SubscribeStar Saturday: 9-11

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Yesterday I launched Five Dollar Friday, a series of 2020 election series posts for $5 a month and higher subscribers.  Just another perk for my subscribers.

Nineteen years ago yesterday, Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners, crashing them into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and—thanks to the bravery of Americans aboard Flight 93—a field in Pennsylvania.  2977 Americans lost their lives that day, with another 25,000 injured in the aftermath.

I was a junior in high school when the attacks occurred.  My classmates and I first heard about it during trigonometry class with our ancient math teacher, one of those public school double-dippers who was pulling a pension but still teaching (to her credit, she was a good math teacher).  The psychology teacher from across the hall—a large, red-faced woman—burst into the room, blubbering, “They’ve attacked the Pentagon!”

To my shame, the class erupted in laughter.  We weren’t laughing because we thought it was good news—like those Muslims partying on rooftops and those public school kids in New York cheering at the destruction.  We laughed because it was so absurd (it didn’t help that a very rotund, hysterical woman shouted it hysterically).  America, attacked?  Who would do something so foolish?  It was so beyond our comprehension, we couldn’t believe it.

As the day wore on, we realized pretty quickly that something terrible had happened.  I don’t remember if we watched news footage during the day, but we were not sent home early.  Indeed, we had marching band practice that afternoon.  But there were real fears:  would terrorists attempt an attack on the Savannah River Site, where we used to process tritium for nuclear weapons?

My dad was in Pennsylvania at the time at a work conference.  Of course, Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania, and all air travel was shut down (my German teacher commented on how it was probably the first time since the rise of commercial aviation that no aircraft were in the skies).  Fortunately, he was safe, and road the rails back to South Carolina.  My grandparents were out in the Southwest, and rented a Toyota Camry to drive cross-country (they went on to purchase the vehicle).

In the coming days, we came to find out it was the work of radical Islamic terrorists.  I recall a conversation with friends in which I suggested we ban any travel and immigration from any countries with a majority Muslim population until we got this terrorism threat worked out.  It wasn’t long after that President Bush started in with the “Islam is a religion of peace” nonsense, but there was a brief, albeit very mild, nativist flare-up (when the French refused to join us in the Iraq War, restaurants changed French fries to “freedom fries” on their menus).

It felt like our Pearl Harbor.

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Memorable Monday IV: Happy Labor Day [2020]!

It’s Labor Day 2020 here in the United States, and it’s been a productive weekend for yours portly.  My girlfriend and I completely recreated my weed-strewn flower beds, and I felt like my parents—wandering around the garden centers of Lowe’s and Home Depot looking for cypress mulch and discount flowers.

Today, I put down some more mulch, and the beds are looking quite nice.  I also swept out my barn—filled with the corpses of roaches caught in the latest defogger blast—and did some light vehicle maintenance.  The in-cabin air filter in my little Nissan Versa Note SV desperately needed replacement, and I can now breathe easier knowing a clean filter is in place.  I vacuumed out the car, too, and took the opportunity to hose down its filters and various components, which are now drying outside.

Looking back to my Labor Day post for 2019, it’s striking to note the difference in my activities.  That Labor Day I played video games; this Labor Day, I’ve been a productive adult American.  Granted, I was sick, but perhaps I’m finally growing up.

Regardless, the rest of today will be spent relaxing a bit, as well as doing some planning and grading for the short school week ahead.  Next weekend I plan to hit the yard with a new battery-powered string trimmer, pending its shipment and weather permitting.  It’s interesting how I will put these necessary home improvement projects off for weeks, but when I finally get to them, I don’t want to stop!  Such is the joy of homeownership.

With that, here is last year’s Labor Day post, “Happy Labor Day 2019!“:

It’s Labor Day here in the United States, a day to celebrate the hardworking men and women that make our country great.  Yes, I’m sure a holiday engineered by labor unions (like the radical nineteenth-century union the Knights of Labor) has some seedy progressive origins, but I think we can all appreciate a Monday off.

It’s been a pleasant weekend here at the Casa de Portly.  All the ambitious plans to grade and catch up on work predictably flew out the window, and I’ve gotten loads of much-needed rest.  My hacking cough is virtually gone, and I’m feeling rested and relaxed—a rare sensation for yours portly.

I also rediscovered a fun little turn-based strategy game that has devoured some of my time this weekend:  Delve Deeper, from Lunar Giant.  You manage a team of five dwarfs as they “delve deeper” (get it?) into critter-infested mines, all while competing against other, AI-controlled teams to mine and loot the most treasure.  It’s simple and not exceptionally deep, but it’s quite fun.

I’ve also played some Left 4 Dead 2 with the boys, and watched the heartbreaking finale of the USC-UNC game.  Knocking off top-seeded Alabama in a couple of weeks is looking less and less likely.  Ugh…—but Go Cocks!

That’s it for today.  We’ll be back to history, politics, and the culture wars tomorrow.  For now, enjoy some downtime with your family, and try not to think about the collapse of Western civilization for at least one three-day weekend.

Your portly,

TPP

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TBT: The Joy of Autumn

It is—to use a Southern expression—hotter than blue blazes here in South Carolina, as it always is in early September.  Lately, the extreme heat and humidity have made any outdoor activities unbearable, at least for yours portly.  The air is thick and muggy.

But there is some relief in sight.  We’ve had some rainy days here and there that have given brief—fleetingly brief!—tastes of autumn.

Autumn is, by far, my favorite season.  After the brutal oppression of summer, autumn is a welcome relief.  Autumn in South Carolina is brief, but lovely—the days are warm, the nights crisp.  The season makes it stately arrival fashionably late, usually late in October or early in November (though Halloween always manages to be hot; just once I want an Indiana Halloween!).

The cooler weather brings with it better smells:  pumpkins and spices replace the persistent smell of cut grass and sweat.  Food tastes better in autumn, too.  There’s a reason candy apples are an autumnal fair food:  that thick, sugary, caramel coating wouldn’t last in the humidity of summer.  There’s also the pies:  pecan and pumpkin, of course, but also sweet potato.

Oh, and there’s college football.  The SEC hasn’t (yet) betrayed fans like the West Coast conferences.

So, here’s hoping autumn returns sooner rather than later to South Carolina this year.  With that hope—and prayer—in mind, whip out the pumpkin spice and enjoy November 2019’s “The Joy of Autumn“:

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TBT^4: Happy Birthday, America!

It’s a bit late to commemorate Independence Day (and I did it already on Saturday), but it’s #MAGAWeek2020 (read installments here, here, and here), and it seemed fitting to dedicate this edition of TBT to America’s Birthday.

I’m reblogging a reblog of a reblog from the old site.  Last year’s post was “TBT^2,” or “TBT Squared.”   Well, to be mathematically consistent, I had to square that square, which I think makes it “TBT^4,” or “TBT to the power of four.”  I sure hope I’m right.  Regardless, next year will be “TBT^16,” and so on.

I like the layer of commentary, like my piddling blog posts are Talmudic commentaries on other rabbinical commentaries (or, since I’m Christian, Biblical commentaries on other Biblical commentaries of the Bible).  It’s interesting seeing how what’s changed over the years in this throwback posts.

For example, last Independence Day I had my first SubscribeStar subscriber.  That was fun!  I was also in New Jersey—one of the nicer trips I’ve taken.  This year, it was a Southern Fourth, with lots of barbecue and hash.

On a more somber note, America has seen better days—but also far worse.  I have to remind myself of that latter point, as it’s easy to get black-pilled and give into despair.  It’s a commentary on the softness of my own life that today’s ructions—piddling when compared to conflicts of the past—seem insurmountable.

But even if America is on the rocks in some areas, God is still in control.  We’re still the greatest country in the world, despite what the BLM and AntiFa ingrates think.  To be quite frank, if they hate America so much, they’re welcome to move.

With that, here are past Independence Day posts:

“TBT^2: Happy Birthday, America!” (2019)

It’s Independence Day in the United States!  God Bless America!

I hope everyone has been enjoying #MAGAWeek2019.  Remember, you can read those full entries only on SubscribeStar with a $1/mo. or higher subscription.  Your subscription also includes exclusive access to new content every Saturday, as well as other goodies from time to time.

I’m happy to announce, too, that I have my first subscriber.  You, too, can support my work for just $1 a month (or more).  That’s the price of a large pizza if you paid for it over the course of an entire year—you can’t beat that!

In case you’ve missed them, so far #MAGAWeek2019 has commemorated our second President, John Adams; our first Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton; and our national cuisine, fast food.  You can also check out all of #MAGAWeek2018’s entries.

This Fourth of July I’m in New Jersey, and spent a great day yesterday at Coney Island in New York City.  Despite not liking rollercoasters, I rode the historic The Cyclone, which was first constructed in 1927.  I also visited the New York Aquarium, and tried a cheese dog at the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand, the one that will host America’s favorite hot dog-eating contest today.  It was all quite touristy, but very fun.

To commemorate the Fourth of July, I’m reheating last year’s TBT feature, itself a reblogging of a classic Fourth of July post from 2016.

Enjoy your independence, and God Bless America!

–TPP

“TBT: Happy Birthday, America!”  (2018)

Two years ago, I dedicated my Fourth of July post to analyzing Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  In the spirit of MAGA Week 2018—and to preserve the TPP TBT tradition—I’m re-posting that classic post today.

A major theme of the blog posts from that summer was the idea of America as a nation, an idea I still find endlessly compelling.  The election of President Trump in November 2016 has reinvigorated public debates about the nature of American nationalism, as well as revived, at least partially, a spirit of unabashed patriotism.

As a child, I took it for granted that America was a special place.  When I learned American history as a child, I learned the heroic tales of our Founders.  While revisionist historians certainly have been correct in pointing out the faults of some of these men, I believe it is entirely appropriate to teach children—who are incapable of understanding such nuance—a positive, patriotic view of American history.  We shouldn’t lie to them, but there’s nothing wrong with educating them that, despite its flaws, America is pretty great.

“Happy Birthday, America!” (2016)

Today the United States of America celebrates 240 years of liberty.  240 years ago, Americans boldly banded together to create the greatest nation ever brought forth on this earth.

They did so at the height of their mother country’s dominance.  Great Britain emerged from the French and Indian War in 1763 as the preeminent global power.  Americans had fought in the war, which was international in scope but fought primarily in British North America.  After Britain’s stunning, come-from-behind victory, Americans never felt prouder to be English.

Thirteen short years later, Americans made the unprecedented move to declare their independence.  Then, only twenty years after the Treaty of Paris of 1763 that ended the French and Indian War, another Treaty of Paris (1783) officially ended the American Revolution, extending formal diplomatic recognition to the young United States.  The rapidity of this world-historic shift reflects the deep respect for liberty and the rule of law that beat in the breasts of Americans throughout the original thirteen colonies.

America is founded on ideas, spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and given institutional form and legal protection by the Constitution.  Values–not specific ethnicity–would come to form a new, distinctly American nationalism, one that has created enduring freedom.

***

Rather than rehash these ideas, however, I’d instead like to treat you to the greatest political speech ever given in the English language.  It’s all the more remarkable because it continues to inspire even when read silently.  I’m writing, of course, about Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Here is the transcript (Source:  http://www.gettysburg.com/bog/address.htm):
“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.“Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.“We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth. “

 ***
The Gettysburg Address is elegant in its simplicity.  At less than 300 words, it was a remarkably short speech for the time (political and commemorative speeches often ran to two or three hours).  Yet its power is undiminished all these years later.  President Lincoln was only wrong about one thing:  the claim that the “world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here” has proven untrue.
I will likely write a deeper analysis of the Address in November to commemorate its delivery; in the meantime, I ask you to read and reread the speech, and to reflect on its timeless truths.
God Bless America!
–TPP
To read different versions of the Gettysburg Address–there are several versions extant–check out this excellent page from Abraham Lincoln Online:  http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm.

Lazy Sunday LXVIII: Phone it in Fridays, Part II

A quick note:  tomorrow marks the beginning of #MAGAWeek2020, a week-long celebration of people, places, concepts, innovations, etc., that MADE AMERICA GREAT (AGAIN).  #MAGAWeek posts are SubscribeStar exclusives, so you need a subscription of $1 or higher to gain full access to these extended posts.  You can check out #MAGAWeek2018 and #MAGAWeek2019 Lazy Sunday posts to get a better idea of the kind of content you’ll see this week.  God Bless America!

We’re continuing our review of Phone it in Friday posts with editions IV, V, and VI.  Hopefully they’re as good as the original Star Wars trilogy.  At the very least, they can’t be as bad as the prequels, or as woke as the new trilogy.  ¡Dios Mio!

  • Phone it in Friday IV: Conferencing” – I hate meetings.  I’ve been in enough of them to know that they are typically a soul-sucking waste of time, and their agendas are often way overstuffed, usually with information that could be explained easily enough in an e-mail.  That said, I love conferences.  This post was a review of a private school association’s annual teachers’ conference, which our faculty had not attended in some years due to various conflicts.  I find that, unlike meetings, conferences are full of opportunities to learn and to network.  There’s an air of sociable conviviality at a good conference—and cheese Danishes.
  • Phone it in Friday V: Ode to Friday Evenings (and Weekends)” – This post was truly a phoned-in edition of Phone it in Friday—it was late, I’d had a long week, and I needed to slam out some content to appease the WordPress Daily Post counter.  I explain that magical period “from about 3:30 in the afternoon until around about bedtime Friday night” when everything is alive with possibilities for the weekend ahead, and when you’re at the furthest possible point from official responsibilities.  Now that I’m on summer vacation and was doing distance teaching for two months prior to that, everyday is Friday, essentially (except for Wednesdays, when History of Conservative Thought meets).  I’m trying to enjoy unlimited Fridays while I can!
  • Phone it in Friday VI: Valentine’s Day” – This post wasn’t really about Valentine’s Day, per se, but it did include Z Man‘s excellent “The Lovecast” episode of his weekly podcast, as well as photog’s post about bringing back matchmakers.  I also reflected on some positive signs during a trip to a rural Hardee’s, which was remodeling:  “It was also heartening to see a Hardee’s in rural Lugoff, South Carolina spending the money to remodel.  Times are good.”

Well, that’s it for this classic trilogy of Phone it in Friday posts.  The fun continues next Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Memorable Monday III: Memorial Day 2019

It’s Memorial Day 2020!  We’re still in The Age of The Virus, but even Blue Staters in Maryland are hitting the beaches.  People have had enough of sitting around in fear.  It’s summertime, baby!

It’s fitting that the day when Americans remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, we’re going out in droves to enjoy it.  I don’t wish The Virus on anyone, and prudence is warranted, but it’s time to get on with our lives.

I’m spending time with family, then am going to take in some of our great State on a leisurely drive home.  There’s not much time for fresh material, so today I’m looking back to last year’s Memorial Day tribute.

Here is 2019’s “Memorial Day 2019“:

It’s Memorial Day here in the United States, which marks the unofficial start of summer.  More importantly, Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to remember veterans who have fallen in combat.  The United States observes two other days dedicated to veterans:  Armed Services Day, which honors those men and women currently serving in the armed services; and Veterans’ Day, which honors all American servicemen and women, living, dead, retired, active, etc.

We often hear encomiums this time of year about the numbers of men and women who have died to preserve our freedoms.  These tributes are, of course, true (and, one hopes, heartfelt), and are worth reiterating.

I end every year of my American history courses urging my students to remember how precious their patrimony is, and that liberty is a fragile thing that must be preserved.  I, too, mention the “men and women who gave their lives so that we might be free.”  I then follow that up with noting that, while they hear that sentiment expressed often, they now know (having completed a year of American history) how true it is.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to forget the magnitude of that sacrifice.  In an age where wars are so distant and remote they barely register for us anymore (remember:  we’re still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan), it’s easy to take our soldiers for granted.  It’s easier, still, to forget the sheer number of combat deaths—750,000 in the American Civil War alone.

To that end, I’ve elected to spare you any further pontificating, and present instead this Wikipedia entry on “United States military casualties of war,” which breaks down the numbers succinctly.  Yet even dry statistics and bar charts speak volumes.

God Bless America!

–TPP

Lazy Sunday LXIII: Holidays

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, which means no one is reading self-indulgent posts on third-rate blogs.  While a good chunk of the country is still shut down, lots of the the sensible parts are opening up again.  People aren’t going to let The Virus ruin the official opening weekend of summer.

Since it’s a fun holiday weekend, let’s look back at some holiday-themed posts (note—instead of posting these in chronological order by publication date, I’m placing them in order based on when the calendar would appear in a calendar year):

  • Phone it in Friday VI: Valentine’s Day” – I didn’t write very much about love or romance in this post, though I was “dreaming of Tulsi Gabbard donning a MAGA hat.”  I also linked to photog’s blog post about matchmaking, which features a detailed rundown of the horrors of modern dating in the comments.
  • He is Risen!” (and “TBT: He is Risen!“) – A short post about Easter, the most important date on the Christian calendar (with Christmas a close second).  The original post details some of the sobering statistics about religion in decline, but it was heartening to see that 2/3rds of Americans in 2019 believed that Jesus rose from the dead.
  • Happy Halloween!” – Big surprise—I love Halloween.  This post details why, and includes pictures of my jaunty l’il Jack O’Lantern.
  • Thanksgiving Week!” – There sure are a lot of exclamation points in these titles.  This post isn’t about Thanksgiving, per se, but more about the nature of the school calendar that ceded the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as another day to the holiday.  I also offer up some reflections on the limits of logic, especially of following ideas to their absurd conclusions.  Practicality plays a role on putting the brakes on some ideas.
  • Christmas and its Symbols” – This post features lots of French horns, as well as a Daily Encouraging Word devotional about the symbolism of Christmas.  I go after atheists, too, which is always fun.

Enjoy barbecuing and being normal again with your friends and family this weekend!  ‘Tis the season.

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

The Joy of Spring

Seasons in South Carolina are not the stately procession of one phase of life from one to another, with flowers poking through snow, or a crisp autumnal chill sneaking into the night air in late September.  Instead, it’s as hot on Halloween as it is on the Fourth of July (well, maybe just a tad cooler, but you’d never know from the humidity).  I often joke with out-of-Staters that we get about two weeks of spring and two weeks of fall, with about nine months of summer and two months of winter—and even the winter is interspersed with some summery days.

This year, South Carolina has been blessed with an unusually long and mild spring.  It’s 11 May, and I’m still wearing sweatshirts in the mornings.  We had a brief foretaste of the long summer a couple of nights last week, when the cloying thickness of summertime humidity hung menacingly in the air—the threat of summer’s oppression.  But God has seen fit to grant us at least a few more days of mild springtime.

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part I: “The Judge’s House”

One of the perks of teaching is all the time we get off.  For my money, it’s not the long summer break that is the best—usually because I spend my summers working—but Christmas Break, which stretches on for two stately weeks.  It’s the ideal amount of time to decompress after the long Fall semester.

Next to that, however, is Spring Break, which at my little school lasts for a gloriously overstuffed eleven days, if you include the weekends (it’s seven workdays in total).  I still contend that Easter should get its full due and, a la a Southern European and/or Latin American country, get a full two weeks.

Nevertheless, the time off gives me a bit more time to relax and reflect (although I’ve been promised quite a few chores from my parents, who I am visiting for a bit)—and to read.  When it comes to books, I have the same issue as I do at buffets:  my eyes are bigger than my stomach (or, in this case, my capacity to read everything).  I always bring too many books with me on any trip, and am lucky to crack even one of them.  I also overindulge in written junk food, like reading various articles and blog posts online.

Further, my parents’ house, like my own, is full of books.  So I often find myself thumbing through their collection while neglecting my own Babel-esque stack of half-read tomes.

Such has been the case this Spring Break.  My own stack of reading sits forlornly to my right, probably feeling (if books can feel) a tad unnecessary.  Instead, I’ve been reading through a short story collection, 11 Great Horror Stories, edited by Betty M. Owen.  It’s a collection my mother picked up from a Scholastic book sale when she was still in school (this particular printing, the fourth, was published in March 1970, though the original copyright date is 1969), and it’s held up remarkably well for a paperback.

The collection itself is not all that horrific.  Several of the stories are only tangentially related, at best, to the horror genre; some of them, like Poe’s “The Oblong Box,” are more properly mysteries.  The collection does open with H.P. Lovecraft’s magisterial “The Dunwich Horror,” which is a must-read, although I skipped over it on this reading because it’s nearly sixty-five pages long.

For a detailed synopsis of all eleven stories, GoodReads.com reviewer Williwaw has written an excellent and useful summary of the collection, without giving away any of the fun and macabre twists.

For our purposes today, I’m recommending one of the better stories from the collection, Bram Stoker‘s (of Dracula fame) “The Judge’s House,” first published 5 December 1891.

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