Sunday, September 22, 2013


Lawrence Hall

P. O. Box 856

1286 County Road 400

Kirbyville, Texas 75956



Having withdrawn from the existential struggle,

Surrendering their arms and protest signs,

They muster in Denny’s for the Senior Special

Uniformed in knee-pants and baseball caps

And Chinese tees that read “World’s Greatest Grandpa,”

Hearing aids and trifocs at parade rest,

And quadrupedal aluminum sticks

Raging against the oxygen machine.

Not trusting anyone over ninety,

They rattle their coffee cups and dentures

Instead of suspicious Nixonians,

And demand pensions, not revolution.

They mourn classmates dead, not The Grateful Dead.

They do not burn their Medicare cards

Tho’ once they illuminated the world

With their flaming conscription notices.

They no longer read McKuen or Tolkien

Or groove to the Mamas and the Papas;

Their beads and flowers are forever filed

In books of antique curiosities

Beside a butterfly collection shelved

In an adjunct of the Smithsonian

Where manifestos go to be eaten

By busy mice and slow-pulsing fungi.

As darkness falls they make the Wheel, not peace -

They did not change the world, not at all, but

The world changed anyway, and without them,

And in the end they love neither Jesus

Nor Siddhartha, but only cable t.v.


Lawrence Hall

P. O. Box 856

1286 County Road 400

Kirbyville, Texas 75956




Fading slowly from the existential struggle,

Waving their MePhones about in protest,

They swarm to Starbuck’s for adjective coffees,

Uniformed in knee-pants and bulbous sneaks

And Chinese soccer tops with little checkmarks,

Their graduate degrees at parade rest,

And in confusion, suddenly-stalled careers

Raging against the thirty-something machine.

Not trusting anyone under forty,

They rustle their foam cups and resumes’

Instead of suspicious Democrats,

And demand promotions and Perrier.

They mourn pinstripes and leather briefcases,

And the old floppy disc of yesteryear,

And fumble their PowerPoint Presentations

Tho’ once they illuminated the world

With colored markers on glossy whiteboard.

They no longer play games on a Commodore

Or rock to neo-Carib fusion jazz;

Their Rush is Right baseball caps are now filed

In trays of antique curiosities

Beside the moldering hippie stuff shelved

In an adjunct of the Smithsonian

Where curricula vitae go to be eaten

By a computer virus named Vlad.

Now, as the sun sets on Ferris Bueller’s day

They count and verify their MeBook friends -

They did not change the world, not at all, but

The world changed anyway, and without them,

And in the end they love neither Jesus

Nor The Force; like Eve, they bow to an Apple.


Truck Stop Restroom Cologne

Lawrence Hall
September, 2013

Truck Stop Restroom Cologne

Denny’s / Flying J, Orange, Texas

Check out the boom-chick in the parking lot -
Love and diesel fumes are in the air.
Tattoos and cigarettes, oh, man, she’s hot!
Industrial peroxide tints her hair

Like rainbows in a toxic fuel-oil spill.
Her waist is a rockin’ forty-four,
A pavement Venus posed before the grill
Of a Peterbilt outside the truckers’ store.

How can the lovestruck swain lure her to his cab?
Persuade her to give him her innocent all?
A ripped-shirt display of a manly ab?
Wait - what’s that machine on the restroom wall?

Cool dude, you’ll never have to truck alone
If you scent yourself with restroom cologne.

Vir Parvus in Sede Magna (A Small Man in a Big Chair)

Lawrence Hall
September, 2013

Vir Parvus in Sede Magna


Magister, to his chair:


“O Chair, O wonderful, manly, leather Chair,

The throne behind my bold, impressive desk,

Proud plane adorned with my sports trophies there,

Altar to my masque, my fond burlesque.”


Magister, from his chair:


          “Do you think you can sit in this chair?  Say!

          No, and I’ll tell you why – this chair is mine,

          Hard-earned by trafficking my resume’ -

          Pause, then, and kneel; I feel almost divine!”


Vox populi:


          “O Magister, no, we’d never presume

          Ever to mime your magnificentia -

          Your throne is honored in this consular room

          (For we would not share in your dementia).”

Exeunt omnes, pursued by a bore.


A Small Man Orders a War

Lawrence Hall
September, 2013


A Small Man Orders a War

Proud carrier fleets roam the murmuring world
As Hannibal’s elephants trod Italy –
Grey monsters in search of an enemy
Not yet declared, but with hubris unfurled

In decadence, ruled by smooth ganymedes,     
Courtier-generals in their airy cars
Wage resumes’ high above their wars –
So strong in single-malt, so weak in deeds

In his softly-lit bunker the war-god smiles;
His bony hand upon a plastic screen
Commands strange engines, obscure and obscene,
To make a peace through smoking, ashy piles

But empires in the end must die, atone
Their sins, perhaps as trunkless legs of stone.


Lawrence Hall


Put your hands together and grab some Buds
As you give it up obediently
To stand as one, laugh, live, love, and eat, pray, sing
Don’t wait, call now, just do it, call today
Have your credit card ready, and your soul
Join us, join now, book now, and download now
Step up to the plate, don’t miss out, shop now
Keep your eye on the ball, here, subscribe now
Be part of the solution and sign now
Find your true love on line; get a quote now
Donate, don’t miss breaking news – click here, now!
Personalize now – it’s free! Upgrade now
Make us your home page, change search engine, blink,
And you’ll miss it, connect, buy gold, join us
See your local dealer, become a site member
Be one of us; join the movement today
Download the latest apps, obey, obey.


September, 2013

This is how Children Learn Now

Lawrence Hall

This is how Children Learn Now

Television news: each student in a Catholic school
 will be issued an IPad

“This is how children learn now,” he enthused,
A young man only now in his first long pants,
And a clean shirt without advertisements,
His boyhood goatee newly shaved away,
His diploma fresh from a vending machine,
In knowledge omniscient at twenty-two,
Displaying to the television audience
A shiny plastic box, wampum for trade,
Little lights and noises squeaking from a screen
In exchange for the island of one’s soul.

His pupils will not want paper or pens
For coloring their happy fantasies
At the kitchen table on rainy days.
They will never listen for Robin Hood’s call
To run barefoot in green-roofed Sherwood Forest,
Or listen for sleigh bells on Christmas eve,
Or look for fairies on a frosty night,
In wild sweeps dancing on the moonlit lawn.
For them there will be no childhood campfires,
No laughing summer nights counting the stars.

Children must genuflect to their shiny boxes,
And never lift their eyes to the sweet sunrise,
Sing to the skies, marvel at a burning bush,
Weep with Mary at the foot of the Cross,
Learn their catechism, giggle in choir,
Or form their letters with a wooden pencil.
Their hands will never touch flowers, flutes, or frogs,
Their lips will never kiss puppies or moms,
Their noses will never wrinkle at lemons,
Because a shiny box will be their world.

Huddled among earphones and telescreens,
Subservient, silenced, subdued, suppressed,
Disappearing into a creeping mist -
“This is how children learn now,” the serpent hissed.


6 September 2013

A Dead Man's Hand

Lawrence Hall
September, 2013

A Dead Man’s Hand

News – Senator plays video poker during hearings on Syria

An old man plays with video games and death,
Bored with a meeting called to fling the lives
Of youths onto the baize; he holds his breath -
And what appears? A knave, a king, some fives?

Two sable aces there, mournful and grim,
Begin to assemble in a crumbling nave
With two sable eights keening a funeral hymn,
A deuce of spades to dig a generation’s grave.


7 September 2013

Banned Books - Weak

Mack Hall, HSG

Banned Books – Weak

The problem with Banned Books Week is that books aren’t banned by this country.  You could look it up on page 313 of your niece’s much-marked copy of Fifty-One Grades of Nay.

Once upon a time, when prehistoric hamsters bellowed across primeval swamps, the United States Post Office (as it was then known) did not permit the mailing of pornography, and some local municipalities forbade hootchie-mama stuff in print.  For authors, though, being banned in Boston was much desired, as this guaranteed a rise in sales.

The reality is that in our progressive and enlightened era a cud-chewing TSA-ista at the airport will seize your grandpa’s Schrade-Walden Old Timer, but not a copy of Naughty Tales of a Runaway Teenaged Police Nurse with the jalapeno-hot illustrations of barely-legal stethoscopes.

Rest easy during Banned Books Week; your copy of Wordsworth’s Prelude is safe from confiscation by armed Ninjas in discount-store xtreem tactical commando camouflage rappelling down from unmarked Canadian helicopters, even though the Oxford de Selincourt edition features a really wild you-know-what scene in the 1850 variant, p. 417, line 392.

So what’s with the annual Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week appears to be just another safe, fashionable (and profitable for some) cause, with posters and protests and posturing and computer downloads to forward to people who are already busy trying to liberate their in-boxes from the cascade of political cartoons people send them constantly.

And, hey, you can buy the really cool official Read a Banned Book tee-shirt at and other trendy accessories at!  Men’s and women’s sizes are $23, and the too, too precious tote bag is only $12.

Bracelets, buttons, pins, posters, tees, and totes all speak Truth to Power just like, y’now, totally, Che Guevera, who was all like, stuff, like, y’know, so raise high the green flag and a clenched fist, comrades.  Nothing says First Amendment like a tote bag that was probably made in a country without any freedoms at all.

Surely there’s the requisite made-in-China toxic-metal ribbon, too.

Costuming one’s self in the official underwear of The Cause and menacing a 4’11” librarian is a whole lot safer than telling the owners of the famous-name-brand gas station down the road that they shouldn’t be selling weird drugs under fake names to children.

Public libraries are part of the package of civilization: streets, parks, traffic lights, fire departments, and all the other services and features that remind us that we are more than economic units or random assemblages of DNA; we are humans.  We think, wash, work for our livings, eat with forks, teach our children, walk upright, play baseball and the fiddle, read and write books, watch and make movies, care for our sick, talk about church but seldom go, and bury our dead with dignity.

Without books, we fall victim to what C. S. Lewis called “the cascade of nonsense” shrieking (not always metaphorically) from the megaphones of our noisy age, and entrap ourselves in the false ideologies of what Flip Wilson wisely mocked as What’s Happening Now.

The free public library is an idea that originated in the USA, the idea that everyone should have access to all the ideas of civilization, to the democracy of the dead, not only to What’s Happening Now 1-800-Send-Me-Money demagogues, and so through a combination of taxes, endowments, and gifts almost every town is blessed with a free public library.

But even the most generously-funded library must work from a budget and from intellectual discretion.  No library can possibly shelve ever volume ever printed, and, contrary to the manufactured outrage (that, too, is profitable for some) of the fat boys on the radio, no librarian will shelve pornography except on the order of a judge, often a judge democratically elected by the people who then blame the librarian.

Adults choose the books they read and shelve in their own homes, and they know what books their children are reading (even while wholly unaware of what their children are accessing on the Orwellian Telescreens that seem to be stapled to their little hands).  That’s not banning books, that’s being a good father or mother.

When you visit the book store and buy, say, a volume of poems of Keats and the autumn number of Field and Stream (which goes well with Keats’ “Ode to Autumn”), you are not banning all the other books and magazines; you are making a free choice about what you want to buy with your money, just like a real American.

Banned Books Week is not about banned books because, while the majesty of the law is a bit harsh on little girls painting scripture posters in the school gym, the majesty does not at present ban books.  Thus, perhaps the name of the cause should be Books I Like That Other People Don’t Like and Won’t Buy Even Though I Command Them to do so Which Means They’re a Bunch of Fascists Week.



Confusion Among the Faithful

Mack Hall, HSG

Confusion Among the Faithful

Last week there was some confusion among the faithful after the publication of certain shocking statements attributed to their spiritual leader.  With mixed feelings of anxiety and anticipation, millions gathered in night-long vigils at their local places of worship.

In Houston, a number of the devout were robbed at gunpoint, adding fear and sorrow to an already tense situation and leading to further self-doubt regarding their sacred tradition.

But after every night comes the dawn, and all over the world acolytes in blue vestments opened the doors to true believers, who chanted the traditional Malum litany for the opening of the sacred doors:  “Decem…Novem…Octo… Septem…Sex…Quinque…Quattor…Tres…Duo…Unus…”

And, with tears in their eyes and hymns on their lips, the faithful beheld a new age of mankind: yet another little made-in-China plastic box that lights up and makes noises.

“Yes, the previous Apple was legalistic and narrow-minded, but this new Apple heralds a wonderful new world of freedom,” exulted a young pilgrim from a few streets over.

“Ya just can’t stay with the old ways,” agreed his friend, dressed in a traditional religious habit from Abercrombie.  “Vatican II said ‘Open the windows of the Apple store!’ or something like that. Ya gotta go with the flow, like, y’know, move with the times, like, you know, like a corpse floating downriver.  Like, y’know.”

A woman, her young face drawn in sadness, spoke from the shadows: “But I’ve always been a Windows person.  Can I be forgiven?  Will Apple CEO Tim Cook hold my past Window-ness against me?”

“Of course not,” said one of the acolytes joyfully.  “His Apple is forever!”

The woman sniffed softly.  “Sniff,” she sniffed softly, “Does this mean (sniff) (softly) that I am at last welcome in an Apple store?  I’ve never felt (sniff) (softly) that I was wanted there.”

“Tim Cook has always welcomed you, just as you are, in the name of Steve Jobs,” all the pilgrim faithful assured her.

“Just as I am?  I can enter into the Apple store (sniff) (softly) just as I am, and He will welcome me?”

“With open arms.  He has always been waiting for you,” said one of the acolytes, taking her by the hand.

“And (sniff) (softly) I can remain a Windows person?”

“WHAT!?  Remain a Windows heretic!? Get out!  We don’t want your kind in here!”


Monday, September 16, 2013

The NSA-FBI Bible

Mack Hall, HSG

The NSA – FBI Bible

A survey by The American Bible Society suggests that 41% of Americans read the Bible on their Orwellian Telescreens.

Well, maybe.

Who says that a text beamed Scottie-like into that little plastic box in one’s hands is the / a Bible?

A telescreen Bible (maybe it’s a Bible) makes worse an existing problem: in a free nation, anyone can label any old book lying around The Bible and sell it as such.  If, say, five folks get together for an informal Bible study, they are likely to bring with them five different texts said to be the Bible – King James Version (with the English canon of 1611 or the smaller canon more common in this country?), New King James Version, NIV, RSV, or Douay-Rheims (and then Douay-Rheims or Douay-Rheims-Challoner?)?

If the five individuals bring to their group study printed Bibles, each one can be sure of this – the Bible he (which here is gender-neutral) owned when he went to bed was not changed overnight.

If the five individuals bring to their study their Orwellian Telescreens with the Bible as – may God forgive us – an app (or is that App or even Saint App?), they cannot be sure that the words have not been changed since last they accessed the text.

Of course it can happen.

When one of the first e-reader-thingies was available, the company and a literary agency inadvertently made a contract error over the purchase of a certain novel.  The X-Treem E-Game X-Beyond-E-Normal E-Reader E-Company (whatever) withdrew the novel from thousands of Orwellian Telescreens quicker than you can say “Harry Potter has cooties.”  The thousands of people who had bought the book were refunded their money, and life went on.

The point is that a service provider possesses the power to make any book, or all of them, disappear completely from your telescreen.  If the provider can do that, then modifying the text is even easier.

When you open a physical copy of a Bible you have owned for years, you can be sure of two things.  One is that everyone else at the table will tell you that you have the wrong Bible, that what you need is the New Intercontinental Revised Inter-Something Else Brotherhood Fellowship Bible, endorsed by Bob’s Publishing Company of Old Chowdertown, Massachusetts.  The second matter of which you can be sure is that nothing in that printed Bible has changed since you acquired it.

With an electronic Bible, you cannot be sure of that.

Another matter is that when you read a few verses in a printed Bible, the occasion is solely between you and God.  When you read a few verses of a Bible (maybe it’s a Bible) on your Orwellian Telescreen, then it’s a matter among you, God, and whoever else may choose to listen in on the World Wide Party Line: the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, or that strange individual down the road.

Not important, you say?  It could be.

A common piece of advice is to evaluate a problem according to the Bible: a cranky employer, an ethical issue in the workplace, your prodigal son, anything.  If you look up relevant sources on a moral issue on the Orwellian Telescreen, you make your query open to everyone on the planet at any time, for everything floating in the aether is stored in multiple computers.  Your search is not going to go away.

It may not be of use to anyone now, but it will be of use against you when someday you apply for a really high-up job, stand for state congressman, propose a business loan, or are accused of any affront listed in the increasingly large catalogue of thought-crimes (

The Orwellian Telescreen is not the Garden of Eden, but there are real serpents lurking behind the electronic leaves.

And besides, reading a printed Bible makes it easier for your friends to tell you that you’ve got the wrong Bible.





Do Cruise Missiles Ever Need a Jump-Start?

Mack Hall, HSG

Do Cruise Missiles Ever Need a Jump-Start?

A driver’s new car would not start, so three of us innocent bystanders formed a committee to make it go.  We moved another car close, broke out the old jumper cables, lifted the hood of the new but dysfunctional car, and -- and stared at the innards in some confusion.

What does a car battery look like in these progressive times?

We were faced with scattered layers of grey plastic covers that didn’t seem to form any sort of identifiable pattern.  A young man, whom we elders thought might know more about designer batteries, joined the party, and he too considered the assemblage to be a great mystery.  One of the committee, scientifically-trained, finally found a small, protruding piece of metal marked with an X or a +, depending on how you looked at it, and suggested that it might be a battery terminal.

So the committee connected positive to positive and negative to frame, and the driver started her car, blessed us, and motored happily off into the sun rising over a new lath-and-plaster garbage-in-your-fuel-tank station.

O listen, my children: once upon a time, when giants roamed the earth, one looked into the engine compartment of an automobile and saw an engine.  Carburetor, distributer, wires, spark plugs, hoses, belts, radiator, and other mechanical devices were clearly discernible. 

In our time, very-serious-people-with-clean-hands-who-do-thinky-stuff-in-offices have commanded that the engine compartments of cars be stuffed with a potpourri of delicate and mysterious boxes, black boxes, re-breathers, re-cyclers, cleaners, exchangers, wheezers, whoozers, sublimators, terminators, verminators, activators, de-activators, catalytic does-this-really-do-anything-erters, pentameters, stanzas, quatrains, refrains, caesurae, end-stops, and a buzzard in a pear tree. 

Entombed within all these thingies, and powering them, is an internal combustion engine predicated on 19th-century-technology: gas + air + spark = energy.  There may be a metaphor in all that.

Further, the combustible liquid which the engine employs to carry the car, its passengers and baggage, and the predatory devices clamped to that engine and draining it of energy, is no longer gasoline made from real dinosaurs.  The very-serious-people-with-clean-hands-who-do-thinky-stuff-in-offices have commanded that each tank of propellant must now contain a can or two of field corn.

Internal combustion engines don’t work well on field corn.

If, twenty years ago, a refinery had adulterated its gasoline with corn syrup, trials and jail-time would have followed.  Thanks to the miracle of modern ideology – hardly science – a refinery that now does not clog good ol’ dinosaur juice with compost could face a raid by armed acronyms swarming through the gates.

Much useable energy is wasted in the manufacture, transportation, sale, installation, regulation, inspection, repair, and replacement of all those parasitic thingamabobs burdening each car’s engine.  More useable energy is wasted by the engine having to power all that stuff and drag it around.

Say, what kind of pollution devices are fitted to cruise missiles?  And do they sometimes require a jump-start in order to launch?


Monday, September 2, 2013

Ted Cruz, Not a Canadian

Mack Hall, HSG
25 August 2013

Ted Cruz, Not a Canadian

George Washington, who knew he was not our first president, was born a British subject because his parents were British subjects and he was born to those British subjects – mostly to his mother, biology being like that - on British soil.  Okay, not literally on British soil, but in a bed that was on a floor that was in a house that stood on British soil.  You get the idea.

But was George Washington the 9th president, or the 17th?  If we number the presidents from our first governing document, the Articles of Confederation, George is the 9th.  If we consider presidents from 1776, George is the 17th.  Some folks add the two convention presidents prior to the Declaration of Independence, which would make G.W. the 19th.

Under Article II of the 1787 Constitution, George Washington was eligible to be president because he was an American (Canadians and Mexicans are Americans too, but since it’s hard to say “united States-ian,” we have arrogated “American” to ourselves) citizen when that Constitution was adopted, eleven years after the nation established itself.  Thus, American citizens born before the Revolution, who could not be Americans by birth because the USA did not exist, were given an exemption from the “natural born Citizen” rule, which did not extend past that generation.  This would violate the concept of equal protection under the law except that this idea was not part of the Constitution until 1868.

And what does “natural born” mean, anyway?  Can anyone be unnaturally born?

So can Ted Cruz, born in Canada, be elected to the Presidency of the United States?

Of course he can.  His mother was an American citizen who happened to be in Canada at the time but who never repudiated her American citizenship. 

If being born somewhere else disqualified someone from elected office, many thousands of Americans born to our military, our diplomatic corps (not sure why we call ‘em a corps), and the occasional tourist with a poor sense of timing would not be really-real Americans. 

The constitutional question was raised speciously several election cycles ago when Senator John McCain stood for the presidency.  He was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936, where his Navy father was posted.  The argument that he was born on U.S. colonial territory is unnecessary; he was born to American citizens. 

Senator Cruz is not required to wear a bell and cry “Unclean!  Unclean!” simply because he was born two feet north of the 49th parallel instead of two feet south of it.

The argument against Senator McCain’s eligibility ceased when the details of the birth of the opposing party’s candidate were revealed to be somewhat more opaque than transparent.  But one thing is transparent – President Obama’s mother never foreswore her allegiance, and so, no matter where he was born, Barack Obama was born an American.

When Senator Cruz was recently advised that under Canadian law he could claim to be a Canadian citizen and a subject of the British Crown, he appears to have been upset.

Well, yeah, what right-thinking Christian man would want to be accused of being a Canadian, eh?  You know what Those People are like – they hang out at Tim Horton’s eating seal-flipper burgers and watching hockey on the telly and saying “eh” all the time. 

Before you could say “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon crowed three times” Senator Cruz responded with “Nothing against Canada, but…”


“Nothing against…but…” is a parallel to “with all due respect.”  When someone says to you “With all due respect,” you know very well that respect ain’t happening. 

That Canada would accept her prodigal son back home with metaphorically open arms has no writ in our by-golly-republic, and as an American he needn’t repudiate something that doesn’t exist here.  In sum, Senator Cruz, who is testing the murky waters with regard to the presidency, was quite pointlessly rude to the USA’s best friend. 

Senator Cruz has forgotten an important American rule: you do not alienate your country’s friends until you are elected president.



Lee Harvey Oswald in Area 51 with the Candlestick

Mack Hall, HSG
18 August 2013

Lee Harvey Oswald in Area 51 with the Candlestick

The British government is going to re-re-re-investigate the death of Elvis…no, wait…Princess Diana, The People’s Princess, and thank goodness for that, because anyone walking across a dark parking lot late at night is justifiably worried about being stalked by the furtive MI-5 albino rodeo clown (and his pack of feral corgis) who murdered Princess Diana.

Information not yet revealed is said to have been passed to Scotland Yard (perhaps Wodehouse’s Jeeves posing as Inspector Witherspoon) by the unnamed former parents-in-law of an unnamed former soldier who was a friend of another unnamed former soldier who was a friend of a former SAS sniper who was said by some other unknown person to have said that he knew something about the death of Princess Diana.  Well, hey, if that isn’t reason enough to start an investigation, then N.C.I.S. is just a television show.  Right?

Somehow, this will cause gasoline prices down the street to rise.

Actress Naomi Watts could tell the world exactly what happened, since Ms. Watts has been channeling Princess Diana from The Great Beyond, alleging that the princess herself gave Ms. Watts permission to play her in the movies. 

Unnamed in-laws, MI-5 conspiracies, Hollywood, discount-store mysticism.  But surely by gazing into a Clue board we can determine the real truth – this week’s real truth, at least – about the drunken chauffeur and the tru-luv-rs 4-ever.  The possibilities:

Miss Scarlet, obeying secret orders from Big Land Mine, committed the murder in Hangar 18 with a rope made of sustainable Burmese hemp.

Colonel Mustard, channeling the evil spirit of Margaret Thatcher, did in the victim in Porton Down by using a lead pipe forged or recycled materials in Taiwan.

Mrs. White, obeying an apparition of George Bush in a deck of Old Maid playing cards, did the evil deed in New Jersey with an organic dagger from India.

Reverend Green, decoding certain obscure passages in Harry Potter and the Same Plot Trotted Out Over and Over, committed the grisly act in a super-secret NSA facility with a green wrench stamped out by happy tree elves in China.

Mrs. Peacock, upon receiving a letter from Vladimir Putin, worked evil in Area 51 with a solar candlestick he found floating in the air at Dunsinane Castle.

Professor Plum, obeying orders from a secret committee in the National Endowment for the Arts, perpetrated the crime in a gender-neutral restroom in Roswell with a Khyber Pass revolver printed by a computer in a new-age spiritual retreat in New Mexico.  With, like, mandalas and enneagrams, and halo posters of Johnny Depp wearing a dead bird on his head.

After all, would the little Orwellian telescreens that everyone bears like Coleridge’s albatross ever lie?



The Old Farmer's Wedding chickens

Mack Hall, HSG
8 August 2013

The Old Farmer’s Wedding Chickens

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac (now available to old farmers on the Orwellian telescreen), wedding showers are pretty much a Canadian and USA-ian custom dating back only a hundred years or so.  The bride is showered (metaphorically, one hopes) with useful household gifts and good wishes for her coming wedding by her friends, and the men mostly stay away.

Y’r ‘umble scrivener hovered on the periphery of a wedding shower recently, but after moving boxes and buying some ice, all under careful supervision, he was able to escape.   There’s just something about wedding showers that makes men nervous.

An unfortunate fashion in violating the sacred No Boys Allowed rule came to pass in the odious 80s, but common sense has since prevailed.  Men participate in wedding showers only to the extent of lifting heavy boxes and moving them around.  If the men have been very, very good in carrying things, they are permitted to peek briefly in on the decorations and admire them before being dismissed to wallow in coarse guy-ness in the outer darkness.

As the reader knows, men grieve in profound sorrow that they are not permitted to “Ooooooooooooh!” and “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” at bath towels and coffee makers while squirming in church-hall chairs and nibbling finger sandwiches.

The concept of the wedding registry has now been programmed into the Orwellesphere, and friends of the bride – the groom hardly counts – can key in the nuclear codes and see what the bride wants, complete with colors, sizes, and purity of green organic origins.

In the not-so-distant past, wedding gifts were more immediately utilitarian, as depicted in Fiddler on the Roof: at the reception, among other presents, one friend gives Tzeitel and Motel a couple of chickens.  How easy to dismiss the domestic fowls as quaint and folksy, but in thin times those two chickens were significant because they were food and in context quite expensive.  Through World War II here and anywhere, a couple of chickens would have been a great wedding gift.

Old photographs show that wedding showers now are much as they were in Ye Olden Times When We Were Poor But We Had Love, and so on: worthy matrons and giddy youth dress in their best and gather in the parish hall to celebrate life’s transitions.  In ancient Rome and Lydia and Ethiopia women might not have called such jollifications showers, but they gathered, as they do now and will forever, to celebrate the ancient rituals, both spiritual and secular, of life’s transitions.  And, yes, the men were required to disappear lest they profane the events.

Wedding showers are a way of saying that civilization continues.

One does not imagine, however, the modern bride programming “two chickens” into her electronic wedding registry.


When a Novelist Declared War

Mack Hall, HSG
2 September 2013

When a Novelist Declared War

John Buchan was a Scots writer whose most famous novel is The 39 Steps (1915), a really good “the wrong man” spy yarn.  In addition to adventure stories, Buchan also wrote scholarly works and served the British government in a number of jobs.  His politics, like those of any thoughtful citizen, cannot be labeled: he argued for the right of women to vote, supported respect and better pay for workers, and wished to restrict the power of the House of Lords, but he rejected the socialism and acidic class warfare of David Lloyd George, whose friend-of-the-working-man rhetoric did not extend to rejecting the offer – or bribe? – of elevation to the peerage, with the attendant hyphenation of his last name to Lloyd-George.

Buchan’s last posting was as Governor-General of Canada, 1935-1940.  As G-G he lived in Rideau Hall, which features a dignified fa├žade and some nice state rooms, and a throne for the monarch when she visits.  Essentially, though, Rideau Hall is a modest residence with a small back porch whose somewhat rickety screen door opens onto a pleasant back yard.  Of course it is possible that the fellow who fixes things around Rideau Hall has recently popped over to the local Bytown Lumber Store or perhaps Les Structures De L'Outaouais for a new screen door.

I was happily taking snapshots in the back yard of Rideau Hall when the tour guide told me I mustn’t.  My friend introduced himself and me, and the tour guide was most impressed – with the friend, yes.  She batted her eyelashes at him.  Me, no.  But I was allowed to keep the snaps I had taken.  Good to have friends who can awe tour guides.

In 1939, as Governor-General of Canada, Buchan worked with Prime Minister McKenzie-King and President Roosevelt in peace efforts, but in September of 1939, following his King, Buchan, not as a writer of stories nor as John Buchan, but as the Governor-General, led Canada into war against Nazism.  He was the last Governor-General to declare war, and although by the Statute of Westminster (1931) the Governor-General could do so now, this is not likely to happen without the consent of Parliament.

The United States is sometimes faulted for its dilatoriness in declaring war on Nazism, but in those years the three branches of our federal government often followed the law, and under the Constitution this nation cannot drop, fling, or fire explosives or other engines of destruction upon the citizens of another nation without following Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, and all of Article VI.  Not even the War Resolution of 1973, sometimes erroneously referred to as the War Powers Act, and of questionable legality under any name, permits violence on other people at the mood of a leader.

In sum, the United States, by its own laws, cannot make war on another nation on the sole predicate that the other nation is a bad nation or that its leader is a bad man who is doing bad things.  Further, war under any of its legion of names – police action, intervention, mutual assistance pact, advice, drug interdiction, no-fly-zone, use of force, enforcing a resolution, kinetic military action, aid mission, nation-building, spreading democracy, peace-keeping, monitoring - may not be initiated by an American president.  Congress may declare war formally, or may permit it through “letters of marque and reprisal”, which is authorization for limited war.  No individual American, not even the president, may do so.

A Governor-General of Canada may by Canadian law start a war (though Parliament may refuse to fund it).  An American president by American law may not, because our founders realized that if one man possesses the power to take a nation and its people into war, then that nation’s people are not free.

Every election cycle there is some twaddle about the President being “the leader of the free world.”  Well, no, he or she is not, and no passive acceptance of inaccurate filler-language can make it so.  Nothing in the Constitution, in the laws of other nations, or in the very questionable documents purported to be international law makes any president the Emperor of Planet Earth. 

Sometimes a leader, even of the parish’s new-air-conditioner fund, needs to put down the ego and step away from it.  When John Buchan, Baron Tweedsmuir, thought and prayed over committing the survival of Canada and the lives of Canadians to a terrible war, he did not command a court photographer to attend upon his person for a delegated selfie, and he did not lift his leg to place his foot upon a Canadian national treasure.