A Terrible Confession

I’ve been setting up things so I can watch the Mid-Terms Tuesday night.  I’ll post updates on the blog and I’ll be following all the news outlets, both written and video feeds.  I’ve told the folks at work that I’ll probably be coming in late and certain to be catatonic at best.  I’ve gone on record as saying that the Republicans will gain 3-5 seats in the Senate and hold the House by one or two seats.  Now, truth be told, I am in no way certain about the Republicans holding the House.  And having to stay up until 4 am to see California put the Democrats over the top would be a bitter pill to swallow and something I would rather avoid.  But I feel I must watch this election.  I think there is a reasonable chance I’ll be able to watch a repeat of the 2016 Progressive Pundit Meltdown (PPM).  Watching the PPM was one of the most intoxicating visual spectacles of my life.  And I say this even though I’ve watched the live feeds from the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall, both Gulf Wars and several previous Democratic election routs.  The 2016 PPM was exquisite.  Seeing the talking heads at ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, MSNBC, Huffington Post and the Young Turks slowly come to grips with the loss of Hillary Clinton was endlessly entertaining.  And sure, the aftermath of the loss also sparked a whole wave of videos featuring progressive celebrities, minor celebrities and nobodies howling at the moon in full-throated despair.  And those were absolutely hilarious.  But it was watching in real time as the Clinton Win-o-meter slowly descended from eighty five percent down to zero and seeing that descent mirrored in the voices and facial expressions of these “objective journalists” that was so addictive.  I want another hit.

I know I shouldn’t chance it.  I should feign stoic indifference and say that the details of the election cycles are a matter of complete indifference to me and instead point to the arc of history working inexorably to fulfill the destiny of the great revolution (all hail the shining dawn of something or other).  But it’s too tempting.  I’m a PPM junkie and I want my fix.  And risking a viewing of a republican wipe-out is equivalent to a junkie risking his life on bad smack.  I’m hooked.

So that’s my terrible secret.  I’m going in with only a 50/50 prospect of seeing the evil glory of Chris Cuomo looking like an extremely stupid coyote falling off a cliff.  Of hearing Rachel Maddow sputter out her bitter disappointment at America not being “with her.”  Of seeing and hearing the carnie barkers on the Young Turks lash out at anyone and everyone to vent their mindless rage.  It’s not smart or safe.  But schadenfreude is just too damn seductive.

So, if you’re looking for a guaranteed win on Tuesday and don’t want to risk a terrible letdown then you’re best off giving the whole thing a pass.  Watch some fun stuff and avoid the news until Wednesday morning and pretend indifference if the Dems manage to take the House.  I’ll totally understand.  But if you’re a risk taker who wants a chance to do the end-zone dance with fellow travelers while the studios are still awash in the salty goodness of progressive tears then stay up for the 2018 PPM death-watch with me on Tuesday night.  Who knows maybe some of those blue haired millennials who were on suicide watch in 2016 could make a come back this week and give me something really fun to watch over the Christmas holiday again this year.  Good times.

In Praise of Brevity

Warning:  What follows is profound.  Extinguish all smiles and assume an air of philosophical introspection.  It will probably help to slightly furrow your brow.

Polonius said that “brevity is the soul of wit.”  And since Polonius was a windbag I feel that I am in good company praising it.  Maybe it’s because of Amazon and the payouts on Kindle reads.  But for whatever the reason we live in the age of the mega-novel.  More than that, we live in the age of the endless book series.  Sometimes that’s a not a terrible thing.  I’ve been enjoying the Galaxy’s Edge series.  They’re a lot of fun.  But hand in hand with this emphasis on long novels, short stories have sort of disappeared.  I freely admit that statement is an exaggeration.  I’m currently reading a collection of short stories taking place in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter universe.  There are short stories to be found.  But I can only imagine the meager income an author would earn if he limited his efforts to short stories.  I mean, what does Amazon pay an author if someone reads a ten-page short story?  Five cents?  You could see how that would limit grocery purchases.  So, I do not fault the authors who need to eat for gearing their output to the five hundred-page novel.  And the same goes for the series.  Characters that have proven popular are the obvious candidate for more success for an author.

But I want to throw my weight behind short stories.  A good short story is like a good poem.  It is concentrated creativity.  Without a doubt, Dickens or Tolstoy can create an epic creation of many hundreds of pages with a huge cast of characters that are lovingly depicted in amazing detail.  Reading this work is a feast of literary pleasures.  Without a doubt.  But if a master craftsman writes a short story barely two dozen pages long it can be a revelation.  Like some kind of minimalist sketch, he can use a few brush strokes to bring life to a story or a character.  And the effect can actually be more vivid than the grand epic.  Carefully done, the few words can resonate with the soul where the hundreds of thousands merely numb.

I love short stories.  Let me clarify.  I love really well written short stories.  Edgar Allen Poe, James Joyce, Jack London, Kipling.  And in science fiction, Sturgeon, Ellison, Dick, Aldiss.  These authors have produced short stories that stand out as original and memorable.  They leave an impression on the mind that can be indelible.  And of course, not every short story they did is in that category.  But that’s okay.  It’s the exception that proves the rule.  After all it was Sturgeon’s Law that says that “90% of everything is crud.”

 

I’ll list a few of my favorite short stories.  If you feel like playing leave a few of yours in the comments.

To Build a Fire by Jack London

Counterparts by James Joyce

The Dead by James Joyce

And Now the News by Theodore Sturgeon

Where Do I Stand in the Political Spectrum

For the newer readers of Orion’s Cold Fire this article I wrote for American Greatness sums up my position in the Great Revolt

https://amgreatness.com/2017/11/25/defining-the-space-between-nevertrump-and-the-alt-right/

I consider myself fully aware of the tremendous obstacles to preserving what’s left of the remarkable experiment that is the United States of America but I can’t quite give up on it yet.

 

 

Fungus Among Us

Camera Girl is a great naturalist.  She likes being called Hawkeye because of her sharp and discerning vision.  She uses this keen sense mostly to see what it says on the speedometer in order to tell me I’m driving too fast.  But she also is adept at spotting interesting flora and fauna in the great wide world of our back yard.  She spots monarch butterfly caterpillars and hungry foxes and great blue herons and all kinds of birds around her feeders.  She discovers muskrats and minks and turkeys and turkey vultures, hawks and deer and coyotes and all kinds of flowers wild and garden.  Last year at about this time she spotted some unusual white plants sprouting underneath a conifer on the edge of a heavily wooded area of the property.  I thanked her for her find and proceeded to acquire a nice collection of mosquito bites crawling around on my belly trying to get a shot.  Here is the plant.

 

I thought it a very interesting plant and assumed it was white only because it was in a darkly shaded area.  I thought no more about it until this year.  In the last few weeks we have had some extremely hot and also some extremely rainy weather.  So even though it is August my “lawn” is a verdant carpet of crab grass.  And at the same time a great variety of different species of mushrooms have appeared in the yard, especially close to some wooded areas of the property.  Camera Girl knows I like to use mushrooms as subjects for close-up and macro photography and so she provides me with info on the best new mushroom sightings.  This year was no exception so I have managed to photograph a goodly number of interesting fungi.  But what was different was her discovery of additional specimens of the sprouting white plants.  I was able to use the superb magnified focus of my new Sony A7 III to very good advantage on these plants.

Monotropa uniflora, Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens
Monotropa uniflora, Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens
Monotropa uniflora, Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

And because the places I found the plants was not as dark as last year’s location I decided that their coloration was not a fluke of location.  They really were white.  Using all the resources of the interwebs I was able to identify these unusual plants.  It is known systematically as Monotropa uniflora but commonly it is called Indian pipe, ghost plant and corpse plant.  It has no chlorophyll to allow it to produce sugar from carbon dioxide and water.  Instead it steals its food from underground fungi of the family Russulaceae.

Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f4 Macro lens
mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

 

mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

 

mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens
mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

This condition of lacking chlorophyll and living parasitically off fungi makes the Indian pipe what is known in botany as an obligate myco-heterotroph.  And it gets even more complicated than that.  The fungus that Indian pipe is mooching off is simultaneously in a symbiotic existence with underground tree roots of beech and other woodland trees.  The tree roots allow the fungus access to sugar and the fungus breaks down decaying material in the soil so that the trees can absorb the nutrients it could not obtain on its own.  In fact, the tree roots and the fungi form an interface called a mycorrhizal network in which the cells of the roots and the fungus interpenetrate each other to allow nutrient materials to flow in both directions to the mutual benefit of both.  So it was no coincidence that Camera Girl discovered the Indian pipe while scouting out new mushrooms.  The torrential rain and torrid heat of the last few weeks is what triggered the sprouting mushrooms and the Indian pipe bloom.  And now I see the even closer relation between these two life forms.  The mushroom is the victim of the Indian pipe thief.

So, this is the kind of weird stuff that I am interested in.  This doesn’t really belong solely in photography or current events and definitely not in science fiction or reviews.  That is why photog’s Corner was made, for this kind of weird stuff.  Caveat lector, let the reader beware.

A photog and His Corner

Old people and literary types will have heard of Thomas Mann.  He was a German author born in 1875.  He won the Nobel Prize in literature in the 1920s and he belonged to the Modernist school.  Back in the 1970s if you had a high school English teacher who was especially perverse he would assign a book of Mann’s called “Death in Venice and Other Stories.”  Now the title story “Death in Venice,” is vile.  It’s the story of an old German writer who has a premonition of death and goes to Venice to feel young again.  He has an infatuation verging on pedophilia for an adolescent boy that mercifully goes unfulfilled and then to the reader’s great relief the protagonist dies.  The only legitimate reason to read this story is for law enforcement profilers to gain a better understanding of pedophile motivation.

One of the other stories in the book is called “A Man and His Dog.”  It is autobiographical and describes Mann’s life in a suburban/rural area of Germany.  He chronicles the walks he takes with his approximately German Shorthaired Pointer dog Bashan.  We hear about the landscape, the flora and fauna and the farmland occupants of his little world.  It is without a doubt, the best thing in the story collection and I’ve always envied his opportunity to share a slice of his world and life in such a congenial narrative.  It really is a pleasure to read.

So, even though I keep German Short Haired Pointers, I can’t do what Mann did.  I don’t have his facility for felicitous phrasing.  But I’m a lot funnier than he was.  So, from time to time, I’ll address things in a post that have very little to do with politics, photography or science fiction.  When that happens, I’ll assign them to the category “photog’s Corner” and that will be a warning sign of irrelevance to the primary foci of this blog.  Caveat emptor.

 

photog