric. Talk of religious freedom resonated strongly with me now that we live in an era when people abroad and at home are being persecuted because of their religious beliefs.

[Sorry for typos. Doing all these posts on my iPhone.]

Here are a few photos:

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