Freedom (of expression) or Empire?

Caught news of the roll out of Star Wars themed collection bins on Keith Olbermann the other night (I’m sure I’m not the only one; according to their stats, it’s the most DVR’d program on TV. Glad I could help, Keith) A friend of mine sent me a picture of the R2D2 bin in Austin today, along with a link to a goofily mocked up video of a letter being inserted into R2D2 by Princess Leia (www.uspsjedimaster.com) that probably could have been done better by any of the special effects people I’ve met here in Austin.

Cybertar

If there was any truth in advertising, the postmen would be dressed up to look like Stormtroopers (heralded over by a postmaster general garbed like a leering Emperor Palpatine) rather than bins painted up to look like freedom loving androids; but then I guess I’m just nitpicking. I don’t have a serious beef with the post office, I just don’t appreciate all the snail mail spam that they insist on bringing me.

True artwork doesn’t come in the form of a repetitively decaled mail bin, anyway. True artwork can be found one block up the street from the R2D2 bin on Congress Ave, in front of the Littlefield Building at 6th and Congress; the location selected for S.C. Essai’s Cybertar (I blogged on the subject of finishing this behemoth of a project several months ago)

There is a map to all of the Guitartown displays on the Guitartown website. I haven’t seen any of them that I didn’t like.

Christmas: Santa Claus, the Spirit of Giving

Last year I went on a rant concerning the meaning of Christmas, and the debt that we owe to our nation’s founders (it’s a strange juxtaposition that seems to reoccur every year; a Holiday event that has been hijacked by religion, and a nation in similar straights) and I followed that up with a short rantlet for the well meaning christians and their attempts to set me straight after reading the initial rant.

This year, I think I need to target some of the well-meaning people who share my lack of faith, but figuratively throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Recently I was listening to PennRadio (actually it was November 2nd, but that was too early to write The Christmas Rant) and listened to an hour’s worth of broadcast on the evils of Santa Claus and lying to your children. Personally, I’ve never heard a more hard-hearted hour of radio in my life. Destroying the wonder in the mind of the child. Telling them that the hard, cold world around them is all that there is, so get used to it. How does the imagination grow, constrained by such a weighty burden as that?

Let me tell you a story. The Wife and I discussed whether or not to share the myth of Santa Claus with our children before they were born. I was all for bursting that bubble; better yet, just not even going there. My memories of Santa Claus are anything but pleasant. My mother and father did Christmas to the hilt. Large tree, Santa decorations, pictures with Santa, the works. Once, when we were staying at our grandfather’s house in Sacramento, my sister and I heard a noise in the living room. We nearly made it to the door before our fear of being discovered, and not getting any presents, sent us scurrying back under our covers where we finally fell back to sleep. When we awoke the next morning, there were snow footprints on the fireplace hearth. That was the best year. The next to worst was the year when we were particularly nasty to mom and dad, and got switches (sticks to get spankings with, for the uninitiated) in our stockings instead of candy.

Why is that the next to worst? Because the worst year was when we found out that there was no Santa, and suddenly the magic was gone from the Holiday. Santa never came to our house again. Not too long after that, there was divorce and hardship of an all too real nature as the family was torn apart, and there was no more talk of silly little things like Santa Claus. So you can imagine the mindset that I carried with me to the discussion.

For her part, The Wife never experienced an end to the myth. Even after she knew there was no physical person named Santa Claus that visited her house on Christmas eve, the presents from Santa still showed up. The stockings still were filled, even for mom and dad. It wasn’t until I met and married her that there was any magic during the Holidays for me, and then only because of her.

She presented an argument that I couldn’t defeat. That there was something good in nurturing a sense of wonder in the children. That perhaps Santa isn’t a person, but is instead the charitable spirit that lives inside all of us. That the giving (and receiving) doesn’t have to end at all.

So, I tell my children that Santa comes to our house, and there is no lie involved in that statement. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving, the anonymous benefactor who gives out of the kindness of his heart and doesn’t seek to be recognized for his charity. He leaves presents that are from no one, and fills stockings for the people sleeping under our roof, no matter the age. His is a kindly old soul that doesn’t get recognized enough these days.

The Daughter figured out that spirit meant just that, a feeling that comes from within, a few years ago. I know that she has figured it out, because gifts appear under the tree, or in the stockings, that The Wife and I have never seen before. Santa Claus lives on in my house.

Oh, you can point to the Wiki entry on Santa Claus, and tell me how he’s actually St. Nicholas, and how his gifts were given personally. That he was a real person and he is really, very dead now. Or you can say that he’s the mythological figure, Father Christmas, and that as a mythological figure he never existed at all. It’s all fine by me, I love a good story. The Red Ranger came calling is an excellent story about Santa Claus, and it’s just about as true as any of the rest of them.

You just go right on believing whatever suits you. I know Santa will visit this house on Christmas Eve, no matter what anybody else believes.

…And that’s real magic.

Merry Christmas!

Home is Where the Heart Is

A story about the old home town, on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday when I was growing up. I called a small town in Western Kansas home for most of my childhood years and Leoti, Kansas still occupies a special place in my memories even though it may not be home now. I lived in Leoti for eleven of my first fourteen years. Now that the grandparents have passed and dad has moved to Colorado (and also passed) I have a hard time thinking of Leoti as home anymore. But I know every square inch of the place intimately.

A small town is a great thing when you are a child. You can ride your bike in the street with little or no concern for car traffic. Amber Gribbon lived in the house facing the main highway, directly across the alleyway from our house. Amber is the only person I know who was struck by a car in the 11 years that I lived in Leoti. She had just been given a brand new pair of sneakers for her birthday, and she thought she could run faster than a car after putting them on. She was quite unhappy to find out that she couldn’t. Not as unhappy as the driver she ran out in front of. That was probably his worst day, a nightmare come true for any driver. She enjoyed showing us her cast and telling us the story, but she seemed no worse for wear even with the cast.

In a small town, everybody knows you. More importantly, everyone knows who your parents are, so you know that everything you do will probably get back to them. Nearly everything worth doing is within easy walking distance so there is no need to drive, at least not with any sort of a hurry required.

My paternal grandparents lived 7 blocks away, just past the old City Park. I always think of that direction as North. I don’t know why. I know full well that Tribune is a half-hour drive down the road in that direction, and that the Rocky mountains are visible not too far West from Tribune. That direction has to be West, not North. But in my head Grandma was North of our house. When I think of directions in relation to home as it was then, I have always gotten the directions shifted by 90°. The front of our house faced Grandma’s house, and that way was North in my head. Maybe it’s the wanderers desire to go where the sun goes that makes me think of that direction as the direction to go, or maybe it was that I felt safe at Grandma’s house. I’ll probably never know.

Hyland’s Map

Our family had lived in the area for several generations by that point. Our Grandfather’s uncle had bequeathed his property to the state (after his only son died) for the purpose of turning it into a state park. It still is a state park, (Kansas Travel) featuring one of the few natural springs in the area. I still have the map Grandpa drew for me showing how the homestead was laid out. He once told me the story of how the orginal dam was made of wood, a palisades dam as he described it, not the concrete dam you can see there now. One spring brought heavier than average rains and, as he told the story,

We watched the wave of water advance on the dam from the top of the nearby hill. the water covered the dam and went over it. When the flood passed where the dam had been, there was no remaining evidence that the dam (and our work) had ever been there. The ground was scraped clean.

Steele homestead, Scott State Park

The only other story of working with his uncle that I can recall him telling was when the university types began to take interest in the indian artifacts that they found when grandpa and his uncle were out working the fields. The guy nearly had a stroke and then a whole bunch more of them showed up and started digging around in the dirt looking for more useless stuff. I think that was my first introduction to the field of archeology. I’ve remained fascinated with useless stuff ever since.

There were (and still are) at least a hundred Steele relatives in the immediate area of Wichita, Scott and Saline counties, and about that many Heims (Grandmother’s family) as well, so a family gathering was a massive affair, something to really look forward to. Grandmother loved Thanksgiving. She loved to cook, and there would be pies galore. Pies made from the sour cherry trees she and Hyland cultivated on the backside of their property, pies that were baking a week in advance in preparation for the family event. Everybody brought a dish of their own, in addition to the massive turkey that would be cooking in the old gas oven at Grandma’s house.

You never knew who would show up for the event from year to year. The same old regulars would generally be there; Uncle Jake, Edna and Ted, Uncle Russ. But there also seemed to be a varying cast of additional characters that you never really got to know, but you knew were related somehow. They’d explain it to you if you asked, but I could never keep it all straight.

Dorothy, Evey and Edna. At least, I think that is Edna with her back to the camera.

A little after noon the feast would commence, and it didn’t stop for the rest of the day. After the initial round, the adults would break into groups and play cards or watch the football game, with the occasional return to grandmothers massive cherry banquet table, just to make sure that you were indeed no longer hungry. The children would go out and play in the croquet court that was Grandad’s pride and joy. It had poured concrete curbs and the bare earth could be leveled flat by an enormous angle-iron drag that I towed by hand around the court more times than I care to mention. The children could also just wander around town if they liked. The yard had no fence having once been just the verge of the fields that grandfather owned, fields now sold off to neighbors for their houses to be built on. Everyone knew Hyland and Hyland knew all of them. It was a very relaxed affair.

I can remember those times as clearly as if I was sitting in the old house right now. I cast myself back and I can picture the polished wooden floors in the kitchen. Floors inset with a dual light colored band that we used to mark off our kid-sized bowling lane until someone wanted to watch the television. To the right would have been the kitchen proper with it’s breakfast bar jutting into the room and high stools to prop yourself up on so you could chat while Grandma cooked. If you went to the left down the hallway you’d come out in the breezeway after taking a left at the washing machine, and if you went around the garage that was right in front of you there would be the double line of cherry trees. To the right was the back of the Methodist church were Grandpa sang every Sunday. If you followed the road past the church you would be facing the old Leoti High School (now the elementary school) on one corner, and on the other facing corner there was an A&W drive-in that tried to compete with the Dairy King that was on the other end of town. Dairy King is still there. It’s better situated, being right across from the fairgrounds and the softball/baseball diamonds.

The town has changed from what I remember. It has changed and yet it is still exactly the same in some fundamental ways. A friend of mine who worked for Broadwing (a fiber optic cabling company) had a tire blowout while she was on the road a few years back. It was Sunday and she needed to be somewhere else, but she wasn’t going anywhere until her car was fixed. She had taken a room at the only motel in the little town she was in and called me to pass the time since there was nothing else to do there. She remembered me mentioning that I had grown up in Kansas and wanted commiserate with me on how flat and boring Kansas was. I asked her where she was. She said “Leoti”.

I told her to hang on, and I made a call to my uncle Frank. Uncle Frank was Dad’s best friend and owned the gas station directly across the street from my Dad’s (Grandad’s before him) filling station in Leoti. Between them they owned the only two fueling spots in the entire county when I lived there. While I hadn’t spoken to Frank in several years, I knew he would remember me. Sure enough, we dropped right back into old times, and as soon as I mentioned my friend’s problems, he said not to worry about it.

My friend called me in amazement a few minutes later. “How did you do that? Every place in town is closed, I checked.” Two guys showed up with a tow truck, took the car down the road to the service station, and got it back on the road in a few hours. This happened on a Sunday in rural Kansas, where nothing gets done on Sunday. I just called an old friend, I said. Someone I really should have talked to more frequently.

Where the wart is now.

I have visited Leoti since then and I didn’t like the changes much. Frank’s son had inherited the family business and had to compete with a convenience store that they had built just off the town square. They knocked down what I remembered as a ginormous brick building, the home of Jaeger Implement for all of my memory, and erected a split faced concrete block and painted steel wart, right in the center of town. Well, the wart of a convenience store is directly across the street from what was the slab of the first grocery store in town, never rebuilt after the fire that gutted it, with what I always remembered as the State Farm insurance offices built on the back half the corner with brick tables and benches taking up the other half. The bank building on the opposite corner never was a bank in my memory even though everything about it said bank other than the occupant who lived there.

The store facing the wart across 4th street was the Three Way department store. It had a basement that mom lost me in once. I went exploring while she was shopping, and she nearly had a heart attack looking for me before I got bored and wandered back upstairs. It’s a True Value Hardware now, according to Google. The hardware store was the store further down the block. It had dusty, unfinished wooden floors and a narrow aisle that went front to back and exited on the alleyway at the back. A few doors down was the newspaper offices, right next to Pepper’s IGA, which was built as the only movie theater in Leoti way back before I was born. It was Pepper’s IGA when I tried my hand at shoplifting as a child. I had to go back in with my backside smarting to pay the cashier for the candy that I stole. I never did that again, but the shopkeepers never forgot it. They were always chasing me out of the stores when they would catch me reading comic books on the floor like it was my living room. All of town was my living room, from where I saw it.

What became Pepper’s IGA

The place where Peppers was is now an empty, grass-covered lot. The building that had been a theater and was later the IGA burned down a few years after my one childhood criminal act. It burned down like so many of Peppers’ businesses did before he was cordially invited to leave town. Next to that was the courthouse and the library, my home away from home. I could lay on the floor and read all day there and no one would chase me out for doing it, either. I still get nostalgic walking into a library. The smell of books always brings that feeling back.

The tavern is still the second building behind the insurance office across Broadway from the wart (Sinclair? In Kansas? Since when?) right where I remember it being. I remember it being there because of the many times Grandpa would drive us downtown on errands to buy groceries for Grandma. He’d always have to stop in and shoot a snooker game with the boys along the way. Further down Fourth Street in that direction was the Post Office and the barbershop, before you ran into the old fire station (now the Museum of the Great Plains) if you take a right there and go two blocks you will hit the elementary school that I attended.

Across the street from the tavern, the Post Office and the terrifying barbershop was the Rexall drug store and the Ben Franklin’s five and dime thrift store. I always get the location for that drug store mixed up because the druggist (pharmacist) lived on the other end of Fourth Street, two houses closer to the library than our cross street was. Seven blocks from home to school, and I walked that distance every day that there wasn’t snow on the ground, sometimes even then. When I got my first bike and was liberated from walking everywhere, I rode all over town, exploring every street.

I could even ride across the railroad tracks, an ominous barrier a full two blocks further over from the school, that I only dared to cross once prior to that, and I did it in order to speak to the girl I was sweet on when I was about ten or twelve. I remember that incident because a kid named Ray lived near her. He hated me and I knew he could run faster than me. But I got away scott free that day. Liberated on my bicycle I could even ride to my friend Mitch’s house, a full three or four blocks farther North on Fourth Street from the railroad tracks. Why, that was nearly out of town!

On the other end of Fourth Street, on the South edge of town, was the Catholic church where I went to see what Catholicism was all about with my aunt Betty and Uncle Clem. They moved into town the last few years that I lived in Leoti, and they built a house on the corner that lead back towards the swimming pool, one block down Fourth Street from where the Wichita County hospital was at the time. The city offices now sit where the hospital was, caddy-corner across the alleyway from my old house, and the hospital is now two blocks further back from Fourth on the other side of the street, next to what we baldly proclaimed as the Old Folks Home back in the day. We could see the building every day that we were swimming during the summer since it was across the county park from the pool.

I remember the Old Folks Home because that was were they put Grandma after she started showing signs of Alzheimer‘s. The year we went back for Thanksgiving and the Wife made Dad take his cigarettes outside to smoke. Grandma thanked her for that. “I hate the way those things smell.” Dad comically shivered and looked mournful out on the porch all by himself. That was the year that the Daughter got to meet her great grandmother. The last time we all got together and laughed as a family. The last real Thanksgiving, in my estimation.

Grandma died in 2000, eighteen years after the love of her life, Hyland. His former filling station is now a bare concrete slab. One of the eight different businesses that he ran during his long lifetime in Leoti Kansas. When Grandpa saw something that needed doing, he’d figure out a way to get a business started that could do it. If the business didn’t make money or was too much work, he’d sell it. If it did make money and he liked doing the work, he’d keep it. His house was bought by the town mayor after Grandma no longer needed it. The mayor painted the house grey and took out the raised flower bed outside the living room picture window that was Grandma’s pride and joy. All of the cherry trees have died and grass grows where they and the croquet court used to be. Time changes everything.

Kansas, it’s a great place to be from. Home is someplace else now. Thanksgivings are just not the same anymore. The cherry pies are sweeter and they don’t have that sour bite that Grandma’s pies had. When you have to do the cooking, and you hate cooking like I do, Thanksgiving becomes a chore that you’d just as soon not engage in. Chores like putting up and taking down decorations that no one notices in the big city. They don’t look unless your entire neighborhood loses its mind and lights the entire street and all the trees. Then they show up and they never stop coming until you take the lights back down again. Traffic snarled for blocks in all directions so badly that you can’t even get home to enjoy the holiday. Who wants that?

Grandpa hosted the nativity scene for the Methodist church on his front lawn every year. He had life-sized statues with bales of hay around the animals, and strings of multicolored lights hung on all the eves of the house. We’d go out and help him set up the display not too long after the Thanksgiving feast was over. We never had anyone come by to gawk that I can remember, certainly not enough of them that we couldn’t get into the house when we wanted. But he went through the labor every year, just like Grandma did for Thanksgiving. I never understood it, but I always did appreciate it. A memory to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. May yours be a happy one.


Editor’s note, 2019. Wayback Machine archive from 2012 showing the original article. It’s longer and reads better, but essentially the same. You be the judge.

Trick or Treat!

It’s the boy’s day today. Don’t expect too much out of me.


Spent the night reminding the children I was shepherding that they had to say “Trick or Treat” if they wanted a treat. While doing this I stumbled across more than a few houses with front porch lights on, and nobody home to answer the door.

Back in the day, we would have taken that as an invitation to be tricked; a job that we came equipped to do, on a general basis. Wax or soap for the windows. Toilet paper for the trees. Some of the more vicious pranks (which I never pulled myself) involved bags of dogshit being lit on fire on porches, for the owners to find and attempt to stomp out.

My uncle told me stories of a life size dummy that he created, and used as a prank for many years. Dropping it out of trees in front of pedestrians (the best ones were generally carrying groceries. The resultant explosion of foodstuffs when the bags were hurled into the air were always good for a laugh) dragged behind his car, or propped up in door ways to fall in on the homeowner when they answered the door.

Life was more fun then.

I was contemplating this when I came across one home with all the exterior lights on and a large notice pinned to the door:

“We do not celebrate Halloween, and we do not have any candy. Do not ring our doorbell.”

On the one hand I thought Idiot, just leave your lights off; but on the other I was contemplating the reaction that would have occured had previous rules of conduct concerning Halloween been inflicted upon them.

Next year I’m going to make up signs of my own, to pin to the doors of the spoil sports who leave their lights on when they have no intention to participate in festivities.

Attention: This is your Trick for failure to Treat.
Consider yourself properly TP’d and your windows soaped.
And…
You are standing in a burning bag of dogshit.

Happy Halloween!

Probably get myself thrown in jail. Terroristic threats or something, I’m sure. It’s all in the name of good fun, right?

Is it a Cult, or Just the Average Family?

The following article was cited as an authority for determining if the group you are thinking about joining is a cult or not.

THE PURPOSES AND TACTICS OF COERCIVE PERSUASION

FWIW, any group organized around an idea can be labeled a cult. Libertarianism, Real Money, Environmentalism, etc. Someone quite rightly labeled the board this was posted on as a cult. I just used FWIW (For What It’s Worth) a type of special language developed for conversations with ‘those in the know’, a telltale sign of ‘cult like’ behavior.

But are they cults? Cults are damaging to the individual, warping their individual will and stealing their wealth. People damage their lives spending too much time on the ‘net, too much time volunteering for political efforts, etc. Is it really any different?

I don’t like the term ‘cult’. It’s one of the words that gets applied simply to discredit an organization, prior to attempting to dismember it from the outside. Where does freedom of association fit into that sort of scenario?

With tongue firmly implanted in cheek, let’s look at another ‘cult’ that is prevalent in society. The cult of Family.

TACTIC 1. The individual is prepared for thought reform through increased suggestibility and/or “softening up,” specifically through hypnotic or other suggestibility-increasing techniques such as: A. Extended audio, visual, verbal, or tactile fixation drills; B. Excessive exact repetition of routine activities; C. Decreased sleep; D. Nutritional restriction.

New parents are subject to extreme sleep deprivation and nutritional restriction, and new routines are introduced and repeated frequently. Feeding times for a new baby occur every few hours for several months, interrupting all normal patterns of life previously known including sleeping and eating. Feeding, burping, diaper changing, etc. are all new routines which, while simple and easy to learn, must be repeated when the audio fixation drill (crying) occurs.

TACTIC 2. Using rewards and punishments, efforts are made to establish considerable control over a person’s social environment, time, and sources of social support. Social isolation is promoted. Contact with family and friends is abridged, as is contact with persons who do not share group-approved attitudes. Economic and other dependence on the group is fostered. (In the forerunner to coercive persuasion, brainwashing, this was rather easy to achieve through simple imprisonment.)

New parents are frequently trapped in their own homes for months at a time, with only the new cult member for company. Former family members are excluded in favor of the new family member. Any former friends without children find themselves unable to connect to the new parent due to unfamiliarity with the new group attitude.

TACTIC 3. Disconfirming information and nonsupporting opinions are prohibited in group communication. Rules exist about permissible topics to discuss with outsiders. Communication is highly controlled. An “in-group” language is usually constructed.

A child so ugly you’d have to hang a steak around his neck to get the dog to play with him, will always be described as a “beautiful baby” in the presence of the new parent. Every new cult member (hereinafter referred to as ‘the child’) is a genius according to the parent, even if the child attempts to eat every object that he can get his hands on.

As for an in-group language, does the phrase ‘baby talk’ mean anything to you?

TACTIC 4. Frequent and intense attempts are made to cause a person to re-evaluate the most central aspects of his or her experience of self and prior conduct in negative ways. Efforts are designed to destabilize and undermine the subject’s basic consciousness, reality awareness, world view, emotional control, and defense mechanisms as well as getting them to reinterpret their life’s history, and adopt a new version of causality.

Every confrontation with the child causes the new parent to reflect on interactions with their parents, and to inevitably fail in comparison. Everything in the parents world is reoriented on the child and his safety, there is no other valid concern in existence. A parent can frequently be found hovering near windows and doors that provide a view of the child at sleep or at play, so strong is the concern for safety even in a house and yard known to be without serious threat.

This is caused by the fact that the genius child will attempt to eat anything he finds, and many things which the parent did not perceive as a threat previously, are in fact deadly when swallowed.

There is no life before children, once you have had children. Don’t believe me? Try to remember a time without them. If you don’t have children, ask the parent sitting next to you to remember.

TACTIC 5. Intense and frequent attempts are made to undermine a person’s confidence in himself and his judgment, creating a sense of powerlessness.

If the average parent was paid a nickel for every time they heard “but Johnny’s parents let him do it”, there wouldn’t be a need for social security. All grandparents would be rich people. This is not to mention the tantrums, the wheedling and cajoling that goes on in addition to the citations of the superiority of other children’s parents.

When the attempts to undermine the parents judgment meet with failure, disobedience on the subject simply underlines the powerlessness of the parent.

TACTIC 6. Nonphysical punishments are used such as intense humiliation, loss of privilege, social isolation, social status changes, intense guilt, anxiety, manipulation and other techniques for creating strong aversive emotional arousals, etc.

You have no clue what humiliation is until your child is dusting the supermarket floor with his backside in a screaming fit because you won’t get him the cereal he wants.

This tactic is, in essence, the same as tactic two. Imprisonment could be considered a holiday compared to colic and 4 am feedings. Social isolation and status changes? Gimme a break.

TACTIC 7. Certain secular psychological threats [force] are used or are present: That failure to adopt the approved attitude, belief, or consequent behavior will lead to severe punishment or dire consequence, (e.g. physical or mental illness, the reappearance of a prior physical illness, drug dependence, economic collapse, social failure, divorce, disintegration, failure to find a mate, etc.).

Fail to do your part with the child, and the other parent will make you wish you had a drug dependency to fall back on as a crutch. All of the listed consequences can and will be used as threats by either parent to ensure the continued support of the child.

Additionally, the cult is perpetuated by the parent insisting on the need for grandchildren, which must be provided by the child as soon as it is of age to have children of it’s own. All of the above tactics will be applied to the child in turn in order to ensure that the cult of family continues into the next generation.


Editor’s note: 2017. I hate this entire flippant fucking post. If I hadn’t made a pact with myself not to delete shit off this fucking blog this would be fucking gone in an instant. I wrote it and I can’t even bring myself to read all the way through it. Chirpy, stupid, juvenile, simplistic, saccharine bullshit.

I think that pretty much covers it. I could go on and tell my old self just what I really think; you know, just not pull any punches, but I’m going to do this instead,

Polygamy was the norm in Carolyn Jessop’s life. After all, her own father had three wives by the time she was in fourth grade. Her family was part of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a radical offshoot of the Mormon Church. But Jessop’s own experience in the cult was so disturbing that she ran away with her eight children four years ago. Last month, the FLDS was in the news when its leader, Warren Jeffs, was found guilty of being an accessory to rape for forcing a 14-year-old girl in the group to marry her 19-year-old cousin. Jessop, 38, tells her extraordinary story in a riveting new book, Escape  

Time, Polygamy Survivor Carolyn Jessop 

 Here’s another one,

As O’Shea tells it, Jones’s idealism was a large part of what made him so lethal. He tapped into the zeitgeist of the late 1960s and 1970s, feeding on people’s fears and promising to create a “rainbow family” where everyone would truly be equal. He was charismatic enough to lure hundreds of people to a South American jungle, where he cut off all their ties with the outside world.

The Atlantic, Drinking the Kool-Aid: A Survivor Remembers Jim Jones

Another one,

If you have not heard of the Quiverfull movement, I’ll sum it up by saying that Quiverfull is an all-encompassing vision of a big, happy, godly family which affects every aspect of a so-called True Believer’s life. Probably the most recognizable Quiverfull family in America is reality TV’s Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting fame.

You’ll find Quiverfull families in nearly all types of churches in every community. Quiverfull is simply the “pro-life” idea that truly godly families will “trust the Lord” with their family planning. Children are viewed as unmitigated blessings (“As arrows in the hand of the mighty man, so are the children of ones youth, happy is the man who hath his quiver full of them:” Psalm 123), so couples are willing to have as many children as the Lord chooses. All methods of conception control are considered a lack of trust in God to provide for the “children of the righteous.”

At the heart of Quiverfull is patriarchy: the ideal of biblical headship and submission. This is the belief that by God’s perfect design, the father is the head of the home. The father serves as protector, provider and shepherd for his wife and children. He is primarily responsible for the wife’s and children’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and with such responsibility comes the (divinely granted) commensurate authority over the members of his household. According to this view, God works through the father and he serves as an intermediary for his wife and children. Honor, obedience and submission are highly valued qualities because they are necessary to maintain order and work together to accomplish the Lord’s vision for a godly family.

This emphasis on patriarchy guarantees that, to the degree in which a Christian family puts Quiverfull ideals into practice, the family is living a dysfunctional relationship dynamic which necessarily involves mental, emotional and spiritual abuse.

This was my life for over 16 years. Shunning birth control resulted in seven children, who we homeschooled and sheltered from “godless society.” But these days, I think Christian fundamentalism is just as bizarre as you do. After deconverting, I started a blog, No Longer Quivering, as a way to process my Quiverfull life and try to understand how I’d come to embrace such a fanatical lifestyle. Over time, NLQ has grown into a movement of women escaping and healing from spiritual abuse. I’ve met many people whose lives and families have been devastated by this ideology, and the stories they tell are heartbreaking.

RawStory, Vyckie Garrison, How I spent 16 years in an abusive, conservative Christian cult — and finally escaped

You may well ask at this point, how many of these will you be posting examples from? I’m asking the same thing myself right now. I’m thinking, until I feel the guilt from ever having written this piece is at least evenly leavened. Given my tendency to self-abuse, that might be a good long while.

I’ll let some unrepentant cult members have a say. They are unrepentant because they committed mass suicide together in 1997, believing that their essences would be captured by a spacecraft hidden in the tail of the comet Hale–Bopp,

H/T to Sam Harris’ Waking Up podcast ep. #7 for the link to this video.

I remember when this happened pretty vividly, pretty much the same way I thought I remembered the events in Jonestown, Guyana. Thought I remembered them and still wrote this stupid fucking article.

The most damning thing about this particular post is this; I wrote it at the time with the knowledge that the circles I was moving in were highly correlated with all the warning signs of cult behavior, and I refused to acknowledge it. I did not want my beliefs to be challenged. I wanted so fervently to be proven right about everything libertarians had been saying since libertarianism was founded in the 70’s. But most of it is bullshit, has always been bullshit.

The parts that aren’t bullshit? They are irrelevant due to the nature of power and the political systems none of us like but are stuck with anyway. If only we could agree on where to go from where we are now, we could fix most of the broken shit in the current system tomorrow. Too bad everyone is too busy screaming with their ears plugged to notice that no one is listening anymore.

But the harder subject to broach is, the subject of dysfunctional families and their effect on the children of those families. Dysfunctional families like my family was. Mercifully our family never included the sexual side of abusive relationships, but pretty much everything short of that were things that simply did not work in my family when I was growing up. The fact that my family experiences were so bad combined with the fact that the philosophy and politics I had adopted were deeply delusional made for a perfect storm of bad information that made me believe that making fun of mental health workers trying to deal with real trauma would be amusing to anyone else aside from me. For that I do sincerely apologize. 

Steele Penny Pub & Los Lonely Boys

This is a blog entry I’ve been threatening my brother with for a long time. I just can’t put it off any longer though, not with The Stones playing in town tonight; and opening for The Stones (perhaps the oldest and still most popular rock band actively touring these days) one of the newest bands to hit the charts, Los Lonely Boys.

Last week they were featured at Austin City Limits Festival, and this week they are opening for The Stones. They’ve hit the big time, these three guys from San Angelo, thanks in no small part to my brother.

Why my brother? Let me tell you a story…

There was a little place in San Angelo called the Steel Penny Pub, one of the few places in that town where you could go to get good cold beer and great live music. My brother opened the venue with the intention of creating a place for his band Hazytrane to play, only to discover that the demands of owning a business took up too much time for him to continue pursuing his own musical career. Not too long after starting the Pub, his band folded up and went their separate ways. The lead guitarist became a lawyer. I still can’t wrap my head around that transition.

What he did instead of featuring his own band was to look around for another house band to fill the void that was left where his band used to be. What he found was Los Lonely Boys. Even though (as this article notes) they were underage at the time, Russ gave the boys the job, and they honed their already impressive skills playing several nights a week at the pub.

I would really like to say “I heard Los Lonely Boys at the Steel Penny Pub” but I was a professional architect working in another town, and I didn’t have time to fool around with music in those days. Somehow I managed to miss all of their performances there. Luckily for them, Willie Nelson didn’t. While in town for a show of his own, Willie stopped by the Pub and heard Los Lonely Boys for the first time, and recognized their talent right away. Within a few months they were playing at festivals and concerts alongside Willie Nelson, and not too long after that their first album debuted.

…And the rest is history. Heaven (not my favorite song on the album, but definitely a very catchy tune) reached the top ten, and stayed there for 18 weeks. My brother handed over management of the Pub to his business partner, and went on the road with Los Lonely Boys as their road manager for nearly two years. It was quite a ride.

I finally got to see & hear Los Lonely Boys play at Antones here in Austin, early in their first tour. I’ve never seen anybody play guitar like these guys can. If you get a chance to see them live, you’ll kick yourself later if you don’t take the time to go see them play. Live is the way to experience most music; and live is without a doubt the best way to experience Los Lonely Boys music. You just won’t know what it’s really like until then.

The last time I saw them was in the largest ever attending crowd (30,00 plus) for the Town Lake summer concert, which they turned into a concert video. And now they are opening for The Stones tonight. I know where my brother is going to be. Wouldn’t mind being in his shoes tonight, not one bit.

Board Art

Been hanging out with a local artist lately, trying to help her get her latest art project ready to display. She submitted a proposal to Austin GuitarTown, and was overjoyed when they accepted it.

…and then the scope of the work to be done looms overhead, just like any deadline in any business with deadlines (are there any without?) but, with the last minute efforts finally completed, it’s time to relax.

Modern art really isn’t my thing; but I have to say, the boards create an interesting effect on the body of the guitar. I’m hoping the rest of the viewing public agrees.

S.C. Essai is “not just another scuzzi artist”

Who’s birthday is it, again?

I like to experience my birthdays in a low-key fashion. No party, no celebration, just some quiet time at home. It took years to convince the wife that I really didn’t need a surprise party on my birthday (I’ve since found out that she does, so I dutifully attempt to plan one each year) it was just too unnerving, wondering when I was going to be ambushed. It’s been several years since the last party, and I haven’t missed it.

This year we went to Schlitterbahn for my birthday. How’s that for low-key? Well the kids loved it, and they are what is important to me these days.

So, I’m finally sitting at home enjoying my well earned quiet time, and the phone rings. It’s my mom. My mom, who is in California with her mom, on my birthday. Not here with me (not that it’s surprising, but the next part is) on my birthday, but in the even more distant (from Mom’s locus operandi, Albuquerque, New Mexico) She’s in Sacramento, California for her mom’s birthday. This is when I find out, for the first time, that my maternal Grandmother’s birthday is the day after mine. You’d think someone would have mentioned it in the intervening 40+ years, wouldn’t you?

Not if you knew my maternal Grandmother. This is the woman who was lovingly referred to as “The Wicked Witch of the West” for most of my childhood years. This is the woman who, when informed of the wife and my impending wedding plans said “I wouldn’t bother.” (If I was feeling generous I would hope she meant we should elope and save the wedding money, but I doubt that was the true motivation. It certainly didn’t come across that way.) The grandmother who doesn’t even know that she has great-grandchildren living in my house. The only reason I ever had kind words for her was because she was married to my sweet old Grandfather. Him I’d take time to talk to, or go out of my way to visit (it was on one of those visits when the wife earned the animosity of the rest of the family by putting the wicked witch in her place. It’s funny how family can be endlessly cruel to each other, but can’t abide it when it comes from the figurative outsider) but he’s been gone for several years now.

I do try to keep track of birthdays. I’m far from perfect about it, but I do try. Whether or not someone celebrates their birthday it remains an important day in a person’s life and I like to know when to pass on birthday wishes if I’m presented with an opportunity. Consequently I was a little surprised that I didn’t have Grandma’s birthday noted in my calendar even with the past relationship that we have had. This was a fact that I laughingly related to my mom, along with the fact that I didn’t even have contact information for her to append the birthday to, because I couldn’t imagine why I would ever need to talk to her.

My Mom’s response? “Well here she is, wish her a happy birthday!” I could hear my mental fabric ripping at that point. My side of the conversation went like this;

Hi, Grandma. Happy Birthday!”
“Yes, today is my birthday, and yours is tomorrow, isn’t that funny?”
“You didn’t know that today was my birthday?”
“Yes, I’m getting forgetful these days, too. Well, talk to you later.”

My mother calls me on my birthday so that I can wish a happy birthday to a relative that I mercifully have not thought of for years. A grandparent that hadn’t bothered to remember or mark the birthdays of the children of her only daughter. Ever. As in, she never called. She never sent gifts. She never uttered a peep or spent a cent on a birthday for me or my siblings, ever. That is how I will remember her, and I’m reminded of this fact on my birthday.

Thanks Mom. I think I’ll surprise her with a suitably equivalent gift next year. A car repossession, or perhaps an IRS audit. Something that reflects the thoughtfulness of the gift. From now on, on my birthday, I will be reminded that the WWW’s birthday is the very next day. Something to truly look forward to.

At least mom called. I guess.

Car Trips

Heading out in about 5 hours to deliver the children to their grandparents for a few weeks of vacation (theirs or ours, it’s hard to guess) and I suddenly realize just how much I’ve come to hate sitting in a car.

I used to hunger for the freedom that a car represented; and when I finally got my drivers license, you couldn’t get me out of the vehicle except to sleep. I’d plan trips like the impending one to the nth degree, mapping out which way to go, picking just the right music; and I’d spend the day proceeding it cleaning every inch of the vehicle inside and out.

These days I don’t notice the car is dirty until I can’t see out the windows. I don’t even want to talk about sitting. Legs hurt, hips hurt, back hurts; and you just have to sit there. Music is secondary now, too. If we’re lucky, the wife and I will hit a good conversation rhythm, and we won’t even notice the radio is off.

I don’t drive by myself any more, maybe that’s what’s different. I doubt it, though. Given a choice, I’ll play the passenger rather than have to concentrate on driving for hours at a time.

Maybe car trips are like the other trips; drug trips specifically. At first it’s a mind blowing change, to be in control and able to do anything (at least in your own mind, which is where it counts when it comes to trippin’) and then as the number of trips piles up, they start turning into bad trips, and you wonder why you ever wanted to do that shit in the first place.

…Or maybe I just need to take up flying.


I made it back alive though. It’s always a wonder when that happens, even though it has happened every time. It could always happen next time. There is a cheerful thought.