Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Antifa, Sci Fi, The Bomb, Consumerism and The Death of Innovation – Part 3
Some case studies of innovation begin with a scientific advance such as the identification of the photoelectric effect or other quantum phenomenon and traces its application to an invention dependent on that advance such as the laser. Other descriptions are more ethnographic, observing an industrial ecosystem, then focusing in on its niche like the Connecticut River Valley manufacturing industry of the 18th century and its development of interchangeable gun parts. More quantitative accounts begin with economic dynamics by measuring the role of capital, labor and then try to show excess growth attributed to changes in technology processes or investment.
All of these approaches seek to account for growth not related to easily measurable factors by looking at newly discovered insights or newly introduced technologies that confer some advantage to an offering competing in a market. Many of these accounts are useful in documenting the precedent conditions to productive change. They have been reduced to a list in many papers and articles on innovation and economic growth. They include access to basic research and related intellectual property, capital, talent, geographic or virtual proximity and so on. Other less concrete factors are also named such as entrepreneurism, leadership or vision. This body of literature is rapidly growing but the more that is written about innovation and the greater the attempts to reduce it to an economic model, the further the goal seems to move. The sudden drop in the total factor productivity in the US after the 1970s seems less understood the more that is written about it. Commentators, whether economist or philosophers, business leaders or politicians, have moved from qualitative analysis to social pleading yet offer no reliable, let alone predictable, hypothesis.
To some, the loss of American vitality is seen as an emergency, a surrendering or dissipation of the most valuable trend in human history. The loss of a cultural and economic heritage that transformed the world from a brutal place to a prosperous one. To others the change was the inevitable correction as resources were redistributed by political systems evolving away from their imperial structures of exploitation. Why do some students and proponents of innovation see it as somehow related to culture? Why do discussions of innovation seem to invite political explanations? At any level of analysis, it would seem innovation has almost nothing to do with politics and philosophy, rather a question of science, economics, and commerce. It is true that politics influence and at times determines investment in science and seek to manage economies, if not specific markets, but does that mean we can find the source of innovation in political processes?
The issue of what changed that precipitated the reduction in growth of the US economy and, apparently, innovation has a stock list of suspects. Government regulation is a commonly cited culprit. In the case of nuclear energy this seems irrefutable. Corporatism is another clear candidate. Anyone who carefully analyzes big company structures and processes, from their silo functions to their anti-competitive strategies and general slow-footedness knows that the landscape of a shrinking number of large companies dominating legacy industries can only be poison to innovation. It is hard to consider these and other familiar hypotheses that purport to account for the decrease in innovation, such as failed schools, family breakdown and the loss of faith, without turning away from the question in despair, even horror.
Perhaps it is better to start with a more direct examination of innovation in the past versus today. For example, the slowing of progress in individual transportation in the last fifty years. Why don’t cars fly? It is harder to make a car fly than roll so innovation today won’t look like innovation a century ago. This is the low hanging fruit explanation, flying is harder, but what does that mean? Well, making a car fly is not an incremental change from progressively making cars roll faster and more efficiently. In fact, making a car fly may not be an innovation at all. Innovation is not the invention of new things for their own sake. Innovation solves replication problems. What replication problem does a flying car solve? How much faster does individual transportation need to move over the earth’s surface than a mile a minute? And, for that matter, how much faster than a mile a second does flight need to achieve? The low hanging fruit explanation does seem to touch on something useful, but not in the ordinary sense of the barrier of increasing complexity. It also points to the question of need.
Commentators point to aging American cities with their 19th century subways and mid-20th century skyscrapers as evidence of our decline. (We might observe, as an aside, that no one ever complains about the age of buildings in Rome or Paris) They point to slower travel times, increasing real energy costs and shortening life expectancies in the same breath to demonstrate the drop in the pace of innovation. These seem alarming symptoms of our loss of progress. But are they really? How high does a building need to rise? How often should they be replaced? How many millions should a city accommodate? Subways certainly age, need to be maintained and improved, but should a civilization’s innovative energies be focused on subways? Surely this is not a problem of complexity, nor was the decision to abandon supersonic transport. These are choices that have little to do with innovation as normally discussed.
It is clear that in the postwar period, in different forms in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and the rest of the developed world, much of these societies’ productive energy was focused on “social progress”. Some would call much of it, the changing role of women, concern for the environment, other post-imperial transitions like industrial nationalization and the rise of the welfare state, social engineering that at least in name might be considered innovation. These large reallocations of resources and dislocations of existing social structures undoubtedly had equally large effects on the focus of our productive energies, if not to derail them. For much of the industrial world social progress represented a deliberate regression away from the culture of Manhattan Projects and moon shots. Social progress led not to building more advanced cities but housing projects for the poor, which, in turn, led many to leave cities altogether. In America, the suburban “innovation”, born of the federal interstate highway program, made things cheaper, more convenient at first, and increased standards of living substantially for at least two decades. But it did not just increase the marginal quality of upper middle-class family existence by eventually sending most women into the workforce and expanded the average size of a suburban house and the number of cars in their driveways. Living standards per capita measured in occupied square feet, miles driven, cost per student, ballooned in the 1970’s and 1980’s until even lower middle-class families living outside of cities occupied larger houses, drove further and spent more per student on education, even consumed more calories, than their counterparts in any other society. Was this not productive change?
Many would say no. Those social and economic changes may have been desired after the two wars and the prospect of global extinction, but they did not yield what innovation always does. Doing more with less, rather the opposite. Reallocation and baby booms might be products of innovation, but they do not bring it about. But the social and material changes in family structure and standards of living do suggest an answer to our question of why building and subway construction have not advanced. They didn’t need to, certainly not with the suburbanization of society and the massive expansion car culture.
There are parallels of this redirection of innovation in energy, in air transportation, even in medicine. A central concept to the development of new medical therapies is the idea of “unmet need”. Still at the dawn of the 20th century most people in the world died of gastric perforation. This mortality was directly tied to waterborne infections and contaminants so the unmet medical need for gastric disease was very high in the year 1900. Epidemiology showed not just mortality, but morbidity, other suffering than death such as poor nourishment, pain, and loss of work, were also caused by digestive disease. At first, slowly through the improvement of urban waste management and water treatment, and then more quickly after World War II through development of a series of pharmacotherapies such as antibiotics, then H-2 antagonists, PPI’s and finally triple antibiotic therapies, the medical unmet need for upper gastric disorders has largely been addressed.
This does not mean that no one suffers an upset stomach anymore. Prosperity and the overabundance of calories ensure that people still need digestive therapies. But as a public health priority, upper digestive disease has fallen from top to bottom. This is reflected in the demand for infrastructure professionals and new upper digestive pharmacotherapies that address digestive disease. Public engineering in the first half of the 20th century in America was a leading professional undertaking as the nation built its cities to postwar capacity. Those same H-2 antagonists and PPIs were the world’s largest selling and most lucrative drugs to treat aging patients born while H. Pylori, a water born pathogen, was prevalent. Today large-scale hydro-engineering projects occur at a small fraction of their former frequency and the gross sales of gastric pharmacotherapies and the innovative creation of new ones are comparatively tiny and few.
Is the contraction of PPI markets and the reduction of sewer treatment projects evidence of an innovation crisis or reduction in unmet need? Why has subway and high-rise construction investment fallen? In the 1920s as the New York City subway system was completed and was the envy of the world, the city had between 8 and 9 million residents that paid a billion fares per year. Those numbers are still largely the same today. Before the completion of most high-rise housing, New York City reached its steady state of population. By the 1970s and during the decades of the decline in US total factor productivity, national firms and their employees were abandoning New York City, raising vacancy rates. So why build and innovate more subways, buildings and their associated technologies? What was the unmet need? The answer is, there was none.
The only objection raised by these facts, that even the poor in the West have excessive basic resources in calories, in utilization of individual transport, spending on education and housing space, is that people are still poor and life for many is grim. But is this a problem of innovation, of productive growth? Would making energy free, as once imagined, or food free, as it nearly is in terms of minimum daily calories, make life less grim? The answer is no, with the sole exception of the extremely poor, defined by the World Bank as less than $1 dollar-a-day of income, a vanishingly small population in the US and one not attributable to jobless or homeless conditions but mental illness and drug addiction. There is no evidence that more square feet or more individual driving or more spending on education will meaningfully reduce the true unmet needs of lower income people. It may make car companies, energy companies, landlords and teacher unions richer but greater innovation in individual transportation, education, energy and food production will not reduce unmet needs in these areas because they are already so low. No amount of additional spending above the already impossibly high per student costs to simply teach a first grader to read will improve literacy rates. Even $100,000 per student per year would not improve the reading scores of the urban and rural poor. And if it did, such improvement would not be due to innovation, which we have defined as doing more with less. Rather, by reducing the scarcity of these resources, suburbanization has led to their inflated worthlessness. Cheap goods and services have led to the devaluing of them to the point of laxity. Is reflected in obesity rates, lowering test scores, falling birthrates, which for any other living system of organisms, would rise with expanding resources. That is until their own waste chokes them. This is the cradle of our heroes, The Muppets.
End of Part 3
Ok, if necessity is actually the mother of innovation, lots of needs have been met in the last 100 years, but why did growth stop, the ASB becomes irrelevant and suburban consumerism take hold and become the millennial Muppet cradle sometime in the nineteen seventies? And what about Frank Sinatra? Stay tuned for Part 4.
Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Antifa, Sci Fi, The Bomb, Consumerism and The Death of Innovation – Part 2
Warning: Part 2 contains a philosophical discussion of innovation that is a bit dense. If you’re here for the comic jabs at “The Muppets”, you may want to skip to Part 3. My apologies.
(Editor’s note: Because the author was so expansive, I have divided Part 2 into two parts. So, what The Fat Man refers to as Part 3 will actually be called Part 4.
The hypothesis I will posit and attempt to demonstrate in the next two parts of this humble correspondence has two main themes. First, that the America of the hundred to hundred and fifty-odd years ending in the nineteen seventies was in every way exceptional; second, that it was so because it had to be.
What gave birth to the ASB that catalyzed an array of naïve musical craft forms into a global cultural phenomenon? How could it be that slave and peasant musical traditions could be combined and transformed to such success? How did a string of still photographs projected on a screen go from peep show to a universal, dare we say, artistic medium? And how did both these forms descend into their own basements? Why even is the use of a phrase like “artistic medium” to be feared and derided?
What if the same dynamic could be identified as the driver behind the creation General Electric and The Bomb that obliterated those two Japanese cities. What if accounting for that dynamic could answer Peter Thiel’s most interesting questions, “Why are our cities strangely old?”..…”Why did the space program abandon Mars?”…..”Why does it take longer to travel between cities in 2020 than it did in 1970?” Put more simply, how can the America that stormed Normandy and called a moonshot in 1961 “by the end of the decade” with Ruthian certainty end up frightened by Antifa?
To answer all these questions, we first need a definition of innovation that helps to describe some common process to all the unlikely triumphs we have mentioned, from Louis Armstrong to Robert Oppenheimer. We need a definition that comprises economic trends reflected in metrics like the GDP, and the commercial success of mechanical innovations like the production of replaceable parts in firearms; cultural phenomena like the art movements that come to be described as “universal”, or the emergence of global capitals like New York in the mid-century.
What is innovation
Galileo, Newton, Einstein and Heisenberg. These names transcend words like discovery and invention. For human beings, the members of this class are, along with a few others seemingly from other fields, other names like Homer and Shakespeare perhaps Mozart or Beethoven, the ones that define our world. We don’t have to worry about their sins or similarities because they are like their creations, both real and unreal. There is no E in E equals MC squared in the real world, any more than the number one. E and one are exclusively human. There is no ideal realm where they reside outside of our minds. They are beyond the hills, the animal or mineral, shared only in the humanly conceived eternal. They are wholly ours and once invoked by anyone they join the patrimony that is accessible to all if we choose to claim it. We can choose, however, to lose treasures like F equals MA or “it is the east and Juliet is the sun” or Euler’s identity. We can forget or revise or misattribute or commit a hundred other crimes against history. We can break the chain of humanity that links all ages and places to every remembered and forgotten name with the new and the unborn. We can fail to imagine.
Lesser mortals do lesser things. They discover like Columbus or Curie; they invent like Edison and Bell. A lightbulb is not humanity but it helped humanity read. The telephone was not a part of us though they did at times seem attached. America is not Italy but someone had to sign the map. We remember these names and forget, revise, misattribute them at much less peril, perhaps some would say, at no peril at all, perhaps, even to our benefit. But the status of the names of our discoverers and inventors matter today if not tomorrow. We need them today to tell our story, even our history, but they are not immutable giants like the others. Because we all know who gets to write history, the stories beneath these names can change from discoverers today to slavers tomorrow.
Far below the Olympian pantheon of Newton and the discoverer’s Rushmore of Edison, in a stratum of the day to day, lives innovation. It has no name but certainly is more fun. Discovery finds things and invention makes things but innovation gets to do things. And nameless, it is free to beg and borrow, not caring who found it or made it so long as it can use it. Innovation is the doing with what was discovered, invented, invested, neglected or just plain forgotten.
Innovation has no name, or at least it shouldn’t. The artifacts of innovation are not important, but their impact is. What is a subway or a skyscraper? Who would care except that they move infinitely more people faster in a crowded city than any combination of horse and car or fit infinitely more people to live and work on a half-acre than possible in any other urban plan? But innovation does not only serve the visceral. The long line of innovations that culminated in the gothic cathedral are nameless. But at some point, in the 11th or 12th Century, they lifted whole societies to spiritual consensus. Yet there is no name associated with the Gothic Cathedral except Chartres, Cologne or Notre Dame. In fact, subways, skyscrapers, cathedrals, choirs or even particular iPhones change as we use them and disappear when we don’t. Innovation doesn’t have his fun alone, we get to join in.
In the sense that innovation is not discovery or invention we can also say that it is not exclusively human. Because it is nameless is also, to the extent it is distinct, not aware. Innovators manage the details of their initiatives and even at times claim to plan their applications. But no one ever knows when they cross the boundary between an improvement or invention or discovery and true innovation. So as anyone who has ever seen the cat finally achieve the canary knows, animals innovate as well. Nor does one individual even ever really innovate. Beyond the clichés about standing on the shoulders of giants, innovation relies primarily on feedback loops whether from a market or a metabolism. And beyond animals, all biological systems possess in their ontogeny the mechanisms of not just change but proliferative innovation. From this perspective, no doubt, it is conceivable that by their ability to determine natural existence, the laws of physics in their constants and relations and limits do as well. Or at least one could probably find a business-minded physicist to agree. So, it is also cliché to say innovation is collaborative or diverse or possessing of secret ingredients, let alone genius. Innovation emanates as all phenomena do, that is to say, through itself.
This view of innovation is useful in a number of ways. It avoids the sociology of science associated with the Olympian creations that began our discussion. Newton’s human creations like numbers and letters truly are human constructs, artifacts. Concentrated matter moving through space is no artifact. The novel phosphorylation of a bioactive molecule that confers a replication advantage is a fact, observable, unaware, unstoppable. Humans can only participate in innovation; they cannot originate it. We are lucky when we properly observe it.
If innovation is not human then it must be free from the requirements of human logic. Innovation is not consistent or moral or balanced or meaningful beyond the very next step. Innovation is productive change and with that single modifier, alone it is unconstrained in ways no human system can be. It can comprise blitzkrieg and washing machines. It moves along paths that cross all boundaries and all borders. It can change its products, landscapes and even man-made literary forms. Innovation is free to impinge on domains that are aware and self-constrained without being so itself.
All we have said so far describes what innovation is not and qualities of its nature. But what is innovation? Economists define innovation as the translation of an idea or invention into a good or product that creates value as reflected in the customer’s willingness to pay for it. So, innovation in this context is the occurrence of a new offering to generate sales. But innovation is also a larger concept usually best measured by the economic idea of dynamism. Dynamism is defined as the creative destruction in an economy that reallocates resources across firms and industries according to their most productive use. Presumably this destruction can at least in part be bottom up, unplanned or subject only to market guidance.
In its broadest sense, as we have discussed it so far, we might simply define innovation as productive change. Change that moves in a self-defined positive direction. A successful virus is essentially a protein shell with an innovation factory coded into its genetic material. Its sole function is to continually make slightly inexact copies of itself so to ensure that some of its related progeny can survive the immune systems that act as it’s feedback loop. To that virus this is productive change or innovation.
So, when is change productive or destruction creative? The laws of physics and biology seem to imply these are oxymorons? Science holds that all change is random, certainly all destruction must be, so how then can it be productive and creative? Does not its anonymity and randomness exclude any notion of “positive”? The answer must be no, but only because reconciling these seeming contradictions leads directly to the question of intentionality and the origin of change. The origin of change is itself a question of first causes that, as we have said, is immanent yet unbounded by space and time. Even a physicist would agree that the universe is productive because of primal conditions whose own origins are inexplicable, partially observable, even describable, perhaps, but ultimately unaccountable. But where does the ineffability of productive change lead us in our search for its nature? It frees us. Clearly productive change exists as do distinct stars that convert matter to energy and men who turn forests to farms, so we are free to inquire and observe without accounting for first causes. In our investigation, we also can be dynamic along with others in our niche and join in the reallocation. But as human logical commentators, at least, we are obliged to make observations that suggest relationships, if not lessons.
So much for the ultimate source of change, what about proximate causes? What about their number and weight? This is not obvious yet it is the main business of our discussion. And although economics would seem to be the obvious framework to account for the proximate cause of innovation, those most familiar with that exercise commonly offer only very subjective, sometimes poetical explanations of even large changes in innovative trends. The great economist of innovation, Edmund Phelps, cites the loss of the “spirit of adventure and discovery” as chief among the proximate causes of the halving of the 3% annual growth in US GDP he attributes to American innovation going back two centuries before the 1970s. To understand the proximate causes of the end of American innovation in the 1970’s, we must first understand its proximate causes going back at least those two centuries and likely much earlier.
Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Antifa, Sci Fi, The Bomb, Consumerism and The Death of Innovation – Part 1
What does it mean when organizations like Antifa and BLM lead the national conversation but are led and populated by arrested, overfed, near-sighted, screen-addicted, basement dwellers? How can these loosely defined groups and others like them write and profess to follow manifestos built on concepts like fascism and communism, the nuclear family and non-binary identity, equality and liberty while clearly not understanding any of them. If we suppress the urge to laugh it off for a few seconds and consider what it means about our country and the West more generally, would that be useful or at least entertaining?
And finally, that our president uses these same concepts in the same contexts as these groups without pausing to at least try and clarify them, does that mean he’s actually their leader too or just the world’s greatest comic?
When you look at the endless tape of the peaceful demonstrators or if you’re lucky as I am and can simply look at the window and watch them at a distance, it is easy to be lulled into a lazy sense of voyeuristic unease. From far away the individuals in the crowds are reduced to hats and black raincoats all carrying some kind of staff and easily mistaken for at least a potential threat. Of course, when the camera pans to ground level or you even walk among them you realize they are those kids you remember from high school, if that was your terminal level of formal education, or junior college, or grad school, even a familiar post doc. Whatever larval group of which you were a graduating member always included the kids that just weren’t ready, would never be ready, for the real world.
Our peaceful protesters are not the serious kids that just quit school to pursue real careers in crime, banking or software. I’m talking about the ones with the anachronistic long or shaved hair, over decorated skin and clothes, downward facing and backward looking. The basement dwellers, scared of life. Say what you will about Mao and Hitler, they weren’t scared of life. So how did our heroes become their self-appointed fellow travelers?
What brought our contemporary heroes out of the basement to frighten America? More interestingly, how could they frighten anyone? If you’re old enough to remember the summers of rage at the end of the 1960’s you know what real racial unrest looks like. Or anyone that has seen strike violence knows why it scares the average citizen. Those mobs were manned by the citizenry. However segregated Newark was in 1965, the city couldn’t survive with twenty percent of the population burning down buildings, and it didn’t. The Newark of 1962 was disappeared by 1975. Depopulated, de-educated, de-legitimated, poof.
But clearly our heroes didn’t, couldn’t, do that in 2020. The viral panic set the stage. It emptied out the streets like the white flight of the ‘60’s but didn’t spark the theatrical violence we see today. So, what did? Beyond the familiar slacker jobless ennui that inspired the Occupy Wall Street encampment and their occasional traffic-arbitraging self-immolations, what caused this moment? Racism? The word is its own answer. In 1968, even in Jefferson and Baltimore during the Obama years, the putative victims of racism did the rioting. Today it’s largely The Muppets.
The Muppets, hmmm, TV….is that a clue? Roger Scruton, who died in January of our anni mirabiles, took pains to remind us that it is culture, more specifically our definition of aesthetics, precisely the meaning of beauty that is the best way to understand a society. The poor man described the pain he experienced standing on a train platform while traveling in America and finding no escape from “the beat”, the deadening, soulless rhythm of western pop music. The reader can imagine how he felt about our other contemporary cultural products. Our visual arts, our architecture, the terrible things we expose and teach to our children. He no doubt finally rests in peace.
In pacem para bellum. In peace, for war. If you want peace, prepare for war. If we want beauty, if we want wisdom, if we want a growing and enterprising society, what kind of citizens do we need? Citizens. Growing. Are our heroes citizens? Are they growing? They do somehow look familiar? Like the barricade denizens of ’68? No, no they were rich French student hippies. More like tropes from the movies or even a comic book. Yes. But not old movies or comic books, more recent, like graphic novels or The Matrix. Yes, that’s it, they all seem to be aspiring to the art direction that gussied up Keanu Reeves (I only now realized that he has that most famous of comic book actor last names). I get it, our heroes want to be real heroes. But they only know Keanu or Deckard, a few other dystopian action figures. They are graphic heroes. We might charitably call them expressionistic.
Like all contemporary culture actors, our heroes carry the contradictions of Cultural Marxism. They attack the culture, humiliate the bourgeoisie, their parents, their schools, their unemployment offices, then retreat to the basement and their protection. It’s easy to hate them, but for America it is hard to admit she created them. How did it happen, they happen?
For me, it is far more interesting to answer the question by looking at the cultural collapse they reflect. When we do, we will know what the Muppets mean and why America chose them to use to frighten itself.
Why would America want to frighten itself? It’s evident it wants to, hosting all the Devil’s Nights it has in 2020, long before Halloween in places like Portland, Brooklyn and The Loop. In the shadow of the protests the professional criminals can come out of their nests, wave guns at their rivals and redraw their maps. America suffers all this to stir herself, especially our suburban cousins that so swear by the “peaceful protests”, so long as they only burn urban America. It is said when the protests came to Portland’s burbs, the curtains were drawn. Mission accomplished, the brief, but cold snap of fear did penetrate the high-tax school zones.
But from what do we now stir? Covid, Trump, the caliphate, financial collapse, Iraq, Afghanistan, The Towers, the Kennedys? No, these were mere media trifles, like the Beatles. But they seemed important at the time, serious, didn’t they? In sleep even a fly seems serious and we fell asleep long before the Kennedys. What are the symptoms of sleep that can tell us when we fell? And why do we sense it’s time to get up?
Let’s follow Sir Roger’s advice and take America’s vitals through whatever we can call its culture for ten seconds without laughing. We are told that American popular music was born out of traditional, gospel, anthem and transplanted light opera genres. These genres evolved into what we call R&B and Jazz, Country. The ethnic music of Southern and Eastern European immigrants mixed together with native genres in vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley. All of this seemed to gel on the Broadway of the twenties to become what we today call the American Song Book.
You could argue that the ASB did not reach the high musical standard of the opera Toscanini brought to New York and later popularized through radio broadcasts on NBC. But looking back from today’s vantage, in the context of twenty first century western pop music, it sure seems to fit the label of art.
You can make a similar case for American movies. It’s true, there was no visual equivalent to Jazz to act as a foundation for American cinema. But the originality and popularity of Chaplin and Keaton’s output, their success at creating visual conventions that became an almost universally accepted, but wordless, language convinced even arid academic critics that the movies were developing a set of aesthetics that would one day support an artform.
None of this can be said of the other plastic visual arts in America such as painting, sculpture and with the exception of Wright, architecture, all of which were mired in the outpouring of European Modernism throughout the first half of twentieth century. And while there were many interesting American poets and writers, even leading figures such as Stein, Pound and Eliot, their work was primarily grounded in European ideas and precedents.
The fiction of the American Naturalists, Norris, Crane and Dreiser, could be argued to be American originals, but theirs was at best a minor native movement that did not blossom greatly as a literary genre, but did interestingly have an impact on film. Faulkner and his “school” could also be added to this list and can be usefully tracked as we diagnose what ails America.
Another fruitful area of American creativity and certainly the most materially successful is what is today referred to as innovation. Defined simply as growth generating change, innovation is an almost perfect, if indirect, measure of American culture. To innovate a culture must have intact, functioning communities capable of supporting a network of collaborating and competing enterprises. These simultaneous conditions can only exist in places where the culture not only supports the formal rule of law, but voluntary associations such as craft clubs that create the social capital needed to invest in creating new products and services. Innovation shares these requirements with all native American artforms.
We will use these cultural creations, American music, movies, some of its literature and compare it to the advance of innovation in the twentieth century, the American Century, to understand why in the twenty first, the homeland finds itself nurturing fear through home-grown hobgoblins in the form of hand puppets.
End of Part 1
Wild turkey has a flavor totally unlike domestic turkey. They feed on insects, acorns and other goodies. Just as wild rabbit tastes better, in my opinion that tame rabbit. When mom was laid up in hospital one year before Christmas, I went up to dad’s and cleaned and cooked for him. My own dear wife had passed on by then. I took up three squirrels I had shot and the first meal I made for him was mashed sweet potatoes covered with squirrel gravy. Sauté the squirrels in a cast iron pan in butter until the meat falls from the bones. Then keep cooking it until the butter browned, add the flour and brown the resulting roux, then put in the milk and make gravy. He ate so much I thought he’d choke. Mom had been sick for weeks before her hospitalization so they had been eating mostly carry out or delivery fast food. Dad would only eat so much fast food before he just stopped eating. I also made him some pie crust cookies. He liked it so much we had leftover squirrel gravy and biscuits for the next two breakfasts
I made pork tenderloin fried in that cast iron skillet, baked him an apple pie after making the pie filling in the skillet (par cooking the filling means less liquid to ruin the crust). and then as a Christmas present, I bought them one of those spiral-sliced honey hams. I took most of the meat off it and we had ham for breakfast most mornings, and I froze a lot. Then I took the bone and the meat off the bone and put it in a pot of beans and put it in the oven for 6 hours on low. Hot damn, was it good. Made cornbread to go with it. When mom came home and was able to take over her own household again dad tried to get me to stay a little longer and cook. Mom was a great cook, but she insisted dad needed healthy food at his age. I just fed his belly with what he liked as a child.
Late every summer the entire extended family would get together. I mean the “very extended” family. Both my grandfather’s and grandmother’s families and their children and grandchildren. The men would seine the pond in the cow pasture behind the house I grew up in. All the bigger fish they caught would be cleaned and fried that same day for a giant fish fry. My grandmother made the world’s greatest hush puppies and coleslaw to go along with the fish. Come to think of it, I need to see if I can find her hush puppy recipe from one of my aunts. We only had large-mouth bass and little bluegill bream in that pond. I still love bream more than any other fish I’ve had.
This past summer I took my boys to Walmart and got them both fishing rods. Then I pulled my old rods out of my parent’s building and got the reels working again (they hadn’t been touched for 20+ years), and showed my boys where to look for worms. I took them to that same pond and taught them how to fish. We caught several decent sized bream and a couple small bass that first evening. It was enough to take home, clean and fry so my boys (and my wife and daughter, too) could get an idea of how good “real” food can be.
A few days later I managed to land a bass that topped 6 pounds. I got her off the hook cleanly and let her go back in the pond. Maybe one of us will hook her again someday.
I’m trying to give my kids memories like mine. I took my older boy squirrel hunting with my dad last fall. I’m looking forward to more of that this year. Squirrel hunting was one of my favorite pastimes growing up. My best friend and I spent countless hours out in the woods with our little .22 caliber rifles. Would you believe that squirrel tastes like chicken?
By now, the squirrel population behind my parents’ house has recovered nicely. I’m talking to my wife about getting my older boy a rifle for his 13th birthday in a month. Hopefully I can pass along that love of hunting and fishing to him. So far, he’s truly enjoyed it, and I’m encouraged by that. He might just be a better shot than me soon. While I’ll hate to admit it when he finally is, inside I’ll secretly be elated by it. Now to start working on his little brother…
My grandfather used to complain about Canada Geese. I’ve never had it, but apparently it was not uncommon as a Thanksgiving meal a couple generations ago. Grandad told me that the problem with them was that you had to soak them for hours before you cooked them because they ate so many of the wild onions that grew around here the meat tasted too much like onion. He said it smelled bad when you cooked it…to the point that you had to leave the house. He could exaggerate at times though, so I don’t know exactly how serious he was.
Several years ago, those same wild onions came up in a conversation I had with my dad. I was asking about milk cows and how many cows a family of 5 would need. Despite growing up with cows on the farm I had no idea because grandad raised beef cattle when I was growing up.
My dad, on the other hand, grew up milking cows. He told me that their family of 6 had so much milk from two cows that they threw half of it out every day. They had enough for milk for all its various milky uses and even enough cream for my grandmother to churn her own butter. I asked him why they threw away half of it and he told me it was because of the wild onions! Of course, that made no sense to me and further questioning revealed the rest of the story: they threw out the evening milk because the cows would be grazing in the pasture all day and the onions made the milk taste bad, so they threw it out. They only kept the milk from the morning because the cows were in the barn all night munching on sweet hay and the morning milk tasted good. I still haven’t decided if a couple milk cows are in our future or not though.
I see where Antifa and BLM are calling for the burning of Congress and SCOTUS over replacing RBG. They should remember a little factoid, to wit:
The Third Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) is mostly known for guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and performing ceremonial duties at the White House and Arlington National Cemetery. However, they are a fully trained, fully armed and equipped infantry regiment filled with motivated hard chargers. They will have something to say about burning down Congress or SCOTUS or the White House. They are fully capable of putting down an insurrection.
It would not be wise to provoke their use as infantry. A little reminder for the fools at Antifa and BLM.
And since it is Washington, DC, posse comitatus prohibitions do not apply. Trump does not need to even invoke the insurrection act. He can just order the Old Guard to saddle up in full battle rattle and stand by.
When the American Indian Movement occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs HQ in Washington, they strutted about showing Winchesters and such and declaring they would never move until certain things were fixed to their liking. Nixon, being a clever sort did not call out the Old Guard. He just called in the Rangers to look things over. The rangers observed and allowed themselves to be seen observing. Ranger patches in full view.
Seeing that, the protesters held a quick meeting, declared “victory”, and left for home. Rangers do not play well with others. If you want to influence hearts and minds, call the Green Beret. If all you want to do is break sh*t and hurt people, call the Rangers.
This of course would be more of a job for the Old Guard than the Rangers. The Old Guard are expressly allowed to defend the capital with no martial law being declared. Since DC is a federal city most laws are a shade different there. Besides, the Rangers are currently employed elsewhere.
Question – Was the motion picture Patton, well done?
I only knew his son, personally. But from people who knew Patton Sr that I have known, it was pretty good but played too much on the prima donna aspects. Patton senior had a rather high-pitched voice and he cursed so much to make up for it. His son was just as liable to break out in profanity. Patton was anything but a prima donna. He wanted to hurl headlong into battle and wrest it from the enemy. It is true he had a distaste for Montgomery as he found Monty far too cautious and a man who took too much counsel of his fears. One of Patton’s mantras was from Julius Caesar (Gallic Wars I believe) who said to not take counsel of your fears. A lot of the dirty aspersions attributed to him were Hollywood gunk. Yes he did pray and did curse like a stable boy. But he was a tactical genius and had great concern for supply and logistics., Without his careful planning and logistical mastery, he never could have made that sharp turn and relieved Bastogne. Patton’s theory was to grab the enemy by the throat and kick him in the balls. Fix the enemy in place then maneuver against him and hit him where he was weakest, then fold him up like a geisha girl’s fan.
If he had gotten those 400,000 gallons of fuel he requested before the German counteroffensive he could have spoiled the Bulge attack and cut the war short by several months. But Patton had shown himself a logistical master as early as the Mexican Punitive Expedition in 1916. Without his logistical mastery the war in Europe may have been over after the war in the Pacific, and we may have seen a mushroom cloud over Berlin as a result.
Hollywood did as Hollywood does. As one director said in answer to fictional embellishments of a factual story; “We ain’t making a PBS documentary, here”. While they did show Patton’s tactical genius, they tried too hard to make him a frail man, which he definitely was not. You could say that Patton and his men saved the European war for the allies.
Our greatest generals in WWII, Patton and MacArthur were both masters of logistics. MacArthur was the better strategic general and Patton the tactical. If MacArthur had been in charge in Europe, he would have let Patton run wild through Germany and been in Berlin about the time that Hitler started the Bulge offensive. With Patton charging at Berlin Hitler would have been too busy to think about Antwerp and splitting the allies in two.
Takes a little longer for the change (which comes from East to West) to get to Ohio. our best leaf-peeping times are mid to late October. To remember mom, I go on a fall color ride in October at peak color and take a few pictures. She loved for me to take her after she could no longer drive. We made a day of it. I’d pick her up early then meander our way to the Hocking Hills area. We’d go usually on a Saturday to avoid rush hour traffic. We’d eat breakfast at McDonald’s (she loved the McGriddle sandwiches) and I made sure to brew two big thermos bottles full of black coffee for us on the road to refill our insulated travel cups.
We’d drive and look and comment. She’d remind me of stories from my youth and told me stories of her youth. I told her stories of the far-off lands I’d seen in my military career. How Bavaria in Germany looked a lot like Ohio during the fall colors. We’d eat lunch in a sit-down diner, then hit the road again, stopping as necessary as dictated by mom’s water pills. See the colors, stop at roadside rests and breather the crisp air. Refill the travel mugs and go on. We’d stop at an Amish restaurant for supper that had superb baked steak in gravy with home fried potatoes and German chocolate cake for dessert. Mom always got another baked steak diner to go and I put it in a warming chest that plugged into my rear electric outlet. More driving, more leaves, more color, seeing the buck deer with full crowns, seeing the geese and ducks fly south for the winter in squadron formations. I’d get her home after dark (later, it was to the nursing home). She’d then eat the second baked steak dinner as I had more coffee. I’d leave her and she’d go on to bed.
Autumn for me has always been the color of the trees. That’s what I hated about Vietnam and the Middle East. No bold change of the seasons, wet or dry, hot or very hot. No crisp days when apples still on the tree were as sweet as nectar. No gathering of hickory nuts or black walnuts or butternuts. No toasting of pumpkin seeds for snacks. No fresh apple or pear cider. The Amish restaurant is still in business and I still stop for a baked steak dinner in mom’s memory. I talk to her as I drive even though she’s not there. Been gone 14 years now. The Amish store bowed to using electric cash registers as the state got pissy over sales tax receipts. I miss the ring and cha-ching of the old mechanical registers.
One day it will be my last ride. Being over 70 that day is closing in on me but I’ll hang on as long as I can. I’m like Slade in Ghost Rider. One day I’ll have one last ride in me. I hope to make it a good one.