Category Archives: A Break

A Break July 31, 2018

The Story of Rumpy, Riser, Stump and Longy

Mixed with a Soupçon of T.S. Elliot and Al Stewart

Dispatch from the Isle of Man, Number 4
By Geoff Carter

When the mastermind behind this website says to me I want to know more about Manx Cats, including whether it is really true that they don’t have tails, write me a dispatch, then who am I to object?

Let’s start with the easy stuff.

Manx Cats, so called because they come from the Isle of Man really do not have tails. This is NOT Fake News. The photographic evidence is pictured above, and please believe me when I tell you, it hasn’t been photoshopped.

All well and good I hear you say but you still haven’t told me why they don’t have tails?

Well, it isn’t because we are a nation of blood thirsty cat-hating humans. We don’t go around with a carving knife cutting off the tails of new born kittens. That particular activity is the sole preserve of the farmer’s wife who cuts off the tails of “The Three Blind Mice,” presumably to make it easier for the Manx cat to catch them?

Nor are we a nation that has an ancient rite of passage that requires our young people, when they move into their teenage years, to undergo a ritual that includes requiring them to drink from a witch’s cauldron that includes the boiled tails of newly born kittens.

If you crave an answer, and you like folklore, how about choosing your favourite from one of the following stories:

In one story, the Manx Cat was late getting onto Noah’s Ark and had his tail slammed in the door as he was boarding. This doesn’t of course answer the question about whatever happened to the second cat, after all, the animals did enter in pairs, didn’t they?

In another myth, Irish and Viking raiders believed that kitten tails were good luck charms, so they would steal kittens in the night. To keep their kittens safe, the mother cat would bite off the tails of the kittens, making their babies undesirable to raiders.

You want more?

Well how about the story that Manx Cats were actually “cabbits”—the hybrid offspring of a cat and a rabbit. A story most likely concocted due to their long back legs, shorter front legs, short tail, and rounded rump?

As amusing as these stories might sound, and the sort of thing a parent would feed its child at bedtime, science offers a more accurate reason.

The absence of a tail in the Manx Cat is due to nothing more, nothing less than a dominant gene mutation. There was a moment in time in the past, centuries ago now, when a genetic mutation caused one or more kittens on the Isle of Man to be born without a tail. Since the Isle of Man is a small island, subsequent generations of inbreeding have meant the trait has become common among the local cats.

However, “becoming common” doesn’t mean it’s a racing certainty that in every litter every kitten will be born without a tail.

It seems that Manx cats carry one gene for a full tail, and another that means they become tail less. This means that two Manx cats can mate and then, within the litter, produce a kitten that may be a typical long-tailed feline or one without a tail or indeed one with a stubby tail. Apparently kittens that inherit the tail less gene from both parents will likely die before birth. That’s why some people have nicknamed the Manx gene “the lethal gene.”

Due to this variability, Manx cats are classified according to tail lengths. Hence the title for this dispatch.

Completely tailless felines are called “Rumpy,” where a cat has no tail at all. Then we have the “Riser,” where there is a bump of cartilage under the fur where the tail might have been, but no really noticeable tail in evidence, just a little tuft of fur. Whereas cats with short tail stumps that are often curved, knotted, or kinked are known as “Stumpy,” and kittens with nearly normal-length tails are called “Longy.” Only “Rumpies,” or cats called “Rumpy Risers” that have a slight rise of bone where their tails would start, are eligible to compete in the championship classes in the cat shows organised by the Cat Fanciers Association.

As an interesting aside, when CFA, the world’s largest registry of pedigreed cats, formed in 1906, the Manx was one of the founding breeds.

The most famous Manx Cat in the world is “All Ball” who was adopted by Koko the Gorilla. Sadly Koko died this year.

Koko knew more than 1000 words of modified American Sign Language and once owned a Manx cat. In 1984, Koko was allowed to choose a pet kitten from a litter for her 12th birthday present. Koko selected a tailless grey-and-white Manx cat, which she named “All Ball.”

Apparently, Koko loved All Ball and cuddled and played with her on a regular basis. All Ball was struck by a car later that year and died. When I think of this sad story, I often think of one of my favourite songs by Al Stewart, “The Year of the Cat”, released in 1976.

But let’s not linger any longer in this dispatch on such a sad note, rather let us move forward with a reference to a man who has done as much as anyone in this past century to help make cats so popular with so many people. I am of course talking about T.S. Eliot. His Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939).

A collection of whimsical poems about feline psychology and sociology, brought to life through characters such as Mungojerrie, Rumpleteazer and the magical Mr. Mistoffeless, gave cats personalities that readers could relate to and enjoy.

I do wonder why he didn’t include a Manx Cat in his poems and what characteristics he might have attributed to the Manxie?

Now, as we draw this dispatch to a conclusion I think it only fair to confess that I am not a cat lover, I am in fact more of a dog person.

But what about you dear reader? Are you a cat lover or a dog lover?

On which side of the fence do you stand? Or do you straddle the fence, as painful as that might sound. Click the link below to discover your preferred pet.

17 Basic Differences Between Dog People And Cat People

JUMPINJIM, WIKIPEDIA//CC BY-SA 3.0

Helena Jacoba via Flickr//CC BY 2.0

Janice Waltzer, Flickr//CC BY 2.0


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A Break July 30, 2018

Foolology

An Illustrated Poem

Foolology

By Ismael Reed

Shaken by his bad press, the wolf
presses north, leaving caribou to
the fox,
Raven, the snow player gets his
before buzzards with bright red
collars move in to dine near the
bottom of a long scavenger line
This poem is about a skunk, no
rather about a man, who though
not of the skunk family uses
his round-eye the way skunks do
After he eats, his friends eat
He is a fool and his friends are
fools but sometimes it’s hard to
tell who is the biggest fool this
fool or his fool friends
By the time they catch us
we’re not there
We crows
Nobody’s ever seen a dead crow
on the highway
First moral:
Don’t do business with people for whom April first is an important date they will use your bank balance to buy eight thousand pies, tunics, ballet slippers with bells and a mail order lake in the  middle of a desert for splash parties
Second moral:
Before you can spot the fools in others you must rid yourself of the fool in you You can tell a fool by his big mouth
About the Author

There is one degree of separation between me and Ismael Reed: he was my son’s English teacher at University of California Berkeley.

Ishmael Reed is an original. His poem “Foology” is so inventive and inclusive. It has been with me for years and now is a good time to share him with you if you are unfamiliar with his work.

He says, in this poem, no one has seen a dead crow on the highway. I intend to be the first to find one, but after years of riding country roads at all times of the day, I’ve pretty much given him this line.

Reed is the winner of the prestigious MacArthur “Genius Award” and he has been nominated for a Pulitzer and National Book Awards. He founded PEN Oakland that has been called “The Blue Collar PEN” by The New York Times.

Credits for the images in order: hollytrail.com, pixabay.com, amazonaws.com, vice.com, boughtersinak.com, cloudinary.com, pulse.com.gh
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A Break July 12, 2018

To Watch or Not To Watch

That’s a Big Question for Families

If you or folks you know are not aware of this website gem, sent it to them now. It is called Common Sense Media. It has ratings for all tv shows, movies, books, etc. There is a parent score and a kids’ score. Interesting when kids say okay for ages 14+ while parents say okay for ages 11+.

But their comprehensiveness is awesome. It is a 5-point scale for

  • Positive message
  • Positive role models
  • Violence
  • Sex
  • Language
  • Consumerism
  • Drinking, drugs and smoking

Image that?! The long-standing movie ratings have only move in the clear areas of violence, sex, drugs, and occasionally language. To see consumerism and positive message in a rating is very encouraging.

Here at FreeAmericanNews we will be adding them to our short list of Reliable Resources

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A Break July 10, 2018

The Trump Border Blues

Where is Howlin’ Wolf When We Need Him?

When you think of the blues, you think about things gone wrong. Your dog dies. Your mama done up and left you. Somebody cross town done you wrong. You don’t think of the blues, that space is filled with tariffs, North Koreans, or children being yanked away from their parents.

The blues originated in the deep South, Attorney General Jeff Sessions country, among African-American slaves in the early 19th Century, but it was not popularized until the 20s and 30s, a little over 100 years ago.

No one invented the blues so more than any other music genre it is the people’s music. The American people’s music.

The best thing about the blues is it starts in the dark blue with troubles but it ends in sky- blue with hope, redemption and reunion.

White boys don’t sing the blues: they try, but a lot is missing. Some, like Eric Clapton can play what sounds like the blues, but he can’t sing the blues. I was mislabeled by Rolling Stone Magazine in a story they did about me many years ago: they tagged me John Hammond, an up and startin’ white blues singer. I caught up with John some years later and we had a good laugh about the mix up.

A fun part of the blues is their names. Howlin’ Wolf, pictured above, is one of my favorites. There are no Tom, Dick or Harrys in the blues. No Donalds. A roll-call of some of the greats would include Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lead Belly (pronounced like the metal), Ma Rainey, Muddy Waters, Blind Willie Johnson (using a president’s last name is part of the naming process, except you can’t include most of the recent ones, except Carter, as in Bo Carter and Clarence Carter).

Donald Trump is white and can’t sing the blues. He can cause others to sing ’em, but he can’t. Don’t know of anyone who sings the blues with the name Donald. Just a sec: I’ll check. As I assumed, the are none. There is a Donald Ray, but he is more of a band and back-up guy, more R&B. (Correct me, if I am wrong.)

Once you pick a name you like, you’ll no doubt find some songs they play that set you on stomp. For my guy Howlin’ Wolf, here is one of his tunes is “Evil” or as he sings, “Evil is going on.

Now you can write a blues line or two and post it in the comments below. Who knows, we might get a chain-post going and have a real song on. But you first need to change your name.

Editor’s Note: Here is a great tutorial for how to write the blues. It was written by an amateur for ordinary folks. It looks like a lot of fun. Surprise everyone at your next family reunion or traveling buddies this Summer.

What are some of your favorite names for blues singers, real or imagined?

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
"Refugee Blues"
A Poem by WH Auden

Came to a public meeting;
the speaker got up and said;
"If we let them in,
they will steal our daily bread":
He was talking of you and me, my dear,
he was talking of you and me.

Full Version
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A Break July 4, 2018

A Song For The Border

Slide doesn’t get better than this

Ten years before we needed it most. Ry Cooder’s “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live.” Slide doesn’t get better than this. Cooder always seems to find a spiritual side to his songs. This is no exception: it’s his best.

All we need to do is turn the TV sound off and listen to this while the reporters angle for the heart of a story on the border, lost in sound bites and broken news.

A younger Ry Cooder and The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
Bruce Springsteen's take
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Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
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A Break July 4, 2018

Things I Don’t Understand

What’s on your list?

  1. Why do professional golf players talk to their ball after they tee off? Sit, Sit. Stop. Stop. Back, Back.
  2. Why do all wrist watch print ads have the small hand on 10 and the big hand on 2? All of them, all the time.
  3. Why don’t news shows have concurrent fact checkers that report at the end of the segment, not the next day? Would take a little concern, some technology, and 30 seconds. Then instead of Breaking News they could have a segment called “Fixed News.”
  4. Why are missed catches in football not counted against the catcher and called an “error” as they are in baseball?
  5. Why is an overtime win called “Sudden Death” and not “Sudden Victory”?
  6. Who/what is Miss American Pie? What does this mean: “the levy was dry”?
  7. Why Democrats have no discipline while Republicans have blind allegiance?
Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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A Break April 25, 2018

When Gardening, Architecture and Music Mix

Sometimes gardening informs architecture and sometimes it’s the other way around

Sometimes gardening informs architecture and sometimes it’s the other way around. Sometimes both inspire photography and painting. Combined they often make music. That is precisely what is happening here. A song for Versailles in Manhattan. Three movements that will floor you or get you out weeding your gardens.

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Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

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What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
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The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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A Break March 6, 2018

Thomas Hart Benton’s “The Lord is My Shepherd”

Our parody of this remarkable painting about deaf people.

We only see the left ear on George and the right ear on Sabrina. If we didn’t know they were deaf, this composite pair of ears would go unnoticed.

The plaque on the wall gives us a hint: we only see the words, “The Lord is h-e-r-d.” For someone as focused on details as Thomas Hart Benton was, this had to be intentional. Benton is telling us that the Lord “hears” and the deaf are not handicapped in his sight.

Benton started visiting the Martha’s Vineyard in 1920 and continued coming back every summer for inspiration. He met the Wests in 1922 and it took him four years to finish the painting.

The painting is now part of the Whitney Museum’s collection of American Art. Lauren Ridloff, an art critic and educator at the museum says, “Notice that while the couple is silent, the wife’s eyes are focused on her husband’s lips…In Martha’s Vineyard, many of the people who lived there were deaf, and many individuals knew and used sign language…So perhaps the artist’s purpose in emphasizing the large, prominent hands could be a reflection of America’s value in hard work. Or perhaps it is a symbol of the couple’s deafness and use of their hands to communicate via sign language.” She adds, “Perhaps the ears are turned out to the viewer in representation of the couple deafness.”

In the definitive Benton biography, Thomas Hart Benton: An American OriginalHenry Adams writes: “He returned every summer to the island, and for the first half of the 1920s, Martha’s Vineyard provided the subject matter for nearly all of his major paintings.” Adams notes, “The local population and the lush landscape provided endless subject matter for Benton. Benton was particularly captivated by the island’s ‘old-timers’.” Benton is quoted in the book with this keen observation that influenced him greatly: “When the old boys talked, you didn’t interrupt them. You let your own concerns go and listened. You learned things about people who had been on whaling ships and had swum miles at sea holding onto their boots, who had walked across miles of Arctic ice and had their teeth pulled by the village blacksmith with all the local heavyweights sitting on their arms and legs. Listening, you shared not only the adventures, but the spirits of the talkers. Keeping your mouth shut, you came to know the Island folks and what they and the island stood for. You got in touch with what was real.”

For our parody, we called on our friends at High West. The selection of High West made sense on three levels. One, their last names match. Two, High West makes great whiskies, and George and Sabrina look like they could use a good whiskey, even if they drink it from a cup. Three, Benton started the painting school that came to be known as Regionalism, popularized in the 30s when artists, like Benton, shunned the city and painted rural scenes about real people. High West Distillery, of course, is a regional distillery, or at least its roots are regional.

A toast to hearing and seeing better.

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Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

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by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
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The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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A Break January 4, 2018

Don’t Thistle My Pink

A Great Gin from the Land of Single Malts

This cocktail was the winner of the Garden Party Cocktail Competition in Edinburgh. It’s a complex drink with a great contrast between the floral Caorunn gin and the bite of the whisky.

Gin tends to be a summer drink in my household, but this has changed my mind. The thistle gives it the last of winter, and the pink enables us to get a jump on summer.

A really cool thing at the Caorunn you can email this image and recipe to a friend. It’s all set up and easy to do–your name, their email address. Could be fun.

Ingredients

  • 50ml Caorunn Gin
    •    20ml Old Putney or other non-smokey whisky
    •    20ml Raspberry gomme (gum)
    •    1 Rosemary sprig

Glass

  • Martini glass

Garnish

  • Thistle

Method

  • Stir all liquid ingredients in a Boston Shaker and strain into a chilled Martini glass, rim the glass with the rosemary sprig and discard.
Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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A Break January 4, 2018

The Wager

Worth every second

Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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