Category Archives: News

General news posts that aren’t categorized

5/19/2020 Walter Benjamin

I discovered Benjamin in college more than thirty years ago, lost my copy of Illuminations, and then rediscovered it recently on Amazon. His essay, ‘Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ I found riveting. Only recently have I learned of Hannah Arendt’s heroic escape with his manuscripts, his death on the Spanish border.







I inadvertently cut off the bottom in this scan, it says ‘Edited by Hannah Arendt’.

When France was taken over by the Nazis, Benjamin made it to the southern ‘safe zone’, along with other Jews, but the Nazis were soon closing in. Hannah Arendt and her husband got passports and managed to get across the border into Spain, and Benjamin sent his manuscripts along with her in case he didn’t make it. He was actually at the border there in the Pyrenees, with a proper passport, when some obscure rule changed and the Spanish would not let him through, nor any of the group of four he was traveling with.

He would have been turned over to the Nazis the next day. He committed suicide that night. The Spanish official was so shaken and moved by Benjamin’s suicide that he broke his own (brand-new) rules and let the other four through into Spain.

That’s why these essays are such treasures, aside from their wonderful insights. They were rescued at a great and terrible price.

I re-read ‘Art in the Age…’ again, but this has repeatedly been addressed, recently, and all his doubts have been shown to be very prescient.

What now interests me is ‘The Storyteller’, which I find I did not read with enough attention at the time and it bears re-reading and quoting which I will do tomorrow.

Benjamin paid little attention to the intellectual fashions of his time, either in phrasing or concerns, which is why he seems ever fresh and new. Here’s to his courage and his memory.







May 5/20 Book Review; Attention, A Love Story







Naomi Nye highly recommended this to me and I read it in two sittings, enjoyed it.

“In the early days of our (families’) digital life, I had been the doomsday old crone in a twenty-year-old’s body, rolling my eyes at the new code of behavior I witnessed online.” But she realized she was “staring into glowing screens of all sizes for more and more of each day.”

Nice to find somebody who has come to some of the same conclusions I have, and one of the most rewarding things about this book is that it is also a compendium of many other books and studies that investigate this social behavior and its problems.

Although I don’t personally know anybody who has had their life taken over by social media or their phones to the extent that Casey Schwartz claims hers was, I still find the amount of hours spent watching television to be worthy of some thought. Never happened before in human history. Never.

Much of this book is autobiographical in the most intimate way but like all autobiographies the author must select and emphasize, even exaggerate, to make a point. From beginning to end she tells of her addition to Instagram and other social media, taking her phone out of her pocket many times a day to check the latest. I imagine it can’t have been that bad, but her point is not only Attention, as given, as a gift, but her addiction to Adderall as well as glowing screens.

Along the way she quotes Silicon Valley studies and many other writers who have addressed the problem of focus and attention. You will be interested to learn what “variable ratio reinforcement” is. The book is a resource work as well as a confessional and extremely useful. I will quote some of her quotes;

“Sean Parker, Facebook’s former president, admitted to being afraid of what social media is ‘doing to our children’s brains’  (And) Just as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had both strictly limited their children’s access to their devices, by 2017, it had become increasingly popular for the Technorati to send their own kids to tech-free schools, to want for them not shiny iPad screens but old-fashioned tactile finger paints, wooden blocks and paper books. It is only outside of Silicon Valley that we turn such a blind eye to the effects of unmitigated technology on developing brains,”

James Williams, a former Google employee; “I felt…distracted. But it was more than just “distraction”—this was some new mode of deep distraction I didn’t have words for…I felt the story of my life being compromised in some fuzzy way I couldn’t articulate..”

This is from his book Stand Out of Our Light.

What I see as the real discussion is focus and long-term concentration. To own or possess private aims, apart from social approval, and set out to do these things even if it is only (!) embroidery or a garden plot or woodwork. Which is not an “only” as the Zen masters have repeatedly said.

All my friends and relatives are on some kind of social media and they like it and they don’t seem to have had their souls stolen by it. As for me I just blog about it and since this little blog has only about 2500 readers, I remain The Shadowy Griper.

A great many useful books mentioned and a cautionary life story of addiction, the search for deep focus, and love. Love wins.



May 2/20 Found this interesting map of cases




And thought I would share it. I am living in the pale green. Everything seems relatively normal here; I don’t hear as much traffic in the mornings as people up my road are not going to work, it appears, although I know house-building is still going on, the feed store is open. The wonderful and amazing General Store is open as well but they require masks and only ten people in the store at a time. The way Shirley has managed this is, there is a board with ten big metal washers hung up on nails, and if they are all gone you have to wait outside until somebody comes out and gives you a washer. Very clever!

Still no choir or performances with my music group, nobody getting together to ride. Evelyn has come by a couple of times with her darling granddaughter Riley in tow on the big and patient mare Brandy and so all three of us followed the trails nearby but not a big group of us.

Plenty of peace and quiet to work on new book. Researching 19th century telegraphy. I need to re-learn Morse, I learned it somewhat as a kid and my brother and I tried to tap out messages to each other but we dropped it for other things like tooling around on bikes and exploring old houses.

I would love to try sending on one of the old sounders. But do they even exist anymore as operable units? Doubt it.


4/30/20 New poems by Laurie Jameson

My friend Laurie Jameson printed these privately, only 100 copies, and she’s not advertising or selling them, or, that is, making any effort to sell them, but she sent me a copy and they are wonderful.







She writes; “A Word About In-the-Moment Poetry

“Poems written the same day that the events occurred, with an attempt to capture the essence of experience, then allowing it to rest on the page without alteration. The words remain as they first appeared with the exception of editing for spelling and grammar.”

Some quotes; from Qi Gong–Chi Kung

‘Boil it all down to this;

we embrace the cliches

we shy away from the truth

we worship self-indulgence

we worry ourselves sick we hate what we don’t understand

and still the sun sets, rises again.’

And from ‘Long Before Day’s Rising’

‘Behind my eyes, coming up

out of the sandstorm,shaking

off the dirt and detritus of

dune-laden sleep, I see myself

floating on  the moon’s imagined

lake, the mirage of expectation, the explosion of disappointment.

“Nothing gold can stay”. Nothing.

The birds will never sing the

exact same notes in the exact

same way ever again. My love

for another constantly changes,

blowing first this way and then that,

adapting in order to go on living.


April 26/20

The crescent moon and Venus are particularly beautiful tonight. Great composite photo by Greg Hogan, a really gifted photographer.

4/21 Kenneth

A remembrance of my brother.






There are better pictures of him but I can’t find them right now. Here he’s dancing with Bobbie Ann, Jim’s sister, at our wedding picnic/celebration/barbecue at Arrow Rock. She’s trying to teach him to two-step. She was a great dancer and Ken wasn’t bad.

He told tales and fables that came right out of his head without the least hesitation or mental editing and did so all his life, an impulsive and charming storytelling that may or may not have had some relation to the truth but that didn’t matter because they were riveting from beginning to end.

My mother used to reprimand him severely for ‘making things up’ but I suppose he was a born storyteller and sometimes the stories were believable and other times they were like science-fiction or fantasy. I remember once ( and I told this story at the funeral service) when I was in third grade and he in fifth, in Marshall, Missouri, he came running into the house crying out that there were zebras and camels and elephants walking around the streets!!!

Mother became very exasperated with him (she was ironing at the time) and told him to just stop it, but there really were camels and zebras and elephants walking around the streets, the circus had come to Marshall on the railroad, and they paraded the animals through the towns they came to to drum up interest in the circus. I ran outside and saw them, and with a lot of other kids followed them as far as I dared. They were beautiful and magical. It was as if Kenneth had invented them and they came true.

He kept steady jobs all his life and raised five kids, adopted a sixth, wrote poems, played guitar, all of his with a houseful of kids and a factory job. Finally in his old age got the solitude he wanted and had always needed. Solitude right up to the end. Raised wonderful kids, I have the deepest affection for every one of them. Here they are at the Peninsula Burial Ground, where he was laid to rest.



4/16/20 Launch Day goes on launching, treasure trove of TP

Ron Charles of the Washington Post did an interview this morning for the Wash Post Book Club and emailed that he would like to link the files of us playing, the ones that are on the audiobook. Frantic call to Mark: ‘Mark can you send him the files?’ Mark was on a hilltop somewhere building. He is a builder, making houses rise up out of airy nothing and he is also a whiz with computer things as I am not. So he’s walking around here and there on the hilltop trying to get a good connection, but we finally got through and he’ll link the files for Ron Charles. This is so cool. All I can think of, of course, is the three or four notes I flubbed badly on ‘Red River Valley’.

Tom commiserated; ‘A person never gets it perfect, never.’

And so Lowe’s grocery store in Bandera scored on a huge load of toilet paper from Mexico! I should have gone to the manager to ask how they pulled off this amazing feat but I’m not a reporter and I was tired and had a forty-mile drive home but there was plenty for all and no kidding. Two packages per customer.








This was at about four in the afternoon. What a weird place the world has become when I write an excited blog post about toilet paper.

April 14/2020 Launch Day for Simon the Fiddler!







Best of luck Simon and Doris and thank you to everybody at William Morrow and HC who worked hard on this book! And a tribute to two really good fiddlers, may your roads all lead to magical places.







Jesse Milnes







Tom Bomer


Lockdown News– Palm Sunday–Passover– 4/5/2020

Palm Sunday today and Passover starts on the 8th.









And not much to offer on the news front except babies keep getting born no matter what, and no cases yet in the surrounding three or four counties although that may change soon .







Human babies getting born too although I don’t have any pictures from my grand-niece yet but will add as soon as I get them.

Interesting article from Breitbart on the toilet paper shortage, best I’ve read so far;

1.) People are staying home and using the TP at home rather than at work, so use up more personal, household TP.

2.) There are two kinds of TP, commercial and home consumption kinds. The commercial kind is of course more utilitarian and in larger rolls that don’t fit home holders. These are not being sold at WalMart etc., they are sold to hotels, offices in big lots. So people can’t buy them, they are sold in case lots to large business and government organizations.

3.) They come from different paper mills, with different machinery, and are a different supply chain. The paper mills have not yet switched over from one to the other and it might be difficult for them to do so.

So there you go.

My friend April, whose mare just had the baby pictured above, (and another on the way, Easter maybe) had ordered a case of the commercial TP for the big kid’s recreational camp she works for — she heads up the equestrian side of it — and the case is just sitting there as everything is shut down. She is just keeping it dry and safe.  She is wondering if she still has a job, given that no kids can come to the camp, but on the other hand there are 60 horses that need care and feeding so not likely she will be let go. It is the most beautiful camp I’ve ever seen.







That’s just the old cabin on the camp lands. The kids accommodations are gorgeous.

The churches here in this little community are doing what they can. Women got together to sew masks and hand them out free, people donated money and material, Living Waters church is making up boxes with TP, bottled water etc. but as Evelyn said, “We don’t know who to give them out to.”

No need for them yet apparently. The feed store is open and receiving re-supply, the General Store is open and by tomorrow, Monday, will require all patrons to wear masks and stand outside in a line and come in a few at a time.

So I had my birthday party — a surprise. All riding friends came to bring presents and have a social distancing party on the front porch!















Very grateful for my friends and relatives; opened my cousin’s box as well, she sent some home-made scarves in leopard pattern and a hammock. It was a great day!

Such silences, no jet trails overhead, very few cars or trucks moving, an economy coming to a halt. Kids at home, no school. Perhaps they are learning about the supply chain, a good thing to know.

Have a peaceful and blessed Palm Sunday/Passover week!

March 21/20 A death in the family and Coronoa

My brother passed away last week (not from corona-virus) and the family gathered to put him to rest, all his five children and the grandchildren and me and my sister. It was a good family gathering, so there’s that. He had been ill for some time. We drove from Springfield Missouri to the old family graveyard in central Missouri and there put him to rest with his ancestors.








Our little town and area is now being affected by the lockdown, no near cases of the virus but today at the feed store I saw that the feed was being cleaned out and they said they were having trouble with resupply. I bought as much as I cold for the horses, although thank God the new green grass is coming up in case it all gets bought out and nothing more coming in.

The general store is restricting purchases somewhat.

Flying to Spring field through Dallas, and then home out of St. Louis, the airports were fairly empty and so were the city streets.