Where I was Last Weekend…

B-17 In Flight – at the Great American Airshow.

The first big airshow in two years, at Randolph AFB. Part of the air show included a sort-of-recreation of the attack on Pearl Harbor, with accompanying pyrotechnics. My camera was giving me fits, so I managed to capture some interesting shots with my cellphone. There may have been half a million people coming to the airbase for the show, which included static display aircraft and ground support vehicles from the Army, and the Budweiser Clydesdales and their wagon of beer too. What would the military do without beer! There must have been at least that many people watching the air show from verges, parking lots, open spaces and yards around the edges, too. (More here, from the Express News – their photographer had a much better camera than mine…)
Additional note – <Looks like FaceBook has disappeared that post – I put the pictures on my own website, instead.)

A Stylish Diversion

David Foster’s discussion of the numerous analogies – some helpful, some not – that have been spun from the Titanic disaster reminded me of an essay’s  rather lovely job of spinning out for two pages a simple analogy.  The verbal play within it does bring home a point.   By Pico Iyer, it was one of those two-page essays in Time, when people read it.  (Clint’s uncle still subscribes to it – I didn’t know anyone did – but bed ridden and in his eighties, he uses it mainly to rail against modernity – or what passes for it in Time.)  Anyway, here’s “In Praise of the Humble Comma” – a short read but I’ll tempt you with the opening:

The gods, they say, give breath, and they take it away. But the same could be said — could it not? — of the humble comma. Add it to the present clause, and, of a sudden, the mind is, quite literally, given pause to think; take it out if you wish or forget it and the mind is deprived of a resting place. Yet still the comma gets no respect. It seems just a slip of a thing, a pedant’s tick, a blip on the edge of our consciousness, a kind of printer’s smudge almost. Small, we claim, is beautiful (especially in the age of the microchip). Yet what is so often used, and so rarely recalled, as the comma — unless it be breath itself?

 

Our Culture, What There Is of It

This last weekend, I actually went out of my house/neighborhood and did something different. Something interesting and out in the real world, or something that resembled the real world, out there, beyond the keyboard and computer screen. I had a table for my books at a cultural event, the Folkfest in New Braunfels. Historically, New Braunfels was one of the German Verein-founded towns in the Texas Hill Country, one of those that I have written about in my historical series; the main reason that I was invited to the bash under the oak trees at the Heritage Society’s campus on the northern edge of town. The Adelsverein Trilogy touches on the circumstances and reason why more than eight thousand German immigrants ended up on the wild and unsettled Texas frontier in the 1840s. A consortium of German noblemen and princes hoped to make a tidy profit – and to do a good deed for their struggling countrymen – by taking up an entrepreneur grant in the independent Republic of Texas. They were honest in their hope to make the venture advantageous economically for them, which distinguishes them from many other ostensibly charitable enterprises of late. That the Adelsverein went broke within two years had more to do with the princely gentlemen overselling their program to eager potential immigrants and badly underestimating the costs in transporting them to Texas. That it resulted in a godly number of able, educated, independent-minded and patriotic new citizens turned out to be a bonus. It also resulted in Kendal, Gillespie and Comal counties being almost completely German-speaking for better than a hundred years, which explained the prevalence of dirndls and lederhosen worn with cowboy boots at the Folkfest.

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People Farming

It was a comment on this blog which struck me immediately upon reading it. The subsequent discussion in the comment thread was how antisocial behavior on the part of massive numbers of homeless people setting up massive, festering camps in the downtown areas of certain cities was making those cities less and less inviting for ordinary people. In the final analysis, no one really wants to come to work in a place where they have to step around feces on the sidewalk, dodge the aggressive panhandler outside a downtown restaurant, or run from the homicidal crazy looking to shove someone off the subway platform in front of an oncoming train. Downtown retailers can’t keep on in business long when the merchandise walks out the door, assisted by undocumented shoppers; so, eventually the normals – that is, those of us with jobs, property, and a liking for clean, non-threatening surroundings – decamp the urban jungle for something a little less edgy, usually taking our dollars, investments, responsible civic behavior, and tax base with us.
Why on earth do certain cities – San Francisco and Los Angeles being the two which spring to mind almost at once – allow this to continue? What benefit does it give to see gracious, scenic, and culturally-attractive cities descend into a condition which repels longtime residents and new visitors alike? What’s in it for the civic managers of such urban centers … and as it was pointed out, there’s money in it.

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