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Dispatches from Boulder the Damned
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Previous Week

Friday, July 04, 2014

So, the colorization process is getting better.  This is George Custer and his crew in the Civil War when he is in his early 20's, and on his way to three stars brevet rank.  I remain interested - barely - in the Last Stand solely because it is an easy entry into American history back and forwards, and it is handy for entry into the Great War in 1914, which centennial is about to begin in August.  I cannot but recommend The Proud Tower and the Guns of August, both by Barbara Tuchman and neither improved upon by other works in their half century of existence.  She was as excellent a writer as her discipline has ever produced, but of course she was in many ways self taught in it and not actually of it, which gets her resentment given her two Pulitzers, one for Guns and another for her study of Stilwell in China.  I like her because she lists her prejudices (she is not fond of Germany, go figure) so the reader isn't fooled, but I've noted nothing that felt warped because of it. Or hidden.  

She is funny, insightful, brilliant.  And amid all the screams about plagiarism and error about near all her contemporaries, starting with Ambrose, she is untouched.  She falls in love with men in the past, primarily Balfour in the Proud Tower, but Tom Reed as well.  Her family was deeply involved in the era, her grandfather and cousins have been high ranked in national and state governments, and the emotional tugs can be felt but are not deforming.  

At any rate, I've been trying to cough out a piece on the first modern and most ridiculously pointless arms race, the one that led directly to WWI, and Custer and a British admiral are near twins in personalities if not social status and their fates meld well but to different outcomes.  I might have missed it, as so many have, but for Tuchman.  Conveniently, it reflects on the current arms races here and about.

In the last few weeks we here in Boulder have had a few humdinger thunderstorms, and near every day has brought the welcome dark clouds over the mountains and into our lives.  I say welcome because even the floods don't scare as much as fire, and the rapid manner in which all moisture evaporates of late, not matter how much snow melt (150% of normal) and rain (a lot) fire danger is always there, just under the gossamer of the seemingly pleasant forecast.  The tree pictured is only about four blocks from me and I heard it hit as it raised me about four feet off my bed and somehow did not break every window in the city, although it got not a few.  Keeps us honest, I guess.

Below is the northern end of the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides of Scotland, off the west coast. In summer, the sun sets about 11PM and rises at 0230 it seems, and in the winter the 45 minutes of sunlight a day probably are terrifying given the huge arctic storms that hammer down up there not far from the arctic circle.

The Isle of Skye is the home to the MacLeods, or so it is said, but 'we' have a castle there and assorted parcels including a mountain range of sorts and fishing rights and all that.  It's very confusing, and given the rightful Chief is an Australian bartender who has no interest in running things (given a zero budget) we have only vague connections as a family unlike when Dame Flora, all 4 feet and perhaps an inch of her, was the Chief in the 50's and 60's.  Still, it's nice to see such German like care of the land and husbandry in the far north where the lighthouse is undoubtedly covered with foam and sea much of the freezing months.

If the ocean rises as much as feared, this will be a memory soon enough.

Friday, June 13, 2014

So, welcome to Brazil!  This week: the World Cup! And in two years, the Olympics!  Here are Brazillian police in their new duds that again give credence to the assertion that all the annoying things in science fiction comes true but very little of the good.  If these were painted white, they're out of The Empire Strikes Back.  I assume it's all bullet proof absent the creases, and that it's still light enough for movement.  But in Brazil at the equator or near, how god awful would it be to have to physically work in such an outfit.  

This is not the warm and fuzzies that police probably need to project, and it does look pretty terrifying which is surely the point if these guys are mandated for quick insertion, but ye Gods, if this is what is needed by mere police on the beat, that nation has more issues than we do.

If you have not seen John Oliver's take down of FIFA, I don't believe you, but if somehow you have missed it, try it here. Also, you have to see his destruction of General Motors two weeks previous.  It's a terrific show.

Already, local authorities have had to kill two young bears, one that was dying and one that was annoying.  That's a lot early in the season.  Boulder has mandated bear proof garbage cans, but I'm still under the impression it's the odor that attracts the bears, and they'd have to have repeated frustrations at every house before light dawns or fat, clumsy deer beckons them back into the mountains.  Of course, the various 'sides' in this issue cannot help themselves.  Those that want a bear hunting season again and those that want either 1) fewer people, 2) people devoted to caring for the bears, 3) a magic dream where peace prevails and bears play with puppies and are available for baby sitting at a moment's notice for a reasonable rate and all concurrent with the idiocy that - somehow - people are not part of nature, and are unnatural, and they themselves have no responsibility for anything that goes wrong.

I'm inching closer to having a hunting season, absent the fact most people with hunting licenses aren't hunters and lousy shots.  I'm not big on arrows, either, but it requires more skill and proximity, and certainly danger with bears.  But, I foresee wounded bears dying later in some agony.  So.......what to do.

The thing about the bear proof containers is that they ain't pheromone proof, and what attracts the bears in the first place will turn to irritation if they can't get it.  I don't know what the learning curve is, or if it exists for a limited area.  

Atop else, Boulder is looking at a city broadband network, which many have done and which would stick it to Comcast and Verizon, our two non-competitor competitors. This is somewhat easier for the public to understand than the muni project, where Boulder becomes an electric distributor for itself and others. So, this ought to be a sure thing.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

So, on this hallowed Hallmark holiday, a Happy Mom Day to all you, eh, mothers, and wishes for many more. And for those whose idea of a holiday is one without the screaming kids and dogs and husband, but one of silence, sleep and staring at relaxing views from a reclined position with a refreshing beverage - at least for a significant portion of the day - I hear ya.  Don't feel remotely guilty about it: it's owed.

The infant armadillo and its Mom, above, look about as composed and relaxed as anyone being gussied up for a photo shoot, but they are such odd creatures with few of the aspects - like big expressive eyes - humans associate with the attractive and cute. Yet, they radiate such contentment and happiness in each other's company that you don't notice or care.  Given the road kill quotient, I don't know how the dillo's are doing in the southern states of residence (and, I hear, sometimes in southern Colorado), but they surely aren't overpopulated and its nice to know they're not threatened as a species. The dillo is near blind, has great smell, and when surprised jumps straight up in the air, which I read is how even when you try to not hurt them at night in a car, and speedily rush over them centered between your wheels they don't help themselves.

I now read because of lack of predators, they do well, and have extended into Illinois and South Carolina. Given they are a threat to near nothing, all to the good.

That said, here in Boulder the Damned, we're due 8-10 inches of snow through Monday noon, if you can believe it.  It's heavy snow now which is, in the manner of all spring snows, wet and heavy.  I was awakened by what I think and hope was the CO2 alarm announcing that it was on battery power for about four hours, if I can judge. So: trees down, and Xcel Energy is out there with chain saws and a small amount of courage to keep the lines up and functioning.  Standing on metal lifts around high power lines in a snow storm with wind and wet with grabby, bouncing chain saw in action isn't safe, no matter how you slice it.  So long as I don't miss Game of Thrones, I'll be fine.  Always with a sense of proportion and value, I am.

This is normally great news for farmers and Colorado in general: lots of water over the spring seedings that will slowly melt and be absorbed rather than run off and gullied by mere rain.  And, the snow is real heavy in the mountains which normally bodes well for a long extended run off and a green and blossomed summer.  Hear, hear!  Like that, of course.

But, last September, after prolonged droughtish weather, we had the Indian Ocean equivalent of water dumped upon us, providing wide, deep, and long lasting floods unmatched in our history.  It was not the constricted and more intense flood that scored out Big Thompson in '76, but it was a horror.  So, huge water buildup is not the unquestioned good thing that high deserts like Boulder live for.  We're seen the back side, and it can be awful.

All of this is coming into play as Boulder the City and Boulder the County face some harsh choices in the near future.  The City is about to push the Go button on municipalization of its electric grid portion, condemn Xcel's structures, and give the citizens a city owned system.  Supporters feel that such would allow us to get our energy easier and faster from more 'green' sources than Xcel's stockholders and other internal power agents would allow.

The most important thing to me, though, is the image it gives Boulder as it becomes more and more a high tech start up center and production center.  We have uncommonly impressive, cutting edge, and successful firms all through the county, and having the municipality controlling much (gas would still be Xcel) of the grid and rates and distribution, it strikes me as something that would allow future and bigger high tech build ups to get approval and ecologically sound help to flow quicker to fruition without Xcel.  May not, there's no way to be sure and I cannot pretend to understand everything or even most of it.  

But, I feel sure that the majority of the objections come from those who, to oversimplify, just want to weaken the Boulder government which stifled the traditional olde economic trails to riches in the mythology of those who lost out and remain resentful.  They want to weaken both city and County government so that developers and such can run amuck. It's the unifying theme of those who have found a small but cozy tent in the Tea Party. It's also false, but then too.............    

Have fallen away from Politifact, but now that the elections are coming every three weeks, it seems, good for everyone to have this on their favorite bookmarks.  Helpful.

One area that might be of note is, here in Colorado, the abusurd fracking controversy.  Like GMO's, there are pretensions of it being difficult and complicated but it is not.  Fracking cannot be allowed since neither industry nor government can fix a leak at the depths of relevance.  And this: feds aren't able to inspect even the known risky wells because of outdated this and irrelevant that but mostly money that the Congress and states won't allocate, because it hurts Republican politicians, at last count, underwritten by gas and oil companies.

It's protection of short term profit as if they don't care what it means for folks in 100 or even 50 years.  And they may not, because they'll be dead and, in any case, believe in the End Times a'Coming.  So why not?

The Colorado Symphony, like near all symphonies, is broke and is currently being underwritten by association with the new cannabis growing industry, now legal in Colorado.  But the Denver mayor has pointed out that it is still against the federal law and that the symphony is breaking law accepting money from criminals. This could affect all sorts of things, starting with the tax free status and then the bad stuff: prison and penalty.

We all know pot will be nationally legal soon, and this will be a restrained giggle in the new future, but the story here isn't the pot it's that the symphony has been reduced to going there rather than be able to count upon less dangerous supporters as it has in the past.  That's because their supports, their audience, is dying off like moderate Republicans, and nobody is terribly interested in either the music or the culture it represents any more.  It's been heading that way for decades, and soon we'll see them collapsing left and right.

Irritatingly, as live performance dies, a whole world of application in movie soundtracks and the like continues to open.  It's true that much of the new stuff can be done on computerized keyboards and we now know that people cannot tell computer composed music from that by humans, but we have to think that there IS, and that that distinction ought to be underwritten till, at least we know.  

When I whine rather constantly about the lack of a frontier, anymore, and that it has mental and physical penalties for people, this photo does nicely.  This is a May jaunt up Mt. Everest, the world's tallest mountain, but far from the least visited.  This wasn't this year, but we learn this year was worse.  That many people cannot go up and down the last part of the mountain without huge clogs and that's in good weather.  

A lot has been made of the Sherpas for insufficient pay risking their lives to allow white folks who have no business on an E ride at Disney World, much less a death dice on a mountain, to risk the lives of others for peanuts and themselves for god knows what.  Given the numbers who've been hauled up and down as near knapsacks by the guides, rather than climbing themselves, who are they fooling?  I used to joke that someday we'll be celebrating the first gay oriental Gnostic hemaphrodite's pogo sticking up Everest and barrel roll down.  It's become like the Ed Sullivan show: acts that are hard to do and sorta impressive but with no grip on the viewers because.......nobody cares.  It's a mental world that is getting smaller and more competitive and that's dangerous as hell.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Okay, enjoy the moment.  Be here tomorrow while they test my roof for leaks with a hose.  Fun, I'm sure.......

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Strictly speaking as a literary device and success, just how incredible has Sherlock Holmes proven to be?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill off his most successful creation early on in order to write other things and thought he'd done it successfully, sending him over into a waterfall with the worst criminal then known.  He got away with it  for about seven years, I think, before 'public pressure' brought him around. It wasn't quite as if they made an offer he couldn't refuse, but not unlike it either.  He'd managed to piss off the literary world, the popular culture of his time, and the entertainment world all at once.  How bloody dare he kill Sherlock Holmes? Think of Watson!  The bumbling old fart couldn't get through a day without some reason for existence, a role he'd tried to grant a wife, but nothing was as interesting as his insanely annoying flatmate. People cared.

Sherlock Holmes' introduction into immortality was "A Study in Scarlet" in 1887, leading to four short novels and 56 short stories. "Scarlet" appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual and was a modest success.  The second tale, "The Sign of the Four", didn't reach the public till 1890. But suddenly, the character shot up in Q ratings and cash gushing popularity and was featured in The Strand Magazine a year later. The Doyle stories appeared up to 1927, although they only covered the years 1880 to 1914.

What happened was Jack the Ripper in 1888. The hysterics and horror that engendered, which forced the media and public if not the police to realize this had been going on a while and there were others out there, did not sit well within Victoria's empire, which joined the appeal for better police and protection. Till better police and protection arrived, they found solace in the Holmes tales. Holmes shared their regard level for the police and did their work for them. And better.

Nice to know guys like that were out there and existed, although of course they weren't yet and did not.

The first tale that appeared after Doyle brought him back from the dead was "The Hound of the Baskervilles", a seriously terrifying story supposedly set before Moriarty's death that has been so ripped off and over done in theater and movies it's difficult to imagine what the public felt at first read. It was rather brilliant and well done and Holmes and Watson emerged more popular and adored than before.  Doyle grudgingly started writing stories explaining how Holmes survived and came back, and they were off to the races again.  Races conducted in deep fog and gaslight with only the frequent ching from registers to guide the author.

Holmes has proven to be a most incredible creation, atop being the most widely known fictional character in history and among the most loved. Nobody frames it this way, but there are three major franchises, all popular at the present time, that bring radically different interpretations and variations of the consulting detective to different sized screens.  Robert Downy's movies have been hugely popular, Benedict Cumberbatch on BBC and PBS has given them an immense if short seasoned hit providing three 90 minute shows a year, but they just finished season four. And CBS has grabbed Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu to do "Elementary," a fun, entertaining but middling version that is quite popular here.  Atop this, other shows come and go, the character appears in the books of others, and there is really no end for someone unique in literature ala 1890 but a cliche by WWII and an iconic comic book figure today.  The Downy movies posit him as a crabby bipolar James Bond.  Smart, but a martial master. Cumberbatch is excellent, and the Liu-Miller chemistry is good, but it's a US dramady. It could be better.

It's easy to say that Holmes has the advantage of unemotional attachment, and can be moved around successfully whereas others cannot.  I couldn't think of a single figure from literature than offers itself to near everyone so successfully.  If copyrights lasted for 200 years - and so did authors - Doyle would be by far the richest man in the world based upon the success of his annoying creation.  Because the protections have run out except for a few stories, it's cheap to do them.  But they just about all are so successful.  That cannot be blamed on greed.  Well, totally.

Holmes is a near religious figure, a Trickster who's on our side, available by adjudged need.  All the copycats and clear descendents of him are poor imitations.  In 1880, Holmes knew the future of good policing was in forensics, the application of liberal arts education to science, science in the specific form of chemistry and geology, good and consistent procedure at crime scenes, and training of the police well beyond what the Bobby of his day was granted.

Remarkable, and there's no sign our fascination and devotion to Sherlock is dispersing soon.
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