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Happy Thanksgiving, A.D. 2018

Why at the hell on earth or in hell are e you here today, or anywhere else on the internet? Today is Thanksgiving Day, when you get a day off from the day’s news and a rare chance to reflect on all the rest of it, for which you can mostly be thankful for to God.
Better you should eat some turkey and drink some wine and be merry. for tomorrow we might die, as the Good Book suggests. Embrace yourself in the warmth of family and friends, and go ahead and watch some football if you’re so inclined. Tomorrow brings another dark and cold and dreary business day until the Christmas celebration of Christ’s birth, and we’ll be back on the glum job of noting it, yet no matter what comes in the next year this is as good a time as ever to be thankful for the best of life on God’s blessed Earth.
To all those who drop in even on days like today, we wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and a happy whatever other holiday your might celebrate at this otherwise miserable time of year.

— Bud Norman

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An Early Start on Thanksgiving

A dear old friend treated us to a Coors and some chicken tenders at one of the rough and tumble Delano district’s swankest joints on Tuesday, which led to a chance encounter with an entire family of old and dear friends, which led to one of the family’s talented musicians participating in a fine jazz concert at a cigar bar over in the Old Town district, where we had another Coors, and with Thanksgiving coming up we arrived home in too good a mood to give the day’s news more than a cursory glance at the news.
There was plenty of it, of course, and as usual much of the news provided plenty of opportunity for grumpy old Never-Trumpers such as ourselves to bash President Donald Trump. The stock markets had another dreadful day, and although that’s not necessarily Trump’s fault it leaves him with nothing to brag about. There was yet another embarrassing story about the apparent con man Trump has at least temporarily appointed to run the Justice Department, apparently to stymy the special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing.” According to a report in The Washington Post senior White House advisor and First Daughter Ivanka Trump has reportedly used a private e-mail server to conduct government business, which is at least somewhat similar to what led to all those “lock her up” chants about Democratic presidential nominee at Trump’s still-ongoing campaign rallies. According to another report in The New York Times, Trump did try his best to have Clinton locked up, which strikes us as a pretty damned banana republic kind of thing to do. He also once again dismissed the conclusions of the nation’s intelligence communities and accepted the assurances of a friendly dictator, n this case making it clear that America would let the Saudi Arabian dictator get away with the murder of a legal American resident.
As tempting as it was to pile on, we decided to give it all just that brief sneering mention. Better for now to warm ourselves in the soothing flames of family and friends, and embrace the holiday spirit of thanksgiving and glad tidings to all men and the dawn a brand new and unsullied year that make the cold and darkness grayness almost tolerable. Besides, those damned Democrats will have a majority in the House of Representatives installed in early January, and we expect that all of their nosy investigative committees will eventually make sufficient hay out of all the scandals.
We’ll even go so far as to acknowledge that Trump handled the nation’s endearingly weird longstanding tradition of the annual “turkey pardon” ceremony quite well, and note that even The Washington Post agreed, despite the snarky headline. This year’s updated “turkey pardon” decided which of two turkeys would be spared the Thanksgiving dinner ax by an internet vote on the White House web site, and Trump couldn’t resist a couple of jokes about the loser demanding endless recounts, and obvious allusion to the Florida and Georgia midterms, but everyone agreed it was it uncharacteristically good natured. Should Trump decide to go with the folksy nice-guy shtick instead of his usual “lock her up” tough-guy persona we expect his poll numbers would improve, no matter what direction the stock market indices might go, but no amount of holiday cheer can make us hopeful about that.
Even so, we’ll try to pay less attention to the news today and tomorrow, and be thankful to God for family and friends and an abiding faith in the endearingly weird traditions and institutions that have made and thus far kept America great. Friday’s forecast calls for another cold and dark and possibly snowy day in this atypically cold and snowy autumn we’re having around here, and by then we’ll be recovering from a Thanksgiving Day’s L-triptothan hangover and get back to brooding about the latest news, but until then we’ll wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving for all the good stuff.

— Bud Norman

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Politics and Other Family Matters

Politics has always been a topic best avoided at family gatherings, but we’ve lately noted that’s especially true these days. The subject of President Donald Trump and the current state of the Republican party and conservatism in general is especially fraught for our conservative and Republican yet Never-Trump selves in our dealings with certain members of our conservative yet more loyally Republican family, but we’re pleased to say it’s not so acrimonious as it seems to be for Arizona’s Republican Rep. Paul Gosar and at least six of his siblings.
Gosar is up for reelection in Arizona’s reliably Republican fourth congressional district, where his brothers Tim and Gaston and David and his sisters Jennifer and Joan and Grace are all currently starring in a widely-aired campaign television ad for Democratic challenger David Brill.
We’ve not paid enough attention to Arizona’s fourth congressional district race to have any idea who the hell this Brill fellow is, and for all we know he’s one of those far-left Democrats we’ve always opposed. Gosar says that his siblings are “six angry Democrats,” and that “These disgruntled Hillary supporters are related to me by blood, but like lefties everywhere they put political ideology before family,” adding the “hashtag” of “#MAGA 2018,” and for all we know that explains the family dynamics. Even so, everything we know of Gosar suggests he’s one of those far-right Republicans we look askance at in these Trumpian times.
Gosar’s six dissenting siblings might well be a bunch of Hillary-supporting angry Democrats, for all we know, and we truly share his distaste for that type, but for all we know they might also well be old-fashioned Republicans such as ourselves who will carry party loyalty only so far. If so, and if that Brill fellow turns out to be one of those more-or-less reasonable Democrats, we’d probably take their side at what will surely be an acrimonious family Thanksgiving dinner
Back here in Kansas’s fourth congressional district we’re faced with a tough choice between a Trumpian Republican and the sort of left-of-center Democrat we’ve always voted against, and we’re seriously considering voting for the centrist Democrats in the state’s gubernatorial and our neighborhood’s county commission races, and we’re planning to talk mostly about the University of Oklahoma’s Sooner football team next Thanksgiving. The family is all conservative and Republican, which leads to all sorts of fraught conversations these days, but at least we’re all on board with the Sooners. The Sooners are undefeated and firmly ensconced in the top-ten ratings and still very much in the running for a national championship this season, but the last couple of wins have been hard-fought against mediocre competition, and there’s no telling what we might be all giving thanks for on that hopefully friendly family Thanksgiving..

— Bud Norman

Thanksgiving Day

All the bad news of this annus horribilis notwithstanding, there’s still much to be thankful for. The weather’s been mostly great around here, the Wichita Wingnuts took their baseball season to the decisive game of the American Association’s championship series, the Wichita State Wheatshockers are off to an unexpectedly hot start in this suddenly chilly basketball season, some great old songs are playing on our new car’s old-timey cassette player, there are still a few righteous souls left in American politics, and we’re still free to grouse about the rest of it.
There’s family and friends, too, and we plan to spend the day sharing good food and convivial conversation with them, and to take time out to give thanks to God for such blessings. We urge you to do the same, and to momentarily ignore the worst of the latest news while you listen to some favorite old music or watch a favorite sports team, and to have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Happy New Year, or at Least a Survivable One

We spent the last hours of 2015 in the company of dear old friends, we’ll start 2016 off by having a lavish lunch with our beloved folks, and the rest of the long weekend will be devoted to resting up for what’s sure to come.
All those dear old friends agreed that it’s going to be a rough ride through the next twelve months, what with President Obama unleashed for God only knows what executive actions and pardons and calls to mass rioting he might issue, and all of the country’s enemies figuring they’ve got a short time left for anything they might want to do that would ordinarily entail American-imposed consequences, and the sputtering economy being weaned off endless money-printing and zero percent interest rates, and the general cultural decline into craziness unlikely to end. Our folks probably won’t have anything cheerier to add, although they’ll be encouraging, and in any case it wouldn’t do to sit at home reading the news.
Family and friends and long weekends have a heartening effect, though, and we’ll try to start Monday with some renewed determination. We suggest you do the same, and to that end we wish you all a Happy New Year full of family and friends and all the other blessings that the news can’t change.

— Bud Norman

‘Twas the Monday After Christmas

Christmas is entirely over, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are still a few dreary business days away, the weather has taken an awful turn, and suddenly spring seems far, far away. That’s pretty much the news, so far as we can tell from our usually busy sources, and after a long drive back from our kinfolks’ home in south Texas we’re too worn out to formulate any of those big think pieces that are supposed to fill these slow news days.
Although it’s only of more or less purely personal interest we will note that the long drive up and down that hellish stretch of I-35 was well worth the intermittent traffic jams and blemished scenery and grueling distance. We caught up with both the paternal and maternal sides of the family, who are all fine company, and with the cutest and most polite children, and it sure beat another plastic pouch of microwaved turkey and a round at Kirby’s Beer Store. We can also recommend that if you’re heading north from San Antonio the big bypass around Austin has unblemished Hill Country scenery blasting by at 85 miles per hour with no traffic jams and is well worth the extra few miles and few bucks of toll.
There was some driving rain along the way, and a few freakish winter tornados just a couple of counties to the east as we crawled through the Dallas-Fort Worth sprawl, but we’re sure the Paris climate accord will solve that sort of thing soon enough. Somehow we heard that former Sen. Jim Webb might for president as an independent, which raises all sorts of interesting possibilities, but this is now time to sort out what those might be. The stock markets re-open tomorrow, which might yield something, but in the meantime the president is enjoying another swank Hawaiian vacation and the Congress is off doing God only knows what, the college football games haven’t yet gotten underway, and there’s no reason not to stop writing right now and enjoy another bowl of our famously red-hot chili.

— Bud Norman

On Texas, Christmas Eve, and What Else Matters

Our holiday travels have now taken us deep into the heart of Texas, where most of the paternal side of the family now resides, and as much as we hate to be away from God’s own Kansas it’s good to be here. The weather is warm even by heart-of-Texas standards, which will no doubt encourage all the global warming alarmists, while reassuring all those social justice warriors who worry that a “white Christmas” is somehow racist, but we’re nonetheless enjoying the warmth of family on a Christmas Eve.
The drive down unlovely and casino-clogged and incongruously up-to-date I-35 was surprisingly grueling — who knew that a jaunt through relatively tiny Temple, Texas, would be even slower than the legendarily clogged Dallas-Fort Worth area or even out-of-control Austin — but for the most part we enjoyed a respite from the even more grueling news of the day. Most of the drive was spent listening to ancient family lore and the music of Ernest “Texas Troubadour” Tubb and Jim Ed Brown and Hank Snow and other mellifluously nasal old-time honky-tonkers on the folk’s newfangled Sirius radio system, and except for a brief update from the Fox News station and a quick reading of the news after our beloved aunt somehow recalled the password for the internet wi-fi that a more tech-savvy daughter set up for her we mostly ignored all the latest political and economic developments. Given what we found on those brief looks at the news, it was probably best to stick with the old-country music.
Barring something unexpectedly catastrophic, we’ll stick with Christmas carols and old-time country music and family lore today, and we urge you to do the same. There’s still good news out there, even if you have to turn off the news to hear it.

— Bud Norman

Christmas Eve, 2014

There’s plenty of news out there, no doubt, but today we will pay it no heed. Today is Christmas Eve, and except in the unlikely event that the civil defense sirens start blaring we will not concern ourselves with the cares of the world.
Christmas Eve is better spent running the last minute chores required to host large gatherings of family and friends, and then enduring their petty squabbles and oft-told stories, but our solitary and ascetic lifestyle spares us such enviable hassles. Instead we will sleep late, enjoy our annual playing of the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s swinging “Nutcracker Suite,” maybe put on that great old Mahalia Jackson Christmas album that an old girlfriend with a knack for gift-giving once gave us, then give the old place an overdue straightening-up, and put some final obsessive meddling into a novel we’ve written which is almost ready for e-publication. At some point in the evening we’ll get together with some old friends, then cook up some steaks that have already been thoughtfully provided as an early Christmas present by some parents with a knack for gift-giving, and perhaps we’ll play that Christmas album by Brave Combo, the fabulous punk polka band from Denton, Texas, or reach into the vinyl for our family’s ancient copy of Gene Autry singing about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and ¬†we’ll savor the once-a-year feeling of Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve was always a big event in our childhood, a time when the family ate pizza or some other non-traditional fare and played that same old Gene Autry album as well as a Mitch Miller sing-along on the hi-fi, then opened all the gifts from all the Okie relatives and all our gift-giving friends. The more extravagant gifts from Santa Claus were put off until Christmas morning, but even the folks offered a few small tokens that were almost worth the obligatory slide shows documenting our goofy-looking younger days, and we had a lot of love and laughter. This year the family is scattered from one end of the United States to the other, with us inconveniently located somewhere in the middle, Santa Claus is is busy with the younger children who have been nicer and less naughty than ourselves, and a few of the most beloved of those Okie relatives are bravely battling the most brutal of diseases, and many of the family and friends who populate our most cherished memories of Christmas Eve will celebrate in their afterlives. Still, there’s something about the number on the calendar will bring us all closer together.
At some point today we will say a prayer for our Okie relatives, who are far better people than ourselves, and for anyone else that a reader who has wandered to this page might know who is similarly afflicted, and we will give thanks that we have this day together on God’s good earth. We’ll say a prayer about all that other news, too, whatever it might be, but will prefer to consider the good news that the world celebrates tomorrow. The winter solstice passed on Sunday, shortly after the preacher at the West Douglas Church of Christ had delivered us a heartening sermon on the greatest gifts we receive in life, and we are certain the days will grow longer into summertime, and that great things will yet come, and we are resolved to be grateful and hopeful. On this Christmas Eve we wish you all good health and a happy life, and care little about anything else.

— Bud Norman

Happy Thanksgiving, 2014

This is no time for our usual glum assessments of the latest developments in our political and economic and cultural life. Better you should enjoy the pleasures of family and friends and food and football, and give thanks that the politics and economics and culture haven’t yet regulated them away.
As we take stock of our own situation, we find ourselves mostly grateful for the blessings that derive from those last redoubts of life free from the great collective enterprises. We are thankful for the loving support of our family, the steel-forged friendships of our old companions, the comforting diversions of long-ago individuals stretching the great expanse between William Shakespeare and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and the small kindnesses of strangers we encounter on the streets. All of these occur on a fundamentally human level, joyously separate from politics and economics and culture and the rest of our usual concerns, and the rest of humanity’s endeavors should only seek to sustain them.
We give thanks, too, for the sunsets that fall over the Little Arkansas River, the memories of hot summer nights and the promise of more to come that sustain us through through the coldest days of winter, and to the God whose mercy and love created these miracles and inform the love and mercy we receive from our family and friends and all those kind strangers. We have our complaints with the rest of it, and will get back to that soon enough, but not today. Happy Thanksgiving.

— Bud Norman

Two Brief Encounters on Hot Summer Nights

A hot summer night recently coaxed us out of the house and to the patio of a local watering hole, where we were pleased to encounter a dear old friend. We spoke of our families and friends and how work is going, debated whether we should care at all about the World Cup soccer matches, swapped some salty jokes, and mostly avoided what’s been in the news. When we inevitably mentioned our nagging worries about the way the world seems to be going these she waived off the topic by saying that she now concerns herself solely with friends and family and how work is going.
This seemed fair enough, especially after hearing the travails of her friends and family and workplace as well as some other very serious problems she has faced in the past months, so with a certain sense of relief we let the topic drop and moved on to an amusing discussion of our past romantic failures. Our friend is an effervescent and upbeat sort, a pleasant contrast to our more reserved and fatalistic manner, so we didn’t want to deny her a hard-earned blissful ignorance of the news that rest of the world is going to hell in a proverbial hand basket. Eventually the consequences of all those stories she’s been studiously ignoring will be felt by her friends and family and at her workplace, and will adversely affect her ability to solve the other sorts of problems that she’s lately faced, but in the meantime we see no reason should do anything about it other than keep a head up. Our friend is female, single, mostly unchurched, and fits all the other demographic and socio-economic categories that predict her biennial support for Democratic candidates and occasional enthusiasm for some bleeding-heart do-gooder project or another, so we didn’t want to encourage her to be politically active.
Better an apolitical attitude that concerns itself only with friends and family and work than the earnest idealism of the young man we encountered the next hot summer night on the patio at another local watering hole. We were engaged in our usual glum conservation about the events of the day with a gray pony-tailed right-wing friend of ours when when the young man at the next table interjected himself, quite politely and apologetically explaining that he couldn’t help overhearing our chat and that he shared our interests. He had an armful of tattoos and some up-to-date facial hair and one of those ear lobe-expanding devices that always remind of us old National Geographic photographs of the primitive tribesmen of the most remote regions, which is not atypical of the hipster clientele at that particular local watering hole, and when he introduced himself as a member of the left-wing “hacktivisit” group called Anonymous he drew our attention to his resemblance to the Guy Fawkes mask from the “V For Vendetta” movie used by that outfit.
He was quite unthreatening nonetheless, and we allowed him a lengthy discourse on his newfound solutions to all the world’s problems. He’s a poet for peace, as it turns out, and expects that his Facebook fan base will soon have the rest of the world on board. Most people would already prefer not to be killed in a war, he observed, and persuading the rest should be easy enough if the right poetry is applied. We noted that the Kellogg-Briand Pact had already made war illegal way back in 1928, and he was so excited by the news that he had us type the words into one of those palm-held gizmos that all the kids carry these days. Moving on to the world’s economic woes, he eagerly explained that people are forced to work by a corrupt corporate system that can be easily replaced by a new order in which people grow food and do favors for one another. Our friend with the gray pony-tail remarked that growing food sounds very much like work, and we had to agree, having picked enough peaches in our boyhood to know that agriculture is at least as arduous as poetry, and the young man replied that at least we wouldn’t be doing it for the profit of some corporation. Our right-wing pal wondered if the young man would be willing to mow his lawn and do some much-needed work on his home, and when the young man readily agreed to do so our friend asked why he should bother to get out of his hammock in the brave new world. The young man seemed genuinely befuddled why anyone would take advantage of such a well-intentioned system, and when our friend replied “Because I’m a jerk” the young man found it so amusing he offered to buy him a drink in exchange for the laugh. Our friend declined the offer, but we chimed in that we’d take him up on the offer and requested something from the Pabst corporation.
He still seemed quite unthreatening, but only because his schemes were so obviously ineffectual. Should his ideas about defying human nature ever take hold they will be as disastrous as all such previous attempts at remaking mankind have been, but we expect he’ll have to settle for the more slow-motion disaster that our apolitical single female friend votes for. We don’t doubt the sincerity of his desire for nothing other than peace and love, as even such grumpy old right-wingers as ourselves are in favor of both of those elusive ideals, and he had bought us a corporate-brewed beer, so we wished him well in his efforts. He seemed a nice enough kid, and we suspect that if he’d concern himself only with his friends and family and workplace and he might actually succeed in sowing some peace and love there. Perhaps his poetry might even accomplish some peace and love, but we doubt he’s so wise as William Butler Yeats, who was asked to contribute something to a poets-against-war anthology that somehow failed to avert World War I, and replied that “I think it better in times likes these that a poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth we have no gift to set a statesman right; He has had enough of meddling who can please a young girl in the turbulence of her youth, or an old man upon a winter’s night.”
Peace and love and poetry are worthy pursuits for a young man, and friends and family and the workplace are should be well attended to by everyone, but we think the other problems are best solved by the grumpy old men and women who best understand the failings of human nature. It would do us well to be pleased on a winter’s night, too, and perhaps our young acquaintance can tend to that. We hope our old friend fares well, too, along with her friends and family and workplace, but prefer her peace and love to her political solutions.

— Bud Norman