R.I.P. William F. Buckley, Jr.

Karma Innen

Often imitated, never duplicated: William F. Buckley, conservative icon

February 28, 2008

So dapper with that noblesse oblige, so jaunty with that je ne sais quoi, he was that rare thing: an intellectual who morphed into a celebrity, so much so that he was the subject of good-natured parodies on TV shows such as "The Smothers Brothers" and the movie "Aladdin."
Yet William F. Buckley Jr., 82, who died Wednesday, was the guiding spirit of a conservative movement that stuck a stick in the spokes of post-New Deal liberalism and pushed Ronald Reagan into the White House.
"Conservatism in the 1950s was in disarray. He cleaned it up," said his son, author Christopher Buckley. "He not only made it intellectually sound -- but because of his personal style, he made it cool."
Buckley came across a bit like Thurston Howell III in "Gilligan's Island" -- declaiming his well-chosen words in a patrician, faintly British-sounding accent, accompanied by a rakishly arched eyebrow. In the program he hosted on public television for 33 years, "Firing Line," and in his role as an engaged chronicler of the second half of the 20th Century, Buckley somehow kept an expensively shod foot in the worlds of elite intellectuals and regular folks amused by his elegant demeanor and elephantine vocabulary.
"In the 1960s and '70s," Christopher Buckley said, "any stand-up comic worth his salt had a William F. Buckley impression." And his father never minded. "He got a kick out of them. He was immensely secure that way."
But it was as an essayist and author that Buckley made his first and firmest mark. He wrote more than 55 books and more than 5,000 newspaper columns, and in 1955 founded the National Review, a bedrock conservative journal."
"Before that, there was no conservative movement."Old-world civilityAnd after that, there was Buckley: the bon vivant with intellectual chops, the high-living aristocrat with the high IQ. On "Firing Line," he brought grace, charm and an old-world civility to television, debating the likes of economist John Kenneth Galbraith and novelist Norman Mailer.
"Back in the days when the options in the TV universe were smaller," said Rich Heldenfels, a columnist with the Akron Beacon-Journal who has written several books on television history, "it was possible for viewers to encounter those sorts of people, whereas today they're elbowed aside."
It is difficult to imagine the politely erudite aura of "Firing Line" in today's world of political coverage on cable TV, a world in which the yelp and the snarl have replaced the thoughtful pause.
Off the air, Buckley still kept busy. He was a wide-minded and perennially curious generalist, a renaissance man in an era that increasingly tended to produce only careful, plodding specialists.
He wrote fetching books about his passion for sailing and spy novels featuring a CIA agent named Blackford Oakes. His book on Barry Goldwater is scheduled to be published in April; he was working on another book at the time of his death, Christopher Buckley said.
He was found at his writing desk in his Stamford, Conn., home about 9:30 a.m.
That is what Christopher Buckley told President Bush when the latter called Wednesday morning to express his condolences.
"I said, 'Mr. President, you're a Texan, and you'll understand this -- he died with his boots on.'" Later in the day, a call came from Nancy Reagan, Christopher Buckley said. Then he called former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to tell him the news. "He wept."
Buckley also was a canny talent scout, giving a crucial boost to writers who went on to illustrious careers, such as Garry Wills, Joan Didion, George Will and David Brooks.
"It's a stupendous pool of proteges," said Christopher Buckley.And that smileEven to people who never picked up the National Review, Buckley was a familiar figure, thanks to the quirky, endearing mannerisms on display in "Firing Line" that made him catnip to impressionists.
Comedian David Frye did his Buckley imitation on "The Smothers Brothers," a television show that aired on CBS from 1967 to 1969, and also on comedy albums."
It was that voice, that silken voice" that made Buckley a gift to comics, mused Heldenfels. "And that smile. There was something serpentine about it. It was like Eve approaching the apple. He was enjoying himself immensely -- even if you weren't always sure he was going to do right by whomever he was talking to."
Indeed, while Buckley's political legacy may be intact -- the conservative movement is now a powerful presence in American culture -- the sophistication he demonstrated on television, the easy charm and graciousness, the cordiality he displayed even to guests whose ideas he despised, have largely disappeared from the screen, replaced by raucous insults.
Christopher Buckley, author of best-selling novels such as "Thank You for Smoking" (1994) and "No Way to Treat a First Lady" (2002), said, "It was great to have a father with whom one could talk shop. He was a wonderful dad. He didn't teach me how to write -- you have to learn that on your own -- but as an influence and a gold standard, he was invaluable."
But the old man was no pushover: "He hated my last five books, for reasons that escape me," Christopher Buckley said with a rueful chuckle."
At the peak of his fame, he received more than 600 letters a week. He would personally respond to at least 200 of them," his son said. "It was quite something to go through an airport with him. He would be stopped, literally, every 5 feet, and someone would say, 'I don't agree with a thing you say, but I love the way you say it!'"

Oh, horse feathers!

Robot as good as real dog at easing lonely hours
By Julie Steenhuysen

Wed Feb 27, 12:36 PM ET

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A friendly dog can make older people feel less isolated -- and it appears to make little difference if that wagging tail belongs to a robot doggie or the real thing.

Researchers at Saint Louis University in Missouri compared a 35-pound (16 kg), floppy-eared mutt named Sparky with AIBO, a far-from-lifelike robot dog, to see how residents of three U.S. nursing homes would respond.

"The most surprising thing is they worked almost equally well in terms of alleviating loneliness and causing residents to form attachments," said Dr. William Banks, a professor of geriatric medicine who worked on the study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

Banks said pets have been shown to help older people feel less isolated. "It really improves loneliness considerably," he said in a telephone interview.

But many senior citizens are too frail to care for a pet or have had to give up their own animals when they went to the nursing home. "They really miss that bond," he said.

Banks and colleagues decided to see if a faux fido might offer some comfort.
The researchers studied 38 nursing home residents who were divided into three groups. One got regular visits from Banks' pet Sparky, another got visits from the AIBO Entertainment Robot, a shiny robot dog formerly made by Sony Corp that used artificial intelligence to interact with its environment and express emotion.

The third group got no visits from either dog.

Banks said he had been sure Sparky would have the edge, but to his surprise, both dogs provided virtually equal comfort after seven weeks of visits.

While AIBO has been discontinued, Banks thinks similar robots could offer companionship for older people and might even be programmed to keep tabs on their owners, alerting emergency workers of a sudden fall.

"Loneliness is common in nursing homes. Robots may be very useful for people who cannot for whatever reason have access to a living dog," Banks said.


If I could be anyone's lap dog, I'd like to be Johnny Depp's.

A dog's lament

The Song of Quoodle
G.K. Chesterton
They haven't got no noses,
The fallen sons of Eve;
Even the smell of rosesIs
not what they supposes;
But more than mind discloses
And more than men believe.
They haven't got no noses,
They cannot even tell
When door and darkness closes
The park a Jew encloses,
Where even the law of Moses
Will let you steal a smell.
The brilliant smell of water,
The brave smell of a stone,
The smell of dew and thunder,
The old bones buried under,
Are things in which they blunder
And err, if left alone.
The wind from winter forests,
The scent of scentless flowers,
The breath of brides' adorning,
The smell of snare and warning,
The smell of Sunday morning,
God gave to us for ours
And Quoodle here discloses
All things that Quoodle can,
They haven't got no noses,
And goodness only knowses
The Noselessness of Man.

'Yippie in the ~snow~ it's Friday'

Sister Daisy poses for a photo, but I'm too into the snow to be bothered!

Brother Ivan and myself explore the woods!

Sister Daisy is thrilled!


I loathe the paparazzi.


Mom rustled up some tofu garam masala for dinner. It doesn't look like much now, but soon it will be great. Will I get some? A taste, most likely. I love tofu. But Indian food gives me gas.

Useless but intriguing trivia

Based on an average life span of 11 years,
the cost of raising a dog is $13,350.
The cost of raising a child to the age of 18 – on a lower-income budget and if he or she attends a low-cost public college – is $266,698.
***Dogs rule!***

Monday is bath day...

...and this is my "Death to You" look.

Geocaching with Mom

Is that poison oak near my ear?

Meditation sutra

om mani...om mani...om mani...om mani...om mani...om mani...om mani...om mani...


What? Do I look like I left a turd in your shoe?

Rest in Peace

Well. We came across this dead crow at the Guilford beach this afternoon. Poor guy. Here's me and Ivan taking a whiff. Mom couldn't pull us away. That's the thing about being a dog. What smells like raw sewage to you is eau de cologne for us. Good huffin'.


I just love my binky ball.

My bedtime prayer

Hear our humble prayer, O God,

for our friends the animals,

especially for animals who are suffering;

for any that are hunted or lost or

deserted or frightened or hungry;

for all that must be put to death.

We entreat for them all

Thy mercy and pity,

and for those who deal with them

we ask aheart of compassion

and gentle hands and

kindly words. Make us, ourselves,

to be true friends to animals

and so to share the blessings of the merciful.
~ Albert Schweitzer

Praline Pecan

This ice cream goes right to my butt.

My favorite treat!

Good eatin'!
Doggie Garlic Cookies
1 c. uncooked oatmeal
3 c. whole wheat flour
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. bouillon granules
1 egg, beaten
3/4 c. cornmeal
3/4 c. powdered milk
1/2 c. butter
1-1/2 c. meat broth
Preheat oven to 325 F. Dissolve bouillon in meat broth, while still hot put some of the broth into a blender with the garlic and blend on high. Pour all broth into large bowl, add margarine & oatmeal and stir. Let sit 5 minutes to cool. Stir in powdered milk, cornmeal, and egg. Add flour, 1/2 c. at a time, mixing well after each addition. Knead by hand, adding more flour if needed. Roll on floured surface to 1/2" thick, cut into shapes. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, allow to cool and dry out until hard. Variations: plain flour, shredded cheese, hamburger/bacon grease instead of margarine, or add 1 pkg. dry yeast and 1/4 c. honey to make biscuits instead of cookies. Yields 75 small cookies.

"The Guilty Dogs"

This is my favorite bedtime story.
Mom reads it to me every night after she sobers up:

(The following tale is one of the Jatakas,
stories of the Buddha's former lives.)
One evening, after the king had spent the day traveling in his magnificent carriage, the three pairs of horses were led back to the stables to be fed and watered, but through some oversight the vehicle was left untended in the courtyard.
During the night it rained, and the fine leather harnesses were softened and began to exude a spicy, powdery odour that proved irresistible to the palace dogs.

They tugged and gnawed, and scrabbled and chewed, and when just a faint glow appeared on the eastern horizon, they tip-toed away to curl up in their usual places.
In the morning, the syces and stablemen could not believe their eyes. With cold feet and trembling hands, they went to tell the king.
The king was furious.
We do not know how the people responsible were punished, but we do know that he called for the death of every single dog in the vicinity.
All the dogs in the city, pets and pye dogs alike, knew what would be the consequence of the actions of the royal hounds (all but the very youngest ones) and so they fled to the outskirts to join the packs that lurked in the woods.

At any moment, they expected the king's enforcers to come and exterminate every one of them for something they had had no paw in.
The lead dog who, it is believed, was the Buddha in a previous lifetime, put his own fear aside, and calmly and with great dignity, went to talk to the king. He was so imposing that the guards made no move against him.
As he approached, the king asked, "How is it that you are still alive?
The great dog prostrated his head on the carpet between his paws, rose again and replied, " I have come on a mission of mercy, your Highness. "Why are you determined to put to death every dog in the kingdom? It is not possible that they all had a bite of the royal livery. There is certainly not enough leather on six bridles and harnesses for every single dog here."
The king replied, "Dogs chew royal property; dogs die."
"Highness, you have always been a most just ruler. The guilty ones deserve a punishment, that is true. Which dogs did the chewing?"
The noble hound continued, "Maharaj, is it right for all to suffer for the wrongs of only a few? Your response to this question will surely cause deep reflection by those in your own household, not to mention your ministers and even your many loyal subjects of high and low degree."
After a brief hesitation, the king said, "If you can show me the guilty parties, I will spare the other animals."
The skillful dog responded, "It is known that dogs will eat grass to scour their stomachs, therefore, let all the dogs eat kula grass. This will make them cough up what is in their bodies, and then we will find the guilty parties."
"It seems that most of the dogs have fled," said the king. "Only the royal hounds remain. How can royal dogs be compared to common curs? But let us see if the kula grass is effective. We will try it on them first, then."
The royal dogs were fed kula grass and lo, and behold, they coughed it up along with little bits of gilded leather.
The king was amazed, and he reflected on his spontaneous angry response.

He put an immediate stop to the dog hunt. He even halted the destruction of wild dogs.
As their penance, every year the royal dogs had to serve all the others -- pets, pye dogs and even those that lived in the forest -- at a great feast in the city centre.
So it happened that a great king learned the virtue of restraint, justice, courage and compassion from the Tathagata, who in that lifetime was living in the Animal Realm as a lead dog.


We're off! Just so we understand each other, I want to make it clear that kayaking the Connecticut waterways with Mom and attaining enlightenment are the only things I live for. That and broiled liverwurst.