“A man with no memory is a man with no foresight.”
Catton, Eleanor. The Luminaries (Man Booker Prize) (p. 260). Little, Brown and Company.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:
Some mornings, instead of walking along the bluffs, I stroll along the beach beneath them where the Big River empties into the ocean.
In the late 1960s and early 70’s when the hippie phenomenon was morphing into the counter culture this vast expanse of sand used to be the site of a hippie encampment. Makeshift tents and driftwood shelters sprung up overnight and disappeared just as suddenly. Music filled the air along with the smoke of campfires and weed. People danced naked and clothed. The air smelled of iodine, marijuana and patchouli. And the colors — tie-dye shirts, beads of many hues, macrame headbands, long flower print dresses, and real flowers everywhere, all dimming in memory.
A flower someone left in the sand.
The sea has reclaimed much of the beach. The sea caves and coves where those too shy to copulate on the open sand retreated for privacy and where later more permanent encampments sprung up are gone now beneath the waves.
Thereafter, I walk under the Highway 1 bridge and along the sandy beach that runs up the river a short way.
Once, I saw a woman swimming in the river with her dog
I then usually amble up the old logging road that rises onto the bluffs above the river through shady redwood groves and sunny outlooks on the cliffs above the river.
When I get tired, I retrace my steps until I reach a bench where I rest a while staring at the river, marshes and now and then boaters with their oars splashing until my reverie ends usually by another hiker walking by who insists on greeting me. I then walk back through the town to my sister’s house and take a nap.
One of the things I notice on my walks is the evolution of the graphics on informational signs. During the early days of the Coastal Conservancy, I noticed the absence of anything other than bureaucratese in simple block letters. “Who would stop and read these,” I thought? “Would they take anything away from this?” So, I proposed creating informational signs designed by creative artists (not graphic designers) to be placed on our projects. No one agreed. Encouraged by this support I went ahead anyway, hired an artist who created a group of wonderfully attractive signs highlighting the flora and fauna that the sign described.
Fort Bragg this week announced the competition for local artists to design the informational signs at Noyo Headlands Park and even the decorations on the bathrooms. On my walk through the Big River SMCA, I saw some well-designed informational signs containing interesting artwork. It pleased me to see that the idea has caught on.
One slightly overcast day I walked along the Fort Bragg bluffs from the railroad bridge to the beginning of the Mekerricer State Park Dunes. A strong breeze blew in from offshore roiling the surf and creating waves almost 20 feet high.
I rested for a few moments at the dunes by the Snowy Plover nesting area before returning.
One day, I drove inland to walk a trail through the Pygmy Forest where my involvement with coastal protection began. But that is another story — for the next issue of T&T perhaps.
With all those signs I encounter warning me of the danger from mountain lions as I walk along dark forest trails, I have to add another pathological fear to that of bears and bikers. Perhaps, I need Bill Yeates to explain why a frail elderly person on the verge of senility as he walks alone through the gloom of the woods, should not be afraid of those supposedly shy and gentle animals.
Recently, a physicist at MIT, Jeremy England, theorized that “…the more likely evolutionary outcomes are going to be the ones that absorbed and dissipated more energy from the environment’s external drives on the way to getting there.” England reasons from this that creation of large molecules necessary for life occur whenever certain conditions are met, that self-replication and greater structural organization are mechanisms by which a system could dissipate more energy. In other words, life does not violate the second law of thermodynamics and the more evolved we are the more chaos we create in the universe.
Now, of course, this is merely a theory and I have no way of knowing if it has been peer reviewed or replicated. But let’s assume that it is correct. Then of course, once these molecules are formed, the rules of evolution (what ever they may be ( adaptation, mutation or thermodynamic exchanges) apply. Among the things this may mean, two stand out to me. The first is that life is simply the extension of the mathematical model of the universe with at least a phase of ever greater complexity. This may give some comfort to those who believe in an eschatological universe that I will touch on later. Another option, however, is that life is little more than a quantum parasite.
The second point, if the study is true, implies that life must be capable of developing and evolving in a similar response in many environments, certainly within the Goldilocks Zone and perhaps elsewhere. So given the number of years the universe has been in existence, the fact that many star systems and galaxies are far older than ours and that there are over 120 billion galaxies each containing more than 300 billion star systems, where is everyone?
Sure we’ve listened conscientiously for energy waves from the cosmos containing some alien civilizations version of “Green Acres,” and sent out into the void our own tiny spaceships with pictures of naked men and women bearing a message somewhat like, “hey, how’re ya doin,” with no success in eliciting a response from what probably is a trillion civilizations out there. Why? Could it be they know what we are like and want nothing to do with us? Or, maybe no one is there and we really are alone.
PAPA JOE’S TALES:
Trenz Pruca and the return of the Naked Mole Rat.
I have mentioned that my friend Trenz Pruca, who provides me with his many observations some of which I pass on to you, was a six-foot-three-inch white rat. I was wrong. I had assumed he was a white rat from the few times we met because of his rodent-like denture and my youthful conjecture that, unlike me and my swarthy Mediterranean neighbors who were not, those individuals with slightly pink skin were white. Nevertheless, I noticed no tail emerging from his long almost floor length dark coat and the strange un-rat-like bluntness of his snout. He was, in fact, a naked Mole Rat, one of those hardy, courageous and gentle creatures so beloved of scientists and odd individuals everywhere. He finally admitted to it when I pressed him during one of our visits. The long dark coat and cap protected his sensitive skin from the sun and also hid his nakedness as modesty demanded. He required the thick dark glasses held together by adhesive tape because his vision was poor and light disturbed his eyes.
“Why?” I asked one day, “do you live here and not with your own kind?” He stared at me silently for a while, a long while as he often did. Then finally when I just thought he would not, he responded in a soft voice, “I assume you noticed I am quite large.” “Yes,” I acknowledged. “But why with humans?” Again a very long silence. Then, “True, you humans are rather untrustworthy, barbaric and not very bright, and you spend all too much time talking foolishly about yourselves.” More silence, finally: “But I decided sitting in a dark coffee house with you humans was slightly preferable to living in a cave somewhere with a bear or similar creature, eating raw meat and grunting and growling and scratching myself — only slightly better, you understand.”
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
During my several visits to Costa Rica, I met an artist named Miguel. He was well known in the country for his heroic actions during the Costa Rican War of Independence and for establishing many of that nation’s wonderful ecological reserves. He was in his mid-eighties then. He told me he used only his current nine girlfriends as models. They all would gather at his home most days to cook and take care of him and watch him paint.
I liked his painted images very much. He painted primarily in a pointillist style — applying small points of color rather than brush strokes to build up the images. I took photographs of several of his paintings, cut out those images that I liked and applied them to my canvas replacing the pointillism with brush strokes. I eliminated Miguel’s more colorful backgrounds, exchanging them for solid black as in this photograph.
I created about 15 or so paintings this way, including a triptych that hung in my bedroom. The lower quarter of the center panel contained a woman lying with her back to the viewer. Only that portion from her hip to just below her shoulder appeared, producing an elongated S-curve between it and the blackness. The panel on the right contained the same woman’s back but above it, I included Miguel’s image of a forest fire, all reds, blacks, and yellows.
The left panel had the same S curve but in the space above were painted three women I called the graces. This panel was a disaster so I never hung it hoping to try again sometime later but instead, I gave up painting.
The painting here contains images from two separate works of Miguel’s that I joined together. The elongated shoulder of the woman on the right occurred because I had photographed Miguel’s painting at an angle. When I projected the image onto the canvas I noticed it but left it that way because I thought it looked cool.
I was never happy with the black backgrounds. They looked empty. I wanted them to appear full the way Rothko’s do in his paintings, but that was far beyond my ability.
Now that I think about it, I could have just let the black brushstrokes feather off towards the edge of the painting leaving it with the color of the canvas showing through — sort of like someone painting the side of a barn and walking off with it unfinished.
I got a similar effect by using the matting control on the photograph.
A. Quigley on Top:
The following is the fifth in the series containing excerpts from the Prologue to Quigley’s uncompleted magnum opus, WEAPONS SYSTEMS AND POLITICAL STABILITY.
The elements of Power
“In our own tradition, the power which resolves conflicts of wills is generally made up of three elements. These are force, wealth, and ideology. In a sense, we might say that we resolve conflicts of wills by threatening or using physical force to destroy capacity to resist; or we use wealth to buy or bribe consent; or we persuade an opponent to yield by arguments based on beliefs. We are so convinced that these three make up power that we use them even in situations where different communities with quite different traditions of the nature of power are resisting. And as a result, we often mistake what is going on in such a clash of communities with quite different traditions of power. For example, in recent centuries, our Western culture has had numerous clashes with communities of Asiatic or African traditions whose understanding of power is quite different from our own, since it is based on religious and social considerations rather than on military, economic, or ideological, as ours is.”
“The social element in political power rests on the human need to be a member of a group and on the individual’s readiness to make sacrifices of his own desires in order to remain a member of such a group. It is largely a matter of reciprocity, that individuals mutually restrain their individual wills in order to remain members of a group, which is necessary to satisfy man’s gregarious needs. It is similar to the fact that individuals accept the rules of a game in order to participate in the game itself. This was always the most important aspect of power in Chinese and other societies, especially in Africa, but it has been relatively weak in others, such as our Western society or in Arabic culture of the Near East. The religious element was once very important in our own culture, but has become less so over the past five centuries until today it is of little influence in political power, although it is still very important in forming the framework of power in other areas, most notably in traditional Tibet, and in many cultures of Asia and Africa.”
“The inability of persons from one culture to see what is happening in another culture, even when it occurs before their eyes, is most frequent in matters of this kind, concerned with power. Early English visitors to Africa found it quite impossible to understand an African war, even when they were present at a “battle.” In such an encounter, two tribes lined up in two opposing lines, each warrior attired in a fantastic display of fur, feathers, and paint. The two armies danced, sang, shouted, exchanged insults, and gradually worked themselves up into a state in which they began to hurl their spears at each other. A few individuals were hit and fell to the ground, at which point one side broke and ran away, to the great disgust of the observing English. The latter, who hardly can get themselves to a fighting pitch until after they have suffered casualties or lost a battle or two, considered the natives to be cowardly when they left the field in flight after a few casualties. What they did not realize was that the event which they saw was not really a battle in the sense of a clash of force at all, but was rather an opportunity for a symbolic determination of how the spiritual forces of the world viewed the dispute and indicated their disfavor by allowing casualties on the side upholding the wrong view. The whole incident was much more like a European medieval judicial trial by ordeal, which also permitted the deity to signify which side of a dispute was wrong, than it was to a modern European battle.”
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“In any large organization there is no greater action that can be taken to improve its performance than cutting its upper management personnel by at least 50%.”
C. Today’s Poem:
“Where I’m From”
by Brendan Dreaper
I am from backyards,
from grass and sprinklers.
I am from the wood,
of the benches and deck I remember.
Worn thin by many feet.
Long kitchen counters,
smooth as marble.
Cookie dough sticking,
to the cold stone.
I am from snow forts,
hard packed snow in gloved hands.
I’m from warm fires,
and hot chocolate
warming on the stove.
I’m from books,
fantasy and mystery
that enlighten my mind.
I am from one story,
to two stories,
bedrooms are shared,
and then broken apart.
I’m from family,
“People can ask questions, but where there is no money, there are no answers.”
Sanderson, Brandon. The Bands of Mourning: A Mistborn Novel (p. 168). Tom Doherty Associates