The Town Scryer is a mixed bag of humor, socio-political observations and ephemera from the perspective of a eclectic Pagan veteran of the counter-culture.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Whale-Eating Sea Gulls

     Sea gulls off the coast of Argentina have lately taken to taking a bite out of Southern Right Whales when they breach to take on air. This opens a wound for them to tear a few chunks of meat from before the whale submerges. Then they take a little more flesh and blubber each time the whale surfaces. The problem has become so serious that the Argentine police patrol boats have been given instructions to shoot the gulls. Whale watching is a prime source of tourist revenue for the area.   The experience is somewhat spoiled if it  resembles an Alfred Hitchcock film.

     It is thought by environmentalists that the enormous amount of trash that finds its way to the sea has caused an explosion in the gull population, forcing them to find new food sources.

     Be seeing you.

    image and more at:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Once More Into The Voting Booth, Dear Friends

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

Macbeth Act 5 Scene 5

     In "The Scottish Play" as actors call it, Macbeth has just learned of the death of his wife and is surprised at his own indifference to the event. It is with similar reflection that I look ahead to the coming Presidential election. 

     There are real differences between the candidates. My friends tell me this and I know that it is true. President Obama, for all his faults, and they are many, will resist attempts to gut Social Security and Medicare. Romney and Ryan would dismantle as much of the tattered remnants of the social safety net as they are able to.  These are issues of serious consequence to me. I will turn sixty next month. Under Romney's vision for America I shall have to work until I die.

     That is as stark as it can get.

     There is a new video going around that was made by Broadway actors who support the President:

     Four years ago many of the same people gave us this:

     See the difference? The joy and optimism washes out of the screen like a wave in the earlier video. It captures the feel that we had back in '68 when it seemed that either Gene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy would be the next president. That was how a lot of people felt about Barack Obama in 2008.Now it is 2012 and we have gone from "Storm the Barricades!" to "Man the barricades, here they come again".

     Many of the great things that we hoped for, and many of the things we were promised did not come to be. Much of it was the result of obstructionism by an opposition that seemed willing to destroy the country to regain power. 

     Some of it simply felt like a betrayal of our trust, the NDAA for example, or the assertion of the power to assassinate American Citizens accused of supporting terrorists without any due process. 

     It is simply hard to be excited. This is my eleventh Presidential election that I will have voted in and the fourteenth that I can remember. There is no talk of Hope and Change this year. This year both sides tell me "Vote for us or bad things will happen".

    Bad things have happened for twelve years. 

    I am very much afraid I will see more bad things in the four years to come no matter who sits in the Oval Office. I feel that much of America shares this...not even cynicism, but a sad resignation.

     The death of Neil Armstrong this week brought back to me memories of what America used to aspire to be, even when we were struggling to free ourselves of the quagmire of a seemingly endless war. Even with Nixon in the White House, we still had hope...for a time.

     "With the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark-the place where the wave broke, and rolled back."

     "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" Hunter S. Thompson

     Be seeing you.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Not a Light, But a Place

  I remember that day in July of '69 so well. Grandmother had passed barely month before and I thought it a great pity that she had missed that moment when Mr. Armstrong first set foot upon the moon. She had told me of torchlight parades for McKinley and of the War To End All Wars, but didn't. Of gas lights and horse-drawn carriages and the first automobiles. It would have been fine if she could have seen that too, her eyes bright with one more wonder.

    I remember looking up into the night sky at that bright silver dime and realizing for the first time that it was a place...a place where people could go...a place where people HAD gone, and maybe I might go there too.

   Now Mr. Armstrong has gone where all have gone before, or shall.

    But the wonder remains.

     Be seeing you.

Photo from NASA

Friday, August 24, 2012

Trickle Down Immigration Reform

    This being an election year there will soon be a lot of bleating about "Illegal aliens"*. There will be calls for ID checks on suspicious (brown) people ala Jan Brewer's Arizona. There will be calls for bigger walls and more armed men guarding our borders, providing job security for unskilled laborers in the employ of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. All of these things will produce two important outcomes: They will spend lots of Homeland Security money, and they will make absolutely no significant change in the amount of undocumented workers in the U.S.A. This last item is vital because no one, with the possible exception of a few million GOP blue collar voters, actually wants to stop illegal immigration. Certainly the big money donors to the GOP election campaigns don't. Undocumented workers are a big businessman's wet dream. They work below minimum wage in appalling conditions, they don't complain, and when it's time to write their paychecks you can call the I.C.E. and have them deported.

     The key to real immigration reform is not building more walls or hiring more guards, We've been trying that for a while now and it hasn't changed anything. We need a new approach.

     I just happen to have one.

     We make it a crime, punishable by a fine of $20,000 per victim, to pay an employee below minimum wage. We award half the amount of the fine to the worker who was cheated in addition to back wages.

     Oh yes, and whistle-blowers get an automatic green card if an arrest is made.

     I guarantee the number of people crossing the border will  dry up to a trickle in no time...except for sweatshop owners jumping bail.

* "Illegal Aliens" is a registered trademark of the Republican Party.

     Be seeing you.


NASA Does a Class Act


 The landing site of the Rover "Curiosity" has officially been names after the late Science Fiction author, Ray Bradbury.

     The Twitter feed from Curiosity read "In tribute, I dedicate my landing spot on Mars to you, Ray Bradbury. Greetings from Bradbury Landing!"

    Ray Bradbury , the author of many classics of speculative fiction including "The Martian Chronicles" and "Fahrenheit 451", died this June fifth at the age of 91.

More at latimes

Be seeing you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pub For Sale, Pig Included

Be warned though, this little piggy likes a pint.

     Pyangana's Pub is on the market with an asking price of $800,000 (Au) or about $840,000 US. It come with a fair sized tract of land and the pub's pig, Pinky. Pinky is the Progeny of Pricilla, her predecessor who recently passed. (Sorry about that. Once you get started with alliteration it's hard to stop.)

More at: themercury

Be seeing you.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nightmare, With Angels

    Looking at the drought withered corn belt and the shrinking polar ice cap on the net while we wait to vote on GMO labeling in our food my mind keeps turning back to a poem by Stephen Vincent Benet.

Nightmare, With Angels
by Stephen Vincent Benet

An angel came to me and stood by my bedside,
Remarking in a professional-historical-economic and
    irritated voice,
"If the Romans had only invented a decent explosion-engine!
Not even the best, not even a Ford V-8
But, say, a Model-T or even an early Napier,
They'd have built good enough roads for it (they knew how to
    build roads)
From Cape Wrath to Cape St. Vincent, Susa, Babylon and Moscow.
And the motorized legions never would have fallen,
And Peace, in the shape of a giant eagle, would brood over the
    entire Western World!"
He changed his expression, looking now like a combination of
    Gilbert Murray, Hilaire Belloc,
    and a dozen other scientists, writers,
    and prophets,
And continued, in angelic tones,
"If the Greeks had known how to cooperate, if there'd never
    been a Reformation,
If Sparta had not been Sparta, and the Church had been the Church
     of the saints,
The Argive peace like a free-blooming olive-tree, the peace of Christ
    (who loved peace)
  like a great, beautiful vine enwrapping the spinning earth!
Take it nearer home," he said.
Take these Mayans and their star-clocks, their carvings and their
    great cities.
Who sacked them out of their cities, drowned the cities with a
    green jungle?
A plague? A change of climate? A queer migration?
Certainly they were skillful, certainly they created.
And in Tenochtitlan, the dark obsidian knife and the smoking heart on
    the stone but a fair city,
And the Incas had it worked out beautifully til Pizarro smashed them.
The collectivist state was there, and the ladies very agreeable.
They lacked steel, alphabet, and gunpowder and they had to get
    married when the government said so.
They also lacked unenployment and overproduction.
For that matter," he said, "take the Cro-Magnons,
The fellows with the big skills, the handsome folk, the excellent
    scribers of mammoths,
Physical gods and yet with sensitive brain (they drew the fine,
    running reindeer).
What stopped them? What kept us all from being Apollos and Aphrodites
Only with a new taste to the nectar,
The laughing gods, not the cruel, the gods of song, not of war?
Supposing Aurelius, Confucious, Napoleon, Plato, Gautama, Alexander -
Just to name half a dozen -
Had ever realized and stabilized the full dream?
How long, O Lord God in the highest? How long, what now, perturbed spirit?"
He turned blue at the wingtips and disappeared as another angel
    approached me.
This one was quietly but appropriately dressed in cellophane, synthetic
    rubber and stainless steel,
But his mask was the blind mask of Ares, snouted for gasmasks.
He was neither soldier, sailor, farmer, dictator, nor munitions-manufacturer.
Nor did he have much conversation, except to say,
"You will not be saved by General Motors or the prefabricated house.
You will not be saved by dialectic materialism or the Lambeth Conference.
You will not be saved by Vitamin D or the expanding universe.
In Fact, you will not be saved."
In his hand was a woven, wire basket, full of seeds, small metallic and
    shining like the seeds of portulaca;
Where he sowed them, the green vine withered, and the smoke and
    armies sprang up.
Be seeing you

Photo from:
Woman With Gaskmask1943. Photographed by Wolf Strache.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Ever-Vigilant Bong Disposal Squad

    The Police in Sherman Heights, California were alerted when a construction worker spotted a suspicious looking object in a construction site near Interstate 5. The ten inch metal tube with both ends capped resembled a pipe bomb, causing the ordinance disposal team to be called in. The nearby homes were evacuated and streets were closed to traffic.

    A specially-designed pressurized air tool was used to blow open one end of the device which was determined to be a home made bong, a device used for smoking marijuana.

     Definitely harshed somebody's mellow.


     Be seeing you.

Friday, August 17, 2012

But Why?

     "The Hakone Kowakien Yunessun Hot Springs in Japan, is one of the only places where you can fully immerse yourself in a vat of steaming red wine.

The red wine pool features a 3.6m tall bottle of wine that pours Beaujolais Nouveau into the pool throughout the day."


     Now I have in my youth tasted wine that seems in retrospect better suited for bathing than drinking, but it seems to me to be terribly decadent to actually do so...and not in the deliciously naughty fun way, but in the burning a hundred dollar bill to light a cigar and in need of a karmic enema way. Then again, I have often been accused of being a Liberal by people who seem to be under the mistaken impression that they are insulting me.

     Be seeing you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Some Thoughts Upon Funeral

    About a month ago I attended the memorial service for an old acquaintance. She had passed nearly a month before that but, as she was Gay and had no relations in this country, there was a great deal of trouble over the release of the body.

     I don't suppose that made much difference to her, but it was pretty hard on some of those who were close to her. There were a few more tears than normal at such occasions perhaps. It is hard to measure sorrow.

     The service was Wiccan with a lot of Dianic symbolism. About half of those in attendance were not Pagan so it wasn't a complex ritual and I don't believe anyone actually noticed the Dieties being invoked. We all shared memories of our departed friend, many of which had to do with role-playing gaming, while we all silently noted the incursion of grey hair on one another's heads. The Priestess tied the feathers we each held to a length of twine and we draped the result upon the boughs of the pear tree in the yard.

    When it was all over we promised to get together again, but few actually exchanged phone numbers. Such is always the way, I suppose. We feel the cold breath of time upon our necks and we want to reach out to one another, but too many years have passed and we fear we have nothing left in common.

     We all shared food and drink in a communion far older than Christianity. Then,  after a while, we all got into our cars and went our separate ways; all the Lost Boys chilled by the shadow of Winter.

     And so it goes.



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Day They Hanged An Elephant

   On September 13, 1916 a five-ton circus elephant was executed, hung from a 100-ton Clinchfield railroad crane car, in the little town of Erwin, Tennessee. ‘Murderous Mary’ had killed a man, and for that she had to die. Shooting her in the four soft spots on her head would be both difficult and dangerous. She wouldn’t eat poison. And the town didn’t have enough power to electrocute her.

     It all started when Sparks World Famous Shows hired Walter "Red" Eldridge as an assistant elephant trainer in spite of his total lack of experience. He had only been on the job one day when he made a fatal mistake. He had been using a pole with a hook on the end to guide the elephants to the watering ditch and he had been warned to me gentle with it and not to provoke the animals...

     Suddenly, Mary “collided its trunk vice-like [sic] about [Eldridge's] body, lifted him 10 feet in the air, then dashed him with fury to the ground… and with the full force of her biestly [sic] fury is said to have sunk her giant tusks entirely through his body. The animal then trampled the dying form of Eldridge as if seeking a murderous triumph, then with a sudden… swing of her massive foot hurled his body into the crowd.” —The Johnson City Staff, September 13, 1916

   The circus owner knew they would have to put Mary down. He decided to use a railroad crane used for unloading lumber cars. Over 2,500 people turned out to watch the execution. They let Mary hang for 30 minutes, then lowered her into a grave dug with a steam shovel.

     Be seeing you.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Is You Neighbor a Democrat? There's An App For That!

     Want to know which political party your neighbors belong to? Just download the new mobile application from the Obama campaign! The app links to Google Maps and shows your current location and marks registered Democrats with little blue flags. It also lists each neighbor's first name, gender, age and party affiliation, for example: "Lori C., 58 F, Democrat."

     While all of this is public information, having it all delivered in nice tidy electronic packets to any smart phone is...disquieting. When asked about the privacy concerns and potential for misuse inherent in such software, an spokesman for the Obama campaign replied that "anyone familiar with the political process in America knows this information about registered voters is available and easily accessible to the public." He added that the app only displays a small cluster of addresses at a time and that there are safeguards to alert if someone misuses the data "such as people submitting way too many voter contacts in a short period of time," 

     Of course that could be changed by a less scrupulous user in a future version.

Much more at propublica

Modern Classical Art

    The French art director Alexis Persani and the French photographer combined their talents and vision to place classical artwork in in new light:

   To create the project called Street Stone, they first photographed the sculptures, then photographed friends in casual attire in the same pose. Digital manipulation married the desired elements of the two images.

For more, including a video on how it was done, see mymodernmet

Be seeing you.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dublin's Busking Rules

"The city's famous buskers and street performers are no longer allowed to "hog or monopolise a performance site", or set up within 50 metres of each other. Amp free zones, limited times, and sale of merchandise are also included in the code of practice."

    Dublin has a history of respecting buskers, (street musicians), and the regulations seem to be intended to give everyone a chance at earning a bit of income.  The musicians as well as the local shop owners were consulted.

bbc and arbroath