Category Archives: A blogger’s musings

Via Post Secret: Life in post-New Deal America


From Post Secret, where folks submit the secret thoughts close to the core of their beings, an anonymous message that strikes close to home for esnl:

BLOG Golden

Such is life in an America where the New Deal protections of the 1930′s and the ideals they embodied have been gutted, along with the labor unions that paid a major role in their enactment.

Pension plans have been gutted and the rules of the financial game changed profoundly, resulting in a concentration of wealth as great as that preceding the Great Depression.

Polling shows that most people in most countries believe the world will be worse for their children than it has been for them. We all know the warning signs, though most of us [esnl not included] have a comforting religion or belief system that promises a better afterlife, or at least victory over pain and suffering.

For great many of, anxieties about retirement are real and imminent, as they are for us.

And we also know what it means to be confronted with a cancer where diagnosis means if not certain death, the the high likelihood [80 percent or more] of a short-term lethal outcome.

And so spotting the card at Post Secret sunk home, 13 months after the chemo that has carried its own not-insignificant price.

And such are the thoughts of a Thursday evening. . .

Sadie Rose, happy as a clam with her new digs


Grandma just sent a new snap of the apple of our eye after Sadie’s mom and dad move into their new digs in Los Angeles, necessitated by her arrival and the need for more space.

So we indulge a Grandpa’s prerogative and share it with the world:

BLOG Saide Rose

How Roman Polanski got us kicked off a jury


UPDATE: We removed a couple of identifiers from the case from which we were excluded to preclude just the problem that lies at the heart of the story.

Not that we wanted to be kicked off, exactly.

In all of our nearly seven decades of life, we’ve never had the opportunity of serving on a jury, so when we received a summons and drove down to the local County Superior Court Tuesday morning for the first phase of jury selection, we found ourselves in a panel selected for voir dire in a criminal case.

Good, we thought. Having spent so many years reporting on the criminal justice, we were finally getting the opportunity to see its workings from the inside, in the very heart of the process, the secret deliberations with a group of fellow citizens which would decide both the fate of the defendant and, to some degree, the credibility of those who had brought him or her before the bar of justice.

Besides, we’ve been having a record heat wave for May, and welcomed the chance to spend a few days in an air-conditioned courtroom rather than our own non-air-conditioned little home.

We filed into the courtroom, filing every seat in the spectator’s section and the jury box as well and after the swearing in, the judge explained the basics of the case.

The defendant, it seems, was a man charged with raping by threat of force his own niece while she was 12 and 13 years old. There were other charges as well, including forcible oral copulation.

Before midday we went sent hope and told to return today for questioning to determine our suitability to sit in judgment.

It was last night when then sobering thought occurred that during the questioning process — something we were very familiar with, having observed it as a reporter on a dozen or so occasions — might provoke some answers that could prove inflammatory or prejudicial.

That’s because we had testified in a case involving a very famous suspect who had been facing some of the same charges before the victim refused to cooperate with the prosecution and testify, leaving the defendant to plead to lesser offense, so-called statutory rape of a 13-year-old.

People v Roman Raymonnd Polanski

The defendant was Roman Polanski, and during the course of the legal proceedings, we were summoned to the witness stand to refute a story by a German reporter claiming that Polanski had violated the terms of a pre-trial agreement that had allowed him to travel abroad to finish arrangements for a film he was scheduled to direct for Dino DiLaurentiis [who also testified, along with Bill Farr, a reporter for the Los Angles Times who had previously and famously done jail time rather than testify as to the source of a leak in another famous case, that of Charles Manson].

Our testimony at the time [1977] was widely reported, resulting in [among other things] a call from an ex-wife who had seen us on the evening news as we left the courtroom [cameras were allowed in California courts at the time].

Our role in the Polanski case resurfaced in 2008, with the release of the documentary Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired by Marina Zenovich, a film in which we are prominently featured, providing both background on the case as well as direct evidence of misconduct by Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, who had called us into his chambers, complained that wives of his friends from the exclusive Hillcrest Country Club [the center of his social life] were complaining about the terms of the plea bargain. And then he dropped the bombshell: “Dick – tell me. What the hell should I do with Polanski ?”

Judges are supposed to reached decision based on facts produced through the legal process, statutes, and case law. One thing judges are barred from doing by the canons of their own profession is to seek advice from reporters on sentencing and disposition.

We threw up our hands, and said “Whoa, judge, that’s your decision,” earning a scowl and a curt dismissal.

We was only able to tell the story because the judge had died a dozen years earlier, releasing me from an agreement never to reveal anything we discussed in his chambers as long as he lived.

After we had learned of Rittenband’s death a few years before we were interviewed for the film, we had contacted Polanski’s attorney to recount the story and sent along an affidavit of the account, declaring its veracity under penalty of perjury. We were told we might be called to testify, because the director hoped to return tot he U.S. at some point to lay the matter to rest.

Polanski had spent time in a state prison undergoing testing to determine in he was a mentally disordered sex offender, a legal label that would have haunted him for life. But the prison psychiatrist and the Los Angeles County Probation Officer assigned to the case agreed that Polanski should serve no more time. . .but there were those darn wives at the Hillcrest, leading to the judge’s gross violation of judicial ethics and, perhaps of more serious statutes.

[For more about the case itself and our role in it, as well as the judge’s mob ties, see our previous posts.]

Back to Judge Hashimoto’s courtroom

The release of the documentary resulted in newspaper and magazine articles as well as reports in online media, both in the U.S. and abroad, in which we were mentioned, sometimes prominently, and they’re appear if any jury happened to Google “Richard Brenneman” and “Polanski”.

And so it was last night as we were about to drift off into sleep that we suddenly realized that questioning in front of our fellow would-be jurors might evoked the notorious words “Roman Polanski,” a named which has been harshly treated in stories often poorly written and riotously inaccurate accounts both in print and online [just search for “Polanski” and “rapist” and see what sort of bilge washes up].

Just the mention of his name, much less a detailed account of our own role in the case, might inflame the jury, we decided and prejudice them against the defendant, who was already facing highly inflammatory charges.

And so this morning, we interrupted the court clerk, who then instructed us to fill out a sheet of paper outlining just why we felt we had information important for the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney to know.

After an initial round of questioning of some of our fellow jurors, everyone but esnl was instructed to leave the courtroom. After they’d departed, the judge summarized the contents of my note [which mentioned that the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, European newspapers, and other media had covered our role the case as revealed in the film just as they had reported on our testimony three decades earlier.

We acknowledged that, indeed, such were the facts.

The judge then announced that he and the lawyers all agreed that I shouldn’t sit on the jury.

The defense attorney smiled as we left.

And so here we are, sent home to enjoy the heat because of Roman Polanski.

Ain’t it a kick in the pants?

Tara the cat, and why we’re cat people


Consider the case of Tara, a house cat in Bakersfield, California, and her heroic rescue of four-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo, who was happily riding his scooter when a large dog rushed up and sunk its teeth into his leg.

The events, captured by home video surveillance cameras and posted online by father Roger Triantafilo, have become an internet sensation:

My Cat Saved My Son

We were once in a similar predicament back when we were a couple of years older than young Jeremy and living in Abilene, Kansas.

We were playing in our front yard one bright summer’s day when a very large boxer dog wandered into the yard and began growling as he approached us [why we knew the dog was male will become apparent].

As the dog drew menacingly near, we were struck dumb and paralyzed by fear, unable to move.

That’s when Mickey rushed to the rescue.

Mickey, otherwise known as Mickey Muggins, was a large orange neutered Persian and absolutely devoted to esnl and sister Lois. He was quite simply adorable, and smarter than a whip.

Spotting the menacing pooch, Mickey didn’t hesitate. He rushed up to the critter and somehow leapt up so what he was clutching onto the dog’s underbelly with three paws, and using the fourth — his right hind leg as we vividly recall — to ferociously rake the critter’s masculine organs.

The boxer whined piteously, and Mickey abandoned his perch, feorciously confrontly the vastly larger canine, which then executed a rapid 180 and ran whining from the yard, Mickey in hot pursuit.

Mickey chased the dog right up to the edge of the yard, just as Tara does in the video, then watched for a second or two to make sure the dog had continued to skeedaddle [yeah, it’s a geezer word], before returning to run against our leg, purring ferociously. Major hugs followed.

What cinched our conversion to a cat person was another incident shortly thereafter, when a female dog ambled up to us in the yard, craving for affection. As we patted the pooch, we heard an ominous and pervasive growling and looked up to confront a large pack of slavering male dogs of every sort and size.

The female, it turned out, was in heat, and her scent had attracted at least 20 males, initially bristling at each other, then directing their ferocity at six-year-old esnl. We screamed, and fortunately mom came running, armed with a broom, which she bravely used to chase the pack away.

Mickey was inside when it happened, but we believed firmly he’d have come racing to the rescue had he seen our plight.

Thereafter we were firmly in the cat camp, and it hasn’t changed to this day, six decades later. Forget dogs, we know who our four-legged best friend really is. . .

As for the heroic Tara, no cat was ever better named.

UPDATE: From the Los Angeles Times:

Tara the hero cat will ‘throw out’ first pitch at a minor league game

Tara the cat, made famous in a YouTube video that shows it saving a 4-year-old boy from a dog attack in Bakersfield, has been tapped for another duty: throwing the ceremonial first pitch at a local minor league baseball game.

Video footage of the cat ramming into and then chasing off the next door neighbor’s dog as it attacks the boy’s ankle went viral this week after it was posted by the boy’s father, Roger Triantafilo. Since then, Tara the cat has become a local hero, and will do the honors — with an assist from the Triantafilos — at a Bakersfield Blaze game on May 20.

A blast for the past: Newsrooms and toe gum


Just for the fun of it, our very first esnl post, from 22 October 2009. As of now, 9,605 other posts have followed:

I’ve joined the legion of downsized journalists. The Berkeley Daily Planet laid me off Monday, leaving me with time to work on this blog, a gift from a dear friend, inspiration, and future contributor.

American journalism is dead.

I wrote my first newspaper story in 1964, in the closing days of the era when the ink-stained wretch was king [and a few queens as well] and newsrooms were peopled with folks with sharp elbows, sharper tongues and a camaraderie that doesn’t thrive in today’s newsrooms, where many a reporter nurtures dark hopes that her neighbor, not her, will be the next victim of the accountant’s ax.

When I started in the business, anyone with a decent set of clips could walk into any medium-sized burg in the country and count on landing a job within days, at most weeks.

This is my first post, one of what will be an occasional series about te changes I’ve seen in newsrooms over the past forty-plus years. And I promise I’ll throw in some toe gum along the way.

Toe gum? Read on. . .

My first job at a daily paper was at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where I covered civil rights, radical politics, the war on poverty, conventions and night cops–the last one being the traditional assignment of rookie reporters.

I had a great city editor, Tom Wilson, who taught me the basic skills of the craft, the foremost being “Ya gotta put some toe gum in your stories.”

Toe gum?

Yep. Toe gum.

“Brenneman,” he said after I’d turned in my first few stories, “y0u’ve got what it takes to be a good reporter. You know how to ask questions, and you can write a good sentence. But the problem is that you don’t put any toe gum in your stories.”

My eyebrows shot up. I knew a reporter was supposed to write a lead that, in 25 words or so, included the who, what, when, where and how, with the why coming in the second graf at the latest. But toe gum?

Tom smiled.

“You gotta think about who you’re writing for,” he drawled. “Now you work the swing shift, and that means your stories go out in the edition that hits the casinos and hotels when the midnight shift is getting off. Folks who want to buy a paper, take it home and give it a read.

“Now imagine you’re writing for a cabbie. He’s been haulin’ around a bunch of drunken tourists all evening long. He’s been yelled at, maybe cleaned some puke out of the back seat, and his ass is numb from sittin’ on dead springs for eight hours straight.

“Now when he gets home and opens the door, he’s gonna head straight for his easy chair. He’s gonna slip off his shoes and socks, then rub his feet and rub out all that gum that’s built up between his toes. Then he’s gonna lean back and open up his paper.

“He doesn’t want to read an academic dissertation. He wants to read something that tells him about his world in a way that means something to him. He’s who you’re writing for. So put some damn toe gum in your stories, Brenneman!”

After that, whenever the academic in me threatened to come out, Tom would throw the story back at me with the simple instruction, “Needs toe gum.”

I’ll be forever grateful.

We were later able to discover a picture of Tom Wilson as he appeared 35 years later with a new [to us] crop of chin whiskers. When we tried to return to it for a more accurate date and an update on Wilson’s career, but the site had vanished. . .

Tom Wilson, a writer's editor

Tom Wilson, a writer’s editor

Explaining a lengthy hiatus


We’ve been offline for some days now, and for those who follow our meandering musings, an explanation is in order.

It begins, of course, with that chemotherapy that so dominated our life following the removal of a cancerous bladder and prostate some 16 months ago.

Chemo’s no picnic in itself, what with the attendant nausea, constipation, and general enervation that comes when your flood the body with a noxious, toxic brew designed to bring you close to the brink of death in order to kill off something even more deadly [and of the two malignancies we contracted, the micropapillary variety that had ravaged our bladder had also escaped the organ and spread to at least one lymph node — necessitating the chemo].

But what has been worse in many regards has been the accompanying neurological damage wrought by the chemo — something we weren’t anticipating.

In brief, the chemo has left the soles of our feet tingling, both benumbed and painful, as when sensation begins to return after they “fall asleep” and begin the reawakening process. And in the same way as walking becomes awkward and somewhat painful in that state because the brain isn’t getting feedback critical for balance, so now is every step we take.

And the attempt to stand on a chair to grab a photo becomes almost impossible, because the balance has been critically, and we fear, permanently impaired.

If that weren’t enough, there’s the hearing. Or, rather, the increasing lack of it.

For some thirty-fove years or more we’ve also been afflicted with another ailment, rheumatoid arthritis [RA], in which the body’s immune system is somehow reprogrammed to attack the connective tissue, in particular, the sinovial tissue that protects the joint, in a process that’s quite literally inflammatory.

To battle RA, doctors prescribe a mix of immunosuppressants [including one drug, methotrexate, also used in cancer chemo and which in itself can be carcinogenic [go figure]. But another class of drugs is used to treat thre inflammatory symptoms, the so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, of NSAIDS.

Now one of the side effects of long-term NSAID use is loss of high frequency hearing accompanied by tinnitus, more commonly known as rining in the ears.

Now, thanks to chemo, our high frequency hearing loss is accompanied by low frequency hearing loss — effectively masking out much of the sounds of everyday life. In consequence, going to movies has lost much of its pleasure, and everyday conversations have become a chore, as we miss much of what is said.

There’s no effective treatment for the feet, and the cost of hearing appliances [which offer minimal help] is beyond our means.

There’s also another neurological impact of chemo, and that’s on the hippocampus, a tiny seahorse-shaped organ [hence the name] buried deep in the brain that plays a critical role in memory function.

During and immediately after the chemo, we had noticed significant impairment in memory function, and while there’s been noticeable improvement since, we still don’t feel entirely up to snuff.

And then there’s the whole question of work, of finding a way to put our skills to work in a way that brings in a modest flow of revenue to keep the whole game afloat.

So what happened?

Basically, we hit a wall.

Pondering the next step

We’ve spent much of the last year working a dozen or more hours a day to assemble collections of headlines revealing patterns of exploitation at work in nations across the globe as those already rich exploited the global crisis to consolidate wealth and power and transform populations into indentured serfs, shackled by debt.

We left conclusions to readers, assuming that those who chanced upon our efforts could discern patterns emerging from seemingly disparate events.

Then came Edward Snowden’s revelations of the deep forces at work within our newly digitized world, as well as emerging “security” crises exploited by the same forces which had broiught the world to the brink of financial disaster.

In time, the cumulative impact of all our reading — combined with the impacts of the chemo and our relative isolation — took its toll.

So now we’re left, at age 67 and still an agry young man, pondering what step to take next as our physical and fiscal resources dwindle.

Also up for question is what shape esnl will assume next.

We have no answers. . .

Grandpa alert: Sadie Rose pays a visit


Sadie Rose, her mom and dad, Grandma B, and mom’s old friend came for a visit, and we headed out for a delightful lunch at Berkeley’s own Easy Creole.

After lunch, we cleared the table and mom put her down on the nice, cool ceramic tile tabletop. The first reaction, uncertainty. . .

18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 4.3 mm, 1/50 sec, f3.3

18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 4.3 mm, 1/50 sec, f3.3

And the tile feels so strange, so cool on her hands. . .

    18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 3.5 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.6

18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 3.5 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.6

And decides she likes it. . .

18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 3.5 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 3.5 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

And so does mommy, and whilst daddy’s busy textin’. . .

18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 5.4 mm, 1/40 sec, f3.6

18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 5.4 mm, 1/40 sec, f3.6

Sadie discovers she can crawl! Mom, dad, and Grandma take delight!

18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 5.4 mm, 1/40 sec, f3.6

18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 5.4 mm, 1/40 sec, f3.6

And Grandpa’s happy too. . .and so is Sadie Rose!

18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 4.34 mm, 1/50 sec, f3.3

18 February 2014, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 4.34 mm, 1/50 sec, f3.3

Grandpa alert: Sadie Rose, leanin’ in


Another shot of granddaughter arrived form Grandma, and how could we not share?:

BLOG Sadie Rose leanin in

Hail and farewell: Sid Caesar, a legend, now gone


For a child growing up in a Kansas farm town in the 1950s, Sid Caesar came as a revolution. Along with Ernie Kovacs and Steve Allen, Caesar brought a brilliance to network television never quite seen since.

He gave us 90 minutes of scripted live comedy every week, written by a crew that included Mel Simon, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, and Larry Gelbart — each of whom developed into stars.

His humor was nothing short of surreal, and his curfew of actors were sumply brilliant.

Caesar gave a farm town kid a whole new take on the world, daring, outrageous, and profoundly subversive.

And now he’s gone.

First, the story from Reuters:

Comic showman Sid Caesar, a pioneer of American television sketch comedy as the star and creative force of “Your Show of Shows” during the 1950s, died on Wednesday at age 91, according to his friend and former collaborator Carl Reiner.

Reiner told Reuters he learned of Caesar’s death from a mutual friend, actor and writer Rudy De Luca, who had recently visited Caesar at his Los Angeles-area home. He said the veteran entertainer had been ill for at least a year.

One of the most ambitious and demanding of all TV enterprises, “Your Show of Shows” was 90 minutes of live, original sketch comedy airing every Saturday night, 39 weeks a year. It is widely considered the prototype for every U.S. TV sketch comedy series that followed, including “Saturday Night Live.”

Some clips for your consideration of live, prime time comedy at its best.

From Kovacs Corner:

Sid Caesar: “Big Business” with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris

Program notes:

He is perhaps not considered as “avant garde” as Ernie Kovacs, nonetheless Sid Caesar (along with co-stars Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, and Nanette Fabray) created two of the most popular and funny comedy shows during the 1950′s, “Your Show of Shows” and later “Caesar’s Hour”. It is ironic that Sid was chosen by director Stanley Kramer to replace Ernie as the character “Melville Crump” in the movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.

And one his most memorable skits, based on a huge prime time hit, This is Your Life.

From Kovacs Corner:

Sid Caesar: “This is Your Story” with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris (Full Sketch)

Program notes:

[From “Kovacs Corner” on YouTube.com] – Before video tape, when a live prime time television series went on mid year hiatus, the networks would broadcast “summer replacements”. During the year 1957, “The Ernie Kovacs Show” was the summer replacement program for “Caesar’s Hour”. Earlier known as “Your Show of Shows”, it starred the legendary TV comedian Sid Caesar, with co-stars Carl Reiner and the late Howard Morris. With a writing staff that included among others Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Danny Simon and Mel Tolkin, it was one of the premier comedy shows of it’s time. This particular sketch satirizes one of the most popular programs of it’s day “This is Your Life” which starred Ralph Edwards and it is, in my opinion, one of the funniest comedy sketches ever performed on television. Howard Morris’ over-the-top performance as “Uncle Goopy” put an audience in stitches 50 years ago and he can do it again with equal ease today! After Kovacs’ untimely death, Sid was called upon by director Stanley Kramer to replace Ernie in the role of “Melville Crump” in the1963 film “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.

Finally, and from Isabel Karp:

Sid Caesar: Health Food Restaurant

Program note:

Sid Caesar Performs Health Food Restaurant with Howard Morris, Imogene Coca, and Carl Reiner.

So farewell, Sid Caesar, the noblest comedian of them all. . .

South Berkeley Street Seens: New Year’s Eve


Sights encountered on a stroll to the Adeline Street post office.

First, a skyline seen at the end of the block. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 47.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f5.8

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 47.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f5.8

A fencesitter encountered in a town known for treesitters. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 4.3 mm, 1/320 sec, f4

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 4.3 mm, 1/320 sec, f4

And a face-to-face encounter. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 4 mm, 1/400 sec, f4

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 4 mm, 1/400 sec, f4

A fellow pedestrian. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 16.1 mm, 1/400 sec, f5.2

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 16.1 mm, 1/400 sec, f5.2

Traces left by a pedestrian past. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 125, 31.5 mm, 1/80 sec, f5.4

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 125, 31.5 mm, 1/80 sec, f5.4

Evidence of another past walker. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 21.8 mm, 1/100 sec, f5.4

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 21.8 mm, 1/100 sec, f5.4

Adeline Street Post Office parking lot skyline. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 4.4 mm, 1/1300 sec, f3.3

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 4.4 mm, 1/1300 sec, f3.3

The Stately Homes of Prince Street. . .

BLOG Stately r

And the latest sigil appearing on the wall near Casa esnl. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 31.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f5.4

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 31.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f5.4

And, after the jump, the obligatory selfie. . . Continue reading

Just emerging from a 14-hour power outage


Winds, magnificent air-clearing, street-sweeping. . .and power-line-downing.

From the Oakland Tribune:

Powerful winds that reached 65 mph Thursday night in parts of the East Bay and contributed to two deaths in Oakland had calmed by Friday morning, but thousands of PG&E customers were still without power and emergency personnel and cleanup crews were scrambling to new reports of fallen trees and power lines.

As of 7:45 a.m. 12,500 PG&E customers in the East Bay were without power, including 9,000 in Oakland and 3,100 in Berkeley, PG&E spokeswoman Jana Morris said.

At the height of the windstorms Thursday night, 42,500 East Bay PG&E customers were without power, Morris said.

Read the rest.

Censorship by WordPress: Vanishing Horst Wessel


In the post below on the catastrophic conditions in Greece, we wrote this paragraph:

The rise of the bloody-minded Golden Dawn, that cadre of thugs who give the Hitler salute and sing the Horst Wessel Song [missing words and links], accounts for most of the body count in this from Kathimerini English:

The missing words are these: “Greek version, the German original,” with YouTube links to the first and last two words. Yet when we published the post, there’s nothing but a space between the word “Song” and the comma.

It’s not a one-time fluke, as we have tried to include the original words and links no fewer than four separate times.

We loathe both Golden Dawn and their German predecessors, but we considered the links important, as they impart a visceral sense of just how powerful the melody and words really are to give the reader and listener a sense of the forces now being aroused in Greece.

This is the only time in our four years of writing this blog that we’ve encountered overt censorship by WordPress, which apparently has a program routine to block the linking of written reference to the song with You Tube videos.

A sad day indeed.

Sadie Rose meets Grandpa esnl for first time


Another shot of esnl‘s first encounter with Granddaughter Sadie Rose. . .

17 September 2013, Motorola XT907, 1/2 sec, 4.36 mm, f2.4

17 September 2013, Motorola XT907, 1/2 sec, 4.36 mm, f2.4

Chart of the day II: mulling suicide bombers


Fox News performed a fete of semantic legerdemain, transforming the suicide bomber into the homicide bomber. The term is inaccurate, because it encompasses, by the very definitions of the words, folks ranging from drone pilots, to order-giving generals, malcontents of all political types and degrees of mental anguish, and anyone else who kills another person by means of an explosive device.

No, suicide is definitely the right word. The bomber, deprived of drones, tanks, and missiles, uses him/herself as the delivery vehicle, with — for some Muslims — the belief that a sensual paradise awaits.

As the American navy neared the Japanese home islands, a new phenomenon arose, the Kamikaze, or Divine Wind — suicide bombers sitting in pilot’s seat, invoking the typhoons that saved Japan from Mongol invaders seven centuries earlier.

But the suicidal fighter is legendary in the West as well, starting the those 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. I also remember a comic book from childhood celebrating an American fighter/bomber pilot who refused to eject and remained at the controls of his disabled plane, steering it and its bomb payload into a Japanese cruiser. A real hero, that guy, right?

Recall, too, that all those who took up the Cross on those crusades that spread blood and gore across Europe and the Middle East were assured a straight ticket into heaven — a papal get-out-of-purgatory-free card — should they die in their endeavor to seize and hold that often-gore-drenched land they — and others — believed holy.

And all in the name of one who had taught his followers forgiveness and cheek-turning.

Recall also that during one crusade in France, a commander of the papal-sanctioned crusaders was legendarily said to have instructed his troops, when asked what to do to sort out the Albigensian heretics from the honest Catholics in a city just taken by siege, “Kill them all and let God sort them out.” Or, and more formally, according to Wikipedia,

Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. [Kill them. For the Lord know those that are His own.]

The bottom line: God would take care of those who died in His service, and to hell [literally] with the rest. If you happened to lose your head along the way, heaven awaits.

Consider also those American soldiers who’ve been honored posthumously for saving the lives of comrades by throwing themselves on grenades, a suicide by bombing of another sort.

Note also that most cultures honor warriors who knowingly gave their lives to save their comrades in honor of a cause.

Remember the Alamo!

And you can rest assured, occupants of German working class neighborhoods intentionally firebombed to disrupt military production certainly thought of the American and British pilots delivering the firestorms as homicide bombers. But target residential neighborhoods we did, using knowledge developed by bombing mockups of apartments built in deep isolation in the Utah desert.

Bombers suffered enormous casualty rates, and pilots who bailed out over Germany were often lynched as murderers [homicide bombers as it were] before police or troops could arrive. And instead of breaking working class morale, the bombing appeared to embitter them against the Americans and British. All of this was known to the bomber crews, along with the certainty that their chances of survival diminished with every mission [an interesting word in itself].

For today’s suicide bomber as for those ancient Spartans and so many others, believes their actions justified by their cause, even to the point of certain death.

And in most cases, the act is one of passionate sincerity, which can itself frighten those who don’t happen to espouse their own differing views with the same intensity.

Enough musings.

From Muslim Publics Share Concerns about Extremist Groups, Much Diminished Support for Suicide Bombing, a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project on a survey of 11 Muslim populations in countries “from South Asia to the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa.”:

BLOG Suicide

From the 1960s, by Walt Kelly and still timely


Walt Kelly‘s Pogo was a reservoir of delight in our Boomer youth, offering a wry satirical look in the most genial of guises. Here’s an example, one just as timely today as it was a half-century ago:

BLOG Pogo

Sadie Rose, asleep and well protected


Granddaughter now three weeks old! Ahhhhh. . . .

BLOG Sadie Rose edit

A pair of blasts from the pasts: Price & Newhart


Back when esnl was a lad, during the first years of the baby boom, Vincent Price was a familiar figure to anyone who’d ever spent Saturday afternoons at the movies.

Back in Abilene, Kansas, a quarter would get you a ticket, a soda, a small popcorn, and a jawbreaker, plus two feature films, a short, and a half dozen or so cartoons — while giving mom and dad time of their own. All in all, a solid deal.

Saturday matinee films tended come in three flavors, western, comedy, and scary, with the occasional war film thrown in.

Scary films in those days weren’t today’s graphic gore-fests, and the actors often tended a bit toward the hammy. One staple of Boomer scary film fare was Vincent Price, he of the arch features and delightfully lugubrious manner of speaking. If Price was on screen, you were certain to be entertained.

We only ecountered Price once, when we did a freelance photo shoot of the pilot for a weekly television poetry series that never got off the ground. But we got to heard Price, Leonard Nimoy, and a half dozen other stars read some of the greaters, as well as their own compositions.

Here’s Price reciting the same poem on another occasion:

Another figure from Boomer childhoods is Bob Newhart, who gave up accounting for standup, most famously telephone routines in his early years.

Our high school honors history teacher played some of Newhart’s historical sketches to spark some interesting and iconoclastic discussions.

Newhart moved from standup into television sitcoms, starring in four of them.

Newhart’s humor is dry, relying more on wit than shock to evoke laughter, and managed to include a slightly subversive edge. His shows were always reliable for a least a chuckle or two, and lots of smiles.

On 22 May 1995, Newhart appeared before the National Press Club, an appearance that almost co-stars the club president, a journalist who sounds like Harvey Firestein and possessed the chutzpah to steal one of the comedian’s routines.

Here’s the video of the appearance, coming near the end of Newhart’s career in weekly television comedy. Enjoy:

Snowden = whistleblower, res ipsa loquitur


There’s only one relevant point to the argument, and it’s made in the Preamble to this nation’s foundational document, the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .

The logic is simple: just powers only come with the consent of those over whom they’re exercised.

But esnl doesn’t recall consenting to the government arrogating to itself the power to monitor the most private thinking of every one of us who uses a telephone or connects to the Internet — indispensable adjuncts of human relationship in the course of daily life in this world of ours. Nor did we consent to the photographing of the exteriors of every single piece of mail we get, data to be stored away for if and when.

We have an absolute right to know of the existence of such a program, nowhere more evident than in the ways millions of people will be altering the ways threy communicate, ever conscious that other eyes may be watching, other ears hearing.

The full and free flow of ideas is the beating heart of democracy.

A paranoid, self-censoring citizenry is dystopian, and profoundly anti-democratic, but such is the populace Barack Obama would give us.

The “terror” cited as justification for our Orwellian world is largely a direct result of our own government’s meddling. We armed and inspired the folks who became the Taliban and Al Queda to use them against the Soviets, and we have long empowered the most oppressive regimes in the Gulf states, all the better to keep that oil flowing our way.

And when the violence backfires, more violence follows in other lands and more repression and surveillance happens at home.

Edward Snowden made us indelibly aware of how we are perceived by those who hold the reins of government. Each of us is a suspect, waiting to be confirmed by metadata and the contents of our digital communications.

We have a right to know that, and Edward Snowden was right to blow the whistle. We owe him thanks, not prison.

A Baby’s Tale, starring Sadie Rose


More photos of  the granddaughter arrived by email, and they seemed to tell a story. . .

Whoa, dude, what have I gotten into? SOmething doesn’t feel right!

8 August 2013, Motorola XT907, ? sec, 4.36 mm, f2.4

8 August 2013, Motorola XT907, ? sec, 4.36 mm, f2.4

and what’s with these giants? that’s just strange.

8 August 2013, Motorola XT907, ? sec, 4.36 mm, f2.4

8 August 2013, Motorola XT907, ? sec, 4.36 mm, f2.4

You say it’s gonna be all right? You can fix it?

8 August 2013, Motorola XT907, ? sec, 4.36 mm, f2.4

Uhhhh. that was wet and sticky and. . .ohhhhh bunnies!

8 August 2013, Motorola XT907, ? sec, 4.36 mm, f2.4

8 August 2013, Motorola XT907, ? sec, 4.36 mm, f2.4

Ahhhhhhhhhhh. . . . . .zzzzzzzzzz

8 August 2013, Motorola XT907, ? sec, 4.36 mm, f2.4

8 August 2013, Motorola XT907, ? sec, 4.36 mm, f2.4

Welcome to Sadie Rose Brenneman


Born at 20:05 on 29 July 2013, weighing eight pounds and two ounces, and taping in at 20.5 inches. grandkid by Number One Daughter Jacqueline Elizabeth!

29 July 2013, Motorola XT907, 4.36 mm, 0.7 sec, f2.4

29 July 2013, Motorola XT907, 4.36 mm, 0.7 sec, f2.4