A Few People I Admire…

Life is full of people who earn our admiration.

Sometimes their impact on our life is immeasurable; they show up, in the right place at the right time, shifting the direction of our thoughts in ways that are so radical as to bring about complete paradigm shift.

Sometimes their impact is a little more subtle. They just happen to possess a quality or two that we admire, that we try to mimic in order to become the best possible version of ourselves.

Sometimes we don’t even know the person who’s earned our admiration. They may be just be someone that we relate to, someone with whom we feel a sort of kinship by virtue of shared (or envied) characteristics.

Everyone has a list of people that they admire, both small and great, and for a host of different reasons. They might be the people who made you what you are, or they might just be someone who crosses your mind once in a while – but either way, they stick with you.

Everyone has a list of such people…

Mine’s pretty long – but here’s the beginning.

Bob Westfall (1928-2005)

Bob Westfall was my around-the-corner neighbor when I was growing up.

Exactly fifty years my senior, he was about as crotchety as they came. He could b**** about anything and everything for hours on end, and – like most his age – he had a pretty dim view of anyone under the age of, oh, say about sixty or so.

I struck up a friendship with him when I was about twelve years old. We were sort of an odd pair; he was lonely, and had all the time in the world to shoot the breeze. I was wise beyond my tender years, seldom connecting with those of my own age. He could talk for hours about what life was like in the thirties, or what it was like to be in World War II. He could tell you all about China and Italy and Spain and France, because he’d been to all of those places. We used to hang out in his garage and just yap about nothing at all, for no reason whatsoever.

I missed him terribly when I lived in New York. I missed, I think, having the constant guidance of an older man’s perspective. The young man, by virtue of his total inexperience, tends to catastrophize everything. The old man, however, knows how to truly ignore that which doesn’t matter. I think one of the tragedies of our age is that we don’t value the wisdom of the elderly anymore, and seldom make time to be guided by them. We grow impatient with their crankiness and antiquated tastes, and completely miss the underlying importance of their presence.

Bob passed away in 2005. A memory that will stick with me for the rest of my life was how large and varied the crowd at his funeral was. There was everyone there from the mailman to the store clerk to the kid around the corner, now grown into a man – me. The kid who so loved the generous old fart that so willingly made time for him.

Bob never did anything even remotely epic. He worked in a paint store, and raised a few kids and lived a life that was quite ordinary. But what he will always be loved and admired for was his love for people. He always had time for anyone who wanted to chat… and that quality is so utterly absent in the modern man, driven, pell-mell creatures that we are.

I wonder if Bob knew how profoundly he affected me, helping to shape me during those very formative years into the man I am now. I hope he did.

And I hope that when I am old, I will remember to pass on my hodgepodge ideas and thoughts to the generation that will succeed my own.

Ed –

Ed was my artistic mentor growing up.

I could peg him as ‘a drawing/painting instructor’, but that would trivialize his role in my life. Ed was/is a brilliant artist, with the keenest eye for detail, and the greatest gift for explaining things that I have ever seen.

I first met Ed when I was fifteen. He was teaching a class for the department of Parks and Recreation, and I signed up for one of his classes. I was a decent childhood doodler, with a fair amount of potential, but little polish and no knowledge at all of theory or principle.

It was Ed Stubblefield who molded me into a professional-caliber artist, and I have never let my skills grow rusty. “Them as can, do,” he used to say “and them as can’t, teach.” He was being unusually harsh on himself when he said that, for Ed could both do and teach.

One of my flaws is that I like to be mysterious. Three people – Ed, my mother, and guitarist Jerry Lavene – helped me unlock the mystical secrets behind art, literature and music. Yet rather than pass on what was so unselfishly given to me, I like to keep my own secrets close to my chest, choosing instead to simply amaze others with what I can do without ever telling them how.

Thank God that others in my life were less selfish than I.

Wendy –

Wendy was a childhood friend of mine, a wispy, willowy blonde who was decidedly girl-next-door, and prettily tomboyish even as an adolescent.

Wendy shared my interest in art and literature, as well as my intellect – although I suspect that her nature is less abstract, and far more practical than mine. As boys and girls generally do, we grew apart as teenagers, each one of us fleeing whatever demons teen-dom thrust our way.

I could never have predicted, then, what direction Wendy’s life would take. I saw in her great potential, but that was about all I could’ve told you. I couldn’t even have told you what sort of potential.

She’s now a wife, and a mother.

There was a time when I would have told you that such a life was a waste of potential, a failure to meet one’s self-imposed challenges.

I was a boy when I thought that…

I am a man now, and I know better. I know that there is no higher calling than raising one’s own family, patiently molding and shaping the lives that one has created.

The modern woman, generally speaking, is so saturated with the 1960’s ‘liberated woman’ bull-hockey that she isn’t much use as a wife or mother. ‘Have the kids and chuck ’em in day care’; that seems the child-rearing method of the day. And throwing them into sports somehow counts as ‘family time’ these days, as though that amounts to any kind of meaningful interaction. There is a subtle attitude to the modern woman, one that says domestic life is beneath her, something to be avoided. The ones who suffer, of course, are our children.

(There. I said it. I don’t care how many bra-burning lesbians take offense, either. Right is right, and wrong is wrong!)

But Wendy has chosen to focus all of her intelligence, patience and empathy on the seven children that she’s brought into the world (yep, seven). I am sure that she – as did my mother – suffers persecution from those ‘liberated women’, too. I bet they sneer at her and say things like ‘so, when are you going to work?’, as though she doesn’t run herself ragged now. I don’t know how she handles their presumptuous derision, but I bet well. Three children do have a way of making one quite patient, after all.

If a person intends to live a selfish life, they don’t deserve children.

But Wendy deserves them. If only more women possessed such character, strength, and wisdom.

Mr. Lee –

Mr. Lee is probably the most colorful character in my circle of acquaintances. He owns and operates This Old House, a sushi restaurant in Virginia Beach.

Mr. Lee is from Taiwan; he’s a little midget of an oriental man, with a pot belly and an accent. He’s as friendly as he can be, and an absolute avatar of a chef. His restaurant is probably the best eating establishment around.

What I admire most, though, is the passion with which he runs his business. You can visit his place just once, and then go back a month later. And he will remember exactly what you ate the first time, and suggest something new based on what he thinks you might like. (Yes, he pays that much attention.)

About half of his menu is traditional sushi entrees, and about half of it is unique to him, painstakingly created from customer input. He spends as much time catering to his customers as his waitresses do, if not more.

I remember going in there on evening around 8:30, only to find his door locked. He usually closes at ten, but it was stone dead that night, and he was gonna leave early.

I gave the door a tug, and then turned to leave.

But Mr. Lee let me in, locked the door behind me and hooked me right up – playing chef, waiter and cashier all at once because he’d let his staff leave for the night. I protested, but he insisted – I was ‘good customer’, he said.

I have always believed that a man should do whatever he is passionate about. As a white cracker with relatives in West Virginia, I find the idea of making fish rolls an odd choice for one’s life work.

But Mr. Lee doesn’t… and that’s why he makes the best food one can buy, and the dining experience in his establishment is always second to none.

I wish I had that sort of dedication.

I could go on for hours. I could write a whole book on who I admire, and why. But I won’t. I won’t because you’d get bored, and stop reading. I won’t because I can’t always remember them all at once. I won’t because my hands hurt from having typed all night.

What I will do, however, is live a life worthy of the effort that others have put into me. Some have put forth that effort directly, willfully influencing my thoughts and behavior. Some have simply served as examples to me, and they probably don’t even know it.

Which is my cue, I guess, for living day-to-day with the greatest care…

Because you never know who’s paying attention to what you do and say.

Corona-Virus Explained: A shaunmoser.com Exclusive Report!

During the peak of this ‘Corona Virus’ hysteria, we here at shaunmoser.com made our boldest move ever: We dispatched our star reporter – Petey the Pissed-Off Possum – to ‘Ground Zero’ in Wuhan, China.

As our news staff made its plans in our gara… office, our reporter demanded several ‘perks’ in exchange for placing himself in such danger. First of all, he wanted new batteries for the portable CD player that Ozzy Osbourne gave him. He also wanted a new garbage can, one with a locking lid so that he wouldn’t have to share it with the cat next door.

Finally, he demanded to be made the majority shareholder of shaunmoser.com, a lucrative position that may net him as much as five dollars per quarterly payout.  While we were left reeling from Petey’s steep demands, he nevertheless had us ‘over a barrel’: It is far, far easier to smuggle a rat-like creature into Asia than a human being.

So we outfitted Petey with an old ‘fanny pack’ (which made a handy backpack for him), and some provisions.  Petey also requested a few idiosyncratic items, which we also provided.

We got him as close as we could to China by sending him first to India; we tucked him into a suitcase belonging to an H-1B Visa worker, returning home from Silicon Valley. When he landed in India, Petey had no trouble at all climbing aboard random transports until he reached Wuhan, China. No one in India or China, it seems, is even remotely bothered by the sight of what appears to be a sizable rat.

Finally Petey made his way to the Communist Party headquarters in the city of Wuhan, where he pounded on the door and demanded to speak to the local Communist Party spokesman, Mee Xik Fuk. Much to his surprise, our reporter was graciously ushered in and offered a cup of hot tea by Mr. Mee.

Here… is Petey’s report. Remember, you heard it first HERE, folks!!!

Petey: Thank you for the tea, Mr. Mee. That was very kind of you.

Mee Xik Fuk: You’re welcome, young man, and welcome to the glorious Republic of China. I hope you enjoy your stay.

Petey: Thank you, and thank you for speaking English. I’m not very good at Mandarin, I’m afraid.

Mee Xik Fuk (laughing as he takes a sip of green tea): Oh, you will be soon enough, young man! Everyone will. It’s just a matter of time.

Petey (spooning more sugar into his tea): What do you mean by that, Mr. Mee?

Mee Xik Fuk: Well, you have to have guessed that this ‘Corona Virus’ mess is a ‘takeover play’ by China, right?

Petey (taking a sip of his now high-octane tea):  I’ve heard those theories, yes. Might you elaborate, please?

Mee Xik Fuk: Well, we didn’t dare release the custom-made virus until we’d also engineered the antidote. Have you ever wondered, young man, why we let it ravage Wuhan and yet it never got anywhere near Shanghai or Beijing? We let it run amuck just enough to spark an American Media hysteria, and then we nipped it in the bud. We had the antidote in advance, and we also pre-fabbed sectional buildings so we could show off our ‘preparedness’ by slapping hospitals up overnight.

Petey: So, the COVD-19 virus was made in a lab?!

Mee Xik Fuk: When have you ever heard of a flu bug that’s contagious even without its host showing symptoms? Nearly nine out of ten people don’t display any symptoms; they just think they have a cold. So we needed to ensure that our virus was contagious even when lying dormant.

Petey: Would that explain why North Korea and Russia – your staunch allies – are relatively unscathed?

Mee Xik Fuk: Yes. Not only did we not – at least deliberately – send infected travelers there, we also gave them the antidote. Our points of focus were America, Australia, and the European Union. When they collapse their economies with panicky quarantine measures, it will leave a ‘power vacuum’ that China is poised to fill. Notice that while the American and European stock markets crashed, China’s did not.

Petey: But isn’t this basically still just a flu bug, according to the numbers? Britain is well below its five-year average for respiratory deaths, and Italy’s fatalities are nearly all elderly, or heavy smokers… the usual casualties of influenza. Even in the United States, the numbers are on par with a normal flu outbreak. What made you so sure that the media would incite a mass panic?

Mee Xik Fuk: That’s where the Chinese Communist Party’s staunchest ally, the American Democratic Party, comes in. Read the Democratic Party’s written platform alongside The Communist Manifesto sometime, and you’ll see why we’ve always been such strong allies. That’s why your former President Obama sent a good chunk of your automotive industry over here: That was his quid pro quo for our financial assistance with his ‘stimulus’ package, most of which went to companies who do business in China. We go way back, us Communists and the Democrats!

Petey: So how exactly did the Democrats help you out?

Mee Xik Fuk: The Democrats can direct most of the American Media with a simple phone call, thanks to moguls like Ted Turner and Michael Bloomberg. Media outlets like CNN and MSNBC immediately fall into line, and their tech allies at FaceBook, Twitter, and Google clean up the fallout by censoring dissent. The media’s orders were simple: Inflate the reported number of cases, without ever comparing the case numbers to the overall population figures. Numbers are scary, but percentages are not… so the press was ordered to strictly report the numbers. Also, they reported that anyone who died with the Corona Virus died from the Corona Virus… but there’s a difference. People with ‘multiple morbidity factors’ die from those morbidity factors, and not necessarily from the Corona Virus even though they happen to have it.

Petey: What about conservative media outlets like Breitbart, The Federalist, iPatriot, and TheBlaze? Shouldn’t they be able to balance out a manufactured panic?

Mee Xik Fuk: Young man, those networks are only read by a tiny percentage of Americans: The enlightened few who actually research the truth for themselves. Your average American is a lazy moron who comes home, plunks his fat butt onto the couch, and turns on the television… and there, Ted Turner and Michael Bloomberg reign supreme. Why do you think the Americans are voluntarily shutting down their economy over what would otherwise be ‘business as usual’? Control the media, control the people!

Petey: What does that Democratic Party get out of this?

Mee Xik Fuk: Democrats are desperate to regain power, young man! Barack Obama put America into a coffin, and Hillary Clinton was meant to nail it shut. The rise of President Donald Trump was an unacceptable anomaly to them, one that they’ve been fighting to correct. But the Mueller Report failed, and impeachment failed. This… is ‘take’ number three in their quest to pull down the president!

Petey: Are there other players involved?

Mee Xik Fuk: Yes, there’s the American ‘deep state’: The network of un-elected bureaucrats who pull the strings from behind the scenes. As we speak, Americans are surrendering the following freedoms: Free Speech, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Travel, and Freedom from Unreasonable Search and Seizure. President Trump was barely able to preserve the Freedom to Keep and Bear Arms, but even that is subject to local enforcement. And the Americans are meekly submitting to all of it, because they’ve been told that they should be afraid. Rhode Island is hunting down New Yorkers with para-military troops, and Florida has armed enforcers manning ‘checkpoints’. A minister was just arrested for holding a church service, and millions are being threatened with arrest just for exercising their freedom of movement. All of this serves the Deep State’s desire for widespread ‘martial law’.

Petey: Is anyone else involved?

Mee Xik Fuk (with a disturbing grin): There’s the usual culprit, the American Federal Reserve. You know, your central bank that’s neither ‘Federal’ nor has any ‘reserves’. It’s a private, ‘for profit’ entity.

Petey: Right, they’re doing unlimited ‘quantitative easing’ right now, which means they’re printing money like it’s going out of style. What’s that meant to accomplish?

Mee Xik Fuk: The more money you print, the less it’s worth… which means the Americans, in a time of manufactured crisis, will hand over most of their wealth just to survive. Once the American Middle Class is destitute, the Federal Reserve will contract the money supply, so all the money collected by the Corporate Establishment will then be worth exponentially more. In the meantime, the corporations will ‘acquire’ failing small businesses at an alarming rate, further concentrating power. We helped America do the exact same thing in 2008; the American Middle Class lost forty percent of its net wealth, and it’s never gotten it back.

Petey (looking up a quote on his phone): Right. Thomas Jefferson said ‘If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children wake up homeless on the Continent their Fathers conquered…’

Mee Xik Fuk: Now you get it! Economic collapse, transfer of power to China, an American police state, and the impoverishment of the world’s greatest republic… and all that from a simple flu bug that the general public should have ignored!

Petey: What do you mean, ‘should have ignored’?

Mee Xik Fuk: I mean the smartest thing your people could have done would have been to tell their leaders to go to hell. No self-quarantine, no restrictions, nothing! They can’t arrest all of you, right? One of your founders said that ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’, and you forgot that. You acted like sheep, blindly obeying when you should have fought… and now you’ll lose everything. You forgot that free men trade lives for liberty, not the other way around. Now, very soon, you’ll be no freer than our people!

Petey: Why are you telling me all this?! This kind of reminds me of a James Bond movie, where the villain spills the beans about his plot just before the end of the story…

Mee Xik Fuk (setting down his tea and opening a desk drawer): Because I don’t intend to let you leave here alive, my fuzzy friend, although it was very nice meeting you.

Petey (pulling something out of his backpack as Mee Xik Fuk pulls something from his desk): What’s that, Sir?

Mee Xik Fuk: A butcher knife, young man. You will fetch a very large sum at our local wet market! Not only are you edible, your tail-bones can be ground up and sold as an aphrodisiac. What’s that?

Petey: A big-ass jar of American moonshine, a toilet-paper wick, and a cigarette lighter. Do you believe in God, Mr. Mee?

Mee Xik Fuk (advancing): Of course not; I’m a Communist

Petey (lighting the wick): Then I guess I won’t wish you ‘Godspeed’, Mr. Mee. Sayonara!!!

Mee Xik Fuk: Sayonara’s JAPANESE, you fool!

Petey (tossing the jar): Whatever. Bye bye!

Our reporter was a little singed, but he escaped mostly unscathed. (Petey has a fair amount of experience fleeing certain doom, so he knew exactly what to do.) He was home safe and sound in a matter of weeks.

We at shaunmoser.com would like to reiterate that this interview is a work of SATIRE, and thus we have no actual knowledge as to why the Communist Party Headquarters of Wuhan burned to the ground. We also have no inside knowledge pertaining to the horrible death of the honorable Mr. Mee Xik Fuk.

We would also like to extend our condolences to Mr. Mee’s family: His lovely wife (Mee Fat Ho), his son (Mee Dip Xit), and his daughter (Mee Ug Li). We wish them all the best for the future, and would like to thank them on Mee Xik Fuk’s behalf for his telling interview!

Petey Meets Bernie Sanders!

As shaunmoser.com desperately searched for a newsworthy item NOT related to the ‘corona virus’ hysteria, our star reporter – Petey the Pissed-Off Possum – came up with a brilliant idea.

With the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee – Joe Biden – in hiding while he receives treatment for his dementia, Petey thought it’d be a good time to visit the second runner-up: Senator Bernie Sanders.

Petey had to wait a while to catch the senator, but he didn’t mind since he was fairly comfortable in his lodgings: The garbage can behind one of Bernie’s palatial homes. But he finally cornered Bernie one night, as the failed candidate snuck out back for a few bong hits. Petey decided to wait until he was good and stoned before popping out of the trash can.

Here… is his interview!

Petey: Mr. Sanders? Hello…?

Bernie Sanders: AAAAAUUUGH!!! I’M GETTING PARANOID AGAIN!

Petey: No, sir, you’re not. I’m Petey, the lead reporter for shaunmoser.com.

Bernie Sanders: Who the hell is…?

Petey (interrupting): If you ask ‘who the hell is Shaun Moser’, I’m gonna hafta bite you, Senator. Seriously. Everybody asks me that question!

Bernie Sanders: What are you doing here?!

Petey: I was hoping for an interview, now that the dust has settled from the Democratic Presidential Primary. Is that okay?

Bernie Sanders (taking a deep hit from his bong): Oh, sure. I’m glad it’s all over, anyway.

Petey: Uh… weren’t you hoping to win the Democratic primary? You know, to run against Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States?

Bernie Sanders: What?! NO! Why would I want that?

Petey: Isn’t the point of running to win?

Bernie Sanders (choking a little): No…

Petey: I don’t follow.

Bernie Sanders (taking another deep hit): Look, kid, it’s like this. I do all these rallies, and lazy, entitled kids pile out of their mothers’ basements to support me because I’m offering them a free ride. I collect millions in campaign donations, and then I tell my media buyer to use that money for campaign ads. Then my media buyer keeps a ten-percent commission for every dollar – or million – we spend.

Petey: Who’s your media buyer?

Bernie Sanders: My wife! Why do you think I have three luxury homes?

Petey: So… you didn’t actually want to be the president? You just wanted the money?

Bernie Sanders: Kid, you have to understand something: I’m no different from those spoiled, greedy morons who support me. I’m a bum, always looking for a handout. The only time I’ve ever had to actually work was when I was the mayor of Burlington, and even then I had my staff do almost everything. I’m all about the fast buck, the easy score. Get it?

Petey: So, do you really believe your own rhetoric? (adopting a mocking New England accent) IT’S THE PHAWMECEUTICAL COMPANIES!!! IT’S THE CAWPORATIONS!!!

Bernie Sanders (giggling as he blows a smoke ring): Hey, that was pretty good!

Petey: Thanks. So do you really believe the ideas you preach?

Bernie Sanders: Of course not. I got my ideas when I read The Communist Manifesto in college, see…

Petey: Yeah, you do sound a lot like Karl Marx.

Bernie Sanders: Right? And when I read it, I said to myself ‘Bernie, this is great!You preach this stuff, and ignorant people will flock to you like flies on shit!’

Petey: That seems kinda… self-serving, doesn’t it?

Bernie Sanders: Oh, sure. But the trick is that you can’t call yourself a ‘Communist’, even if you are one. ‘Democratic Socialist’ sounds better, see? Communism turned the entire twentieth century into a bloodbath of starving poor people, but it sure did work for a lot of powerful men. Mao, Stalin, Castro… those guys knew what they were doing!

Petey: So, you spew a philosophy that’s failed every time it’s been implemented, and you don’t even want to be in charge of things? You’re just in this for the money?

Bernie Sanders (beginning to nod off): I’m afraid so, kid.

Petey: That sounds kind of… well, evil!

Bernie Sanders: Sure it is. But I do have three houses. Do you have three houses?

Petey: No… and I’m beginning to think, Senator, that I should probably bite you right about now.

Bernie Sanders (sounding anxious): Are you carrying the corona virus?

Petey (advancing menacingly): No sir, but I do carry RABIES!

Bernie Sanders: You get away from me, now. Go on, shoo! Scram!

Bernie Sanders: Uh… you’d better go away before I call security…

Bernie Sanders: Mr. Possum…? Mr. Possum?

Bernie Sanders: AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUGHHHHH!!!

Bernie Sanders was last seen in the Capitol Building, talking crazy and foaming at the mouth.

Insofar as we know, he has not yet been treated for his rabies (as none of his colleagues noticed any change in his behavior).

‘Til next time!

Hopefully That WAS the ‘Last’ of the Mohicans: An Analysis of a Literary Hack (who’s not me)

Don’t get me wrong, people… I loved the film The Last of Mohicans as much as the next guy. (I mean, it had Madeleine Stowe. Ooooh, yeah!) But let’s be honest here. I blew through all of James Fenimore Cooper’s work when I was fourteen, and yeah… the dude’s writing needed some help.

So here’s a critique of his novels, delivered by none other than the god of American literature himself: Mr. Mark Twain!

It seems to me that it was far from right for the Professor of English Literature in Yale, the Professor of English Literature in Columbia, and Wilkie Collins to deliver opinions on Cooper’s literature without having read some of it. It would have been much more decorous to keep silent and let persons talk who have read Cooper.

Cooper’s art has some defects. In one place in ‘Deerslayer,’ and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offences against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.

There are nineteen rules governing literary art in the domain of romantic fiction—some say twenty-two. In Deerslayer Cooper violated eighteen of them. These eighteen require:

1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the Deerslayer tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in the air.

2. They require that the episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it. But as the Deerslayer tale is not a tale, and accomplishes nothing and arrives nowhere, the episodes have no rightful place in the work, since there was nothing for them to develop.

3. They require that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. But this detail has often been overlooked in the Deerslayer tale.

4. They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. But this detail also has been overlooked in the Deerslayer tale.

5. They require that when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of the Deerslayer tale to the end of it.

6. They require that when the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description. But this law gets little or no attention in the Deerslayer tale, as Natty Bumppo’s case will amply prove.

7. They require that when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it. But this rule is flung down and danced upon in the Deerslayer tale.

8. They require that crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader as “the craft of the woodsman, the delicate art of the forest,” by either the author or the people in the tale. But this rule is persistently violated in the Deerslayer tale.

9. They require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable. But these rules are not respected in the Deerslayer tale.

10. They require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. But the reader of the Deerslayer tale dislikes the good people in it, is indifferent to the others, and wishes they would all get drowned together.

11. They require that the characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency. But in the Deerslayer tale this rule is vacated.

In addition to these large rules there are some little ones. These require that the author shall:

12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.

14. Eschew surplusage.

15. Not omit necessary details.

16. Avoid slovenliness of form.

17. Use good grammar.

18. Employ a simple and straightforward style.

Even these seven are coldly and persistently violated in the Deerslayer tale.

Cooper’s gift in the way of invention was not a rich endowment; but such as it was he liked to work it, he was pleased with the effects, and indeed he did some quite sweet things with it. In his little box of stage properties he kept six or eight cunning devices, tricks, artifices for his savages and woodsmen to deceive and circumvent each other with, and he was never so happy as when he was working these innocent things and seeing them go. A favorite one was to make a moccasined person tread in the tracks of the moccasined enemy, and thus hide his own trail. Cooper wore out barrels and barrels of moccasins in working that trick. Another stage-property that he pulled out of his box pretty frequently was his broken twig. He prized his broken twig above all the rest of his effects, and worked it the hardest. It is a restful chapter in any book of his when somebody doesn’t step on a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around. Every time a Cooper person is in peril, and absolute silence is worth four dollars a minute, he is sure to step on a dry twig. There may be a hundred handier things to step on, but that wouldn’t satisfy Cooper. Cooper requires him to turn out and find a dry twig; and if he can’t do it, go and borrow one. In fact, the Leather Stocking Series ought to have been called the Broken Twig Series.

I am sorry there is not room to put in a few dozen instances of the delicate art of the forest, as practised by Natty Bumppo and some of the other Cooperian experts. Perhaps we may venture two or three samples. Cooper was a sailor—a naval officer; yet he gravely tells us how a vessel, driving towards a lee shore in a gale, is steered for a particular spot by her skipper because he knows of an undertow there which will hold her back against the gale and save her. For just pure woodcraft, or sailorcraft, or whatever it is, isn’t that neat? For several years Cooper was daily in the society of artillery, and he ought to have noticed that when a cannon-ball strikes the ground it either buries itself or skips a hundred feet or so; skips again a hundred feet or so—and so on, till finally it gets tired and rolls. Now in one place he loses some “females”—as he always calls women—in the edge of a wood near a plain at night in a fog, on purpose to give Bumppo a chance to show off the delicate art of the forest before the reader. These mislaid people are hunting for a fort. They hear a cannonblast, and a cannon-ball presently comes rolling into the wood and stops at their feet. To the females this suggests nothing. The case is very different with the admirable Bumppo. I wish I may never know peace again if he doesn’t strike out promptly and follow the track of that cannon-ball across the plain through the dense fog and find the fort. Isn’t it a daisy? If Cooper had any real knowledge of Nature’s ways of doing things, he had a most delicate art in concealing the fact. For instance: one of his acute Indian experts, Chingachgook (pronounced Chicago, I think), has lost the trail of a person he is tracking through the forest. Apparently that trail is hopelessly lost. Neither you nor I could ever have guessed out the way to find it. It was very different with Chicago. Chicago was not stumped for long. He turned a running stream out of its course, and there, in the slush in its old bed, were that person’s moccasin-tracks. The current did not wash them away, as it would have done in all other like cases—no, even the eternal laws of Nature have to vacate when Cooper wants to put up a delicate job of woodcraft on the reader.

We must be a little wary when Brander Matthews tells us that Cooper’s books “reveal an extraordinary fulness of invention.” As a rule, I am quite willing to accept Brander Matthews’s literary judgments and applaud his lucid and graceful phrasing of them; but that particular statement needs to be taken with a few tons of salt. Bless your heart, Cooper hadn’t any more invention than a horse; and I don’t mean a high-class horse, either; I mean a clothes-horse. It would be very difficult to find a really clever “situation” in Cooper’s books, and still more difficult to find one of any kind which he has failed to render absurd by his handling of it. Look at the episodes of “the caves”; and at the celebrated scuffle between Maqua and those others on the table-land a few days later; and at Hurry Harry’s queer water-transit from the castle to the ark; and at Deerslayer’s half-hour with his first corpse; and at the quarrel between Hurry Harry and Deerslayer later; and at—but choose for yourself; you can’t go amiss.

If Cooper had been an observer his inventive faculty would have worked better; not more interestingly, but more rationally, more plausibly. Cooper’s proudest creations in the way of “situations” suffer noticeably from the absence of the observer’s protecting gift. Cooper’s eye was splendidly inaccurate. Cooper seldom saw anything correctly. He saw nearly all things as through a glass eye, darkly. Of course a man who cannot see the commonest little every-day matters accurately is working at a disadvantage when he is constructing a “situation.” In the Deerslayer tale Cooper has a stream which is fifty feet wide where it flows out of a lake; it presently narrows to twenty as it meanders along for no given reason; and yet when a stream acts like that it ought to be required to explain itself. Fourteen pages later the width of the brook’s outlet from the lake has suddenly shrunk thirty feet, and become “the narrowest part of the stream.” This shrinkage is not accounted for. The stream has bends in it, a sure indication that it has alluvial banks and cuts them; yet these bends are only thirty and fifty feet long. If Cooper had been a nice and punctilious observer he would have noticed that the bends were oftener nine hundred feet long than short of it.

Cooper made the exit of that stream fifty feet wide, in the first place, for no particular reason; in the second place, he narrowed it to less than twenty to accommodate some Indians. He bends a “sapling” to the form of an arch over this narrow passage, and conceals six Indians in its foliage. They are “laying” for a settler’s scow or ark which is coming up the stream on its way to the lake; it is being hauled against the stiff current by a rope whose stationary end is anchored in the lake; its rate of progress cannot be more than a mile an hour. Cooper describes the ark, but pretty obscurely. In the matter of dimensions “it was little more than a modern canal-boat.” Let us guess, then, that it was about one hundred and forty feet long. It was of “greater breadth than common.” Let us guess, then, that it was about sixteen feet wide. This leviathan had been prowling down bends which were but a third as long as itself, and scraping between banks where it had only two feet of space to spare on each side. We cannot too much admire this miracle. A low-roofed log dwelling occupies “two-thirds of the ark’s length”—a dwelling ninety feet long and sixteen feet wide, let us say a kind of vestibule train. The dwelling has two rooms—each forty-five feet long and sixteen feet wide, let us guess. One of them is the bedroom of the Hutter girls, Judith and Hetty; the other is the parlor in the daytime, at night it is papa’s bedchamber. The ark is arriving at the stream’s exit now, whose width has been reduced to less than twenty feet to accommodate the Indians—say to eighteen. There is a foot to spare on each side of the boat. Did the Indians notice that there was going to be a tight squeeze there? Did they notice that they could make money by climbing down out of that arched sapling and just stepping aboard when the ark scraped by? No, other Indians would have noticed these things, but Cooper’s Indians never notice anything. Cooper thinks they are marvelous creatures for noticing, but he was almost always in error about his Indians. There was seldom a sane one among them.

The ark is one hundred and forty feet long; the dwelling is ninety feet long. The idea of the Indians is to drop softly and secretly from the arched sapling to the dwelling as the ark creeps along under it at the rate of a mile an hour, and butcher the family. It will take the ark a minute and a half to pass under. It will take the ninety foot dwelling a minute to pass under. Now, then, what did the six Indians do? It would take you thirty years to guess, and even then you would have to give it up, I believe. Therefore, I will tell you what the Indians did. Their chief, a person of quite extraordinary intellect for a Cooper Indian, warily watched the canal-boat as it squeezed along under him, and when he had got his calculations fined down to exactly the right shade, as he judged, he let go and dropped. And missed the house! That is actually what he did. He missed the house, and landed in the stern of the scow. It was not much of a fall, yet it knocked him silly. He lay there unconscious. If the house had been ninety-seven feet long he would have made the trip. The fault was Cooper’s, not his. The error lay in the construction of the house. Cooper was no architect.

There still remained in the roost five Indians.

The boat has passed under and is now out of their reach. Let me explain what the five did—you would not be able to reason it out for yourself. No. 1 jumped for the boat, but fell in the water astern of it. Then No. 2 jumped for the boat, but fell in the water still farther astern of it. Then No. 3 jumped for the boat, and fell a good way astern of it. Then No. 4 jumped for the boat, and fell in the water away astern. Then even No. 5 made a jump for the boat—for he was a Cooper Indian. In the matter of intellect, the difference between a Cooper Indian and the Indian that stands in front of the cigarshop is not spacious. The scow episode is really a sublime burst of invention; but it does not thrill, because the inaccuracy of the details throws a sort of air of fictitiousness and general improbability over it. This comes of Cooper’s inadequacy as an observer.

The reader will find some examples of Cooper’s high talent for inaccurate observation in the account of the shooting-match in The Pathfinder.

          “A common wrought nail was driven lightly into the target, its

          head having been first touched with paint.”

The color of the paint is not stated—an important omission, but Cooper deals freely in important omissions. No, after all, it was not an important omission; for this nail-head is a hundred yards from the marksmen, and could not be seen by them at that distance, no matter what its color might be.

How far can the best eyes see a common house-fly? A hundred yards? It is quite impossible. Very well; eyes that cannot see a house-fly that is a hundred yards away cannot see an ordinary nailhead at that distance, for the size of the two objects is the same. It takes a keen eye to see a fly or a nailhead at fifty yards—one hundred and fifty feet. Can the reader do it?

The nail was lightly driven, its head painted, and game called. Then the Cooper miracles began. The bullet of the first marksman chipped an edge off the nail-head; the next man’s bullet drove the nail a little way into the target—and removed all the paint. Haven’t the miracles gone far enough now? Not to suit Cooper; for the purpose of this whole scheme is to show off his prodigy, Deerslayer Hawkeye—Long-Rifle—Leather-Stocking—Pathfinder—Bumppo before the ladies.

          “’Be all ready to clench it, boys!’ cried out Pathfinder,

          stepping into his friend’s tracks the instant they were vacant.

          ‘Never mind a new nail; I can see that, though the paint is

          gone, and what I can see I can hit at a hundred yards, though

          it were only a mosquito’s eye.  Be ready to clench!’

“The rifle cracked, the bullet sped its way, and the head of the nail was buried in the wood, covered by the piece of flattened lead.”

There, you see, is a man who could hunt flies with a rifle, and command a ducal salary in a Wild West show to-day if we had him back with us.

The recorded feat is certainly surprising just as it stands; but it is not surprising enough for Cooper. Cooper adds a touch. He has made Pathfinder do this miracle with another man’s rifle; and not only that, but Pathfinder did not have even the advantage of loading it himself. He had everything against him, and yet he made that impossible shot; and not only made it, but did it with absolute confidence, saying, “Be ready to clench.” Now a person like that would have undertaken that same feat with a brickbat, and with Cooper to help he would have achieved it, too.

Pathfinder showed off handsomely that day before the ladies. His very first feat was a thing which no Wild West show can touch. He was standing with the group of marksmen, observing—a hundred yards from the target, mind; one Jasper raised his rifle and drove the centre of the bull’s-eye. Then the Quartermaster fired. The target exhibited no result this time. There was a laugh. “It’s a dead miss,” said Major Lundie. Pathfinder waited an impressive moment or two; then said, in that calm, indifferent, know-it-all way of his, “No, Major, he has covered Jasper’s bullet, as will be seen if any one will take the trouble to examine the target.”

Wasn’t it remarkable! How could he see that little pellet fly through the air and enter that distant bullet-hole? Yet that is what he did; for nothing is impossible to a Cooper person. Did any of those people have any deep-seated doubts about this thing? No; for that would imply sanity, and these were all Cooper people.

          “The respect for Pathfinder’s skill and for his ‘quickness and

          accuracy of sight’” (the italics [”] are mine) “was so

          profound and general, that the instant he made this declaration

          the spectators began to distrust their own opinions, and a

          dozen rushed to the target in order to ascertain the fact.

          There, sure enough, it was found that the Quartermaster’s

          bullet had gone through the hole made by Jasper’s, and that,

          too, so accurately as to require a minute examination to be

          certain of the circumstance, which, however, was soon clearly

          established by discovering one bullet over the other in the

          stump against which the target was placed.”

They made a “minute” examination; but never mind, how could they know that there were two bullets in that hole without digging the latest one out? for neither probe nor eyesight could prove the presence of any more than one bullet. Did they dig? No; as we shall see. It is the Pathfinder’s turn now; he steps out before the ladies, takes aim, and fires.

But, alas! here is a disappointment; an incredible, an unimaginable disappointment—for the target’s aspect is unchanged; there is nothing there but that same old bullet-hole!

          “’If one dared to hint at such a thing,’ cried Major Duncan, ‘I

          should say that the Pathfinder has also missed the target!’”

As nobody had missed it yet, the “also” was not necessary; but never mind about that, for the Pathfinder is going to speak.

          “’No, no, Major,’ said he, confidently, ‘that would be a risky

          declaration.  I didn’t load the piece, and can’t say what was

          in it; but if it was lead, you will find the bullet driving

          down those of the Quartermaster and Jasper, else is not my name

          Pathfinder.’

          “A shout from the target announced the truth of this

          assertion.”

Is the miracle sufficient as it stands? Not for Cooper. The Pathfinder speaks again, as he “now slowly advances towards the stage occupied by the females”:

          “’That’s not all, boys, that’s not all; if you find the target

          touched at all, I’ll own to a miss.  The Quartermaster cut the

          wood, but you’ll find no wood cut by that last messenger.”

The miracle is at last complete. He knew—doubtless saw—at the distance of a hundred yards—that his bullet had passed into the hole without fraying the edges. There were now three bullets in that one hole—three bullets embedded processionally in the body of the stump back of the target. Everybody knew this—somehow or other—and yet nobody had dug any of them out to make sure. Cooper is not a close observer, but he is interesting. He is certainly always that, no matter what happens. And he is more interesting when he is not noticing what he is about than when he is. This is a considerable merit.

The conversations in the Cooper books have a curious sound in our modern ears. To believe that such talk really ever came out of people’s mouths would be to believe that there was a time when time was of no value to a person who thought he had something to say; when it was the custom to spread a two-minute remark out to ten; when a man’s mouth was a rolling-mill, and busied itself all day long in turning four-foot pigs of thought into thirty-foot bars of conversational railroad iron by attenuation; when subjects were seldom faithfully stuck to, but the talk wandered all around and arrived nowhere; when conversations consisted mainly of irrelevancies, with here and there a relevancy, a relevancy with an embarrassed look, as not being able to explain how it got there.

Cooper was certainly not a master in the construction of dialogue. Inaccurate observation defeated him here as it defeated him in so many other enterprises of his. He even failed to notice that the man who talks corrupt English six days in the week must and will talk it on the seventh, and can’t help himself. In the Deerslayer story he lets Deerslayer talk the showiest kind of book-talk sometimes, and at other times the basest of base dialects. For instance, when some one asks him if he has a sweetheart, and if so, where she abides, this is his majestic answer:

          “’She’s in the forest-hanging from the boughs of the trees, in

          a soft rain—in the dew on the open grass—the clouds that

          float about in the blue heavens—the birds that sing in the

          woods—the sweet springs where I slake my thirst—and in all

          the other glorious gifts that come from God’s Providence!’”

And he preceded that, a little before, with this:

          “’It consarns me as all things that touches a fri’nd consarns a

          fri’nd.’”

And this is another of his remarks:

          “’If I was Injin born, now, I might tell of this, or carry in

          the scalp and boast of the expl’ite afore the whole tribe; or

          if my inimy had only been a bear’”—and so on.

We cannot imagine such a thing as a veteran Scotch Commander-in-Chief comporting himself in the field like a windy melodramatic actor, but Cooper could. On one occasion Alice and Cora were being chased by the French through a fog in the neighborhood of their father’s fort:

          “’Point de quartier aux coquins!’ cried an eager pursuer, who

          seemed to direct the operations of the enemy.

          “’Stand firm and be ready, my gallant 60ths!’ suddenly

          exclaimed a voice above them; wait to see the enemy; fire low,

          and sweep the glacis.’

          “’Father? father!’ exclaimed a piercing cry from out the mist;

          ‘it is I!  Alice! thy own Elsie! spare, O! save your daughters!’

          “’Hold!’ shouted the former speaker, in the awful tones of

          parental agony, the sound reaching even to the woods, and

          rolling back in solemn echo.  ”Tis she! God has restored me my

          children! Throw open the sally-port; to the field, 60ths, to

          the field! pull not a trigger, lest ye kill my lambs!  Drive

          off these dogs of France with your steel!’”

Cooper’s word-sense was singularly dull. When a person has a poor ear for music he will flat and sharp right along without knowing it. He keeps near the tune, but it is not the tune. When a person has a poor ear for words, the result is a literary flatting and sharping; you perceive what he is intending to say, but you also perceive that he doesn’t say it. This is Cooper. He was not a word-musician. His ear was satisfied with the approximate word. I will furnish some circumstantial evidence in support of this charge. My instances are gathered from half a dozen pages of the tale called Deerslayer. He uses “verbal,” for “oral”; “precision,” for “facility”; “phenomena,” for “marvels”; “necessary,” for “predetermined”; “unsophisticated,” for “primitive”; “preparation,” for “expectancy”; “rebuked,” for “subdued”; “dependent on,” for “resulting from”; “fact,” for “condition”; “fact,” for “conjecture”; “precaution,” for “caution”; “explain,” for “determine”; “mortified,” for “disappointed”; “meretricious,” for “factitious”; “materially,” for “considerably”; “decreasing,” for “deepening”; “increasing,” for “disappearing”; “embedded,” for “enclosed”; “treacherous;” for “hostile”; “stood,” for “stooped”; “softened,” for “replaced”; “rejoined,” for “remarked”; “situation,” for “condition”; “different,” for “differing”; “insensible,” for “unsentient”; “brevity,” for “celerity”; “distrusted,” for “suspicious”; “mental imbecility,” for “imbecility”; “eyes,” for “sight”; “counteracting,” for “opposing”; “funeral obsequies,” for “obsequies.”

There have been daring people in the world who claimed that Cooper could write English, but they are all dead now—all dead but Lounsbury. I don’t remember that Lounsbury makes the claim in so many words, still he makes it, for he says that Deerslayer is a “pure work of art.” Pure, in that connection, means faultless—faultless in all details—and language is a detail. If Mr. Lounsbury had only compared Cooper’s English with the English which he writes himself—but it is plain that he didn’t; and so it is likely that he imagines until this day that Cooper’s is as clean and compact as his own. Now I feel sure, deep down in my heart, that Cooper wrote about the poorest English that exists in our language, and that the English of Deerslayer is the very worst that even Cooper ever wrote.

I may be mistaken, but it does seem to me that Deerslayer is not a work of art in any sense; it does seem to me that it is destitute of every detail that goes to the making of a work of art; in truth, it seems to me that Deerslayer is just simply a literary delirium tremens.

A work of art? It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are—oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language.

Counting these out, what is left is Art. I think we must all admit that.

Much Ado About…

               So the civilized world is on ‘lockdown’ now, due to the panic over the ‘novel Coronavirus’…

               Except that the latest Coronavirus isn’t novel; this is COVD-19, the nineteenth version of a flu bug that’s been around forever. This also isn’t the first mass contagion in recent memory. SARS (Sudden Arrested Respiratory Syndrome) broke out in 2009 and 2012, and a wicked swine flu epidemic busted loose in 2010.

               The difference is, the ‘mainstream’ media voluntarily ‘blacked out’ those events to protect the American President Barack Obama. They’re blowing up the latest outbreak to crash the American economy in the hopes of taking out President Trump… ‘cuz let’s face it, nothing makes for great campaign rhetoric like ‘This president made everybody poor! Vote for ME instead!’ (Except maybe in the case of Senile Joe Biden, whose campaign slogan will be something like ‘The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round…’)

               This didn’t have to happen. Yes, it’s a nasty flu bug but it’s still just a flu bug. The media-induced panic, however, will probably cause a repeat of 2008: The year in which the American middle class lost a whopping forty percent of its net wealth. Wealthy elites have recovered from the crash of 2008, but the middle class never has.

               I’m trying to keep my chin up, but it’s hard because I remember the terror of 2008. The media may be full of ‘fake news’ but the panic they induce is very, very real. It also has very real consequences.

               Stuff happens. People suffer. And Christians suffer right along with everyone else, because we are still part of a cursed world. But we have this comfort: Sometimes God calms the storm, and something He calms His child… but He will always do one or the other!

               That, I think, was why the Apostle Paul called our earthly troubles ‘light and momentary’.

               That having been said… screw the American press!!!

Confessions of a Lifelong Nocturne…

‘I prefer a sunless sky/ to the glittering and stinging in my eye…’ Nina Gordon (from the song ‘Tonight and the Rest of My Life’)

Our world seems to consist mostly of people who adore the daylight…

They wallow in the sunlight, those sprawling masses, forever reveling in the bright light that shows them their path. They bask in every moment of lingering sunshine before they reluctantly retire at dusk, their heads hanging in disappointment as they anxiously begin counting the minutes until the dawn rises anew.

Sunlight may show you your path…

But the darkness shows you the stars. You can find your path by the stars, just as well as by the sun; it just takes more practice.

Nocturnes understand life more deeply than the sun-worshipers ever could. Life slows down at night. It gives one a sense of calm, of focus, and a much more profound sense of things. Daylight invites the ‘sheeple’ to run about in a higgledy-piggledy mess, bumping into one another in their hurry and making no sense as they do.

Nocturnes see life with much more focus, because we prefer to ‘run about’ during the hours in which the ‘sheeple’ aren’t making such a mess of things. Daylight brings confusion; Darkness brings clarity. When one is awake at three a.m., the anxiety that defines humanity just fades away. The world might actually blow up soon… but it won’t happen at night; the moron that ‘pushes the button’ will almost certainly be some brainless ‘early bird’. In the meantime, the Nocturne has more stolen time in which to make sense of the world, of himself.

Some prefer the sun; it makes their path clear.

I prefer to navigate by the stars. I’m good at it, too…

And that’s something that the diurnal masses will never understand.