Time for BBQ: Big Brother Quotient

1984The sales of George Orwell’s novel “1984” are skyrocketing since Trumpf came to power, and I’m loving it. It’s one of my favorite books. He’s one of my favorite authors, and I have sentenced every college  student I have taught to hours of reading his “Politics and the English Language.”

While under the lash of my wife to clear the crap out of our house before we end up on the “Hoarders” TV show, I came across this clip of something I put together back in the real 1984. That was when I claimed that “more editors had jumped on this story idea that rats on Winston Smith’s face,” which was actually an alternative fact. The threat of having a caged rat gnaw through his face was the torture that broke Smith. So no rat jumped on Smith’s face or used it as a means of escape from the cage strapped to Smith’s face.

Why torture Smith? As the article pictured here says: “There was only one motive, illustrated by a statement by Smith’s torturer: ‘Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.'”

Smith and his lover Julia both worked for the Ministry of Truth, which was in charge of lies. They got in trouble when they tried to join a group fighting against the principles of Big Brother:

War is Peace — “It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous, war has ceased to exist.”

Freedom is Slavery — “. . .men in the mass were frail, cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves.”

Ignorance is Strength — “The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison they never even become aware that they are oppressed.”

Related to that last one is this: “Stupidity is as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.” Which may sound like double speak to you but that’s probably because you are not adept at “Doublethink . . .the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

Or maybe you have not yet become fluent in Newspeak, the official language, the purpose of which was to make unorthodox thought impossible. The attention to language may have been the most important aspect of the book for Orwell given what he says in his politics and language essay: “Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Thanks for reading my pure wind. I try to keep politics to a minimum here and you can be thankful that I have not yet read “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, or “The Plot against America” by Phillip Roth, two other books whose increased sales Trumpf will undoubtedly take credit for (“They’re YUGE!”).

Don’t be scared away. Spring is coming and I will be on the road soon. Back to writing about America’s Great Outdoors. About the Bear Ears area recently made a national monument by President Obama. About some of the 3.3 million acres of public lands the Republicans are maneuvering to sell off. About some National Parks and Scenic Rivers checking to make sure they are still a part of the legacy this generation of Americans will leave to the next.

P.S. What happens to Smith and Julia? At the end of the novel, the 40-year-old Smith has lost all his teeth (he was only missing five at the start), his hair and his love for Julia. They had made the ultimate betrayal, against each other (“Do it to Julia, not to me,” Smith yells about the rat eyeing Smith’s eyeball as an exit.) Now they love only Big Brother, which is all part of the plan: “. . . in the future there will be no wives and no friends,” says Smith’s torturer. “Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated . . . There will be no loyalty, except loyalty toward the Party.”

Have a good evening.




Does dressing like Jungle Jim = Nerd?

jungle-jim-standing“You walked into the party
Like you were walking on a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf, it was apricot
You had one eye on the mirror
And watched yourself gavotte . . .”


So you walked into the party wearing your photographer vest and cargo pants because one can never have enough big pockets for phone, notebooks, pencils, pens, bandana, keys, wallet, coins, utility knife, nail clippers and — what’s this? — a camera. It’s practical. It’s comfortable. Lots of people dress like that in the Pacific Northwest even before Maria Semple wrote “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.” (Why no question mark in the title?)


It’s gotten so it seems normal to some of us until we walk into the party and someone asks, “Did you just come off a safari?”

Well, no, but . . . you look around and see that not everyone dresses like Jungle Jim. He would be the lead character in films on the 5 o’clock movie that gave you reason to go back outside and try keeping the Hula Hoop going for 100 loops. The only thing worse would be a rerun of Peter Lorre in another Mr. Moto movie. Jungle Jim movies were a waste of film and Johnny Weissmuller,  who happily showed up more often at 5 swinging from grape vines and calling wild animals to his aid.

Jungle Jim wear is a lot more practical though than Tarzan’s loin cloth. But if you aren’t in the jungle or on safari and you dress like it, are you exhibiting nerd behavior?

These are questions that give us a break from should our president wear a pants suit and delete emails or wear a red tie and force his way into women’s pants suits.

On Arkansas’ Buffalo River in 2016.

So let’s say you paddle down a river and you are dressed like Jungle Jim floating the Limpopo — life jacket, quick-dry shirt and pants (with BIG pockets and lots of them), neoprene booties and river sandals. Tent, freeze-dried food, sleeping bag, water bladders all secured behind your seat. Suddenly you are in the middle of floaters hardly dressed at all — bikini-clad women, men in bathing suits, all stretched across inner tubes, toting radios and towing floating coolers. The party seems to go on forever and you, Mr. Moto Nerd, are way overdressed.

The biker on the right has bad B.O.

Kinda like bike riding. Most American bicyclists dress the same whether they are riding 100 miles or going down the street to the post office. They show up in all kinds of places — the post office for instance — looking like they’re stopping by for a drug test or blood transfusion before the next leg of the tour. And, Mr. Skinny Pants Moto, you’ve got B.O.

Of course there are times when unusual dress is appropriate. The croquet court would be one where one should never neglect wearing whites (Captain of the Yacht, you are welcome here!).

Cherry Blossom Croquet Tournament, 2016, Oxford, Georgia.

Time behind the barbecue? A ridiculous apron is a must.

Hope we never find out.

But these are special occasions where we all agree to be a little weird. If we all dress the same, then we can’t be nerds, right? Not necessarily, as Amazon workers prove daily in the streets of Seattle.

So perhaps this is a question that should be left for quieter times so that we can rejoin the ranks of fellow citizens either packing their bags for their trip to Canada Nov. 9 or stirring up a pot of tar and feathers for dressing up the losers.

It’s been a great year, with lots of fun activities with good friends, and I’ve enjoyed bringing you this silly review of those activities. America seems pretty great to me, and I know I am fortunate to be in a position where I can say that. Whatever we do on Nov. 8, I’m hoping it’s for the best for all of us, no matter how we are dressed, how we look, vote or pray. I also hope it is good for Earth, this place we call home and yet don’t pick up after ourselves. We need to do better.


Til then, anyone know where I can get a hat like Jungle Jim’s — with a big pocket in the back?



On doing barbecue in England

A Manhattan in a bottle. This may have taken the sting out of eating barbecue in England.
A Manhattan in a bottle. This may have taken the sting out of eating barbecue in England.

They laughed when told there was a recommended barbecue place in Leeds, England, but hunger drove them to seek it out. However, they held me responsible if it turned out to be worst than cold mushy peas.

Kathy is especially upset when forced to eat American food in foreign places. Still thrown up to me is the worst desecration (in her mind) of all time: Eating in a McDonald’s on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

“We’re in Paris, for God’s Sake,” she cried — and has ever after and that atrocity (in her mind) happened back in 1992. No matter that we had hungry, crying children to feed: “We’re in Paris, for God’s sake.”

So asking her to eat American barbecue in England was a tough sell. Plus, we had to wait to get into Red’s True Barbecue. “This better be worth the wait. You’re never picking another restaurant again if this turns out to be awful.”

The Corn Exchange in Leeds is now filled with shops.
The Corn Exchange in Leeds is now filled with shops.

So the five of us (we are now traveling with Dave, Tina and Ben Carpenter) moseyed around the Corn Exchange next to Red’s until it came time to face the music (American rock ‘n’ roll) at Red’s.

A Manhattan served in a bottle smoothed the way for Kathy. A huge selection on the menu meant something for everyone. I chose “The Sleepy James.” It was the special developed after Red’s 2014 pilgrimage to the American South. They go each year and bring back something new to share with Leeds.

The Sleepy James comes from the Dodge Gas Station in Memphis, Tenn., and is named for a near toothless wanderer near the place. “Sleepy” rambled on about drinking moonshine since he was five but started making sense when the talk turned to techniques for smoking meat and fixing barbecue.

The Sleepy James involved waffles, barbecued chicken, bacon and greens. It was delicious. In fact, it was all delicious, according to my four sticky-fingered traveling partners.

I might get to pick a restaurant again.

Dave and John at Red's True Barbecue in Leeds, England.
Dave and John at Red’s True Barbecue in Leeds, England.