A fine rendering by Eric Gill of the Lion Of St. Mark, still awaiting the Gospel on which his paw is meant to rest.

Gill was a very strange man.  A devout Roman Catholic, he created a lot of superb religious imagery, and a lot of very explicit erotic imagery, also superb.  Some artists can hold those two realms in their imaginations at the same time — like Prince, for example, before he got seriously into the Jehovah's Witness thing, whatever that is, and started censoring the dirty bits out of his early work.

Sometimes, for Gill, though very rarely, the religious and the erotic inter-penetrated in his art, as it were, and he entered the realm of blasphemy — as when he depicted Jesus having sex with an unidentified female saint.  Both wear halos.  There is a place for such images in art, transgressive and shocking as they may be to some, since they record genuine tensions that grip the human heart.

In his personal life, however, Gill got seriously unhinged.  He sexually abused his children, committed incest with his sister and engaged in sexual acts with his dog.  This naturally tends to color one's view of his work, which is a shame, since his work is very good.  He just had a screw loose somewhere — I suppose it could happen to an accountant as easily as to an artist.


Government economists in Mexico City have warned President Calderón that a total collapse of the U. S. economy could result in a mass illegal invasion of Mexico by U. S. citizens looking for work picking crops.

They have pointed out the serious social and economic consequences that would result from such an invasion and have urged the President to begin preparing now to meet the crisis in case it should it occur, which they see as ever more likely.  Their proposals include the start of work on a border-long fence designed to stop U. S. migrant workers from crossing into Mexican territory in the first place.  “Once they're here,” one prominent economist warned, “dealing with them in a compassionate way will become increasingly problematic.”


He's one of them, you know.

(A Negro . . .)

John McCain and Sarah Palin are playing with fire when they try to frame Barack Obama as a terrorist other.  The dark thoughts they're trying to plant in people's hearts might be all that's needed to embolden some nut with a gun to take the next logical step and try to rid the nation of this alien threat.

“That one,” McCain calls Obama, standing next to him — as though he were some creature without a name.  “Who's the real Obama?” McCain asks a crowd.  “A terrorist!” someone answers back.  McCain says nothing.  “He pals around with terrorists,” Palin tells another crowd.  “Kill him!” someone screams.  Palin says nothing.

That cry was enough to get the Secret Service on the case but it wasn't enough to wipe the smirk off of Sarah Palin's face.

The lunatic fringe of the base gets the message.  At another Palin rally, a gang of her supporters taunts a group of journalists, calling a young black technician “boy” and a “nigger”.  We know where this sort of thing leads, where it's led us so many times before — to the strange fruit Billie Holiday sang about, to that motel balcony in Memphis.

If Michelle Obama ends up a widow, the sin won't rest on McCain and Palin alone, but on anyone who supports these despicable demagogues in their reckless and wicked grab for power, even at the cost of their own souls.  The souls of many are on trial here.

The soul of the nation is on trial here.


Ralph Stanley, surviving member of the immortal Stanley Brothers bluegrass duo, just did a radio ad for Barack Obama addressed to his fellow citizens in southwest Virginia.  In it he commends Obama as a good family man — something that's important to folks in that part of the world.  I wish the national media could talk more about the issue of (real) family values, which Obama lives and John McCain hasn't.

A few years ago Ralph put out an album of duets with various musicians younger than himself called Clinch Mountain Country.  Ralph's wife said her favorite duet was the one Ralph did with Bob Dylan, “The Lonesome River”, and it really is something — a couple of voices with the bark still on singing from the ageless heart of America.  It's a great track and great album.

Check it out.


John McCain is starting to remind me of someone — another great old soldier long past his prime who traded his fading honor for a shot at power . . . just not thinking straight, I fear.  At any rate, at this point no American who cares about his or her own honor, or the honor of the nation, can afford to support this pathetic old man on his dark journey to moral oblivion.


My friends Lily and Cotty (above) flew into town from Los Angeles this weekend and met up with another old friend, Frank, and his pal Bob, who'd driven here from the same place.  They'd all come to volunteer for a couple of days' work going door to door for the Obama campaign, collecting pledge cards and contact information, registering new voters and generally spreading the good word.

They walked (and walked) through middle-class neighborhoods dotted with foreclosure signs (and abandoned homes that will probably soon sport foreclosure signs.)  They did what they could — and Frank (on the left below, with Bob) actually managed to get a new voter to register.  Such things, multiplied many times over, might make the difference in what still looks to be an election of razor-thin margins — with Nevada a crucial battleground in the contest.

Their virtuous behavior was richly rewarded by the gods of chance here in Silly Town.  Lily, who's sixteen, couldn't join us, alas, but the rest of us went off gambling downtown.  We ended up at Binion's, where Cotty and Frank hit the craps tables, Bob took his chances at roulette and I sat down at a no-limit game in the poker room.

I was up $96 when Cotty tapped me on the shoulder and said the gang was ready to head home.  I cashed in my winnings and was feeling pretty smug, until I heard about Cotty's and Frank's run at the craps table.  Without revealing too much specific personal information, perhaps I can say that between them they won about $1500.

They slept, I am sure, the sleep of the just and the sleep of the lucky, a rare but delightful convergence of satisfactions.


As I've observed before, vaudeville was the premier form of American entertainment for almost sixty years — longer than the era of studio-dominated filmmaking, the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood.  In those years vaudeville contributed a number of expressions to the American language.

“Big time” and “small time” are expressions from vaudeville.  In vaudeville parlance, managers and agents booked “time” — weeks or split weeks in a particular theater or on a circuit.  The higher-paying circuits were the big time — the less prestigious circuits the small time.  Big and small referred primarily to salary levels, with corresponding implications of prestige.  You could also refer to “Keith time” or “Pantages time” — bookings in the Keith & Albee  or Pantages theater chains.

The word “killer”, used in a positive sense, as in “a
killer app”, also comes from vaudeville.  In vaudeville, an act was a killer if it was so good it
killed the audience — ruined it for the next act.  “I killed 'em” or “I slayed 'em” were the ultimate boasts a performer could make, suggesting that he or she went over big but also that they made life tough for the acts that had to follow them on the bill, always an important consideration in the inherently competitive arena of variety entertainment.

You moved up the ladder in vaudeville by becoming “a hard act to follow”.  You reached the top of the profession when you were an impossible act to follow.


The stock market rebounded a bit today.  The big crash has been postponed — Congress has a little more time to get its act together.  With luck, John McCain will stay away from Washington until a rescue bill is passed.

I pulled the truck around to the back of the cabin and put a tarp over it.  I'm still spending a lot of time in front of the mirror, practicing my Depression game face.

“Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there . . .”