Socotra House Publishing: Purveyor of Glib Words to the World
Socotra House Publishing is a small press dedicated to publishing and distributing the historical works of Vic Socotra, a non-mortal fellow who captures American and military history with aplomb.
Correcting the Record
It was a hell of a weekend. Rain all day yesterday, not a bad thing, we need it, but it seemed to be in keeping for the big March for Science that has us all excited. I think it was Earth Day as well, and I would have worn my starched white Lab Coat, but I am not really a scientist any more than that amusing Bill Nye fellow is. I think he has a Bachelor’s in Engineering degree before he went into children’s television programming. But that is the state of our discourse these days- if I identify as a scientist in the morning, I should be able to use the same bathrooms they do, right?
Oh, heck, this is too easy. I will let the delicious irony drip elsewhere. Think of the Children.
But before those eager fingers reach out to the keyboard to respond and tell me that I am in the pay of Big Oil or a shill for the tobacco lobby, let me point out that we at the Daily Socotra are not afraid to acknowledge our errors, which is a bit more than the scientific community is wont to do in these late waning days of the Republic.
Yesterday, I grabbed some words about a wonderful Russia-Uzbekistan fusion restaurant called Rus Uz that came out this way:
Considering that we had to work our way through eleven shots of infused vodka to get to the point where we actually ordered the tasty hors d’oeuvres, I am not surprised that ‘mistakes were made,’ and it is clear I need to leave my current position (like House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz) to ‘spend more time with my family.’
The key to my confusion was the anglicized term for the Pirozhki on the menu. To me, that sounded like the common Slavic root of the Polish term for their little meat or potato dumpling Pirogis, and hence my addled attribution. Alert readers from Newfoundland to Baja California pointed out that the image included in the graphic-novel narrative of an extremely interesting cultural experience was actually a Chebureki, an Uzbeki deep-fried turnover with a filling of seasoned ground beef and onions. It is made with a single round piece of dough folded over the filling in a half-moon shape, and served with sour cream.
The management of Socotra House deeply regrets disseminating what is clearly fake news. But whatever the damn things were, they were delicious! Why they call their ‘pirogis’ by the name ‘chebureki’ is totally beyond us. But that said, the vodka was totally unambiguous.
(A much more accurate depiction of the pirozhki filo-dough wrappers, stuffed with either spicy ground beef or mashed potatoes with mushrooms. You can understand our error, but we stand with our mistakes!).
Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
It is raining in Arlington this morning and generally too crappy to go outside and do anything more than drink coffee and look at the puddles. That was not the case last night, in which the Willow Refugees struck out in a bold new direction- a clear step toward “getting in touch with our inner ‘Stans.” In this case it was Uzbekistan on Fairfax Drive…via the old Russian empire…
Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
Life & Island Times: What It Was Wasn’t Exactly Clear
Editor’s Note: Marlow brings back some memories from a quarter century ago. Not good ones. We all share them, though. Last night there was the monthly gathering of the tribe down in Old Town at the Sonoma Cellars wine bar. Our missing comrades could have been there had they made other choices.
April 21, 2017
What It Was Wasn’t Exactly Clear
I came across an early 1990’s funeral card for one of our nation’s active duty Navy spooks. He was one of a series of wonderful people who shockingly suicided themselves during a short period of time.
We survivors thought we were smart, but there was so much we didn’t know then. The causes and effects did not start to become clear until much much later. All we had for many years was the sadness.
As our bodies aged and fact-filled, prowling minds relaxed, we dropped the filters of what we were, and so began to see beyond the anguish more clearly and deeply.
four of our best died by their own hand
in the 90s to get away,
and we who they left behind
never quite understood
how strongly they
They were senior officers in their mid-forties, when they finished themselves off. There’d be no more morning coffee sipping, office politics, Christmas parties, birthdays, and payments on new cars and bills for electricity, gas, water — the whole enchilada of necessities.
They were really likeable and smart guys, married with children. I wondered if they had concluded the world was senseless only to discover that this awareness almost gave it some sense. You know what I mean – sort of an optimistic pessimism. Did their choice came down to “kill myself or love myself?”
In the end they had nothing, and they found out that having nothing was too difficult. It was an unbearable burden. If only there’d been some gentler road in between. To those left behind, they had other choices. They only saw one.
It took a long time to first see that.
They had no more interest. In anything. They had no idea how to escape. We blind mice still had some taste for life. They seemed to understand something that we didn’t understand. Maybe we were lacking. It was possible. They just wanted to get away. But there was no place to go. Suicide? Jesus Christ. The color in their eyes went back into the ocean, as they drove over the sea cliff edge.
Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat/Bukowski
Arrias on Politics: North Korea’s Weapons: Whose Money?
Editor’s Note: It is Easter Sunday, a day of joy throughout Christendom for the resurrection of the Risen Christ. Have the very best holiday possible! And remember, Arrias is a real person, not the Easter Bunny.
North Korea’s Weapons: Whose Money?
They held a parade in Pyongyang on Saturday… It’s worth searching the internet and looking at the pictures to grasp just how much effort they placed in the parade — and how much gear was on display. In particular, three different long-range missiles were on display, one completely new, never seen before.
With just 25 million people, north Korea (per the International Institute for Strategic Studies) has an active duty military force of 1.2 million, 2,400 tanks, 21,000 pieces of artillery, more than 70 submarines, and more than 850 combat aircraft and helicopters. True, many are very old systems, far less effective than similar systems used by the US or the Republic of Korea; and the average soldier in the north Korean army is paid nearly nothing. But, with a nominal GDP of less than $25 billion (and perhaps only half that), how is north Korea paying for this weapons program?
In 1995 north Korea, following negotiations with the US, agreed to end its nuclear programs (the US-North Korean Agreed Framework), and several years later agreed to adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MCTR). But, by 2000 it was clear they were violating the MCTR, and by 2003 it was clear that they were also violating the Framework.
Nevertheless, nuclear weapon development was slow, and development of long-range missiles was only a bit less difficult, with one long-range missile tested in 1998, and a longer-range version of the same missile tested (unsuccessfully) in 2006. Seven other missiles were successfully tested at that time.
Late in 2006 they detonated an atomic “device,” clearly demonstrating they’d been secretly working on the program despite the Framework signed with the Clinton administration.
In 2009 they successfully tested a long-range missile and a second atomic device. In April 2012 they launched another ICBM, but it failed 90 seconds after lift-off. They tried again and succeed in December 2012.
They have since conducted three atomic “weapon” tests (Feb. 2013, Jan. 2016, Sept. 2016) and appear to be preparing a 6th test.
In 2014 they conducted 2 test launches of medium-range Nodong missiles, and 30 short-range (battlefield) missiles.
In 2015 they conducted 3 developmental tests of a submarine launched ballistic missile, and 5 short-range (125 miles) missiles.
In 2016 they launched a long-range ballistic missile, 8 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (7 of which failed), 2 KN-11 submarine launched ballistic missiles, a medium-range Nodong ballistic missile, and 3 other medium-range ballistic missiles.
So far in 2017 they’ve tested a new ballistic missile, the Pukguksong-2, a solid-fueled, medium-range missile, utilizing a fairly advanced “cold-launch” technology, meaning the missile is ejected from its canister using compressed gas, and the new missile on April 15 – which apparently failed. They also simultaneously launched 4 ballistic missiles that flew about 625 miles and landed in Japan’s economic exclusion zone, about 180 miles off Japan.
Which leads to a simple question: Who is funding this? Developing and testing missiles, and especially developing and testing atomic weapons, is expensive. For more than a decade north Korea conducted no developmental missile launches. But since 2009 they’ve conducted more than 20 tests of medium and long-range missiles, while also increasing the effort on their nuclear weapon program.
All this taking place while maintaining a huge military force that includes roughly 5% of the total population.
Obviously, part of this funding comes from Kim’s budget preferences: missiles and warheads before people. But, even assuming Kim’s willingness to starve his people while accepting lower quality, lower reliability weapons; weapons development requires cash and technology. So, in a country that’s had a stagnant economy for more than two decades, is it a reasonable suspicion someone is providing funds, and perhaps some key technology, to help accelerate the programs?
What country would possibly be interested in developing a nuclear weapon and a missile capable of delivering the weapon?
Interestingly, on January 29th of this year, Iran launched a missile that was, according to a Pentagon spokesman, an Iranian produced or assembled version of a north Korean Musudan intermediate range missile. You remember Iran… That country was able to access some $150 billion after sanctions had been lifted following the signing of the ‘Iran nuclear deal’ in 2015. In a mystery novel those might be called clues.
A bad agreement in 1995 helped create the current crisis in north Korea. In 2015 we signed arguably a worse agreement with Iran. Are we going to face a similar crisis with Iran in 10 or 20 years?
Copyright 2017 Arrias
Life & Island Times: Strong Letter To Follow
Editor’s Note: Marlow is a real live human being. Really.
Author’s Note: This is not something I wanted to share, let alone post, during Holy Week. So, I withheld it for the coming week. True story nonetheless.
Strong Letter To Follow
I found a single day’s correspondence I had had with various factotums years ago. I smiled when the details surrounding them became clear.
woke around 10 and went downstairs to fetch the mail
in my old blue bathrobe.
I was hung over
hair looked like confused harbor seas
my scarred bare feet
stiffly teetered down the narrow wooden staircase
to the front door mail box
I scratched my three-day beard
As I bent over
the roofers across the street dropped
a stack of metal tiles
crashing on sidewalk
Shit fire! it was like being hit in the back
with buck shot
“dammit,” I shouted
gathering up a VISA card bill, catalogs,
property tax and gas payment notices,
letters from the probate lawyer and
the divorce attorney
plus an unsigned note that
requested I not furnish evidence next month
I limped back up the narrow stairs
Thinking maybe I’ll write them saying
for judgement day
is about to close in on them
there’s only one way to handle these jerks.
the day’s writing would have to wait
Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
Life & Island Times: El Dorado
Editor’s Note: Marlow is his own man. Like, totally.
– The Editorial Board
I found one of my old state highway maps from a cross country trip in 2005. It prompted this memory:
no chance at all,
completely cut off from
eastern imperial cities,
I was a middle aged man
riding my motorcycle
on the way to a rendezvous
my stomach began growling
and the bike stopped
at a little cafe
in El Dorado.
locals were there
I sat at table
in the back
so I could see the others,
I ordered and the
the meal was
so was the
the waitress was
unlike the other women
she was natural
others at nearby tables
said funny crazy
the sun begin to shine on Central Street
I wanted to stay
in that cafe
it had possession
it would always stay beautiful
I had to go
Steve would be waiting for me in Hays
I told myself
that it was time
to mount up and ride.
I thought once more,
I’ll just sit
here and stay
but I rose and entered the El Dorado sunlight
I found my bike
and looked back at the cafe
as the bike accelerated out of town
then around a curve
into some hills
I looked straight ahead
wondering if the others
at the cafe
I looked one last time
in the rear view mirrors
to see if El Dorado
was still there.
there was nothing in them
I listened to the
thrum of the
of the tires
on the pavement
Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
(Mother of all Bombs. It is not Halloween, so it did not come in pumpkin colors this morning).
Well, they did it yesterday morning, their time, and if it just so happened that the largest non-nuclear air-dropped bomb in the world was dropped from a specially configured C-130 near a tunnel and bunker complex in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, in the extreme eastern part of the Country. It is a complete coincidence that a firefight in the same Achin district of the province took the life of US Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, of the 7th Special Forces Group. Complete coincidence.
(SSGT. Mark De Alencar, US Special Forces. RIP).
The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) is known to users as the Mother of All Bombs. It is 21,000 pounds of outreach. The one in the picture above is the test platform used in Florida in 2003. I imagine the real thing is much more subdued in its paint scheme. The Mother is a large-yield conventional developed for the United States military by Albert L. Weimorts, Jr. of the Air Force Research Laboratory.
(Albert Weimorts, desinger of the Mother, and a great American).
It is a special weapon. I have dealt with requirements to take out deeply buried targets- bunkers and the like- which require highly strengthened penetrating weapons. That is not what the Mother was intended to do, so this is not a “bunker buster.” It is an area effects weapon, and it has got some effect.
(BLU-82B Daisy Cutter weapon like the one we used in DESERT STORM to breach the Iraqi defensive berms).
The Mother is not that. It is a lineal descendent of the famous BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, a fuel-air bomb designed to detonate feet above the jungle floor and clear helicopter landing zones in Southeast Asia. There are other applications, of course, and as our jungle-fighting requirements diminished after Vietnam was lost, the weapons were retired to that big warehouse at Area 51 where they keep the Arc of the Covenant when the White House is not using it and all the other cool stuff.
Our little merry band of Joint Staff planners was neck-deep in big bombs as we approached the time for the big “left hook” swing around the mass of Saddam’s Republican Guards as we transitioned from the Air War to the Ground Offensive in Iraq in 1990. Big Blue (no offense, IBM!) turned out to have a powerful psychological effect, and the follow-on Mother is primarily intended for soft-to-medium surface targets covering extended areas. And targets in a contained environment such as a deep canyon or within a cave system where the overpressure can do some truly amazing and fun things to people you do not like.
It is a thing of wonder.
Back in my day, all we had was the limited inventory of remaining BLU-82B weapons and no one was talking about dropping the Arc of the Covenant, the only thing possibly more powerful. We had to get by with only 15,000 pounds of explosives, but you do what you can.
The night of the breaching operation we were all gathered around the televisions to see if we could get CNN Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) in real time and not have to wait for the satellite overhead time.
As it turned out, the BLU-82 did just fine, and anyone within a few miles of the detonation were rendered- how do you say in English? Hors de combat?
For our purposes, it was perfectly sufficient, and I understand they used the last of the the inventory early in the Afghanistan campaign that followed 9/11. The best characterization I can give you is that a British commander who was going across the berms with the Yanks saw what had happened when the bomb struck, and reported that the Americans had “gone nuke.”
We were delighted.
But before we get too cozy with all this, word is that the Russians have got one they claim is more than twice as big. I have to shrug, though. They would probably have to deliver it by FedEx.
Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
(Mac dressed to kill for his 90th birthday cruise on the Potomac).
I sent yesterday’s story on Mac Showers and his involvement with the emergence of the “technological transfer” issue with unvarnished relief as I mashed the button on the wireless keyboard. And it came with not a touch of wistful melancholy. Then I saved the file in the proper format and located the drop-in point in the larger of the two narrative files that contain an increasingly unwieldy document.
I have a great deal of sympathy for you, Gentle Reader. I have released these essays as I found the source notes, and have shamelessly recycled some older accounts. I think I have got them all, finally.
It is daunting- and large enough that the manuscript must, perforce, be separated into The amazing saga of the Pacific War takes up a good chunk of the book- but the second and third parts were equally fascinating to hash out at the Willow bar.
Sure, we talked in his apartment at The Madison if something came up that had him engaged, like a particularly satisfying obit he noticed in the Washington Post. But mostly the Willow was a good excuse for him to get dressed up and get out of the sameness of his lodgings. That meant that Willow and the lush pallate of bartenders, chefs and servers all melded together with the Usual Suspects on the consumer side of the bar into one extended narrative flow.
I doubt if I will ever see anything quite like it- between the quality of the food and beverages, Mac’s beatific presence and that of the rest of the crew at the Amen Corner, it put a sort of decade-long exclamation point at the end of the American Century.
So sitting down with the piles of old cocktail napkins, assorted notebooks, and a look through the hundreds of pictures is just about done. The key points are completed with the manuscript. That is an accomplishment in which I take some satisfaction. I told Mac I was going to do it, and actually got a slim volume published about his war year while he was alive to see it. There are some hanging chads, though, I know. Now the second pass must begin. There is the cover art to be dealt with, the table of contents and ISBN to be affixed, the basic formatting of the manuscript into three or four parts, the piddly stuff that requires thought but no mental heavy lifting and very little in the way of emotion, actually living the moments it was being created in the cheerful dimness of the bar.
I feel good about getting to this point, though I am also painfully aware that the project will never really be done. If I can’t find a decent editor, there will be my trademark typos, things I mis-heard, or just got wrong. Mac was never guilty of any of those.
And of course there are loose ends. They include the Jack Graf affair, the un-mentioned matter of Mac’s participation in the FISA Court establishment and the project that spawned the documentary about that other event in the Pacific. That one came with a warning from the then-Director of Naval Intelligence not to talk about it, so I won’t, though Mac had some great stories about the
And with that, the story is pretty much complete. I am hoping that the unstated history of how a life can be lived in full can come through- and why it is important to talk to those who have been privileged to have waded vicariously through the most significant events of Mac’s 93 years on the planet and his ring-side seat at the circus.
With this project now down to the mechanical phase, I may have to go back to thinking one of these mornings. I am a little uneasy about that. Everyone seems to have lost their sense of humor, and frankly it was a relief to zorch off into other times that were just as complex and alarming as ours is now. But there is a certain comfort in that, since we know how those events turned out, and have incorporated them into what we call ‘history.’
I am no particular fan of Francis Fukuyama’s musing about the end of it- history, that is- and having to actually generate original material again in the morning brings up an entirely new kettle of fish.
With so much of the world roiled in religious strife, it should not come as a huge surprise that I have tuned out the Christian Holy Week. If I was following the traditions, which I was, in a manner of speaking, since I was glued to coverage of the Masters golf tournament over the weekend- I would have noted the previous three days that were awash in drama.
First of course was the commemoration of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The cleansing of the Temple and continued Temple controversies would have occupied my thoughts, had I thought them, and now we have arrived at the anniversary of Wednesday, April 12, A.D. 33, and it comes with a memory from the second oldest trade practiced by humans: espionage.
So forgive me for continuing to plow the furrow I have been laboring on since before the holidays. Evil was afoot in Jerusalem this day long ago. I was startled to think of it as a fresh memory. I walked to The Garden there in Jerusalem twenty-seven years ago. The memories should have been sepia-toned, right? But instead they were fresh as could be. Then I realized I had mentally walked there again when I transcribed my notes a couple years ago for “Cruise Book,” the account of the USS Forrestal Med Cruise that accompanied the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and the resurrection of a whole new world.
The Church has long called this day “Spy Wednesday,” marking the days distinctly as the conspiracy against Jesus raced forward. It was not just the Romans, but it now included a traitor from within. It is this day when the key pieces come together in the plot for the murder of the Messiah.
Jesus woke this Wednesday just outside Jerusalem, in the village of Bethany, where he has been crashing at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He intends to teach again on Temple Mount, and attracts a crowd. But now the local community leaders, silenced by Jesus the day before, will leave him be. Today they will avoid public confrontation and instead connive in private. Caiaphas, the high priest, gathers to his private residence the chief priests and Pharisees, and a deal is struck that will compensate a member of the inner circle for the betrayal.
Well, as much as those who have spent a life in the shadow world dislike admitting it, that is part of the nature of the business. Many people observe this day as “Holy Wednesday,” or “Good Wednesday.” I am going to remember it for what it was.
Oh, I almost forgot about the plump little man in Pyongyang. They are going to have a massive military parade this weekend to showcase their latest murderous missile and commemorate the 105th birthday of the founder of the ruling brand, Kim Il Song. I may get out the lapel badge the Northerners presented to us when we were leaving the capital. The parade may be a low-key way to showcase their capabilities without actually conducting an ICBM launch along with another nuclear test. After all, the Chinese have moved 150,000 troops to the border along the Yalu River just in case something happens untoward.
In the forty years I have been watching the Korea Problem, I have never before felt that something might change in the endless Armistice on the Peninsula. Maybe it will.
Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
Life & Island Times: Drive-in Nightmare
Editor’s Note: Standard disclaimer. Marlow is an actual human being and a welcome guest on the Socotra House LLC site. I miss our place- Maverick’s, on Woodward Ave. in suburban Detroit. If I had his car I would probably already be dead.
I grew up in a place called Clintonville, a small streetcar suburb that was swallowed whole by the city of Columbus Ohio during the baby boom explosion. Growth became crazy as every family had to have a car to get around when the city’s rail trolley system closed in 1948.
Culture disrupting byproducts of this automobile age were the drive-in theaters, restaurants, and sales kiosks that catered to a new customer base that lived this auto life. At their height in the 1960s, there were tens of thousands of drive-in restaurants and theaters in suburban, rural, and even in urban areas. Drive-in theaters started closing in the mid 1960’s, but drive-in restaurants were hitting their stride with licensed boomer drivers motoring their jalopies to their generation’s social networking sites.
Every weekend night starting a bit before sundown these places was jammed with hungry teens ready to down a “Super Jumbo” burger, fries and coke. The hipsters smoked cigarettes, but most were there to check out the opposite sex fauna. Tight pants, bouffant hairdos, oh my. Many of us cruised the place in our hot rods, looking for someone to pull out or challenge us and our ride.
Even now, I can hear songs that played from the AM radios in our cars at our local drive-in diner:
“Superstock Dodge is windin’ out in low/But my fuel-injected Stingray’s really startin’ to go. To get the traction I’m ridin’ the clutch/My pressure plate’s burnin’, this machine’s too much.”
“She’s got a competition clutch with a four on the floor, and she purrs like a kitten til the lake pipes roar.”
“And she’ll have fun, fun, fun til her daddy takes her T-bird away.”
“Turn it on, wind it up, blow it out — GTOoooo.”
After I graduated high school, the local fuzz stopped letting anyone cruise through Jerry’s lot or hang out and talk. This plus the draft, war, college and the onset of the J-O-B phase of our lives was beginning of the end of drive-in restaurants. It was a slo-mo drive-in nightmare.
By the time we boomers started to hit the half century mark during the 1990s, only one or two of these dine-in-your-car eateries per city remained. I was lucky – my place, Jerry’s at the corner of High Street and Morse Road- lasted until 1986, when it was sold to a series of owners who by deed restrictions had to keep the place open as a restaurant and maintain its fabulous moving neon sign out front. It is still there under a different name.
I have fond memories of Jerry’s with its downstairs bathrooms, the inlaid sparkly floor, the chocolate iced brownies for desert, and the owner’s office where a huge shiny blue swordfish hung on the wall.
The continued existence of these surviving drive-ins was assured when we boomer geezers started forming classic car clubs and holding regular gatherings at them. Not much at these events goes on anymore regarding checking out the chicks and certainly there’s no more pull outs for clandestine racing on the back roads. Nope. It’s just old farts sitting in folding lawn chairs next to classic rides, sipping a bagged beer and swapping lies about the old days.
We are seeing perhaps the final death knell of the boomer car culture with more millennials shying away from acquiring driver’s licenses and cars until they reach their mid to late twenties. I guess Uber, carbon footprints, greenhouse gases and alternative energy are having an effect. I can hear the song lyrics now . . .
She’ll have fun, fun, fun, til her daddy takes her Prius away.”
Click it on, charge it up, whine it out, little Focus Ceeeeee”
Maybe sometime in the distant future, American car culture will return to its roots, when the whiskey runners in the South ran from the cops. Perhaps this time the cars themselves will be bootlegged — fat, fast and gas-powered — racing through the night on off-the-map roads while the cops hunt them down using multi –sensor stealth drones. Reborn to run, anyone?
Hopefully, we octogenarian rebels will give our grandchildren our hot rods, so they can road race run from the feds.
– – –
long ago almost every week
I got into a road race
with some joker
on back roads and
I usually won
death did not matter
without knowing why
I was sticking my head
into the lion’s mouth
and walking through waters with
I was not alone
in banging on
death’s funny bone
night terror now
is not death
but partial transitory death
at a table in a restaurant with
someone serving food from a dirty
barely hidden jealousy and
lots of unresolved
better to fear death on the streets of
hell with blabbering financial folks
picking pockets, as they scan for
long ago I beat
in their late model
cars and bikes,
racing red, I
bright red SOBs
now it’s me
with the red flag
waving at the young bulls
the Hellcat, their nightmare
wonder if most of
them live with their mothers
Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat