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Saturday, December 4, 2021

YOUR CHANCE To Preserve Navasota History!

Tim Gregg is going to publish a book about artist Leon Collins, which will help document his place in Texas art and Navasota as the Texas town that hosted his art legacy. He has made an appeal for those interested in this happening to contribuite to the publishing of the book. Below is his invitation: ********************************************************************************************************** I've been working on a book project with an artist in Navasota named Leon Collins, and I'm looking for some donors to help underwrite production of the book. Donors can get a commissioned original work- or two framed and signed prints. I put together some sample pages from the book at: ************************************************************************************************************* (www.timgregg.com/salvation) [Sorry if the LINK does not work] ************************************************************************************************************ (Best viewed on a computer) I'd appreciate if you would take a look and let me know if you would be interested. We can get the art in time for sensational gift giving! Leon is sensational. His "Southern Negro Folk Art" has been shown in galleries all over the country. He's been through some tough times of late, so I'm thankful for the opportunity to bring attention back to his works. Thanks for your consideration, and Happy Holidays

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Herbert Bolton, the “Palermo Stone,” and Two Cruel Pranks of History

In 1936, a story began to unfold in academia which tipped an avalanche of negative effects for decades. A fellow found a small, inscribed brass plaque on the side of the road in the San Francisco Bay area, not far from San Quentin Prison. It was not long before he was encouraged to show it to a California historian who might interpret its significance. The thing was taken to UC Berkeley, where the venerable Professor Herbert Bolton held court, and he and another historian ended up purchasing the plaque for $3,500.00... in 1936 dollars, which would translate into much more money today. Given that this was during the height of the Great Depression, and money was scarce and there were great tragedies unfolding all over the world, it is even more amazing, and suggestive of the importance these two men attached to this newfound artifact, which they believed was going to re-write North American history. *************************************************************************************************************** As news of the find emerged, several people claimed to have seen it in the same vicinity, and after looking at it they had tossed it into the weeds as a piece of junk... Finally it been scooped up by the last “finder,” who put it on its amazing trajectory. With such dubious origins, Bolton and his associate desired to authenticate and justify their artifact, and to silence skepticism, and so they had a metallurgist examine the plaque. Afterwards they proudly claimed unequivocally that the plaque had been left on the California shores by Sir Francis Drake, as a land claim for his King.
This was the favorite legend often kicked around in California historical circles, that California had actually been originally claimed by the English, and not the Spanish. And Bolton was one of the leaders of this “school.” Now he had the proof. The words scrawled on the brass turned Bolton's theory into historical fact and became his lasting legacy. *************************************************************************************************************** Soon the plaque was proudly displayed at the Golden Gate International Exposition. Copies were made of it and sent to the First Lady, and to Queen Elizabeth II. *************************************************************************************************************** This was all very exciting, until more information trickled out over the next few years. Herbert Bolton belonged to a bizarre club of academics, who prided themselves in hilarity and historical ironies. They were known to fund and place historical plaques wherever there was some irony to celebrate. In their heyday they placed a plaque in commemoration of where the Spanish priests, coming to Christianize the natives, signaled the establishment of their ministry with the sounding of... cannons. They placed the first “permanent” monument, a historical marker on a... ship, where it could conceivably float anywhere.
This was a powerful collection of historical geniuses, with a hysterical, even impish strain, and possessing a pool of knowledge and talent which could have convinced any museum anywhere of almost anything- within reason. And especially something that someone already wanted to believe.
Almost forty years later it all finally came out, when surviving members of “E Clampus Vitus” more or less confessed that the whole thing had been conceived as a joke among themselves, to heckle one of their most esteemed members, and that the joke got way out of their hands and had, well... terrible, unexpected consequences. E Clampus jokesters ducked out somehow and avoided much bad publicity for the trouble they had caused. ***************************************************************************************************************** The scandal and all of the uncertainty it inspired had dogged Bolton for the rest of his life, and strongly threw all of his scholarship into question. One of the perpetrators had committed suicide. The organization had to somehow repair its respectability, so they light-heartedly went on as if the scandal, barely ever documented then or now, was merely a sad chain of events, which had become like most of history; blotted with regrettable instances of man's inhumanity to man.
This brings us to the “Palermo Stone.” ( Sorry about the stitched-together photo, it had been printed across two pages in a newspaper magazine) Outside of a few scholars, few persons would have recognized history repeating itself, when the scarred chunk of sandstone, marked with the word “LSall” and the number 14 was reportedly found during highway construction in Brazos County. A fellow named Luke Palermo had found what appeared to be a crudely inscribed boulder, which may have been related to the French discoverer and explorer of the Brazos Valley, Ren`e-Robert Cavelier Sieur de la Salle. In fact he was believed to have been murdered by his own men, just across the river, somewhere near the crossing of the old La Bahia Trail and the fork of the Brazos and Navasota rivers.
And who might have researched and published this theory? That's right, Herbert Bolton. Bolton had literally marched the terrain between Matagorda and Navasota, and matched landmarks along the way as they would have been mentioned by those who left journals. (And yes, there were several, and in French) It was his scholarship pointing to modern-day Navasota as where La Salle must have met his premature death, and his published theories which inspired the Daughters of the American Revolution to commission the bronze sculpture of La Salle, which was prominently placed in Navasota in the middle of Washington Avenue, in time for the Texas Centennial in 1936.
It took years for the secrets of E Clampus Vitus to come out, but there was a clandestine network of scholars who knew since the 1930's about Bolton's problems and thus had to be wary of any artifacts related to his research. It seems that, while Bolton was doggedly out in the field documenting and pontificating, there were funny guys back in California devoted to popping his prolific history balloons. And there was no better way to accomplish that than placing counterfeit artifacts at his every turn, for him to embrace and publicize- and then be shocked and defrocked as they proved to be hoaxes. And as with most of their monuments, irony played a role in their conception... ****************************************************************************************************************** The original Palermo stone was associated with the Fifth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, circa about 2300 B.C., a stone which contained inscriptions which had been maliciously chiseled off of Egyptian steles and lost for thousands of years. It could have been just a coincidence, but more probably this Brazos Valley “find” by a Palermo might have been considered a hilarious spoof, designed to tease Bolton with his very own “Palermo stone.” It was probably immediately recognized as absurd, even to him, and might well have rattled his confidence about his controversial brass plate, the Holy Grail of his career. The Clampus Vitus had been trying to subtley clue him that they had planted the Drake Plate, but to no avail. Surely his friends would never do such a costly and embarrassing thing to him... So when the “Palermo stone” appeared in 1940 in Bryan, Texas, it was treated with inexplicable, almost institutional skepticism. Mr. Palermo took it to Texas A&M, and later to Houston scholars, and received some press coverage, and then the find died. Luckily, nobody with credentials would or could dare believe it, possibly remembering what embarrassing results evolved out of Drake's Plate.
Palermo genuinely tried to establish the stone's provenance and authenticity, and give it its due place in history, as he believed that it deserved. And this suggests that he was somehow led to the discovery, an innocent stooge, probably directed by someone connected to E Clampus Vitus. The eccentric fraternity had very cleverly concealed their association with Drake's Plate, so that the finders were never aware that the artifact had been placed where it might be “discovered.” The main difference in the Texas scenario was there was no passionate professor/collector like Herbert Bolton in Texas to sell it to. And thank goodness.
If the stone was for real, its timing, its association with a Bolton theory, and its almost unintelligible message, condemned it to obscurity. Disgusted with the whole mystery, Palermo loaned the stone to a local museum. It was last seen, gathering dust in the boneyard at the Brazos Museum... and then by 1990's, nobody knew its whereabouts. ************************************************************************************************************** Recently, Betty Dunn of Two Rivers Heritage Foundation in Navasota met someone who said they knew exactly where the discarded relic resided. It was in a barn in north Grimes County. And for such a precious artifact of Brazos Valley to end up there... it was unconscionable! Soon Mrs. Dunn had it and was studying it at her home. That was when the inconsistencies of the latest epiphany of a Brazos Palermo Stone began to puzzle its beholders.
It was more like a facsimile of the one photographed by newspapers in the 1930's. Marks and arrows were missing... important ones, and others had appeared, and spacing between the letters was not exact. This suggested that there had been two La Salle stones made by someone, which had ended up lost to history. Had Palermo made a copy for easy transport as he showed it around Bryan and Houston? Considered by him to be very valuable, and with the original stone quite cumbersome, a more portable copy of the artifact would have made perfect sense. If so, was this the copy? *************************************************************************************************************** OR, and this would be the suggestion by scholars, several spurious “Palermo Stones” might have been produced until the history gremlins were satisfied they had a believable forgery which might pass routine, non-academic inspection. The idea was not to change history, but to temporarily excite Herbert Bolton and harmlessly remind everyone that real historic finds were rare, and for people not to trust anything. Perhaps a local artisan had been commissioned to fashion it, and the road construction created the perfect event to unveil it, an historic landmark waiting near the Brazos River after centuries. Of course, the impish Clampus elites never worried much about the temporary damage done to local history. They would plant a forgery somewhere where it could easily be found, and then after some fun, one of their people would no doubt be the very person who would call it a forgery. No harm done... And that should have been the end of it. ******************************************************************************************************************* It would have been, if local historians like Pamela Puryear, and Russell Cushman, and Betty Dunn, had not cherished the thought of the rumored find, and wondered about it for many years. When Dunn finally located the stone, or at least one of them, it was a rock-my-world moment for myself and several history buffs. As I have studied and thought about it, its significance might have been changed, but not the depth of the story behind it. ***************************************************************************************************************** Eventually, the so-called Drake's Plate was deaccessioned and sold by the Berkeley archive, and this was a mindless and unnecessary purging. The plaque was actually quite significant, even if its importance had changed. Much like the removed fragments of Egyptian steles such as the Palermo stone, which had been "erased" thousands of years ago to destroy former legacies and simultaneously elevate the status of later pharaohs, the remnants of academic predecessors keep coming to the surface. It would have been much more useful to history for the brass forgery to have remained, and to be displayed, as a relic of professional ruthlessness and cupidity. ********************************************************************************************************************** Likewise, the Brazos “Palermo Stone” is important. It is, in itself quite historical, since Bolton's research has stood the test of time, even if a certain purchased artifact in his collection has not; Because it may well illustrate the degree old cronies of Herbert Bolton, perhaps out of professional jealousy, would go to discredit and humiliate him. And that it is probably the resounding theme of most conflicts throughout history.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

THE SECOND COMING... Of Donald Trump

“Wisdom comes through suffering. Trouble, with its memories of pain, Drips in our hearts as we try to sleep, So men against their will Learn to practice moderation. Favours come to us from gods.” ********************************************************************* -Aeschylus ******************************************** ************************************************************************************** Let me save you a bunch of time. And let me save you even more disappointment and embarrassment. Upon my pilgrimage to my “adopted hometown” a couple of weeks ago, I experienced one of those bizarre, Alice in Wonderland descents down the proverbial “rabbit hole.” ************************************************************************************** ***************************************************************************************** This is no joke, most of my conversations with my beloved Navasota friends were almost adversarial in nature, as I crashed into their collective delusions. I had heard of “QAnon” but had never chased that silly rabbit. Now I was surrounded by its converts. And it would have been hilarious had it not been so terrifying. ************************************** *************************************************************************************************** Incredibly, as I went from friend to friend, people who in some cases did not know one another, and had not visited with each other, served up the latest word on the street, which shared several common themes. And, as far as can be surmised by objective, uninitiated persons, these urban legends have matured into a full-blown mass delusion. ******************************* ****************************************************************************************************** “Q” is an anonymous social media informer who has created the hottest narrative ever, designed to appeal to die-hard Trump believers. Nobody knows who Q is, or where Q gets the wild speculations now clutched by many formerly rational Republican voters. One popular video which launched this movement before the past election, calmly decries that QAnon is not a cult. Since it has no bible, no mecca, and no identifiable spokesperson, QAnon is rather an emerging Faith without an acknowledged prophet, a runaway train with no driver, a wanna-be cult which appears to me to be an anonymous hoax. Or, as my grandmother would say, a lie from Hell. ************************************** ****************************************************************************************** I sat through the intro video on You Tube, out of respect to trusted friends who promised that it would explain everything, everything which I unfortunately did not know, and needed to know to face the future. And the bottom line, I was promised, according to this shameless, unfounded fiction was this: “EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK.” Well, that part I liked. **************** ******************************************************************************************* QAnon followers believe, fairly uniformly, that things got so bad in our country that, right before President Trump stepped down, he took action which turned the government over to three American generals who have silently been pulling strings of power and justice since the days of President Biden's Inauguration (which was staged); That Biden is now their puppet who is hidden away somewhere, to be used as a Media decoy, and that the power of the presidency has been (temporarily) restored to former President Trump until an honest election can be arranged. He is quietly cooperating with the military until it is safe to announce all of this. Since the Constitution requires that any such military coup would be strictly a sunset committee, an election has to be called within 90 days after this takeover has been acknowledged. So finding their clean-up job far more complex and overhwelming than the U. S. Constitution provides for, the military trio, (headed by none other than former General Flynn) which is now controlling our country has postponed announcing what happened right after Biden's election, pre-empting the prescribed 90-day count-down, thus using a loophole to delay elections until they (A) Can arrest the bad guys, (B) Conduct military trials to punish the perpetrators, (C ) Arrange for an honest election, and (D) Return Donald Trump to power legitimately. “Fake News” has taken a beneficient turn, now in the hands of the “Good Guys” and everything you see on the news is staged. Everything. The generals now control the Media, and use look-alikes and Media tricks to create an impression, a delusion, that the Democrats are still in control, putting everyone at ease, when in fact our whole country is under Marshal Law. Congress is not really meeting. The Halls of Congress are actually empty. Half of the congressmen may be in jail. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's home was not really invaded and his private papers taken as evidence by the Feds. He is not actually suffering from, as he put it, “pure political persecution.” ****************************************************************************************** ********************************************************************************************* Everything is really OK. ******************************************************************************************* ********************************************************************************************* THERE IS MUCH MORE, BUT I WILL SPARE US BOTH. Yes, I know, you have a hundred legitimate challenges about this narrative, but don't even waste your time... What is of concern to all of us, or should be, is that halfway intelligent Americans we know, and love, believe this. And perhaps millions of others as well, all over the country. Maybe I ran in a circle of nut-jobs in my adopted hometown... Being an artist, I have a high tolerance for persons who indulge their imaginations. But I do not think I was swaggering through a NUTHOUSE. ******************************************************************************** ********************************************************************************************** And if you are one of those valued friends who informed me of the treasured hope you have for tomorrow, I have to thank you on one hand, for the ultimate compliment, because almost all of you were sharing something dear, and largely private to yourself, something you would not tell everyone. Even Jesus understood the psychology of telling his followers to “go and tell no one.” Of course they went and turned the world upside down. People love secrets, and relish in sharing them. Lucky me. I pray you do not read this essay with any sense of betrayal. I believe that you are ultimately seeking the truth. Please know that I care about you, and I am not making fun of you, but understand that my first obligation to you and my country is to be, as best as I can, a truth-teller. And I think that is why you shared your “truth” with me. It's just that, in this perfect storm, you are drowning and do not know it, and you will not realize it until you are at the bottom of the sea. **************************** *********************************************************************************************** QAnon may be the most clever mass delusion ever perpetrated on disillusioned modern Americans; Persons who were suffering the loss of an election, and they believe the loss of their beloved way of life, have found a paradigm which they can accept. And Q has served it up on a candy dish. ************************************************************************************* ************************************************************************************************** When I tried to reason with them, my friends instantly became condescending, confidently assuring me that I would know the truth soon enough... “It was all about to come out.” And they serenely went their blissful way, grateful for the good old “Red, White and Blue” military having saved our country. *************************************************************************** ************************************************************************************************* I decided that QAnon may be saving many lives, or at least preventing many nervous breakdowns, as brains are pickled, providing a hopeful, fantastic delusion which supersedes a crippling truth, bringing calm and pleasant rest for its converts at night. Of course, it also buys time for the Democrats to subdue and sweep up all the powers which threaten them, eliminating their opposition while Qanonists hum their way to the nail salon. By the time they wake up and smell the sleeping gas, our country will be that much... more... lost. **************************************************************************************************************** *************************************************************************************************** This clever lie has found and nailed the Conservative Achilles heel: A deeply passionate love of an America with integrity, unable to conceive or accept any other, willing to accept the military takeover of our government and an information blackout rather than... rampant corruption and cultural and political decline. I'm afraid that these fellow Americans are demonstrating all too clearly the intellectual standard revealed by the jury in O. J. Simpson's murder trial. “If it does not fit, we must acquit.” ******************************************************************************************************** ************************************************************************************************** QAnon could only have happened with the Internet, mass hysteria, and the human proclivity for denial. It is the work of a genius... a masterwork inspired by the Great Deceiver. ************************************************************* ************************************************************************************************** The Bible wisely, repeatedly warned about false teachers, false prophets. It warned that people naturally choose the wrong paradigm... our sin natures more often than not reject truth in preference for what “tickles our ears.” We thus consistently “strain at a gnat while we swallow a camel.” That is how and why the Israelites would have chosen to return to slavery over the uncertainties of freedom. How and why the people of Jerusalem chose to save the murderer Barrabas and instead to crucify Jesus. Why Americans chose a Civil War and the death of many thousands over free moral agency, when they had no plan to actually enfranchise blacks for another 100 years; Slavery was bad. Killing tens of thousands per battle and destroying homes, families, farms and whole towns was defensible. My younger brother, who has always had a way with words, likes to say: “Man is at his supreme best, when justifying that which he wants to do.” ************************************************************ ****************************************************************************************************** In the world of QAnon propaganda... both political parties, in real time, are having their way, simultaneously. The extremes on both sides are happy and encouraged. There is peace in the land. Sooner or later both sides will shake off the lies each political pole is perpetrating, and perhaps all will be worn out and ambivalent in time for the next election. But one will be much farther behind, having dismissed everything they have heard for years, anticipating instead Donald Trump's Second Coming... But they will only be able to extract a disheartening mess from Qanon promises of an American messiah. *************************************** ********************************************************************************************************* And most importantly to the Democrats, Conservatives will not only be largely confused and uninformed, they will be hugely discredited, and the Republican Party will be considered the refuge of the weak-minded and impressionable- Thus insuring Democratic control of the final remnants of the American Brain Trust.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Secret

So many people, even some of my relatives, are talking smack these days about finally being fed up... not with the riots or crime in the streets, or the ineptitude of local governments to deal with these things... but with conservatives... or any people like me who support our president. They blame this one man for all of the civil unrest, the breakdowns in the urban areas, especially Democratically run major cities, and even the deaths from a global pandemic. They blame us too for supporting him. And they speak as if this new, righteous intolerance of the president and his ilk is absolutely reasonable.

They watch the major networks and trust that they are sifting reliable information, and well, according to them it's time to ratchet up the condemnation and persecution of all Republicans and their constituency. They speak with the solemn, self-assured haughtiness of Puritans about to round up the witches. “It's too bad about them... those who disagree with us, those who have totally different sources of information; life's wastrels who have taken the wrong path, who have somehow come to such wrong conclusions, and now endanger our carefully constructed paradigm.”

The “Left” reacts to the latest actions taken by the president as the last straw, even though in reality he drew that short straw the day he was elected, when President Obama and VP Biden went to work immediately to totally discredit him, in the process misusing their powers and the once impeccable lever of the FBI... and others. Thus three and half years of baseless accusations which they cleverly seeded, and the subsequent fruitless investigations, have created a pervasive distrust and suspicion... Mere suspicions then reinforced by the Media who whipped up every accusation, usually derived from undisclosed sources, and then spoon fed hungry, impressionable intellects. And they have shaped many false conclusions, (perception is reality) which have sent these high-minded reformers marching, demonstrating, some rioting, some even disowning their own relatives.

It is impossible, to my greatest frustration, to change the mind of a person against their will... regardless of what facts may exist, so I will give the conservative arguments a rest. Here is another angle which I wish my self-satisfied relatives would consider. What is missing from our country, and what is impossible to form unity without, is... forgiveness. The kind that is the product of grace... First embodied by God's grace, defined by many Christians as “unmerited favor.” Sadly, tragically, America has lost its use of forgiveness, and a close relative, Forgetting.

The old, oft-used quip in our American mindset used to be “Forgive – and forget.”

When Iron Tail, Blue Horse, Little Bull, Red Shirt, Little Chief and Flies Above rode with Buffalo Bill in The Wild West Show in London, they were forgiving and forgetting... more or less. Each had his own blend of these precious values. When Civil War veterans from both sides met and broke bread together after that terrible war, they were forgiving and forgetting. The country as a whole could not have healed and prospered without these things.

When the Japanese people went to work and built an enviable new economy after the horrors they suffered at the end of WWII... under American Democracy, they were forgiving and forgetting.

When Jack Roosevelt Robinson led his race into professional baseball, they did not take a knee... they swung away. They knew better than anyone about apartheid... but they still embraced the opportunity to change the face- and the future of America. And they did. White kids like me were soon collecting baseball cards with their faces on them... and they were heroes in our impressionable eyes. And it was because they entered the game with dignity, and forgiving and forgetting, changed history and helped correct injustice in our country. Soon every sport had its own Jackie Robinson, and America was never the same. When Sammy Davis Jr. ran with the “Rat Pack,” he did the same for the American entertainment industry. And on and on it went.

What was their secret?

Racism and injustice could never be totally stamped out, but in my America, and I have known a wonderful cross-section of Americans from all walks of life, there has never been any discernible organized racism, and yet an overwhelming organized, institutional war against it. I just spent the majority of my adult life in a racially “blended” southern town, and the most discussion of race and its inevitable stepchild, racism, was when talking to my black friends, not my white ones. As best as I can tell, the whites have been “over it” for some time. But the blacks seemed to hold on to the old hurts and suspicions. Some could forgive, but some could not. And some quite transparently, would never forgive or forget. Distrust and cynicism shaped their very identities. And in a very inadvertent process of natural selection, the hopeful, ambitious, forgiving blacks moved up and out... and the others stayed in town and languished and had kids. Kids who also did not forgive or forget.

So today we have many groups of distinct blacks... but two main ones, those who forgave and prospered, and those who held a grudge and lived out their self-fulfilling prophesies. The latter group is louder, angrier, and more frustrated than ever, after generations of government assistance, and still they struggle in poverty and hopelessness. Their communities are tortured with drug addiction, fatherlessness, and illiteracy, and they rightfully no longer believe anything politicians say. Today you might say that many are now biting the hand that has fed them. But what is killing them and future generations are the ideas that they have fed their children.

And after years, decades of internal and external struggles, discontented blacks now lead the way to fight, resist, and even disband the police- who are the last protection they have in their neighborhoods, many of which look more like war zones. Insanity and contrarianism seems to have followed desperation.

This must be true, because bizarrely, in the midst of the supposed racial divide in this country, there is a growing contingent of conservative blacks who support President Trump; Lovable black spokesmen and spokeswomen who are successful and optimistic and declare that this is not your mother's America, once embroiled in racism. They are the children of those who forgave and forgot.

 Forgiveness is not just the nice words of Jesus, it is a legacy, and it is a life source. People with it can move on, live out their full potential. It is a powerful gift to be able to put the hurts of the past behind. And it cannot be done without forgiveness. God's Grace, and personal grace.

As the teachings of Jesus wane in influence, and the Media relishes in every questionable word or act by any Republican, and people begin to fashion their own moral absolutes without a Biblical foundation, forgiveness has been dispensed with. That is because forgiveness is not a natural response. Revenge and eternal racial and cultural conflict are the norm, illustrated well in the Middle East, or Africa, or anywhere where the teachings of Jesus never took root. And now Leftist Americans are joining the intolerance of the Palestinians... or the Iranians, or the Jews in Israel, or the warring primitive tribes of the world from one end to the other.

In this new “woke” era of America, Iron Tail should arise from his scaffold and apologize for forgiving, or forgetting, or whatever he and his other Sioux chieftains did, and take up his tomahawk and rage for social justice. President Grant should also go back and hang Robert E. Lee... and all the so-called Confederate traitors. Jackie Robinson should refuse to play baseball until all baseball-loving white Americans get down on their knees and beg absolution. Sammy Davis Jr. should give Dean Martin a poke in the eye.

Well, now they don't have to. A generation who never experienced any of the wrongs or systems which persecuted people in the past have taken up the tomahawk for them, and are whacking back at a society that has only provided them the most open, prosperous society on earth; A monumentally delayed reaction towards the sins of our country, committed by our great-great grandparents, as if somehow this registers in our collective American conscience as changing anything. "Take that! Robert E. Lee. Take THAT! George Washington... Take that, anybody cast in bronze. Whatever you did, you lived back then and you were probably guilty of something... AND WE DON'T FORGIVE YOU!"

Oh, it was Jesus who taught us to pray... “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us...” He also warned, that those who cannot, will not forgive... will get the same from God.

The careful warnings and classic, grace-giving words of Jesus have been abandoned like an old phone book, and the Ten Commandments are considered silly obstacles. Taking the Lord's Name in vain, adultery, and dishonoring parents are just natural expressions of life. And today's ambitious career climbers pride themselves with their habits of covetousness and false witness. Our National politics are rife with all of these sins.

Without Biblical ethics and morals, we have evolved quickly into a society of ruthless, insolent, competitive liars and usurpers.

But the most evident complication for this generation is, since they no longer trust in God, the God who “in the end” judges and rewards all souls whatever their due- this generation must exact ultimate justice themselves. In this life. In this country. And they do not have any concepts of forgiveness or mercy. Christians know this as “Grace.”And in this new Leftist system, grace is as foreign as free speech, and there is no crime or injustice to be left unanswered.

The mobs terrorizing our cities are worse than the worst of the strictest Puritans, who were eventually outnumbered and rightfully neutralized. While their violent destructive actions are excused, even justified, other people are vilified and persecuted now for their thoughts. This is identical to the social atmosphere which produced our Civil War, and the bloody, godless French Revolution.

Public kneeling at games, reparations, rioting and looting, disowning your kinfolks- will not fix this country. Certainly hatred and intolerance, practiced by any group or individual towards any others, is actually everything the “Left,” and most Americans, once stood against. The insults, the accusations, and broad stereotyping became un-American several generations ago. Sadly, this new generation of protesters did not read about that in the history books. And it is too late to explain the “secret,” and encourage them to read all about it. And if they did, they would fail to find the untold truth in books, since they were long since gladly disposed of, and I bought them years ago at the public library. We have to trust Twitter and Facebook and You Tube to protect and convey important truths to our discontented youth. 

I'm afraid the "secret" will remain just that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Blind Hog Strikes!

Good News, Ranger badge seekers. I finally proved to myself that a person could walk into a Texas antique mall and still find a genuine ranger badge in the showcase- staring up with no one to love it... and priced as if it was a cheap toy.

I found this authentic oreite badge half an hour from my residence in Bell County. It had been messed with, as the finding appears to have been broken off and somebody prepared the back for soldering. Thankfully, they chickened out, probably because they were afraid the badge might melt while attaching the new pin... so it has some shiny buff marks on the back, but for less than $50.00, I did not ask them any questions.

I recognized the design in this old relic, as there was a die sold at one of the Burley Auctions in New Braunfels years ago which was almost identical. Artist Donald Yena was liquidating his awesome Texas Ranger collection, which included dozens of authentic, historic ranger badges. It was the Ranger collector event of the century. There were several Simmang artifacts sold, including some clamps, sample badges and a die used to make ranger badges in the 1920's and '30's.

The design was common then, first made popular in the late Nineteenth Century, when lawmen desired to get past the negative associations of the “tin star,” when many outlaws and disreputable gunmen were hired to “keep the peace.” The new modern, official-looking design was made with hundreds of variations, but basically formed a round shield, sometimes with a star in the center, and mounted by an American eagle with her wings spread. The “spread eagle” mounting a Union shield was a popular motif going back to the Civil War, and suggested a new, united, better America, where law & order could and would prevail. By the 1920's, the design was used for many government badges, including those sported by the IRS and other “Prohibition” men.

It would be years before the Texas Rangers would distribute an official badge to rangers. Each ranger had to order his own, creating the wonderful variations you see in this website. That was why the poor Mexican Peso got so abused during that time, being a cheap silver substrate for a jeweler to use to carve a custom lawman's badge. But some more style-conscious rangers could order a badge from a catalog, and in a few months receive a brassy, “oreite” badge, pressed by machine and beautifully sculpted into a classic lawman's shield, like this one. Many Rangers had similar, miniature badges pressed by the same manufacturers to pin inside their wallets. The truth was, Rangers preferred not to wear a badge which could be easily observed. In fact they hated badges and uniforms as well. Badges were targets for the lawless in those wild days on the border. The element of surprise was about the only advantage a ranger had, and badges were a “dead give-away.”

Charles Simmang of San Antonio was an official Texas Ranger badge maker, and produced different designs over the years, including the traditional star within a circle. The wear and miscellaneous imprints on the die above tell a story of many years of service, as this design was probably used for all kinds of law enforcement agencies. My badge shows hasty stamping of the letters. Or at least the lack of care usually associated with Simmang or any ranger badge maker. But that does not disprove its authenticity...

The relatively soft, oreite badge was unforgiving. Oreite was basically like bronze, containing brass, zinc and tin, and looking like gold when polished. It was easily engraved and stamped, but also easily scarred or bent. And in 1925, or thereabouts, a special order badge blank for this badge was not so easily replaced. A slight flaw in the stamping was tolerable compared to a lawman waiting another week or two for another badge to be obtained for custom stamping. So my guess is, for the time it was being used, it was “good enough.” Mr. Simmang probably gave him a discount on it, and sent him on into “harm's way.”

So, "even a blind hog finds an acorn," every once in awhile. My wife asked me where I was going to display my new find. Surely it needed to be in a suitable, worthy place. And somewhere where I could take it out and look at it! You can imagine that I have picked up some good badges, in all the hunting and gathering, and I have my better badges where I can show them off. But none of them are this old or have a Texas Ranger's initials carved in them like this one. I'm going to have to keep this one handy... so I can let it tell me its story. We need to find out who “T.E.H.” was, and maybe then the badge will be able to rest with the others.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

UNpatriot Games

The Profit in Prevarication...

I grew up in the antique business, and in my antique business days, all of the antique dealers loved to purchase items from local hucksters who routinely brought pick-up truck loads of “antiques” to the downtown area and if possible, play one dealer against another. It was often a scene of cat and mouse, as dealers watched them work the business district, considering when might be the most opportune time to strike. The “pickers” had their own strategy, always going to the big spenders first, and forcing the others to “pony up,” or be left out.

Sometimes the dealers would get too excited and enthusiastic, loving the sense of opportunity, and ignoring the fact that what they were ravaging through was a truckload of junk. Or worse, a carefully crafted trap.

This game always included a certain inevitable element of bluffing, acting and other poker skills, and sometimes there was outright lying and even counterfeiting. On both sides. The dealers had to act like they did not care, that the items were common, of little value. They were only dispassionately gazing into the bed of the old truck out of altruistic philanthropy. And in the process, setting themselves up for the kill. This contest led to a much more sophisticated scrimmage of prevarication for profit.

The pickers had their own tricks, and had come to use me as a test, and if their newest counterfeit antique passed my inspection (it rarely did), then they felt as if they had truly accomplished something. I often laughed them off, but sometimes I had to complement them on their artistry. The thing that amazed me the most, was that my fellow dealers were usually never very interested in my warnings to them, that counterfeits were being regularly circulated.

I sometimes visited their homes, whenever they had a new batch of junk, ready to seize anything of value that could be sold for some profit. One day they were all gathered around a drum fire in their primitive outdoor furniture building area, telling lies, bragging and scheming, and I saw one of them quietly carving on an old polished cow horn. He handed it to me shamelessly, to get my reaction. It was crudely inscribed, with a name and date, which elevated it to the appearance of folk art and a highly collectible thing... I always tried to ignore their counterfeiting efforts, trying to encourage the more boring vocation of really “picking” old things from barns and abandoned farm houses. On this day I just smirked and kept walking. But I could not help but shake my head.

A couple of weeks later I saw the same horn hanging from a fellow dealer's private stash behind his desk. It was “not for sale”... or at least that was the game... making the price much higher for anyone who had to have it. I blurted out before I could think, and let him know that I recognized the cow horn. I went ahead and told him what he had, and worried out loud about what he had to pay for it. He would not say immediately, unable to discern whether I was telling him the truth, or kidding him, or even trying to acquire it myself, but defiantly admitted that he had given a reasonable sum.

I assured him that I had no interest in it, and told him that he should never sell it, because that kind of thing could hurt his own reputation. He shrugged, unable to let go of the “find of the week,” and unwilling to affirm my assessment. He was going to keep it, he said, as it looked good hanging there. And that was that.

So far no laws had been broken; One fellow had made a half-ass “replica.” No harm in that. Another fellow had showed it to the antique dealer. No crime there. He left it with him to ponder. No pressure was applied. Later a third fellow came by and picked up a check. Just a courier of the transaction... so nothing illegal or unethical had been done or said by any of the parties. Each had an “innocent” role in a process carefully woven with plausible deniability.

But a damnable lie had been established and was hanging in that shop, for all to see, and misunderstand. All while the buying public assumed that a reputable dealer would never proudly display a worthless counterfeit artifact. Soon the lie easily became the most coveted item in town. Until the next lie floated in. This was a veritable counterfeit antique ring, covered by smiles and innocence, and after all, nobody was hurt by it. Well, not physically. And great conversation was enjoyed by all, by those passing through, and those participating in the process.

And this is EXACTLY how the American Media functions today. One source creates a lie. No harm in itself... in fact it could be considered a joke or parody. Another source merely repeats it... not claiming its authorship, but advancing the lie to Media outlets. No crime in repeating a lie. The Media publishes these lies, a truckload of clever counterfeits, or just pure junk, ostensibly obtained from “reliable sources.” Nobody claims the information is reliable, only that it was passed on by persons of influence or reputation. The lie is then borrowed, repeated, reworded, pondered, cultivated, and generally spread until it is considered a solid fact. And no one has broken the law. Not even tarnished their ethics.

No one can be directly accused of "bearing false witness," one of the more neglected of the Ten Commandments. But I get some satisfaction believing that God knows all about it. 

Newspapers, news broadcasts, magazines, and Internet news outlets all profit from the lie, which in some cases can be exploited for months or years. Until someone proves it to be untrue. And in some cases, that cannot be done. Lies are easily the most profitable and dependable material being trafficked by the national Media. And it has always been the case. Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Herbert Hoover, and even Franklin Roosevelt could all tell you of egregious lies printed and reprinted about them. The Press has always had scurrilous characters who understood this “gray area” long before somebody coined the phrase “plausible deniability,” and ambitious “journalists” have always been willing to capitalize on it.

Bizarrely, our brave soldiers fight and sacrifice life and limb to defend the right of the Media to perpetuate this wicked chain of injustice. Hunkered in the corner under the auspices of “Freedom of the Press,” lurk the insidious profiteers of prevarication.

There may be no laws to prevent such activity, no prosecution of those who dance in the gray of plausible deniability, cleverly designing their alibis while dealing in laundered lies. But observers have warned for centuries about the latent threat of malicious propaganda designed to confuse and redirect societies.

Alexis de Tocqueville predicted the oncoming strategies overwhelming us today. Edward Bernays and others made a science of population management via mass psychology. Now a hundred years later, Russian disinformation has partnered with partisan manipulation of law enforcement, and the force-feeding of the Media poisonous narratives guaranteed to implement Lenin's secret weapon: “Confirmation bias.” The founder of Soviet Russia built his empire on deception, and that was done by cleverly telling what Lenin knew the Russian people wanted to hear. Could he have known, what we have learned through scientific research, that people actually get a dopamine rush from belief affirmation? Thanks to all of the major networks, Americans are actually mentally and physically addicted to the gratuitous, incendiary trashing of the president; An evil yet effective strategy straight out of Vladimir Lenin's playbook.

It has become a race to oblivion, a question of which will burn out first. Whether the American experiment can outlast the dying newspaper business, pervasively discredited and now cannibalizing itself to survive. We can only hope there will be a special place in Hell for those who knowingly proliferated lies for profit, or worse, for some despicable political strategy.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Coronavirus: Taking a Roman Holiday?

Coronavirus needed two things to succeed: a vulnerable host and messengers to take it there. The map shows where this played out.

It is with great disappointment, but little surprise that we now concede that the Chinese greatly misled the world with the information they provided from their Coronavirus epidemic. They could have saved many lives with useful scientific data, but opted to use the disease and their contrived narrative as a propaganda tool instead.

Still, I believe, for no good reason, that they did forward some truths connected to the disease, before they, for ominous political reasons, shrouded the whole country in mystery. Their willingness to expose their own population to the disease staggers the mind. Their insolence to provide information which they knew would be eventually impugned and which could set back their foreign relations by decades was especially short-sighted and self-defeating... Unless we consider the near revolution which they had been contending with... and what they might be willing to do to squelch it. A handy epidemic could well mask a few thousand executions.

MAYBE, if nothing else, we learned the origin, the high contagiousness, thus the significant threat, and the lack of effective treatment, and the approximate life cycle of the virus within a fairly isolated population. Maybe. There was no good reason to lie about those things. They had their reasons, which we may never know, to not share the route and casualties of the virus in regions beyond Wuhan.

So, forget China... even though a great deal of my own confidence and optimism was centered in their fallacious representations.

Coronavirus bypassed many Chinese neighbors 
and almost made a beeline to Italy and then
 to New York. Might some demographic groups
 have had a more than normal susceptibility? 

For a moment, let's focus on just the Eastern Hemisphere. Removing the U.S. and China, the seeming beginning and end of the pandemic, the Coronavirus outbreak is mostly a Mediterranean/ Middle Eastern phenomena. And the casualties in New York prove it.

Italy was the first on the western side of the Eastern Hemisphere to exhibit great susceptibility to the disease. A massive Chinese population in Italy, and significant inter-relations between the two countries, not unlike a partnership, sealed Italy's fate. Yet China has plenty of other partners around the world, who should also have suffered from their kinship. Strangely, countries surrounding China, including Hong Kong and Singapore, seem to be immune. But South Korea, not exactly an ally, has had a touch of it. Mysteriously, the disease went elsewhere. This seems to prove that not all regions will react the same to the virus.

Finding more fertile prospects in the west, the disease leap-frogged over the Orient and landed in Italy, and Iran, and here is what may be significant, it invaded Italy and many places where there were significant Italian populations: Of the top 20 countries who have suffered the brunt of the Coronavirus outbreak, 9 of them are also in Italy's top-20 list for her ex-patriots. So it is not surprising that Germany (2nd), Switzerland (3rd), France (5th), UK (6th), Belgium (7th), US (8th), Spain (9th) and Australia (11th) are also 4th, 9th, 6th, 8th, 11th,  1rst,  3rd and 20th respectively in reported Coronavirus cases.

Other Mediterranean/Mid East countries, less important to Italy but in the top- 20 are Iran (7th ), Turkey (10th) Israel (18th ) in reported Coronavirus cases. Others in the region may be suffering but not reporting very accurately. The obvious hyper-susceptibility of these mostly western populations should be of interest, as compared to China's neighbors. There might be a racial or demographic angle to this pandemic.

News agencies easily acknowledged that Italy had become the epicenter of the pandemic for several weeks... an insidious Roman holiday, until the U.S. took its place. And we soon eclipsed Italy with our cities sporting the densest collections of Jewish and Italian-Americans in the U. S... New York-New Jersey, which constitute, at this writing, one half of all of the casualties in the whole country. Ten times the losses in Louisiana, 38x that of Texas, home of the fourth and fifth largest metropolitan regions America, (Houston & Dallas-Ft Worth) AND Austin and San Antonio. Surely something is missing from the equation. Sure cases and casualties are rising... and they will for a couple of weeks more... but declining numbers in Italy tell us to hold on. Italy has gone six days where their death totals were less than those when at their highest (Mar27) ... indicating a downturn of the epidemic, and a "curve" very similar to that suggested by the Chinese. Hopefully they have just entered their epidemic downturn, and we are a week or so behind them and will experience a downturn, at least in New York, very soon.

This observation, of a Mediterranean connection, could contribute greatly to understanding the spread of the disease, the inexplicable and disproportionate casualty rate around the globe, and the most susceptible populations to the disease, and help warn the most endangered demographic groups.

It also could mean that the models being used to forecast the Coronavirus are skewed towards the general population... disregarding the significant Italian population now suffering the pandemic in New York and New Jersey.

In the United States, where the virus has done the most damage, it has been the quickest and most deadly in the densest Italian populations: New York and New Jersey. Here the carriers, some Chinese and some Italian, brought the virus to the most susceptible populations. New York and New Jersey represent the third largest concentration of Italian-Americans and Italian nationals outside of Italy. New York boasts a huge Italian-American population, over 8%, and there are around twenty towns in New Jersey which tout 40-50% Italian-American populations. They argue back and forth just who is the most Italian. That argument has morphed into who has had the greatest losses per capita from the dreaded Coronavirus.

True, it could be argued that the disease just followed where the Chinese elites took it, to the more populated and prosperous places on the globe, where there would have been Italians... who are part of the Western network of industrialized countries. Perhaps it was merely the Chinese and Italians who were the carriers to Europe and the U. S.. The path of the disease would indeed overlay perfectly with airline travel, trade routes, and tourism corridors. But India and Pakistan, Poland, Russia, and most of China's closest neighbors got a curious reprieve from the outbreak. They have travel and trade as well, and in fact probably have the virus, but it is not killing them in great numbers.

We in the U.S. are greatly Ameri-centric... we always think it is all about us... so when the virus comes calling first and foremost to New York... of course it did!  But why not London? Why not Moscow? Or Houston? Los Angeles (still only 269 deaths)?

There has to be a practical explanation to the explosion in Italy when so many highly populated areas closer to China were skipped. In fact, it would have been expected that poorer populations, worse medical facilities, more backward societies would have been hit the hardest. Certainly not the very opposite.

When Chinese nationals brought the virus to the U.S., they no doubt hit our western shores at about the same time that they hit the east coast, and the outbreak surfaced from Georgia to California to New York about March 1- and New Orleans about a week later, on the Gulf Coast. Yet experts seem to be anticipating a deadly wave across America, as if delayed, which (I believe) may have already visited upon these places... and done their deadliest. Perhaps Corona has hit and climaxed with a speed beyond our comprehension. Outbreaks in California, Colorado, almost every state, suggest that it has had time to seek from coast to coast, and kill or terrify a majority of the population, already.

Then those infected in those places did the rest, spreading the virus to the elderly and those with immunodeficiency, or some other fragility, of all demographic groups... and causing great suffering. But perhaps not as many deaths as those with the Mediterranean/Mid East bloodlines. Only time will tell.

As Rush Limbaugh has pointed out, it is impossible that social distancing prevented the Coronavirus pandemic from having its way, in California or anywhere, since most populated places had probably been exposed for weeks before the public adopted these strategies.  Limbaugh has been intrigued for days with California's seeming immunity. They have a significant Chinese population... no doubt quite a few "carriers"... but perhaps not the density of Italian -Americans which would catch it and suffer greatly, and propel a health threat anywhere near an "epidemic." So far the total deaths (270 in first month) in California is small compared to New York, sand many other health threats they have faced.

"Just an observation..."

But it might be helpful to add another demographic to the “model” being used to forecast America's fate regarding the Coronavirus: Victims are old to very old, (avg of 80 years in Italy) suffering a myriad of preconditions which increase their vulnerability, and more often than not in countries associated with Italy... or Italians, and in New York, where the model for Coronavirus forecasting was born, at least 8% across the board are of Italian descent. That is just my “SWAG” from Internet sources, based on population estimates until actual numbers are available, but the Mediterranean/Mid East angle which is suggested by the world Coronavirus map, and the related casualties in New York and its environs, suggest that it may be even more.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Marked for Life by The Twilight Zone

Do any of you recognize this face?

Please, let me introduce a classic film short... and a great case of real life “deja vu.” But first, who does this woman, featured in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, look like? If you ever lived in Navasota, Texas,and knew everybody that mattered to the community as a whole, you have to know... who this looks like.

This film was based on a story written by Ambrose Bierce and appeared on the Twilight Zone when I was a boy. It impacted my life in several ways including some that I am still discovering. I was only eight years old when I saw it, for the only time in my life, and now I learn that the reason that I watched a thousand Twilight Zone re-runs over my lifetime, in hopes of seeing it again, and never saw it in almost sixty years, was that the Twilight Zone television show only purchased limited broadcast rights to it.

Owl Creek Bridge was a short film made in France! And only edited by the Twilight Zone... no doubt formatted for its time slot and commercials, and it was a hit and won several awards- and my lifelong enthusiasm with very, very limited exposure; Two broadcasts... I saw one of them... in 1962.

It's main character was named Peyton Farquhar... which means nothing to most people, but in Navasota, there is a Farquhar street in the center of downtown by that name, and runs right by City Hall, and the Post Office, and dead ends right into a building where I spent a great deal of time and energy... now known as Classic Rock Coffee Co. But I did not know that wne I was eight, or remember any of the details, as the man's name was barely mentioned... and in the beginning, which had me mesmerized, and stupified.

I just saw it again after many years of wishing to see see it again. Remembering it hard, reconstructing it in my mind, as the years passed, suddenly, by the miracle of Netflix, it was ON!

As a boy I was raised in a history rich environment, injected with a powerful dose of Southern pride. My brother and I played Civil War every day. We had kepis and muskets and knew our generals... and a few battles... mostly we fantasized fighting and dying for the South. When this Twilight Zone came into my living room, it grabbed me, held me, captured me, executed me, and left me for dead. The Confederate spy in the story was me, and I went through his ordeal repeatedly in my mind for the rest of my life.

The theme obviously hit close to home, but it was something else which I could not recognize as an eight year old, and upon seeing again, now understand why the show appealed so much to my soul. The film is a masterpiece of art; The creepy bluesy vocalist, singing as the spy watches his life flash by. “I want to be a LIVING MAN.” (That should have been the name of the segment) The singer has the appeal of a Captain Kangaroo children's entertainer, as he slowly elaborates the beauty of nature, the wonder of Creation... “I see the treeeeees... every vein on the leeeeeeaves...” A man about to die realizes how much he loved life, how much of life there was still to live... how he would give anything to just go home again, and he envisions running home barefooted through the wilderness, and seeing his adoring wife and children one more time.

That hunger, that value stayed, anchored in me like a peg on the wall, and something to hang my identity on. I saw that sweet, loving face of his wife coming happily towards him... but never quite reaching him... for six damn decades! THAT is good art. And that was the day I knew... there was no glory in war so great as a single leaf on a tree.

I did not want to die for the Confederacy... a cause long lost, I wanted to spend my life doing what that poor schmuck hanging from the bridge would never get to do. His yearning, his regrets, his brief, unrealized fantasy became my lifetime of fulfillment and achievement. I still pretended, and played Civil War after that, but I knew I never wanted to stupidly throw my life away. And this was important at that time, as I was soon to go through a boyhood hell and want to end my life. I'm sure now, as I think about it, that the dead rebel hanging from the railroad bridge figured heavily in my mind one Saturday morning when I hunkered down under the fronds of a palm tree in my front yard with a butcher knife, determined to end my anguish. I thought I wanted to die. But the picture of that Confederate spy running and running and never quite saving himself, leaving so beautiful a life behind, stuck with me. Death in youth was a terrible waste. He was dead, but I could still have the life and fulfillment which he could not.

I had forgotten the lack of dialogue in the film, which made the emotions portrayed so much more important. I had completely missed the stream of conscious singing... the violence of the waterfall, but I had fixated on the long, long run home... and the reaching... reaching, to the breaking point... the final embrace as the condemned man actually falls to his death at the end of a rope, which rocked my world. It was the first time I had ever seen a show that did not end with a happy ending. He was supposed to get away and reinforce my juvenile sense of justice. Instead the show went on for many minutes, making you think that somehow he had struggled free and was going to go home to his family. Just as in life, death came with a terrible shock. It was as effective and sobering as any thing I have seen since. It possessed with my eight-year old mind, and never let go. That is the power of art.

I was not the only celebrated writer to love the piece- Kurt Vonnegut said it was the greatest American Short Story ever written. He called it a flawless example of American Genius.

Bizarrely, as I finally saw it again, playing the two main roles were actors who could have been doubles for two friends of mine. All of these years there was a strange familiarity... they were the physical and temperamental embodiment of the characters in the film. Him, a melancholy folk musician, she a loving soul, once a popular children's day-care provider. Seeing them again... in this haunting film, familiar faces in a film which owned a part of me, added another real-life layer to the Twilight Zone.

Of course, I grew up to be... an artist, a historical illustrator, a photographer and writer. A bird watcher... and a happily married man, to a beautiful Southern belle, going on 45 years. And she loves the Twilight Zone. I am the LIVING MAN!

So the actor was Roger Jacquet. The Actress Anne Cornaly... or so they said... But if you are from Navasota, you will watch it with... a certain kind of myst in your eye.

Now, start voting as you hum the Twilight Zone theme song.