Friday, October 18, 2019

1001 and Ode to a Camel

"One Thousand and One cleans a big, big carpet in less than half an hour." It's from one of those jingles on an advert for cleaning products. Infuriating, it had a quality to it that caught hold of the ear, wormed its way into your frontal cortex and bounced around like an insane gymnast, or possibly a brain tumor. The fact that I can still remember the words of this jingle from the 1960's is a sure sign of just how much lasting damage has been done by the advertising industry to what few memory cells that remain to me. Oddly, yesterday was day 1001 of the current administration assuming power and paving the way for Putin-style oligarchy.

"They crouched by the arte-brakes, the hunters, and sort to win a safe prey, but she outran their shafts and pursuing hounds." It's not a product of a slimy back room boy in somewhere like Madison Avenue, it's a wonderful mind picture that comes from a translation of a 6th or 7th Century Arab love poem called An Ode to a Camel. And you have to wonder about whose side you're on, the hunters or the beautiful creature that outran them. My usual preference would be the beautiful creature that outran the hunters, off into the yonder. Inevitably there are debates around what a beautiful creature might be.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Trails of the Abwehr

Military Intelligence is a discipline, and like all proud disciplines it does require dedication and training, and it's reputation is judged by it's relationship with informed perspectives that are supported by available evidence. Intelligence officers are like the scientists of weather forecasting, and woe unto he who relies on the Farmers Almanac. Abwehr is the German word for Defense. The Abwehr was the name for a military intelligence service formed in 1920 contrary to the provisions of the Versailles Treaty within the agreed to Reich Ministry that was to be solely devoted to military matters, a limited army, a very limited navy, and hardly any air force. In the 1930's political interests within the new Germany had a few secrets of their own, and in 1937 these political interests raided the offices of the Abwehr to destroy files that reflected a truth that might have damaged their own carefully crafted reputations. They assumed that the Abwehr was also political player in the developing political circumstances within Germany. It was a quality of intense distrust within the upper levels of the new German hierarchy many of whom were close to feral and equally as short-sighted as many appear to be here in the USA in the year 2019. And no accident that a dictator is or was their head of state.

What happened was this, Stalin and Hitler had a dictator head of state kind of relationship, it's a sort of  homo-erotic bro-mance only between power lusting boy Porcupines, and Hitler kindly offered Stalin information, that would be provided by his Abwehr, about suspect individuals within the Red Army's officer corps.  Stalin accepted, and Hitler uncertain of the loyalties within the German officer corps thought it best to keep his arrangement, or deal, with Stalin secret. The suspicion was that because of relationships that had developed between the German and Soviet officer corps toward the end of the First World War, German officers might warn their counterparts, who might then escape the labor camps. Stalin conducted a very successful purge of his officer corps, the result was a win for Hitler, the effectiveness and capacities of the Red Army was very badly damaged and it was a win for Stalin who was more interested in his own survival through absolute personal loyalty than he was in his country's military effectiveness. Meanwhile in Germany political interests were very nervous of the Abwehr's information gathering, and had no inclination to believe that the information within the Abwehr's possession wouldn't be used for personal political gain by the Chief of the Abwehr, who at the time believed that his country had done so badly in the First World War as a result of a failure in the mission of military intelligence. I think it was Nietzsche who added his voice to the view that with us people the same events twist on an axis, turn endlessly, nothing really changes.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Tangled Webs, Ale Conners, Lord Marmion and Walter Scott

Not sure whether Bo Peep was a good or bad shepherd. Maybe shepherds lose their Sheep all the time, maybe it's just the less experienced shepherd who panics quickly when the odd Sheep goes missing, unaware that sooner or later they return to the fold dragging their tails behind them. A lot of disagreement around who Bo Peep might have been, and probably the truer understandings revolve around Victorian Nurseries rather than some long convoluted account that starts with Medieval Ale Conners who were charged with checking the quality of ale served by publicans, who being devious would employ youths to let them know when an Ale Conner was in the vicinity. These lookouts were called Bo Beeps. And I guess those who gave consideration to framing the occasional nursery rhyme thought Bo Peep kind of a neat name for a little girl shepherd, images of whom never suggest she was possessed of the Paleolithic character little boys tend towards. But best not to get too involved in the debate, let the passion pass into the distance, so that the mind might concentrate on one of Walter Scott's longer poems called Marmion, where the immortal words "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive" were penned.  In the poem, Marmion was a lord, up there amongst the landed gentleman in the years prior to the Battle of Flodden, when a disagreement between English and Scottish interests met to settle a dispute. The year of the battle was 1513, and Scott's poem was published around 1808. Not sure how to describe any of Walter Scott's poems, but they're kind of ripping yarns if you don't take yourself too seriously, inclined to sneer at the "Sound of Music" but very much liked the musical South Pacific. "I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair, and send him on his way." And that haunting song by Lieutenant Gable "You've go to be carefully taught."

Lord Marmion had a desire to increase his land holdings by seducing a very wealthy heiress called Clara de Clare. Oddly Lord Marmion plotted with his mistress Constance de Beverly to ruin the reputation of Clara de Clare's fiancée and the love of her life, a man called Sir Ralph de Wilton. You might wonder why Constance de Beverly, Marmion's mistress, would wish to assist Marmion. Well Constance was a nun who had slightly gone off the rails and she thought that by assisting Marmion she would get back into Marmion's good favor. Then while attempting to defend his honor against Marmion's wholly made up accusations Sir Ralph de Wilton challenged Marmion to a duel, which in those days (1500's) was how gentlemen proved their honesty in the court of public opinion. Sir Ralph de Wilton lost the duel and he was so ashamed he went into exile. Clara de Clare was heart broken, she decided to become a nun rather than risk having to deal with Marmion's odious character flaws and equally odious seduction techniques. Nor did it work out for Constance, she was tried, found guilty of being a bad nun and she was walled up, literally she was built into a wall of a nunnery. But in her trail she had managed to gain a few possibilities in the afterlife by giving her panel of judges documents that would prove Sir Ralph de Wilton was innocent of Lord Marmion's outrageous and totally made up accusations. And lo, with documentation of his innocence Sir Ralph was accepted back into the community of gentlemen where he was able to do his bit at the Battle of Flodden during which he was acclaimed a hero, his lands were returned to him and he was able to marry Clara de Clare who'd not yet gone full blown nun. And in that same battle Lord Marmion was killed, happenstance that King James IV of Scotland was also killed. As The World Turns (which lasted 54 years, he's 73 if you need reminding) webs of deceit become tangled but never, ever a shortage of plot twists.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Sausage and Home Again.

Walked down an aisles in the grocery store that your reluctant shopper has never been down before. You don't get maps, instead you got these little signs high above the aisles you need binoculars to read. The store was busy, shopping cart jams all over the place, coffee clutches with louder than necessary conversation and little old lady eavesdroppers doing nothing to aid the flow of traffic, inadequately trained big people on those motorized hazards that aimlessly zip around, not sure whether all children these days are an inch or two on the other side of special  but let's put it this way a snowflake in good standing does sometimes gain insights into the motivations behind the odious phenomenon of the eugenics movement. Then I saw an opportunity to collect my thoughts in what looked like a peacefully deserted aisle and ducked into it. The aisle contained yards and yards of Dog Treats, each variety of dog treat with images of so called adorable dogs that yap and if you tell them to shut up they bite you. To hell with it, I decided, "I'm going to buy a sausage."

Nor was "sausage" on my list, but arguably because three items on my list were, shall we say, so specially written I couldn't decode them, the sad fact is "sausage" could have well been on my list. It's also true that on a Saturday morning the meat products area in the Grocery store is a dithering place for those in our number who may have lost the physical capacity to touch their own toes and presumably some besotted life partner manages their foot care for them. The other thing about wanting to buy a sausage is that when put beside the mind blowing number of varieties of dog treats, sausage choice is very limited and, even more aggravating, at a minimum you have to buy 5 sausages for getting on 5 dollars. Then if you look further into prices, there's this whole reduced price per sausage if you buy two 5 packs of sausages. I guess it's all designed to sell pedicure kits to besotted life partners. Sadly, I spotted a little yellow lonely circle, the design of which might well have been culled from a Munch scribble just prior to his painting The Scream, so I got 5 suspect sausages for 99 cents. This time tomorrow I could be dead, structural change gone from consideration.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Volfefe Index

Stock Market traders like what they call indexes. If an index moves it suggests future possibilities for profit or loss. The Consumer Confidence Index. I'm told there's something called the Volfefe Index. This index has developed around information on how Stock Markets respond to the current President's Tweets. Doesn't matter whether information in the tweet is accurate or just something made up. This index simply responds to what happens to stocks when the tweet is about subject A, or B and so on.

Currently international trade is struggling with disagreements between United States and particularly China. Any tweet that suggests positive news in this area of trade between the US and China, whether it's true or not, whether it's political or simply a whim, results in stocks rising in value. In the course of tweet storm a trader can buy and sell, come away with a profit. Volfefe! Named after the famine horseman of the apocalypse? Could well be this time next week, but currently the rumor is it was inspired by a mysterious word, possibly a nuclear code, in one of the President's tweets which was "covfefe," the "vol" part in volfefe stands for volatility. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Kurdish Diaspora and Normandy

Feel a little confident that there might well have been Kurds on the Beaches of Normandy. They have a wide Diaspora. The first identifiable Kurds to arrive in the USA did so following the First World War. Back then Woodrow Wilson was all about self determination, and in the Middle East the US policy was that the Kurds who were finally free of the Ottomans should be allowed their homeland. The British and the French had other ideas. In the early 1920's Iraq revolted against British occupation and the Kurds saw their chance at a homeland, they too took up arms against the British. There were two Kurdish rebellions, both of which were put down rather brutally and in the aftermath some Kurds found their way to the United States.

Not good at math but you have to reckon with the enlistments in the USA that followed the USA's belated entrance into the Second World War, the Pearl Harbor incident in the December of 1941, some Kurds might have received their draft notice, along with German Americans, Japanese Americans, Austrian Americans, Andaman Islander Americans.. It's a long list. And I'm aware that during the Second World War the US had a fully fledged and well institutionalized segregation, the military was no exception. But if you're a whitey-white person and you met a Kurd in the streets of Nashville you'd think he or she was as whitey-white  as you, only with a very much better complexion.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Glop

Not easy to forget the Pickled Pepper fiasco of a couple of years ago. They were possibly the single most disgusting result of your gardener's short canning career. Yet the problem of a surplus of Peppers remains. Next year there will be fewer Pepper plants in the garden. Vaguely remember deciding that before. This year the excess of Peppers seems worse than ever, and this year some of the excess has found its way into a glop, which doesn't appear in the dictionary as a culinary expression but does kind of well describe anything that begins the cooking process with a cup of vinegar and a cup of sugar and ends up in a sealed glass jar.

This means I have a Pear Glop and a Green Tomato Glop, both of which have Peppers as a major ingredient, and we're talking around 20% of volume. The other thing about us less recipe directed cooks, after spending what feels like a lifetime processing a Glop, you feel obliged to offer the result of your labors a much higher rather than a lower grade. Only later do you develop a more objective view of the contents of the larder, and far too often there are major  disappointments. Either way that's it for the canning and freezing season of 2019, it's been exhausting and it could well take getting on a week to get the smell of vinegar and the flutter of Fruit Flies out of the kitchen.