Famous Brits Who Couldn’t Drive (Well):

What did J.R.R. Tolkien and John Lennon have in common? I mean, besides international fame, British birth certificates, and well-developed right brains?

For both, automotive travel presented prohibitive challenges.

In Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carter, we find out that Mrs. Tolkien had good reason to boycott Sunday drives in the family car, “Jo”:

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey CarpenterThere was the unforgettable occasion in 1932 when Tolkien bought his first car, a Morris Cowley that was nicknamed ‘Jo’ after the first two letters of its registration. After learning to drive he took the entire family by car to visit his brother Hilary at his Evesham fruit farm.

At various times during the journey ‘Jo’ sustained two punctures and knocked down part of a dry-stone wall near Chipping Norton, with the result that [Tolkien’s wife] Edith refused to travel in the car again until some months later — not entirely without justification, for Tolkien’s driving was daring rather than skillful.

When accelerating headlong across a busy main road in Oxford in order to get into a side-street, he would ignore all other vehicles and cry ‘Charge ’em and they scatter!’ — and scatter they did.

Meanwhile, in The Lives of John Lennon, by Albert Goldman, an accounting of John Lennon’s final road trip behind the wheel — accompanied by Yoko and their respective children from previous marriages, Julian and Kyoko:

The Lives of John Lennon, by Albert Goldman[It was explained] to John [Lennon] that the road was only one lane with a lay-by every sixty yards. If a car appeared from the opposite direction, John should make for the nearest lay-by or allow the oncoming driver to pull off first. John took off with Julian riding beside him in the front seat and Yoko sitting with Kyoko in the back seat.

…[L]ooking up the road, he saw a car approaching. Neither vehicle was moving rapidly. Visibility was perfect. Suddenly John panicked. He hurtled off the road and slammed into a ditch. They all were thrown forward violently, striking their heads against the dashboard, the windshield, or the side walls of the car.

What happened next enraged Yoko every time she thought about it, for years to come. John forced his way out of the front door and, dragging Julian after him, got free of the car. When he realized that he wasn’t badly hurt, he seized the boy and began dancing about like a mad troll. ‘We’re alive! We’re alive!’ he caroled gleefully.

Yoko, stunned, bleeding from facial wounds, suffering pain and hearing the howls of her child next to her, was furious that John had not thought for her. What she failed to realize was how relieved John must have felt at this moment. He had to know he need never drive again.

C.S. Lewis preferred walking.


The French people still committing beautiful acts of artistic flourish:

From The Twitter Feed…

Tax Fairies?

Ted Cruz annoys me to no end.

His podium presence reminds me of a high school debate student who binge-watches the musical, 1776, for its oratorical insights.

While aspiring public speakers are told to master their stage fright by imagining the audience in its underwear, Cruz seems to have chosen the strategy of picturing a powdered wig on his head.

Add to this the faux contemplative, pregnant pauses in his speech, and the concerned, beseeching angles of his eyebrows, and you’re left with a vomit-inducing act with its Insufferable Ass knob dialed to 11.

But I digress.

Cruz is on my mind today thanks to this from Kevin Drum, which effortlessly pokes holes in the Texas senator’s goal of eliminating the IRS:

Cruz also thinks he can eliminate the IRS. Or, in any case, “the IRS as we know it.” Has anyone asked him just why he thinks this? His plan still has a 10 percent income tax. It has a standard deduction. It has a child tax credit. It has an EITC. It includes a charitable deduction. It includes a home mortgage deduction. And there’s a business VAT to replace the corporate income tax. So who’s going to oversee and collect and audit all this stuff? Tax fairies?

Here’s hoping “tax fairies” become as commonplace in our political vernacular as Obamacare.

Old Clark Field, The University of Texas:

From 1928 until 1974, The University of Texas boasted one of the most visually interesting baseball parks in the country.

Clark Field.

The limestone outcrops and cliffs of Austin, Texas — and westward into the Texas Hill Country — are distinctive and beautiful.  Only recently did I stumble upon a photo depicting their presence across the outfield of my alma mater’s old baseball diamond.

Clark Field, The University of Texas (1928-1974)

The face of the outcrop varied from 12-to-30-feet in height — a home field advantage if there ever was one.  Opposing teams couldn’t possibly anticipate the odd bounces off of the limestone as well as could the Longhorns.

Meanwhile, the scoreboard sat atop “Billy Goat Hill.”

Billy Goat Hill, Clark Field, The University of Texas.

Hits landing on the hill were considered in play.  And the Texas players knew best how to reach them in a hurry.

It wasn’t uncommon for two, UT outfielders to position themselves atop and behind the cliff — with the other two remaining below.

The University of Texas won 37 Southwest Conference baseball championships while calling Clark Field home. Plus, two College World Series championships.

Bonus Fun Fact: It’s said that Lou Gehrig hit a 550-foot home run far over “Billy Goat Hill” during a 1930 exhibition game.

My Bobble Head Yoda, Tho:

Bobble head Yoda ponders his bobble head existence on a shelf in my sound studio — providing creative mojo.

Bobble Head Yoda

“I Just Don’t Like The Guy”:

Just trying to sort this out–

We all know George W. Bush thinks Dick Cheney is a swell guy. Let’s also consider that Dubya once looked Vladimir Putin in the eye, said that he gained a sense of Putin’s very soul — and deemed him “trustworthy.”

Yet he dislikes Ted Cruz.

In what universe can you plot all of that on an x-y axis?

All Trumped Out?

I’ll just post this from Kevin Drum in its entirety (because it’s awesome):

Message to everyone: You don’t have to cover Donald Trump’s every move. Honest. If you’re going to whine and complain about how he’s sucking all the oxygen out of the race, then stop covering him unless he does something genuinely newsworthy. Which actually isn’t all that often.

For God’s sake, how hard can this be? If clickbait is all that matters to you, fine. But don’t pretend you’re being journalists if that’s all that’s driving you.

Not that I’m complaining about the coverage.

I mean, for liberals, Donald Trump has an Eric Cartman-like super power — turning your shocked disbelief into a guilty pleasure.

MSNBC would be insane not to cover this traveling carnival wall-to-wall.

Is Trump Trolling The GOP?

In the past, Donald Trump has held several liberal political positions — on abortion rights, raising taxes on the rich, and universal health care:

[H]e was once a registered Democrat who called for legalizing drugs, a massive one-time 14.25 percent tax on the wealthy and staying out of wars that didn’t present a “direct threat” to the U.S. In many ways, he’s been to the left of Clinton and even Bernie Sanders on some issues.

So Vox.com’s Jonathan Allen suggests that The Donald might be trolling the GOP this primary campaign season.

I don’t know if I buy it.  But it’s certainly a delicious explanation for Twitter volleys such as this one, aimed at Rick Perry the other day:

The late, great Texas political humorist Molly Ivins also considered Perry “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” And christened him “Governor Goodhair” for that healthy, well-behaved shock positioned just to the north of his thick-rimmed hipster glasses.

Credit Perry’s genetics, I suppose.  ‘Cuz fine heads of hair can’t be bought — just ask Trump.

But back to the Art of the Troll: the thought has occurred to me that Trump might be pulling a Ross Perot.  It was always rumored that Perot was more interested in removing H.W. Bush from office than in defeating Bill Clinton in 1992.

Perhaps Trump fancies himself the “jam car” of 2016:

And just as with Ross Perot, the mark could be a Bush (Jeb!), and the benefactor a Clinton.

Which is all fine and dandy if you like your elections served with plenty of unintended humor. (And I do, indeed.)

But is the risk — however slight — of Trump somehow finding his way into the White House worth such a fleeting reward?

Repenting Of My High School’s Confederate Flag:

As a guy who grew up in a community whose neighborhood high school was dripping with symbols of the Confederacy, I’m all too familiar with folks who defend the Confederate flag with claims that it represents “heritage, not hate.”

History, of course, doesn’t leave much room for this argument.

From the 1940’s to the 1960’s, white supremacist political groups in the South, championing segregation and fighting in opposition to the Civil Rights movement, chose for themselves a now infamous symbol:  the Southern Cross.

Also known as the Stars and Bars, this was a flag originally flown by the Army of Northern Virginia.

Later, it became the most visually distinctive portion of the third and final flag of the Confederate States of America (below), and so is popularly known today simply as the Confederate flag.

Third, and final, official flag of the Confederate States of America

To bridge the gap in the flag’s history between the Civil War and its use in the backlash against the Civil Rights movement, Libby Nelson provides helpful context at Vox.com:

The civil rights movement didn’t change the flag’s meaning — it simply made the hate underlying the heritage more explicit. After the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, white Southerners used the Confederate flag to intimidate civil rights activists and demonstrate states’ willingness to protect segregation at all costs.

The flag no longer represented just a 19th-century battle to preserve white supremacy, but a 20th-century one as well.

The KKK waved the Confederate flag. So did the Citizens’ Councils, white supremacist groups of prominent and successful people who opposed integration. White mobs at the University of Alabama carried Confederate flags when they threw rocks at Autherine Lucy, the university’s first black student, before the university decided to expel her rather than protect her. Mobs fighting to protect segregated schools wore Confederate flags in Little Rock and New Orleans and Austin and Birmingham.

It’s an ugly symbol, with the ugliest of origins.

Of course, for many of my generation, Generation X, the first encounter with this symbol came via a popular TV show of our youth, The Dukes of Hazard, where it was splashed across the top of an extremely cool car (we thought) — The General Lee.

The Dukes of Hazard's General Lee Car

I can’t have been the only kid in the early 80’s who sat at the steering wheel of one of his parents’ parked cars — with all the windows rolled entirely down — pretending I was Bo or Luke Duke speeding around Hazard County, jumping creeks, and tormenting the likes of Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coletrane.

ERTL Toy Car - General LeeIn fact, along with a Hot Wheels knock-off of Speed Racer’s Mach 5, a small, die cast General Lee was my most prized toy car.

So, from an early age, a Trojan Horse of sorts had slipped through the gates of my generation’s subconscious, inviting us to become sympathetic to the view that the Confederate flag was about “heritage, not hate.”

For some of us, I think this goes a long way in explaining the popularity the Confederate flag still enjoys today. And why many insist the flag has never represented racism to them.

But back to my high school alma mater, South Garland High School (established in 1964), which, as I’ve mentioned, was absolutely drenched in symbols of the Confederacy.

South Garland’s mascot was a Civil War “Southern Colonel.”  Its school song was “Dixie.”  Its school flag was the Confederate flag (modified only so that the school shield could be displayed across its middle).

And its school shield — named without irony, the Libertas — was designed to boast yet another Confederate flag within.

Pre-1992 South Garland High School Flag

At school pep rallies, our cheerleaders would lead chants of, “The South. The South. The South shall rise again!” And in our school cafeteria was a wall covered with a hand-painted mural of a southern plantation — complete with apparent slaves working the fields.

South Garland High School's Pre-1992 School ShieldEven today, some 20 years after the Confederate flag was officially removed at South Garland High School, this tile display of the school shield remains outside the school’s main offices, a gift from the Senior class of 1968.

But the history of the Confederate flag at South Garland High School took a peculiar twist in 1990, my Senior year, when an African American student was chosen (by front office staff, I believe) to be our class’s Colonel mascot. This meant he would don a Confederate Colonel’s uniform and wave our school’s Confederate flag at football games and pep rallies.

I never spoke with him about it at the time. And, sadly, he’s dead now. So I can’t claim to know whether his decision to pursue and then accept being our school’s mascot was an act of defiance, of humor, maybe both — or something else entirely.

I know this: a popular and extremely well-liked black student wearing a Confederate uniform and waving a Confederate flag to chants of “The South shall rise again!” made it much easier for a predominantly white student body in a Texas suburb to embrace the perceived “heritage” of that symbol, and not the “hate.”

Yes, a peculiar twist.

South Garland Colonel Mascot 1990

Today my perspective is 20/20. I see all the bad seeds that were planted in pop culture and in southern communities like mine.

And I understand that those seeds, symbols like the Confederate flag, were placed there by the politics of white supremacy.

Shamefully, they’ve been allowed to survive decades in the civic sphere: atop state capitol buildings; on state college campuses; at taxpayer maintained cemeteries and memorials; and at public schools like mine.

There they acquired cultural camouflage. And were conflated with otherwise harmless feelings, like regional pride or school spirit.

Until generations of kids began to view them — sincerely (in many cases), but ignorantly — as “heritage” instead of “hate.”

The time to placate ignorance has passed.