RIVER OF DOUBT

Candice Millard

This involved tale of exploration succeeds remotely. When reading J.H. Parry’s two books about Renaissance exploration of the oceans, I was amused when Parry would correct the location (navigation) of the place because the ocean currents did not conform to the records stated in the original sources. River of Doubt does not make such corrections. I do not have a sense that the author has traveled along the river.

This tale presents Theodore Roosevelt as someone who is a reckless adventurer and somewhat of a flake. No one knew the type and quantity of goods for the exhibition until three weeks along the trail. Someone looks. They are carrying Rhine Water, along with lots of other useless stuff. Much of it is abandoned. Neither Roosevelt nor Rondon (Brazilian) inspected or determined the anything was wrong until underway too far into the exhibition – lives have been damaged or lost, and will be. Note also, on this long trip into the jungle, Roosevelt has a bum leg; his son, Kermit, malaria.

It seems completely improbable Roosevelt would have gone off without reading anything about exploring rivers. During his life time books were written by such explorers: Richard Burton (Tanzania, Nile, 1860); Richard Speek (Nile, Lake Victoria, @1860); Henry Stanley (Nile, Congo River 1880); John Wesley Powell (Grand Canyon 1870) Certainly, Roosevelt knew that quinine inhibited the transmission of malaria. River of Doubt finally mentions quinine (p. 250) but the standard medical practice for prescribing quinine in 1914 is not given in the text. Roosevelt, himself, only had to ask his good friend, Leonard Wood, for advice. [About that page in the tale Roosevelt is hot with a malarial condition.] I might conclude that Roosevelt recklessly neglected quinine, or the author dropped quinine into the story as an afterthought.

The author has told a tale of the Central Amazon. Because journals, diaries, specie collections and exhibition records are incomplete or missing, she tells about the geography, flora and fauna very well. These environmental chapters, extending almost as far as the Amazon River is broad, carry the book and make it readable. She cannot tell of the full horrors of the place, except if half of any exhibition party returns, it has been a successful venture. The environmental chapters allow for the calendar to proceed. It replaces what might be available if all the sources were available: March 3, 1914, the party stopped her; disagreement between X and Y. This is the outcome. My only question is about vicinage: Are the flora and fauna described unique to the River of Doubt or are they found everywhere else in the Amazon basin?

An issue issue of biography arises from the text. It is not fully explored. Roosevelt was 53 years old. He suffered personal/psychological set backs when he lost the elections of 1912. Until that year Roosevelt had no defining potentially defeating events since his Rough Rider Days, when he was 40 years old. He takes up this exploration in an effort “to forge his own happiness.” (276) Yet at 54 he is injured, old, fat and out of shape. He knows a year of hardship and disease await him. He should not go within 500 miles of the River of Doubt. No one tells him not to go. Yet, was Roosevelt incapable of “forging his own happiness” in anyway, other than the means he devised in youth?

The answer to this question is obvious. Roosevelt physically and mentally failed. He also created conditions which led to his early death.

BORDER WALL

Should the United States Congress fund the border wall? NO. Don Trump made a sacred promised, forged by fire, to the American people that the Mexicans, not Americans will pay for the border wall.

Don Trump should not let the Mexicans breach one of his sacred promises. He has not publicly demanded that the Mexicans pay for it. Mexico may not realize they have an obligation. Don Trump should admit if the Mexicans do not fund the border wall, the wall will not be built.

Americans should give the Mexicans more time. There are many issues:

The Mexicans should know what the tax rate is on this new construction. Is any part of the wall deductible? Does the wall affect the free flow of money, north and south?

Who pays health care? With the status of health care uncertain in the United States, wall funding and construction cannot be determined until health care is resolved, so employers know what the landscape looks like for five years.

Don Trump must waive any requirement that only USA made ingredients go into wall construction. If the Mexicans are paying, they will use Mexican (yet North American) steel, cement, plastics, rocks and bricks. They should use Mexican plans. Mexican materials are durable; the construction is sound. Missions in California have survived earthquakes and floods. Those buildings have been in place ten times longer than any edifice Don Trump has ever erected. And architecturally the missions are much more pleasing than glass, steal, plastic and cement towers.

If the Mexicans are paying to construct the border wall, they should be equally allowed to hire Mexicans to do the work. Those workers should NOT be arrested and deported while working on the wall, only the next day to grant them entry into the country and later they will be arrested and deported. These workers should be granted documents so everyone, Mexicans and Americans, knows who everyone else is.

The wall should be built according to American standards, none of the fly-by-night construction leaving a trail of 100 law suits against the general contractor or the owner. Labor must be protected. There are volumes of labor statutes, already enacted and in the books, to guarantee worker’s rights. Everyone must follow the law.

Having made sacred promises to the American people about the border wall, Don Trump cannot flip his principles like he’s selling teepees and go against American ways. It is the free market, free enterprise, unfettered competition. If the Mexicans are paying for materials so their own labor will have jobs to do this foreign aid project on American soil, those workers would be treated as well as any other worker at a job in America.

CRIME I

I’ve watched enough Crime Shows on ID and elsewhere, for background into police investigations, criminal activities, and cops and robbers. I might write about that stuff in the future. Here’s my rundown.

ONE, Do not be upset any thing a member of your family does or says. Do not be upset by any situation coming from within a family. Everyone in your family, including yourself, is a knucklehead. Be doubly thankful you only have to see those people once or perhaps twice a year, always smiling while you’re outright plastered, stoned or drooling.

TWO, Almost every one involved in a crime is guided by the worst base instincts, reinforced by low intelligence – moron, retard or imbecile. There is never any reason, logic, thought or discipline.

THREE, The lamest reason to kill are slights or disrespect. That reason usually indicates the criminal is so weak, he is hardly capable of remaining bipedal.

FOUR, Victims are plenty stupid. They are weak, have no reason, have no ability to observe, and cannot draw conclusions from the simplest facts and the most obvious behaviors before and around them. Some women think having a man be violent around them, means that man loves them. Note that victims prefer to remain innocent and surprised, if not delighted, until they are murdered.

FIVE, Always lock the doors of your dwelling and office. No community in America today should have an open door policy.

SIX, Be careful when dating a male who has been violent, arrested or has a long police record. A psychologist is likely to declare that man treated and cured. But psychologists like to lie; they make money lying to courts, prison officials, doctors, victims and the police. Lies are how psychologists make money.
[Note as a potential story, longtime shrink approves release of prisoner who then kills. Of course the prisoner/perpetrator is guilty. But can the shrink be discredited (impeached) by 20 previous misdiagnoses. American court let victims sue professionals for malpractice in the exercise of their professions. Can a crime victim or a family sue the shrink for malpractice?]

SEVEN, In any marriage the lack of money is usually a problem. If a spouse is going to Goodwill or to Ross on special occasions, the other other spouse shops at malls, those actions will grind away love and end in murder.

EIGHT, Obviously dating perpetrators and victims are tremendously immature. Neither knows who they are or who the other person is. The relationship never gets past, I’m the man for this pretty little girl. The guy has been looking at Internet porn for five years and figures he knows what to do. The girl is a step away from playing with dolls and giggling with girlfriends about boys in bathing suits. This is hardly sexist or a diminishment of American womanhood. An adolescent girl beginning middle school is much less mature than a savvy 17 year old lady.

NINE, Will Rogers advised (paraphrased), If you’re heading the herd, turn back every once in a while to see if anyone is following.
Americans are individuals in society and isolated. Look around everyone once in a while to see who is following. Sometimes it is good to take heed.
This is appropriate for parents loading and unloading children into cars. A family is vulnerable at this time. Get that routine down so it is automatic, thorough and quick.

TEN, Unless you are involved in Criminal Activities, always leave GPS or location markers (installed or absent) in your car; leave them on your phone [The U.S. government does not listen because they know most Americans are crushing bores. It’s the only way to explain how the government treats us.] If your computer has apps or locations markers, install them.

ELEVEN, Have common sense. If you are new to town, wait a spell before dating the prettiest girl or the most handsome hunk. Try to live alone; get your bearings. Don’t join roommates who don’t have common interests with you i.e. education, job, religion. If new to an area, keep a diary or a log, and explore until there is a map of the area within your brain.

TWELVE, Sometimes, meet anyone you date more than once before going on future dates. Don’t go on dates where plans are changed from a public place, to a private, secluded or secretive location.

THIRTEEN, Don’t believe anything anyone tells you online: age, location, occupation, photographs, likes and dislikes. How might anyone know the man or boy of her dreams does not have a job? He responds immediately after you send him an involved email or greeting during the day.

FOURTEEN, Sure firearms kill people. So do knives, screwdrivers, icepicks, hammers, tire irons, automobiles, clubs, ropes, wires, scarves and many other instruments, pieces of apparel or tools. Women and men should all be acquainted with and be able to use these means of improving civilization in their most useful ways.

FIFTEEN, Today, there will be witnesses to almost every act by every human being – microphones, recordings, videotape, security cameras, electronic memories and data collection and a less reliable witness, human beings.

DEAR MARK TWAIN – Letters from his Readers

Apparently everyone in the nineteenth century is like present-day readers. Readers wrote to Mark Twain,
1. To get autographs in return (usually unsuccessful);
2. For advice about careers and writing;
3. To praise or criticize a Twain writing;
4 To superimpose one of their recent experiences on an episode in one of Twain’s works.
5. To learn where to buy the best editions of Twain’s work. [There letters were always
passed onto appropriate persons or businesses.]
6. To announce a new charity, or ask Twain to support publicly an existing charity.

Twain himself does not handle contact with the public well. He takes everything head-on, matter-of-factly and briefly, the tenor of the correspondence. The letters hardly enter the literary world where Twain works – essays, short stories. articles, novels and notes to close friends (Rogers, Howells). Twain does not purposefully neglect the common crowds; there are only 200 letters in this volume which seem representative. Twain may have received 200 or more letters per week. He had to allocate his time.

I cannot thoroughly recommend this book; I cannot completely disregard this book. The text tells a successful author almost everything to expect from a reading public. I was surprised that nineteenth century readers were interested in further stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Twain tried many; published a few. But platform fiction was not his forte. [Imagine Huck and Tom in the 1850s in the antebellum South; Consider Hank and Tom participating in the Civil War from 1861-1865; Dream of Hank and Tom during the Guilted Age.]

CRIMINAL MINDS

The TV show has taken a bad turn with Reid in the slammer. Last night’s segment ended with a team member interviewing Reid in the pokey. Next came the ads. I hit the fast forward button, but there was a toilet paper holder with a frog decoration, I believe. I continued hitting the button but slowed when I got to crash dummies. I thought these adds really fit and support the Reid in prison story.

I can’t remember the next ads but at the end of the break I was disappointed. I wanted to return to reality: Jackie Johnson did not come on to give a teaser about tomorrow’s [today’s] weather.

NO NOVELIST HERE

I bought 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, Jane Smiley, and wondered if it was also overblown and overwritten. Yes, it is. The laudatory sentence on the back cover underneath the author’s photograph has errors in it. It states that Smiley possesses a mastery of craft. Mastery is difficult to justify and not complimentary. Stating there is a facility of craft suggests an acuity and uniqueness unmatched in others; they are essential traits in all literature: Every story has its own style and its own way of telling – the characters, the setting and the events are different. Having a facility means the author tells one story from another without effort. If mastery is the standard, there is trouble e.g. A Thousand Acres, derived from King Lear by William Shakespeare. Did old Bill got a lot of stuff wrong or loose in the original?

Next buyers of the book learn Smiley has “an uncompromising vision.” Is this the same uncompromising vision held by that politician, aka the orange turd? The word vision needs no adjective, no adverb, no particle modifying it. Visions are brain images which the brain uses to compile and put together persons, settings and events, essentials to a story. Saying that a story is uncompromising, or a vision is so wrong. The effort is not in its adamancy. Work accomplished by visions are sustained. Visions become continuous, prompting the imagination to prolong them.

When critics like authors use adjectives to puff a piece, inflate a book or aggrandize a writing, the language should be exacting and specific. Otherwise, persons reading the outside of the book [like in the movie Tropical Thunder] may infer an improperly put comment may reflect the author’s abilities, masteries and visions.

MAKE A MOVIE

It had to come up, and it did. I was exchanging views about Congressional Investigations into everything Russian, including ingredients for Ruskie salad dressing. My opponent said that the two elderly Republican senators were unAmerican. I stopped and asked for a clarification. The senators were anti-Trump which likely means they are full-red-blooded American males who are anti-Russian.

I asked, “Do you know of a book called The Manchurian Candidate?” There was hemming, hawing and harrumphing. “Perhaps you saw the movie?” Frank Sinatra was in the first which suffered from the lack of good song and dance, an absence of Marilyn Monroe and no hint of ballet.

There was a second The Manchurian Candidate, but I never saw it. I don’t know which big stars were in it; it was therefore a dud.

Now is the time to remake The Manchurian Candidate – third time’s a charm. I’m very encouraged. It’s good for business when Americans have had had Presidents whose career and job performance generate movies. Bill Clinton had loads of movies made about him – President as murderer; President as philanderer; President as corrupt. Bush and Obama were cinematographically uninteresting. But the new guy – let’s see what entertainment does with him.

In The Tall Grass

Stephan King, Joe Hill

I have no idea why this story appeared in Esquire four years ago, and it is written by more one author. It does not appear difficult to write; it is poorly conceived and not well written.

At the end as a throw away thought to fill the space, a character thinks, I bet all of Kansas looked that way before people came and spoiled it all. NOPE! Before people came to Kansas at least 5,000,000 bison went north and south over that state every year eating all the grass. When Native Americans came, they set prairie fires to make hunting and traveling more convenient. There was very little tall grass in Kansas before whitey showed up. [Note Native Americans also set forest fires east of the Mississippi River to make hunting and agriculture easier. Those lands became “park” lands.]

In The Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper by Mark Twain, the critic itemizes many paragraphs involving characters in a novel which offend literary sensibilities. Likewise these authors fail [which one I don’t know]. At any time during a story, the reader should be able to guess what a character will do. Not in this story. That is an impossibility.

Man [Cal] and woman [Becky] have been friends since childhood. They grow up. She becomes pregnant, but the child is not his. They decide to cross the continent by car when they stop in Kansas. By accepting Becky Cal becomes the biggest protagonist sap in all literature.

They stop at dilapidated buildings. The story does not add mystery or unsettle the reader by noting that settlement is no longer on modern maps. They hear a voice beseeching help, coming from an adjoining field. Cal and Becky want to help. They each venture in, at different times, and each gets lost, I think. They chase Tobin, a native Kansan who easily makes his way around because he uses tunnels constructed by the mole people of whom he is related. Throughout the hike there are many statements: The grass is tall. Becky and Cal yell at one another but have no idea where the other is. They don’t know where Tobin is. In one sentence the voice sounds like it came from a Manitoba mine 1000 miles north. It is a poor simile. Having read to that sentence I did not care if they ever left the field, or if they found one another, in Manitoba or Kansas. Essentially, the authors are not writing about real or representative human beings.

I suppose there are items (a red rock) to use for metaphors, like Dorothy’s Ruby Red shoes in The Wizard of Oz. If any reader does not believe the ending of The Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home,” no reader will be happy with the red stone derivation in this story.

There is no reason given why Cal or Becky decide to stop and follow the voice into the tall grass. Following the observations of each character the reader can guess: The characters are morons, idiots, imbeciles, retards and simpletons. Readers are exposed to one nonsensical action after another; none amounts to an effective novella. A big question arises: Do either Becky or Cal have search and rescue work as a life experience? NOPE. Never once is Tobin told to stay where he is and yell. Most search and rescue work personnel have an internal compass – north, south, etc. They would estimate the metes and bounds of the area to be searched and go no further, keeping track of how many footsteps (or time) have been taken in one direction. Most search and rescuers will not look in very dense vegetation, a natural setting sounding more like Vietnam than the prairies of Kansas. It also is reminiscent of the nineteenth century United States Army in very similar terrain trying the round up and placate the Native Americans in Florida.

Somewhere, there may be a great psychological twist in the story. I don’t know where it is, and I discount it as a contrivance.

REVIEW: NEW YORK TIMES

Delivered to the house was the magazine WIRED (March 2017). I’ve perused it and have comments.

On the cover is a photograph of A.G. Sulzberger, editor/publisher/owner of the New York Times. He appears to be middle age, is bald, mediocre posture of an undead person, and wearing dark clothes he is ready to conduct funerals. It looks very Nineteenth Century – pose, distant vision, presentation of person, but that’s it. None of that works today, 2017.

Inside Sulzberger says that everyone appear and be normal human beings. Nothing about Sulzberger suggests he is a homo sapiens sapiens. He looks like an android sent from another planet to scout out prospects on earth. He is less threatening than Arnold Schwarzenegger, but looks built by the same machine-owned firm that put Arnold together for those movies. Trying to soften Sulzberger’s image, they have him wearing eye glasses, circa 1935 frames.

There are many problems with the New York Times, the most basic ones are not identified in the article. Indeed, one paragraph in the article presents New York Times’ major flaws:

Four books after the election, Times chief executive Mark Thompson
told an industry conference that subscriptions had surged at 10 times
their usual rate. To Thompson, the likeliest explanation wasn’t that
the times did a bang-up job covering the final days of the election –
like everyone else, they failed to anticipate Trump’s victory – that that
readers were looking to hedge against fake news. He suggests a simpler
reason: “I think the public anxiety to actually have professional,
consistent, properly funded newsrooms holding politicians to account
is probably bigger than all of the other factors put together.” In other
words, the president’s hostility to the press and the very notion of facts
themselves seems to have reminded people that nothing about The New
York Times – or the kind of journalism it publishes – is inevitable.

This passage, page 53, like most most journalistic writing is overwrought. 1) It can be cut: ELIMINATE “In other words” and everything after it. 2) Another explanation (third line) is most likely: Democrats and anti-Trump persons believed they missed something, which The New York Times picked up. They ended subscriptions to other newspapers and started up with the gorilla on the block. 3) The admitted failure of The Times and everyone else to predict a Trump victory suggests a grave issue. The Times was believing its own press, it’s own sources, all its fans, it’s own wave. 4) Journalists are supposed to talk to the other side, which many people, Left or Right, have difficulty doing. One wonders if The Times talks to people on the right, or if their reporters have shut their mouths now that new immigration policies are being put into effect. Polls suggest those are popular measures among Americans. [Remember, don’t conduct any penetrating political polling in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania before the election.]

Other than who is being talked to and reported, what are the facts – misstatements, misconceptions, pure truth. No knows what that is sitting in New York City wondering about an Internet site at the New York Times offices. [This segment is greatly shortened.] All journalism comes from excellent writing, and that is where the Internet and word processing becomes a hinderance. Everything is spelled correctly; words appear to be in the proper order. There are too many words – say eight words where two will do. The Internet has space to waste, not the usual newspaper adage. All those reporters who grew up and got an “A” in eighth grade English, have pyramided that excellence into a newspaper career. They’re still writing at middle-school levels, with the juvenile, horrifying reactions to the unusual, the absurd and the foreign.

Every immaterial, irrelevant reaction part of perceived fad-culture is presented in an article. That is not journalism. What may be journalism is the fact that people believe such temporary moments as important, where as in the long haul, they are not. Newspapers hire journalists for their perspective, but most journalists hooked onto the Internet truly believe in these cultural misunderstandings – it might be 5,000 people without tickets to a concert and they are disappointed. Time to riot. Let’s feel sorry for them? [Is the story about the 5,000 standing around outside waiting for the concert to end? What else is on their mind? Is this the best thing any of the 5,000 can do with time?]

Are journalists trained and do they understand everything? The easiest thing to do is hand them a straightforward story, and learn how many cliches are included in the proffered article. The more cliches, the less understanding.

Keep reporters away from the two-pager in Wired. How to grow your own pot. That will kill initiative, except to cultivate and smoke, and wither away brain cells the user never knew were present. It’s not called dope for nothing.

This final most significant point in the Wired New York Times article suggests doom for the newspaper. It’s not that the Ploughkeepsie Times is stealing advertising dollars. It is not competition from the ankle bitters like the Huffington Post take a few bucks. The big player in the room came in a few years ago, new to newspapers but forever familiar with the internet. Jeff Bezos of Amazon bought The Washington Post, lock, stock and barrel, and likely The Post does not have the Internet issues complicating life at the NY Times. Instead, Bezos must only work to cultivate writing and writers, the most important part of any newspaper. If the Internet is presenting a new way at looking at the world (needs color, illustrations, pictures, cartoons), do it! Recognize newspapers are competing against the Super Bowl, World Series, the Best Voice, Great Dancer shows, Wiccan Conventions and every musician to touch a fiddle.

CAMPAIGN 2016

The American people now see the pitiful results of the November election. Don Trump is a human being who lacks a sense of humor and a sense of the ridiculous. Thereby he missed last night’s Correspondents’ Dinner.

It was painfully obvious that humor, ridiculousness and folly were not the traits of human behavior that Hillary Clinton enjoyed. However, her wide exposure trained her to laugh and properly react on cue, however awkwardly. Her laugh occasionally soared uncontrollably, snapping me to attention. My ears were relieved when it ended.

I’ve never seen Don Trump laugh. It is senseless to expect the Presidency to change so basic a behavior. Like Richard Nixon, one can start digging, and no one will ever hear the screams.