Monday, February 28, 2005

Hell-Hounds on My Trail

[N.B.: The Mavens of Blogging strongly caution against blog-posts without accompanying graphics -- apparently you clowns just can't handle a couple of paragraphs of text unadorned by shiny and colorful objects to gaze at -- but Your Ned is at home during a snowstorm down four miles of copper wire that produce modem speeds that would have been laughed at in 1995. Seriously, I'm getting 28.8 speeds here, it's flippin' EXCRUCIATING... So no uploads today: The glorious prose will simply have to stand on its own.]

Last week, pursuant to his Mobberly duties, your Ned investigated the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, a nature-trails-and-local-history operation over on the other side of Short Hill. Rumor had it that a house where Mobberly had been wickedly ambushed by Perfious Yankeedom only to escape by the skin of his teeth was being excavated by the minions of Professor Quackenbush. (Whether this is actually that residence or merely a historical chimera is awaiting confirmation; I have written to the Professor under the assumed guise of Nosirrah Doowrehs, a Levantine dealer in Civil War antiquities and other curiosities, and am awaiting his promised reply. Please don't tell him it's actually me!)

At the Blue Ridge Center, an affable young man who identified himself as Ron greeted me and gave me the run of the place. A 900-acre nature preserve dedicated to ecological experimentation and historical preservation just south of Loudoun Heights, it is dotted with both butterfly habitats and the ruins of early-nineteenth-century farmhouses, which are being studied by Quackenbush and his henchmen for clues to the whereabouts of Prince Roderick's Purloined Orb. It is one of these farmhouses that purports to be my Mobberly locale.

The gloaming encroached as I glimmed the ruin, mentally reconstructing the events described in dusty tomes I have unearthed. (Should Professor Quackenbush confirm my -- sorry, Doowrehs' -- theory, I'll blog it in the near future, but for now it must remain a tantalizing dream.) Time passed, and the gloaming stopped the glimming, and, glum, I made my way back to my truck. Ron was shuttering the office cabin as I passed him. I asked him if I could return some day soon with my kids and dogs; they'd enjoy the place in fine weather.

Ron suddenly looked stricken and pale, the face of a man who's been badly frightened. "Keep away from there with your dogs, mister," he stammered. "You don't know what's out there. I'm telling you, man, keep away!" This last was hissed gutturally, his features tightened and anxious. "Just keep away!

He disappeared in the dusk.

It was not until the next morning, as I browsed the local Loudoun Times-Mirror over my coffee, when the full purport of Ron's warning became clear. Here I reproduce the complete article, with not one word omitted:


Three killer dogs are running free in the Neersville area of western Loudoun -- and Animal Control wants them.

On Feb. 4, the dogs broke into a pasture at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship on Harpers Ferry Road between Purcellville and the West Virginia border, killing 90 chickens and injuring several sheep, according to Rob Carey, the center's spokesman.

The dogs -- a Rottweiler with a chain collar, a black Lab/Rottweiler mix and a long-haired tan dog -- were spotted again the following weekend, Carey said, when they acted aggressively toward a man who was hiking with his dogs on the Blue Ridge Center's trails.

Animal Control set traps around the property for the dogs but has not yet found them. They apparently cross back and forth between Virginia and West Virginia, said Animal Control spokeswoman Laura Danis.

If you see these dogs, call Animal Control at 703-777-0406.


I've got some better advice: If you see these dogs, bend over and kiss your ass an affectionate goodbye, because your doom is sealed. The Hounds of Hell have been unleashed, and it is time to rue the day you ever crossed swords with Quackenbush...

Up Next on the Mobberly Trail: Short Hill Reveals Her Secrets

My Bologna Has a First Name

Far-distant-future scientists working with hypersensitive technologies beyond our puny modern ken* may come up with a nano-unit to express the degree to which I give a shit about the Oscars, but they sure aren't there yet. There are (I am told) entire subcults within the porn audience driven into paroxysms at the spectacle of a spinally pliable man gobbling his own perpendicular bisector -- but the frisson stirred by such a sideshow event is as dust in the wind compared to the movie industry performing the same feat. Suck away, say I.

*My sources advise me that the Puny Modern Ken won a a nod for Best Self-Fellating in a Short Feature, but this is as yet unconfirmed.

Friday, February 25, 2005

How to Write an Earworm

Do you know what an earworm is? It's a song so damned catchy that all you have to do is hear it once and it will stick in your head until you either a) drink yourself blind, b) get smacked in the head with an eight-iron, or c) die. I'm given to understand there are other cures, but at exactly this moment I'm really not in a hurry to try them out.

I've been having a nice long wallow in Andy Partridge's Fuzzy Warbles demos-and-lost-tracks series, and I've gotten the happiest earworm infection I've had since 1989, when I first heard XTC's "Mayor of Simpleton."

The tune in question is called "I Can't Tell What Truth Is Anymore," on Volume 6. Lyrically, you might be tempted to read it as an anthem for our defeated and disgusted times, but really it's just a boy-loses-girl song. It couldn't be a simpler bit of bubblegummy fluff -- I can easily imagine it tootling along during the Obligatory Slapstick Chase Scene in an early Scooby-Doo cartoon. It's the sort of dangerously sticky-sweet cinnamon bun that Partridge can easily toss out endlessly in his sleep (think "Cherry in Your Tree," or the above "Mayor of Simpleton"), a talent he sometimes disparages as beneath his dignity, not knowing what it's like to spend your life wishing you could write just one song that catchy.

Even though it's only a demo, a candidate for an album (Nonsuch) that never made it past the winnowing process, the thing is as expertly crafted, as architecturally perfect a bit of candyfloss as you're like to come across this year. Ergo, earworm.

I've extracted the song (Andy won't mind. Go and buy the CD.), and you can hear it here. (It will pop a new browser window. When the tune starts to play, move that window aside and come back to this window. Mom.)

So why's this particular song so damned skillfully done? What's the formula, Mister Wizard?
  1. Start with an introductory phrase that twists the melody very slightly. In this case, the hook phrase is rendered in a minor mode, so one note is different from the way you'll hear it in the rest of the song. A deft application of a cliché. (Clichés are sometimes exactly what's called for in this particular artform.)

  2. Repeat that slightly twisted melody only twice more: Once to introduce the instrumental passage, and once to end the song. Symmetry.

  3. It certainly doesn't hurt to stick to primary-color I-IV-V chords in your verse and chorus. Meat and potatoes. Predictable. Solid.

  4. But in your middle eight, go ahead and throw in an F#dim7 chord (under "And if you've gone for good"...) to suggest incompletion and anxiety. And of course write your lyrics so that the most significant word in the whole song, the revelation of the cause for our narrator's anxiety -- "gone" -- falls exactly on that diminished chord. You do this because you're a fucking pop-songcraft god.

  5. End your middle eight on that protracted V chord. Oh, absolutely, yes. Again, a cliché, but this is a bubblegum song, not the Coffee Cantata. When you play the song live, you can stretch that suspension out over, hell, 32 bars, before crashing back down to the tonic to start the next verse -- just like the rising ahhh's in "Twist and Shout." They'll have to disinfect the theater seats.

  6. Hint forward. In literature, it's called "foreshadowing." Listen to the lovely little chiming arpeggiated twin-guitar figures under the main melody. It will assume more importance later.

  7. Harmony vocal below the melody. Think late Beatles, think "Come Together," think "The One After 909." Partridge does this as a matter of habit, believing that the highest voice is the one that stands out. It's pretty rare, especially in late XTC records, for vocal harmonies to ride over the lead vocal like a bluegrass duet. And man, it's used to cool effect here.

  8. The guitar solo isn't really a solo at all; it's a carefully composed instrumental passage, as formal as a minuet. Needless to say, it's an absolute knockout. The Clapton-voiced guitar states a new melody as the little chiming figure revolves. Then a small male choir picks up the figure that had been played by the twin guitars under the verse (see why that foreshadowing was so important?) as the Clapton guitar now begins to play the verse melody. The two figures twine beautifully together, to end with both entities playing the title line, the male voices taking the low harmony and the guitar the melody. Subtle, understated, classically symmetrical -- did you ever think you'd hear those words describing a passage in a bubblegum song?

  9. In the outro, have the male voices pop back up with the same figure they sang in the instrumental passage. More symmetry.

It looks so simple from the outside, but once you tease it open, its insides are as finely wrought and carefully balanced as an expensive watch. A thing of incandescent beauty.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

On One's Male Role Models

Once upon a long-ago time, Your Ned played second base on a company softball team. We were just awful -- in the two years I graced that team, I think we won maybe one game.

During one early autumn evening game, I was at bat. Standing at the plate waiting for the next pitch, I noticed that a V of Canada geese had appeared flying very low in the sky, straight in from deadaway center field toward home plate, just barely high enough to clear the backstop. It was beautiful, a real autumn treat.

I raised my hand to the ump, asking for time. Then I stepped out of the box and stood watching the geese fly by. I murmured something like, "Would you look at that..."

Behind me, the other team's catcher simply exploded. "What the fuck are you doing? Play ball, asshole!

Huh. Priorities.

Let us propose that there are two extremes in the male psyche, always at war with each other. Let us further propose that it's that war in our heads that is responsible for most of the bad craziness in the world today.

Religious and philosophical and literary smart guys have long recognized the problem, and sought to define it in various ways: Yin and Yang, Dionysus and Apollo, Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan, intuition and rationality. They all agree that when the two halves are in balance, sanity reigns.

Ah, what a crock of shit.

Bill Lee has written a new book, describing his life after his 1984 banishment from baseball for possession of Yin with intent to distribute, and criminal dearth of Yang. He's knocked around various pro-am, semi-pro, and other, downright weird back alleys of non-major-league ball. What's beautifully evident is that he's lost none of the wonderful cranky eccentricity that made me admire him so the first time around.

Among his exploits was a run for the American Presidency in 1988 on the Canadian Rhinoceros Party ticket -- a Dadaist political party with stated aims to "... abolish the environment rather than protect it on the grounds that it took up too much space to keep clean.... Bulldoze the Rocky Mountains so that Alberta could receive a few extra minutes of daylight.... Paint the White House pink and turn it into a Mexican restaurant.... A ban on guns and butter, since they both killed."

Hell, I'd have voted for him if I'd only known.

Of course this guy couldn't make it in pro sports: Completely unable to knuckle under to the pumped-up Yang of pro baseball, he flaunted his Yin in its face until it wouldn't take it any more and bit back. Poor bastard just refused to go along to get along.

Why is it that all my heroes seem to conform to this model to some extent or another?

So let's posit a spectrum that has Bill Lee over on one extreme and, oh, I dunno, say, Bernie Kerik waaaay over on the other. On Bill's side, there is laughter and surprise and reveling in serendipity. There's understanding Dada art, there's receptiveness to novelty, there's the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in your head simultaneously without exploding.

Over on Bernie's side, you've got... well... Bernie Kerik. Play ball, asshole!

I will never be a CEO. I will never lead armies of men. I will never win political office -- even on the Rhinoceros Party platform -- an Oscar, People's Sexiest Man Alive.

I will, I'm afraid, always and forever, admire the geese.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Truth is Never Told During the Nine-to-Five Hours

I'm too gutted, been fighting tears all day, at this morning's horrifying news to do much by way of tribute to Hunter Thompson. He'd probably rag me mercilessly for my weakness, but there you have it. I'm not him.

Let's say this: I haven't taken acid in 25 years, but when I did, it was his voice that narrated the trip. Not Timothy Leary, not Ram Dass, none of those running dogs of icky hippie sentimentality. No, on a Thompsonian acid trip you weren't out to complete your soul or come to the realization of the Fundamental Oneness of All Living Beings or any of that Girl Scout shit: You wallowed in your alienation, you wore your rage like a cheap clown suit, you welcomed the terminally weird as a long-lost brother, you ripped the needle off "Birth of the Cool" and cranked "Trout Mask Replica" out the window: "You hear that, you boozhie motherfuckers? That's MY HEAD! That's going on up in there RIGHT NOW, and if you want it to stop, you're going to have to come up here and KILL ME!" Followed with a cackle of maniacal laughter and a hurled bottle smashing in the street.

Well, I guess we know where that leads, eh?

But I just can't get over the timing of Hunter's surrender, in these Days of Darkness in the Year of the Pig. I know who I blame, and I'm gunning for your asses....
America... just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.
I was able to find this anecdote at an Esquire site, it's from Gene McGarr, a buddy of Thompson's when they were young:
Hunter came over one night. I was out working. I never bothered locking my door, because anybody who wanted to climb five flights of stairs and rob from me, they were welcome to. This was a hot summer night. All the windows in the block were open.

Hunter, apparently feeling a little frisky and being bored waiting around for me and not knowing when I was coming home, went into the front room, the windows opening out on the street, took off his belt, and started whipping the wall. You know, this loud thwack! Every time he'd thwack the wall, he'd yell, "Ahgggh!! Ahghhh! Aghhhh!"

Then he'd stop the thwacking and in another voice would say, "Do it again. Do it again. Keep doing it." And then this thwaaaack! So apparently there were people hanging out of windows yelling, "You son of a bitch! You can't get away with that...!" Then Hunter put his belt back on and sat down.

Well, about five minutes later there were the thundering hoofbeats of two New York City policemen, who by the time they had climbed five flights of stairs were truly apoplectic. They banged on the fucking door.

Now Hunter sat with, you know, his cigarette in hand, beer in the other and said "Who's there?" Two cops came in. They wanted to know what the fuck was going on. They had heard the complaints. They wanted to know, where were the bodies. They made Hunter take his shirt off. To show that he had no whip marks on him.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Things Appall A Fart

I have come to realize that yesterday's post on the Sixties was a tad bit puerile. I wasn't at the top of my game yesterday, emotionally or intellectually, and what came out was a bit of a strident blort. I won't redact it, though, because, well, I was who I was yesterday and I yam what I yam today. Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes. And this complete breakfast. And 120 rockin' milligrams of headache-bustin' Indomethacin.)

But I did have a point to make, and I stand by that point. Let's try to get at it from a slightly more oblique angle, eh?

I think it was the nearly universal reaction to Paul McCartney's appearance at the Super Bowl that set me off on this binge: Ooh, 2003's halftime show was so shockin', woah Janet's titty and Nellie crotch-grabbin' and woo I'll have you naked by the end of this song, let's get the OLD GUY in here STAT, the SAFE ANCIENT DODDERING OLD FART who'll lull a raw and restive world back into its warm cocoon with lullabies of disposable nostalgia and songs your mother should know...

And Paulie had a nice, full-throated Liverpoodle Larff at all our expense. And nobody knew it.

He led off with Drive My Car, one of the funniest, slyest, nudge-nudge-wink-wink extended sex jokes that's ever been pulled -- beep-beep-mmm-beep-beep, YEAH!...

And not a single swingin' dick under the age of about six hundred years old got the goddamned joke.

He didn't rip anybody's bustier off, fondle his willie, wipe his ass with anybody's flag -- but he pulled off a blatantly subversive prank: "I shagged her rotten, innit, and she loved every glorious second of it, beep-beep-yeah..." But because the lyric hides behind a gossamer-thin veil of jokeyness, and because Paulie is such a crowd-pleasing, top-hat-and-cane showbiz hoofer, The Man, the National Super-Ego, Darth Vader, the Force of Darkness, smiled approvingly and nodded along -- an excellent choice, Mr. Tagliabue, an excellent choice...

And Macca followed it with "Get Back," which had me half-cringing -- a surrealist word-association potpourri that name-checks transvestism, reefer, incest... Fabulous family fare, Mr. Powell! I'll wait to hear from you in the morning!

Not a peep. Nothing. Ka-PWINNNG, right over everybody's heads and off into the Land Where Naughty Jokes Go to Die.

But the finale, "Hey Jude," was the most brilliantly transgressive choice of all. This song is the most point-blank decent, humane, kind, downright dare I say Christian thing I know of: Hey, look, you're in pain, I'm in pain, but I love you and trust you, and I hope you feel the same, and maybe if we were all nice to each other for a change we'd all be a little bit happier.... This in the midst of our annual national bread-and-circuses spectacle, where steroid- and ampetamine-crazed behemoths grunt silverback territorial threats at each other under the jet flybys and the steelbellied Barbie-doll cheerleaders wiggle their booties in martial rhythm and idiot color commentators yacket on about achieving Deep Penetration into the enemy's Red Zone...

The late Ian MacDonald, in his brilliant book, Revolution in the Head, presents us with a chart, many pages long, that places all the Beatles' recordings in their historical and cultural contexts. From this list we know, for example, that on March 2, 1963, when The Fabs' "Please Please Me" hit Number One on the British charts, their chief competition was Cliff Richard & the Shadows' Summer Holiday, Elvis Presley's Girls! Girls! Girls!, and the Four Seasons' Walk Like a Man. Not very prepossessing stuff, you'll agree.

Try to imagine, if you can, how glowing and incandescent and utterly mindblowingly shocking a song like "Please Please Me" was to some poor bastard soaked in all that 1963 dreck. "Last night I said..." where the harmonies part, one voice descending a ladder while the other holds its note, a straight cop from the Everly Brothers' "Cathy's Clown" from three years before, but yanked forward into Telstar modernity by the sheer, sexy, joyful drive of it, just two-guitars-bass-drums but sounding like a perfect gyroscope-balanced rocketship, every note signifying, and not a single note too many. And that incredible hook, the octave leap on "please please me woah yeah," a ballsy thing to write for yourself to sing onstage night after night, the work of a supremely self-confident songwriter. This was totally, unprecedentedly, thoroughly, life-affirmingly new.

And whaddya know... That chorus: Hey! It's a sex joke! Aaaaaall the way from stuffy old black-and-white, Profumo-scandal, Kim-Philby, missile-crisis, ring-a-ding-ding, loneliness-of-the-long-distance-runner 1963... A sneaky plea for a BJ! Let's both be naked by the end of this song!

I long to feel that shock again, and I begin to suspect I never will. Grumpy old Stephen Maturin often cites the Spanish proverb que no hayan novedades -- "may no new thing arise," and I'm afraid I know just what he means. The new that was new then is not now new.

This is why I become so defensive about old Sir Paul. In far, far too many ways today, we seem to be living through Yeats' Second Coming, where the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity. MacDonald (who, it pains me deeply to say, took his own life not long ago) wrote in his introduction:
The true revolution of the Sixties -- more powerful and decisive for Western society than any of its external byproducts -- was an inner one of feeling and assumption: a revolution in the head. Few were unaffected by this and, as a result of it, the world changed more thoroughly than it ever could have done under merely political direction. It was a revolution of and in the common man; a revolution (as Aaron Copeland, author of the eponymous fanfare, observed) whose manifesto -- its vices as much as its virtues, its losses as well as its gains, its confusions together with its lucidities -- is readable nowhere more lucidly than in The Beatles' records.
So hear this, you of the passionate intensity, you who would break the back of of my humanism, you who would force me to inhabit your horrid new empire that mocks me for my age and for my convictions: I know what you're up to.

I read the news today, oh boy....

Thursday, February 17, 2005

How Silly of Us

OK look. We're very sorry that we ever had a Sixties, ok?

We're really sorry that we ever thought that sex shouldn't be freighted with guilt, that women should be allowed to choose when they have babies, that racism and poverty are worth trying to eradicate, that organized religion is fraught with horrid, repressive ugliness, that maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't be feeding our young to a war machine that makes us universally loathed the world over.

We're really sorry that we ever thought any of these things. We're sorry it ever happened, we won't ever do it again. Boy, that was sure naive of us! What were we thinking!

I guess we just never thought we'd have to live with 35 years of backlash...


Yesterday's blog entry, "They're Not Laughing at You, They're Laughing with You," contained an error. The name "Stephen Colbert" was accidentally substituted for that of Ted Hitler.

The editorial staff of "By Neddie Jingo" regrets the error.

But WTF is up with Ted Hitler's ears?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

How Weird Can You Take It, Brother, Before Your Love Will Crack?

Jeff Wells, over at Rigorous Intuition, has lately been exploring some of the more angular corridors of power. Remember some months ago when Rev. Sun "Myuck" Moon had himself crowned Emperor of All He Surveyed in the Dirksen Building with the apparent endorsement of a whole bunch of Congresscritters who shouldn't have been within 150,000 miles of such a farce?

Well, start here...

Then go here...

And finally, here.

Don't ever say your Uncle Neddie doesn't turn you on to the Good Stuff...

It's Not the Sex...

It's the lying about sex.

That's what they used to say about the Previous Bonehead in the White House.

So let's try, for purposes of strictest symmetry, here, to come up with a parallel construction pertinent to the affairs of today:

It's not the awarding of White House press credentials and access to Valerie-Plame-related documentation to a sleazy Z-list Republican operative posing as a reporter who asks factually incorrect and blatantly partisan questions in a presidential news conference...

It's the lying about sex.

Specifically, it's the fact that a guy who spouts fag-bashing horseshit in public, is actually, quite literally, in the baldest (heh) sense of the word, a manwhore.

Excuse me for a moment while I hankie the green bubbles of schadenfreude off my nose.

Where, oh where, is the outrage?

(Why it's out in the back alley, negotiating a two-hour outcall with a cut-and-buff, high-and-tight ex-USMC topman, Mr. Bennett... What's your excuse?)


The John Mobberly obsession seems to have grown some hair (which I'm beautifully pomading with macassar oil, in the fashion of a Civil War dandy), so I've broken out an index for it in the sidebar below the "Previous Posts" listing. When it's assembled I'll put a bibliography and notes in that section as well.

The Strawman

It's amazing how lives can parallel each other. Tom Watson and I could have been schoolmates, and our youthful passions seem to have been direct analogues -- different teams, same sport. But when we came to share a team in the Eighties, we both appear to have idolized the same lanky, smooth-swinging outfielder. Now you know why.

Beautiful piece.

They're Not Laughing At You, They're Laughing With You

Like right-thinking people everywhere, I chortle till I wet 'em at all the good folks down at The Daily Show, and wish nothing but the most resounding success to each and every one of their little heinies.

But WTF is up with Stephen Colbert's ears???

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Soulless Man of Unknown Parentage

On the evening of the 16th [of May, 1864], the Loudoun Rangers bivouacked just north of [Waterford]. Monday morning, May 17, the command came ... in search of their breakfast. While the company was somewhat scattered in finding something to eat, their pickets on the south side of town were decoyed into a trap by about 100 of Mosby's men. Two men were killed and Sergeant Charles Stewart was dangerously wounded. [He] was still lying in the road when John Mobberly, a desperado from the northwestern section of the county, and his band approached. Seeing the stricken man in the road, Mobberly rode his horse back and forth over Stewart's body, firing at him all the while. Tiring of this sport, Mobberly dismounted and relieved the wounded man of his new cavalry boots....

The near-fatally wounded Stewart was taken to the home of Miss Rachel Steer, a kindly Quakeress. Shortly, other ladies from Waterford arrived on the scene, accompanied by Dr. Thomas Bond. The venerable physician, upon seeing his patient, said "My only ambition in life is to live long enough to make another hell for the man that shot Stewart after he was helpless." Stewart, under the kind care of Dr. Bond and Miss Steer, recovered sufficiently to return to duty....
Waterford, Virginia, in 1864, Waterford Village Web Site

Harpers Ferry historian Joseph Barry in 1903 wrote that in the outskirts of Harpers Ferry in 1844 a dirt-poor bastard boy was born, the outcome of a backwoods romance between one Polly Mobberly and Sam Fine, who deserted Polly and lit out for the territories soon after the baby's birth. There is no record of this birth, but census records from 1860 show a Mary A. Mobberly and her son John, aged 17, living outside Harpers Ferry.

Barry also tells us that the young John Mobberly took a job as a wagon driver for the butcher Joe Hagan, a freedman. Apparently, among the better sort of New York journalists, it was considered a bit of a degraded position to work for a black tradesman, because a New York Times article published during the height of Mobberly's notoriety, in the winter of 1865, sniffs disdainfully,
The fellow Mobley [a common alternate spelling], whose acts of lawlessness have struck terror through the whole of Loudo[u]n ... is a smooth-faced, leaden-eyed, soulless man of unknown parentage; he was raised by a negro in Loudo[u]n, and almost his first act with which he commenced his career of crime was robbing his benefactor of two horses -- the only means he had for obtaining a living.

Company A, 22nd New York State Militia, on Camp Hill at Harpers Ferry, October 1862.

Sometime around the 15th of September of 1862 during the leadup to Antietam, on the bank of the Potomac opposite Harpers Ferry, a troop of Federals committed some sort of outrage on the honor of a local woman. We don't know what that outrage consisted of, but we do know that the supremely angry 18-year-old John Mobberly, unable to exact revenge on the whole troop, instead acquired a horse (could this have been the act that the Times found so distasteful?) and rode south ten miles to Hillsboro and volunteered his services to White's Comanches, the 35th Virginia Cavalry.

It was later written of him by a comrade in the Comanches that he personally killed more Yankees than any man in Lee's Army. Such was the depth of his outrage.

In cooperation with the Comanches and John Mosby's Rangers, with a small command of his own, he boldly harrassed the Union army in the Short Hill country for the entirety of the last two years of the war, causing panic in the Union leadership and sleeplessness among the regular troops. But in so doing, he earned a reputation as a brutal outlaw who, as the war ground to its end, became indiscriminate in his attacks on both Union and Southern interests.

He's buried in a hero's grave, under a grand gravestone -- a gift, it is said, from the women of Hillsboro. Perhaps it might be appropriate at this point to ponder how Sergeant Charles Stewart of the Loudoun Rangers felt about that, after the war.

Up Next: What is it about complete savage bastards that makes the ladies swoon so? Does that tombstone say "Was Assassinated"? What hints and portents are inscribed on the back of the stone? What's all this dark foreshadowing about Sergeant Stewart? And where the hell is Union Deserter French Bill?

On the Mobberly Trail: Dr. Quackenbush Releases the Hounds

R. Stevie Moore Is Worth It

R. Stevie Moore is what I would be if I had a goddamned lick of courage at all. I admire and covet his grit, oh yes I do.

It's been said of a certain kind of artist, from Captain Beefheart to Monty Python, that their work is an uncompromising exercise in not-giving-a-shit-what-you-think. R. Stevie is without a shadow of a flicker of a doubt a fully-paid-up member of that brass-balled club, and if this were the kind of world that rewarded artistic courage he would be richer than Sting.

Since the mid-Seventies he's self-released over 400 complete albums -- that's more than 15 a year, pretty damned sobering to this dilettante dabbler -- which he sells as hand-dubbed cassettes and CDs through his mail-order business. He also has released quite a few more "conventional" albums, which are distillations of his cassette-club albums.

So what do these things sound like? They are huge and varied, from traditionally-structured songs with middle eights, codas and instrumental passages, to musique-concrete tape soundscapes that wouldn't be out of place on Zappa's Lumpy Gravy. The arty stuff is accomplished enough, but it's when the boy sets out to write a melody -- that's when he can rip your heart out by the roots. Just listen to Play Myself Some Music from 1999's The Future Is Worse Than the Past, and tell me you made it through dry-eyed.

R. Stevie Moore: braver than I'll ever be. Damn his eyes.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Wonder Woman

I love you like a dog loves steak
Like little kids love candy.
Even in your flannel Lanz
You still just make me randy.


Your Neddie

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Evil Dr. Quackenbush

This morning I zipped around Short Hill through Hillsboro to Mechanicsville on the opposite side to get a rubbing of John Mobberly's gravestone.

I'd scouted it out one day last week on my way home from work; it's in the graveyard that belonged to a church that's been converted into a private residence -- a beautiful stone thing from the 1700's, wish I'd seen it first. On Thursday I'd stopped the truck (newly repaired, thanks for asking, only $50!) and gingerly tiptoed into the graveyard, not sure of the ownership relationship between house and yard. I'd found Mobberly's grave, found I could easily read the obverse, but a swooningly fawning poem on the reverse (reputedly contributed by the heartbroken young women of Hillsboro) was deteriorating and becoming illegible. All I had was a notebook and a pen, but I tried a quick, experimental rubbing with that and found it helped readability quite a bit.

So today, armed with charcoal and better paper, I pulled up beside the church. Unlike last week, today there was a car in the driveway, so I ankled up to the house and knocked. A nice lady answered.

"Good morning, ma'am, my name's Neddie Jingo, I'm doing a research project on John Mobberly. Would it be OK with you if I took a rubbing from his gravestone?"

That was indeed OK with her. Then a slight frown. "Somebody was here just the other day doing that..." As if to wonder, Why all the sudden interest in Mobberly?

It was the work of a nanosecond to decide not to tell her that had been me. I hadn't asked permission, you see.

Of course, only an hour later as I was picking up my materials and packing the new rubbings into the truck did the correct response come rushing to the Jingo consciousness:

"Great Caesar's ghost, there was somebody else doing a rubbing? By all that is holy, tell me quickly, woman, leaving out no detail, was he a tall man? Wearing a pith helmet and an eyepatch? Thin lips and an aquiline profile that bespoke an easy patrician cruelty? Walked with a pronounced limp, and spoke with the soft burr of Strathclyde? Accompanied by a mastiff yclept Bannister and a Andaman Islander of hideously scarified visage who brandished a blow-gun and spoke in guttural grunts? Then I have not a minute to lose -- for the evil Dr. Quackenbush has the jump on me, and woe betide all of us if he reaches the Lost Scepter of King Henry before me!"

That's what I should have said. Dammit.

Step right this way for another installment of the Mobberly Story: Girls love a winner

Friday, February 11, 2005

He's Better than You'll Ever Know

I've been having a good, long soak in Mike Keneally's work recently, and have become convinced that that bio of his is a carefully erected front: In reality, he arrived fully formed on Planet Earth from the Galaxy of the Guitar Gods to free mankind from the evils of banal music. He is occasionally thwarted by his evil nemesis Prince Diatoniko, the eldritch genius who convinces white people they should clap on one and three during nationally televised figure-skating events, harming the morale of right-thinking people around the globe.

But he will prevail in the end.

Check him out.


Added Technorati Search widget in Sidebar. May promote it above the fold if it seems to warrant it in the future.

(And woo-hoo, my HTML skillz haven't deteriorated to the point where I couldn't fiddle with Technorati's boilerplate to make searches pop a new browser! I still got it, Ma!)

Thursday, February 10, 2005


I've been watching the Jingo server logs, and noted with some amusement that one of the most clicked-on archive items is entitled "I Am Wearing Women's Clothing," which, I thought, spoke volumes about all you pervs out there. I was going to try a prank by archiving a post called "Steamin' Hot Girl-on-Girl Action" and see what kind of clickthrough I got on that.

But a post marked "Bush Ass-Licker on WH Press Corps Quits After Revelations He Is Not Only Not a Reporter But Is Also a Gay Pimp"? That would be going too far.


As a man of diminished urbanity, Your Ned does not frequently get to see first-run films. And frankly that's jake with me. Rare indeed is the movie that immediately earns my trust and affection, and Wonder Woman has learned to simply ignore the grunts and sighs of impatience and irritation that I make when watching movies. Only when I howl like a hyena at some silent point in a crowded theater, moved to laughter by some unintentional cinematic solecism, does she become irritated with me. Unfortunately, that's maybe a bit too often.

IFC ran Ed Harris' Pollock last night. It managed to avoid the usual pitfalls of biopics -- although there was a true groaner of a moment when Pollock discovers action painting as a droozle of thin white paint hits the studio floor: After he's passionately slashed and splashed his first "true" Pollock painting and is standing admiring it, Lee Krasner runs into the room, looks at the mess of drying paint and intones breathlessly something like, "Pollock, you've cracked it! The sky's the limit!" Sorry: Howls of Jingo laughter.

I'm given to understand, by minds far greater than mine, that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. While I would never dispute the wisdom of this reliable old chestnut, I do nevertheless (perhaps naively) point out that without writing about music, we would be left with grunting and gesticulating about music, which doesn't look very impressive in the Sunday color supplement.

And, of course, the same holds true for painting. Jeffrey Tambor, as Clement Greenberg, is given the difficult task of raving career-boostingly about Pollock's art without actually saying anything about Pollock's art beyond "This man is brilliant and should be made rich and famous!" The movie does a wonderful job of allowing Pollock's stunning creations to explain themselves, but we never get a sense of their place in the art world of 1947, of their context. Pollock of all artists aimed his canvases at a primally preverbal place (and Greenberg was himself a highly preverbal thinker), but that doesn't absolve the movie of at least attempting to place a Pollock side-by-side with a de Kooning or a Rothko and doing just a little curating, a little explaining.

Why Didn't Anybody Tell Me?

This is how you do it! Tony Pierce, welcome to my Pantheon! Me Want Buy You Book!

Check his post, How to Blog... I've managed to violate several of his Inviolable Principles, but Never Again!

Mosby's Men Took My Wool

We have a tendency, understandable given the way history is taught, to think of the Civil War as a five-year event that was punctuated by cataclysmic events: Sumter-Manassas-Antietam-Gettysburg-Appomattox. This is the impression you would get if everything you knew about that war came from your high-school history books or Ken Burns' film. This is fine; the progress of these major battles did profoundly affect political decisionmaking and indeed the course of history.

Northern Loudoun County only stood on the periphery of these major events. Lovettsville was marched through countless times, but never marched to by any significant forces. What happened here instead was a three-year-long partisan conflict, conducted by irregular forces in low-intensity warfare, and marked by an intense -- and still discernible-- hatred.

The prosperous farmlands surrounding Waterford and Lovettsville were ravaged by foraging by both sides. Mosby's constant and very effective harrassment of regular Union forces was fueled by horses, food, crops and other forage taken directly from local farms. To take this source of sustenance from Mosby, the Union conducted the Burning Raid of November 30 - December 1, 1864, torching every building that wasn't a private home, and driving off livestock. This raid, you should note, was conducted on an area that had voted overwhelmingly to remain in the Union.

I've picked out a few extracts from the diary of Christian Nicewarner, whose grave sits cheek-by-jowl with that of John Stevens in the Mount Olivet Methodist graveyard on Mountain Road. A laconic fellow:

Oct. 30: "Gin" & turkeys stolen at night
Nov. 22: Horses stolen
Dec. 19: Tents burned in Russel's field
Dec. 22: Went to Maryland to look for horses

Mar. 16: John Thompson's barn burned
April 28: Mann, Everhart horses stolen
April 29: Arnold colt stolen
July 19: R. L. Wright's barn burned
Nov. 6: Catherine Grubb house burned down

Feb. 4: D. Axline horses taken at night
Feb. 12: Rebels came and took C. Hough and horses
June 4: J. Compher horses taken
June 7: S. George horses taken
June 18: Team taken by Mosby's men.
July 10: Mosby's men took my wool
July 28: Queen, Charlie & Ball stolen by Mosby's men
Sep. 3: Went to Upperville in search of horses
Nov. 30: Federal Cavalry burned barn, hay, wheat, corn and drove off horses, cattle & pigs.
Dec. 1: Father's barn burned on Wednesday

Welcome to the Civil War.

The winter of 1864-65 was legendarily cold and snowy. Imagine facing the prospect of such a winter when your barn and the barn of every farm around had been burned and the livestock driven off. And these were pro-Union people.

That cluster of events around June and July of 1864 is particularly sobering for me. Those farms -- Samuel George, Joseph Compher, Christian Nicewarner -- are all within a short walk of my house. And the name Everhart, from April 1863, appears on the surveyor's plat of my house as owning the lot immediately uphill from mine. That land is still in that family. The Wires, direct descendants of Samuel George, now run a B-and-B on his farm. It's beautiful.

We're going to return to Nicewarner's diary in future dispatches, because, as you may have guessed, the fellow doing all that horse-thievery, creeping in over the mountain at night to liberate the property of the good farmers of Lovettsville...

Yep. John Mobberly.

Next stop on the Mobberly Trail: Enter a Criminal Mastermind

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Do You Know this Man?

There he was, touseled & highlighted bed-head gleaming with pricey petrochemical sludge, acne glowing painfully under carefully cultivated beard stubble, iPod oozing some dreadful dirgey slop at volume levels guaranteed to leave him deaf by age 50, fitted shirt with diagonal striping and highboy collar, bowling shoes, fondling a mindbendingly expensive digital camera and talking like he'd just climbed out of Zeus' head and invented viral marketing, and I thought Oh sweet Jesus on a rubber raft, my new boss is Nathan Barley!

This is actually an Old Perennial that I've returned to, something that I used to set my watch by back a few years ago. I'm a little hesitant about linking to it, because it does strain the NSFW-o-Meter a bit, which I'd hoped to avoid.

Let's try this: If you are offended by, or are in a physical or contractual situation in which you might be endangered or subject to punishment for viewing material that features the use of a venerable Old High German monosyllable denoting the female pudendum to characterize an unsympathetic and unsavory character in the British manner, then PLEASE DON'T CLICK ON THE LINK.

The rest of you c*nts enjoy the hell out of it.

This is collected from a now-defunct web site called TVGoHome, a parody of a British television guide, written by one Charlie Brooker. As you read, feel the growing glow that wells up from some deep lode of loathing that Brooker nurtures for his invention. It is just viciously, savagely, and bladder-endangeringly funny. (Hard on the eyes, too, if you go into the fine print, but that's where a lot of the action is.)

I know just too many of these guys.

(The reason I'm dredging all this up is that a TV show based on the fictional TV show is about to debut in Britain. I doubt it will retain the name. Early reviews compare it unfavorably to The Office, but I can root for it anyway.)

PS: I got transferred rather than work for the guy. I'd have killed him in the first week.

Maddest of mad props to Adrian Ransome for the show info.

Brayed Like a Donkey

I just startled my podmate with a huge, violent burst of horsey laughter, teeth sticking out like Homer Simpson when he gets a real gut-laff going...

Hey, France, it's OK, we forgive you, honest! Here, I brought your favorite cheese....

Whatcha Got For Me, Rudy?

That's what I trill every day at work when the noontime factory whistle blows, as I open the lunchpail and tuck in for a most excellent hour of sputtering outrage with The Rude Pundit. I wouldn't want to sit next to him in a bar when he's in his cups, but boy is he entertainingly angry. You know -- in a good way.

He's put up two posts (Thing One and Thing Two) on l'affaire Ward Churchill, with attendant observations on the need to, er, make Bill O'Reilly uncomfortable with some audio equipment, that invite side-alley exploration.

Sez Rudy:
When the recent study came out saying that more than a third of high school students think that "the First Amendment goes too far," we crossed some kind of line where the actual definition of America is on the line. These students don't understand the meaning of dissent because, really, there's very little means for disseminating dissent (beyond Left Blogsylvania). And when truly radical dissent surfaces, idiot fuckers with big microphones and little minds, like your O'Reillies, your Limbaughs, and your Coulters, do their goddamnedest to punish it and thus demonstrate that to dissent is to be punished, to lose your career if your words offend the power structure.
Well, as one who has had his own brushes with the stuff, I think it's slightly disingenuous to blame student apathy on a lack of a means to disseminate dissent; back in my day we had xerox machines and telephones (and we wore an onion on our belt; it was the style at the time!)

Kids These Days have thousands of outlets to disseminate of whatever the hell they want, outlets in such multitude that the problem with them isn't their lack, it's their bewildering variety.

But what we hadn't understood yet at the time, but would quickly come to realize as our beloved punk rock turned from something that looked like it might actually accomplish something to musical wallpaper for runway fashion shows in approximately four seconds in 1978, is that expressing political dissent through the assumption of some kind of social posture, some kind of costume, is not only self-defeating -- it's exactly what The Man wants you to do.

I mean, where the hell do you go from that? Dissent, Kids These Days learn, is a consumable item, you can buy whatever kind of signifiers of dissent you like. Ward Churchill is learning what happens to those who actually dare to refuse to buy their prechewed subversion at the mall.

Actually, to judge from some of the quotes from Churchill Rudy cites, he already knew damned well what happens to Big-D Dissenters:
If you conduct your protest activities in a manner which is sanctioned by the state, the state understands that the protest will have no effect on anything. You can gauge the effectiveness—real or potential at least—of any line of activity by the degree of severity of repression visited upon it by the state."

Monday, February 07, 2005

Setting the Table...

Hush. These things are good for you. You need them before you can have your dessert.

From Legends of Loudoun, Harrison Williams, pub. Garrett and Massie, 1938:

The repercussions of John Brown's insane raid on the nearby Harper's Ferry arsenal on the 16th October, 1859, were particularly severe in Loudoun. The madness of it all profoundly shocked the the community and seemed to strike at the foundations of existing society, law and order. Yet a dogged adherence to that Union, which Virginia had been so instrumental in building, persisted....

When it came to appear inevitable that war would break out, the Virginia Legislature of 1861 decided, probably wisely, that the matter of secession was so sensitive, and the consequences so monumental, that they referred the issue to the people of Virginia in the form of a statewide convention, which voted in favor of secession provided that a referendum of the state's voters supported the decision.

Here's how the vote went in Loudoun County:

Gum Spring
Mt. Gilead
Powells Shop
For Secession

If you look at at that table and compare it to a map of Loudoun, one thing immediately becomes clear: Just like the newly severed nation, Loudoun had a pro-Secessionist South and a pro-Union North. Compare Leesburg and Lovettsville; they're within eight miles of each other. (The town of Union didn't want no Union at all!) The north, the border area, of Loudoun had been settled in the early and mid-Eighteenth Century by two groups: Quakers in Waterford and Pennsylvania Dutch in Lovettsville. Neither of these peoples had much truck with slavery (although some of them did in fact own slaves), and secession held little appeal for them.

In the beginning stages of the war, a fallen-away Quaker, a miller named Samuel C. Means, in order to combat increasing Confederate harrassment of his business and indeed all the pro-Union farms and businesses in the Waterford and Lovettsville area, raised a company called the Loudoun Rangers and accepted a Federal commission to protect Northern Loudoun from a base in Point of Rocks, Maryland, just across the Potomac.

A further glance at that table above shows another inescapable fact: Although 325 men in Lovettsville had voted against secession, 46 didn't. These people had to continue to live among their neighbors, despite whatever they felt about the war. Many of those who voted for secession joined Confederate units such as the 35th Virginia, also known as "White's Comanches." Richard Crouch puts his finger on the nub of the matter:

There was a curious parallel between the Loudoun Rangers and their archenemies, Lt. Col. Elijah V. "Lige" White's 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, also known as "White's Comanches." The first two companies were raised in exactly the same area of Loudoun County, and the same surnames appear in both the blue and the gray ranks. As the two groups clashed again and again, their special brand of warfare took on the nature of local family feuds.

The relationship between the two bands was especially antagonistic. Soldiers knew individual members of the opposing unit, exactly where they lived, their sweethearts and other loved ones. Like the Loudoun Rangers, the 35th Virginia had been raised for the specific purpose of "ranging in the border counties."...

Nowhere more than in the border areas was that whole "brother against brother" business true. Crouch again:
When General Robert E. Lee's army moved north as part of the Antietam campaign, White's Comanches were suddenly back in force in Loudoun County. The Rangers were sleeping in the Waterford Baptist Church when they were attacked by White's men after midnight on August 27, 1862. Surrounded, the Rangers defended their position in the brick church until almost every man was wounded and ammunition was running low. When they surrendered, it was to relatives and to boys with whom they had gone to school. One of White's men, William Snoots, loudly insisted on the right to kill his prisoner, and it took several of his fellow Confederates to force him to accept the rules of civilized warfare. The prisoner was Loudoun Ranger Charles Snoots, his brother.

Into this cauldron of rage, of internecine butchery, of bloodsoaked and desperate men, all of whom knew where each others' wives and girlfriends lived...

...enter John Mobberly.

Next stop on the Mobberly Trail: testing the patience of the Lovettsville farmer

All Right, You Punks....

He actually played his instrument, he actually sang the damned songs, he hit his notes right on the money, and "Drive My Car" rocked way harder than even the original, which kicks major ass. Plus, Hey Jude should be the goddamned national anthem. So just shut up. Extra props to Sir Paul for having my main man Jason Falkner on guitar, too.

Some Context

XXXIX 2005 Paul McCartney
XXXVIII 2004 Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake
XXXVII 2003 Shania Twain, No Doubt
XXXVI 2002 U2
XXXV 2001 Aerosmith & NSYNC
XXXIV 2000 Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton
XXXIII 1999 Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
XXXII 1998 Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, Temptations, Queen Latifah
XXXI 1997 Blues Brothers - Dan Akroyd, John Goodman, James Belushi, ZZ Top, James Brown
XXX 1996 Diana Ross
XXIX 1995 KPatti LaBelle, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval, Miami Sound Machine
XXVIII 1994 Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, Wynonna & Naomi Judd
XXVII 1993 Michael Jackson
XXVI 1992 Gloria Estefan, Brian Boitano, Dorothy Hamill
XXV 1991 New Kids on the Block
XXIV 1990 Pete Fountain, Doug Kershaw, Irma Thomas
XXIII 1989 South Florida-area dancers and performers
XXII 1988 HChubby Checker, Rockettes & 88 grand pianos
XXI 1987 Southern California-area high school drill teams and dancers
XX 1986 Up With People
XIX 1985 U.S. Air Force Band: "Tops in Blue"
XVIII 1984 University of Florida and Florida State University Bands
XVII 1983 Los Angeles Super Drill Team
XVI 1982 Up With People
XV 1981 Helen O'Connell
XIV 1980 Up With People
XIII 1979 Ken Hamilton, various Caribbean Bands
XII 1978 Tyler Apache Belles, Pete Fountain & Al Hirt
XI 1977 Los Angeles Unified All-City Band & Crowd Participation
X 1976 Up With People
IX 1975 Mercer Ellington & Grambling University Bands
VIII 1974 University of Texas Band
VII 1973 University of Michigan Band & Woody Herman
VI 1972 Ella Fitzgerald, Carol Channing, Al Hirt & U.S. Marine Corps Drill Team
V 1971 Anita Bryant & The Golden Eagles Marching Band from Southeast Missouri State College
IV 1970 Carol Channing
III 1969 Florida A&M University
II 1968 Grambling University Band
I 1967 Universities of Arizona & Michigan Bands

Welcome, Find a Seat at the Back....

Welcome to all the nice folks coming in from Lance Mannion's blog, and many tips o' the trilby to the Lancemeister Himself for sending you over this way! He's a prince, ain't he!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A Little Palate-Teaser...

When a prominent and courageous Union man in Harpers Ferry, a schoolmaster named Law, disappeared one night, it was feared that he had been abducted. This was confirmed when a local resident confessed years later...that this unnamed Confederate and some other members of Mobberly's gang had taken Law to a lonely spot of [Short Hill] Mountain and staked him down to the ground to die of exposure, wild beasts or whatever.

And many were sure this happened more than once. When Loudoun Ranger John W. Forsythe published his memoirs in 1892, he related that Mobberly's gang seldom took prisoners, and if they did, would execute the prisoner by leaving him on the mountain pinned down by huge rocks; the evidence being that "a number of skeletons" were found in this position at the close of the war. A newspaper report from a few days after the war's end mentions the pinned-down skeletons too.
-- Rough-Riding Scout, The Story of John Mobberly, Loudoun's Own Civil War Guerrilla Hero, by Richard E. Crouch, Elden Editions, 1994

Main course yet to come. Still trying to dope out the best way to tell the story. You Will Not Be Disappointed. This is a true MoFo of a tale...

Up Next on the Mobberly Trail: Eat your brussells sprouts, kid, they're good for ya!

Friday, February 04, 2005

A Lick of Snow

So we had a lick of snow yesterday, completely unforeseen by the puff-headed Storm Center newsbots of network TV. At work, I stuck my head out of my burrow at 10:30 and noted what could only be a quick flurry. That flurry persisted through lunch, and when next I reemerged mid-afternoon, it finally occurred to me that it might be time to hightail it for home before traffic got ridiculous.

Well, traffic had already got ridiculous.

The snow was of the gummy sort that makes great snowballs, but drive over it just once on warm asphalt and it turns into death-dealing, slick-ass, all-weather-radial-defying sheet ice. Aghast, I watched a car slide off a canted section of Route 9 into a ditch while standing completely still.

This fall after the move to the country I bought a used four-wheel-drive truck for exactly this kind of circumstance. I had imagined myself nobly rescuing enmired minivans loaded with frightened soccer moms and wide-eyed kiddies, gently spurning any recompense but gratitude with a shrug and a wave: "Glad to help, ma'am... Now you get home and get some hot chocolate into those kids, y'hear?"

One of the first things I'd noticed about the Ford Ranger was how incredibly smooth was the on-the-fly switch from rear-wheel to four-wheel drive modes. Flip the switch, you'd have thought nothing happened at all. Once, by oversight, I had neglected to shift it out of the "4WD Low" setting after doing some brush-hauling, and drove to work at 75 MPH. The thing didn't complain at all, just purred right along. In retrospect I guess this should have set off a few alarm bells, shouldn't it. Hindsight, boys and girls. Nothing beats it.

So traffic on Route 9 being backed up all the way to the West Virginia border, I bailed out via Waterford, taking back roads -- the less paved, the better, because my tires got a good bite on the gravel that they didn't get on asphalt. Halfway down Rickard Road, though, I fishtailed badly (In a four-wheel-drive truck, Uncle Neddie? In a four-wheel drive truck, son. Now hush.) and slewed into a ditch. Rocking violently I was able to extricate myself, but then a few curves further along I couldn't ball it up a hill, lost momentum, slid sideways, and wound up about as stuck as a tassel-loafer-sportin', lightweight-houndstooth-sport-jacket-wearin', gloves-and-hat-forgettin', blowdried-Storm-Center-Four-weasel-trust-regrettin' yuppie can get.

Of course you've guessed it by now, but this goddamned truck had never switched into four-wheel-drive mode from the day I bought it till this. It possesses a Potemkin mode-switch, a placebo device about as useful as nipples on men. I opened the window, stuck out my head, mashed the accelerator pedal and watched as the rear tires spun impotently while the front tires lit cigarettes and brewed a nice cup of tea. CarMax shall hear of this, I thought furiously, stabbing AAA's number into my cell phone.

At that moment there was a knock on my window. "You stuck?"

Fella, thirties, canvas snowsuit, longshoreman's cap, big green boots, ski gloves.

"Sure am. Calling AAA now."

"Hang on, I got some chains."

He disappeared behind me. The driver's side of my truck was pressed against the left bank of the road, so I couldn't open my door on that side. Clumsily I shifted to the passenger side, opened the door, started to walk toward his truck. My loafers went out from under me, I hit the road very hard, shoulders and neck first. For a second I couldn't breathe, seeing stars. The beginnings of a migraine started throbbing at the top of my head.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, fine. Just slipped."

"Watch yourself."

Thanks. I'll do that.

His truck is an F-250, a big proletarian thing. He has loads of stuff in the back, spools and toolboxes and old tire rims. And chains.

As he fixed his chains to our trucks, I jabbered, justifying my presence. "The roads are nuts! I got behind some people on Milltown Road who were sliding all over the place, and thought I'd be better off on the back roads, and now this!"

"Yeah, people just don't know how to drive in this stuff."

"...Yeah...." My fingers were numb.

"This a four-wheel?"

"Supposed to be. I think it's busted."


He pulled me out, hauled me to the top of the hill. Unhitched us.

I thanked him. He allowed he was glad to help.

Never in my life have I hated anyone more.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

In Which I Consign the Mighty to Hell

Was there ever a more useless individual than Tina Brown? When I want to know what's going on in the zeitgeist of the Noo Yawk society toffs and high-powered financiers with whom she relentlessly scrapes acquaintance and then blabs about in her WashPost toadyfest, I'll bloody well phone them up and ask them. Ugh.

Link may require registration, if you haven't already. And you should have already.

Actually, there is one more useless individual, Orville Redenbacher:

What a cringe-inducing performance that was.

Rashomon in the Blue Ridge

I don't want to shoot my whole John Mobberly wad in one post. I'm going to dole it out slowly, because this guy's just too rich a dish to be shoveled into one's piehole in one sitting. Think of this as the appetizer, a bowl of Civil War Psycho gazpacho before the main course: the Loudoun Burning Raid, Mosby and the Loudoun Rangers -- and a case of revenge, served cold.


It is not uncommon, when waiting at a traffic light next to some depressing strip mall full of Southeast Asian lingerie importers and decrepit Gymboree franchises in the sleepy Northern Virginia suburbs, for one's gaze to alight on one of those flyblown and illegible roadside historical markers that commemorate some long-ago, deservedly obscure event:
Chunkahominy Road: During the disastrous Chaulmoogra Campaign of 1863, Colonel Rampant "Hap" Apathee and the Nineteenth Kewland Zouaves encamped at the Exxon on your right for three days to "freshen up" before turning east on the northward southwest push into Maryland, which resulted in the self-directed enfilade historians have come to call 'The Nineteenth's Nervous Breakdown.'
If you believe the Lovettsville Historical Society (and you'd have to be some kind of plumb fool not to), such a marker may very well deserve to be placed very near the place I lay my downy head. On January 17-18, 1865, at Georges Mill Schoolhouse near Irish Corner, a skirmish took place. Two accounts exist of the engagement, one Union and one Secesh, and they're so completely at odds that you wonder if the the writers saw the same battle at all.

The Union account:
Report of Brig. Gen. Thomas C. Devin, U.S. Army, commanding Second Brigade, First Cavalry Division, Middle Military Division

Your dispatch received at midnight of Tuesday, January 17th, Colonel White, Of Rosser's cavalry, with a force said by citizens to number 220 men, crossed the Short Hill by a mountain path within five miles of Harper's Ferry, and surprised the vedettes of Sixth New York on that road without a shot; charged the reserve, who were all on hand and resisted stoutly, but were forced back on the camp. The men of the Sixth turned out of the huts, formed in their streets, and in three minutes flanked and drove White out of the camp, killing 3 of his men, who were found, and wounding, more or less severely, 11, who were carried off. As soon as the Sixth could obtain permission they saddled and followed White to Purcellville, but could not overtake him.

The Reb account:
In January, 1865, Colonel White came to Loudoun and taking a view of the situation, resolved to try a raid into the federal camp.

[John] Mobberly, Lum Wenner and others who knew the Lovettsville country almost as well as if they had made it, scouted for him and with great difficulty obtained the information that the 6th New York Cavalry was encamped nearest the Short Hill and had about two hundred and fifty men in camp.

On the evening of the 17th, the Colonel quietly collected what force he could in that part of the county ... and about 9 o'clock the little squadron moved from the rendezvous and passing Neersville, crossed the Short Hill by a narrow path near St. Paul's.

On clearing the mountain a small advance guard, led by Mobberly, was sent out to capture the pickets, but very soon firing was heard, and dashing rapidly forward the Colonel found that Mobberly and Frank Curry had been compelled to shoot some of the enemy at the reserve of the post, and knowing that success depended on surprising the camp, he continued the charge. [This "Mobberly had been compelled to shoot" business is a very nice little foretaste of Mobberly's personality, by the way -- he'd rather shoot him some Yankees than preserve the element of surprise...]

Great confusion was the result of the attack.... Capt. Bell [of 6th New York] coolly proceeded to rally such of his men as were not too much demoralized, and in a very brief space had about two hundred of them in line on the opposite side of the extensive ground, with whom he advanced very unexpectedly upon the raiders, who were compelled to retire very precipitately....

The two accounts, though differing radically, do share some elements in common; for example, they agree that Mobberly had scouted out a path over Short Hill and led the larger Reb force under Col. White into an encampment behind Georges Mill Shoolhouse.

OK, all very interesting, but...awfully abstract, don't you think?

So what if I showed you this:

That's the portion of Short Hill that Mobberly led the Rebs over. How do I know this?

Because I found this:

That's Egg Path, the mountain trail that I first blogged about in "One Hardscrabble Sumbitch" a couple weeks ago. It fits all the descriptions above: On the other side of Short Hill, it emerges near St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Neersville, "within five miles of Harpers Ferry."

Notice in the Reb account that Mobberly "knew the Lovettsville country almost as well as if [he] had made it." Mobberly was all over Short Hill Mountain in 1864-65, knew every nook and cranny of the place, encamped on it with his band of psycho buddies (including, let's not forget, Union Deserter French Bill), and made himself the scourge of the farmers of Lovettsville. If you had been sitting in my living room in 1865, chances were very good that those cracking twigs up the hill were Mobberly and his berzerkers sneaking around up there, and if you knew what was good for you you'd put another log on the fire, pull your blanket up around your ears, and hope to hell Mobberly wasn't here to relieve you of your horses or your daughters, 'cos if he wanted 'em, he took 'em, and you had no say in the matter.

Turn 180 degrees from where that first photograph above was taken, and you'll see this:

That's Georges Mill Schoolhouse, today a private residence, and as far as I can tell, the field to the left is where encampment stood, and where the action took place.

And a few yards further to the left, since we are, after all, commemorating This Hallowed Ground, a token of the esteem in which we hold our legacy:

If I am fortunate enough to be remembered after my death, I would like the following inscription on my tombstone:


Next up on the Mobberly Trail: Yo, wolves and buzzards! Come and get it!

Paperback Believer

Great Fab/Prefab mashup: I'm a Paperback Writer Believer (Thanks to John McEvoy for the link.)

As an inveterate Beatles trivia loon, I can't help pointing out that if you look carefully enough at Paul's mouth in the full-size version of that Beatles Paperback Writer vid, you'll see he's trying to hide a broken-off snaggle-tooth and a cut on his lip. This was a result of a mild motorcycle crash he'd had the night before while goofing around with Tara Browne, probably pretty stoned. He hadn't yet had a chance to get to a dentist to cap the tooth. Paul grew his Sgt. Pepper moustache to hide the healing cut.

That accident gave rise to the "Paul Is Dead" myth: Tara Browne was the guy who, a few months after, "blew his mind out in a car," not having "noticed that the lights had changed." (Wasted on acid, natch.) Sweaty obsessives figured that must have referred to Paul, not Reid.

One of the most amazing coincidences I've ever come across: The guy who arguably is responsible for the creation of the Paul Is Dead myth, Fred LaBour, went on to become bassist Too Slim in Riders in the Sky. I jack you not around.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Me Work Hard One Day...

...But not today.

Instead, I have been immersing myself in that Unusual Articles Wikipedia page I blogged earlier.

I believe that every day at a given regular time, we should stop in our tracks, as in the Muslim custom of salah, or prayer, and express our joy, through peaceful meditation and quiet reflection, that we live in a world that can contain both a Heribert Illig and a Sealand.

Cruel Tease

Your Neddie's hot on the trail of one John Mobberly, a Civil War psychopath who raided and plundered and generally Zarqawi'd northern Loudoun County in 1864 and '65 -- loosely allied with Purcellville's John Mosby, but waaaaaaay crazier.

With Union deserter French Bill and an elusive band of ruthless horsemen, he terrorized Loudoun county and the Harpers Ferry area with lightning raids from their mountain hideouts."

Woooo-HOO! Wouldn't you give your left gonad to meet some cat named "Union deserter French Bill?" Well, I've got the pictures to go with the tale, just give me a few days to write 'er up....

Next on the Mobberly Trail: Rashomon in the Blue Ridge

There Goes the Afternoon

Just found this thing in Eccentric Flower's blog, and the rest of my day is a guaranteed washout. I've flamed Wikipedia in other forums, and even a quick scan of this page reveals some howler errors, but great Backus's Ghost this page has me cracking my knuckles in glee:

Wikipedia:Unusual articles

I Am Wearing Women's Clothing

Rifling through sock drawer this AM, found a pair of blue cotton mid-calf socks, donned same.

Realized, as donning took place, that socks possessed a snugness that suggested a delicate feminine foot with well-turned ankle, and not the Jingo Clodhopper. It was quite possible that Wonder Woman had misplaced her own hosiery in my sock drawer.

And maybe she did it on purpose! What sort of erotic cat-and-mouse game is being played out here, eh? Ooh-la-la!

Confession time: Instead of shrieking and recoiling and throwing the offending footwear across the room and reassuring myself of my manly hetero butchitude...I decided I'd go with it.

And so, my little cyberfriends, I'm coming out of the closet. You may now strike up some stripper music for the Great Revealing:

God, isn't that just so hot?

I know it's a slippery slope from here on out. Today some blue socks, tomorrow it's a t-shirt, a jacket that buttons right-over-left, Land's End felt clogs, perhaps even (thrills!) an Eddie Bauer parka with fluffy fur trim!

Worlds are opening up!


Postscript: Stripper Music

You know that archetypal piece of music that starts up whenever somebody starts a striptease -- all sliding glissando trombones and bump-and-grind drumming? What's that piece of music called? First to answer me gets a JPEG of my other foot....

And why can't Google or somebody, having come up with a search engine that's damned near black magic in its near-telepathic ability to find immediately exactly what you're looking for, come up with a search thingy where you hum something into your computer and it finds the tune you want? You know: "It's that one that goes de-dah-de-dum, de-dah-de-dum, de-DUM (pissssh!), de-DUM (pissssh!), de-DUM (pissssh!)... What's that called?

I demand answers.