Friday, February 28, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 28, 2014

"Religious liberty is a deeply radical concept. It was at this country’s founding and it hasn’t become less so. Preserving it has always been a full-time battle. But it’s important, because religion is at the core of people’s identity. A government that tramples religious liberty is not a government that protects economic freedom. It’s certainly not a government that protects conscience rights. A government that tramples religious liberty does not have expansive press freedoms. Can you think of one country with a narrow view of religious liberty but an expansive view of economic freedom, freedom of association, press freedoms or free speech rights? One?"

Mollie Hemingway in "Dumb, Uneducated, And Eager To Deceive: Media Coverage Of Religious Liberty In A Nutshell; Most Reporters Are Simply Too Ignorant To Handle The Job", The Federalist, Feb 28, 2014. via Get Religion.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 2014

"I am Jewish and value protection of pray[er] in schools and religious freedom of expression in public and private life. If the rights of Christians are not protected neither are my rights and that hasn't worked out well for Jews historically. I believe G-d gives us purpose and strength and will guide us if we allow it. Our laws are based on Judeo-Christian values and create the moral and fair way to establish authority and maintain civil and societal norms. Without G-d we are only intelligent animals."

Becky Berger, Candidate for Railroad Commissioner in the 2014 Texas Republican Primary, in reply to the question "Briefly describe your spiritual beliefs and values", asked of all candidates by

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 26, 2014

Maybe this one should be subtitled "Why the First Amendment is Endangered":

"All press are required to stay strictly on message. Any press who ask guests or Mr. Farrow about off-message topics will be immediately escorted out of the event.

 Press Guidance for a presentation event honoring Ronan Farrow with "Reach the World's" annual Cronkite Award for Excellence in Exploration and Journalism.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 25, 2014

" I mean these kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part because you and your TV station will promote them."

                  President Barak Obama, in an interview by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, when asked about the 157 recorded visits to the White House by IRS Chief Douglas Shulman during the years that the  IRS Tea Party Targeting Scandal was occurring.  The 157 visits were officially listed on the White House Visitor Logs for the time period between October 2009 and December 2012. The IRS Scandal is still being investigated by Congress as of Feb 25, 2014.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Starting Tomato Plants From Seed, Step 2: Moving Sprouts From Paper into Pots

 This is Part 2. The first post (click here to read it) explains how to start the seed using weak tea, paper towels and baggies. This post shows how to pick them out and move the little seedlings into pots, where they will grow until time to set them out.  

  Now, just 3 days later, most have sprouted, some even have their first set of leaflets. Some have only just begun to open, or maybe even have not sprouted yet, but they have had a good soak, so I will plant them all now.

Use tweezers to gently pick them up by the seed casing (the cotyledon)  - never touch the root! Tug gently, straight and level, to remove from the paper without bending the plant.  If the root has already penetrated the paper and doesn't pull free easily, don't worry - instructions below on how to save it.

Lay the little plant, root end down, against clean wet potting soil in a paper cup, newspaper pot, peat pot or plastic six pack from other plants.

  Cover gently - but not deeply - with more damp potting soil. Just barely cover it. It is ok if you get a bit of earth on the cotyledon, it will grow out of it.

If the seed has not yet sprouted at all, put it with the point side down and just barely cover it with a sprinkle of dirt.

 If the root is caught in the paper, simply cut out a square of paper around the root, being careful not to touch or cut the root in the process.

Then just plant the piece of paper towel along with the little plant:  root down, covered with soil, cotyledon side up, barely covered at all. 

Place them all under lights to keep them warm and give them the light they need. I used T8 daylight bulbs in cheap 4 foot shop fixtures that hang from chains. Hang the lights about 2 inches above the plants.

And watch them grow!!!  Be sure to mist them daily, maybe twice daily if it looks like they need it. I used bottled water so that it won't have any chlorine in it, but you can also use tap water that you let sit overnight first.  If you don't have a spray bottle that gives a fine mist, you could also use an eyedropper. Even better, according to many, is to water from below by poking holes at the base of the cups, setting them on a tray and putting the water in the tray. If using newspaper or peat pots, you wouldn't even need to make holes. :-)

 I laid a tinfoil shade over the fixture to keep the light and warmth in, and to let the light reflect as much as possible onto the plants.

And there they are, right at a week  after they were first put into their papers: little heads popping up, some getting taller already, others still stretching to get the kinks out as they wake up from their long sleep.  

Have fun with your seedlings, and I will post again soon to show how they are coming. :-)

UPDATE March 11, 2014: The third post is up: click to read - and thank you! :-)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 22, 2014

"I welcome today’s announcement that the FCC has suspended its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN study. This study would have thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country, somewhere it just doesn’t belong. The Commission has now recognized that no study by the federal government, now or in the future, should involve asking questions to media owners, news directors, or reporters about their practices. This is an important victory for the First Amendment. And it would not have been possible without the American people making their voices heard. I will remain vigilant that any future initiatives not infringe on our constitutional freedoms."

                                            FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai's statement on the suspension of the FCC's proposed Critical Information Needs study, aka "CIN".

Friday, February 21, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 21, 2014

 Arizona has passed a bill that will allow Christians and Hindus to refuse to provide service to abortionists without fear of being sued for discrimination. It will allow Moslems to refuse to provide service to people accompanied by service dogs without fear of being sued for discrimination.  It will allow Wiccans to refuse service to Christians without fear of being sued for discrimination. It will allow members of the Church of Christ to refuse service to Catholics without fear of being sued for discrimination. It will allow Amish to refuse service to their own members who are being shunned, without fear of being sued for discrimination.

The actual text of the Arizona Free Exercise of Religion Bill (AZ Senate Bill 1062) that the Arizona Senate passed today:

"41-1493.  Definitions

"In this article, unless the context otherwise requires:

"1.  "Demonstrates" means meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.

"2.  "Exercise of religion" means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief." ...

..... "[Sec. 2.]  Section 41-1493.01, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:

"41-1493.01.  Free exercise of religion protected; definition

"A.  Free exercise of religion is a fundamental right that applies in this state even if laws, rules or other government actions are facially neutral.

"B.  Except as provided in subsection C of this section, state action shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability."

"C.  State action may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if the government or nongovernmental person seeking the enforcement of state action demonstrates that application of the burden to the person's exercise of religion in this particular instance is both:

"1.  In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest.

"2.  The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

"D.  A person whose religious exercise is burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding.

"E.  A person that asserts a violation of this section must establish all of the following:

"1.  That the person's action or refusal to act is motivated by a religious belief.

"2.  That the person's religious belief is sincerely held.

"3.  That the state action substantially burdens the exercise of the person's religious beliefs.

"F.  The person asserting a claim or defense under subsection D of this section may obtain injunctive and declaratory relief.  A party who prevails in any action to enforce this article against a government shall recover attorney fees and costs.

"G.  For the purposes of this section, the term substantially burden is intended solely to ensure that this article is not triggered by trivial, technical or de minimis infractions.

"H.  For the purposes of this section, "state action" means any action, except for the requirements prescribed by section 41-1493.04, by the government or the implementation or application of any law, including state and local laws, ordinances, rules, regulations and policies, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether the implementation or application is made by the government or nongovernmental persons

                                      Source: Arizona State Government Website:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 18, 2014

The Articles of the Warsaw Confederation, issued January 28, 1573 by a group of Polish and Lithuanian leaders, were an early written declaration of religious freedom in Europe, allowing all denominations to worship as they wished, without interference from anyone who did not approve or who professed otherwise, and without punishment, fines, or taxes from the government or King.


"That, specifically, it is sworn to maintain civil peace among people who are differentiated by faith or religious practice, and that without a declaration of the sejm we never be forced across the borders of the realm by any royal action or request, not forced to pay five grzywna per shaft, nor shall there be a general levy called."

"Therefore we swear to rise up against anyone who would constitute or allow himself to be elected at a time or place other than that indicated, or who would desire to create tumult at the election, or who would accept bonded serving people, or who would dare to oppose an election concluded with complete assent."

"And whereas in our Commonwealth there are considerable differences in the Christian religion, these have not caused disorders among people, as detrimental as have begun in other kingdoms that we have clearly seen, we promise to one another, for ourselves and for our descendants, for all time, pledging our faith, honor and conscience, we swear, that we who are divided by faith, will keep peace among ourselves, and not shed blood on account of differences in faith or church, nor will we allow punishment by the confiscation of goods, deprivation of honor, imprisonment or exile, nor will we in any fashion aid any sovereign or agency in such undertakings. And certainly, should someone desire to spill blood on such account we all shall be obliged to prevent it, even if the person uses some decree as pretext or cites some legal decision."

"All ecclesiastical officials who enjoy royal benefits, such as archbishops, bishops, and all others similar, will be granted these prerogatives equally: to clergy of the Roman church and to those of the Greek church as both are by law Polish citizens."

"And so that peace may be broadly shared, and so that differences among the estates would be checked, and so that the differences in matters of temporal politics between the secular and ecclesiastical estates be small, we promise to coordinate all these matters at the next electoral sejm."

          The Articles of the Warsaw Confederation, issued January 28, 1573.  An English translation is at , and here is a link to the original text in Polish.

Monday, February 17, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 17, 2014

"This war is waged in our courts and in the halls of political power. It is pursued with grim and relentless determination by a group of like-minded elites, determined to transform the country from a land sustained by faith — into a land where faith is silenced, privatized, and circumscribed."
                        Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, at the Reagan Library, via And So it Goes in Shreveport: "Iowa State University to Remove Gideon Bibles from Campus Hotel"

Sunday, February 16, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 16, 2014

I think President Obama’s recent prayer breakfast comments about religious freedom were interesting but also curious, because in practice, the people who staff his administration have been the most tone deaf to religious liberty issues in recent memory. There’s a very odd disconnect in praising religious freedom while the Justice Department goes after the Little Sisters of the Poor.
"So yes, religious freedom is one of our core national ideals, and yes, it’s at risk from two sources: an unfriendly political class, and our own distracted attention and indifference."

Archbishop Charles Chaput, interviewed by Barbara Hollingsworth for "Archbishop: 'The More That Gov't Mandates Evil Actions, The More Likely Civil Disobedience Becomes' (via

Saturday, February 15, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 15, 2014

"But [the Obama] administration’s actions have too often contradicted Obama’s stated intentions. “Instead,” New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote earlier this year, “it’s turning out to be the administration of unprecedented secrecy and unprecedented attacks on a free press.”

"The [Obama] administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post’s investigation of Watergate. The 30 experienced Washington journalists at a variety of news organizations whom I interviewed for this report could not remember any precedent. "

          "The Obama Administration and the Press" A CPJ [Committee to Protect Journalists] special report by Leonard Downie Jr. with reporting by Sara Rafsky.  October 10, 2013

It's Time! Here's One Way To Start Tomato Seeds

My "determined to learn" project this year is How to Grow Tomatoes. I have not had any luck with tomatoes - poor yields (if any),  plants that turn up their toes too soon, deer harvesting them before I can.... but my neighbor raises loads of lovely red fruit so reliably he even sells them commercially, so I know it can be done.

I joined a Yahoo tomato-growing group and have been reading the archives and listening to advice. One important bit of advice is to listen to growers who are in a climate zone very similar to mine, because tomatos are finicky fruit. One reason there are lots of varieties is that there are lots of variables. The experts tell me that because of our hot, dry summers, we actually have a short growing season where tomatoes are concerned. Thus, they say to look for early varieties that ripen more quickly and heat-resistant cultivars.

One very helpful person advised that I should save my own seed from those that do succeed: he says that after a few years, I will have seed specifically adapted to my location and conditions - a land race version of the type.  That sounds pretty exciting. It means I need to select open pollinated types instead of hybrids, as hybrids do not generally reproduce true to form (not quite a mule, but not predictable either).

So, while I did choose a couple of hybrids, mostly I have heirlooms and varieties developed by Texas seedsmen that are proven to stand up well to our fast-rising heat. I will do another post on the varieties after they get going. I have bought from several sources (Baker Creek, Park, Burpee and Wilhite): a great source for Texas is Wilhite Seed, in Poolville. This old company has good seed for our crazy climates, including Porter tomatoes (Porter was a seedsman in Stephenville TX and his tomatoes are still legendary), their own specialty watermelons, and you cannot beat their prices - even very low shipping too.

Several people have mentioned they use a weak tea to soak or start their seeds, especially old seed.  This method was described by a man named Byron. They make the tea by taking a used teabag and steeping it for a few minutes in a teacup of boiling water, which they add to cool water to make a quart. "Weak tea" is a good word for it, as you can see above. I bet no one ever saw PG Tips as "blond" as that!

 I used the tea to lightly dampen the paper towels I am starting with.....

On advice of friends, as well as Tomatomania, I am using damp paper towels (you could use coffee filters) to start my seeds. Once they sprout (probably in just a few days), they can be transfered into medium by using tweezers to grasp them by the cotoledons (never the stem) and move them into the little sprouting pots.  I've always had a time getting seedlings past the first two leaves in soil, partly because they can take forever to germinate. The friend who told me first about this method said it is much faster than soil-based starting.

 So I lightly dampened a folded paper towel (these are those "half size" towels), laid out six individual seeds of one variety, folded the top over and placed it in a zip lock baggie labeled with the name of the variety.

I then added a bit more weak tea so that the whole towel is damp. I left the top of the baggie "ajar" without sealing it ---- not sure there, and I need to find out whether to seal them or not. 

 I laid all the baggies out on aluminum foil to reflect the light and heat, under a T8 florescent shop light with two daylight bulbs in it, about 4 inches above them. I think this part will need to be played with to get just right for the temps and conditiions here in my house.

 There is the shop light hanging, with a shade made of heavy duty tin foil draped over it to reflect the light and keep the heat in.  The shade is not needed today, but I will need to use it when the weather gets cold again - especially at night when I don't keep these rooms as warm.

Yes, I did put this little grow station right smack on the bar between the kitchen and living room. It is close to the wood stove, and that space is not required right now for anything else. Our sunny, South-facing laundry room would be the perfect place for seedlings, but I don't keep it heated so it would be too cold if it gets down in the 30s or below. I'll move the established seedlings back there as part of their hardening off process later on.

I surely hope this works! It would be so nice to not have to go buy plants! :-)

UPDATE 2/23/14: Part two is up - click here to read the next steps! :-)

UPDATE 3/11/14: Part three is here - click to read! :-) 

Friday, February 14, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 14, 2014

In the Reporters Without Borders 2014 Press Freedom Index, there are 45 countries around the world who have greater Freedom of the Press than the United States of America. The USA plummeted 13 places from a year earlier. Excerpts:

"The 2014 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index spotlights major declines in media freedom in such varied countries as the United States, Central African Republic and Guatemala and, on the other hand, marked improvements in Ecuador, Bolivia and South Africa."

"In the United States (46th, -13), the hunt for leaks and whistleblowers serves as a warning to those thinking of satisfying a public interest need for information about the imperial prerogatives assumed by the world’s leading power. "

             Reporters Without Borders, via Instapundit, via Josh Stearns, Huffington Post.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 13, 2014

"But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."

Justice Robert Jackson, US Supreme Court, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

1st Amendment Quote of the Day - February 12, 2014

I think the conviction of appellant or anyone else for exhibiting a motion picture abridges freedom of the press as safeguarded by the First Amendment, which is made obligatory on the States by the Fourteenth.”
  Associate Justice Hugo Black,  Supreme Court, in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964

If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.”
   Justice Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court, in  Stanley v. Georgia, 1969

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - February 11, 2014

"The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. 

"One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections."

Justice Robert H. Jackson, US Supreme Court; in West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette, 1943

Dr Pepper Pulled Pork and Cucumber Salad in a Jar-O

A friend of ours makes this Pulled Pork cooked with Dr Pepper, and it is one of Paul's favorites. She and her husband lead one of the many small groups (aka "Care Groups") at our church. We get together for lunch and fellowship, and everyone brings something. She was kind enough to share the recipe. The photo pictures it with a jarred cucumber salad that makes a good side dish for it if you get tired of cole slaw - recipe below.

You would never dream there is Dr Pepper in it. The faint sweetness could easily be from the onions alone. I used the Dr Pepper with real sugar in it (in the vintage-looking can). This is not as good as the old Dublin Dr Pepper, but at least it does not have high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in it - we avoid purchasing anything with artificial or modified sweeteners.

 Since I am a pepper wimp, I also took all of the seeds out of the peppers before adding them but it is still spicy enough for Paul. Depending on your taste, you could start with say half the can (maybe 1/4 cup), then if it needs more spice after cooking is done, you can add the rest to taste. 

This reheats fabulously, and freezes well too. 

Dr Pepper Pulled Pork Recipe

1 pork roast (I used half a pork butt)
2 cans Dr Pepper
2 or 3 large onions, sliced thinly
1 small can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Place half the onions in your crock pot, add the meat, then the rest of the onions. Since this will be shredded after cooking, it is ok to cut the meat into pieces to fit it nicely into your crock pot.

Pour the peppers and adobo sauce over. Slowly, one can at a time, pour the Dr Pepper over it all. You can reduce the Dr Pepper if there is not enough room to hold it all. I like to have about an inch at the top in my crock pot so things don't overflow.  Each crock pot is a little different so judge for yourself.

Cook in the crock pot on high for 6 hours. Shred within the juices so that it stays moist. Serve on buns. You can add more hot sauce or pickles or onions. I usually put onion on mine (the pickled onions from the salad below were wonderful on it!), Paul likes his plain and simple. The bun soaks up the juices like a pork version of au jus. Yum!


Cucumber Salad in a Jar-O

This is my version of a recipe that has been making the rounds on Facebook. I have reduced the volume since this makes up so quickly, and I would rather fill my fridge with homemade sauerkraut. :-)

2 salad cucumbers, peeled and sliced very thinly
Half a red onion, sliced thinly into rings
1 bell pepper, your favorite color, sliced into rings (it is prettier like this but strips are fine)
1 heaping teaspoon salt
1 cup of white vinegar
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Put the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat, add the water and let cool while you work on the vegetables. 

Peel and slice the vegetables. Layer the vegetables pleasingly into a clean quart glass jar - a pickle jar will work great if you don't have canning jars. If there is more left over, put the rest into a smaller jar. 

Sprinkle the celery seed and pepper flakes over the vegetables. Pour the cooled vinegar mixture over it all to cover. Put the lid on and refrigerate at least overnight. This will keep for a month or more easily as long as it is refrigerated.

There you go! This can all be done ahead and leftovers are as good or better than the first time. :-)

Monday, February 10, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - Feb 10, 2014

 “The state cannot be allowed to silence political speech it does not like.” 
                   Eric O'Keefe, as quoted by M.D. Kittle, Wisconsin Reporter, at, via Fox News.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day - Feb 9, 2014

Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freedom of speech.”    Benjamin Franklin

If all printers were determined not to print anything until they were sure it would offend no-one, there would be very little printed.”   Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, February 8, 2014

1st Amendment Quote of the Day Feb 8, 2014

"He who now talks about the 'freedom of the press' goes backward, and halts our headlong course towards Socialism. " Vladimir Lenin

The only security of all is in a free press.” Thomas Jefferson

Friday, February 7, 2014

First Amendment Quote of the Day Feb 7, 2014

"In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection is must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people."

              Associate Justice Hugo L. Black, (New York Times Company v. United States, 1971)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

'Calamity Jane' The Great American Desert Novel

[Note: I posted this book review on Amazon this morning, but will also put it here. I'm not an Amazon affiliate, so please go through your favorite blogger's Affiliate link to get there so they will benefit from your purchase! Christopher Taylor or Pat Austin are two that I try to patronize.]

Fans of his Jack Ross Mysteries will be excited to learn that Bernard Schopen has published a new novel: Calamity Jane, Baobab Press (November 12, 2013).  "Calamity Jane" sets us up with a tale about a movie: when Hollywood makes a movie in a small town, that is news for the next 50 years. When the subject of that movie is not only a legendary actor, but the town's most famous resident, there's a book in it just waiting to be written. Thus aging writer Winnefred Waner, best known for her textbook story about women driven insane by the desert, sits down to record a story of famous lives and inadvertently reveals her own.

Jane Harmon comes to Blue Lake, Nevada ("Nev'bad'a", not "Nev'odd'a") to make a movie and she hasn't even arrived in town before she is annoying the natives and endangering her surroundings. It is no accident she is dubbed "Calamity Jane" by the plain speaking oldtimers... much like her older and wiser counterpart was nicknamed the genteel "Miz Waner Ma'am" by her students. The narrator tells us the town is small enough that a new young woman's mere presence alters the future for more than just the man who takes her home, and sets events out of balance. Calamity Jane leaves destruction in her wake, but never looking back, she doesn't understand that she herself was the force of nature responsible for the wreckage. Her interactions with women are even more complicated; and her encounters with Ione Hardaway crackle from the beginning, as though the two women were old time gunfighters destined for a showdown at high noon. Something has to break, something harder than a heart. 

The book isn't labeled a mystery, but mysteries permeate this novel. Some brush the cheek like an errant breeze and their whisper never materializes. Others inhabit tumbleweeds and scatter across the landscape again and again, showing a new side each time and continuously dropping leaves and seed, until they finally come to their last rest, gaunt and harmless - and resolved. 

Schopen was born and raised in Deadwood, South Dakota, and spent his career teaching Literature at the University of Nevada at Reno. His wife is a friend of mine, but because our friendship was born on the internet, I've never met him. The desert landscape sprawls through every page he writes, but Schopen is no naturalist. You won't learn where to find  burrowing owls or how to predict the rain here. The phenotypes he studies and knows so intricately are people, and the work of living as human beings in the desert world. He tells us only in passing why people came to string-along towns like Blue Lake, but by the end of his books we know something more important: we understand why some of them did not leave.

I've only flown over Nevada but I lived a long time in the West Texas desert. Schopen's landscape is so familiar I can smell the dust and admire the ageless, rustless, ruination of every abandoned thing along the road decaying in its own long time,  without a drop of moisture to help.  That is the bit that marks Schopen as Desert Man: he understands the stark junk, the inevitable accumulations of broken abandonment that just stay where they happen to end up,  he understands the crazy beauty of obsolete iron and dry rotted shacks and the half-ruined but fiercely strong people that live among it all at their own free choice. 

Schopen's books are clean like the desert stays clean despite the snakes and thorns. The desert rarely allows nuance to survive, and his characters are good or evil.  His vilains can be vile, sometimes shudderingly so, but Schopen does not exult in their depravity: he describes just enough to engage the imagination without inflicting ugliness on his readers, and quickly offsets this with a turn to primary decency.  While the good & the heroic may fall into error, they are true to their desert upbringing, and they never really give up hope.  Schopen doesn't erase the past to generate happy endings, but he opens the doors and leaves them ajar, offering shelter for the feathered things.

"Calamity Jane" is billed as a clash between the old and the new. Those who understand the desert know what wins that battle. This is a stolid tale of love lost and won, of tragic youth and triumphal old age, of lives that don't need fame for meaning: a chance to peer behind the cotton curtains and through the rising dust into the real life that still abides in the desert west. It is a book that will outlive its author, and may, someday, when the "post literate" hoopla has inevitably passed and literature matters again, be hailed as Nevada's own Great American Novel.


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