Friday, March 31, 2006

Book Report - "To the Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf

It’s a phenomenon that a place so unliterary as Hollywood is often responsible for renewed interest in a writer’s work or personal story.

Virginia Woolf got a giant boost a couple of years ago with a major film production called “The Hours.” Nicole Kidman received an Academy Award for her portrayal of today’s subject/author.

The edition of Woolf’s "To the Lighthouse"read to produce this book report has a 1927 copyright and was published by Harcourt, Brace and Company; a brown-paged and rickety offering in gray cloth cover.

the scribe, a screenwriter himself, took it up because of the awareness of Woolf gained from “The Hours” and surrounding media.

It is difficult to say what the book is truly about. Like many good novels it’s about many things, but no single thing you follow, anticipating development, comfortable with the pace of revelation. You hardly know what’s being revealed.

The story does not move many places or ever truly “get going” in the dramatic sense; that’s not considered a flaw at highwayscribery, rather a virtue. Woolf’s long ruminations and interior examinations are where the energy is, inside the characters who act little, but think much.

The language is exacting, taxing, and sometimes the author’s sentences finish somewhere else than they’re supposed to. It’s hard to imagine that such a baroque and delving prose would stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting published today.

It was written, you see, before the vast commercialization of that same revolutionary film-making--as-storytelling process and the homogenizing effect it had on most people’s treatment of literature.

A family called the Ramsays have a coastal house somewhere in Britannia before the First World War. They are genteel; he a famous philosopher, she a hothouse flower of heightened sensibility.

Three-quarters of the book take place in a 24-hour expanse as Woolf takes us through the minds of nearly a dozen people; people thinking about their relationship to a larger world, to themselves, to the people gathered at the Ramsays.

Although not wealthy, the Ramsays can afford to keep some illustrious guests at the summer home and their brood numbers five or six. And so the author’s mind-mining finds plenty of fertile ground for topics worldly and domestic alike:

“...children never forget. For this reason, it was so important what one said, and what one did, and it was a relief when they went to bed. For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well, not even to think.”

So what?

If you’re a parent it rings true. It tells you something you knew innately, but had never crystallized into a solid idea. Good literature does that. Pulls us in by making us relate and instructs, turns pleasure into profit, while you’re laying beneath the warm glow of a golden late-night lamp.

But the scribe’s writing like Woolf here (that happens).

Mrs. Ramsay is the star of this gentile warm-season gathering, the looking glass through whom we experience the day-turned-evening event, the one who judges the motives and shortcomings of the guests, although we are treated to the points-of-view from other characters, too.

A fading beauty, but a beauty both spiritual and cosmetic nonetheless, Mrs. Ramsay’s particular gift is the arrangement of sublime moments and her conflict is that she enjoys them so much more than those she deigns to design them for:

“Everything seemed possible. Everything seemed right. Just now (but this cannot last, she thought, dissociating herself from the moment while they were all talking about boots) just now she had reached a security; she hovered like a hawk suspended; like a flag floating in an element of joy which filled every nerve of her body fully and sweetly, not noisily, solemnly rather...”

Looking for a little post-reading help, the scribe read an article by Louise DeSalvo on Woolf’s relationship with writer Rita Sackville-West, during which she wrote “To the Lighthouse.”

It’s from a book entitled “Significant Others, Creativity & Intimate Passion,” edited by Whitney Chadwick and Isabelle de Courtivron, and published by Thames and Hudson in 1993. Some of the other couplings it assays are Clare and Andre Malraux, Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett, Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin.

According to DeSalvo, the younger lover and writer saw that Woolf needed social interaction, and made sure she got it, because “Virginia based her fiction primarily upon observation, not upon her imagination.”

So Mrs. Ramsay may very well be Woolf’s mother, a woman affected by withdrawal and depression.

While together, they generated the finest work of their lives, Woolf informing Sackville-West’s writing with a greater literary quality, Rita giving Virginia an openness and the tools to reach a wider, best-selling audience.

“To the Lighthouse” was one in a troika of novels (“The Waves” and “The Years) that “examined her childhood in the Stephen Family, a childhood riddled with violence, sexual abuse, and emotional neglect,” according to DeSalvo.

The Mr. Ramsay of “To the Lighthouse,” corresponds to Woolf’s characterization of life with her father as, “living in a cage with a lion.” His “self-absorbed” grief is on display and much-detailed in the novel.

Not an unsympathetic man, Mr. Ramsay is falling just short of being a great philosopher and the resulting worries keep him from strengthening the fading connection he has with his wife. She must repress the need to quote the price of a roofing job to stay out of his fuzzy head where he is very busy. Those around him cannot help but be charmed by his magnetism and intelligence, but his overbearing nature (sometimes he’s just being a father), leads mostly to resentment.

So, “To the Lighthouse” is a work pegged to her childhood and perhaps Virginia is Lily, a minor character and more minor painter. Here she alternates between artistic courage and terror, enriching before a blank canvas.

“For what could be more formidable than that space? Here she was again, she thought, stepping back to look at it, drawn out of gossip, out of living, out of community with people into the presence of this formidable ancient enemy of hers – this other things, this truth, this reality, which suddenly laid hands on her, emerged stark at the back of appearances and commanded attention.”

If you want to read a map of your precious individual self, you might want to try Virginia. If you don’t, maybe you shouldn’t.

Or maybe you should read it no matter what, because it’s reading. Listen to how Woolf weaves her own enjoyment of books into the fabric of the character Mrs. Ramsay:

“And she waited a little, knitting, wondering, and slowly those words they had said at dinner, ‘the China rose is all abloom and buzzing with the honey bee,’ began washing from side to side of her mind rhythmically, and as they washed, words, like little shaded lights, one red, one blue, one yellow, lit up in the dark of her mind, and seemed leaving their perches up there to fly across and across, or to cry out and be echoed: so she turned and felt on the table beside her for a book.”

On this particular outing the family situation seems vulnerable, threatened by a crumbling roof and cracks in the emotional edifice, but it’s difficult to tell if the looming threat is extraordinary or just the stuff we all live with. In any case, Mrs. Ramsay triumphs once more, creating a sublime moment that is gone more quickly than it took to manufacture. The guests enjoy a magic they’ve come to expect, but without guessing at the work behind it.

The story breaks suddenly as Mrs. Ramsay turns the lights out on her children for the evening and the reader is then vaulted into a second book entitled: “Time Passes.”

World War I comes. Some of those present on the summer weekend have been taken by it. Mrs. Ramsay has died, “suddenly” and the family has ceased returning to the beach house. Pages-long, majestic descriptions of the house’s decrepitude, of nature’s advances upon the property, of the lingering spirits that once warmed it unwind under Woolf’s careful, intricate hand.

Such stretches recall Italo Calvino who observed that literature represents a rare moment of order in a universe heading toward dissolution: “The literary work is one of those small points of privilege where things crystallize into a form which acquires such meaning.”

Finally the Ramsays return, robbed of their life force, a pale facsimile of the prior clan, stitched to one another by grief only. Again it is Lily, the old maid and mediocre turtle artist, who brings us to the point of the piece. Veiled and indirect throughout, Woolf now bids attention be paid in her first sentence:

“The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one. This, that, and the other; herself and Charles Tansley and the breaking wave; Mrs. Ramsay bringing them together; Mrs. Ramsay saying, “Life stand still here”; Mrs. Ramsay making of the moment something permanent (as in another sphere Lily herself tried to make of the moment something permanent) – this was of the nature of a revelation. In the midst of chaos there was shape; this eternal passing and flowing (she looked at the clouds going and the leaves shaking) was struck into stability. Life stand still here, Mrs. Ramsay said. “Mrs. Ramsay! Mrs. Ramsay!” she repeated. She owed it all to her.”

So mostly, “To the Lighthouse,” is a character sketch and Valentine to Mrs. Ramsay: perhaps Woolf’s mother, perhaps Rita Sackville-West, perhaps somebody else, an amalgamation, or nobody at all. Just somebody she thought we’d like to see.

For time travelers, the tale offers the privilege of vacationing with a homogeneous family of middle-class gentility at the beginning of the 20th Century. It’s no wonder Woolf could wander and wade through the psyches of those present. Isolated, far from the news of the moment, without any means of communicating to the outside world, everybody is obligated to be present and consider one another and the landscape of dunes, long lawns at dusk, and wind-rippled tide pools.

And then it’s modern literature and the modern world. The politics discussed at the table sound familiar and strangely up-to-date, the strivings and shortcomings of the characters are not far at all from our own: to be great, to be respected, to get to the lighthouse.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Political Earthquake

The worm has turned and all those Latinos in the streets represent the beginning of the end to an era of (r)epublican majorities:

“The San Diego Union-Tribune” reported remarks by Fabian Nuñez, the young speaker of the California Assembly from Los Angeles.

“All of this has been a wake-up call for the [r]epublican Party,” he told reporters yesterday. “You can’t pander to the right by picking on immigrants. It’s not going to work anymore...This is going to work against the interests of the [r]epublican Party in November.”

So why should we listen to a Latino Democrat talk about the (r)epublicans’ demise? Because he’s right that’s why.

But here’s another column from the same San Diego paper, which covers a city with more than mild stake in immigration issues; border city that it is.

Former Congressman Lionel Van Deerlin, another Democrat, talks about the(r)epublican face on this issue:

“The resentment brimming from these rallies – and from some less orderly student marches days later – stems from action taken in the House of Representatives late last year, and already as outdated as King George’s tax on tea. House leaders jammed through a bill to deport everyone who’s in our land illegally and punish any American giving them aid and comfort.”

He discusses the role played by Rep. Tom Tancredo, a rather heartless (r)epublican who chairs the House Immigration Caucus (of his creation) and, “exhibits the personal traits of both Bull Connor and Madame Defarge –while showing scarcely more respect for his president than for any of the 12 million illegals reporting in our midst.”

Here’s the scribe’s take:

The marches represent a political earthquake for their size, intensity, duration, surprise, spontaneity, and the fact they took form in a parallel, Latino U.S. using its own media to drum thousands into the streets.

There are dirty secrets to American currents of political thought. Secrets because they are never discussed publicly, and not really secrets because the native-born citizen’s intuition divines it.

To wit: When (r)epublicans have a national nominating convention, they put a lot of Latinos on-stage, speak Spanish intermittently and symbolically, ask those doing the television camera work to seek out and focus on the brown people present.

That’s because they are a largely white, homeland party and don’t have the “natural” concerns the Democratic Party, rooted in ethnic social movements and identity politics, possesses. They may stray in fits, starts, and exceptions, but Latinos know who their natural friends are on this issue.

The same thing happens to Democrats with patriotism and national security. There are more American flags waving at a nominating convention of Democrats, because everyone knows of the party's dependence upon a farther afield progressive left awash in the international traditions of the 19th Century socialist and union movements; less given to viewing things exclusively within a national framework.

National security? The party traded in those credentials for the legitimacy and electoral rewards its belated opposition to Viet Nam war lent it. Democrats just don’t have the same red-blooded violent approach that makes Americans feel comfortable in unsettling times.

And (r)epublicans have ridden that advantage for some five years since Sept. 11, 2001.

But the streets have filled with the urgency (and implied violence) of a people that will not be jailed and humiliated for the work they do and tax they pay. No amount of PR can move them, because what caused the initial tremors was the (r)epublican Party’s callous nativism.

What happens next is this: Hungry for a legislative victory and a patina of continuing relevance, the Bush Administration passes an amnesty, mixed-up with more enforcement spending, in coalition with Democrats and mod-Republicans against the wishes of the beloved “base,” which is becoming as much a pain in his ass as it was for poppy.

The deal sealed, the (r)epublican coalition cracks up for good and the Democrats gain the graces of an energized demographic for a long time to come.

(The cartoon is by the "L.A. Weekly's" Lalo Alcaraz).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Three More

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Deaths of Shafter and Turlock Soldiers

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the deaths of Staff Sgt. Ricardo Barraza of Shafter and Sgt. Dale Brehm of Turlock:

"California is saddened by the terrible loss of Staff. Sgt. Barraza and Sgt. Brehm. These brave soldiers valiantly sought to preserve and protect the cherished freedoms we are afforded. Maria and I send our sympathies to the Barraza and Brehm families. Our prayers are with them during their time of mourning."

Barraza, 24, and Brehm, 23, died March 18 of injuries sustained when they came under small arms fire by enemy forces during combat operations in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. Both soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Lewis, WA.

In honor of Staff Sgt. Barraza and Sgt. Brehm, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of San Bruno Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Angelo A. Zawaydeh of San Bruno:

"Pfc. Zawaydeh showed extraordinary courage and commitment in serving his country. Maria and I extend our heartfelt condolences to Angelo's loved ones during this difficult time. His sacrifice is the embodiment of selfless service."

Zawaydeh, 19, died March 15 as a result of injuries when his traffic control point came under mortar attack during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, KY.

In honor of Pfc. Zawaydeh, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

That Lusty Leahy

After a long and arduous process Congress recently sent a renewed Patriot Act to (p)resident Bush who promptly signed it.

The consensus was anything but letting the whole stinking pile of legislation die a quiet death. The debate’s dynamic was such that cherished rights had to beg for a place at the carving table, only to get carved out again.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont (D) voted against the bill. He didn’t think it contained enough controls to constrain a president who “claims that he need not fulfill his constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws but can pick and choose among the laws he decides to recognize. Confronted with claims of inherent and unchecked powers, I concluded, the restraints we were able to include in this reauthorization of the Patriot Act were not sufficient.”


That means he didn’t think it would stop Bush from turning the American people into its own enemy. One big, fear-laden paranoia dump and waffle house.

Anyway, the point of this post is not the passage of the law, but what happened next. And that was the White House concocting another infamous “signing statement.” This is something they draw up on their own. An interpretation of the law as it applies to them.

Bush has made a practice of using these statements to release him from the responsibilities the people’s representatives have just imposed.

He did not disappoint this time either.

Here’s Leahy from the same March 15 press statement: “In the very act of signing the reauthorization bill into law, the [p]resident signaled that he intends to follow the law only insofar as it suits him, and to ignore its minimal requirements of public accountability.”

At issue are two sections of the law, 106A and 119. They require some appraisal of how sections of the law are working. Leahy’s afraid the administration not going to let Congress see what the audits said.

Bush’s signing statement also “brushed off [a section] which requires the Attorney General to submit to the Congress recommendations for further legislation, by saying that the administration will do so only when the [p]resident judges it ‘necessary and expedient’ to do so.”

For those of who don’t read much legislation day-in-and-out, that means “fuck you.”

Leahy’s writer is good, so we’re going to stick with him here: “[T]his [p]resident appears to hold a strange and novel view of the appropriate role of the [p]resident in the legislative process. The Constitution provides that legislation shall be presented by Congress to the [p]resident, who shall then either sign it into law or veto it.”

It must be upsetting to a Senator that he must engage in this primer on the American system, but we do it most every day at highwayscribery. The idea behind the American experiment has been lost.

Anyway, as men of his ilk are given to doing, Leahy blusters that this must not stand!

“The [p]resident’s signing statements are not the law. We in Congress have a constitutional duty to prevent this. The [p]resident’s signing statements are not the law, and we should not allow them to be the last word. The [p]resident’s constitutional duty is to faithfully execute the laws as written by Congress. It is our duty to ensure, by means of congressional oversight, that he does so.”

In case you missed it, he said, “The [p]resident’s statements are not the law.”

And hoorah!

Where can we 50 more guys/gals like that?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Terrorists, We Are Not

When the (p)resident says the illegal eavesdropping program he initiated is only used to spy on “terrorists” a lot of people think they don’t have to worry.

But an article in the “Los Angeles Times,” by Nicholas Riccardi should serve to remind them that they do.

highwayscribery has expressed concern before that the administration plays it fast and easy with the word terrorist (“A Little Common Censure,” March 15). Riccardi’s piece sheds further light on the tendency:

“For years, the [Federal Bureau of Investigation’s] definition of terrorism has included violence against property, such as the window-smashing during the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization. That definition has led FBI investigations to online discussion boards, organizing meetings and demonstrations of a wide range of activist groups. Officials says that international terrorists pose the greatest threat to the nation but that they cannot ignore crimes committed by some activists.”

No one is saying they should ignore the crimes, rather that the perpetrators should not be classified as “terrorists” because that’s a whole new ball of wax.

the scribe thinks most Americans would agree that a terrorist is someone who uses indiscriminate violence against innocent and unsuspecting civil populations walking around doing their own business.

Bill Carter, a spokesman for the FBI in Washington, “stressed that the agency targeted individuals who committed crimes and did not single out groups for ideological reasons. He cited the recent arrest of environmental activists accused of firebombing an unfinished ski resort in Vail [Colorado]. ‘People can get hurt,’ Carter said. ‘Businesses can be ruined’.”

Maybe. But that’s not the same as using an airplane to bring down a building full of people, or detonating a bomb in a crowded street market.

You should read the piece, but the scribe will highlight one further item. An FBI guy making a class presentation at University of Texas/Austin listed groups under the category “anarchism” as those with potential links to terrorist groups.

That hits close to home especially when the American Civil Liberties Union thinks the FBI is targeting people “who opposed the government.”

the scribe opposes the government with all his heart and was under the vague impression that was a primary guarantee to the American system. He’s no martyr for the First Amendment. He’ll use it if it’s there.

highwayscribery thinks anarcho-syndicalism is a nice theory for organizing society. Throw in the facts the scribe is not a Mormon, and has been seen inebriated in public, and what you have in this Web blog is an unqualified federal bete noir and that’s wrong because it misrepresents anarchism; the highest expression of order.

And besides, the highway scribe is a sleepy pacifist who abhors the current band of Muslim fascists seeking god down the barrel of a gun.

The upshot here is that the new “terrorist” label is applied more easily than the “communist” one law enforcement spent 12 years looking to replace; fits so many more sizes. Before they had to prove membership in a particular political party. Now the ideas in your head are enough to mark you.

The goal is not always to prosecute, rather to put a scare into activists and it’s simply not right.


The highway scribe was graciously invited by Kiko's House to write on the red hot immigration question. It was posted today.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Brian Jones - Rolling Stone

There were three changes to the poem of Lawrence Ferlinghetti over the years.

It was about a woman and in the first edition the poet closed lamenting how he, “could have fucked her.”

A second edition some years after transformed the lament to he, “could have had her.”

The latest turn had the mellow poet meditating on how he, “could have loved her.”

Ferlinghetti, the brave publisher of “Howl,” founder of the San Francisco Beat Mecca, City Lights Books, and purveyor of “A Coney Island of the Mind,” was giving a talk at the Los Angeles Times Books Festival, maybe in 2001.

A questioner questioned: “To what do you attribute the cop out in language as the years went on?”

“To my expanding feminist consciousness,” the master got a rise from the audience.

Long before the ladies at Old Dominion University’s women’s studies program got their slender little fingers on the scribe’s mind and convinced him addressing a lady as a lady was an insult to the lady, the scribe’s hero was Brian Jones.

Jones was a natural choice: a working-to-middle-class social barbarian having his way with the best daughters of a generation. And that, thanks to his guitar.

(This is what was important back then and that is all there is to be said on it).

A founding and driving member of the early-edition Rolling Stones, Jones was dead, when the scribe adored him, but not dead in any rock-and-roll sense. There was plenty to read about, The Stones already being 20-years-old by 1980. There was still the music, too, and the band, riding a second-wave of popularity thanks to “Some Girls,” a rolling historical representation of their own deep legend.

“I’m a resident of a city
They’ve just picked me to play
the Prince of Denmark

highwayscribery was going to take up Brian Jones when an article in Salon appeared regarding a film made about his too early and mysterious death. He was only 26, after all. A powerful guy.

Poor Ophelia

This coincidence may not be tied to the scribe’s refined zeitgeist intonation so much as the fact that he, like Jones, is getting older and the folks around him have the money to get such projects done.

All those ghosts he never saw
Floating to doom
On an iron candle

Come back, brave warrior
Do the dive
On another channel

Anyway, the film is called “Stoned” and you can read about it, as well as an interview with the film maker, Stephen Woolley at Salon (you may have to watch a commercial first).

The article is conceived by Andrew O’Hehir, who has done fine pieces for Salon on topics disparate as the transformations in the art ghetto and the World Cup soccer tournament.

He tells us to prepare to enjoy a piece shot in-close that searches for the flavor of the times, in its intimacy, rather than scope.

Hot buttered pool
Where’s Marrakesh
Under the falls
the wild storm
where savages fell out
in late afternoon
monsters of rhythm

Woolley told O’Hehir he sought to recreate the era, “through small details and through the music. [The soundtrack includes music by the Jefferson Airplane, the Small Faces, the White Stripes and other bands, but only cover versions of Rolling Stones hits.] You really get to see what Brian is wearing, for example, and what Mick and Keith are wearing when they came to fire him.”

(Fire Brian Jones!)

You’ve left your
to compete w/silence

Jones’ allure lies in the London he inhabited. A mythical London of decrepit hippy houses in decadent old neighborhoods, where gray-lipped girls in Yardley danced in acid circles around the dripping English garden of dew, in-and-out the wild things that fed on it. Ringing ankle bells. A London that shimmered with the enthusiasm of the Beatles racing in dark suits and workboy caps through Victoria Station. An England still very England in a time when the other countries were still very much themselves, too.

At least that’s the fantasy conveyed by the songs Jones played such an important role in producing and playing on.

When he died a pop press headline cried, “Goodbye Sweet Brian, Hello Baby Mick,” because the English Wood had been removed from the Stones formula, leaving the soul train to wail away untempered by a gentler sentiment.

I hope you went out
Like a child
Into the cool remnant
of a dream

These are the moody acoustic beauties like “Sitting on a Fence” spreading a lilting harmony laced with black humor and social criticism. “One thing’s not said too much, but I think it’s true, they just get married cause there’s nothing left to do... So I’m just sitting on a fence...”

And “Back Street Girl,” with its Parisian accordion; again a deceptively bittersweet pill: “Don’t ask to ride on my horse, you’re of a common course, anyway. Don’t want you out in my world. Just you be my back street girl.”

Of course, The Stones were commenting on the cruelties of class. The rest of us embraced the sexual thrill of a power to ravage and dismiss at will.

“I Am Waiting,” sees Jones laying down a thin and pretty track on dulcimer that typifies the early-to-mid ’60s London sound largely because he was inventing it, always with new and exotic instruments.

The angel man
w/Serpents competing
for his palms
& fingers
Finally claimed
This benevolent

Here’s Woolley in his own words: “Brian was the person you wanted to visit in London in the early ’60s. When Dylan came over, he wasn’t interested in the other Rolling Stones. It was Brian he made a beeline for. John Lennon hung out with Brian. Pete Townshend thought Brian was the genius of the band...”


Leaves, sodden
in silk
mad stifled witness

“I wanted to show that Brian was a truly original ’60s icon. He experimented with drugs, he experimented with sex, he experimented with music. In America, you obviously had your extroverts, people like Little Richard who were blurring the edges of sexuality. People who took their stage acts to extremes: Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, that spirit of showmanship.

“None of it was as intellectually fueled as Brian Jones, none of it was about Aleister Crowley or the Moroccan music he recorded. He was the first white guy to record those people..."

Which is why we are expending a dose of highwayscribery on him.

The diving board, the plunge
The pool

Woolley again: “But I want to remind people that at the heart of the Rolling Stones there was this rebellious, anarchic character who would push the boundaries, who would experiment in every which way possible, and that guy was Brian Jones.”

You were a fighter
a damask musky muse

You were a bleached
for TV afternoon

This is the type of idol that leads you toward a low-paying job in the liberal professions, or worse, the arts. Not to the banking community.

Here’s Woolley on the generation gap that characterized the era and which, he argues, was never stronger than it was then

“As a child growing up, all my uncles and my dad had fought in the Second World War, or certainly had been greatly affected by it. So when these guys came along, these effete, long-haired, effeminate-looking pop star of the ’60s who got all the fame and the girls and the money, there was a huge amount of anger...

maverick of a yellow spot

Look now to where it’s got

“Those guys who had fought in the Second World War weren’t that old! They were only in their 40s at that time. They had come back home to London when it was a bomb site, and they were now witnessing this social change in Britain where, you know, anarchy and rebelliousness were the order of the day. Smashing guitars onstage, and letting your hair grow long.”

(Sigh). (Those were the days).

Jones lived well, but paid for his transgressions. He was jailed a couple of times for drugs and legend has it got quite paranoid about the police following him around, leaning on him. He grew frailer despite his youth and the band had less and less use for him.

In meat heaven
w/the cannibals
& jews

How cool was this guy?

Well, Woolley and O’Hehir repair to the past, the Monterey Pop Festival where Jones had made it his personal business to get American audiences to look closer at the hot new god Jimi Hendrix.

He wore the clothes in the colorful image above by Paul Berenson

The gardener
The body, rampant, floating

Lucky Stiff
What is this green pale stuff
You’re made of

If we’re to believe the nostalgia-charged hippy reminiscence (and how we want to), Brian also hung out that day with Janis Joplin and Nico, meeting perhaps, in conference on how to be forgotten.

Poke holes in the goddess

(And he played the blues harp on “Spider and the Fly”)

Will he Stink
Carried heavenward
Thru the halls
of music

No Chance

Requiem for a heavy
That smile
That porky satyr’s
has leaped upward

into the loam"

"Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased" by Jim Morrison.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

That Good Gentleman Gonzalez

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez gave a talk at Georgetown University on Wednesday. He got it into his head to address the legal architecture of the administration’s eavesdropping policy. You can see from the pictures that some of the students didn’t agree with him. Crazy kids!

You know, some people get upset about this stuff.

According to the scribe’s sources, there was a panel about the issue once That Good Gentleman Gonzalez left the building. Here’s what one professor from Georgetown Law, David Cole, had to say:

“When you’re a law student, they tell you that if you can’t argue the law, argue the facts. They also tell you if you can’t argue the facts, argue the law. If you can’t argue either, apparently, the solution is to go on a public relations offensive and make it a political say over and over again ‘it’s lawful’ , and to think that the American people will somehow come to believe this if we say enough.”

Of course, there are the American people, and then there are the American people, and a few subsets after that.

“In light of this,” Cole said, “I’m very proud of the very civil civil disobedience that was shown here today.”

Hats off to dissent.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

ETA Declares a Truce

Far away in Spain, where the scribe’s heart lies, ETA has declared a ceasefire. The Gray Lady herself covered it.

Some 800 people have been killed by the Basque separatist group, which fights for a homeland independent of the central Spanish state. By today’s standards of mass urban murder that may seem small, but those deaths were like drops of tiny water torture that drove Spain slightly mad.

Generals, city councilman, Basques, non-Basques, children of army officers, children of regular people, regular people: All became victims in an endless campaign of terror that galvanized support amongst the least malleable of the Basque people and repulsed everyone else.

Violence has its uses, but those are few and that’s the reality that has hit home here. Some news reports claim ETA is “decimated by arrests” but that has been said many times before and is very hard to prove.

The violent kale borroka, a reproduction of the Palestinian Intifada that has waxed and waned in País Vasco over the past eight years or so, would provide fertile ranks of recruitment for a new generation of idealistic extortionists and butchers.

The problem is that it’s just not working. Proving you can be as cruel as your oppressors really just cancels you out. It's not a legitimate proposition. Like the IRA in Northern Ireland (“Book Report- Sinn Fein, A Hundred Turbulent Years,” January 18) ETA has learned a hard lesson: that playing at democracy works, and that it takes a lot of violence to unseat an established state.

Today ETA, and the many Basque nationalists it claims to represent, must stand aside and watch the Catalonian government negotiate legislation further increasing its autonomy from Spain.

In the 1990s, the Catalonian nationalist party Convergencia i Unió had a handful of seats in the Spanish parliament. But Socialist President Felipe Gonzalez’s coalition was diminished and he needed the votes of the Catalans. Their wily leader in those days, Jordi Pujol, got a deal for power, a good deal, and lay the groundwork for the further independence Catalonia is to gain now.

So ETA is going the straight and narrow route. The development, if it holds (and that’s a big if), is another triumph for the mild-mannered Spanish President Jose Luis Zapatero (pictured), who is leading a quiet, “velvet” revolution within Spanish society, resolving issues swept under the rug since the country’s civil war in the 1930s.

Monday, March 20, 2006

On The Ground

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Twentynine Palms Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Kristen K. Figueroa of Honolulu, Hawaii:

"Lance Cpl. Figueroa served his country with fortitude and bravery. Maria and I will keep all those who loved Kristen in our prayers during this difficult time. He will be greatly missed by his fellow Marines, his friends and his family."

Figueroa, 20, died March 12 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Figueroa, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Poem by Lizzie Skurnick

Here’s a poem by Elizabeth Skurnick from her book “Check-In”. It was (the book) the 2004 Caketrain Chapbook Competition winner.

“Lizzie” has a lit blog called
The Old Hag which is kind of insidey. It’s not always that easy to figure out what she and her guest bloggers are going on about, but they appear to be closely worked into the current publishing game and up-to-the-moment where new writers and titles are concerned.

Her poems are certainly more complex, more original and less prose-like than the one the scribe has chosen, but it’s the scribe’s blog and the scribe likes her command of the genre at hand.

The book, by the way, was a gift from the author.

Villanelle Noir

A shot of Joe, and I knew I’d take the case. After all,
Stumpy had been found in a field, still steaming.
You don’t always want to, but you make the call.

“Miss, we’d like you to come on down. Some kinda fall,
we think.” “Stumpy? You sure he ain’t breathin’?”
“Don’t you worry, ma’am: Slade’s on the case.”All in all,

She was a looker – what we dicks like to call a long tall
Drink of water – great gams and a set of gleaming
Choppers to match. “My pleasure.” “Mind if I make a call,

Slade?” She puffed, frowned. “They seem to be out.” Her Pall
Mall burned like a ruby. “I only deal in being, Sugar, not seeming,”
I parried – she was still a suspect in the case, after all –

“How’s about you?” I beg your pardon!” “Listen, doll –
Your boyfriend ain’t home – he’s downtown singing
Like a canary. You got someone else you want to call?”

She was cool as Ma’s lemonade. “Guess I’m gonna take the fall
here, huh, Slade?” “Well, next time you go out tag-teaming
on your old man, change your brand, will ya?” On the desk, I lay all
the cold butts from the field, poured her a stiff one. “Last call.”

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Torture, We Do has posted hundreds of photos from the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. In a departure form its normal policy and perhaps as a public service, you don't need to watch an add to view them. It's not pretty and the scribe doesn't recommend the trip, but there are times we must face the beast for what it is.

If you think we've changed that much, please keep in mind that today is the 38 anniversary of the May Lai Massacre in Viet Nam.

Winds of War, Winds of Change

the scribe was invited by Shaun at Kiko's House to join his three-year anniversary reflection on how the war has changed us as a country. We’ve linked to him as a new friend and to the The Howling Latina as well. If you go to Kiko’s, you’ll need to scroll down to read some of the interesting responses to his query because he posts pretty quickly. The flyer at left is from an anti-war rally the scribe attended prior to its launching. Seems like a lot of deaths ago.

And so how have we changed?

First, in the most concrete sense, we are short some 2,500 men and women who have died in the conflict. Their loss will echo across the years in the struggling single parents, the psychically wounded children, friends, lovers and acquaintances left behind to make sense of their deaths.

There are the thousands upon thousands who have returned home without limbs, eyes, hearing and any variety of ailments that will hamper them for what remains of their lives, which we can expect to be shorter.

There is the financial cost of taking care of them and the financial cost of what could have been spent here.

By way of example, there is a giant inland body of water known as the Salton Sea, located in the desert of Southern California. A stop-off for millions of birds along the Pacific flyway, it is also a vibrant fishery. But it is dying from rising rates of selenium. It would cost $2 billion to restore – roughly three weeks of war in Iraq – but the funds are not there and an environmental disaster awaits the region.

To our democracy, the damage is immense. At the outset of the war, when millions across the country protested, the President equated their “expressing their opinions” with a healthy democracy when, prior to this ghastly affair, the measure of representative democracy was the extent to which our leaders listened to our opinions.

Lying about the causes and threats to which we were subjected, the President set American against American, chose one of the divided sides as his own to lavish positive governance upon and sent the rest straight to hell.

The schism, rent along lines dating back to a civil war we had almost forgotten, will take years to close.

Finally, the President and his minions put an end to a post-Cold War order men died in the first Iraq war to establish. Bush pére’s new world order could not outlast his own offspring. Our power is no longer omniscient, nor is it infallible. The deck will have to be reshuffled once the next crew sweeps the cards up from the floor. The new hand dealt will see a humbler, poorer country rejoining the family of nations.

Perhaps the great conservative shibboleth that alliances and multilateral internationalism were for frou-frou girly men afraid to use our superior power to crush others at will may finally be put to rest, now that it has failed the test.

And that’s a positive change. A lone, positive change.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Little Common Censure (Redux)

"Move On" has announced that 200,000 Americans signed the petition "overnight" to censure (p)resident Bush over his illegal wiretapping program. Join them by signing the petition at the bottom of the post below.

A Little Common Censure

Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin, is calling for a censure of President Bush over his illegal wiretapping of American citizens. Here’s a piece from Shailagh Murray at the “Washington Post.”

Feingold has a mind to run for president in 2008 and this is his way of making a splash with the liberal base of the Democratic Party. Republicans are gaming that he “overplayed” his hand, and Democrats, as usual, are running for cover.

They call this guy a “maverick” Democrat and that’s because he’s really a Democrat who stands up for progressive issues, regardless of how they play in the polls.

Democrats are afraid Americans have bought the administration’s pap about the wiretapping only being done on “terrorists,” which, of course, begs the question how they know who the terrorists really are, and if they do, why they don’t arrest them and send them down to Gitmo for five years of internment without charges (“Gitmo Girl or Lady Lawyer in Yemen,” March 13).

Democrats, naturally, are hiding behind their own failure to call the administration on that particular lie. Of course, their habitual limp-wristedness aside, you have to feel for an opposition trying to keep track of and exploit so many lies.

Hey scribe! Why’s that a lie? If our commander-in-chief is trying to keep these Muslim hordes from “taking us out” (Bill Frist), who are you to question him?

the highway scribe, that's who; fighting for truth, justice and the anarcho-syndical way. A scribe who reads articles like this one about Google
being ordered to hand over its Web search records to the Department of Justice.

Don’t go buying all that stuff about pornography having penetrated the mainstream of pop culture blah, blah, blah when what is still, essentially, John Ashcroft’s Department of Justice is doing the case filings.

This Google case is purportedly about child pornography, which the scribe and all red-blooded Americans are opposed to, just as they are to “terrorists,” so long as they are not considered as such themselves, simply because they are “against” the administration, and definitely not “with” the administration.

And your guess is as good as the scribe’s regarding how they determine and sort such things out when looking into traffic on 50,000 Web sites.

But back to Feingold. Here’s some stuff from Murray’s article: “Feingold, 53, says he is convinced that Bush broke the law ordering National Security Agency wiretaps of overseas telephone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens that involved people suspected of terrorist activity without first obtaining special court approval, and that his party must take a firm stand in protest. Unless Democrats make the case that they are more trustworthy than [r]epublicans on national security issues, Feingold says, the party cannot win control of the White House or Congress.

“‘We have a great case that they have done a poor job of fighting the war against terrorism,’ Feingold said of the [r]epublicans in an interview yesterday. ‘We need a different strategy, one that shows we stand for something.’”

Hoorah! And why not? Here’s a link to a series of recent polls showing Democrats poised for a sweeping victory in November (scroll down some).
Now’s not the time to be timid.

Of course, the scribe is a Bolshevik-like character playing at gameboard politics and the real goal is to continue beating the (r)epublicans and their (p)resident into the ground by linking the words “censure” and “Bush” in as many news pieces as possible.

Feingold’s already done a good job, but you can force your reps to keep banging the drum by signing Move On’s petition.

Hey it's your country. And it was your privacy. Why not try and get it back?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Gitmo Girl (or Lady Lawyer in Yemen)

Heather Rogers, a cousin to the scribe through marriage, is not only one of the world’s most attractive women, she’s also one of the brightest.

Heather got her law degree from Stanford and clerked for a judge on the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over the past few years. She forewent a nice salary at a big firm in Northern California so she and her husband Eben could stay in their beloved San Diego where they like to surf and buy tamales bought at the Ocean Beach farmers market.

She became a public and federal defender in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Southern California and spends a goodly amount of her time defending immigrants from prosecution and/or deportation in an region not very friendly to such people.

Heather hoped she was downshifting into a life of more modest effort, but when you’re smart you’re useful and she was recently tapped to join a team of attorneys assigned to handle a number of cases involving prisoners at Guantanamo Base (Gitmo) in Cuba.

highwayscribery has covered that place and the questionable, rather unAmerican practice of holding detainees, incommunicado, indefinitely, and without the right of legal due process, before ("An Intellectual Exercise" July 22, 2005).

The issue gets some press, but not what one might hope for: A defense of civil rights and American ideals.

Rather it’s the kind of drub shoveled out at Fox News which applies a "blowhard-interviews-blowhard" format, whereby some idiot like Scarborough serves up softballs to another like Sean Hannity: "Sean, a lot of liberals are all worked up about these detainees and their rights when actually, we know they’re not very nice people, right?"

Well, Heather just got back from Yemen where she met with the families of three Yemeni detainees and one from Afghanistan. She got a sense of the profiles on another 50 cases and came away with a more sad and tragic representation.

She relayed some of her adventures in Yemen through a series of e-mails to friends and family. They are tales of beauty, fear, and armed vigilance.

"In Marib we saw the ruins of two temples (one of them used to house an 8-meter statue of the Golden Ox, but that was about 4,000 years ago). Marib was Queen of Sheba territory; however, the temples are much older than the queen. The other temple was 3,000 years old. We then got to root around ‘old Marib.’ Very old; 3,000 years-old ancient ghost town. Even just walking around the ruins, I had two armed bodyguards! Very armed. When these guys say ‘guns,’ they mean guns. I mean, you could take out whole villages with this stuff. Our driver did not speak English, but one of the guides did speak some Spanish amazingly enough (learned in Cuba!), so we were able to communicate some."

Now that’s highwayscribery!

She adopted the local garb out of respect to Muslim sensibility, but as you can see from the picture above, wore it more like an updated Greta Garbo.

No wonder the guards were always shaking their guns in her face. A veil is no mask for an empowered woman.

Anyway, according to Heather, some of the detainees picked up during that first war with Afghanistan were indeed fighting the American invasion and rearrangement of the country’s topography. They did so, however, not for Al-Qaeda – as the administration and its lackeys at Fox News like to say – but as simple defenders of their country.

According to Heather, Al-Qaeda fighters were rarely detained in the mountain skirmishing along the border with Pakistan in early 2002, largely because as members of the terror network, they were well-protected.

Heather says that it is more than likely that people picked up in the high-perched villages were proselytizing for the Muslim faith and hauled in largely because they were not from that area and did not, therefore, possess the proper pretense for being in those parts.

She says others were merely aid workers and sometimes simple pilgrims without the documentation necessary to meet the higher standards of documentation imposed by a superpower invasion and dragnet.

The families, of course, are devastated. They have not seen their loved ones in almost five years, are not allowed to communicate with them, and have no idea of their condition, mentally, physically, or spiritually. They don’t know if they’re coming back, ever, and they don’t know what the final disposition of their cases will be.

Heather says one of the heaviest burdens she’s had to carry in her young career is that of being the only link between detainees and their families; the only person that will get to see the prisoners (hopefully) soon and relay their conditions and sentiments (through a translator) in the best way she can.

She and the scribe talked about how impossible it will be for her to meet the craving for news from her on both sides of this unfortunate equation.

The point here is that a lot of people get swept up in the broad and brutal hand of warfare. Our founding fathers recognized this and built some hard-and-fast protections into the system to avoid the suffering of innocents.

Of course, they were a bunch of antique idealists who could not have known more than the wise and burned out members of the Bush administration that saw fit to do away with those protections.

We should be glad there are people like Heather who are conscious of those protections and dedicated to their application around the world.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Castles In the Air

Here’s a tired, recurring, and ultimately worthy liberal fantasy cooked up by some congresspeople from, where else? Kooky Koastal Kalifornia.

U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (guess which party) was joined at a Capitol Hill press conference by Rep. Barbara Lee of Berkeley (guess which party), the only woman to vote against the legislation empowering w. to rape Iraq, a couple of days ago. The article appeared (where else?) in the "Oakland Tribune".

In short, the ladies and the other Californian congresspeople who joined them, proposed a “Common Sense Budget Act” to slash Pentagon spending in lieu of feeding and educating children, poor folk, and anybody else buying into the rather torn-and-frayed American dream.

Among some of the other highly intelligent, if time-worn, things Woolsey had to say was, “The federal budget should reflect the priorities of the American people, not the needs of an insatiable military-industrial complex.”

“Military-industrial complex.” Hmmm, what crazy peace-freak “librul” coined that phrase?

It was President Dwight D. Eisenhower upon the occasion of his leaving office to make way for John Kennedy in 1960.


"Ladybugs are possibly the only noncontroversial subject left in the world; you can start a ladybug conversation with a total stranger without getting hit in the mouth."

The image is entitled "The Last Aphid" by Charlie Harper.

The quote is taken from "Dwell" magazine where it appeared without attribution, as it does here.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Bitter Harvest

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Caliente Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Adam O. Zanutto of Caliente:

"Maria and I join all Californians in reaching out to the family of Cpl. Zanutto. Words cannot adequately express how grateful we are to this brave Marine for his courageous service. Our thoughts and prayers are with Adam's family during this difficult time. He will be deeply missed."

Zanutto, 26, died March 6 at National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD, from wounds received as a result of an improvised explosive device in Al Anbar province, Iraq on Feb. 25. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA.

In honor of Cpl. Zanutto, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Pico Rivera Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Master Sgt. Emigdio E. Elizarraras of Pico Rivera:

"Master Sgt. Elizarraras committed himself to the dangerous task of protecting our freedom. Maria and I send our condolences to Emigdio's loved ones during their time of mourning. His dedication to this country will not be forgotten."
Elizarraras, 37, died Feb. 28 from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during a reconnaissance mission in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, NC.

In honor of Master Sgt. Elizarraras, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Twentynine Palms Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. John Thornton of Phoenix, AZ:

"Protecting this nation is a task that Lance Cpl. Thornton took on with courage and honor. Brave men and women who, like John, are willing to sacrifice their lives to preserve our freedom deserve our deepest gratitude. Maria and I send our thoughts and prayers to John's family and friends."

Thornton, 22, died Feb. 25 of wounds received as a result of an enemy mortar attack in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, his unit was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Thornton, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Bakersfield Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Clay P. Farr of Bakersfield:

"Spc. Farr fell defending freedom. California has lost a brave and noble soldier. Maria and I join with all Californians in mourning the loss of this courageous soldier. Our prayers are with Clay's loved ones during this painful time. "

Farr, 21, died Feb. 26 from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during patrol operations in Baghdad, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division of Fort Drum, NY.

In honor of Spc. Farr, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Twentynine Palms Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder of Finksburg, MD:

"Marines like Lance Cpl. Snyder put their lives on the line daily to protect our country. Maria and I wish to express our deepest sympathies to Matthew's family. His loss is a painful reminder of the high cost paid for our freedom."

Snyder, 20, died March 3 from a non-combat related vehicle accident in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to Combat Service Support Group-1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Snyder, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Book Report - "Enchanted Vagabonds"

SAN DIEGO – Enchanted Vagabondswritten by Dana Lamb is published by the Long Riders’ Guild Press, which has dedicated itself to reproducing books from something called the Equestrian Travel Classics. These are books that have fallen from mass distribution with the passing of time, but which the publishers feel “remain of global interest and importance."

“Enchanted Vagabonds,” a 414-page opus of dense reading and no plot to speak of, involves a journey made by Lamb and his wife Ginger in the thick of the great depression. Friends from childhood in then-agricultural Orange County (Southern California) Ginger and Dana had dreams of adventure. Having little to lose, they set out from San Diego in a canoe/sailboat of their own engineering, for the Panama Canal.

The sojourn took three years and it is a tale most engrossing, especially for those who hunger to know of an earlier world before crowding, pollution, modernization, and the mass endangerment of nature’s many species of plants and animals.

It is of special interest to Southern Californians of the surfing variety for its early chapters dealing with the Baja California peninsula, which today (and thanks to its ruggedness and inhospitality) remains a kind of last frontier for those seeking raw territory to discover and roam.

Revealing indeed is this portrait of a Mexico largely unsettled and a nation only in name. As they make their way down the Pacific coast of the great country, each stop into port represents a sampling of Indian/indigenous life almost unspoiled by the sullying hand of European culture.

More often than not these Indian villages welcome the sensitive and sensible travelers with open arms, grand fiestas, and kind treatment; treatment that on a few occasions represents the difference between life and death for the lusty and ingenuous adventurers.

Stricken with malaria in the jungle, mad with fever to the point of delirium, the couple awaken many weeks later in a village that has taken them in and assumed the difficult task of curing and nurturing them back to life. The difference between depression-era America and the pre-Columbian ways of the Indians marks the couple so that, as Lamb puts it, “we no longer fit in to the picture” (of modern life).

The Indians are not friendly at every turn, and particularly along a stretch of inland seas the couple must traverse to avoid death at the hands of powerful “norther” wind storms, they are hounded by a violent and malevolent tribe known as the Mareños.

The Mexican government had, at this point in time, tried to subjugate these scoundrels with an army that never made it back. And so you get an idea of the danger they faced.

So virgin is the country that the couple, on wayward ventures inland and on foot, discover lost and forbidden cities of pyramids and altars for human sacrifice. Throughout their trek, the couple is confronted with a, “strange throbbing rhythm. You felt it even more than you heard it. It was like a nerve beat. It seemed to permeate the air. We were never entirely able to dismiss the effect of this vibration upon our minds and bodies, for we were to hear it many, many times in months to come. We can offer no explanation as to what it was, where it came from, or who produced it. We called it drums for want of another name, but we do not know.”

The psychology of these two discoverers reveals much of what has changed in the human psyche and in the soul of nature in the 70 years. Their behavior is more akin to safari hunters than that of the modern day eco-tourist. When floating through the Sea of Cortez surrounded by hundreds of giant manta rays, Lamb gets it into his head to harpoon one. Later on, in a lagoon, he does the same to an alligator. In such instances, Mother Nature strikes back and the adventures become more akin to misadventures. Along the way they shoot tigers, ocelots, jaguars and anything else that gets in their way. On the Island of Cocos off Costa Rica, they clean their camp by leaving the refuse out in anticipation of the tides that will be carrying it away.

They are inhabiting a time and space where nature still rules, where man is far from indomitable, and “natural” resources are so abundant as to overwhelm and threaten human life.

Trouble with the Indians is met with the white man’s friend, the gun. Carefully planned ambushes of tribes that have it out for them are replete with powerful gun battles and although there is never once a body count, one gets the impression a few natives must have been felled along the way.

Kind and sensible when met with kindness or mild distrust, the couple are capable of matching violence with violence.

Many times they are in hell with endless strange insects that inflame and scar their skin and infect them with illnesses that threaten their very survival.

Other times, they are in paradise as this time when, after pulling themselves onto a beach to set up camp, Lamb goes for a little walk:

“I took both guns – Ginger’s automatic in case I should sight small game, and the Luger in the event of a tiger – and my new machete, and hacked my way towards a group of palms I had seen from the sea. Cutting through the last string of brush to the palm grove, I came upon a beautiful blue lagoon. I gazed in wonder. Tired and hungry as I was, I forgot everything else for the moment. This was the 'Promised Land.' A little fresh-water stream ran into the lagoon, and across it tall coco palms lined a white sand beach. Ducks floated in the water. Great blue herons, snowy egrets, sandpipers, and shorebirds were everywhere. Parrots, and other birds with gorgeous plumage whose names I did not know, flew overhead. Fish made rainbow arcs of color as they leapt and splashed. It was a scene whose beauty made me doubt the evidence of my own eyes.”

Here they meet a pair of “Azteco” Indians, relatives to the ancient Aztecs, who help them establish a hut and teach them how to live off the rich land surrounding. They stay for a number of months. The Indians tell them of a “Forbidden City” their tribe is sworn to protect.

Despite an old tale, pregnant with warning, of a Spanish army that entered the surrounding land never to return, the couple decide to search for the forbidden city and ultimately find it, replete with mounds hiding pyramids, protective walls and a limestone sacrificial altar upon which they set up camp and start a fire.

“The effect of such an experience is indescribable. We seemed to have brushed aside times’ limitations. The past and present were telescoped. The mind was able to recapture images as though it were not subject to the restrictions of space and matter. I do not tell you that what we saw with our physical eyes, or heard with our finite ears, these evocations of the past. It was rather an awareness not dependent upon either of these usual instruments of sense perception.

“We sat utterly still. The silence was broken only by the sharp staccato of the fire’s explosions; then, far off, insistent, vibrant, that rhythmic monotone.”

Lamb was an intelligent observer who renders the landscape of Mexico masterfully. The many descriptions of the troubles had at sea in their undersized “Vagabunda” can be a bit too detailed and lose those who don’t possess a command of boating terminology (the jib, stern, starboard, etc.) or a full vocabulary of the sea’s behavior (squalls, shoals, breakers, etc.). Were this a novel, one or two harrowing sequences upon the violent seas would have been sufficient, but Lamb is writing a travelogue and diary, so that these must be recorded, sometimes at the expense of a patient reader.

This challenging and fascinating story can be purchased online at The Long Riders' Guild

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

One Year of highwayscribery

One year ago today highwayscribery launched.

According to Blogger, the scribe has made 277 posts over that time. Some of those are images because for quite some time the staff here could not figure out how to lodge one into the text and so they got their own posts, but the number of posts/articles rests well over 200.

the scribe could get corny and say it was, all this free work, done for you his shadowy sea of unknown and largely unresponsive readers, but he'd be lying like a guilty convict on the chopping block.

Blogging this year has been an unalloyed blast and benefit to a writer who has labored anonymously for years.

Now there's a little less anonymity.

highwayscribery averages 20 hits a day and that does not necessarily translate into 20 actual readers. We know, however, that they are not the same 20 readers and that an audience has taken shape. A small one. By way of contrast, the scribe's friend Antonio Mendoza has a Web site, Mayhem (linked to at left) that gets between 30,000 and 40,000 hits a day!

Nonetheless, the scribe's profile (where it says view my profile next to the pencil portrait), which is essentially empty because it's all in the writing folks, has been viewed over 900 times, which is over 900 times the people interested in his work or profile at this time last year.

So the scribe loves it despite the large amount of work involved. The beauty is that on a day when there's no juice, the scribe can say screw it and he and the world are none the worse for it.

The blog does not get a lot of comments, and that's all that can be said. Maybe the highway scribe's so smart and persuasive that readers are left speechless, convinced beyond a hair of a doubt by the crystalline nature of his sentiments-in-script.

A primary idea was to take journalists to task for their limp wristed approach to the Bush administration, but it became unnecessary because highwayscribery had its own voice, which was therapeutic for the scribe and left him less angry at mainstream journalists and their shortcomings.

You've gotten a nice quantity of labor news you wouldn't see in the daily paper of record. We've given lots of love to the weakened memory of Bobby Kennedy and other worthy progressive icons. We've given weed smokers their day in court, and covered other issues that are ignored or short-shrifted by the big boys.

Literature and poetry also get fair play so that highwayscribery reads something like a variety show magazine, which is how we like it here.

the scribe told himself that the blog had a year's projection and then it would stop. But we're going to keep going for a while because staff here just learned how to make a link without all the html stuff so that he could do things like tell you about his new novel The Sidewalk Smokers Club.

This year we will spend less time bitching about the Bush administration. They will use their crumbling majority to push our country further back into the middle ages, but are mostly done and past their peak.

We hope instead to leverage highwayscribery's newfound prestige (?) by doing interviews with noteworthy people (from an anarcho-syndicalist perspective) and more reporting as opposed to opinionating.

There's a company that binds blogs into books and a year's worth of highwayscribery will make a hefty one. We may do it and put a button beneath "Vedette" so you can all ignore that, too!

Thanks for checking in when you do.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Reporters on Trial

An astounding article on White House efforts to expose leaks by targeting reporters, dragging them before grand juries they can’t afford to appear in front of, and, in general, attacking one of the pillars of our democracy - the fourth estate, appeared in the Sunday “Washington Post.”

And they think they’re the ones to bring representative democracy to the middle east.

Here it is from Dan Eggen:

Among other bits in the article: “In recent weeks, dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI’s Washington field office, who are investigating possible leaks that led to reports about secret CIA prisons and the NSA’s warrantless domestic surveillance program, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with the two cases.”

The administration, it would appear, has plans for charging reporters under espionage laws.

That’s absurd of course. It is the journalist’s duty to keep government honest. Calling that spying because of the tiresome and weak argument that we’re “at war” is the height of irresponsibility.

If the scribe were appearing on a Sunday morning talk show, George Will would accuse him of being “angry.” And he would be damn right.

And he, as a reporter, should be, too, at what this administration tries to get away with. They want to hide just about anything they do under the rubric of being “classified.” And then they want to prosecute when people exposing the excesses of power make that information public.

Here’s “New York Times” editor Bill Keller, quoted in the same article: “There’s a tone of gleeful relish in the way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries, their appetite for withholding information, and the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public’s business risk being branded as traitors. I don’t know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad,” which is sort of what the scribe said a bit earlier for a lot less pay and prestige.

The article observes that, “President Bush has called the NSA leak ‘a shameful act’ that was helping the enemy’.”

the highway scribe says the NSA program was a ‘shameful act’ and says the (p)resident was ‘the enemy.’

How can the scribe say such a thing?

Well, somebody in the White House outed a CIA agent by the name of Valerie Plame to get back at her husband for saying things they didn’t like. That’s how they run a democracy and it’s a wonder they haven’t had more success in Iraq where, under the prior regime, such practices were common currency.

The reporter the administration used to ruin Plame’s career and endanger her life, of course, won’t be dragged before any body of accountability (at least publicly).

But that’s a popular example and the administration has already thrown Scooter Libby to the wolves.

Whether he howls remains to be seen.

But why do we need to have reporters picking the through the garbage pails of those who govern us? Because those who govern us often inhabit garbage pails.

Look at how the U.S. Army and the administration handled the death of Pat Tillman.

You’ll remember that Tillman bought the administration’s pap on terror, gave up a lucrative contract in the National Football League, and got himself killed thinking he was defending this country.

The administration made a big deal about what a “hero” Tillman was, patriotic schlock being the special domain of Fox News and the Bush crowd they’re in bed with.

But it turns out Tillman was a critic of the administration (an enemy?) and was probably killed by friendly fire (“Waiting for Chomsky,” Oct. 4).

It was a reporter that kept the story, which is quite fishy, alive and now after three investigations, they’ve got to look into his death and how or why it happened(again).

Read this piece by Monica Davey and Eric Schmitt at the "New York Times" and learn how sometimes the government is the enemy and why the founding fathers gave us a free press to stay up its ass and be sure it’s (relatively) clean.

It’s dirty work, especially when they’re trying to scare the crap out of you by threatening grand juries, jail fines, and God knows what else.

But somebody’s got to do it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Gone Wilde

Here are some epigrams from Oscar Wilde:

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature an impossibility."

"A man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing."

(For James Frey)
"Memory is the diary that chronicles things that never have happened and couldn't possibly have happened."

The image is an original artwork by Barrie Maguire.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A New Review of "Vedette"

The following review of “Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows” is running in “The Volunteer” which is published by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives. the scribe is honored they took the time to consider the novel and tell their friends a little about it:

Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows is set in Andalucía, around Sevilla, during the days of the Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War. This self-published novel starts out strongly. “The first man I ever haunted was my father which, I suppose makes perfect sense.” Gloriella, a young girl born in a small town, has unfortunately attracted the lustful attentions of her father, who is haunted by her beauty. He calls her Vedette, a French word for a star or accomplished performer, though when father says it to daughter, it has other implications. Both mother and a hypocritical priest try to wrest the girl away from the father’s possession. After a gypsy woman reads Vedette’s future, Vedette's mother tries to save her by giving her into the care of people who might watch over her: revolutionaries.

Thus begins Vedette’s travels in a Bildungsroman with a touch of the picaresque. Vedette learns of the wider world and the limits of men while with revolutionaries. She lives near the Parque de María Luisa and learns to sing in Sevilla. Just after the fascist uprising in 1936, she helps start a utopian town, one that attempts to bring the benefits of free love and animal liberation (some of these utopian scenes are insufferable – imagine, for instance, rural Andalusian men giving up the hunting of rabbits). At the end of the war she copes with the terrible changes brought about by the new government.

According to the novel’s bibliography, Siciliano lived four years in Andalucía, and he clearly loves the region, the people, the culture. The novel is peppered with Spanish proverbs and flavored with descriptions that can only be written by a writer who has lived in the south of Spain. Especially in the first section, there is a pleasant charm in the writing.

Siciliano’s love of Andalucía and of his main character is both a blessing and a curse. As a writer, he’s eager to introduce us to culture and history. Apprentice writers are often advised to write of characters who are at the heart of things; there are great challenges to writing of a protagonist who is more witness than participant. Vedette often hears of major events or she is on the sidelines as a witness. Even when Vedette stands at the center of an event, the first-person narrator will explain more than she dramatizes. I found myself yearning for more shape to the story, for the writer to have a greater sense of how story is often built around how things go wrong, not about how things just happen.

If you go to, you can read the opening of Vedette. If the writing charms you, if you enjoy a novel with a leisurely paces, if you yearn for a trip to southern Spain but can’t afford the ticket to southern Spain but can’t afford the ticket (or don’t want to deal with all the tourists) then Vedette, which you can order at your local bookstore or on the Internet, might be the remedy.

Charles Oberndorf is a novelist and English teacher who lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

the scribe will take advantage of his owning and controlling this particular medium to say a few of the following things:

That it would be unthinkable for Andalusian countrymen to give up rabbit hunting is to forget there is a revolution going on in the novel. As the Federation representatives point out in their manifesto (p. 263) against the commemorative bullfight: “The animals of this district benefit from a tolerance by humans they receive nowhere else in the world. And that is what we mean by revolutionary.”

Vedette’s passivity as narrator is intentional; the point being that she is a proscribed woman of marginal status. Even at the height of her powers, Vedette’s influence is more spiritual and poetic, although she clearly can give as good as she gets.

Here’s another review of “Vedette” that we have run before from the magical realism review,

the scribe may or may not do the great and popular things associated with a life of successful artistry, but either way he will always insist that you stop, mark his rhythm, and listen to La Vedette, Gloriella.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Death of the Blog

Here’s a post at the “Raw Fisher” blog from “The Washington Post” announcing the death of the blog trend.

It is certainly a welcome development and a proper correction. Blogs may be to 2005 what Rubic’s Cube was to, well, whenever Rubic’s cube came out.

And that little bit there is blogging, you see. The lazy application of irony or cheap humor where a few minutes of research into the cube would have been required at a proper news organization.

The beast moves so fast today. Everybody got a blog. It became overwhelming. Everybody was a critic and all you read about in magazines was blogs, blogs, blogs.

But that story became old. Teen movies are already mocking blogs. You cannot democratize the world of talent. And after a year, even some of the talented are leaving the Kingdom of Blog along with the droves of bandwagonners moved on to the next cool thing.

The door’s over there.

The few, the proud, the true remain. Some people have to write and communicate, while some people have to tell other people about how they write and communicate, and it’s the latter bunch that is now bailing.

the scribe has long thought the Internet and all its spawn are media-ready phenomena that titillate the pallets of blue state-minds and quirky people drawn to screens, and he still thinks so. It’s big because reporters think it is so, but not so big as they think.

As an information and research tool, the Internet knows no rival, but as a gatherer of quality news, it has in the end served to buck-up the image of the old-school, “expensive” reporting offered by traditional news organizations.

At least that’s what the guy at “Raw Fisher” calls them – “expensive.”

All that said, blogs do give voice.

To focus on a “Top 100” or to bean-count a blog’s sales revenue is to miss the point completely.

For the time being, the management and generation of a blog offers the same thrilling experience of interconnectedness the Net promised back in the day when everybody was jumping on it, without any idea of what to do.

Well this is what you do, and the thrill is far from gone.

You run a blog, you will hear from people you never imagined and wonder always how it happened. To a certain degree, the blogger handpicks and crafts an audience by whom they contact, by whom they link to, and thanks to the variety and breadth of information they themselves generate.

The Web log is an unalloyed benefit to those who write for it gives space to voices silenced by market and literary trends of the moment, and helps them find the smaller groups of readers who see their divergence as advance, rather than flaw.

A few readers is good, too. Very good and much better than nothing.

There will be a falling away, but the blog duped the media into a coverage blitz that gave it a foothold in American pop culture, and the blog delivered both excitement and substance, carving out a niche in the battle for our so-divided attentions.