Monday, February 27, 2006

Which Crockett?

When you hear the name “Davy Crockett,” whom do you think of first?

The famous grandfather who died at The Alamo in 1836 with Travis and Bowie?

Or the infamous grandson who was shot down like a dog in New Mexico in 1876?

The grandson murdered three buffalo soldiers in cold blood, but got off on the grounds that he was under the influence of alcohol. Enabled by lax authority, the grandson went on to terrorize innocent citizens for months until the day he died.

Maybe we should make a bunch of excuses for him (like modern liberals are prone to do). The stress of being the namesake of a hero was too much for him. He got tired of hearing comments like, “You don’t even amount to a wart on your grandpa’s backside!”

Every once in a while, not often enough, bad things happen to bad people. That day in 1876 was one of those days.

What's she charged with?

When a local defense attorney noted for ferocity in appearance as well as conduct approached the bench with a man she was representing, the judge asked the defendant: "What's she charged with?"

-Quoted in Tony Hillerman's Foreward to Robbers Rogues and Ruffians (1991) by Howard Bryan

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Ann Coulter

(from “So, Three Muslims Walk Into a Port” by Ann Coulter, 2-22-2006)

“Isn't it enough that we're already patronizing the savages over the cartoons? Do we have to let them operate our ports, too?”

Dark Sumatra

(from Alterra Coffee)
Dark Sumatra Gayoland – Organic/Fair Trade
Roast: Very dark
Acidity: Smooth
Body: Very full
“We've roasted the Organic Sumatran Gayoland darker to give some complexity to the coffee's earthy flavor and full body. It's produced by the Gayo Organic Coffee Farmers Association, a Fair Trade Certified cooperative from the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Certified organic by the Dutch agency SKAL.”

This coffee is very good, some of the best that I have ever had, but it is still not what I am looking for. I want an even richer flavor with more earthiness. I want more intensity and more complexity. I do not mind some bitterness, but in this case, the bitterness seems to mask the earthiness.

Crockett & the potatoes

David Crockett's potato anecdote from The Alamo (2004):

"Yeah, it's true, I was in that. I sure was. I was just about your age when it broke out. The Creeks, uh, boxed up about 400 or 500 people at Fort Mims and, uh, massacred every one of 'em. 'Course this was big news around those parts, so I up and joined the volunteers. I did a little scoutin', but mostly I, I just fetched in venison for the cook fire, things of that nature. Well, we caught up with those redskins at Tallushatchee, surrounded the village, come in from all directions. Wasn't much of a fight, really. We just shot 'em down like dogs. Finally... what Injuns was left, they crowded into this little cabin. They wanted to surrender... but this squaw, she loosed an arrow and killed one of the fellas, and then we shot her, And then we set the cabin on fire. We could hear 'em screamin' for their gods in there. We smelled 'em burnin'. We'd had nary to eat but parched corn since October. And the next day, when we dug through the ashes, we found some potaters from the cellar. They'd been cooked by that grease that run off them Indians. And we ate till we nearly burst. Since then... you pass the taters and I pass 'em right back."

Crusader's Cross

Crusader’s Cross (2005) by James Lee Burke

A Dave Robicheaux Novel

I have obviously missed a few Dave Robicheaux novels. In the last one I read, Alafair was a little girl. In this one, she is off at college.

A very dark novel. No one with a weak stomach should even consider reading this book.

Dave marries his 4th wife. The guy is a slow learner.

It has some good moments, though. Dave’s friend Clete is still not one to be trifled with.

One of the many things that I like about Burke’s novels is that there is a marked tendency for bad things to happen to bad people.

Six Bits a Day

Six Bits a Day (2005) by Elmer Kelton

This novel is set in 1889 West Texas. A pair of brothers are looking for work in cattle country. They have many adventures, including being falsely accused of rustling. They run afoul of a desperate outlaw and a swindling carpetbagger. They work a cattle drive for “six bits a day.” They meet a former buffalo soldier.

This is a fine novel of “normal” life on the frontier without all of the sensationalist massacres and gunfights.

Tom Horn

Tom Horn (1980)

Steve McQueen as Tom Horn

This film deals with the final chapters of Horn’s life, after he moved to Wyoming.

It skips all the earlier excitement when he helped to capture Geronimo.

Horn is hired by an association of ranchers to deal with a severe cattle-rustling problem.

This film is a fairly romantic and sanitized treatment of the historical subject.

Horn is portrayed as a hero (and victim), betrayed by corrupt individuals who cast him aside after he has solved their problems for them.

In every case where Horn kills someone in the film, it is portrayed as self-defense.

The film is ambiguous about whether or not Horn killed the boy, a crime for which he was hanged. It never shows who fired the shot. Horn never denies or admits to killing the boy.

The film encourages the viewer to think that Horn was framed for the murder, but again, no definitive evidence is presented.

This film is the second to the last film McQueen made. McQueen looks like he has lived a long hard life, and therefore, looks the part of Tom Horn.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Algonquin Project

The Algonquin Project (1974) by Frederick Nolan

This book is a fine novel that I came across quite by accident (searching for books by Nolan, who was one of the authors consulted on the Gunfighters DVDs). It makes me wonder how many other fine novels there are languishing in obscurity.

The novel is about the conspiracy to assassinate Patton in the aftermath of WWII. The name of the character is changed from Patton to Campion in the novel, because the author says that there are a few differences between the two characters. Campion seems to be pretty close to the Patton portrayed in the movie “Patton.”

Aides to General Eisenhower decide that Patton has to go, and enlist an OSS officer to arrange the murder of Patton. They insist that the assassination has to look like an accident. The OSS officer goes to Lucky Luciano (in prison) and makes a deal whereby Luciano puts him in contact with people in Europe that can do the job.

The aides then have the OSS officer killed (in Germany) to cover their tracks. The man who kills the OSS officer is caught by Russian intelligence. A potential Russian traitor tries to pass the information to British intelligence, but is betrayed by Kim Philby.

American military intelligence figures out that there is a danger to Patton, and close in to apprehend the assassin. The aides who instigated the whole mess are killed in a gunfight where an innocent man framed by the assassin is also killed. The Americans figure that they have foiled the plot and drop the extra security precautions. Patton is subsequently killed by the assassin during a car accident to conceal the fact that it was actually a murder. [The real life Patton died in a similar accident.] The assassin walks away, and no one even realizes that the plot succeeded.

The book has a lot of famous real life characters like Eisenhower, Truman, Luciano, Philby, and others, so I am a little fuzzy on why the name of Patton was changed to Campion. Maybe he was afraid that the Patton family would ask for royalties on the use of their name.

The book has a number of clich├ęs, but they are blended into the story with such skill that I did not mind at all.

The British ambassador bungles critical intelligence because he is too busy planning a new squash court.

The Russians always get it right. American and British intelligence agencies are so thoroughly penetrated that the Russians know everything before the Allies do.

The Americans are only able to accomplish anything because they can bring a wasteful expenditure of resources against any situation, but ultimately fail because they are technically incompetent.

In summary, a very entertaining story, well told, and I would very much like to read some more novels like this one.

The Score

The Score (2001)

Implausible heist movie. HMS (heist movie sycophants) regard implausibility as a positive thing. Even the most cursory search of the internet will reveal numerous HMS calling this movie “The Greatest Movie Ever Made.”

Robert DeNiro plays an aging thief named Knick. The movie opens with a nearly bungled robbery that convinces Knick that it is time to call it quits. Unfortunately, a plot contrivance prevents him from being paid for his efforts. He is convinced against his better judgment to try one more time so that he can pay off the mortgage on his jazz club. DeNiro is a solid professional, so he does a creditable job, but the lackluster script does not inspire him to take it to the next level.

Marlon Brando plays an enormous caricature of himself named Maximum Girth. The other characters just call him “Max.” Brando apparently had so little respect for director Frank Oz that he insisted that DeNiro direct some scenes. Brando also wanted to film some scenes with no pants, using “the heat” as a flimsy excuse. Maybe if Brando lost about 400 pounds, he could handle the heat better. The constant wheezing of this character is painful on the ears.

The aptly named Angela Basset mails in a tepid performance in an extended cameo as Diane Hound. This character was not even in the original script. The movie would have been substantially improved if this character had been left on the cutting room floor.

Edward Norton is outstanding both as Brian the Retard and Jack the Thief. Norton gives 110% in a wasted effort. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see a result this poor after a brilliant actor gives everything he has.

Gary Farmer is very good as Knick’s friend Burp. One of the best scenes in the film is where Jack beats the snot out of Burp. This character deserved more development.

The ending is so manipulative as to be pathetic. Contrived does not even come close to describing this fiasco. We are supposed to believe that Jack has so much time to burn that he can sit around twiddling his thumbs, but that he does not have time to verify the contents of the package. We are supposed to believe that Knick’s jazz club is so important to him that he is willing to risk everything for it, but also that he can walk away from it with an “easy come, easy go” rationalization.

The movie is a huge disappointment. It was widely reported that filming started before the script was finished and it shows. Norton’s heroic performance could not save such a doomed project.

The producers, directors, and writers should all be ashamed of themselves. However, they know that no real effort is required because the HMS guarantee a box office success.

wildlife sightings

One of the local walkers mentioned this morning that there were two deer in the neighborhood.

Yesterday, the Cooper's hawk took a bath in the sump pool.

Two days ago, the red-headed woodpecker was working on the corn cob in the backyard. Very unusual for the woodpecker to be on the corn cob, usually they go for the suet or the peanuts.

low voter turnout

I voted on Tuesday, very late in the day. I was only voter number 128. It seemed like a low turnout.

In today's Milwaukee paper, there was an article documenting the low turnout throughout the metro area. Bean counters are suggesting that it is not a good use of tax money to fund primary elections with such low turnouts.

There were also some complaints that people are dying in Iraq for the right to vote, and people here do not even bother.

Let us not forget that, in a free society, you have the right not to vote.

The Alamo

The Alamo (2004)

Dennis Quaid as Sam Houston. Houston sacrifices the Alamo for the greater good of Texas.

Billy Bob Thornton as David Crockett. Crockett is a politician that is clearly uncomfortable with the myths that surround him. He arrives in Texas thinking that all the fighting is over. Crack shot that knicks Santa Anna before battle starts. Superb anecdote about the potatoes. Crockett (on fiddle) engages in a music duel with the Mexican army band.

Patrick Wilson as Travis. Enigmatic character with some inconsistent ideas about honor. He is an unrepentant sinner but does not drink alcohol. Crack shot that saves Crockett before the real battle. Travis initially lacks the confidence to deal with the situation into which he has been forced (his commander left on “personal” business). Great scene where Travis picks up a dud cannonball and gives it to his own men to fire back at the Mexicans.

Jason Patric as Jim Bowie. Charasmatic leader whose terminal illness renders him almost useless.

Interesting portrayal of the Texans as a drunken rabble willing to die on general principles. The movie makes no attempt to conceal the racist attitudes of the time.

Unmistakable European influence on the Mexican army. Very spiffy uniforms. Aristocratic officers that drink from crystal. Santa Ana has nothing but contempt for the lives of his own soldiers.

The Alamo was for the Mexicans what Thermopylae was for the Persians. The price of victory was so extreme that they could not recover.

I read several reviews of this movie. One criticism was that the narrative does not flow. I agree with that criticism.

Another criticism was that there was too much emphasis on historical accuracy at the expense of making an entertaining movie. I am not opposed to a little artistic license if it really does improve the story.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Doc Holliday at OK Corral

The above link provides a detailed analysis of the role of Doc Holliday at the OK Corral.

Doc Holliday

Doc Holliday remains one of my favorite characters of the Old Wild West.

Fred Petro

I was using Google to search for obscure stuff and came across this interesting item:

"My grandfather immigrated from Lebanon in early 1900's. His name was Fuad Butruss (means Peter) Abourad but changed his name to Fred Petro when he came to the US. He settled in Leland, Mississippi. He was married to Rose Gattis Petro and they had seven sons: Philip (my father), Fred, Badear, Ed, Camal, Emile, and Pete."


Jawbreaker (2005) by Gary Berntsen and Ralph Pezzullo

The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA’s Key Field Commander

The Book the CIA Doesn’t Want You to Read

This book is yet another indictment of the Clinton administration.

This book documents how liberals, with malice aforethought, deliberately sabotaged America’s ability to defend its citizens against terrorism.

By the time that W became president, the CIA had been so compromised that we were unable to capitalize on our opportunities.

Personal Note: If the Earps had wiped out the Clantons when they had the chance, we would not be having these problems. But some of the Clantons escaped, they changed the “a” to an “i” and here we are.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Woody Herman

Woody Herman

The Thundering Herds 1945-1947

CD digitally remastered from the original analog tapes

1988 CBS Records

Awesome jazz/swing music. This music has an infectious joy for life.

The first song on the CD is Woodchopper’s Ball, one of Herman’s biggest hits. The first solo in the song is a clarinet solo.

Whenever I hear a song like this, I think of the infamous comment by a public school music teacher that, “The clarinet is not a jazz instrument.”

This is obviously one of the most ignorant comments in the history of music, but not altogether surprising, considering its source.

more gunfighters

Gunfighters (2/3)

Second in a series of three DVDs dealing with gunfighters.

This DVD includes Billy the Kid, The Earp Brothers, Elfego Baca, and Tom Horn.

Romantic treatment of Billy the Kid. Odd that the name of Jesse Evans is never mentioned. Tunstall was killed by “Dolan’s men.” [Evans was a close friend of Billy, then later his mortal enemy.] Authors say that Billy’s name was an integral part of the legend, and that “Henry the Kid” would never have worked.

Very unflattering treatment of the Earps. One author considers them the villains in the story. He describes them as pimps running a protection racket. The Clantons were cattle rustlers. The Earps were northern Republicans. The Clantons were southern Democrats.
Rival gangs fighting over turf. “Everybody was a loser.” “Victims and survivors.” Pretty much everyone came to a bad end early except Wyatt.

[Personal Note: Just think how different history would be if the Earps had wiped out the Clantons. But some of the Clantons escaped, they changed the “a” to an “i” and now look that the mess we are in. Heh.]

I never heard of Elfego Baca before I saw this DVD. He was a young idealistic Hispanic lawman in New Mexico. He had some trouble with a gang of Texan cowboys. In a classic “Mexican standoff” Baca drew his gun and killed the foreman of the Slaughter ranch. Baca killed a second cowboy when two of the Slaughter ranch hands tried to avenge the foreman. Baca survived an attack by dozens of vengeful cowboys. Baca was acquitted in two trials for murder.

Tom Horn was a scout for the U.S. Army, and helped capture Geronimo. Horn worked for the Pinkertons. Horn became an assassin, killing cattle rustlers. Horn was hanged for the murder of a boy. There is some doubt that he was actually guilty of that particular crime, but no doubt that he had killed many men.


Starbucks Guatemala Casi Cielo

I finished off my pound of beans tonight. According to the package, "A sip begins with an elegant floral aroma and surprising lemony flourish, and it finishes with a deeply satisfying dark cocoa flavor. A Coffee for the Gourmand."

It was very rich and smooth. I can almost taste the lemon and cocoa. Almost.

Did they really mean to use "Gourmand" instead of "Gourmet?"


Anyway, I am all done with Starbucks after the incident a week ago. A band was invited to play at one of the local Starbucks stores (the one by Southridge) after Starbucks management had reviewed their music to make sure that it was suitable for Starbucks. After playing several songs, one customer complained, so the store manager told the band they had to leave.

I will never do business with Starbucks again.

Not that they care. I am sure that they are only too happy to lose me as a customer.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Bounty Hunter

Bounty Hunter (1988) by Rick Miller

This book is a biography of Jack Duncan, who was a policeman, Texas Ranger, detective, and bounty hunter.

Jack Duncan was born in Kentucky in 1850. The family moved to Texas in 1870. By 1876, Jack Duncan was a Dallas policeman.

Jack Duncan is most famous for being the man that brought in John Wesley Hardin. Duncan joined the Texas Rangers as part of the campaign to capture Hardin. At that time (1877), Hardin was considered one of the most dangerous men alive. Hardin was wanted for the murder (in 1874) of popular lawman Charles Webb. Duncan (as part of a team of law officers) captured Hardin in Florida and returned him to Texas. Hardin was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Hardin’s brother-in-law was hanged for his part in the crime.

Duncan was only a Texas Ranger for a short time. He figured he could make a lot more money as a bounty hunter than as a Ranger.

In 1878, Duncan was severely wounded when his girlfriend shot him with his own pistol. He suffered from complications of the gunshot until he died many years later.

Jack Duncan captured a long list of outlaws, including Jesse Rascoe, Talley Guynes, Frank Clanton, Mack Crook, Newt Harris, Lewis Holman, George Alsop, and many others.

Duncan took credit for the capture of John Middleton, who was wanted for the murder of Sheriff Jim Black, even though technically Middleton drowned while trying to cross a river in the middle of the night. Duncan probably did deserve credit, for if not for his relentless pursuit of Middleton, the desperado would not have tried such a dangerous gambit.

Jack Duncan lived in Dallas during its transition from a wide-open frontier town to a more civilized city. The book offers an interesting account of the city’s growth. There were only 3,000 people living in Dallas in 1870.

Duncan found himself on the wrong side of the law on many occasions. He was often fined for his minor transgressions (for example, illegal possession of a pistol). In 1886, Duncan was charged with the murder of Jesse Bonner, who was killed in a gunfight when Duncan tried to take him into custody (there was a warrant for Bonner’s arrest on the charge of stealing a horse). The murder charges against Duncan were later dropped. He was also charged with bribing a postal worker. Duncan was tried and found not guilty.

When Hardin was released from prison in 1894, there was some concern that Hardin might try to get revenge on Duncan. That ended in 1895, when John Selman killed Hardin in an El Paso saloon.

When Jack Duncan died in 1911 (in an automobile accident), the Dallas Morning News published his epitaph, “While a peace officer during the early days of Dallas, he is spoken of as having been a courageous man.”

more Lennon

When I searched Google for "Lennon" I got 20 million hits (literally).

But I was lucky, and Lennon Murphy's home page was first on the list.

If you register, you can download some samples of her music.


(from On Stage: This Week's Best Bets in the 02-17-06 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Lennon and Shannon Curfman

Lennon, who goes by one name, and Shannon Curfman, who goes by two, represent everything that's missing in today's women in rock equation.

While both twentysomethings are attractive - these days apparently the main factor label execs consider when promoting female acts - Lennon and Curfman also happen to be talented musicians with distinctive personalities that they channel into their art.

Curfman's 1999 release, "Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions," generated hoopla both for her age at the time (a mere 14) and her maturity as a guitarist and singer. She spent the rest of her teens in label limbo, however, choosing to finish high school and stick to her self-described "no-fluff rule" rather than give in to the pressure to morph into a Britney or Ashlee.

Curfman's story parallels that of co-headliner Lennon, who coincidentally started her music industry rollercoaster ride on the same major label. While Curfman's sound leans closer to blues-rock, Lennon's material has a more metallic punch. After an ill-fated debut release date of Sept. 11, 2001, Lennon languished in a promotional purgatory.

Lennon and Curfman have new music they've released independently or are shopping to labels that will take them as they are. Turning out Wednesday night to see them perform live is a vote in their favor -and against the army of lip-synching Barbie clones who've taken over pop music.

— Gemma Tarlach

The Incontinent Bystander

In the 2-16-2006 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Eugene Kane had a column titled, “McNally won’t be a token voice on WMCS.”

In the bad old days, Joel McNally was a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal. I think his column was called “The Incoherent Bystander.”

Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, Mr. Kane’s column is thought-provoking. But not this time. This column is purely a crass commercial hype for his old buddy’s new gig.

Maybe McNally’s column was called “The Inarticulate Bystander.”

Since the Journal Company also owned WTMJ, McNally did a few guest spots on the radio back in the day. His trademark role was the giggling dope smoker who forgot what he was going to say.

Maybe his column was called “The Inept Bystander.”

One of the best days in Milwaukee history was the day McNally got fired at the Journal. Maybe his column was called “The Incompetent Bystander.” That might explain why he got fired.

I cannot figure out why WMCS wants McNally. Are they trying to attract a new audience? One with low self-esteem?

Maybe McNally’s column was called “The Inane Bystander.”

There have to be a number of articulate young people who deserve a shot at a spot on local radio. But instead, WMCS wants a burnt out loser with nothing new to say.

Go figure. Heh.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Backyard Wildlife

Chipmunk in the backyard today. Very unusual to see a chipmunk out this early in the year. There is a big storm coming in tonight, maybe the chipmunk just wanted a quick look around before we get pounded.

Also saw a pair of woodpeckers, the small ones, either downy or hairy. I really should learn to tell them apart.

Bumper sticker

I saw a weird bumper sticker today.

"Honk if you were shot by Dink Cheney!"

Ah, those liberals.

Fiendishly clever but cannot spell his first name.


....could they have done that on purpose?

Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped Potatoes

4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups thinly sliced potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in heavy saucepan.

Whisk flour into melted butter.

Add salt.

Whisk in milk.

Stir mixture over low heat until thickened and bubbly.

Arrange thinly sliced potatoes in generously buttered casserole dish.

Pour milk mixture over potatoes.

Bake (covered) for 60 minutes.

Uncover and bake 30 additional minutes.

Note: This recipe was said to be one of the favorites of William "Wild Bill" Sunomono, yet another member of the clan that terrorized the Old Wild West. He always called them Scalped Potatoes. He was either a very clever person or he did not enunciate clearly.

People of the Plains

The People of the Great Plains (Part One)

An episode in the TBS series "The Native Americans"

Mostly about the Lakota, Comanche, and Blackfeet. The Crow were mentioned in passing but otherwise ignored. Go figure. Heh.

Very preachy and politically correct.

A little bit of history is included, but it is mostly about the plight of the modern tribes.

Horses were a very important part of the culture of the plains tribes for hundreds of years, but are totally ignored.

A very good treatment of the tribes' relationships with domesticated dogs, though.

There is one very interesting part where a Lakota disrespects the ancient migration from Siberia hypothesis, instead insisting that the Lakota were created in North America and have always been here, since forever.

Misquoting Jesus

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

By Bart D. Ehrman (2005)

The author chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This book was a real eye-opener for me. I knew that there were variations in the ancient texts upon which the New Testament was based, but I did not realize the depth and breadth of those variations.

According to the author, there are more variations among ancient texts than there are words in the New Testament.

The book analyzes many examples. Some of the examples are inadvertent copying errors. Others are deliberate alterations that reflect the biases of the copiers.

The most famous example is the story where Jesus says, “Let the one who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” This story is not part of the original text, but was instead added later.

The book is a fascinating account of what we know about the New Testament, and how we know what we know.

It is interesting to note that the King James Bible is not based on the oldest and best manuscripts.

It is very disheartening to consider the knowledge that was lost by the inadvertent or deliberate destruction of ancient manuscripts. We can only hope that further discoveries of ancient manuscripts will occur.

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson

King of the Delta Blues Singers (CD)

1998 Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

1937 Originally recorded

1961 Originally released

Contains 17 tracks.

According to the original liner notes: “Then he was gone, dead before he reached his twenty-first birthday, poisoned by a jealous girlfriend.”

My own comments: This guy exudes an originality that cannot be denied. He sings the blues as if he really lived them (and apparently he did). I can hear the influence that Robert Johnson had on people like Eric Clapton.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Shark Attacks

(from Journal Sentinel wire reports in the 2-14-06 Milwaukee Journal)

Shark attacks: Shark attacks were down worldwide last year, continuing a five-year trend, partly because of people being more savvy about how to avoid being bitten, a monitoring program reported Monday. There were 58 attacks in 2005, compared with 65 in 2004, while the number of fatal attacks dropped from seven to four, said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File, based at the University of Florida's Museum of Natural History.

The Groucho Club

"I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member."

- Groucho Marx

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cola is the next tobacco?

(from the 2-13-06 Milwaukee Journal)

Taking aim at big cola

Lawsuits could make soft drinks the next tobacco

by Walter Olson (senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute)

As one advocate, Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, put it: "If someone is saying that a 64-ounce soda at 7-Eleven contributed to obesity, that person should have his day in court."



Let the seller beware

(From the 2-13-06) Milwaukee Journal)

Crossing swords

After police raided his home as the result of an Internet sale dispute, a Pewaukee man fought to clear his name

by David Doege


This story tells how a guy tried to sell some swords on an internet auction site.

The seller thought that the swords were Japanese samurai swords, but it turns out that they were made in China. The buyer complained after he had the swords appraised, but the buyer and seller could not work out an amicable resolution.

Police raided the seller's apartment, confiscated a bunch of stuff, and the seller was charged with a felony.

A deal was finally reached where the seller got his swords back, the buyer got his money back, and the felony charge was dropped.

The seller is out several thousand dollars in attorney fees.

Let the seller beware.

Natives of the Southwest

The Natives of the Southwest (VHS)

from The Native Americans series by TBS (1994)

One part of a six-part series.

This 50 minutes episode is mostly about the Navajo, Hopi, and Apache peoples.

I was hoping for more history.

It was mostly about the modern plight of these peoples.

There was one interesting snippet on the Anasazi. The word was explained to mean, "enemies of my ancestors." The word was described as an offensive epithet. I got the distinct impression that this was not something that they wished to discuss, maybe even bordering on taboo to discuss this subject with white people.

Very negative portrayal of the Spanish explorers and missionaries. The Spanish explorers enslaved the tribes to work in mines in Mexico. The Spanish missionaries burned people for witchcraft (apparently defined as anything not Catholic).

Fascinating creation stories.

Western Outlaws

Western Outlaws: The "Good Badman" in Fact, Film, and Folklore

By Kent Ladd Steckmesser

The author earned a PhD at the University of Chicago.

The author examines the Robin Hood legend, and then compares the legends of several western outlaws: Joaquin Murrieta, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and Pretty Boy Floyd.

Newspapermen and authors had a huge role in the legend of Jesses James, starting even before his death. It is interesting to note that many more books were published on the life of Jesses James than on the lives of all the Missouri governors combined.

Billy the Kid had faded into obscurity before he was resuurected by enterprising authors.

Butch Cassidy had no historical importance until 1969 when the film with Paul Newman catapulted the character into the public's view.

The author enumerates several points that differentiate a good outlaw from a bad one, thus allowing the outlaw to obtain the status of legend.

1) Serves a higher law. The author points out that the infamous Harpe brothers fail on this criteria. As do Bonnie & Clyde.

2) Generosity. Steal from the rich and give to the poor.

3) Redeeming personality traits. Sense of humor. Polite. Loyal.

4) Victim of circumstances. Bad breaks. Persecution drove them to crime.

5) Trickster. Intelligent. Clever.

6) Die in action. Or at least avoid life in prison.

Overall, the book is a fascinating study in the power of journalism to distort history.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Titan deadbolt lock

I have Titan deadbolt locks on three (3) doors in my house.

Of the three, the one on the front door gets the most use (and abuse).

It was getting more and more difficult to insert the key, like it was "gritty" inside the lock.

I put a little Liquid Wrench on the key, inserted the key, and turned the lock back and forth a few times.

Repeated treatment three times.

It made all the difference in the world. The lock now works just like it did when it was brand new.

Fudgy Frosting

3 tablespoons butter
1 square unsweetened chocolate
2 squares semi-sweet chocolate
2 eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Melt butter and chocolate together over the lowest heat possible. If you lack the confidence to accomplish this simple task, use a double boiler.

Add eggs to chocolate mixture, stirring well. This cooks the eggs, thus avoiding the risk of the deadly "raw egg disease" that is feared by so many people.

Stir in vanilla extract.

Add powdered sugar, mix until smooth.

Spread over 13 x 9 inch cake.

Note: This recipe is modified from an old recipe named for William "Fudgy" Sunomono, a member of the little known outlaw clan that terrorized the Old Wild West. The old recipe used rotgut whiskey instead of vanilla extract.


Firewall (Harrison Ford and Virginia Madsen)

Very poor. Significantly worse than either The Chronicles of Riddick or Doom.

Implausible plot elements too numerous to enumerate, including the use of a blender as a lethal weapon.

Insipid dialogue.

Harrison Ford looks like he has some terminal liver or kidney ailment. Or maybe he was just made up to look that way.

Virginia Madsen actually did a very creditable job with the incredibly weak script that she was given.

Shamelessly manipulative.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ann Coulter

The best 3 quotes from "Calvin and Hobbes - And Muhammad" by Ann Coulter (2-8-06)

In order to express their displeasure with the idea that Muslims are violent, thousands of Muslims around the world engaged in rioting, arson, mob savagery, flag-burning, murder and mayhem, among other peaceful acts of nonviolence.

Muslims ought to start claiming the Quran also prohibits indoor plumbing, to explain their lack of it.

The barbaric behavior of Europe's Muslims suggests that the European welfare state may not be attracting your top-notch Muslims.

fresh fox track

We got about an inch of snow overnight.

There was a fresh fox track in the backyard this morning.

The fox came right up on the pack porch.

Maybe it was attracted by the smell of the grill since I grilled steak for supper last night.

Working for beer

(from "Man, DNR clash on wildlife feeding" in the 2-10-06 Milwaukee Journal)

But now the Cedarburg police sergeant and hunting safety instructor is in Sheboygan County Circuit Court on a citation for illegally feeding wildlife. Stroik says he's the victim of an elaborate Thanksgiving weekend stakeout, for which a Department of Natural Resources warden promised beer to whoever could catch him in the act of baiting wildlife, according to an internal DNR memo.

They should have named him "Al"

(from One sorry mess of a party by Jonah Goldberg in the 2-10-06 Milwaukee Journal)

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the wunderkind of the Democratic Party who, we've been told, not only transcends race, partisanship and personal ambition but actually sails above such concerns like the Winged Victory of Samothrace, received his first shellacking this week by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

McCain says Obama promised to join in a bipartisan lobbying reform effort but reneged in favor of backing the Democrats' more partisan effort. So McCain - the dashboard saint of bipartisan reform efforts - turned Obama into epistolary road kill.

In an archly sarcastic letter, McCain apologized for not realizing that Obama was more interested in "self-interested partisan posturing," adding, "I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics, I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss."

Maureen Dowd

(from the 2-10-06 Milwaukee Journal)

"The Republicans can't marginalize Clinton. She has already marginalized herself."

-Maureen Dowd (NY Times columnist) from an opinion piece titled "Hillary, really get angry"

Germantown residents

"I don't want any perverts coming down here." - Jeff Costigan, Germantown resident

"We really don't draw the trench coat crowd." - owner Mark Wilson

Both quoted from a 2-10-06 article in the Milwaukee Journal regarding an argument over a store that sells underwear in Germantown, Wisconsin

The Wolf and the Buffalo

The Wolf and the Buffalo: An historical novel of the Black Soldier in the American West by Elmer Kelton (1980)

The novel alternates between the viewpoints of Gray Horse Running (a Comanche warrior) and Gideon Ledbetter (a buffalo soldier). This sometimes results in the same event being told from both sides. It works.

Gray Horse obtains a spirit guide in the form of a wolf. Sometimes his medicine is strong, sometimes not. It seems particularly strong when his shield (made with his own hands, "hard as flint") deflects rifle bullets. Gray Horse and his best friend Limping Boy are an inseperable pair. They are loyal to each other no matter what adversity they face.

Gideon Ledbetter is a former slave, now a soldier in the 10th Cavalry. His is a hero's journey, where he traverses the darkness and emerges transformed. Most of his adversity is prejudice by white people. Gideon is accompanied throughout the novel by his best friend Jimbo. They served as slaves together, and joined the 10th Cavalry together. Jimbo has a special affinity for horses, which makes him a particularly valuable resource for the cavalry.

The novel includes many of the great stories of the old west like Adobe Walls and the Forlorn Hope.

Gray Horse is part of a mixed attacking force of several tribes at the battle of Adobe Walls. In this version, the medicine man who leads the attack is Isotai ("Hind End of a Wolf"). After the attack fails, he is renamed Coyote Droppings. [Most modern histories say the name of the medicine man was Eso-tai ("Coyote Dung'), both before and after the attack.] "The Shot" by an anonymous buffalo hunter kills an Indian warrior from a mile away. [Some modern accounts say that it was Coyote Dung that was killed, and all modern accounts say that Billy Dixon was the shooter, from a distance of 1500+ yards.] The attackers, already demoralized by losses, call off the assault when they realize that the buffalo hunters can kill them from such an extreme distance.

Gideon Ledbetter is a member of the tragic expedition known as the Forlorn Hope, which suffered The Staked Plains Horror. It was a particularly droughty year, many of the known water sources had dried up. When they ran out of water, desperate soldiers drank horse urine. This version attributes the disaster to bad luck, whereas modern accounts blame inept leadership by white officers. If not for the heroic efforts of Gideon, constantly encouraging his comrades to persevere, propping them up when they fell, using blankets draped over scrub to furnish shade, the whole expedition would have perished. The novel omits the subsequent court martial fiasco where black enlisted men were used as scapegoats to shield the white officers.

The novel documents the destruction of the Comanche nation. Their whole way of life revolved around war and buffalo hunting. The buffalo hunters reduced the herds to the point that they were insufficient to support the Comanches. The buffalo soldiers forced them onto reservations. As one Comanche put it, "We became white people." Given the way that Comanches despised white people, this was about the worst thing that Comanches could say about themselves.

One of the most interesting scenes in the novel is where a deserter (a former slave) steals horses and seeks out the Comanches with the intention of joining them in their fight against white people. The Comanches skewer him with arrows and scalp him before he is dead.

Most the white people in the novel are portrayed in a very bad light. The Comanches viewed white people as less than human. If they acted like this, I can see why.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Crumbly Granola Bars

4 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup nuts
1 cup dried fruit

Preaheat oven to 300 degrees.

Generously butter a 9 x 13 inch pan.

In very large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.

Press mixture into prepared pan.

Bake 30 minutes.

Personal Note: This recipe was a failure. I would rate it 1/10. Flavor was ok, texture was too crumbly. Needs some kind of binder. Maybe the character from the Zelazny novel could help. Binder? Get it?

The Border and the Buffalo

The Border and the Buffalo: An Untold Story of the Southwest Plains by John R. Cook (1938)

Edited by Milo Milton Quaife

Fascinating first person accounts by John Cook (most of the book), Sol Rees (one chapter), and Wild Bill Kress (one chapter).

Cook was in Kansas during the Civil War, and claims to have met Quantrill.

John Cook tried his hand at prospecting, then became a skinner, and finally crawled up the food chain to be a buffalo hunter.

Cook once wandered away from a camp in the wilderness with neither a gun nor a knife, became lost, starved for days, and almost died. He lost a shoe in quicksand while crossing a river. A very odd anecdote. [Would an experienced frontiersman really do this?]

Cook relates the tale of Wrong Wheel Jones. Jones broke a wheel on his wagon, recalled seeing another broken down wagon miles back on the trail, and went back to salvage a wheel. When he got there, he realized that the same wheel was broken on the abandoned wagon. Without a wheel, he returned to his own wagon in disgust. It was only much later that he realized that all of the wheels were interchangeable. [If Jones was really this stupid, how could he ever have survived to reach this point?]

Cook was a participant in the incident known as "The Staked Plains Horror" where buffalo soldiers died of thirst.

Cook makes it clear that the buffalo hunters were not only in it for the money, but also to cut the means of support out from under the tribes and thus make the frontier safe for settlement by whites.

Cook seems defensive about the criticism that the buffalo hunters were the dregs of the frontier. Cook feels that they were fine men doing their patriotic duty.

Cook refers to killing an Indian as making him "a good injun."

Cook once scalped an Indian before he was dead. The Indian asked Cook to wait, but Cook was in a hurry.

The chapter by Sol Rees contains an anecdote concerning the widow of Kit Carson. It would be interesting to find out who the woman really was, since Kit Carson's wife died before Carson did.

It is alleged that Zane Grey's novel The Thundering Herd was based on Cook's memoirs.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

John Selman

John Selman: Texas Gunfighter by Leon Claire Metz (1966)

Leon Metz was one of the authors prominently featured on the Gunfighters DVD.

Very interesting book about one of the least known of the gunfighters. The author feels that history has treated Selman unfairly, relegating him to second class with people like John McCall (who shot Wild Bill Hickok in the back) and Bob Ford (who shot Jesse James in the back).

Selman had a long and eventful life. He was a vigilante and a cattle rustler. It is shocking by modern standards how chaotic and lawless the old west was. Lynchings and murders were commonplace. According to the book, murders were so common that law officers did not even consider them worth the time to handle. Stealing a horse, however, was a hanging offense.

The book is the first and only one that I have read that debunks the myth of the Texas Rangers. We have all heard the "one man, one riot" story but this book paints the Rangers in a much worse light. There were Texas Rangers that wanted to clean up the mess but they were foiled by corrupt superiors. Part of the problem was that some judges and law officers were heavily engaged in criminal enterprises.

John Selman, notorious vigilante, murderer, and rustler, later became a law officer.

Selman's best friend and mentor was John Larn. Larn was arrested for cattle rustling and executed (in jail) by vigilantes. Selman narrowly escaped being killed by the same vigilantges.

John Selman's main claim to fame was that he was the one who killed John Wesley Hardin. Hardin was one of the most notorious gunfighters. According to some, Hardin was the most lethal of all the gunfighters.

There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the Selman-Hardin gunfight. Some contemporary accounts stated that Selman shot Hardin in the back of the head. Selman was charged with murder. Witnesses testified that Hardin, who was rolling dice in a saloon, turned and drew his gun when Selman entered the saloon, and that Selman shot Hardin in the face. Forensic evidence presented at the trial was that Hardin was shot in the face. Selman was acquitted. There is a photograph of Hardin's corpse, front view only. Modern forensic experts say that the gunshot wound to the face appears to be an entrance wound. Since there is no photograph of the back of the head, no evaluation of that aspect can be made.

The author makes the case that Selman's motive for killing Hardin was that Hardin would not share money taken from a man named Morose. Morose had allegedly been murdered by Hardin, Selman, and a deputy US Marshall named Scarborough.

Selman was gunned down in an alley by Scarborough. Evidence presented at the time indicated that Selman was first shot in the back. Selman's last words were reported to be, "Don't try to kill me like that." Scarborough was charged with murder, but acquitted.

Scarborough died 4 years later from a wound suffered in a gunfight with alleged remnants of the Butch Cassidy gang.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What happened to Jim Riley?

Kansas, 1871

Jim Riley, 18 years old, never been in a gunfight before, walks into a saloon and sees his best friend gunned down by a gang of Texas cowboys.

Jim Riley draws both pistols and opens fire, killing several men and wounding several others, including friends, innocent bystanders, and the Texas cowboys.

Jim Riley turns and walks out of the saloon. He is never seen again.

One of the greatest gunfighters in the history of the Old Wild West and he vanishes without a trace?

How could this happen?

Black Bart

Black Bart: The True Story of The West's Most Famous Stagecouch Robber (1992) by William Collins & Bruce Levene

A fascinating chapter of American history.

Black Bart was a gentleman and a poet. He apparently held a grudge against Wells Fargo that has never been explained. Various hypotheses include one where Wells Fargo swindled him out of a mining claim.

He also repeatedly stole from the U.S. mail, although he was never prosecuted for the mail crimes.

Unlike vicious criminals like the Younger gang, Black Bart never shot anyone in his numerous holdups.

His poetry has stayed in my own memory every since I was a small boy.

"I've labored long and hard for bread,
For honor and for riches,
But on my corns too long you've tread,
You fine-haired sons of bitches."

The book contains detailed descriptions of 29 stage robberies.

One of the most incredible things about Black Bart was his extraordinary skills as a long distance hiker. He repeatedly eluded horseback posses, himself on foot, often after being tracked by them for many miles.

He was ultimately apprehended due to his own carelessness with a laundry mark. He reached a plea agreement and served prison time for a single Wells Fargo robbery.

Black Bart disappeared without a trace after he paid his debt to society.

I will always wonder what happened to him.