Friday, January 14, 2022

They're Always Lurking.

 Most of the time when I'm on the Internet and I comment on, or post anything about wild predators, some guy (it's always a male) will pipe up with a comment about killing the predator with a gun.

Sometimes it won't happen, but generally it does. If I show a photo of a bear that I've photographed on a hike, or of a coyote I've seen while in a wilderness only a moment will pass before some armed-up idiot makes a comment on how I should carry a firearm, or what kind of weapon I need to kill said animal.

And my reaction has become one of revulsion rather than of surprise or amusement. This is the kind of reaction I've come to expect from these creeps who inhabit US society. And, yes, it's always one of my fellow US citizens who reacts this way. I've never had anyone from another continent or country tell me that I need to kill some animal.

I used to wonder where this attitude of belligerence toward wild animals comes from, but now I think I understand it. It has nothing to do with negative encounters these people have had with wolves, or mountain lions, or grizzly bears. It has everything to do with propaganda. That's right. The US press isn't happy just trying to make Americans hate each other; or how we should be ready to kill Russians, or Chinese, or Mexicans or anyone else the system currently wants to demonize. They also do it to animals of all things.

When I was a kid I was interested in wildlife. I would read anything and everything I could find about wild animals. When I ran out of books to read I turned to the vast numbers of magazines in my dad's warehouse. And I gravitated to the magazines that had cover photos of bears and wolves and lions. These were, of course, hunting magazines. Usually I'd skip right past the articles about rifles and pistols and compound bows and go right to the prose concerning wild creatures: the game, as the authors termed them.

It was in those vast stacks of hunting magazines that I'd sit and read about mule deer, and elk, bison, moose, pronghorn, mountain goats, wolverines, black bears, puma, timber wolves, lynx, otters, and their vast company of other herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. Even as a generally non-critical child I began to note a decidedly negative tendency toward any animal that was a carnivore. If the animal sported fangs and/or sharp claws it was on the writer's shit-list. And they'd pile on the hate. Bears and mountain lions were bad, and should be shot. Wolves and coyotes should not only be shot, but wiped from the face of Mother Earth.

Well, it was apparent that the editors of all of these varied hunting publications hated all predators who were not Homo sapiens. They referred to most of them as vermin. It was, obviously, paramount that such animals be cleansed from the landscape. After realizing this ridiculous tendency of the publications I ceased to read them.

But it took me a while to figure out why they were taking this attitude. It wasn't just that human hunters don't want any competition. Such people don't generally even like other gun-owners to share a few hundred acres of forest with them. (Other human hunters accidentally shoot and kill one another to a shocking extent every year. Look it up.) No, I couldn't base this endless blather of hatred toward wolves and such creatures merely on the fact that human hunters don't want canines and felines and ursids eating up their game. Sometime else was afoot.

And I realized what it was when I noticed that these magazines also had a tendency to hate government legislation that established National Parks and wilderness areas; and any law that mandated the protections of rare and endangered animals. Even when hunting is allowed in wilderness areas, these periodicals didn't support their establishment, based on some vague dimming of our rights.

At last I realized from whence these clowns were receiving their marching orders. All such publications are corporate owned. Large, ongoing publishing concerns. And each under the control not just of editors and publishers, but of executives who gather in boardrooms commanded by major stockholders. The same fat-cats who call the editorial shots are also the same people who invest their money in timber, in real estate, in mining, in drilling rigs, in pipelines.

Timber wolves and mountain lions are a threat to these human vermin. A blackfooted ferret can screw up plans to exploit an oil field. An endangered bird of prey can derail the laying of pipe. It is in their interest to demonize a predator as surely as it is in their interest to foment a war against another nation which presents no threat to us.

I haven't picked up such a magazine in decades. Not even out of curiosity, or during a moment of childhood nostalgia from the days when I was a kid hungry for knowledge and looking for information within the pages of those poisonous magazines.

But, at last, I understood the origin of the mania against predators, and I know the source of the fuel that feeds the insanity that pops up when I post a photo of a bear or a coyote.

So, to the idiots always calling for me to kill bears and wolves: grow the fuck up.


Hawk.

Turkey.

Elk.

Coyote.



Friday, December 31, 2021

Last Day of 2021

 Well, it's the last day of 2021.

It's been a decent year. Victories for the Smith family were measured in pleasant occurrences. Andy found a job that pays a decent wage. To celebrate, I bought him a car so that he won't have to go into a new situation having to face a monthly vehicle payment. Carole and I got a membership to the local city-owned fitness center that allowed Carole to take activity classes and for me to get back into weightlifting (in a strictly old-man kind of way). I lost weight, which is rarely a bad thing. My novel WORKING CLASS HERO was republished and has been a lot more successful than I would have thought. The sequel is almost finished (although as I write this it's five months late).

Carole retired from her old job after 31+ years. She started a new one to count out the time to her own  full-time retirement on her 62nd birthday in less than two years. We make plans that we may or may not be able to see through. But make them we will.

So, I go into this last night of 2021 looking forward to 2022. I've long since stopped worrying about Covid-19 and what it means. I got my vaccine shots. I have an appointment for the booster. Medicare kicks in for me in less than six months. We're planning vacations for the year. Two or three with the travel trailer; and one, maybe two by jet. Yes, 2019 taught me to not put too many eggs in the vacation basket due to the virus and its various mutations. But we'll do something, no matter what. Worst case, we have six isolated acres 4,000 feet above sea level in the North Carolina mountains. We can park the trailer there and chill out, hike, build campfires, grill, sit in the self-contained travel trailer and take it easy deep in the forest. We'll see.

But I don't think travel is going to be the pain in the ass that it was in 2019/2020. I suppose we'll be able to take the trips we're planning. I'll continue to write. I may take a photography class to learn how to properly do what I've self-taught. There are a lot of things I have time to do now, and I hope to explore them.

I leave with this image. The last few hours before we take down the tree. I recalled this week that one of the things I loved to do when I was in grade school was to sit in front of the Christmas tree and just gaze at it. Long before I heard about meditation and what it was I was doing it. Cross-legged I'd place myself a few feet from those branches and the bright colors and just sit there, gazing, letting the sight of it take me deep into my thoughts. I told my best friend Chuck how I enjoyed that, letting the symmetry and glitter of that image take me away.

Therefore, in the waning hours of the life of this year's wonderful tree, the glittering bulbs, the ornaments, the shining star, the scent of balsam filling the room, I decided to do as I did as a child. I sat cross-legged there, transported myself decades back, recalling the sweet nostalgia of why I still adore this mad season of excess.

I love these holiday months. For me, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. I hope to live the next eleven months in peace, finding happiness with my small family, and enter in to another such season celebrating our lives and all lives. That's something that never comes in excess.


This stuff always makes me feel like a kid, and I had a good time as a kid. That's as good a reason as any for loving the holidays, I reckon.



Thursday, December 30, 2021

Christmas 2021

 People say I'm cynical, and it may be so. The same people who say that I'm cynical tend to give me a hard time because I enjoy Christmas so much. Yes, it can be a difficult season for some, but the tradition of it and the childhood memories the holiday gave me have always made me happy. So, as an adult, I have done my best to have a great time of it every season and to try to make my family happy at that time, also. I reckon I'm not too cynical.

This was a good Christmas. We didn't have more than the average amount of hardships this year, so that means it was a pleasant twelve months. All of us are healthy and financially stable. You can't ask for much more than that.

Here's to silly trees in the house, bright lights and jolly decorations on that tree, lots of gifts beneath those fragrant balsam branches, holiday tunes playing, and having the family close.

It was nice.








Saturday, November 13, 2021

Our Autumn Vacation: Smokemont Campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

 Every year Carole and I take a Halloween week vacation. We hook up the Casita and try to find a place where we can view spectacular Fall color. Despite propaganda from other parts of the country, I have found that the most vibrant and varied Autumn displays are in the southern Appalachians. Other parts of the country depend on one or two species of hardwoods to paint the local landscape with color, but in the big southern mountains there are hundreds of species of deciduous trees transitioning from green to all manner of eye-popping hues.

In 2019 we went to the Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hit that amazing forest at its peak. In 2020 we headed a bit farther west and north and traveled to the Red River Gorge of Kentucky and once again hit those trees at full color display. The forests there are not as varied but are still amazing to see. This year, we returned to the Great Smoky Mountains, but opted to see the southern end of the Park and stayed at Smokemont Campground.

Here, then, are some of the views we were afforded on this year's version of our annual trip. We're not sure where we're going in Fall of 2022. Maybe to New England. 2023 we're going to try for a month-long journey to Colorado. Carole has never seen the aspens when they put on their annual show of leafy gold.

When we arrived we realized that our initial reservation would not allow us to use our generator at the spot we'd chosen. So we asked if we could move to a generator-friendly spot. The ranger was able to accommodate us and we got a pull-through site in Section D where we could run our generator. We don't generally run it much...mainly to charge some of the electronic devices we take with us. After the first three nights they closed Section D and we moved to our original site in Loop B. At that time, when they close most of the loops, the entire campground is open for generator use.

On the night when the cold front arrived, pushing out the persistent rains, we awakened to find that our furnace was only blowing cold air because we'd run out of propane during the early morning. When I switched tanks I realized that it was empty. So we had to make a quick run into Cherokee to get one tank refilled. I had two spares at home, both full, but had neglected to check to make sure both tanks on the Casita were full before we left. I always manage to forget something. We scooted back to the campsite and I hooked the tank back on and the furnace fired up again. I hope not to repeat that mistake!

All in all, we had another relaxing, successful Fall color vacation!


A brief video displaying our two campsites at Smokemont.

Carole doesn't like pull-through campsites. This is because most of that type are exposed and don't offer much in the way of privacy. But these were fine. The next time we stay at Smokemont I'm going to reserve a pull-through site like this one.

This was the picnic table at our second campsite. We never really used it. The weather turned cold so we ended up eating inside, even though we cooked outside.

Our second campsite. That's the bathroom building behind us. Most National Parks do not offer any kind of hookups for RVs. No electric, water connection; also no bathhouses with showers. This campground was typical in that way. Flush toilets and sinks. We did fill up our freshwater onboard tank at the campground, and we took our Honda 2000 generator with us. So we generally have no need for traditional campground utilities.

The campground just before we left. October through March are the low season the the Park. We left on a Tuesday, so there were not many people left in the campground as we prepared to head out.

The last photo I took before we left. We didn't catch the colors are their peak, but they were spectacular anyway. They were actually peaking when we got to the Park but three days of heavy rain managed to bash a lot of the color off the trees. Still...it was a great color show.

Initially, I wasn't going to take any photos of the elk. But when the rain finally broke we drove to Oconaluftee (adjacent to the campground) and there were elk wandering about, grazing. The rut was just over and all of the bull elk were elsewhere. After the rut the bulls tend to congregate in male-only groups and chill out together. So the elk herd was reduced to cows and calves. As you can see, some of the trees had dropped their leaves during the hard rains, but the color was still spectacular.

An elk calf, its camouflage spots recently faded away.

This was at an overlook on Balsam Mountain Road on a drive we took after the rain finally broke.



Another view along Balsam Mountain Road at high elevation. The peaks here are over 5,000 feet. I like this view because of the obvious change of climate zones as altitude increases. You can see the stark delineation where the spruce-fir Canadian zone begins.


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Sidelining Martin Goodman

Continuing essay to counter the constant erroneous corporate propaganda regarding the early days of Marvel Comics.

Another thing that the Lee droolies like to do is to claim that Stan Lee was a marketing genius guiding the corporate ship known as Marvel Comics. This never happened. Martin Goodman, the publisher and owner, held Lee in such low esteem that his junior cousin-by-marriage had to clear everything through the owner (Goodman) for all but the most minor decisions. Contrary to the lies made popular by later faux-historians, you can see that Martin Goodman was a hands-on publisher who paid very close attention to all of his publishing ventures, especially to Marvel Comics. Once Kirby and Ditko had revitalized the comics publishing portion of his publishing outfit he did not want the Comics Code Authority, or muckraking journalists, to come down on him with complaints against the material he was printing.  He was enjoying his resurgent economic success, while also searching for a buyer to make him a rich man. He didn't need complications and kept a very close eye on Marvel.

I mention all of this because I was recently referred to an article which repeats the fallacy that Lee was some kind of marketing genius, giving him credit where none is due.
Lee never marketed anything. Just as he never created, plotted, or wrote anything.
Lee was a rudderless shill. He depended upon upper management for all direction. All of it. Martin Goodman was the man who built a publishing empire from essentially nothing. Goodman hired the talent, paid them, saw to the day to day running of the show and made sure the bills were paid. And he certainly knew how and where to advertise and to make the decisions concerning customer outreach.
This article claimed that it was Lee who saw a way to expand sales by noticing new customers who hadn't been targeted. However, Lee didn't see any untapped market. He never directed any kind of promotional campaign or fan outreach. Hell, he couldn't buy paperclips for the office without permission so how was he supposed to find and toss advertising money at this great invisible prospective customer base?
Reporters like the fellow who wrote that article make a common error. They had seen that lying blowhard on TV, radio, or in too many print interviews for them to formulate any honest conclusions remotely based on the truth.
Lee was never executive material who could be trusted with a responsibility as important as marketing. If no corporate powerhouse had ever wanted his one dimensional car salesman schtick, his own cousin wasn't going to trust him with something as serious as advertising Marvel Comics. Lee was a subnormal jackass, and he was far too stupid to create any complicated or nuanced business models. He couldn't even plot the comic strips so often credited to him!
However, Lee was a shill who had value to various Marvel owners (and Marvel owners ONLY!) due to his (and the corporations) unfounded claims over the intellectual property stolen from creators like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.
Giving that creep credit for the hard work of Martin Goodman is akin to saying that the actor who portrayed The Marlboro Man was the Chief Financial Officer of a multi-national tobacco corporation. Would you say that some nameless actor was the business mastermind of the vast Marlboro Cigarette Company? Only a snookered moron would make that claim. Like the Marlboro Man, Lee portrayed a garish, posed, false character trotted out to blinker the hoi polloi. They train people to do that. They direct them how to say it, and when to repeat their scripted lines. But the costumed actors don't run the company. Neither did a shill working for Martin Goodman, Cadence Industries, etc.

To paraphrase Steve Ditko: A shill is a shill.


A fiction.



Martin Goodman, the man who actually built and guided a publishing company.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Countdowns and Possibilities.

 Carole and I tend to plan our vacations carefully. Some time back we were having problems with the leveling jacks on our Casita so a friend came over and removed them for us with a saw that sheared through the steel. It was great to be rid of the damned things, I must tell you.

Over the intervening months we kept putting off installing new jacks because we couldn't decide which brand and design to use. I wouldn't have thought there was that much variety, but there is. Finally, yesterday I took the trailer off to a shop to have new leveling jacks installed, and to have some other minor touch-up work done. I hope to have the Casita back in a few days. Then we'll start loading it up for our big Autumn trip to the Smokies. I may even go off to a NC state park or National Forest campsite for a few days. Who knows?

When Carole retires we're going to take some extensive trips that will stretch beyond a couple of weeks into as long as two months. We have found that we tend to get a bit stir crazy in our Casita in trips over fourteen days. We love the trailer and we also know people who take trips of several months in them, but that's not for us. So, in the months leading up to Carole's retirement we're going to sell our precious Casita and buy a new, larger fiberglass travel trailer. We'll likely purchase a 21-foot Escape, but it's possible we could go with a similar sized Bigfoot or Airstream. The jury is still out.

So, our backyard parking lot looks a bit empty with no Casita sitting in it waiting for the next trip. We're probably looking at only eighteen months or so of camping in it before we buy a new model. Unless we change our minds, there will be a very sad day when we say goodbye to the trailer that has carried us all over the Atlantic seaboard, down to the Florida Keys, and as far west (and north) as Glacier National Park. I can already say we'll miss Casita Girl (as Carole calls her).

Or maybe we'll change our minds and keep her. You never can tell.





Thursday, September 02, 2021

Liar, Liar

 Presented as the alternative to decades of propaganda.

As I predicted long ago, with the death of the corporate shill known as Stan Lee, the truth about his career in comics is coming out at a more rapid pace than when he was still breathing. But while it's easier to get the word out concerning his moral crimes, it's no easier to deal with his fans when one is telling the truth about him.

I can only describe his fan base as religious fanatics. They have been fed a line about his divinity and if you challenge this line you are at risk of the same kind of attack you would expect from a crazed fundamentalist, or from a rabid animal. When you tell what really happened at Marvel after Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko transformed the publisher from a faltering outfit into a tremendous success the Liar's true believers will descend on you with knives out.

Here, then, are the basic truths:

What we know of today as the Marvel Universe was created mainly by Jack Kirby. To a lesser extent it was also given commercial success by Steve Ditko. There were additional contributors such as Bill Everett, Wally Wood, Dick Ayers, Don Heck, and others; but the mass of the modern fables emerged from the minds and talents of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

The big liar we call Stan Lee (Stanley Lieber) was the editor for the comics arm of a publishing company started by Martin Goodman. Lee was cousin-by-marriage to Goodman, so his installation into the company was an act of pure nepotism. No talent was involved, and no meritocracy was at work. A relative was shown the ropes and was provided with a steady paycheck at a very young age. Lee's lack of talent is obvious in that he never left the employ of his relative and stayed there over the years, never venturing forth to find gainful employment elsewhere, and never proving himself as anyone valuable enough for a head hunter to come calling. It's often said that Lee was a good salesman, but I always found him to be on a level with a scamming used car salesman. His personality was odious, at best.

But what service did he provide for Martin Goodman? After Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were allowed to create new titles to cash in on the superhero craze of the early 1960s, Goodman needed a salaried employee whose name could be attached to the intellectual property to cement the company's claim to that property. And, as the only salaried employee at the comics arm of Martin Goodman's corporation, Lee fit the bill.

So: the liar's name went on every book as writer. Later, Lee claimed to have created all of the titles and characters at the early Marvel Comics. He claimed to have created the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the Avengers, the Uncanny X-Men, Daredevil, the Mighty Thor, Dr. Strange, the Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man, Giant Man, Ant Man, etc. In fact, though, there is zero evidence that Lee invented any of the characters which he claimed to be writing. Also, there are credible claims that he wasn't even writing the parade of successful books appearing from the likes of Kirby, Ditko, Ayers, Wood, Everett, Heck, Romita, and company. Keep in mind that before the explosion of creativity provided from Kirby and Ditko, Goodman's most profitable enterprise was publishing a line of men's adventure fiction magazines. There was a  constant parade of talented writers in and out of the  building who were only too happy to expand dialog already provided  by the artists who were actually not only creating the characters, but plotting and writing them. For a couple of hours work these ghost-writers could earn grocery money. No big deal that another man's name went on. For in those days comic scripting was held in lower esteem than even the pulp fiction they were producing for Martin Goodman. Who cared if a no-talent bum put his signature to it?

Over the following months and years as Marvel's fortunes expanded Goodman sought to sell the company. I can imagine what he was thinking. He'd already seen his comic book business go through a boom and bust cycle from the early 1940s and through the 1950s, and he could have figured he was riding another wave that might soon crest and fall. He wanted to get out while the company was a ripe crop ready to be harvested and sold. Therefore, more than ever he needed a corporate shill that enabled him to claim ownership of the intellectual property that rightly resided with the men who had sweated it out: mainly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. For that purpose alone, Lee's lying presence was invaluable.

Eventually, Goodman did sell Marvel. For enough cash so that he was able to retire to Florida as a wealthy man. What he never considered was that the value of Jack Kirby's creations was far more than he ever could have dreamed. The publisher never figured that his connivance with Liar Lee was a theft that would someday be measured in tens of billions of dollars. I cannot think of another theft of intellectual property that rivals what was stolen from Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. The monetary value of the likes of X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Avengers, Dr. Strange, etc. staggers the imagination. And as that wealth has increased, so did the lies of the man whose professional existence was provided for that sole purpose. And also continued the willingness for the various corporate owners to go along--they still needed that lie to live on.

In fact, though, we all know who created the characters. Kirby, Ditko, Everett, and others did. Who wrote the books? The artists who illustrated it were expected to plot and also write them. The editor placed his name on the credits page as "writer" when there is zero evidence he ever wrote anything other than poorly rendered promotional blurbs and columns, and an occasional butchering of dialog and scripts in some issues. The corporations claimed ownership for everything because of the existence of a sole salaried employee.

Today, as I said, the truth is emerging. We now know who created the characters and wrote and illustrated the stories. It wasn't the lying editor.

But telling this simple truth can still be a tough row to hoe. One has to deal with the army of zealots who believe the fallacy that a slimy grifter created the characters they love. These fans equate the face of a gleaming, grinning slug with their beloved comics. And there are the professional sellouts working in the comics industry who still feel the urge to kiss corporate ass after the lying bastard they once worked for is dead and rotting. Hopefully, these prostitutes will come to their senses and find enough dignity to stop lying for a dead thief and the corporate master he served. Maybe that will happen. But I doubt it.


ACCORDING TO JACK KIRBY by Michael Hill. Highly recommended.


The Amazing Spider-Man. Created by, plotted by, written by, penciled by, inked by Steve Ditko.