The picture doesn’t do it justice. Taken with a crappy phone as the rush was on to pack up and evacuate it appears to show a small plume from the wildfire up the Twisp river road in Washington state. In fact it was a massive inferno that claimed the lives of three firefighters and was only controlled by a rapid and comprehensive suppression effort involving many aircraft and a large army of firefighters in hundreds of vehicles in a swift initial response. A 747 dropping retardant was successful in quenching a large portion of the blaze, which became a huge fire in no time, reportedly ignited from a structure fire. The editor for the Yellow Press was on the scene, visiting the area when the blaze broke out. The days prior apocalyptic views of another fire, the Lake Chelan blaze, filled the eastern horizon and as winds shifted the skies became so dense with smoke even the nearby hillside were obscured. The editor had been outside and appreciating a change in the wind that was clearing some of the smoke out when it was noticed that a large plume was developing to the north. Hastily putting things away and closing up the buildings a careful watch was kept on the constantly increasing fire. The smoke ranged from a deep brown to reddish orange and paper white and rose in tumultuous columns that billowed skyward and bent into a wide band that filled the sky and blocked the sun. Evacuation of the towns of Twisp, Winthrop and the surrounding areas clogged the highways and left the towns vacant save the swarms of emergency response vehicles racing to hotspots. The smoke was eerie, blocking the view, choking the lungs and stinging the eyes. Driving for a hundred and fifty miles southeast hasn’t found clear skies and the mornings sunrise wasn’t evident until the dim orange disk was several hands above the horizon. In Spokane, on the eastern border of the state the sky is dark and somber and would look like rain was imminent but for the sting in the nose and haze between buildings.
The west is ablaze and looking at a fire incident map one can see several large blazes and hundreds more reported fires. This editor is driving east through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and will post updates.
Update 8/20/15 – The Twisp fire exploded from about 1500 acres to 16,000 acres over the night of the 19th, our hopes and best wishes are with all those affected. The editor has encountered smoky skies for most of the day driving east. Even as far as Hamilton, Montana the shy has been choked with smoke with one brief respite in the town of Wallace, Idaho. Though smack in the Bitterroot valley no views of the peaks surrounding where the river runs it course and little can be see but the tall cottonwoods bending in the smoke laden wind.
Even monkeys know fair play when they see it. (Not bonobos, those promiscuous primates set a bad example for us all.) But research into morals and equity have shown that even our primate cousins know when they are getting a raw deal. Researchers working with Capuchin monkeys, those are the cute little ones often seen with degenerate organ grinders wearing little red caps and holding out tin cups for spare change, the monkeys that is, the organ grinders just keep tunelessly plodding along. Anyway researchers working with Capuchin monkeys taught them to perform a task for which they were then rewarded with a little piece of gravel. What good is one piece of gravel to a monkey you ask? Well the beasts could exchange their gravel token for a piece of food. So initially the monkeys learned to do the work, get the gravel and exchange it for food. Pretty shmart huh, monkeys know about money. But the real research was about equal treatment. The clever scientists paid some of the monkeys a morsel of cucumber for their gravel, and that was okay, the cobb salad with cucumber is a popular menu item on Rodeo Drive. Then some of the monkeys were paid with a sweet delicious grape for their gravel, within eyeball range of the ones who were compensated with cucumber. Riot ensued. A grape is much more desirable than a cuke.
Some monkeys were so upset they would no longer trade a gravel bit for a cucumber bit. Some hurled their cucumber bits at the researchers. Some hurled the gravel. One researcher had his eye cataracted. It was obvious the monkeys saw the system as rigged, just like the Ludlow miners not so long ago, just like the fast food workers of today. The researchers could only conclude that monkeys have a sense of morals. So they tried their experiment, with some variation, on a group of the worlds top CEO’s at an executive retreat in Palm Springs, CA.
They organized the retreat to coincide with the seasonal monsoons that occur each spring and held a buffet dinner outside, far from the hotel, out in the desert. Tents were erected, the guests brought in by SUV and just after everyone was seated and dinner was about to be served the monsoon winds began to to pick up, right on schedule. The winds began to cause the tent walls to flap and loose, and the stakes. driven into sand, began to pull loose. The waitstaff was the first to address the predicament, grabbing the tents’ guylines and holding the stakes into the ground but as the wind picked up it was evident that unless others assisted the whole party would be caught unprotected in the blowing sand and inevitable downpour. First to rush to help were executives from the tech sectors, many of whom wore blue jeans and short sleeve shirts. (Notably absent from these was Mark Zuckerburg, who kept his nose to his smartphone and seemed to be updating his Facebook status.) As the wind rose and loss of the tent seemed imminent some bigwigs from the manufacturing sector lent a hand, grabbing the crenelated eaves of the roof and hanging tight. Last to pitch in were members of the finance and banking industries whose main concern seemed to be insuring that the lids weren’t blown off the buffet dishes. The end result was that, with everyone helping out, catastrophe was averted, and as the winds abated and a soft sunset began the dinner was held in a peaceful desert evening redolent of the fresh smell of rain. The waitstaff was allowed to eat the cucumber cobb salad, whose lid had been off for much of the storm and was somewhat gritty.
After the dishes had all been cleaned, the tents taken down and the CEO’s tucked into their cool Impressions 1200 Thread Count 100% Egyptian Cotton, Deep Pocket, Single Ply, Queen Bed Sheet Set Solid, White
sheets, the waitstaff was whisked off to the local emergency rooms for treatment of their rope burns, sprained shoulders and ointments were applied to their sand blasted eyes. They were also given their checks, after completing 1099’s, and put on buses to Tecate, CA. Many would have preffered the executives be paid in gravel.
The seed, progeny of almost all things green, (seed-plants make up nearly 90% of all plant life), little marvelous blueprints that awaken each spring are right now stretching out their tiny tendrils, striving to be great. Some are as small as the dust they sprout from, some are as big as your head, your head that is, not mine, mine is way big, and that’s a problem when buying a hat. These latent plants are jettisoned, dropped, launched, sprung and windblown from their parental plants and find their way to their own yearning lives when the conditions are right. Some wait years, decades, eons to have their chance. Grains of wheat found in the tombs of pharaohs, upon being hidden from the light of day for thousands of years have grown wheat to make bread for modern man. Some are in great haste to recreate, dandelions see several generations in a season, much to the dismay of my neighbor Mike who doesn’t appreciate the bright yellow blossoms and firework seed globes beauty as much as some do. Now that spring is come fully to the northern latitudes we celebrate the magical seed, and wish you luck with yours.
Most seeds have a basic structure. a self contained germ, which is the part that wants to grow, the body, which is more or less food for the germ, and an outer covering that protects the seed until it’s time comes. In addition there is often built into the outer covering a shape or structure that assists in the seeds dispersal. No seed worth its germ wants to grow directly in its parents shadow, where the light is poor and all the nutrients have already been taken up. Each seed wants its own life, on its own terms in its own little happy spot, like Swink. So, like the familiar maple, blackberry and cashew seed they have found ways to get out and around. And once they do look out!
So now that the soil is moist and the days grow warm and longer, enjoy the little things that sprout and grow.
Ticketed for feeding the homeless population of San Antonio, Texas, chef and alleged humanitarian Joan Cheever is claiming it is her religious right to do so. For the past ten years Cheever has proffered quality, nutritious meals to the local homeless population from her mobile food truck. the ‘Chow Train’ much to the chagrin of the local restaurant owners who would like to see her stop the practice. “The problem is these people, (the homeless), no longer have any incentive to apply for jobs as busboys, waitresses and dishwashers at our establishments.” says diner owner Sludge McFoodle. “In the past these rejects were the mainstay of our workforce. We paid em a few bucks, for Ripple and such, let them eat as much of the plate scrapings and spoilage as they wanted and the system was in balance. They never had so much money they could get in much trouble, they slept warm and dry in our dumpsters and we didn’t worry about filing 1099’s on them because they usually only stayed a week or two.” he added. “But now, with all these do-gooders feeding them and educating them about minimum wages and rights and stuff they have become more of a nuisance. Just the other day I asked my new dishwasher to help clean the grease filters above the grill and he tells me it’s not in his job description. Now the kid is a full thirteen years old, nimble as a cat, he always manages to duck the knives I throw too close to him when we are practicing at the back door and my aim is off, and I know he can hop up on the grill and do the job. Plus I put down some egg cartons for him to stand on so his Keds wouldn’t melt and mix in with the hash browns. But ‘No.’ this kid says, he’s the son of the woman living out in the Chevy Suburban in my back parking lot who sometimes to waits tables for me, ‘No.’ says he, ‘Wait till later when it’s slow and you can turn off the grill and do it yourself. Last time the egg cartons caught fire and scorched my pants legs.’ That’s what he says to me, the boss. I can’t even get him to reach into the disposer and take out the broken glass unless he can shut off the breaker for it at the panel.” McFoodle added. “Worse yet all this talk about a $15 an hour wage is gonna kill my business. How can I pay someone $15 an hour when I barely pay my accountant and livery driver that much. If it wasn’t for the good prices I get for horsemeat I’d have to sell my houseboat on Lake Mead. So this giving chow to the homeless is hurting my business all over. Plus these homeless are multiplying like rats now that we’re feeding them. Just the other day I saw a whole family of them dragging off some cardboard boxes and setting up camp behind the muffler shop. How tacky. And I get my car fixed there”
Bundle up the kids, drop the dog off at the sitter, flush the goldfish, (you can always get a new one), load the car, remind the hubby there will be no backseat driving and hit the highway, it’s vacation time! Off to the national parks, Americas playgrounds. But what to do after the first night and the campfire embers have burned low, the visitor centers exhibits viewed and the interpretive signs read many times over. Tomorrow should be a fun day, take a few hints from our fathers and enjoy these time honored activities in the parks that seem to have gone out of style.
Rock Rolling. Keep a sharp eye out, it won’t take long to find the perfect opportunity to send a huge boulder crashing satisfactorily into valleys, chasms or even onto trails and roads below. Leverage may be needed, carry a stout walking stick to give that added boost. Often it doesn’t take much more than a gentle push to send the right rock scuttering downhill, sending motorists and casual hikers below into a real tizzy. If there aren’t enough sizable boulders perched over the trail there’s almost always a throwing rock nearby, aim close to hikers, they usually jump back with a ‘Where the heck did that come from.’ look.
Tourist Teasing. It’s inevitable, you’ll come across someone on the trail and they’ll ask, “How much farther is it?”. What a perfect chance for giggles. Tell them it isn’t far, or it’s a real long trek, or to make a left or is it a right at the creek. Warn them about rattlesnakes, or grizzlies or peccaries or the naked gathering of aged hippies holding a drum circle ahead. Whet their appetite for a long downhill stretch or bit of a slog through the mud. Tell them to be sure to take their own clothes off before they meet with the dancing hipsters, who are willing to accept the unclothed but go all Manson on the attired. There are a thousand variations on the theme, pick one suitable and stand back and watch the fun.
Road Sign Shooting. This has fallen out of favor but with doomsday now imminent it pays to stay in practice by plinking away at Rudolph as you fly by at 70mph. Purists only consider a road sign trophy bagged when the ammo is dispensed from a moving vehicle. All signs are fair game but the most highly prized trophies are those with a depiction of a leaping, scurrying animal be it ungulate, ursine, porcine, bovine, bipedal, reptilian or avian in nature. Placement is important with the most points generally awarded to shots that make the animal appear to have a bulbous snoot or prolific scat.
Graffito. The ancients left their mark, why shouldn’t modern man? At newspaper rock in the Canyonlands of Utah the Anasazi peppered a blackened rock surface with depictions of sheep and deer and lizards and weird symbols that have archaeologists scratching heads even today as to their meaning. While these petroglyphs are thousands of years old, as recently as 1902 a cowboy named Gonzales and in 1954 his son or grandson left his mark on this same rockface. Yet today the little traces of our passing are disappearing. What will future generations think of us today when they look for our markings and find that we left nothing in our wakes, that we were uninspired, couldn’t spell to write our own names. Let us again take up knives and scratch our initials in hearts on trees. Get a can of spray paint and make a stencil and smiley face the world with pride, why should only railroad boxcars be works of art? Chisel your sobriquet into a hundred stony surfaces before the only place it can be found is on the granite of your gravestone.
Public Art. Why should Christo have all the fun. What more stupendous setting could there possibly be than the natural world and our national parks breathtaking vistas. We know of two climbers, part of the kitchen crew we recently met at the Creek Pasture campground outside of Canyonlands National park whose mission is to climb and enlighten, who bring a little bright bit of rainbow to every place they go. From the boulders of Joshua Tree to the cracks of Courthouse Wash and among the lofty crags of Yosemite they have scrambled up, set small anchors and suspended glittering glass crystals, prisms and pendants in places where they catch the light and no mere mortal appears to have placed them. In a particularly inspired moment they flew a kite across the Dolores river canyon in Colorado to string strong fishing line across the chasm, suspended the merest one inch of faceted crystal ball several hundred feet above the roadway below from sheer red sandstone walls. The effect is to have the tiniest suspicion of a daylight rainbow star glimmering in the empty blue sky, something perhaps seen but more imagined. Watch for another inspired design, a tie dyed angelfish of sizable proportions to appear at a prominent and spectacular viewpoint this summer!
Trip Wires And Snares. Imagine the surprise of an unwary hiker strolling along when, KAPOOF! he triggers a confetti bomb that showers him in multicolored paper bits. How about the simple mud filled pothole covered with sticks an leaves? Glitter bombing can take on a whole new meaning outdoors, the trails could sparkle for decades with more than just mica an schist.
Feed The Animals. After years of warnings about how feeding the wildlife has made them dependent think of how they must be starving. Always bring along a loaf of stale bread, it’s lightweight and almost everything, from bitty birds to big ole bears will eat it. Your Grandpa has a home movie of him feeding Yogi, why should you be left out, get the gopro out and a can of tuna, be creative. Remember you don’t need to outrun the bear, just your buddy.
Decorate With Fire. Fifty years ago the park service built huge bonfires atop Half Dome at Yosemite and pushed the embers over the edge to the delight of all as the firefall lit the night. My uncle would liven things up by tossing a cupful of gasoline into the campfire at bedtime, oh what a glorious spectacle. Fire is your friend, experiment!
Well, these are just a few ideas to make your visit to the parks this summer more entertaining. If you have more send them to us and we’ll print them here so others can join in the fun.
Get on the Stick!
Claudetteia Love, the gay high school student from Monroe, LA that wants to wear a tux to her prom needs to wise up. Sure, she’s smart, smart enough to be considered a top academic scholar, smart enough to represent her school at a local gathering of the areas best students and smart enough to attend Jackson State University on a full academic scholarship, but she’s still got a lot to learn. Book learning is no guarantee in life. In life, you fit in, you don’t stand out. It’s ok to be smart, but not ok to show it. And girls, that’s the little, diminutive “girls wear dresses, boys wear tuxes, and that’s the way it is”.
Claudetteia had best off learn these things fast and people like Patrick Taylor, principal of Carroll High School in Monroe where she is a student is only banning her costume from the prom, not her. He’s just doing his job, enforcing the social mores, setting her straight so she can lead a model life, one that abides by the constructs of a just society. In other times it would have been his duty to insure she remained dutiful to her father, took no education, and practiced her sampler so she could make a good helpmeet. He might have not allowed a prom at all, because of the probable dancing, and where there is dancing there might be touching, and we all know what touching leads to, it leads to big round bellies and ankle biters underfoot. In the future it would be his, and his ilk responsibility to maintain her programming as a Stepford wife. It’s a fact that societies morals and values are always changing. It’s people like Patrick Taylors’ job to hold the earth at a standstill, or reverse its course and curtail changes like Wyoming giving women the right to vote.
Love needs to learn not to stand out, never to be exceptional, to know her place, not to be different, it makes you a target. In this world, regardless of the real learning you may have done prior to adulthood, the true lesson is that getting in line, sitting quietly, marching in lock-step is what is expected, anything else is rocking the boat. Just wear the darn dress, show some leg and be who we want you to be, the glass ceiling is there for a reason, to keep all hell and damnation from raining down on you.
Chris Rock, sometimes comedian and full time antagonist has been documenting the times he’s been pulled over by the police. Having been pulled over three times in the last few months for no other apparent reason than for being a black man driving a nice car, Rock has taken to documenting his interactions with his cell phone camera and incorporating the incidents into his stand-up routine. The posting of these videos and subsequent concerns regarding the events have served to raise the ire of many among us who are not lily white, lending credence to the belief that officials often engage in racial profiling, or stopping our fellow citizens for no more an offense than ‘Driving while black, or brown, or turbaned.’ In defense of our police we would like to state that we would pull over Mr. Rock, and not to ask for his autograph but because he does look suspicious.
Take a hard look at the man. Note the close set beady eyes. Notice also the redness of the sclera, the lids half lowered. These are all signs of the criminally inclined. By placing a caliper over a photograph and measuring the distance between the center of the pupils and comparing it with the overall measurement of the width of the face it has long been possible to determine a tendency towards criminal behavior. Doubt that? Compare the pupilary offsets of Ted Bundy, Jeffery Dahmer and Lizzie Borden to those of Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Stephanie Courtney, the actress that plays Flo in the Progressive insurance commercials. The first all had predispositions to murder and civil disobedience, tendencies Chris Rock may yet reveal. The second group are all persons who represent propriety and good behavior. We have trusted Flo with our car, Reagan with our country and Churchill with our world and though they all may have flaws, (maybe not Flo), they never let us down.
Rocks’ reddened globes and half mast eyelids are another story, one told all too well in a famous film from the fifties. It would appear he’s party to that evil scourge that robs men of all reason, causes them to drool uncontrollably, and lust after the salty snacks. Yes, it’s even legal in our nation’s capitol but since when does being legal make it right? It’s legal for grown men to prance about San Francisco in broad daylight wearing pink chiffon tutus but does that make it right? This evidence of moral decay scars more than our retinas, it blinds us to the obvious hard and fast rules that nature has set for us. If something looks like a duck and sounds like a duck one needn’t step on it to know it’s a duck.
Chris Rock has been pulled over in the past for looking like a duck. He will be pulled over again, unless he buys a Prius. We should remember every minute the lessons these odd ducks teach us, and be wary, be very chary wary. He could turn on us at any time, say something smart and show us all as the odd ducks ourselves.
Those drug resistant cooties are spreading like wildfire in Texas, oh yea, a lot of other places too! Need something to look forward to besides death and taxes? How about cooties? Now that farming, ranching and industrial food production has embraced chemicals, technology and mechanization on a grand scale we can all look forward to a bit of drama if we eat. There is no way to avoid it and in fact it’s likely a good thing, ever tried to grow your own broccoli? From experience it can be said that unless you embrace the dark side you probably can’t grow things as fast as you eat them, as a sub-urbanite that is. Eating is something we all do and if it weren’t for the large commercial operations we’d probably be working on our Alferd Packer skills.
Nevertheless some caution, or corporate responsibility is necessarily in order. No one wants steel filings in their macaroni and cheese but as industrial processes go that wasn’t that bad, was quickly remedied and hey, haven’t you ever watched “How It’s Made”? (An early memory tells me I saw a guy smoking a ciggie pushing a rail car size tub of cornmeal mush drop an ash in but that hasn’t diminished my appetite for Fritos.) So caution is advisable and some of the alarmists may have a point when they note that airborne drug-resistant bacteria are being found downwind of feedlots in Lubbock. As tips of icebergs go that’s right up there there with “What’s wrong with the canary?”, “A little paint fumes never hurt me.”, “Get some on you, see it doesn’t burn.” and “Don’t be a wimp, you can pick that up.”
Doctors are prescribing less and less of those antibiotics every day. That is every day after they started seeing more and more sores that didn’t heal. So why are the cows, chickens and pigs still doped up? Well they fatten faster for one, and that’s not anecdotal, that’s empirical, same as the evidence that young girls who eat a lot of chicken enter puberty much, much earlier than they used to and empirical counts for a lot more that just what you believe. What’s the answer there? We could wait a little longer than six weeks for our chicken dinner I guess, if waiting was in anyone’s nature. Another answer might be a vegetarian diet seeing as how it takes about a gazillion times more to raise enough meat to eat as it does to just eat the grass ourselves.
But Texas, well that’s gonna be a tough sell.
On this April Fool’s day consider the tale of a small boat, the April Fool, that set sail from Casablanca on the coast of Africa bound for the Americas on the first day of the month of April, 1968. This should be a tale of inspiration and perserverance, after all the boat’s length was only five feet, eleven inches which is slightly taller or less tall than you or I perhaps and that is a small boat. With not much more room aboard than your average bathtub skipper Hugo Vihlen was a little cramped for space, he did carry some supplies, but determined to make his way west. Now John Waters, the film director was certainly brave when he stuck out his thumb and hitch-hiked from his home in Baltimore to San Francisco in 2012. But his bravery, at sixty six years of age, which might be considered greater than you or I, was paltry in comparison the that of Vihlen, a Delta Airlines and former Korean war pilot when he set out to cross over 4000 miles of open ocean.
This was before the days of constant electronic contact. He had no GPS, no satellite phone, no GoPro to document the voyage. He couldn’t press the button of a PRB. He was responsible for his own bailing. No chase vessel accompanied him. He set sail with little fanfare, no one thought much of his chances for success, and wasn’t greeted with a ticker tape parade, close only counts in horseshoes. Given the paucity of his resources it was striking he is remembered at all.
One couldn’t say things went well. The ocean, the currents, the wind, the weather and even the rays of the sun can be heartless and fickle. Suffice it to say he was scorched and wind burnt. He went hungry, his thirst was critical, he was tossed about relentlessly by never ending waves that threatened his tiny boat at every trough and crest. But he persevered and only fell about six miles short of his goal, Miami, Florida before the dangerous gulf stream currents and offshore breezes caused his parents enough concern to call in the Coast Guard. At thirty seven it’s a little embarassing to have your parents call the Coast Guard when you could almost swim to your destination.
So today is a good day to think of the the intrepid, the April fools, they are those that set a bar maybe too high for us to jump over but give us something to jump at, like the moon. People like the afore mentioned John Waters, who we may only think of as an overly fashion conscious cult movie director, take on a new luster when they dare. People who are beaten back six miles from achievement after a hundred day, 4000 mile pounding by the cruel Atlantic ocean only to attempt the feat again twenty five years later in an even smaller craft and succeed, well those should be remembered. We hope Mr. Vihlen, who is still alive in Florida, and Mr. Waters, who is still showing up in unexpected places, are good examples for all those who tell us what not to do.
Nowhere on earth is a magma plume so large so precipitously close to the surface as the magma plume directly below Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Now the Russians want to bomb it. Scientists have been aware of the large pool of molten rock for decades and monitor its movements with the latest high tech gear available, note the surface near the potential epicenter has raised the surface of the earth in the area over eight inches in the last twenty years! While that may not seem like much in that amount of time from a geological standpoint it’s huge, and scary! Even the National Geographic covered the story.
Should the magma dome blow it would create a super-volcano unlike anything mankind has ever witnessed, think Pompeii on an apocalyptic scale. Cows would be barbecued where they stand in the sagebrush within a five hundred mile radius. Birds and airplanes would be blown out of the sky, trout would boil in the rivers and few people like boiled fish, braised maybe but boiled, no thanks. And the damage would not be confined to Wyoming, the ash plume would blanket the entire eastern seaboard in ash twenty feet thick. The United States would be incapacitated.
That’s the reasoning behind the Russian plan to detonate a thermonuclear device over the area. Vladimir Putin, upset over the impact American sanctions are having on the Russian economy solicited ideas for actions that could be taken against the US should push come to shove. The idea to initiate the eruption of the massive magma plume was but one of many ideas the team talked about. Currently the plan has been tabled because doing so would constitute an outright declaration of war against the US and Putin would prefer to use other methods to gain his objectives. Research however is currently underway in Moscow to cloak the triggering of the eruption under the guise of either natural causes or to lay the blame at the feet of the US oil fracking activities, which are under fire for triggering several small quakes in areas unaccustomed to earthquake activity.