Archive for July, 2019

  • Blog
  • July 26th, 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR

By Joel M. Vance

 

Last week I wrote about observing the advent of a new year by getting locked out of my motel room in subfreezing temperatures, wearing only my jockey shorts. This week I’m writing about observing the advent of a new year by shivering in subfreezing temperatures on a gravel bar on Missouri’s incomparable and lovely Current River awaiting the arrival of the baby new year.

 

A digression: (Donald Trump says he can end the country’s apparently endless war in Afghanistan in 10 days, and he has an undisclosed plan for doing it. I have a suggested plan for him and I’ll share it with everyone — equip him with an AR 15 and a one-way ticket to Afghanistan, parachute him into the middle of a Taliban-occupied section of that Middle Eastern rock pile with the cheery farewell , “Will check back with you in 10 days.”)

 

Meanwhile, back on the shore of the Current River, the waning old year is silent, save for the almost inaudible burble of the moving water, the occasional mournful questioning of a barred owl, and the incessant and strident chanting of a whippoorwill.

 

For many years it had been the custom of the members of the Ozark Wilderness Waterways Club, a canoeing group based in Kansas City, to celebrate the end of the old year, the advent of the new year, by canoeing a stretch of the Current, camping out on a gravel bar and chastely partying away the last few moments of the dying year.

 

As wild parties go, it could not have been more tame. While much of the country was celebrating New Year’s Eve by getting snot-flying drunk, we were brewing tea and hot chocolate over a camp stove, and huddling around a welcome campfire, watching sparks eddy into the star shot sky. At least, I was not locked out of this celebration. Anyone with a canoe and a tolerance for odd celebration was welcome to join the group.

 

The culmination of the evening, as is true of all New Year’s Eve celebrations, was to welcome the arrival of the new year in some way. In New York City, thousands would be gathered in Times Square waiting for the celebrated ball to drop. More of the country would be gathered in front of a television set watching that same Manhattan ceremony in comfort— or doing what the Vances usually do on New Year’s Eve, watching the inside of our eyelids.

 

Another digression: (The other night I watched a classic 1950s sci-fi movie “The Blob” with Steve McQueen. The premise was that an alien gelatinous goo somehow got released in a small town where Steve was an unruly teenager, and began gulping town folk and of course no one believed the rowdy kid when he told them there was a monster on the loose. Our hero in this cinematic masterpiece discovered that the blob could be frozen by spraying it with the contents of a CO2 fire extinguisher. Finally he rallied the townsfolk and all the fire extinguishers available and flash froze the Jell-O gone wild. Considering that CO2 emissions are considered largely responsible for today’s global warming, the town’s wholesale spewing of it into the atmosphere was an ominous sign 60 years before we recognized the danger. The Air Force swooped in and lifted the frozen blob and flew it to the Arctic and dumped it there on the ice, presumably rendering it harmless in an eternal cocoon of ice. But, prophetically, McQueen wryly mumbled the eerie final line of the movie, “We’re okay as long as the Arctic stays cold.”)

 

Back on the Current River, I watched as the canoe group prepared for the penultimate moment of celebration. One paddler, garbed as the old year, tottered to a canoe, imitating an arthritic elder on the verge of life’s end, clambered into the canoe and drifted downstream, feebly waving farewell. Then, from the upstream darkness appeared a second canoe occupied by the baby new year— a spectacle which has lived in my memory for many years and never will fade.

 

Baby New Year was none other than Nancy Jack who had last worn a diaper decades before. There is no adequate way to describe Nancy, a legend among Missouri canoe drivers. A veteran newspaper reporter, she was a fierce environmentalist, an inveterate chain smoker, with skin the approximate texture of worn-out cowboy chaps.  Nancy was a beautiful person buried in a homely exterior. You were likely to run into her anywhere south of the Missouri River, but most likely deep in the Ozarks, and almost always either on or coming from or heading to a river to explore.

 

Despite her ferocious cigarette addiction, Nancy lived 80 years, all of them lively and fully realized. We greeted this small, homely legend representing the next 365 days with a cheer and hopes that those days would be as optimistic and fun filled as Nancy herself.

 

There, on the shore of the nation’s first National Scenic Riverway, I celebrated a frosty New Year’s Eve and I can testify that it not only was it the most memorable of any I’ve experienced but it was light years more preferable watching Nancy Jack in swaddling clothes than spending New Year’s Eve locked out of my motel room in my underwear.

 

A digression: (Donald Trump’s southern border storm troopers propose to employ Fort Sill, Oklahoma as a concentration camp for some 1200 asylum seeking children. In 1955 I spent six weeks at Fort Sill learning to shoot an M1 rifle, live in a squad tent with strangers and fully comprehend the meaning of misery.  And I wasn’t fleeing homeland wretchedness in search of a better life in the United States of America. I was ostensibly learning to be a second lieutenant in the Army. Since it began in 1869, the military base has served as a concentration camp for Geronimo’s Apache tribe, a concentration camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II, and as a concentration camp for Lieutenants Fuzz, hoping to become shavetail officers in the artillery. Neither me, Geronimo, or the Asian Americans had much fun there and I doubt that those poor kids interned by the immigration Nazis will either.)

 

My wife, Marty, and I spent an anniversary canoe floating on Huzzah Creek, a gem tributary of the Meramec River.  Other rivers have threaded through our family life since there was a family. Our daughter, Amy, will testify without much prompting that canoeing for her is a mixed blessing. She went on her first canoe trip in utero on the North Fork River about two months before she officially became Amy, and then seven years later on that same river she and I capsized in a rapids and tumbled downstream, me holding her out of the water while my back scraped along the rocks and I shouted “it’s all right, Amy!”  Even though it was painfully obvious to both of us that it wasn’t.

 

We survived that outrage with no more than a bent canoe and a declaration by Amy that she would never go canoeing again. Of course, that was not going to happen in the Vance clan, and a few years later she found herself in a canoe on the Current River attacked by a colony of ants which had taken up residence in the floatation chamber under her seat. She bailed out of the canoe, squalling that she was being assaulted by insects. We submerged the canoe until the ants floated free and drifted downstream inspiring a ferocious rise of feeding fish.

 

On gravel bar campsites, the family gathers around the fire pit and tells stories of past canoeing experiences, anniversary floats, New Year’s Eve celebrations, while Amy is waiting her chance to air her litany of canoe trauma.  I tell her the various indignities she has suffered are the inevitable result of having been the least ‘ un in a family of five kids and two adults who’ve never quite grown up.

 

Beyond ants, unforgiving rapids, and exotic holiday celebrations, our experiences on Ozark rivers (mine anyway) have occasionally had unnerving moments.  I remember a float on the Niagara River. We had left one vehicle at the take out landing and I volunteered to stay with our canoes while everyone else went back to the put in and picked up our other vehicle. I was basking in the sunshine of a cloudless day on the gravel bar beside the Niangua when a person emerged from the vegetation behind me.

 

If you have seen the movie “Field of Dreams” where the 1919 Black Sox materialize from Ray Kinsella’s Iowa cornfield, you can gain some idea of what I began to think when this guy appeared. I wouldn’t say he skulked but he did not inspire me to sociability. And he didn’t look as if he wanted to play baseball. Instead of a fielder’s glove he was carrying a pistol of a type and caliber last seen when Dirty Harry cleared the streets of San Francisco of bad guys. I studiously avoided eye contact, the way you’re supposed to do when a grizzly bear appears out of the brush. Do I hear faint banjo music? I thought, remembering what happened to four guys on a cinematic canoe trip down the Cahulawassee River.

 

The guy prowled the river’s edge as if looking for targets and I remembered a bit of wisdom from another movie “Jurassic Park” where the advice when threatened by a Tyrannosaurus rex is “Don’t move!”

 

After a couple of eons of anxious moments, the strange man with the hog leg shootin’ iron apparently decided there was nothing worth killing that day and, as eerily as he had appeared, he faded back into the brush. When the rest of our canoeing party appeared they perhaps wondered why I was singing the old folk song “Cotton Eye Joe”: “Where did he come from?/where did he go?” But I refrained from breaking out my guitar and strumming the opening chords of “Dueling Banjo.”

 

Just in case.

 

A final digression: (The Titanic sank in 1912 and it was 72 years before famed explorer Bob Ballard found it. Now 80 years after the 1937 disappearance of Amelia Earhart, he is mounting an expedition to find her airplane and whatever remains of her. It’s probably beyond the expertise of Ballard or any other intrepid explorer, but I’d like to see someone mount an expedition to find Donald Trump’s soul. We know the Titanic went down and we know that Amelia Earhart ran out of gas somewhere over; the Pacific Ocean.  But all evidence indicates that Donald Trump possesses no soul.)

 

 

Rivers of memory, rivers of the heart, rivers of the mind—they flow down the streambed of time. Perhaps some icy New Year’s Eve a ghostly canoe will drift down the dark shadows of the Current River with a silent paddler representing the incoming year. Very possibly this aquatic specter will be smoking a cigarette. Let’s just hope this visitation from the past is not instead brandishing a single action Colt 45 caliber revolver looking for streamside targets.

 

 

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  • Blog
  • July 19th, 2019

DOG DAZE

By Joel M. Vance

 

The late great Joe South sang one of his own compositions “Don’t it make you want to go home.” The song possibly became an anthem, although I never heard it, for a multitude of motel managers whom I have managed to offend over many years of abusing their hospitality.

 

It comes with having been an upland bird hunter for many, many years which often has me involved in  seeking the hospitality of misnamed establishments, like Motel Eight— which implies that a room can be had for eight dollars. Perhaps in 1940, but these days of rampant inflation it’s more like “Motel— What! You gotta be kidding!”

 

The last time I stayed in a motel that lived up to its advertised price was many years ago deep in the Ozarks where, exhausted from a long day, I plunked down $2.50 for what amounted to a lumpy bed barely smaller than the threadbare room in which it was located. The room however did come equipped with a radio, just out of the era when you had to use a cat’s whisker to tune it, which, when I checked it out, hoping for a program featuring vintage John Coltrane jazz to lull me to sleep, instead  bombarded me with the only available station, featuring a hardshell Baptist revival preacher assuring me that I was destined for Hell if I didn’t change my ways.

 

I had no intention of changing my ways, although the preacher’s dire warning does seem a distinct possibility. At any rate (advertised or not) motels and I have had a long and uneasy relationship, mostly because I, and my hunting companions, do not represent the ordinary clientele of most transitory housing establishments.

 

There are at least two motels where I would not be surprised if the proprietors don’t have SWAT teams on standby in case they receive a reservation request from me or, God forbid, I should show up in person with a vehicle containing dog crates. I will not name the location of these motels to eliminate the possibility that they backtrack and find my home location and send hit teams.

 

One was near where I shot the first pheasant of my hunting life. I left it on the tailgate of my vehicle briefly and when I returned the motel owner’s large Labrador retriever was licking its lips, a telltale feather stuck to its gums. It had not, however, molested the several quail that I also had shot. Honest, Your Honor, I did not do this in retribution, but I did field dress the quail in the motel washbasin. Subsequently, through word-of-mouth telegraph, I was informed that there had been a drainage system stoppage due to a surfeit of bird feathers lodged in the motel room’s plumbing innards, which caused an overflow which caused flood damage.

 

While I may have been directly responsible for the mini flood, I was only peripherally involved in the other motel mini catastrophe. It happened because a member of our hunting party suffered a massive gastric upset which lasted much of the night and was manifested mostly by toxic eruptions rivaling that which last occurred in AD 79 when Mount Vesuvius exploded and wiped out the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. My hunting buddy subsequently recovered, but I’m not sure the motel ever did.

 

The place was optimistically named the Belle Air and I celebrated it in print as the “Foul Air” and apparently I had a wider readership than I thought because, once again, the word got around and the motel ownership failed to appreciate my feeble attempt at levity. Some folks got no sense of humor.

 

Unpleasant bodily effusions come in more than one form and another type occurred in a motel room after a South Dakota bird hunt. My son-in-law, Ron De Valk, has been the unwitting and sometimes unwilling participant in several of my motel debacles but he should admit that it was his idea that triggered this one. We both were worn out after a long day in the field, as were our two bird dogs.

 

As is usual, we figured the dogs were as deserving of rest in accommodations less Spartan than a Porta Kennel so we smuggled them into the room after we, not the dogs, had eagerly wolfed down a meal of prime rib. He may deny it, but Ron was the one who suggested to the waitress that we would appreciate a container of leftover meat juice. Obligingly, she fetched us what appeared to be a quart of prime rib elixir. Common sense for anyone else would dictate that you don’t flood a dog’s digestive system with that much rich additive, but we were tired and unthinkingly divided equally the juice between the two dogs and their evening meal. Of course they wolfed it down.

 

We woke simultaneously in the pit of night and it was not necessary to turn on the light to understand what had developed in the canine excretory system while we were dreaming away. There is an applicable Rodney Dangerfield joke here: “My dog must be Egyptian— he leaves a pyramid in every room.” There was the necessity to clean up after our Middle Eastern imitating dogs and the only implement in the room that appeared usable was the plastic scoop used to shovel ice cubes into a bucket.

 

It worked for the purpose, but as I’ve written before, “You might want to think about that the next time you stay in a motel and long for a cold drink.”

 

Ron also was involved in the great South Dakota motel room flood. If you recall the television show Northern Exposure, there was a Native American character, Marilyn Whirlwind, who was totally unflappable and summed up situations with wise counsel when disaster loomed. She was unfazed by any imminent catastrophe and I suspect when the series ended, she got a job in the motel where we stayed and flooded the bathroom.

 

We still don’t know how it happened—perhaps the Ogallala aquifer mysteriously backed up across eight states and wound up in our motel bathroom. Whatever the reason, Ron emerged as I was arranging my hunting equipment for the day’s activities and announced in panic “The toilet is overflowing and the bathroom is flooded!” Even as he spoke water was seeping around his boots into the main room.

 

Ron frantically dialed the front desk to report the commode tsunami and presently a Native American woman appeared and Ron squeaked, “we’re flooding!”

 

“Okay,” our version of Marilyn Whirlwind said impassively. And she might’ve added as Marilyn Whirlwind once did on Northern Exposure, “White people; they get crazy.” We gathered up our hunting gear and fled, and when we returned that evening the room was dry. Bathrooms tended to be traumatic experiences for Ron who, on his first visit to his new in-laws was startled when the family cat knocked a partition out of the wall in the bathroom and emerged suddenly (she often retreated into the walls to hide, being frightened of strangers in the house). It didn’t help when Ron, alarmed that perhaps the suddenly materializing cat was some sort of Phantom of the Opera, discovered that the door, which was tricky, was locked and he had to pound on it and beg for rescue.

 

Thinking back on it, many of these motel oriented disasters center around middle of the night bathroom breaks. Another one involved possibly the most bizarre New Year’s Eve celebration ever. My hunting buddy and I, not Ron this time, celebrated New Year’s Eve day with a long quail hunt. The motel where we were staying featured a plastic Santa Claus in the center of its courtyard, left over from the previous week’s Christmas. There was no plan to go out on the town for a few drinks in anticipation of another year’s arrival. All we wanted to do was hit the sack. My buddy liked to sleep cool, as I do, so he turned the thermostat all the way off. The dogs and we settled in for a restful night, or so we thought.

 

About 2 AM, the New Year having arrived not with a bang but a whimper, I awoke with my dog exhaling pungent breath directly in my face. I realized I was bathed in sweat and both the dog and I were verging on heatstroke. My buddy had not turned down the thermostat but had turned it the wrong way and the room was hotter than a Finnish sauna. It was Equatorial Rain Forest in the room and obviously something needed to be done.  The dog wanted to drain and we both wanted cooling. A quick trip outdoors I thought would be just the thing to let the dog pee and me chill out. My buddy slept on, somehow unaware of the searing heat.

 

I opened the door, stepped outside in my briefs, and the dog raced past me to Santa Claus where he proceeded to firehose it almost endlessly. I was dimly aware as I stood in the subfreezing temperature, beginning to congeal, of an ominous clicking sound just behind me which I realized, a moment later was the sound of the door closing and locking.

 

The dog finished desecrating Santa. We stood together shivering and I banged on the door trying to wake my comatose roommate and hoping not to rouse the motel owner or other sleeping customers who, I suspected, might not understand why an adult male would usher in the new year much as he had been ushered into life— near-naked, wearing naught but a diaper. Most babies do not come equipped with a bird dog. Finally my buddy stumbled to the door opened it, gazed blearily at me for a long moment and said, “Why are you out there in the cold?”

 

Had it been Marilyn Whirlwind who came to my rescue, she would’ve merely said, “White people; they get crazy.”

 

The Dakotas, over the years, have tended to bring out the worst in me.  It was a typical subzero day in South Dakota. All over the state brass monkeys were clutching their groins. Ron and I were freezing, looking forward to the warmth of the motel where we were staying. Between us we had five Brittanies. It did not occur to us that, all water sources were frozen solid and the dogs, therefore had gone a long time between hydration breaks.

 

The ground floor motel featured a long corridor and our room was about six or seven doors from the back entrance (which we were using so we could sneak the dogs in so they could enjoy the same conveniences as their owners). And they could, at long last, enjoy a leisurely drink provided by us from the washbasin into their individual dog bowls.

 

The dogs, however, had a different idea. When I key carded the back entrance and opened the door a tsunami of canine thirst burst past me, caromed down the hall— and bulled their way into an open door (unfortunately, not ours).

 

I hustled down the hall after them to the open door where I beheld a gentleman on the phone, dressed in a business suit and tie. The dogs, en masse had veered into the bathroom and were noisily drinking from the toilet, a sound I had last heard at the base of Niagara Falls. The man on the phone appeared to be on the verge of negotiating what for all I knew was a multi million-dollar business deal and, judging from the toxic look he shot at me, was not happy at this unforeseen interruption.

 

I gestured apologetically and whispered, “Come! Come!” The man glared even louder, if it’s possible to glare loudly. The dogs paid absolutely no attention, continuing to slake their overwhelming thirst. There was nothing for it but to separate dog from toilet and there also was no way I was going to corral five dogs at one time and remove them from the stranger’s room.

 

So I grabbed one collar and dragged that dog out the door, lugged it several doors farther down, managed to get the key card inserted in the slot with one hand, all the time wrestling the bucking and heaving thirst crazed animal with the other hand, threw the door open, tossed the dog in, and sprinted back up the hall to the stranger’s room for another dog. Five times this Buster Keaton comedy routine repeated itself before I ran out of dogs and, for the last time, out of the stranger’s room.  As I left the man’s bathroom with the last dog in hand, I glanced down. The toilet bowl was totally empty.

 

Never once did the man pause in his intense phone conversation to, perhaps, quick draw a 45 caliber pistol and begin shooting, although I wouldn’t have blamed him. Ron, who had been busy at the vehicle gathering up our hunting gear, came in to behold five dogs and me, all panting as if we had just finished a marathon. “What’s going on?” he asked.

 

“Just another day in the life,” I said.

 

 

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  • Blog
  • July 15th, 2019

PENCE DEFENCE

By Joel M. Vance

 

Last week, Donald Trump sent his Uber Christian vice president Mike Pence to the southern border, along with a Washington Post reporter, representing all the media. Pence is quoted as saying, “I couldn’t be more impressed” by what he described as “the compassionate work” by border patrol agents. “Every family that I spoke with told me they were being well cared for.”

 

The Post reporter had a somewhat different take on the scene. He said 400 men were housed in sweltering cages so crowded that all of them could not lie down. Some shouted they had not had a shower, had been held in the detention facility for more than 40 days (a border patrol spokesperson said defensively that it wasn’t 40 days it was only 32) and that they were hungry. The reporter said the stench was overwhelming.

 

Pence, in typical geewhiz fashion, summed up the situation by saying “this is tough stuff.” Well, Duh! the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security described dangerously overcrowded conditions, including a situation with migrants packed so tightly into confinement that some had to stand on toilets.  Our compassionate president, said the facilities were “beautifully run.”

 

Trump persists in employing the tools of the bigot, the tyrant—demonizing his opponents. Every migrant at the southern border is a murderer or rapist (you have to watch out for kindergarten age kids overrunning the Southwest, bent on rapine and massacre.   And that little drowned two-year-old obviously was bent on invading United States of America to commit murder).

 

Trump has told four freshman women Congress people who happen to represent minorities to “go back where they came from.” Three of the four were born in American cities, and the fourth, who has become a target of every right wing troll is a naturalized citizen from Somalia, an African country characterized by Trump as a “shithole country.” It would be instructive to hear what the notoriously foulmouthed president says about Ilhan Abdullani Omar when the only listeners are his faithful toadies.

 

Trump desperately wants to divert attention from his own perverted misdeeds as other evil types have done in the past. We heard it in the days of the Ku Klux Klan—Black men obviously posed a threat to white womanhood so let’s lynch them. Tailgunner Joe McCarthy ruined the lives of many with his false accusations about communism creeping through our society, abetted by the weasely shyster Roy Cohn who would go on to be Trump’s lawyer. Shitbirds of a feather flock together.  It’s instructive to note that Tennessee’s Republican governor  Bill Lee recently signed a proclamation honoring Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a psychopath who helped found and was the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

 

Echoes of segregation era outrages are becoming all too common in the Trump era and the administration’s concept of sweeping up asylum-seekers from infants to adults and refusing them not only asylum, but common decency,  officially reinforces the bigots infesting today’s political scene.

 

Our fine Christian vice president later after his brief tip toe through a detention facility was quoted as saying, “What we saw today is a facility that is providing care that every American would be proud of.” Is the man as nuts as his boss! Proud? How about ashamed? Pence and his all white inspection team studiously avoided eye contact with the confined asylum seeking, caged men and quickly fled without talking to any of them. They apparently could not hear the shouted complaints about the foul treatment they were witnessing.

 

Instead of feeding the hopeful immigrants, why not invite them to the White House for one of Trump’s infamous fast food banquets with which he attempts to honor the nation’s world championship sports teams? Stuff these underfed asylum-seekers with fat laden, cholesterol rich junk food and get rid of them by nutrition poisoning instead of spending billions of dollars building walls, cages, and equipping border patrol troopers with expensive equipment.

 

Just trying to be helpful.

 

If it were in my power to do so I would have Trump, Pence and all their right wing apologists, confined in chain-link cages down wind of a corporate hog farm on a hot summer day, temperature and humidity both in the 90s, for 40 days without benefit of toothbrushes, adequate food, or a place to lie down.

 

Words of more than four letters fail me.

 

Here is what I posted last week before the Pence trip. I would hope that readers would disseminate it as widely as possible. I encourage comments and so far there has been only one negative comment to the effect that my criticisms of Trump should apply instead to Barack Obama. I thought of replying to it by suggesting that the critic launder his white sheet but figured that would be no more constructive than trying to instruct a junkyard dog not to scratch fleas.

 

 

A Biblical fellow named John, possibly the first so named, quoted a friend of his, a fellow named Jesus, as saying “the truth shall set you free.” Another fellow, more recently, named Michael De Adder, found that the truth indeed did set him free—he got fired for it.

 

You may have seen it, but if not Google Trump golf cartoon and see what depicting the truth cost De Adder. He is a Canadian cartoonist who drew a political caricature of Donald Trump standing over the drowned bodies of a father and his 23-month-old daughter lying dead in the shallows of the Rio Grande River. Trump is standing beside his golf cart, club in hand, saying “Do you mind if I play through?”

 

De Adder’s contract with Brunswick News, Inc., was canceled. The company claims it was not because of the golf cartoon, but De Adder says “I had every reason to suspect it was over that cartoon. I was given no reason. I inquired and inquired.” He added every time he submitted a Trump cartoon, “it got heated every time there was a Trump in the lineup.”

 

The afore-mentioned Jesus Christ also said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” Today, Donald Trump, who seems to suffer from a Messiah complex, would say, “Let the little children come unto to me…. And suffer.”

 

As I write, the president of the United States, fresh off having served his perverted ego with a parade on the Fourth of July, the nation’s birthday, during which he made a self-serving speech which included the curious fact that the revolutionary army, fighting to separate the American colonies from England in 1775, bravely conquered the English airports, and inspired the national anthem which wasn’t written until nearly 40 years later– and airport victories were sparse in colonial America.

 

Donald Trump is as much a stranger to historical fact as he is to the truth. The truth here is that the small child who died with her father trying to swim their way to freedom is a direct victim of the cruel policies of the man who daily desecrates the nation’s highest office. Another president, Harry Truman, said “the buck stops here.” George W. Bush, a more recent president, said “I am the decider.”

 

The point of both presidential quotes is that the person ultimately responsible for presidential policies is the guy in the Oval Office. And that, unfortunately, happens to be Donald J Trump at least until the nation’s electorate comes to its senses and kicks his ass out of office.

 

If we believe that to be true—if indeed the president is responsible for the consequences of his decisions— then there is no other conclusion to draw except that Donald J Trump is a child killer. That is a terrible accusation make against the person who represents the face and voice of our democracy, but there it is.

 

You have only to look at photos from the concentration camps at the southern border, read stories about children and adults being denied basic sanitary needs, being fed inferior food (if at all), having to sleep on concrete with insufficient bed clothing (if at all), and enduring a litany of indignities not seen since Nazi Germany was in full flower.

 

Certainly not seen in this country since the indefensible treatment of Native Americans herded into reservation slums because the ancestral mentors of Donald Trump coveted what the Indians had owned forever and were able to take it by force. How long will it be until Trump (who has implied he might indeed resort to it) authorizes the use of lethal force to kill off the asylum seeking migrants at the border? He already has a ready to shoot militia just itching to torch off a few rounds, and apparently a subset of the immigration and customs authority with a similar “kill them all and let God sort them out” philosophy.

 

It’s a truism that history repeats itself and it seems to be happening. Chances are there is no possibility there ever will be reparations to African-Americans for slavery, to Native Americans for the indignities suffered by them, nor for similar indignities suffered by Japanese-Americans during World War II. As a nation, we probably can’t afford to make up for past sins, but that’s no justification for committing yet another sin against humanity.  Trump, as I write, is not at work dealing with the crisis at the southern border— he is on a golfing vacation at taxpayer expense.

 

I am wearing a T-shirt with a circled caricature of Trump circled by the familiar diagonal backslash indicating something that is forbidden. Above and below the circle are the words “resist hate.” I admit it is hypocritical of me to endorse the idea of resisting hate because I fiercely hate Donald J Trump and all he stands for. Almost equally I loath the chinless wonder, Mitch McConnell, and his senatorial sidekick, the little dictator Lindsey Graham.

 

That unholy trio and their equally reprehensible Republican co-conspirators in Congress do nothing to alleviate the misery at the border, loudly and falsely blaming everything on the Democrats, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and any other Democrat within the memory of modern man.

 

I am forced, reluctantly, to admit they are faintly justified in blaming the Democrats because that timid party seems unable to get off its puny butt and fight for the right things. Instead, the Democrats seem to be paralyzed by infighting, especially among the nearly 2 dozen people who would be president, each of whom has an agenda largely varying from all the others.

 

Instead of uniting in common purpose, which the horrible border crisis demands, they unite only in trumpeting “Not Trump!” and then deviate into insulting each other. Meanwhile, hundreds of hopeful migrants, fleeing from oppression, danger, and virtually every miserable affliction human beings can imagine, are compressed into cages in sweltering desert heat, amid conditions that, if they were inflicted on farm animals would bring down outraged local law enforcement authorities en masse.  These are human beings, not stockyard cattle, not feedlot animals destined for the slaughterhouse.

 

If I were president, which thank God I’m not, I would gather unto myself the power of the presidency and, starting with an immediate visit to the border, start kicking asses and taking names. Instead of signing inane, idiotic, and largely inconsequential executive orders, I would put my name to ordering those responsible for fixing things to fix them. I would, as former Pres. Lyndon Johnson was wont to do, call in the ranking members of Congress, of both parties, get in their faces and demand both answers and actions.

 

Further, I would take the case against  the inaction of Congress to the American people, explaining that we are not a nation that treats people the way these migrants have been treated and reprise the famous outburst by the fictional television anchorman Howard Beale in the movie “Network”who told his viewers to “Get up out of your chairs, go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!’”

 

Further, I would challenge Congress to find the money to establish a viable economic Peace Corps, in cooperation with those who one time were our allies (most of whom Trump is managed to alienate) to revive the lives and hope for Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

 

Instead of cozying up to Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Chinese president XI Jinping and others of the world’s more odiferous dictators, why couldn’t Donald Trump call for a summit of the leaders of Central and South America, plus Mexico and why not throw in Canada, to brainstorm for ways to bring the devastated countries of Central America back from the brink of anarchy to civilized society?

 

I’ll tell you why— because such a summit would not be about solutions.  It also would not be all about Trump and he couldn’t stand that. Even if he were to convene the leaders among the Americas, I suspect he would insist on making it a celebration of him, probably with another freaking parade, and somehow would manage to piss off everyone but his bloodthirsty base.

 

Donald Trump’s solution to a humanitarian crisis is to build a wall. Robert Frost, perhaps America’s most beloved poet said this about walls:

 

 “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

   What I was walling in or walling out,

   And to whom I was like to give offence.

   Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

  That wants it down….”

 

Trump says he wants the press admitted to the concentration camps to see what the conditions are, despite having made every effort to deny press admittance. According to him, conditions are kind of like a summer camp and are better than the ones from which the asylum-seekers fled (which makes one wonder why, if things were so great at home, did women and children walk hundreds of miles under horrific conditions to endure more horrific conditions at our border?)

 

Tucker Carlson, Fox News mouthpiece accompanied Trump recently to North Korea for his schmooze session with dictator Kim Jong Un. Carlson, perhaps unwittingly (or half wittedly), had this to say about Un, “you got to be honest about what it means to lead a country, it means killing people.” If you can assume that Carlson, one of Trump’s pet talking heads, echoes the sentiments of his favorite president, what does it say about the man in charge?

 

The renowned Mayo Clinic lists the symptoms of a narcissist personality, a mental disorder similar to or associated with someone who is a sociopath. Mayo says those with this mental disorder exhibit these symptoms:

 

“Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration, Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it. Exaggerate achievements and talents.  Are preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.   Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people.  Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior.  Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations.  Take advantage of others to get what they want.  Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.  Be envious of others and believe others envy them.  Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious.  Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office. 

 

                “At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:  Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment.  Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted,  React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior,  Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior.”

 

If you can read through this depressing list of character flaws and not think of Donald Trump, you’re not paying attention. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to become convinced that we are being led by a person with a serious mental illness. We will all suffer the consequences of this, but probably not nearly as severely as those poor souls incarcerated at the border of our country.

 

Meanwhile, the right wing hate team is ramping up ahead of Trump’s reelection campaign, claiming that Kamala Harris has accused doctors of being racist because they wear white coats, and accusing Megan Rapinoe and the US World Cup champion women’s soccer team of stomping on the American flag after their victory. The Harris accusation is totally false—a damn lie— and the flag accusation is mostly false (a team member accidentally fumbled the flag for about three seconds, quickly scooped it up, and no one “stomped” on it).

Another meanwhile: a Public Policy poll (admittedly, a Democrat organization) showed a day or two ago that if the election were held now, and if Rapinoe were running for president against Trump she’d beat him.

 

Would that it were so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Blog
  • July 10th, 2019

THE MADNESS OF KING DONALD 1

By Joel M. Vance

 

You may have seen it, but if not Google Trump golf cartoon and see what depicting the truth cost Michael De Adder. He is a Canadian cartoonist who drew a political caricature of Donald Trump standing over the drowned bodies of a father and his 23-month-old daughter lying dead in the shallows of the Rio Grande River. Trump is standing beside his golf cart, club in hand, saying “Do you mind if I play through?”

 

De Adder’s contract with Brunswick News, Inc., was canceled. The company claims it was not because of the golf cartoon, but De Adder says “I had every reason to suspect it was over that cartoon. I was given no reason. I inquired and inquired.” He added every time he submitted a Trump cartoon, “it got heated every time there was a Trump in the lineup.”

 

The afore-mentioned Jesus Christ also said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” Today, Donald Trump, who seems to suffer from a Messiah complex, would say, “Let the little children come unto to me…. And suffer.”

 

As I write, the president of the United States, fresh off having served his perverted ego with a parade on the Fourth of July, the nation’s birthday, during which he made a self-serving speech which included the curious fact that the revolutionary army, fighting to separate the American colonies from England in 1775, bravely conquered the English airports, and inspired the national anthem which wasn’t written until nearly 40 years later.  Airport victories were sparse in colonial America.

 

Donald Trump is as much a stranger to historical fact as he is to the truth. The truth here is that the small child who died with her father trying to swim their way to freedom is a direct victim of the cruel policies of the man who daily desecrates the nation’s highest office. Another president, Harry Truman, said “The buck stops here.” George W. Bush, a more recent president, said “I am the decider.”

 

The point of both presidential quotes is that the person ultimately responsible for presidential policies is the guy in the Oval Office. And that, unfortunately, happens to be Donald J Trump at least until the nation’s electorate comes to its senses and kicks his ass out of office.

 

If we believe that to be true—if indeed the president is responsible for the consequences of his decisions— then there is no other conclusion to draw except that Donald J Trump is a child killer. That is a terrible accusation make against the person who represents the face and voice of our democracy, but there it is.

 

You have only to look at photos from the concentration camps at the southern border, read stories about children and adults being denied basic sanitary needs, being fed inferior food (if at all), having to sleep on concrete with insufficient bed clothing (if at all), and enduring a litany of indignities not seen since Nazi Germany was in full flower.

 

Certainly not seen in this country since the indefensible treatment of Native Americans herded into reservation slums because the ancestral mentors of Donald Trump coveted what the Indians had owned forever and were able to take it by force. How long will it be until Trump (who has implied he might indeed resort to it) authorizes the use of lethal force to kill off the asylum seeking migrants at the border? He already has a ready to shoot militia just itching to torch off a few rounds, and apparently a subset of the immigration and customs authorities with a similar “kill them all and let God sort them out” philosophy.

 

It’s a truism that history repeats itself and it seems to be happening. Chances are there is no possibility there ever will be reparations to African-Americans for slavery, to Native Americans for the indignities suffered by them, nor for similar indignities suffered by Japanese-Americans during World War II. As a nation, we probably can’t afford to make up for past sins, but that’s no justification for committing yet another sin against humanity.  Trump, as I write, is not at work dealing with the crisis at the southern border— he is on a golfing vacation at taxpayer expense.

 

I am wearing a T-shirt with a circled caricature of Trump circled by the familiar diagonal backslash indicating something that is forbidden. Above and below the circle are the words “resist hate.” I admit it is hypocritical of me to endorse the idea of resisting hate because I fiercely hate Donald J Trump and all he stands for. Almost equally I loath the chinless wonder, Mitch McConnell, and his senatorial sidekick, the little dictator Lindsey Graham.

 

That unholy trio and their equally reprehensible Republican co-conspirators in Congress do nothing to alleviate the misery at the border, loudly and falsely blaming everything on the Democrats, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and any other Democrat within the memory of modern man.

 

I am forced, reluctantly, to admit they are faintly justified in blaming the Democrats because that timid party seems unable to get off its puny butt and fight for the right things. Instead, the Democrats seem to be paralyzed by infighting, especially among the nearly 2 dozen people who would be president, each of whom has an agenda largely varying from all the others.

 

Instead of uniting in common purpose, which the horrible border crisis demands, they unite only in trumpeting “Not Trump!” and then deviate into insulting each other. Meanwhile, hundreds of hopeful migrants, fleeing from oppression, danger, and virtually every miserable affliction human beings can imagine, are compressed into cages in sweltering desert heat, amid conditions that, if they were inflicted on farm animals would bring down outraged local law enforcement authorities en masse.  These are human beings, not stockyard cattle, not feedlot animals destined for the slaughterhouse.

 

If I were president, which thank God I’m not, I would gather unto myself the power of the presidency and, starting with an immediate visit to the border, start kicking asses and taking names. Instead of signing inane, idiotic, and largely inconsequential executive orders, I would put my name to ordering those responsible for fixing things to fix them. I would, as former Pres. Lyndon Johnson was wont to do, call in the ranking members of Congress, of both parties, get in their faces and demand both answers and actions.

 

Further, I would take the case against  the inaction of Congress to the American people, explaining that we are not a nation that treats people the way these migrants have been treated and reprise the famous outburst by the fictional television anchorman Howard Beale in the movie “Network”who told his viewers to “Get up out of your chairs, go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!’”

 

Further, I would challenge Congress to find the money to establish a viable economic Peace Corps, in cooperation with those who one time were our allies (most of whom Trump has managed to alienate) to revive the lives and hopes for Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

 

Instead of cozying up to Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Chinese president XI Jinping and others of the world’s more odiferous dictators, why couldn’t Donald Trump call for a summit of the leaders of Central and South America, plus Mexico and why not throw in Canada, to brainstorm for ways to bring the devastated countries of Central America back from the brink of anarchy to civilized society?

 

I’ll tell you why— because such a summit would not be about solutions.  It also would not be all about Trump and he couldn’t stand that. Even if he were to convene the leaders among the Americas, I suspect he would insist on making it a celebration of him, probably with another freaking parade, and somehow would manage to piss off everyone but his bloodthirsty base.

 

Donald Trump’s solution to a humanitarian crisis is to build a wall. Robert Frost, perhaps America’s most beloved poet said this about walls:

 

 “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

   What I was walling in or walling out,

   And to whom I was like to give offence.

   Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

  That wants it down….”

 

Trump says he wants the press admitted to the concentration camps to see what the conditions are, despite having made every effort to deny press admittance. According to him, conditions are kind of like a summer camp and are better than the ones from which the asylum-seekers fled (which makes one wonder why, if things were so great at home, did women and children walk hundreds of miles under horrific conditions to endure more horrific conditions at our border?)

 

Tucker Carlson, Fox News mouthpiece accompanied Trump recently to North Korea for his schmooze session with dictator Kim Jong Un. Carlson, perhaps unwittingly (or half wittedly), had this to say about Un, “you got to be honest about what it means to lead a country, it means killing people.” If you can assume that Carlson, one of Trump’s pet talking heads, echoes the sentiments of his favorite president, what does it say about the man in charge?

 

The renowned Mayo Clinic lists the symptoms of a narcissist personality, a mental disorder similar to or associated with someone who is a sociopath. Mayo says those with this mental disorder exhibit these symptoms:

 

                   “Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration, Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it. Exaggerate achievements and talents.  Are preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.   Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people.  Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior.  Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations.  Take advantage of others to get what they want.  Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.  Be envious of others and believe others envy them.  Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious.  Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office. 

 

                “At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:  Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment.  Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted,  React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior,  Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior.”

 

If you can read through this depressing list of character flaws and not think of Donald Trump, you’re not paying attention. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to become convinced that we are being led by a person with a serious mental illness. We will all suffer the consequences of this, but probably not nearly as severely as those poor souls incarcerated at the border of our country.

 

Meanwhile, the right wing hate team is ramping up ahead of Trump’s reelection campaign, claiming that Kamala Harris, a leading candidate, has accused doctors of being racist because they wear white coats, and accusing Megan Rapinoe and the US World Cup champion women’s soccer team of stomping on the American flag after their victory. The Harris accusation is totally false—a damn lie— and the flag accusation is mostly false (a team member accidentally fumbled the flag for about three seconds, quickly scooped it up, and no one “stomped” on it).

Also meanwhile: a Public Policy poll (admittedly, a Democrat organization) showed a day or two ago that if the election were held now, and if Rapinoe were running for president against Trump she’d beat him.

 

Would that it were so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Blog
  • July 5th, 2019

EGG ME ON

By Joel M. Vance

 

A long time ago, I wrote most of the manuscript on eggs figuring that there would be massive interest in buying a book about something that is so common to everyone—we eat them for breakfast, we even began as a form of egg inside our mommies. I had just read a book about peppers and figured that if a writer could profit from writing about jalapenos, I should be able to make a buck from writing about the morning scramble.

 

So far, the nation’s book publishers have disagreed with me, but I did collect a massive amount of information on eggs, including countless bits of trivia by which I could (and you can if you want) bore people to insensibility (either that, or convince them that you are way past time to be committed to a mental health facility).

 

So here, for your information or as evidence to be used when the man in the white coats come for you, are many tidbits of egg trivia. It’s been a slow week, it’s summer hot, and I think I’ll take a nap.

 

Samuel Butler, back in the 1600s, referred to something being “like nest eggs to make clients lay.”   “Nest egg” as used today means a savings account (or in cooking to describe stiffly- beaten egg whites into which the yolk is deposited for baking), but in the chicken world, it means an artificial egg to encourage a hen to lay in a preferred nest, rather than in a hidden spot.  Doesn’t much matter what color, size or shape it is, as long as it is roughly like a real chicken egg.

 

                One pigeon fancier experimented with different colors, shapes and sizes.  He first put black dots on the eggs, then red.  Didn’t matter.  Then he used other colors, applied in stripes and dots.  Same thing–pigeons accepted them as if they were real pigeon eggs.  He then tried a white Christmas tree light bulbs and a ceramic cylinder.  “They set it,” he said, “but with less enthusiasm.”  Pigeons have brooded small oranges, table tennis and golf balls and quail eggs, as well as eggs from chickens and even from a goose.  No wonder a cowbird egg doesn’t puzzle them.  The researcher said albatrosses will brood a milk bottle and recalled seeing a newspaper photo of a chicken brooding a nest- full of walnuts.

 

                Darning eggs are another egg-shaped device.  Drop a darning egg (often of wood) into a sock with a hole in it and it makes mending easier, either toe or heel.

 

                There are few egg quotations, but Shakespeare always is good for a quote on almost anything and eggs are no exception: “They say we are almost as like as eggs,” says Leontes to Mamillius in “A Winter’s Tale.”  Of course, if you consider the ostrich and the bee hummingbird, that simile breaks down bigtime. Cervantes also used the simile: “He is like one as one egg is like another.”  But either could have said, “We’re as alike as peas in a pod,” which someone else did.  Cervantes also adjured against keeping all your eggs in one basket. 

 

                The modern variation of the quote is: “Put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket!”  And the corollary is that if you do put all your eggs in one basket…don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.  Robert Burton, who died in 1640, said someone was “going as if he trod on eggs,” which is the beginning of today’s “walking on eggs” cliché to describe someone proceeding very carefully.  Samuel Butler said, “A hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.”

 

                A couple of more modern philosophers, Ambrose Bierce, the irreverent author of The Devil’s Dictionary, and humorist Dave Barry, also have explored eggs.  Talking about “sacred” scarabs, Bierce compared them to “tumble-bug” beetles.  “Its habit of incubating its eggs in a ball of ordure may also have commended it to the favor of the priesthood, and may some day assure it an equal reverence among ourselves. True, the American beetle is an inferior beetle, but the American priest is an inferior priest.”  Bierce also libeled a favorite egg dish, custard: “Custard, n. A detestable substance produced by a malevolent conspiracy of the hen, the cow and the cook.”

 

                And Barry invoked eggs while discussing the intricacies of fish sex: “…generally when two fish want to have sex, they swim around and around for hours, looking for someplace to go, until finally the female gets really tired and has a terrible headache, and she just dumps her eggs right on the sand and swims away. Then the male, driven by some timeless, noble instinct for survival, eats the eggs. So the truth is that fish don’t reproduce at all, but there are so many of them that it doesn’t make any difference.”

        

The description of someone as a “good egg” or “bad egg” goes back at least 150 years.  There are many references to people being bad eggs from the late 1840s on (and the phrase seems to have been common then).  F. Scott Fitzgerald used the phrase “a good egg” in his 1922 novel The Beautiful and the Damned.  Next time you see the original King Kong movie, ignore Fay Wray’s screams and listen for a character to say, “He’s a tough egg, all right.”  As a teenager I was far more interested in hearing Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer character describe the various women he loved and shot, but he did talk about “those two eggs” when describing a couple of lowlifes in “Lonely Night”.

 

                Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary is a compendium of waspish definitions.  He said, “They say that hens do cackle loudest when There’s nothing vital in the eggs they’ve laid; And there are hens, professing to have made A study of mankind, who say that men Whose business ’tis to drive the tongue or pen Make the most clamorous fanfaronade O’er their most worthless work…”

 

“Chicken manure is extremely rich in nitrogen which is needed in all plant life. It makes an excellent addition to the compost pile, which in turn helps produce better vegetables.

 

Egg tapping is a custom practiced during Easter in many places.  The principle of the game is to hold an egg firmly and tap your opponent’s egg without breaking your own egg.  The  rules for this custom varied from country to another.  This tradition is still practiced today in southern Louisiana during Easter festivities. 

 

China ranks as the world’s leading egg-producing country, and the United States ranks second. In Siberia people believed that shamans or witch doctors were hatched from iron eggs laid by a mythical bird. Eggs are symbols of life and fertility.  Easter eggs symbolize the Resurrection and the renewal of life that comes with spring. China’s best known eggs are called “hundred year old eggs” and they are a delicacy. The Chinese have decorated a baby’s crib with egg designs to attract good luck.

 

Decorating Easter eggs is considered a fine art in many parts of Europe, especially Hungary, the Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe.  To Carl Faberge, jeweler to Czar Nicholas II, egg decorating was a fine art.  This gifted artist created enameled and jewel- encrusted Easter eggs that were marvels of beauty and ingenuity.  The ancient Teutons believed that on Easter, rabbits laid eggs.  Thus the beginning of the Easter bunny.  To refuse the gift of an Easter egg was very rude.  It was the same as refusing the friendship of the person offering it.

 

An Easter egg with two yolks meant great luck and fortune for its owner.  Eggs blessed at Easter could ward off illness.  The Mayans believed the egg could free persons thought to be under the spell of the Evil Eye.  Medicine men would pass an egg back and forth many times before the face of the person believed to bewitched.  The medicine men would then break the egg, look at the yolk as though it were the evil eye, and immediately bury it in a secret spot.  The bewitched would be cured of the evil spell.

 

In olden days it was said that any egg laid on Friday would cure a stomach ache.  Easter eggs planted in vineyards were supposed to guard vines against thunder and hail.  Coloring and embellishing eggs was a custom during the middle ages in England.  Edward The First’s household accounts for the year 1200 showed an expenditure of eighteen pence for 450 eggs to be colored or decorated with gold leaf for distribution to the royal members of the household.

 

It is an old courting custom to present beautifully decorated eggs to a favored sweetheart or suitor.  Golden eggs symbolize great fortune to recipients. Chickens do not chew their food (I just threw that in case you’re getting hungry for an omelet). The food is moistened in the throat, and ground up in an organ just before the stomach called the gizzard. If a chicken is on the range, it will eat grit, hard particles like small stones. These particles are what the food grinds against in the gizzard.

 

                Does any kid today say, “Last one in’s a rotten egg!” when he’s making a running dive in the ol’ swimmin’ hole?  To be a literal rotten egg, of course, would be to smell really horrible, so a dunk in the swimming hole could only help.  How about “egging” someone on?  Does it mean you throw eggs at them to keep them in motion.  No–the word is a corruption of a Saxon word “eggian” which means to goad.

 

                Calling someone an “egghead” means he’s an intellectual, but it’s said derisively as if there is something wrong with being one.   You don’t want to be labeled an egghead, but you’d bask in the glow of being called “a good egg.”  No one said descriptive clichés have to be consistent.

 

The ostrich, the largest living bird, lays white eggs that weigh up to 3 pounds. In contrast, the Cuban bee hummingbird, the world’s smallest bird, lays eggs no larger than peas!  Oology (the collection and study of eggs) shows us that shapes and colors of birds’ eggs are often related to protective strategies. Birds that nest in holes or other cavities, like owls and woodpeckers, lay eggs that are rounded and white so they can be seen in the dark nest by the parent. Birds that nest on ledges, like seabirds, usually have a pyriform or pointed egg to keep them from rolling out of the nest. Birds that nest in the open lay colored eggs to camouflage them with the environment.  While birds are nesting and caring for their eggs, most reptiles are busy laying and burying them. Because they are usually buried and don’t need to be camouflaged, reptile eggs are white. To hatch from their eggs, snakes are endowed with an egg tooth that they use to cut their way out of their shell.  Some eggs are incubated internally.

 

Gastric brooding frogs will swallow their eggs and incubate them in their stomach until they hatch, then the young will be regurgitated. Suriname toads deposit eggs on the female’s back where a thin layer of skin soon grows over them. When the tadpoles are ready to hatch, they burst out from underneath the skin

 

                Eggshell porcelain has nothing to do with eggs.  It refers to the eggshell-like thinness of the porcelain.  The process is Ming dynasty (1403-24) Chinese and other Chinese emperors revived the style periodically.

 

                The only famous person recognized by the Encyclopedia Britannica named Egg is Augustus (1816-63), an English painter who was “famous in his day” which means no one remembers him today.  He also was an actor, equally forgotten by stage historians. 

 

Because of its connections with new life, the egg has been touted as both an aphrodisiac and fertility insurance. Central European peasants rubbed eggs on their plows hoping to improve the crops. The French bride broke an egg on the doorstep before entering her new home to assure a large family. Back before Nero practiced fiddle pyrotechnics, his consort Livia was told to warm an egg on her bosom. When it hatched, the sex of the chick would foretell the sex of her unborn child. All went as predicted and the Emperor Tiberius (as well as an old wives’ tale) was born.

 

                The longest distance an egg, presumably chicken, was thrown without breaking is 106 meters.  I doubt the egg was thrown in a gravel pit or the length of an Interstate highway.  Maybe thrown into a pit of goose down?  What group of eccentrics would gather to throw eggs and measure the results?  Who are these people and have we seen them on an X- Files episode?  I would hope the same group (it’s daunting to think of more than one such gathering) dropped an egg 183 meters without breaking it. A couple of other records that I’d rather not think about are for the most hard- boiled eggs eaten (14 in 58 seconds) and the most raw eggs eaten (13 in 3.2 seconds, a terrifying image).

 

                Egg use in art was widespread in the early Renaissance.  Artists mixed a witch’s brew of ingredients to get colors.  Called tempera, the paint might have had egg yolks (the process often is called “egg tempera”), calves’ hooves, various oils, clay and various powders such as ground marble and gold dust.  The eggs, to provide the best paint, should come from “city hens” as opposed to those from the country.  Presumably hens from the city were more cultured, perhaps taken to art museums where they could appreciate the exquisite application of their reproductive efforts.  Country hens, on the other hand, were accustomed to pecking in cowshit and could not be expected to appreciate Botticelli or Van Eyck, much less produce refined yolks for their use.

 

                Or am I making too much of this? Don’t egg me on— I’m ready for that nap.

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