July through September 2018

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 12 Papa Joe 0007 (September30, 2018)

[R]eality is partially composed of irony in its various forms.
Pike, J. Zachary. Son of a Liche (The Dark Profit Saga Book 2) (p. 34). Gnomish Press LLC.

 

Happy Birthday Richard McCarthy

Congratulations to Brendan and Ashley on their upcoming wedding.

Happy Birthday Ann Vita

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

So, on Friday we attended “The Sock Hop” at the Community Center in the Enchanted Forest at Campus Commons. Every month there is a themed TGIF party at the Center. This month it was the 1950s. I had been volunteered to bartender and Naida was a cashier. We were in costume. I more or less like a skinny rogue biker and Naida in crinoline and a poodle appliqué on her vest. We danced to 1950s tunes.
IMG_0478 - Version 2
The Biker and the girl in crinoline.

A group of ladies began things by dancing the Hokey Pokey.
IMG_5690<I
Doing the Hokey Pokey.

Now you may think we live in a senior center. Not so, there are a lot of younger people who live here. It is just the old birds who seem to flock together for events like this.

One old girl came up to the bar several times and asked me to “fill it to the rim with gin.” Senior fun.

Speaking of fun, a few days ago, while driving HRM somewhere or another, I asked him if he had done anything enjoyable recently. He said, “Yesterday, I thought it would be fun to walk up to random people and hand them a few dollars so they will feel something good happened to them that day. So I did.”

I never did anything like this for amusement. Perhaps I should worry.

A few days later while driving him somewhere, HRM suddenly exclaimed, “I am going to ace history in high school.”

“Oh, how so,” I replied.

“I already know everything about the Sikhs, even how to tie on a turban. I also know the history of Arabia and the names of all their leaders.” He then went on to name the current leaders of the UAE, Dubai and several other states in the area.

“That’s great,” I said. “How did you come by this knowledge?”

“Well,” he said, “don’t tell anyone but, I learn it in class when I am bored with what’s going on.”

“Oh,” I said, “I too used to read history books in class when I was bored.”

“I don’t read books,” he explained, “I get it all on my smartphone.” Then he added, “What do you think the accent of Sikhs living in Australia sounds like?”

Should I worry?

As for my health, The PET scan showed three places with a high probability of cancer. Tomorrow, I go for a biopsy again.

I am now back in EDH for a while. Dick has left for Asia for two weeks and I have resumed my nanny duties along with my ongoing chauffeur responsibilities. Mon, a young man from Thailand, is living there also. His job is to cook and clean.

On the way to school one morning. I mentioned to Hayden that he lives like one-percenters of old with his own nanny, chauffeur, and Asian houseboy. “Yes, I know,” he responded. “Don’t forget you are my lawyer also,“ he added.

Ok, now I am worried.

After I drop HRM off at school in the morning, I usually drive to The Enchanted Forest. There, to spend the day with Naida. She working on her memoir and I wasting time on my computer like I am now writing this. Then about 2PM, I leave for EDH to pick up Hayden from school and with a brief break at the Skateboard Park, drive him home. He to do his homework and me to waste more time.

Went to my biopsy appointment today. Told the Doctor that my previous appointment was inconclusive because that doctor’s sonogram could not penetrate the scar tissue on my neck. This doctor said his sonogram should have no trouble. I then told him that the subsequent PET scan report showed three high probability sites. The Doctor said he thought there was only one.

Then he got down to work and stuck a needle full of Lidocaine into my throat. After fooling around awhile, he said, “Oh-oh there was some air in the needle and it is now lodged beneath your skin. Let’s wait a half hour and maybe it will go away.” And with that he strode out of the room.

Since the mass is lodged between my muscle, tendon and my carotid artery, I had the pleasure of lying there imagining my sudden death from a brain embolism. After a half hour or so he returned and applied his sonogram to my neck and after some more fooling around said, “I can’t see anything. The air bubble is probably still there. Let’s schedule another try at it next week.” And he walked out.

After dressing, I approached to nurse to schedule a new appointment. She was giggling. After we agreed on a date she said, “Oh Good, a really good doctor will be there then.”

A few days ago on Wednesday, I picked up the entire Scooter Gang and brought them to the house to wait there until it was time to go to the teenage get together held every Wednesday in an overly large modern church complex labeled the Community Church. I do not know what denomination it is, probably Baptist. I know they sometimes like to hide their affiliation.

Anyway, the Gang consisted of five burgeoning adolescents – Haden (HRM), Jake (Big tall longhaired Jake), Graham (the Genius), Tyson (who gets blamed whenever anything goes wrong) and Ethan (the first one to have a girlfriend).
IMG_5702
HRM, Ethan, Graham, and Jake
(Hayden is wearing something he picked up in Dubai when he visited there this summer. He is holding a magic lamp that he also bought there.)

\
Ethan has an interesting history. His mother and father had made a good deal of money in a trade that recently became legal which will soon end the growth of mom and pop millionaires as the industry consolidates and becomes a subsidiary of something like General Foods or Coke or some super large drug company — alas, so it goes.

Anyway, about three or four years ago, Ethan’s mom was murdered. His father discovered who did it, tracked him down and beat him almost to death with a large iron rod. Ethan’s dad was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison. He got out a month ago. Ethan, who has been living with his grandparents leaves next week to stay with his father for a month or two so they can become reacquainted. HRM decided to throw him a going away party at the house on Saturday.

After picking them up at the Church event, They talked about Christianity and Heaven. Hayden thinks there were many heavens a person lives through, here on earth is the most recent one and the next one is the last. Graham said he was a professional atheist but now he decided to become a Christian —whatever that is.

Okay, now I am really very worried.

After an evening back in the Enchanted Forest, I returned to the Golden Hills to chaperone the going away party. Actually, it was not so much a party — about six or seven boys gathered to spend the night. After giving them the rules of the house — no bragging things, no spilling of liquids on the floor and no getting hurt — they joked with me awhile about the various things that were included or excluded in the rules. For the rest of the evening, they stayed quietly together in HRM’s room except for when they came into the kitchen for Pizza or coke.

The next morning I drove one of the gang, Caleb, home. He lives in the “low-income” side of town, a group of apartments hidden in a depression, behind some trees and on the far side of Town Center. During the drive, I ask Caleb what he wanted to be when he grew up. He quickly responded, “A forensic scientist.” “Interesting,” I responded. “What made you decide to do that?”

“ Well,” He answered. “My uncle was murdered. He died in 7/11. He was one of those people who you saw on television that jumped of the top of the buildings.”

“Oh,” I said. “I am sorry to hear that.” Then, unable to think of anything else to say, said, “Well I guess that will be a good profession for you.” Then, with my feeling like an idiot, we drove on to Caleb’s house in silence.

Well, I finally had the biopsy and now wait for the results. The next day, I met my new primary care doctor, my previous one retired as of September 1. His office is in a gym. Apparently, he doubles as a sports physician He is in his late 30’s and looks more like an ex-NFL linebacker than a doctor. We set a follow-up appointment for next week when the results of the biopsy become available.

After the appointment with the doctor, I rushed to a regular Parent teachers meeting at HRM’s school. The day before the school changed his classroom schedule to separate him from the rest of the Scooter Gang because the teachers felt that the socializing that went on in the classroom was adversely affecting his school work. Although it was done for his benefit, he took it as an attack on him specifically. Frankly, I thought they could have handled it better by reassigning several members of the gang instead of just him.

After the meeting, I was as exhausted as I have ever been and so I returned to the Enchanted Forest and slept through to the following morning.

Ha, Ethan returned from his uncle’s house where his father was living. He stayed only one day there before returning to EDH. He told me his uncles house burned down and so he had no place to live. After a little more prodding the story emerged. He said that the room in the attic of the house where he was to sleep also contained the circuit-breaker for the house’s electricity. His uncle fiddled around with it. He went for a walk. On his way back, he heard an explosion and saw that the house was on fire. He rushed back to the house, woke up his three cousins who had been sleeping in other bedrooms, and lead them out of the house. Almost as soon as they emerged the entire building exploded. It seems that Ethen’s prospective bedroom, the one that contained the exploding circuit breaker also contained 5000 assorted fireworks (yes — 5000) that also exploded and leveled the house when the fire that was consuming the heat of the bedroom reached the fireworks. Ethan seemed relaxed about the fact that only by a stroke of luck he escaped death.

One evening we went for dinner at a Czech-Italian restaurant on J. Street, after which, as we walked down the street we passed a group of young people one of whom said as we walked past, “You two are adorable.” We are now old enough that doing what people normally do is considered “adorable.”

Watched the Kavanaugh/Ford hearing. I do not know about the assault but he lied in just about everything else — a Golden Triangle is not three glasses of beer.

And then the weekend came drifting by as I waited to find out whether I am a dead man walking.

 

 

 
.

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

 
“Identity politics,” a meme, used by the media and commentators to describe a social movement demeans what is actually occurring. It is not “Identity Politics.” It is good old dissent a fundamental element of a working democracy.

Social arrangements, including governments, although they may begin by pursuing valid social goals, gradually become institutions serving their own purposes and needs. Without constant reform, those institutions eventually disintegrate.

Protection of minority rights may be even more important to a society than suffrage because suffrage not only is often less than universal but, even where it is broad and inclusive, groups other than the majority of the voters routinely wield the actual power. It is minorities seeking their place in society that ultimately engenders change and reform in a society.

Dissent is necessary to an organized society if that society is to remain capable of reforming itself to meet the challenges of the ever-changing and evolving environment which it must constantly confront and adapt to if it is to survive.

Ideology or labels are not significant determinants of the nature of the dissent but convenient tools for its expression (fashions if you will). For example, the US Communist Party, first funded by Wall Street and then by the US government for their own purposes, nevertheless still functioned as a mechanism of dissent, even against their paymasters.

First of all, we must understand that allegiance and dissent are the opposite sides of the same coin. Without allegiance, an organized society cannot continue to exist for long. Nevertheless, a society also cannot continue to exist for long if it is incapable of reforming itself. The prerequisite to reform is dissent.

 

 

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

 

 

I went to Georgetown University about fifteen years before Kavanaugh. At that time Pat Buchanan was a student there.

I knew Pat and many other boys from Bethesda and from Georgetown Prep.

They were Catholic as was I.

They went to all boys schools as did I.

I grew up on the streets of New York.

They were raised in an upper-middle-class suburban lifestyle.

I was used to the hardscrabble morality of poor communities.

I believed that my morals and those from poor neighborhoods like mine were more flexible (read lower) than those of the wealthier and more educated class.

When I arrived at school in Washington, I was shocked at the rigidity with which the boys from Bethesda, Georgetown prep and places like that maintained the rituals of their religion and the ease with which they ignored its moral precepts. (On the streets, among the poor, it was usually the opposite.)

Brett Kavanaugh comes from that milieu.

 

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

 

 

“Right from the start, brewing, a kitchen task, was women’s work. Both the Sumerians and Egyptians praised beer goddesses and associated brewing with women. In addition to Ninkasi as a woman to look up to, the Sumerians also had Kubaba. She is the only woman on the Sumerians’ list of kings, and she earned her ruling role not through birth, but through her work as a brewer. The Egyptians worshipped a goddess of beer Menqet, and celebrated sun god Ra’s daughter, Sekhmet, whose bloodthirsty ways were calmed by beer.”
.https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/women-making-beer_us_5b914f13e4b0cf7b003d8263

“In Bruges, the first association of brewery workers met in 1447 to protect themselves from ‘innkeeper, woman, and provost.’”
[Ibid.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 
A. Krugman on Top:

 

“A thought: the Kavanaugh mess has structural roots. Rs needed someone who was both ideologically reliable and at no risk of developing a conscience when it came to defending Trump against rule of law. So it had to be a bad person, which meant good odds of nasty stuff surfacing.”

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 

Trickle down economics is an enviable thing. It affords those who promote it the appearance of concern for the people while not burdening them with any responsibility to deliver anything.

 
C. Today’s Poem:

 

Haroun Al Raschid

One day, Haroun Al Raschid read
A book wherein the poet said:–

“Where are the kings, and where the rest
Of those who once the world possessed?

“They’re gone with all their pomp and show,
They’re gone the way that thou shalt go.

“O thou who choosest for thy share
The world, and what the world calls fair,

“Take all that it can give or lend,
But know that death is at the end!”

Haroun Al Raschid bowed his head:
Tears fell upon the page he read.
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

“But did it matter whether it was authentic or not? Hasn’t this country been built on the promise of avoiding this very question?”
          —KARL OVE KNAUSGÅRD, in The New York Times (2015)

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This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 29 Pops 0007. (September 9, 2018)

 

“The U.S. has tended to see tanks-in-the-street military parades as tastelessly authoritarian, preferring instead to promote ritual deference to militarism and its trappings diffusely in society via sports, TV, film, air travel, and policing.”
Kieran Healy‏ @kjhealy

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

Yesterday, or perhaps the day before, I watched a Stewart Granger retrospective on TV — King Solomon’s Mines, Prisoner of Zenda, and Scaramouche. Granger was one of my favorite “action” heros of my youth. I always thought there was something strange about him, however. I did not know what gay or homosexual meant back then, but he always appeared to me to be uncomfortable around women — not like Gary Cooper or Rock Hudson who clearly were men’s men and comfortable around women. Well, after having my mind washed out about jumping to conclusions regarding sexual orientation, I learned that Granger was not gay, merely a flaming asshole despised by his female co-stars. I guess that’s the price of maturity — all the heroes or heroines of our youth turn out to be dickheads. I suspect, a goodly number of He who is Not My President’s admirers will wake up some day and realize they’re no longer pre-adolescents.

Anyway, Scaramouche, in my opinion, contained the greatest sword fight in cinema. Some of it even realistic as well. No, not the jumping around or fighting up and down stairs — that would produce instant death in a real sword fight — it was when they were fighting from the en garde position that the parries and thrusts were almost real. In fact, Granger actually suffered some serious wounds while filming the sequence. Not that anyone cried over his suffering apparently.

Well, well, I may have been premature in announcing my clean bill of health. During my visit to my oncologist yesterday he said that one of the reasons they could find no potential cancer cells was because the sonogram could not see through the scar tissue that had grown up around the mass, so I need to have a PET scan in order to complete any definitive diagnosis. So it goes. As Rosanna Rosannadanna warns, “It’s always something.”

Last night I watched a Dana Andrews retrospective. Yes old square jaw himself. I also learned that these movies I have been viewing for the past couple of weeks are part of TCM August programming focusing on a different star each evening. So far I have seen, La Dietrich, Nelson Eddy and Janette McDonald, Doris Day, Stewart Granger, and now Dana Andrews. TCM had nights that featured brighter stars, but I guess, I have only caught the more campy ones.

One night, however, I saw the 1935 production of Midsummers Night Dream with the young Mickey Rooney as Puck (it may have been Mickey Rooney night), the young James Cagney as Bottom, the young Dick Powell as Lysander and the young Olivia de Havilland in her screen debut and Hermia. It was great fun.

I don’t usually watch television except for some news or sports, but until yesterday (the convictions of Manafort and Cohen) the news has been so depressing that a little cinematic fantasy was a welcome respite.

Carol Baker, Baby Doll herself, was last evenings featured star. Two days later it was Anthony Quinn night but I only watched Viva Zapata.

One evening, we attended the monthly Jazz Night at the Pool put on by the HOC. They had a local group — a singer, pianist, guitarist and bass player — that played some standard jazz tunes including my favorite The Girl from Ipanema. I do not know why, but ever since I moved here in the Enchanted Forest, I find myself hanging out with people my age — The i Vecchi as we are referred to in Italy. More then I recall having done before. Perhaps, it is inevitable.

Anyway, we sat next to a woman our age or older who I had been told was an artist of some repute. She was dressed in “aging artist,” — all flowing fabrics encircling her body — and carried a handsome cane. After Naida explained to her our relationship, she quipped, “That’s nice for you. It seems that all of my recent affairs have been with parking-lot attendants.”
B. A FEW DAYS IN CARMEL AND BIG SUR:

 

The following week we traveled to Carmel and Big Sur. Naida had attended high school there and had many good memories of that time in her life. We intended to try and contact a few of her old BFFs.

I used to visit this section of California’s coast almost every week from when I first arrived here in California in !973, until about 15 years ago — at first as a wannabe hippy frequenting Ventana and other haunts and sometimes hiking off into the mountains for a week or two of camping usually by myself then later, during the period when I was active on coastal resource protection matters. I would go there often on one site visit or another.

That evening we strolled along Carmel beach and through the town visiting the art galleries and stopping for dinner at a place that had properly prepared Neapolitan pizza.
IMG_5614
Pookie on Carmel beach.

Next morning we visited one of Naida’s high school classmates at an assisted living facility in Carmel Valley. She was a woman who lived what appeared to be a fascinating life. She had been a major fundraiser for many charities and traveled the world, from Borneo to Africa and South America tending to peoples needs. She now suffers from advanced Parkinson’s and is confined to a wheel-chair.

Later that day, we left for Big Sur. It was fascinating for me to see now, so many years removed, the amazing results of our efforts to preserve that shoreline from development — Including, the purchase of most of the still vacant land on the north entrance to Big Sur in an effort to halt creeping development from the already built-up areas (The Parks Department opposed it because it did not have high recreational value as did the Coastal Commission on the erroneous belief that they could retain it in open-space through regulation — why would a rational person want to repeatedly fight that battle anyway?) — and the 5000 acre Hill Ranch that surrounds Point Sur Lighthouse.
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Pookie in Big Sur.

 

We ate lunch at Nepenthe, where I had eaten many times over the years.
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Lunch at Nepenthe.

I then visited their curio’s store and marveled how little had changed over the 40 or so years I had been visiting there — the same curios, the same wind chimes, the same flowing, colorful, and expensive hippy fashions.

The next day we returned to the Enchanted Forest.
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Sunset at Carmel beach.

 
C. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

Days pass, another PET scan, more swimming and dog walking, now and then driving the Scooter Gang here and there, endless Kavanaugh hearings and ravings by he who was not elected president, good and bad dreams, decent food, all and all an ok week.

One day, I was walking around the lakes in Town Center and saw the Scooter Gang coming the opposite way. There were two girls about the same age as the boy’s age walking with them. HRM scootered over to me and said, “There are two girls with us. They just forced their way in.” I thought, “That’s one way it all begins.”

A few days later we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the clubhouses. I was chosen as the bartender for the Sock Hop next Friday. I did not volunteer. I do not know how to bartend. I assume it will just require passing out beer and pouring the wine. We old folks enjoy volunteering for things. The Sock Hop is a party where mostly geriatric cases dress up as they did when they were teenagers and dance the Hokey Pokey. I can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

 

For the last several years, I have argued that, for public policy and historical reasons, large American corporations that engage in interstate commerce should be required to obtain a federal charter (Articles of Incorporation). Recently to my surprise, Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation entitled the Accountable Capitalism Act which provided just for that. As Matthew Yglesias describes it:

“As much as Warren’s proposal is about ending inequality, it’s also about saving capitalism…. The conceit tying together Warren’s ideas is that if corporations are going to have the legal rights of persons, they should be expected to act like decent citizens who uphold their fair share of the social contract and not act like sociopaths…. Require any corporation with revenue over $1 billion… to obtain a federal charter of corporate citizenship. The charter tells company directors to consider the interests of all relevant stakeholders — shareholders, but also customers, employees, and the communities in which the company operates — when making decisions…”
Matthew Yglesias, Elizabeth Warren has a plan to save capitalism.

The following lists and briefly explains all the provisions of Warren’s proposed legislation:

Requires very large American corporations to obtain a federal charter as a “United States corporation,” which obligates company directors to consider the interests of all corporate stakeholders: American corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue must obtain a federal charter from a newly formed Office of United States Corporations at the Department of Commerce. The new federal charter obligates company directors to consider the interests of all corporate stakeholders – including employees, customers, shareholders, and the communities in which the company operates. This approach is derived from the thriving benefit corporation model that 33 states and the District of Columbia have adopted and that companies like Patagonia, Danone North America, and Kickstarter have embraced with strong results.

Empowers workers at United States corporations to elect at least 40% of Board members: Borrowing from the successful approach in Germany and other developed economies, a United States corporation must ensure that no fewer than 40% of its directors are selected by the corporation’s employees.

Restricts the sales of company shares by the directors and officers of United States corporations: Top corporate executives are now compensated mostly in company equity, which gives them huge financial incentives to focus exclusively on shareholder returns. To ensure that they are focused on the long-term interests of all corporate stakeholders, the bill prohibits directors and officers of United States corporations from selling company shares within five years of receiving them or within three years of a company stock buyback.

Prohibits United States corporations from making any political expenditures without the approval of 75% of its directors and shareholders: Drawing on a proposal from John Bogle, the founder of the investment company Vanguard, United States corporations must receive the approval of at least 75% of their shareholders and 75% of their directors before engaging in political expenditures. This ensures any political expenditures benefit all corporate stakeholders.

Permits the federal government to revoke the charter of a United States corporation if the company has engaged in repeated and egregious illegal conduct: State Attorneys General are authorized to submit petitions to the Office of United States Corporations to revoke a United States corporation’s charter. If the Director of the Office finds that the corporation has a history of egregious and repeated illegal conduct and has failed to take meaningful steps to address its problems, she may grant the petition. The company’s charter would then be revoked a year later – giving the company time before its charter is revoked to make the case to Congress that it should retain its charter in the same or in a modified form.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

A. Yglesias on Top:

 

[University of Massachusetts economist William] “ economist William Lazonick of the University of Massachusetts puts the thesis very squarely, arguing that “from the end of World War II until the late 1970s, a retain-and-reinvest approach to resource allocation prevailed at major U.S. corporations.” But since the Reagan era, business has followed “a downsize-and-distribute regime of reducing costs and then distributing the freed-up cash to financial interests, particularly shareholders…”

…Lazonick’s basic observation that “since the mid-1980s net equity issues for non- financial corporations have been generally negative, and since the mid-2000s massively negative.” In the modern era of shareholder supremacy, in other words, owners take more money out of the corporate sector in the form of buybacks and dividends than they put in via new investments.
Matthew Yglesias, Elizabeth Warren has a plan to save capitalism.

 

B. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: Paul Krugman on Parasites in Public Policy.

 

Paul Krugman in a recent opinion piece in the New York Times where he speculates whether direct-marketing scams that exploit and reinforce political partisanship, largely on the right, basically to sell merchandise is a parasitic infestation causing much the current political sickness that infects America today. He refers to a speech by Charlie Stross that I discussed in a previous post (https://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/2018/07/20/the-most-significant-post-you-will-never-read/). In that speech, Stross warned that very large corporations are like hive super-organisms poised to gobble us all up.

“And some of the most influential voices on the right haven’t just sold advertising space to purveyors of snake oil, they’ve gotten directly into the snake-oil business themselves.

Thus:

Glenn Beck in his heyday juiced up his viewers by telling them that Obama was going to unleash hyperinflation any day now; he personally cashed in by hawking overpriced gold coins.

Alex Jones makes a splash by claiming that school massacres are fake news, and the victims are really actors. But he makes his money by selling diet supplements.

Ben Shapiro writes critiques of liberal academics that conservatives consider erudite (remember Ezra Klein’s line about a stupid person’s idea of what a thoughtful person sounds like?), but makes his money the same way Alex Jones does.

Why should marketing scams be linked to political extremism? It’s all about affinity fraud: once you establish a persona that appeals to angry, aging white guys, you can sell them stuff that will supposedly protect their virility, their waistline, and their wealth.

And at a grander level, isn’t that what Fox News is really about? Consider it not as an ideological organization per se but as a business: it offers cheap programming (because there isn’t much reporting) that appeals to the prejudices of angry old white guys who like to sit on the couch and rant at their TV, and uses its viewership to help advertisers selling weight-loss plans.

Now, normally we think of individuals’ views and interests as the forces driving politics, including the ugly polarization increasingly dominating the scene. The commercial exploitation of that polarization, if we mention it at all, is treated as a sort of surface phenomenon that feeds off the fundamental dynamic.

But are we sure that’s right? The Alex Joneses, Ben Shapiros, and Fox Newses of the world couldn’t profit from extremism unless there were some underlying predisposition of angry old white guys to listen to this stuff. But maybe the commercial exploitation of political anger is what has concentrated and weaponized that anger. In other words, going back to where I started this essay, maybe the reason we’re in a political nightmare is that our political behavior has, in effect, been parasitized by marketing algorithms.

I know I’m not the only one thinking along these lines. Charlie Stross argues that “paperclip maximizers” – not people, but social systems and algorithms that try to maximize profits, market share, or whatever – have increasingly been directing the direction of society, in ways that hurt humanity. He’s mostly focused on corporate influence over policy, as opposed to mobilization of angry people in the service of direct-order scams, but both could be operating.

Anyway, I think it’s really important to realize the extent to which peddling political snake oil, whether it’s about the economy, race, the effects of immigration, or whatever, is to an important extent a way to peddle actual snake oil: magic pills that will let you lose weight without ever feeling hungry and restore your youthful manhood.

Paul Krugman

C. Today’s Poem:

 

I snagged the following in Brad Delong’s blog,

Note to Self: The Song of Everlasting Sorrow and Historical Patriarchy: I was reading, as one does—I do not remember why I was reading this, however—an English translation_ of poet, landlord, scholar, bureaucrat, drunkard Bai Juyi’s Song of Everlasting Sorrow. And I was struck by four short lines:

遂令天下父母心,
不重生男重生女。
驪宮高處入青雲,
仙樂風飄處處聞。
緩歌慢舞凝絲竹,
盡日君王看不足。
漁陽鼙鼓動地來,
驚破霓裳羽衣曲
All her sisters and brothers had royal demesnes granted.
Imperial but pitiful glory on the Yang family was bestowed.
。 On the mindset of all parents her success was a strong influence.
Baby girls instead of baby boys became the popular

The overturning of the natural order as a consequence of the love of Emperor Xuanzong for Lady Yang Guifei was so great that all across the empire parents wished for girl- rather than boy-children…

This struck me as having obvious bearing on my [“Historical Patriarchy”][] lecture…

Continue reading “Note to Self: “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” and Historical Patriarchy…” » http://www.musicated.com/syh/TangPoems/EverlastingRegret.

 

This remarkable poem ends with the following lines:

臨別殷勤重寄詞,
詞中有誓兩心知,
七月七日長生殿,
夜半無人私語時。
在天願作比翼鳥,
在地願為連理枝。
天長地久有時盡,
此恨綿綿無絕期

“Let our pledge be as strong as the inlaid and the gold.”
“We will reunite, if not in heaven, in the mortal world.”
。 She asked the messenger to bring back a verse with a clue.
There was a vow in the verse only the two of them knew.
On a Valentine’s Day in Longevity Hall away from the crowd,
At midnight when no one else was around, they vowed.
“Let’s be two birds in the sky flying side by side.”
“Let’s be two branches on the earth inseparably tied.”
The sky and the earth will not be eternal, however.
Only this regret remains and lasts for ever and ever.

 

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

“Power concentrates until chance intervenes. The wealthy get wealthier, the ruling class becomes more and more entrenched. But all of them worry most about their short lives and self-interest.”
Conroe, John. Summer Reign: A novel of the Demon Accords.

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:

CBO_tax_expenditures_panel_v1

As near as I can make it out from these graphs, merely by putting caps of the amount that can be deducted for health insurance and pensions (the gold-plated pension plans that seem to benefit the wealthy more than the rest of us and therefore are unfair) and a modest increase in the unearned income tax rates (capital gains rates are exclusively a subsidy for the wealthy with little or no economic justification — what would people who must pay a little more tax on certain investment income do with their money, bury it in the sand?) would substantially reduce the deficit or provide funds for governmental programs such as education or infrastructure maintenance and development. I figure this would produce an increase in revenues of somewhere between $100 -$200 billion per year.

Note: Additional reasonable changes to the 2017 tax bill, including returning the income taxes on the top income brackets to what it had been prior to 2017 could also substantially increase revenues.

Categories: July through September 2018, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 17 Joe 0007. (August 5, 2018)

 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARYANN!
Happy Birthday, Brendan!
Happy Birthday, Katie!

 

 

The imagination and inner force of Shakespeare’s villains stopped short at ten or so cadavers, because they had no ideology…. It is thanks to ideology that it fell to the lot of the twentieth century to experience villainy on the scale of millions.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

Medical Misadventures and Physician Follies; The Scooter Gang Together Again and; Ennui in the Enchanted Forest.

 

It has been only three days since my return, jet lag lingers on and worries about my health persist, but hey, I’m home and that’s a start.

As the trip back slowly recedes and disappears from memory, I try to think of the high points that I can write about but, except for tasting with Nikki the various after dinner drinks and chocolates served to First-class passengers on Alitalia’s flight between Milan and New York, nothing comes to mind — except, perhaps, hearing “A Hard Rains a-Gonna Fall” and a rousing version of “Try a Little Tenderness,” on the planes audio.

It was good to see Naida again and hear the soothing whispers at night and the sighs of pleasure and feel the handles of home drifting back into my hands.

I guess I should begin by telling about my latest health worries since at my age they have the ability to crowd out a lot of life’s greatest pleasures. It may develop into a saga, maudlin or boring, tragic or comic, who knows.

I came home with a numbness of the skin on my throat along with pain underneath. Yesterday some swelling appeared also.

Today, I visited with my primary care physician, a man not ranked too highly in his profession by either his peers or his patients. At the appointment, he was giddy with anticipation of his pending retirement from the practice of medicine within the next two months and insisted on spending some time with me discussing the travel options available to him in retirement before getting to the purpose of my visit. Following my description of my symptoms and a lot of feeling around my neck and some hmms and ahhs, he said that he thought it could be a blockage in a vein or artery and prescribed a sonogram and a chest x-ray. This, of course, did not alleviate my anxiety because if the blockage is caused by a clot of some kind and is lodged in my vein then it is an arrow aimed at my heart and if in an artery then it is aimed at my brain — the choice between a potential myocardial infarction or a stroke seems to be not much of a choice at all. But what else can I do but go through the tests and wait for my appointment with my oncologist next week and hope that, in the meantime, I do not keel over and collapse somewhere along the overgrown paths that I walk on in the evenings beside the river?

I apologize for writing about my health so much but when we reach this age it is often the most exciting and interesting thing we have going — an adventure, but not one where “no one has gone before” but one where everyone has gone before who has gone before. It may be boring for you, but it is new for me. It’s a lot like being that person early in a horror movie who decides to walk down the dark hallway alone or like waiting for Freddy Kruger to show up for dinner. You can either laugh or scream. I prefer laughing although a good scream now and then can do wonders for your peace of mind.

The next day, I was X-rayed and sonogramed. They showed that neither vein nor artery was clogged. So by the end of the day, I was back where I was before walking into my doctor’s office — with a pain in the neck and lost in hypochondriaville. I now wait a week more before my oncologist can see me and after feeling around my neck and a lot of hmms and ahhs send me off to be probed by large expensive machines tended by smiling people dressed in blue or green outfits and looking a little like the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

Walked the dog to the dog park this evening. There are three benches in the dog park each about as far away from the other as can be and still be in the dog park. There were two other people at the park with their dogs curled at their feet. They sat on two of the benches, I sat on the third bench with Boo-boo who promptly curled up at my feet. We sat there unmoving. Time passed, a lot of time. Then one person got up, hooked the leash onto the collar of his dog and slowly left the park. We remaining two and our dogs sat there, silently, in the dusk, until the other person finally got up and left with his dog. I waited until it was almost dark. Then, Boo-boo and I also left and went home. It all felt like an Edward Hopper painting as a slow-motion uTube video. Ennui at the dog park — life in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Naida is off to the California State Fair presiding over the booth featuring California authors with books to sell. The temperature is expected to hit 104 to 105 degrees in this part of the Great Valley. I remain home with the dog, pecking away at my computer and now and then listlessly reading various blogs on economics and dozing off when the words blur and their significance sounds in my mind more like the buzzing of mosquitos than packets of meaning.

Not so good a night though — crumpled part of the fender on the car trying to get into the garage after dinner, followed by scary nightmares that even frightened Naida. Perhaps, I am unraveling. The next day was not so good either. There are just some days like that. But, as the time grows shorter, I certainly can use fewer of them. Perhaps, those are the days to catch up on my sleep.

Anyway, HRM called me to drive him to the skate park. So at about 3:30 that afternoon, I took off for The Golden Hills in my car with the crumpled fender.

The boys were waiting alone at the house. Dick was at work and SWAC, who only within the past few weeks had criticized him for leaving HRM alone as a latch-key kid, was gone to rummage around at the mall. So, I picked him up and drove him and his friend Jake to the Citrus Heights Skateboard Park where some sort of competition had been planned. There they were to wait for Dick to pick them up and take them home.

During the ride, they excitedly told me about their adventures so far this summer. It seems this was the first vacation that had impressed upon them the possibilities and joys of life. They have a few years yet before being introduced to its sorrows.

They talked about their plans to buy two vans after they graduate high school and drive them around the world living off the proceeds of their professional scooter careers and a uTube video program they would produce about their adventures. I said, “It sounds like the Sixties all over again.” They asked, “What’s that?”

It is difficult to comprehend — no, more likely, accept — that to these children The Summer of Love is as far in the distant past as World War I was to those flower children gathered on old Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York on that warm summer afternoon in 1969 — as far distant as “Over There” is from “Bad Moon Rising.”

Imagine, I and those of my generation have lived a full one-tenth of the time that has passed since the Fourth Crusade and the final destruction of what little remained of classical Europe; one-tenth of the time since Genghis Kahn released his hoards to plunder and subdue almost one-quarter of the globe; one-tenth of the time that has passed since the reluctant King John signed the Magna Carter and Marco Polo returned from his journeys to the FarEast. Either we of my generation have lived long or human history has been far briefer than we imagined.

For the next few days, little or nothing happened that raised itself above the gray morass of a deteriorating memory. We ate lunch at a nice little outdoor restaurant where I had an east-African hamburger (chopped-meat mixed with yams and African spices), watched a Tarzan movie on TV where the actor playing the lost earl was so unmemorable that his name was not even listed in the credits and the chimp hammed up all the best parts and I spent a lot of time fingering the emerging lump in my neck and worrying.

One day, I walked the dog along the levee in the blistering heat and the silence. Eventually, we turned back into the cooler tree-shaded paths of the Enchanted Forrest until we came to the small swimming pool shaded by the tall pines and redwoods that I like so much. There we sat by the water in the stillness but for the barely perceptible splashing of the woman swimming laps and the whispers of the breeze through the trees. I waited there until dusk then walked back home. That night, I slept well.

It has been several days since I have written here — not because I have been busy with things to do or adventures and not because life has become so boring that my consciousness has shut down in response, but because just moping around seemed to be as energetic as I could manage.

On Monday, I drove Naida to the State Fairgrounds to close out the California Authors exhibit. It was fun. There were a few other authors there packing up their books while hoards of workmen trundle about taking down the various exhibits.

Later, HRM called and to take Jake and him to the mall. The day seemed to be looking up so I put a turkey feather I had found lying on the ground in the Enchanted Forrest into my hat band and left for the Golden Hills. I looked jauntily idiotic.
IMG_5531
Jauntily Idiotic

I arrived at the house ready to push on but they first had to watch “Sponge Bob” on the TV and finish eating a pizza for lunch. I waited and watched the idiotic animated sessile metazoan his moronic Asteroidea buddy and his dyspeptic sepiida co-worker cavort across the TV screen until the homo-sapiens sapiens adolescents had finished their pizza. We then piled into the car with the crumpled fender and left to pick up the third member of the Scooter Gang, Graham.

The Scooter Gang, HRH, Jake and Graham (Tyson, the fourth member, was busy playing X-box games) asked me to drive them to the mall in Roseville so that they could shop for backpacks for school and some other things that I tuned out in disinterest. At the mall, I sat at the coffee-shop and played on my computer while they shopped. After not too long they gave up, having purchased nothing but some sour tasting candy. They then asked me to drive them to someplace near Denio’s where Jake was to be paid by someone for a paintball gun he had sold in order to finance his purchase of a bicycle. It all seemed fishy to me. The street was in one of the more down-scale parts of Roseville which is saying a lot since up-scale Roseville does not seem to exist. They told me to wait while they went in search of the house of the person owing Jake the money. After a few minutes, they returned with Jake clutching a $100 bill. Do you think I was an unwitting accomplice in some sort of illegal juvenile caper?

A few days later, I met with my Oncologist. After telling him my symptoms and him feeling around my neck, voicing a few hmms and ahhs, and shoving a long tube through my nose and down my throat, I said, “So tell me doctor, am I a dead man walking or will you have to tear out my throat to save my life?” He seemed to be taken aback a bit by that and when it turned out that his office had misplaced the CAT scan I had taken in May upon which he made his previous diagnosis that I was in remission, he began to stutter, explaining that he does not think there is a problem, since everything looks ok inside my throat, but to be on the safe side I should have another CAT scan and biopsy “as soon as possible” to be sure. I then mentioned my numbness on the left side of my face and asked how that affected his diagnosis. He explained that there is a nerve which could be impacted by the so-called “slight swelling” on my neck causing such an effect. I suspect he was guessing.

The next night, I went to the sleep clinic he prescribed when I was still in remission. I do not know why he prescribed it. At the clinic, they wired me all up. I was placed in a room with a double bed that would not be out of place in a Motel 6 except that it lacked a television. They put something around my nose they said would pump air into my lungs but I had to keep my mouth closed or the air would escape and they would have to replace the nose thing with a mask that covered my nose and mouth. Every so often during the night the technician would come into the room and jiggle the wires and things that they had attached to me. I did not sleep well.

IMG_5535
Pookie Wired.

Two days later I had a CT scan followed by a surprisingly enjoyable dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Roseville. Next week comes the biopsy. I now realize getting old is not so different than being a soldier in war or an explorer in a dark jungle somewhere, every step may be your last. It’s all very exciting if you are one of those who finds shitting in one’s pants an adventure. Some people find all this terror something to approach with grim heroism, others prefer screaming all the way down. I am beginning to get bored and more than a little bit annoyed.

 

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

 
Modern California: Created on a Sacramento YMCA Basketball Court?

 

Naida while going through some of the effects of her late husband Bill Geyer came across an old yellow legal pad on which he described his days in Sacramento in the early 1960s. At that time, for the first time in its history, California had begun it’s transition from basically a one party (Republican) State to a two-party State and eventually again to the one-party State (Democratic) that it is now. It was the time when California’s government went from a rural part-time legislature to a full-time legislature with professional committee staff that became a model for the nation. It was also the time when California changed from a generally poorly governed rural-dominated state of little account in national politics to a to a producer of presidents, political leaders, and public policy. Pat Brown had just become Governor and was beginning, with the assistance of the newly elected Speaker of the House Jess Unruh, transforming the State into an economic, social, intellectual and political powerhouse that arguably changed the world.

In the beginning, about 1959 or so, the UC Berkley Political Science Department Internship Program was requested to provide interns to staff newly formed legislative committees in Sacramento. Republican Party Membership was a premium since everyone in the program except for Kirk West, Naida’s husband at the time, was either a Democrat or a Socialist. Among those chosen for this initial attempt to professionalize and depoliticize the legislative committee consultant system were three unusually tall young men and close friends, the aforementioned Kirk West, who was to go on to become the Secretary of Resources and later Deputy Director of Finance in the Reagan Administration and architect of his approach to financing governmental operations; Bill Geyer, a very moderate Republican and Naida’s second husband, creator of California’s Williamson Act that not only preserved much of California’s precious farmland from being plundered and buried beneath the dreams of rapacious developers and local politicians and a godsend to farmers wishing to continue farming in the face of escalating taxes and sprawling urban development; and, Gene Pochman, a confirmed Socialist, the guiding force behind the the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and eventually longtime member of the Berkley City Council and professor of government at the University. All three despite their diverse political ideologies were excited to find themselves at their young ages someplace where they could, through government, beneficially affect the welfare of the citizens of the State.

The three friends, being unusually tall and athletic (all above 6’3” in height) shortly after their arrival in the State Capitol began playing basketball at the local YMCA in order to enjoy the camaraderie of athletics so important to young men and to keep in shape. Looking for others to play with them and perhaps make up a team with which they could challenge other groups of like-minded young men, they were soon joined by an unlikely duo consisting of the legendary Jess Unruh, soon to be the powerful, dynamic and transformational Speaker of California’s Assembly and his chief of staff Larry Margolis, two short exceedingly overweight and definitely unathletic men who for some reason believed the exercise would benefit them and, if vigorous enough, even drain a few pounds off of their far too corpulent bodies.

For most of the transformational years of the Brown Governorship and Unruh speakership, these five unlikely friends (and friends they became) met weekly for their “exercise,” and also socially and professionally discussing the political and social issues of the day. At times, assisted by Unruh, one of another of the three young men were placed into critical positions of influence in guiding the transformation of the State of California into a nation in all but name.

 

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

 

1529AD — Occultist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa publishes Declamatio de nobilitate et praecellentia foeminei sexus, “Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex”, a book pronouncing the theological and moral superiority of women.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 
A. Charlie Stross on Top:

Happy 21st Century!

Here’s the shape of a 21st century I don’t want to see. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s the one we’re going to get unless we’re very lucky.

Shorter version is: there will be much dying: even more so than during the worst conflicts of the 20th century. But rather than conventional wars (“nation vs nation”) it’ll be “us vs them”, where “us” and “them” will be defined by whichever dehumanized enemy your network filter bubble points you at—Orwell was ahead of the game with the Two Minute Hate, something with which all of us who use social media are now uncomfortably, intimately, familiar.

People will die in large numbers, but it will happen out of sight. It’ll be “soft genocide” or “malign neglect”, and the victims will be the climate change refugees who are kept out of sight by virtual walls. On land there may be fences and minefields and debatable ground dominated by gangs, and at sea there may be drone-patrolled waters where refugees can be encouraged to sink and drown out of sight of the denizens of their destination countries. This much we already see. But the exterminatory policies will continue at home in the destination zones as well, and that’s the new innovation that is gradually coming online. There will be no death camps in this shiny new extermination system. Rather, death by starvation and exposure will be inflicted by the operation of deliberately broken social security systems (see also universal credit), deportation of anyone who can be portrayed as an un-citizen (the Windrush scandal is an early prototype of this mechanism), and removal of the right to use money (via electronic fund transfers, once cash is phased out) from those deemed undesirable by an extrapolation of today’s Hostile Environment Policy and its equivalents.

You don’t need to build concentration camps with barbed wire fences and guards if you can turn your entire society into a machine-mediated panopticon with automated penalties for non-compliance.

The Nazis had to leave their offices in order to round people up and brutalize or murder them. They had to travel to the Wannsee Conference to hammer out how to implement Generalplan Ost. Tomorrow’s genocides will be decentralized and algorithmically tweaked, quite possibly executed without human intervention.
Charlie Stross

 

B. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:

I have highlighted Brad DeLong’s blog “Grasping Reality with at Least Three Hands” (http://www.bradford-delong.com/ ) several times in Blog of the Week, mostly because he always seems to troll the media for fascinating bits of thoughtful commentary. This time, however, he refers his readers to the draft of his new book “TYRANNIES: AN IN-TAKE FROM “SLOUCHING TOWARDS UTOPIA?: AN ECONOMIC HISTORY OF THE LONG 20TH CENTURY,” and welcomes their comments and suggestions. The “Long 20th Century,” he postulates began in 1870 and ended in 2016. He argues that unlike prior centuries where conflicts and material advances were generated by a multitude of causes, the “Long 20th Century” was marked primarily by conflicts of economic ideology. While I find a lot about his argument to be questionable, his recitation of the unprecedented carnage of human lives that resulted from these ideological disputes is spot on.

Twentieth-Century governments and their soldiers have killed perhaps forty million people in war: either soldiers (most of them unlucky enough to have been drafted into the mass armies of the twentieth century) or civilians killed in the course of what could be called military operations.

But wars have caused only about a fifth of this century’s violent death toll.

Governments and their police have killed perhaps one hundred and sixty million people in time of peace: class enemies, race enemies, political enemies, economic enemies, imagined enemies. You name them, governments have killed them on a scale that could not previously have been imagined. If the twentieth century has seen the growth of material wealth on a previously-inconceivable scale, it has also seen human slaughter at a previously-unimaginable rate

Call those political leaders whose followers and supporters have slaughtered more than ten million of their fellow humans “members of the Ten-Million Club.” All pre-twentieth century history may (but may not) have seen two members of the Ten-Million Club: Genghis Khan, ruler of the twelfth century Mongols, launcher of bloody invasions of Central Asia and China, and founder of China’s Yuan Dynasty; and Hong Xiuquan, the mid-nineteenth-century Chinese intellectual whose visions convinced him that he was Jesus Christ’s younger brother and who launched the Taiping Rebellion that turned south-central China into a slaughterhouse for decades. Others do not make the list. Napoleon does not make it, and neither does Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar.

By contrast the twentieth century has seen five or six people join the Ten Million Club: Adolf Hitler, Chiang Kaishek, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Tojo Hideki. Hitler, Stalin, and Mao have credentials that make them charter members of the Thirty Million Club as well—and perhaps the Fifty Million Club. A regime whose hands are as bloody as those of the 1965-1998 Suharto regime in Indonesia—with perhaps 450,000 communists, suspected communists, and others in the wrong place at the wrong time dead at its creation in 1965, and perhaps 150,000 inhabitants of East Timor dead since the Indonesian annexation in the mid-1970s—barely makes the twentieth century’s top twenty list of civilian-massacring regimes.

Brad DeLong. “TYRANNIES: AN IN-TAKE FROM “SLOUCHING TOWARDS UTOPIA?: AN ECONOMIC HISTORY OF THE LONG 20TH CENTURY”

 

C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

Yesterday is only an uncertain memory and tomorrow just a guess. Today is all we have to hold on to and I am not so sure about that either.

 
D. Today’s Poem:

“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, that roared out a warnin’
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
I heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Bob Dylan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

[The silence] was deep and wide as autumn’s ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.

Rothfuss, Patrick. The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle Book 1) (p. 662). DAW.

Categories: July through September 2018, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 28 Shadow 0007 (July 18, 2018)

 

The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that, “My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
~~Isaac Isimov (1980)

 

 

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

 
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY — GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN:

 

Following a delightful breakfast of coffee, brioche and a fried egg with pepper chips, we set off to Cosenza and the train station. After a series of the usual misadventures and annoyances, I boarded the train to Sicily. It was the same cattle car I remember from years ago when I used to take the dolorous train from Sicily to Rome, a train carrying the impoverished Sicilians to jobs in the North (Sicilian Il Norte) — standing room only for the 13-hour trip. This time there were no impoverished workers going north, but many not particularly impoverished people going south for whatever reason. Passengers still were standing in the aisles and sitting on one another’s laps. My reserved seat was among a group of young women and families going somewhere in the same direction I was. They did not appreciate my expropriation of the seat one member of the group occupied. She then continued the trip sitting in the lap of an older man accompanying them or walking up and down the aisles.

I was also disturbed by the loud braying voice of one of the men traveling with that particular group. I could not make up my mind if he was a “cafone” ( loud, ignorant and oblivious) or “pazzo” (crazy). I decided it was a little bit of both. Even those traveling with him seemed to either humor or ignore him. When the women next to me left the train at Messina, I moved into her seat by the window. He sat down next to me and began to fling his arms about, pester me with questions and opinions and generally acted grievously obnoxious. I seriously considered braining him with my cane. But, long checkered experience in dealing with situations like this has taught me to act like I understand nothing about the language, am old and feeble and a little bit addled and confused (which is not too hard to do at my age). Inevitably, they either give up in frustration or some woman comes to my aid and drives them off. It happened like that here. The women in the group began to yell at him and told him to stop bothering me. The high point of the trip other than when he got off the train was the crossing of the Straits of Messina on the train ferry.

IMG_5361

Scylla and Charybdis. (The Straits of Messina)

 

The trains were decoupled and stacked into the hold of the ferry. We disembarked the train and climbed to the top decks where we could sit, walk around, buy snacks and enjoy the half hour or so trip across the straits.

IMG_5355.jpg
The train ferry.

 

IMG_5391
Messina.
We disembarked at Messina. They reassembled the cars into several trains depending on their destination. Ours set out for Catania. Along the way, we passed Taormina and Mt, Etna blowing out smoke from its caldera.

IMG_5392

Mt. Etna.

 

I changed trains at Catania, boarding one for Caltanissetta where I expected to change trains once again to take me to my final destination, Canicatti the ancestral home of my mother’s family. Unfortunately, after arriving at Caltanissetta, while attempting to read the train schedule to find out from which track my connection would leave even though there was only one other train at the station, that train, my connection, left with me running after it banging at the side of the cars until it left me standing at the end of the platform forlorn and alone as the train disappeared into the distance.

I was truly alone and forlorn when I realized I was not at the train station in downtown Caltanissetta as I had thought, but in an almost derelict and abandoned station far out in the countryside at the end of an unpaved and weed overgrown dead end road — and the night was descending. It seems that that station was used only for passengers to disembark from the express train to Palermo and catch the now departed train to Caltanissetta Central and Canicatti. So I called up Antonio and asked him to come and save me. He good-naturedly agreed and explained it would take at least 45 minutes for him to get there. So, I stood there in the gloom and watched hoards of swallow type birds flitter through the sky in search of those insects who dare to come out at dusk, while a hawk sat calmly on a phone wire contemplating tonight’s dinner. A group of young men arrived driving a truck containing a jitney type vehicle in the back, They met some other men who came from somewhere I did not notice although one drove up in an old car with cardboard covering a broken window. They took the jitney down from the truck bed and began pushing it up a hill toward an abandoned building. The jitney got away from them and began rolling down the hill sending the men running in every direction. It then tipped over and skidded to the bottom of the hill. I thought I was watching a Buster Keaton silent film. They then all stood around — wondering what to do, I guess. I never found out what happened next because Antonio arrived and drove me to his home.

During the ride, I noticed much of the highway between Caltanissetta and Canicatti that they had been building two or three years ago when I had last been here has been completed. It is exceptionally lavish. Where it is not elevated it is tunneled. To construct the tunnels they first tear down the hill. Then they build the tunnel. Then they put the hill back on top of the tunnel. I’m not kidding.

When I first arrived in Sicily, now about 50 years ago, although the modern technology of the time, telephone, automobiles, television and the like had been well established but much of the social life of the people remained medieval — Marriages were arranged, dowries negotiated, crime of honor legal and common, crime organized, autocrats vicious, noble families if not admired then respected and government remote and rapacious. It was a place for travelers, not tourists, for those that traveled with no schedules expecting discomfort, not those with schedules, sights to see and an expectation of basic comforts. Yet, despite their suspicion of strangers, the people were welcoming when that suspicion waned, the food good, the wines better and the climate benign.

Since then, most of that has changed, the young are more independent (although my female cousins, PHDs all, will not leave the island even for brief periods without their mother’s consent), suspicion lessened, crime diminished, noble families dispersed and the government still corrupt but no longer remote. The food has not yet been completely homogenized to suit the food production industry and the wines are perhaps even better and while tourism has become accepted, old historical sights cleaned up and new ones developed, it is still not as easy to get around, make schedules and enjoy pure luxury (Taormina and a few other places accepted — but it was always like that). On the other hand, there are few places that afford the wanderer such a variety of experience, even ones that are not so good but, on the other hand, rarely so bad either.

My visits to Canicatti and to Antonio’s house are neither as a tourist or a traveler, but is simply returning home. As I grew older, I found, at least for me, there is no one “home,” a principle place of residence perhaps, but many homes identified by the fact that there reside, people, I love and like to be with. In Antonio’s case, there is also the food and the wine.

 

 

B. ANTONIO’S — THE FIRST NIGHT.

 

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A view of Canicatti. Antonio’s house is behind the tree on the left.
We arrived in Canicatti my mother’s ancestral home and drove on to Antonio’s house at the edge of the town. After getting settled in my room and meeting the new houseboy, a young man from Bangladesh whose name I cannot remember (Friday, the previous houseboy from Nigeria, left to sell shoes in Venice), Antonio suggested a light snack before retiring. I agreed. Here it is:

The first course, lamb stew piccante in tomato sauce.

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The second course, arancini con panel.

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The third course, melanzane parmigiana.

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The Fourth course, Pasta Norma.

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The Dessert, local berries, and lemon granita. All accompanied by wonderful red and white local wines and finished off with Limoncello and grappa.

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C. ANTONIO’S — DAY TWO.

 

The next day, following breakfast and a brief nap, I went for a walk. By that time most Sicilians had returned to their beds for their afternoon siesta. Antonio worried about me walking around during the hottest part of the day. He insisted I carry my phone and call him if I passed out from the heat.

It was hot. Antonio’s home stands at the border of the rural area and the commercial-industrial area of the town. I chose to walk into the rural lands. I walked along a mostly white stone covered unpaved road through some olive groves. The sun’s glare reflected off the white road hurt my eyes even though I was wearing dark glasses. Reaching the end of the road I was traveling on and sweating a lot, I decided to return to the house and take a nap until dinner — and so I did.

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Through the olive groves.

There were two couples and me at dinner. One couple from Germany traveling with a two-year-old boy, an inveterate explorer, were staying the week. The other, a delightful older English couple, were only staying the night. What follows is the meal:

The first course, four different local goat cheeses with a suitable different (local) fruit preserve on each,

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The second course, ripe fig from Antonio’s garden with speck, local goat ricotta with fruit preserve and fried squash blossoms.

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The Third and fourth courses were the same melanzane parmigiana and arancini as I had the previous night except I learned the parmesan cheese had been replaced with a local cheese.

 

The Fifth course, a soup, the ingredients of which I no longer recall, perhaps seafood.

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The Sixth course, mixed fresh local seafood and a vegetable of some sort.

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The Seventh course, local fish, the name of which I missed, cooked in an olive, caper and tomato sauce.

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The Dessert, the same local berries and lemon granita as I enjoyed last night followed by a flute of different local berries and a different granite. I have eliminated the photo here out of pure exhaustion.

We also drank copious amounts of delicious red and white wines from a vineyard located closer to Agrigento (Antonio seems to feel something grown ten or so miles away as not fitting his definition of “local.”) And of course, limoncello and grappa. We all got very drunk and began telling each other our deepest darkest secrets. Ok maybe not our deepest and darkest, we never tell those even when drunk, but we certainly told those that we would otherwise be embarrassed if anyone but our dearest friends knew about them.

I guess I should write a little something about Sicilian cuisine — at least as I understand it. It is not simply indigenous recipes made from fresh local products improved over the centuries by the addition of spices, condiments, and recipes to overcome whatever deficiencies existed in the local agricultural products. It is also a cuisine that requires the reuse of food not consumed the previous day, not by simply reheating leftovers, but as foundational elements in completely new recipes. Another element of the cuisine is its adoption and development of the tremendous variety of deserts and sweets gifted to them by the Muslim community that ruled the island for so many centuries. Finally, the use of sweet liquors in Sicily, like in much of southern Italy, appears to be some sort of a religious ritual to celebrate a meal well cooked and well eaten.

Note: I will no longer post photographs of each course I enjoy since that would extend this issue of T&T beyond tolerable limits.

 

 

D. ANTONIO’S — DAY THREE:

 

This morning, I decided to go into Canicatti to walk around, search out places I remembered from when I lived here 50 years ago and also do a little shopping. Antonio drove me to the center of the town and I set off walking.

Canicatti is not a tourist city, there is nothing to see here. Monuments built by the rich and famous are usually reserved for the hilltops where they lived in their grand villas and palaces. Canicatti, set in a broad agricultural valley, has always been a commercial town for the sale and distribution of agricultural products. It looks grubby but is actually more prosperous than it appears.

I found the park where my mother had told me she played in as a child before she was sent off at seven years old to America in the early Twentieth Century version of indentured servitude. It is now a scruffy little park. It was much grander fifty years ago when I first saw it.

I sat on a bench among other old men and listened to the harsh guttural tones of Sicilian that Marlon Brando mimicked in Godfather I. I wish I could say I thought deep thoughts as I sat there, but I didn’t.

I eventually left and walked through back alleys and streets looking for the cafe where I would sit with friends fifty years ago. The cafe with the bullet holes still in the walls. Bullet holes made by American soldiers in WWII in the Canicatti Massacre when the American commander lined up random citizens and had them shot as a punishment for the town harboring the Germans. The fact was, there never were any Germans there.

My friends and I would gather at the cafe and watch the white-suited Mafiosi stride into the place with their jackets draped over their shoulders and the furtive hand gestures among the other customers ringing as loudly as shouts. The cafe where I sat those long afternoons so long ago with Gigi, Piccolo Gaetano, and others. Alas, I think it is no more, swept up by the years like unwanted refuse.

I looked for the Landowner’s Social Club building that, so long ago, I sat in front of one afternoon with the Baron La Lomia, the head of the hereditary ruling family of the town, a fat overdressed little man with a great square beard who was making his annual appearance at his demesne. As each resident of the area would approach to pay their respects to the Baron, he would say to them “And, I would like you to meet my good friend Mr. Petrillo who traveled all the way from America to be with me today.” And, I would shake the hand of each person in that long line as they passed by. I could not find that place either. Did it exist and was eventually blown away as an anachronism like the dust and litter blowing around as I walk or was it simply my imagination? Who cares? There is no difference — imagination, memory, reality — all the same.

I also looked for the tiny park with the statue of the erstwhile patron saint of the town, the Blessed La Lomia, a missionary in Brazil killed by the natives who saw through the baloney he was trying to sell them. I could not find it. So I sat down outside of a little cafe across from the Church where I was to meet Antonio and ordered a coke and a lemon granita. I chose the cafe because the outdoor tables were shaded by a large tree and an awning.

Alas, I soon realized it was probably the place where the dregs of the town congregated. Those young people who lived at home had no job and wanted none. One table was occupied by a boisterous threesome, two young men, and a tiny young woman. One of the men would shout at me and make faces. The other young man and the tiny young woman would every now and then rise from their chairs and chase each other around the table, ending in a brief wrestling match. I do not know why they did it. A very large tattooed man carrying a beer came in, sat on a bench facing me, not more than three feet away, and stared at me for a long time, then declared “Hot isn’t it?” I agreed and responded, “Yes it is.” He continued to stare and sip his beer. Various people who seemed not in complete possession of their mental faculties would enter, wander around, and sometimes stand next to my table and stare at me. I loved it. The chances of anything dangerous happening was minuscule. Yet the frisson of excitement drove away any residual melancholy remaining from my walk around the town.

Dinner was the usual many course affair, a mixture of old and new. The new included a fava bean soup, crawfish and the melanzane parmigiana with capers and other savory items replacing the cheese. Dessert included cassata as well as the berry and granita dish.

At dinner tonight was an Argentine couple, Herman and Christina who live in Florida and run a business finding investment properties in the US for foreigners. They also have started up a treasure hunting business in Columbia to raise several sunken Spanish Galleons. The twist of this effort compared to other treasure hunting schemes is that instead of distributing the treasure to the investors as it is recovered which when attempted by traditional treasure hunts runs into severe legal and political problems, they intend to keep the treasure hoard intact, but use its value base for the creation of a new crypto-currency and pay the investors with the crypto-currency. Crazy perhaps. But, Trump made a career of persuading people to invest in much less and look where he ended up — the bitch for an insecure Russian autocrat who trapped him in a wired Moscow hotel room taking a golden shower.

As coincidence would have it, about twelve years ago, I had a small practice representing treasure hunters, almost all of whom failed. The dream never dies.

 

E. ANTONIO’S DAY FOUR:

 

Following another excellent breakfast, the Argentinian couple invited me to join them on a trip to the beach. They had asked Antonio to suggest a remote and secluded beach and he did — at a very remote and far distant location. We drove at least 40 miles before we turned off the main road and on to an unpaved track that wound its way through farmland with many abandoned farmhouses and a few appearing not so abandoned. We saw three maybe four very old men working in the fields, and a very old and hunchbacked shepherd driving a small flock of undernourished sheep — no-one else. At times, we drove through weed forests with the cane like stalks twice as high as the car cutting off all view. We drove for five or six miles up steep hills and through narrow canyons before we came to a dirt parking lot containing a few cars and a small shack with a somewhat rotund gentleman standing in front. He took our money and announced in very good English that it was at least a two-minute walk to a sandy beach where it was suitable for swimming which he called “Beach One.” “Beach Two,” he said, “was a ten-minute walk up the coast and was good for taking photographs but because it was rocky was not good for swimming but suitable for snorkeling.” Beach three he explained was a twenty-five-minute walk down the coast, but I forget what it was good for. We walked the allotted two minutes and came out of the towering weeds and saw a very attractive sandy beach containing a few bathers but still many more than I thought would ever chance the treacherous drive.

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Pookie at the beach.

 
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The Beach.

 
After setting up the umbrella in the sand, instead of going swimming, I abruptly announced I was going to hike the ten minutes to the photogenic beach, and then set off. I do not know why. I found a small weed overgrown path that seemed to climb up what appeared to be more than a hill but less than a mountain. After several minutes of climbing, huffing and puffing, and sweating profusely, I realized I was all alone on this steep rocky path that I knew not where it went, without water, becoming rapidly exhausted and convinced I was about to collapse. But like Scott in the Antarctic, foolishly pushing ahead only for the irrational pleasure of beating Amundsen, I went on. Like Scott, I thought I could beat Amundsen too,

I noticed the path was strewn with the bleached shells of snails. I could tell they were not laid down here due to some ancient geological catastrophe, they were strewn around not buried in rock hardened silt. I then imagined massive escargot eating rituals by Sicilian cultists in honor of Diana the Huntress every night of the full moon. But, finally decided they were simply the carcasses of egotistical land snails who believed they could make it across the blazing hot paths in the middle of the day and were fried for their arrogance. I picked up one desiccated bone white shell, put it in my pocket and continued struggling up the slope.

I little later, I came upon a single quill lying on the path. I stopped and stared at it and wondered what sort of quilled creature survived the five thousand year commitment by Sicilians to rid their island of every mammal except those they could domesticate and rats and mice. Unable to reach a conclusion, I picked it up and put it in my pocket too. I also picked up and pocked some interesting small stones and happily contemplated carrying them back home and washing them, not to study but to remind me that it was not a figment of my imagination that I chose to climb this damned path at midday.

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The Treasure.

 

 

Eventually, I reached the top and found myself on a high bluff overlooking a beach with no way down. I then realized I could have reached that same beach by simply walking a few feet from where I began and wading in ankle deep water around some rocks. Annoyed by this discovery, I began to retrace my steps. I was further annoyed when a family with two young children carrying beach equipment and towels jauntily passed me by having clearly enjoyed their morning at the ten-minute walk rocky photogenic beach.

When I returned to the Argentineans they were just packing up to leave. So, we left, renegotiated the weed jungle and drove another twenty miles or so to Sciacca to have lunch.

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The Photogenic beach?

 
Sciacca (pronounced Sha – ca) is a fairly large town on a hill near the water with an interesting if arcane history (look it up). At its base was a large working fishing port.

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The Port of Sciacca.

 
We entered a restaurant directly across the road from the port. It had a great view and served freshly caught fish. We chose our fish and from a comely waitress ordered them grilled and then ate them along with an extremely tasty salad.

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The fish.

 

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The comely waitress and the Argentinians.

 

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The cooked fish.

 

For dessert, I had cannoli made with local ricotta.
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The sacred cannoli.

 
On the way home, we came upon a traffic snarl caused by an electrical transmission wire having fallen across the road. There were no police or first responders anywhere so passengers would jump out of their cars hold the wire up over their heads while the driver drove the car through, then drop it and jump back into the car. Thinking I could be as brave and foolhardy as the women in the photograph below, I jumped out of our car, held the wire over my head until Herman drove under it and then jumped back into the car and we sped away. No, I did not die.
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The brave but foolhardy women of Sicily.

 
That night I played my first game of chess in 50 years with the German gentleman and I won. It took the sting out of Croatia’s loss in the World Cup final. There had been no meal prepared. Antonio was gone for the evening so we snitched some sausages he had cooking on the stove for tomorrows meal. I went to bed happy. It was a good day after all.

 

 

F. ANTONIO’S — DAY FIVE:

 

Today is my last full day here. Tomorrow, I fly to Milano and two days later back to the Enchanted Forest and Naida. I am both sad and eager to go. Sad because I feel so comfortable and relaxed here and eager to go because I feel too comfortable and relaxed here. Too much of a good thing can become irritating if it goes on too long.

After breakfast, I said goodbye to the Argentineans. Then Antonio, the Bangladesh houseboy and I left for Licata, a town on the coast, to buy some fresh fish for tonight’s meal. I pictured a large fish market open to the fishing boats tied up to the wharves, burly men pushing crates around slick cement floors while fishmongers in their stalls lined up their wares with military precision on beds of gleaming ice. It was not like that at all. It was more like a dope deal. First a stop on a remote road on the edge of the city for a telephone call. Then two more stops at gas stations for more calls. Then a wait in a cafe drinking espresso until a man arrived and engaged Antonio in a whispered conversation. Then we get back in the car and follow the man’s car through the back roads of the city until we both come to a stop on the side of the road and Antonio and the man get out of their cars and walk around a building and disappear for a fairly long while. Then Antonio returns with a small plastic bag that I presume contained the fish and we drove off returning the 50 or so kilometers to Canicatti.

Back in town, I asked Antonio to drop me off at the church so I could go to the bank and withdraw the money I would need to pay for my stay. The charges amounted to about $70 per day for the room, breakfast, and dinner and all the wine, grappa and limoncello one can drink. It is not so bad a deal when I consider that I probably drank $20 worth of alcoholic beverages each day.

After, withdrawing the money, I returned to strolling around the town looking for places I knew — no luck there. I then looked for the ice-cream shop I had spotted two days before that made the best ice–cream in the area — but it was closed. I then thought about walking up the hill to where my mother lived in a section of the city called the Borgo, the old center of the town before they filled in the stream from which the town got its name (Cane Brook, for the dense cane like plants that flourished along its banks. Wikipedia, on the other hand, says it comes from the Arabic word meaning “muddy ditch”). I thought it would be good to see my mom’s old house again. But, I looked up at the hill I would have to climb, felt the heat of the sun and concluded it was not going to happen on this trip, so, I chose to sit in a cafe on the main street drinking a very good chilled white wine and nibbling on the little snacky things they brought me. Around me sat a number of young men and women. The men all had beards and the women all had tattoos. In my day, the men all had beards also.

I napped the afternoon away.

That evening, my last here, Antonio made dinner for only him and me. There was a wonderful salad of vegetables picked that day from the garden including sweet onions all in a vinegar, olive oil, and pepper dressing. He also broke out his favorite local white wines from Canicatti. Since he was busy cooking I drank most of the wine.

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He indicated we were going to have a light dinner this evening. For pasta, he prepared a dish with zucchini and mushrooms.
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Then came the fish course.

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Antonio with the fish.

 

I do not know if that was the fish we pursued that morning, but it seemed like a lot of fish for two people. It was cooked with oranges, capers, and tomatoes in olive oil. After, deboning and serving the fish, Antonio brought out another bottle of white wine from Canicatti vineyards. “This,” he said, “is the best white in Sicily and perhaps is all of Italy.” While the previous bottle was made from Grillo grapes, this he said was made from a blending of four local grape varieties.

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The Great White.

 

The white wines from Sicily I have tasted so far on this trip have been very smooth and suitable for drinking with food or alone. They seem to lack that slightly astringent aftertaste of other expensive white wines.

After the fish course and having downed most of two bottles of wine, I was —well drunk or at least well on my way.

Dessert was a cassata followed by an absolute smashing mulberry granita accompanied by limoncello (a lot of it) but no grappa.

I was helped off to bed and woke up the next morning with no hangover.

 
G. DEPARTURE

 

Breakfast, some puttering around packing and then Antonio drove me into town to catch the bus to the airport. Hugs and kisses all around. Then a two hour or so ride through an ofter relatively bleak and empty Sicilian countryside I arrived at the Airport waited for several hours and flew off to Milano.

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The Sicilian Countryside on the way to Catania.

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

 

From Harper’s index: Minimum number of scientific papers published on nomophobia, the fear of not having access to cellular service: 55
Sigh — modern life can be so stressful. Bring back public phone booths with internet connections and save us from this debilitating affliction.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 
A. Matthews’ Musings:

 

Jason Matthews, a retired CIA operative with extensive experience in Russia, in his espionage thriller “Red Sparrow” expresses what are clearly his own feelings about Putin’s Russia through the words of one of his fictional characters.

“Energy, population decline, natural resources, client states. Forget all that. Russia is still the only country that can put an ICBM into Lafayette Square across from the White House. The only one, and they have thousands of nukes.”

“Russians. They hate foreigners only a little less than they hate themselves, and they’re born conspirators. Oh, they know very well they’re superior, but your Russki is insecure, wants to be respected, to be feared like the old Soviet Union. They need recognition, and they hate their second-tier status in the superpower stakes. That’s why Putin’s putting together USSR 2.0, and no one is going to stand in his way. “The Vkid who pulls the tablecloth and smashes the crockery to get attention—that’s Moscow. They don’t want to be ignored and they’ll break the dishes to make sure it doesn’t happen. Sell chemical weapons to Syria, give fuel rods to Iran, teach Indonesia centrifuge design, build a light water reactor in Burma, oh, yeah, people, nothing’s out of bounds. “But the real danger is the instability of all this generation of world-stopping crazies. People, the second Cold War is all about the resurgent Russian Empire, and don’t kid yourselves Moscow is gonna sit back and see how the Chinese navy handles itself when—not if—the shooting starts in the Taiwan Strait.”

Matthews, Jason. Red Sparrow: A Novel (The Red Sparrow Trilogy Book 1) (p. 28). Scribner.

 
B. Giants of History: Pat Carlone:

 

Peter, after reading the previous T&T post, was reminded of his old friend, Pat Carlone.

Our friend Pat Carlone hails from Calabria via New Britain, Conn. Your travel descriptions help explain some of Pat’s endearing bizaarisms. FYI, we enjoyed his aging parents dancing on a table at Spengers around midnight at one of Pat’s birthday celebrations some years ago. Pat, who used to play trumpet, piano, and accordion, was the guy who nudged me to start playing jazz bass back on the 1970s. He lived for a short time with our friend Howard over what was then a laundromat on the corner of 24th St. and Diamond St., which we used to frequent before we acquired our mechanical improvements. Remind me to tell you a couple of vignettes about Pat’s peregrinations before his rendezvous with Lois Lane.

Now doesn’t that last line make you just salivate to learn more about Carlone’s peregrinations and rendezvous with Lois Lane? I can see many a long afternoon at the Geezer Bench listening to Peter’s stories.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTES:

 
Two from Kieran Healy (@kjhealy) on gun violence in America:

“In any case, over a few decades, the US got nudged into a terrible but stable equilibrium by gun hobbyists, at an annual cost of 10,000 homicides and 20,000 suicides. At this point, the issue is less “policy” and more whether there’ll be some tectonic shift in public opinion.”

“Most policy discussions are beside the point, too. There will be no Port Arthur or Dunblane moment in the US. The main response will be to further entrench a layer of consultants whose job is to socialize children into the expectation that they might be murdered in their classrooms.”

:

Categories: July through September 2018, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th.    24 Shadow 0007 (July 13, 2018)

 
“We ain’t tourist’s honey — travelers, buy there or mail it back.”
A friend of the Old Pirate.

 
Remember July 15 in National be a Dork Day.
Be a Dork, I know you can do it.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN CROATIA:

It was a lovely sunny warm morning when we left for Croatia. Our first stop, of course, was at Lucia’s Petite Cafe for coffee, brioche, and hugs. For me, it was especially sad, since at my age I cannot know if I will be back again. I even hugged Danielle, Lucia’s somewhat dissolute and shaggy boyfriend. Then we were off.

The drive to the border of Italy and Slovenia was relatively brief. We passed Trieste on the way, a surprisingly small city nestled among relatively gentle hills surrounding the bay and the Adriatic.

After a drive of not much more than a mile from the Slovenian border we reached its border with Croatia and passed through without incident. This portion of Croatia, Istria, had been part of Italy or some Italian City State since Roman times except for a period of Austro-Hungarian rule in the 18 and 19th Centuries but eventually passed to the old Yugoslavia after WWII.

After a brief drive through some low hills, we entered a low flat plain containing Mediterranean type forest vegetation and few people. According to Hank, Goldman Sachs plans to buy up just about everything it can get its hands on in this area, even its toll roads (one or more of the people we will be partying with over the next two days is [are] involved somehow). They want to make it into a tech hub for Europe like Silicon Valley (Facebook already is building a facility) and some sort of Adriatic vacation paradise. In the meantime, it remains someplace one would like to visit, easy going, pretty and slow moving.

Our first stop was at some Trulli type buildings. Actually our first two stops. Initially, we halted at the side of the road to view an abandoned Trulli. A road maintenance vehicle then appeared to see if we needed any assistance. After explaining that we stopped only so I could take a photograph of the abandoned building, the worker then offered to sell us truffles, olive oil, and grappa. Hank bought some truffles, I took some photos and we continued on our way.

A short time later we stopped at a place with considerably more of those buildings, in fact, the whole area was some sort of archeological park. Trulli-type buildings are conical stone buildings common throughout Europe in one form or another. They were built mostly in the 19th century as agriculture in Europe moved into less ideal areas because of rising demand. The buildings (and walls) were built from the stones taken out of the cleared lands. The most famous or at least picturesque of these are the large conical stone homes In Puglia, Italy. Since that portion of the trip had been jettisoned for logistical reasons, I felt that a photograph of me standing beside any like structure would be a satisfactory replacement.
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Pookie and the Trulli in Croatia
We eventually arrived at our hotel near Pula. A nice little place not too far from the harbor where the ferry to the Island National Park disembarks.

Many stories I either heard, saw or experienced on this part of my trip — much too many to write about here but some of those I remember most vividly follow. Many were told by Hank. But, be aware, their veracity depends upon: the accuracy of my memory; may be affected by what I may have thought I had been told; my additions where I could not recall what I had been told; what for one reason or another I avoided; and whatever I have added in an effort to make the story more interesting, After all, isn’t that what history is all about, a few truths surrounded by a lot of little lies and highlighted by a few big ones.

To pass the time on the drive, Hank told me the story of Paul Bingham who was Tennessee Williams lover at one time and lived at Hank’s house and died there. Hank ended up with many of the letters that passed between Paul and Tennessee which he still has. He also told me about someone he called “Doc.” Doc was one of Hank’s professors at college. When Doc retired from teaching he also retired his suits and other clothing replacing them with bib overalls, tee shirts, and black work boots. With the time on his hands that often comes with retirement, Doc got involved in various dicey projects and would often persuade Hank to join him — apparently a not too difficult task. Projects like growing okra for profit. One time Doc went into the illegal fireworks business and blew up his house. Homeless, he moved in with Hank and stayed there until he died.

We arrived at our hotel, a pleasant little place not too far from Pula and near the warm where the boats depart for a national park located on an island a few hundred yards away. After checking in we left to visit our friends at Tito’s old vacation estate.

We arrived at Marshal Tito’s vacation estate in Pula on the Adriatic coast at a place called Volkane.
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Tito’s villa

Tito had the villa built to his specifications. He also had all the lands that could be seen from the Villa which were treeless, reforested — planting over a million trees in the area. Now that the trees have reached maturity some of the people in the area complain that the trees obstruct their view of the water and of the other trees.
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The view from the terrace

At some point, Tito gifted the villa to his chief of intelligence. That spy’s daughter lives there now with her husband an ex-marine officer who at one point had been an Assistant Under-secretary of Defense for the US by the name Jolly (he was the tallest man in the marines at the time and was nicknamed the Jolly Green Giant shortened to Jolly. He liked the name and it stuck.) He was a trained psychologist and was sent around the world to, as he put it to me, “Find out the truth.”
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Jolly

The villa and part of the estate stand upon an old Nazi bunker one entrance of which remains. An ancient Roman wall surrounds part of the estate.

Every year on or around the 4th of July, Jolly and his wife hold a party for about two hundred of their nearest and dearest friends among which, due to Hank and Camille, I found myself included.

On my first day at Volkane, I met some of those that lived there, the sisters of the spy’s daughter and other relatives and friends who visited during the day. I also stared a lot at the pleasant view of the Adriatic. The air was warm, full and restful. I walked several times through the gate onto the rocks by the water and along the shore to a bench where I would sit for a half hour or so after which I would make my way back.

In front of the villa, there was parked a large black Mercedes. I was told the Mercedes once belonged to Tito. It now belongs to an aging local rock star who lives in one of the three units the villa had been divided into after Tito’s death. The name of the rock group was Atomic Shelter and had a bit of a reputation in eastern Europe.
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Tito’s wheels

A lot of time was spent telling stories. Mostly by Jolly about his life and times in the military and going and coming from some clandestine doings in some backwater somewhere, but never about the nature of the clandestine doings themselves. Most of the stories, I do not remember, or remember vaguely, his time in Thailand, his selection for his job or jobs and so on.

He told one about his great-great-grandfather, Christopher Sheats. Sheats from Winston County Alabama was one of the delegates to the convention of southerners who drafted the Articles of Succession that began the Civil War. He objected to secession but lost. Upon returning to Winston County he, at a meeting of Union sympathizers held in Looney’s Tavern, a local meeting place and center of Pro-Union sentiment, declared the county a free state arguing that if states had an inalienable right to secede from the Union than counties have the same inalienable right to secede from a state. He called it the Free State of Winston and sought to join the Union. The Confederate State of Alabama arrested him and sentenced him to death by hanging as a traitor. The rope broke saving him. He was imprisoned and escaped, fought for the Union using freed slaves and, according to Jolly, never lost a battle. After the war, he served in Congress. Because of threats on his life, President Grant appointed him Ambassador to Finland. After he died, the county refused to bury him in the whites-only cemetery so he was buried in the Blacks-only cemetery with many black people attending the ceremony. Since then almost all members of the Sheats family have chosen to be buried in that same black cemetery. The Incident at Looney’s Tavern, a musical drama performed regularly in Winston County, tells the story of Christopher Sheats and the Unionist meeting at Looney’s Tavern. It is the official state outdoor musical drama of Alabama.

Another story I remember from lunch the following day — Jolly had been asked to serve as a chief judge in the court-martial of a women soldier who, when told her husband had taken a women into their bed while she was at the base, bought a 45, went home, and promptly shot he erring husband in the nuts.

The young military attorney from the Judge Advocate General’s office chosen to prosecute her charged her only with assault with intent to kill. At the trial, when questioning her the young attorney asked, “Sergeant ___ when you shot your husband you intended to kill him did you not?” She pointed to a gold marksman medal on her uniform. “ See this” she responded, “I won the pistol shooting competition at the Olympics and when I qualified as a marine marksman they gave me a gold marksman medal rather than the silver in honor of my Olympic victory. I assure you I intended to shoot him in the nuts. If I wanted him dead he would be dead.” Jolly and the other judges ruled her innocent of the charge, stating, “The defendant may be guilty of many things regarding the shooting, but not of the only charge before us today, shooting with the intent to kill”

A few years later it happened that the sergeant was assigned to Jolly’s unit. When he asked her about the trial she told him that, had she been charged with anything else, she would have pleaded guilty, but not to the charge of intent to kill. When Jolly inquired as to how she has been doing since then, she responded, “Pretty well sir, but it’s been hard to get a date.” (Note, I suspect Jolly made this one up because I seem to remember having heard tales like this before but who knows maybe those tales were about Jolly.)

We had lunch, with a small group on the terrace that day.
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Lunch on the terrace

After the lunch, Hank told me a story about the sister of Jolly’s wife, Mary (she is the blond woman second on the right in the photograph). When she was about three or four years old she had been captured by the Nazi’s but released in a prisoner exchange. A year or two later she was trained by her parents to operate the clandestine radio transmitter that was secreted in a place too small to get into for anyone but her and thereby able to avoid the Nazi search teams.

The next day was Market Day in Pula, the streets were full of stalls selling whatever and everything. I could smell the aroma of freshly baked bread. The cafes, like the streets, were awash with people. The place seemed vibrant and alive as did many of the tourist cities in Italy when I first visited them 40 or 50 years ago. Now with prosperity, restoration, tourism, and the departure of the young to the largest cities they often appear dead, dying or mausoleums celebrating a culture that never existed. Cities are always becoming, a mixture of despair and of hope. When they don’t change they die no matter how pretty they may appear.

I strolled through the town, drank prosecco in the cafes, browsed the stores and visited the port and the Roman ruins. There’s a bitchin Roman Arena here also. It seems those Romans dropped them everywhere like rice at a wedding. When one considers the cost and turmoil surrounding the building of the relatively few large sports areas around the world today, the efforts of the Romans seem even more amazing.

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The Amphitheater

The following evening was the big party. It was also the night of the World Cup match between Croatia and Russia. A large screen was set up so everyone could watch the game and eat hot dogs and hamburgers before the party began. There were many local notables including the head of Goldman Sachs for this area and much of adjacent Europe. I was told he was an ex-Mossad agent.

Now you must be wondering why and how over the last month or so I have managed to come upon so many ex-spies or relatives of ex-spies — Two in the Enchanted Forest; one who I met two days before in Sacile retired from the military whose job he said was to examine military construction sites in areas of American troop deployment; Jolly; his wife; and now the Mossad agent and god knows how many others were at the party. One must remember, however, all these people are from my generation and the following one. The generations who lived their productive years from the sixties through the eighties, the Spy vs Spy era when anyone who was anyone spied on someone or believed one lived under their bed or were entertained by stories about spies. It was the James Bond era.

Croatia won. The crowd went crazy.
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Croatia scores

The music started. Everyone drank too much. I got kissed by two Young Croat women who I am positive either they only wanted to take a photograph of themselves kissing the old codger staggering around with the cane or they were drunk.

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The next morning we left for Southern Italy and the rest of our trip.

 

B. TO NAPLES AND BEYOND:

We left Pula at about 8:30AM and drove south through Italy, getting lost only once until at 5PM we arrived at a surprisingly nice hotel with the improbable name of Hotel Gentiluomo just outside of Arezzo. It was owned by an Indian company and we shared the place with an Indian tour group all saried and caste marked up. While they ate various curries, the smells wafted through the hotel, we dined in good Italian fare that alas I have forgotten so I guess it was good but not particularly notable.

The next morning, we left and arrived at our hotel above the Bay of Naples early in the afternoon after becoming lost in those little towns south of Vesuvius that I have been getting lost in each time I have come here for the past fifty years. The marvelous and inexpensive Hotel Torre Barbara in Vico stands high on the bluff above the bay. We drank some prosecco while sitting on the veranda admiring the view of the volcano looming over the towns clinging to its slopes like barnacles on a ship’s hull. Intending to swim in the pool with a view, I returned to my room but lost myself playing with my computer and dozing until dinner time.
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Pookie with the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius in the background

On the veranda, I had dinner of shrimp risotto accompanied by prosecco and finished off with a chocolate mousse ice cream and grappa while we watched the sun sink into the sea beyond Capri and the lights\ come on and twinkle like a necklace of fireflies around the base of Vesuvius.

The following morning, I arose early and with my cup of cappuccino and a glass of fruit juice I sat alone on the veranda and watched the sun climb above the hills behind me and strike the bay. I tried to understand why in the many years I have been coming to Italy and having so rarely planned to visit Naples, I seem almost always to end up here for at least a day or so. Beautiful the view of the bay and the volcano may be but, I have seen many places more so —although while I sat there, I was hard-pressed to name them.

As I continued to stare at Vesuvius across the bay with its string of buildings encircling its base I began to think about how wretched those buildings and neighborhoods actually were. They began to look to me more and more like a disease creeping up the slopes — as though the volcano suffered from psoriasis and would wake up someday from the itching on his flanks and burn it all off. That’s what Naples signifies, I thought, beauty and horror together — Pompey rich and licentious ending buried in lava, the Bourbon dynasty of the Kings of Naples, squalor, and corruption alongside elegance and art.

Caravaggio spent much of his career here in Naples. A drunkard and a vicious murderer and perhaps the greatest painter that ever lived. His painting of Narcissus gazing at his reflection in the pool of water is beautiful until you think about what the painting is about, someone imprisoned forever.
C. MATERA — A CITY CARVED FROM THE ROCKS.

The next day we were on the road to Matera in the Province of Basilicata. The drive took only about three hours, a relief after the grind of the past few days.

After leaving the hills of Calabria, we drove through the weary plains of Basilicata. The approach to Matera left much to be desired. We passed from forested mountains and rolling hills green with vineyards, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens, onto a large undulating plain of dry farming almost all of it wheat leaving the land with a bare desolate desiccated look.

Here and there the plain was crisscrossed with steep stone canyons invisible until looking down on them from the bridges spanning them. On the top of a broad rise in the terrain stood a large city, much larger than the small hill towns we had seen in Calabria and Basilicata so far, and much uglier also. I was quite disappointed and contemplated urging Hank to turn the car around and retrace our tracks to Naples.

We checked into an attractive newly built hotel that seemed to have a swimming pool with stepped smaller pools cascading into it. Excited, I put on my swim trunks, strode through the lobby and out to the pool. Alas, when I got there I found it was only a decorative fountain built to serve as a background for photos of lavish nuptial celebrations that seemed to be the main reason for the existence of the hotel. Dejected, I changed back into touring clothing and we set off to the town to see what the travel brochures raved about.

After a lot of aimless driving about the modern town looking for the rock city, we parked and followed the signs and suddenly came upon the amazing city carved from the rocks and perched upon the largest of the steep stone canyons, the smaller versions of which we had crossed while driving here.
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Matera — almost every building in the photograph of a facade covering the cave which provided at least 80% of the building’s interior.

We decided then that we could not fully appreciate the city without a guide so Hank asked the driver of a small tuk-tuk style tour vehicle how we could find a guide, “Wait here for Vito” he advised. So, we waited there for Vito. While waiting, Camille and I explored a nearby church containing another church buried underneath containing fascinating frescoes on the walls.
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The mosaics painted on the walls of the cave church.

And, one of the more bizarre statues I have ever come across.
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The Saint who steps on naked fat women.

It is a statue of Saint something or other (I do not remember his name) with his foot on the back of a naked woman. Finding this odd, I moved closer in order to read the information card. I translated it as either Saint what’s-his-name with his foot on a fat woman or, Saint whoever driving out fatness from women or maybe something else. Perhaps, he is the Patron Saint of diet scammers.

Vito arrived in his bitchin red tuk-tuk (as far as I could tell the only red one in town). He turned out to be a delightful young man who entertained us during the tour.
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Vito and his bitchin red tuk-tuk with Hank and Camille.

(if you should travel there an want pleasant knowledgeable guide call Vito at +39 3931772506)

I could go on about the wonders of the town, but T&T is not the place for it. I will mention that Matera is the third oldest continuously occupied town in the world. Across the canyon stands the neolithic caves in which the ancestors of the townspeople lived before crossing the canyon to settle the current site when agricultural technology reached the area.
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The Neolithic caves
Matera, despite being almost abandoned 30 years ago when the government forcibly relocated the penniless agricultural workers living in the rock homes, had experienced a rebound when that policy was abandoned and the original residents, artists, and others were allowed to move back in. Next year, according to Vito, the UN will declare the town the World Artistic Capital (or something pompous like that).

That evening we dined in what Vito declared was among the oldest and finest restaurants in town and was the favorite eating place of Mel Gibson who dined there often during the filming of the “Passion of Christ” (the crucifixion scene was filmed on top of the rock outcropping in the above photograph). While we felt that last was a dubious recommendation we dined there anyway and found it excellent and well worth it.

The next day we set off for Altamonte back in Calabria.
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D. A PLEASANT DAY IN ALTAMONTE.

Altamonte a pleasant little hill town in Calabria, remote from just about anywhere with little to recommend it other than the Hotel Barbieri. Started by the patriarch of clan Barbieri a hotelier and master chef he has built up a small industry here and in the US selling regional Calabrian foods and folk art at the hotel and at a string of elegant delicatessens in Philadelphia and Pittsburg owned and operated by the family whose members have been sent to the US to manage their interests.
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The view from my room.

The hotel started small on a hill with a great view of the town and the countryside around it, grew in a comely hodgepodge of rooms, verandas and a pool and a spa. Members of the family still run it day by day. “It serves the best Calabrian food in Italy,” Hank claimed.
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The pool and newly built terrace (we ate dinner on the terrace to the right)

We had a snack that included a local specialty, chips made from the local long red sweet peppers dipped momentarily in hot olive oil until they become puffed and brittle. Marvelous. We ate them and washed them down with prosecco under the trees on one of the verandas with a view of the town, a cool breeze and three children of the family playing and running around the tables.
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Hank, the daughter of the Patriarch, Hank and a bowl of sweet pepper chips.
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Camille and Hank on the terrace waiting for lunch.

I then took my much-delayed swim in the pool, napped and had dinner on one of the more formal terraces. We ate a variety of traditional Calabrian dishes and ended with a delicious homemade fusilli in a sauce of tomatoes and eggplant. The noodles are freshly hand rolled into long curving pasta with a hollow center and were delightfully chewy and went perfectly with the sauce. Grappa and dessert ended the meal. It was everything Hank said it would be.
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First course

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Second course

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Fresh-made Fusilli

The next morning, after another great breakfast we said goodbye to the patriarch and his daughter who came by to see us off. And so I left for Sicily and a week ar Antonio’s.

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

A. Today’s Poem:

My remark in the previous issue of T&T about the possibility of my becoming a “geriatric Boy Toy” generated a few humorous comments such as Peter’s “It sounds like an Asian food” and Ruth sending me her husband’s poem which I have reproduced below.

TOYBOYS

The world is full of pretty boys
The aging ladies’ favorite toys
If I were only twenty-two
I’d be some lady’s toyboy, too.
But sad to say I’m eighty-eight
And I’m afraid it’s just too late.
Bill Lansford ([c] William Douglas Lansford).

Alas, so true, so true — But is there still hope if you are only seventy-eight?
B. Giants of History: Peter responds to a challenge.

In the previous T&T, I hurled a challenge at Peter when I wrote:

I thought it was obvious my phone had been hacked in Verona. (“Hacked in Verona,” a movie starring John Goodman as an aging, fat, inept, hacker hiding out in Verona because of his erroneous belief he was being hunted by the police of several nations. Frances McDormand plays the Interpol receptionist dedicated to tracking him down to let him know that, in fact, no one was looking for him. She locates him in a one-room attic apartment two doors away from the “Juliet” house. They fall in love and she moves into the apartment. The film was so successful that its two stars were contracted to appear in its sequel, “Malaise in Verona.” — OK Peter the ball is in your court.)

He accepted the challenge and in a heroic effort flung back at me the following:

Sequels uber alleles. “Godfather” etc., “Rocky” etc., “Peewee’s Great Adventure”, etc. “Malaise in Verona”– bathos with mandolins. Saving grace: Monica Vitti, Anna Magnani, Giulletta Messina, and Sophia Lauren star as the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse. Our intrepid heroes Goodman and McDormand, wallowing in humid solicitude and a decent spaghetti sauce in a Verona pension, are interrupted by the Fab Four [who are aware of course that no one is looking for Goodman – after all, why would they?] who present the lucky couple with a dilemma: Why stay in Verona when you could be in Ravenna? The two are completely flummoxed by this question. Camera closeup: they look at each other, McDormand says “Why Indeed?” Goodman counters: “BFD- we could be in Ravello.” McDormand: “No. Puglia. The olives are better.” The four horsewomen interject: “Have you made up your minds?” Goodman: “Who are you, and where is that masked man?” The 4: “Chasing after Tonto. Last seen in Parma. The ham is good there. As to who we are, only Fellini knows for sure. You needn’t bother yourselves.” “Oh”, say the humid duo. “And anyway, Ravenna, Ravello, what’s the difference?” The 4: “We hate people who wave Occam’s razor around indiscriminately. In any case, Lucretius and Sartre are staring you in the face: which shall it be: Osso bucco con barbera or authenticity and rye crisp?” And that’s why they made Godfather III.

I concede.

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

“Most cities lived on the very edge of civilization. Everyone talked about towns and villages out in the middle of nowhere as if they were uncivilized, but she’d found people in those places pleasant, even-tempered, and comfortable with their quieter way of life. Not in cities. Cities balanced on the edge of sustainability, always one step from starvation. When you pressed so many people together, their cultures, ideas, and stenches rubbed off on one another. The result wasn’t civilization. It was contained chaos, pressurized, bottled up so it couldn’t escape. There was a tension to cities. You could breathe it, feel it in every step.”

Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive (p. 629). Tom Doherty Associates.

 

 

Categories: July through September 2018, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 15 Shadow 0007 (July 5, 2018)

 
“Midway through our lives journey, I awoke in a dark forest to find the right path had been lost.”
Dante’s Inferno.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN VERONA:

The train ride from Sacile to Verona was relatively uneventful. Traveling by train is my favorite way to go. I find train stations far more comfortable than airline terminals, don’t you? I mean, despite all the time and motion studies and the ergonomic designs that go into the building of a modern airport, an old train station with their hard wooden benches and old train station smells seem much more comfortable than any airport I have been in — except perhaps for Singapore.

I like standing around in train stations or on the platforms watching people walk about or disembark or board trains. I don’t think much about whatever I see going on around me. I never wonder, for example, where all these people are going to or coming from or why. No, I just watch hoping to see something odd or entertaining.

Come to think of it, I may be one of the oddest things around. Here I am, an old man, older than almost anyone in the crowd passing by, taller than most here in Italy, frightfully skinny like an oddly dressed cadaver, a hunched back becoming more Quasimodo like by the day, a long dour face resembling some ancient sad-faced bloodhound with jowls plunging below its jaw, dressed in a loud Hawaiian shirt, a sweat-stained straw hat on my head, ill-fitting shades and carrying a cane shaped like a shillelagh — Odd I seem, odd indeed.

Verona — As tourist destinations and cities in Italy go, Verona is an also-ran. It never amounted to much. Even during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when Italy in these parts was jumping, Verona nestled comfortably in the shadow of its wealthier and more powerful neighbors. It has, however, a few archeological and artistic treasures of note including a bitchin Roman amphitheater and some fine medieval castles and palazzos to attract the well-heeled tourist.

Most of whatever Verona has to draw the curious visitor it owes to two rather shallow young men and a rather idiotic pair of doomed lovers — all figments of the fertile imagination of a bald-headed English playwright. That’s right, people come from all over the world to Verona to see what never existed — a fiction. Even the greatest of the mad men of Madison Avenue would be hard pressed to top that.

Anyway, I booked into a hotel that billed itself as being a mere four kilometers from the old city and sporting a four-acre garden and at a price that seemed a bargain. I thought that would be great. I could enjoy the garden, take a taxi to visit the old city and save money. Unfortunately, the distance from downtown was somewhat of an under-exaggeration and a $20 taxi ride to boot.

After checking in, I had a delightful lunch in the hotel restaurant overlooking the pool. I ate an interesting pasta, a type that I had never eaten before. The noodles were tightly wrapped pieces of dough about an inch long and quite thin. It made for a very chewy noodle. I think they are called “sparrow.” The pasta was served with a tomato and eggplant sauce. It was quite good.
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Following lunch, I strolled around the gardens. Feeling good about my meal and enjoying my walk, I decided to skip Bolzano, skip visiting the old town of Verona and stay here for the next few days lounging about the pool, walking through the gardens and eating. Having reached that decision, I then returned to my room and promptly made a reservation for new lodging the next day in the heart of old town. With that all behind me, I showered, napped and later ate a dinner beginning with mussels, followed by a pasta in a white sauce with peas and asparagus and tiramisu for dessert. I also had one or more glasses of my beloved prosecco. Then, I returned to my room and went to sleep.

The following morning, just before I left for breakfast, noticed the large painting on the wall of my room that up until then I thought was some hotel commissioned impressionist paint splashing of a crooked vase — suddenly the subject matter of the painting became clear:
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I later checked into a B&B near the inner walls of the old town of Verona. While waiting for the owner of the place to show up and register me, I strolled over to the building that housed the supposed sarcophagus of poor little Juliet. Considering that her resting place remained unknown for 400 years until some enterprising Veronese came up with this one, I have my doubts. About one or two hundred years later, Dickens, after meeting the women in whose keeping the sarcophagus descended, described her as “clear-eyed.” Clear-eyed enough to spot a rube, I would imagine.

After a brief and unsuccessful attempt to connect into the “free” internet promised by the B&B, I set out to explore the town. I ate a lunch of a rather undistinguished risotto at a restaurant on the large plaza near the ruins of the bitchin old Roman Colosseum. Then I strolled around, saw Juliet’s house and searched for poor old Romeo’s home. No luck, the tourist maps were unhelpful and misleading, nevertheless, I enjoyed poking about the alleyways of the old town. I then returned to the B&B for a nap before dinner.
IIMG_4813 The Roman Amphitheater and some Thai woman in a red dress trying to avoid having her picture taken.
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The Adige River with the old Roman Theater at the base of the hill in the background.

IMG_4818                                          The famous and wellphotographed balcony with an old Roman ruin in the foreground.
After again attempting to connect with the internet and getting the same results, I left for dinner. I looked for a neighborhood away from the tourist centers and a restaurant with older pot-bellied waiters and with a clientele that spoke mostly Italian. I found one. It specialized in fish. I ordered cod in an interesting brown gravy and a side of well-made polenta and a glass of prosecco. I enjoyed myself immensely. After a tasty creme brûlée to finish off the meal, I left the restaurant for a walk before heading back to my room. For the most part, there was only me walking the streets in that part of town — just me and the silence except for the sound of my walking stick clacking on the pavement and the thrum of a motor scooter off in the distance. Now and then, I would see someone scurry across the street or cross a darkened intersection. I enjoyed myself as I walked while the gloaming passed into night.
B. BACK IN LOMBARDY — WELL NOT EXACTLY, MORE LIKE BACK AND FORTH:

The morning after breakfast, I walked to the train station and purchased a ticket to Milan. Because I had some time before my train departed, I decided to enjoy a second cup of coffee and a brioche con crema. This was to be my first mistake of many I was to make that day. You see, I misread the ticket and thought the arrival time at Milano was the departure time at Verona. I missed the train. I had to buy another ticket because my original one was for reserved seating and the express. The next train was a local, more cattle car than a train. I bought the ticket anyway.

Among the interesting things, I observed as we rode along was the young woman all smiles and enthusiasm who eagerly attempted to engage in conversation with the young man sitting opposite us. He was most likely a student, deeply engrossed in a book of mathematics. He answered her persistent queries with one-word responses or grunts until he realized what she was up to, blushed, and closed the book. The rest of the trip involved lengthy and animated conversations about train travel and railroads mostly. As the train approached her stop, the young woman announced it sadly and they both hurriedly went on about how fortunate it was to meet each other, how much they enjoyed the conversation and the hope that they would meet again. Alas, neither asked the critical question, “What is your telephone phone number.” It is because of this reticence that many a promising relationship goes unfulfilled. If only Romeo and Juliet had been this timid they could have lived, married others and populated the world with even more blushing lovers — alas. The young woman rose from her seat, stood there for a moment looking forlorn, then turned and got off the train.

Now, with that bit of theater behind me, things got more interesting, but not in the way I would have liked. You see, the person I was to meet who I have been warned not to mention and whom I shall hereafter refer to only as N, was to pick me up at the Milan train station, but on account of that prime mistake, I would now be grossly late. I attempted to call him but I discovered my phone no longer worked, only giving me back several unsatisfying machine responses to my frantic calls and messages.

I arrived at the station and of course, N was not there. Now, I am not going to list each and every one of the cascades of wrong decisions that ensued from my original mistake. You can pick them out yourselves. Anyway, I first decided on another cup of coffee to calm my nerves and to wait there in the train station cafe savoring the espresso and hoping N would decide to return one last time to see if I had arrived. After finishing my coffee, I tried reaching others on my phone in an effort to secure assistance for my plight with the same results as I had trying to contact N. That is, nothing except machine speak. I then decided to find an ATM and withdraw some money in case I had to spend the night. The damned machine merely responded “unauthorized.” I, of course, told myself I obviously was not panicking as I began trying everything I could think of including begging the damned machine for some money — all to no avail. I then thought, cleverly I believed, that I could use a pay phone to call up my bank, call N, and call my carrier and clear everything up and save the day. I asked in several shops if they could direct me to a pay phone. Ha! I learned that in our wireless world, pay phones no longer exist (at least not in Milano). I then began asking people in the station to call N on their smart-phones in the hope that he would respond, pick me up and drive me to his apartment where I could use his computer to fix my modern communication generated crisis. Unfortunately, there was no answer. I continued this every five minutes or so asking startled and suspicious travelers to call — All unsuccessful. It was then I realized with horror, in this modern age anyone without internet access is a non-person. So, here I was, In the Milano Centrale (Mussolini’s great architectural work) penniless, homeless and destitute. I found the predicament quite energizing and in its own way romantic.

After another hour or so of thought and indecision, I decided to search through all my pockets and my luggage hoping I would find enough odd coinage to pay my way back to Sacile. I did find enough, bought a ticket, hopped on the train and about seven hours later popped off at the Sacile station in the dark of night. Not being able to call Vittorio, I made my way to Hank’s house. Although it was late and Camille earlier that day had injured herself and was recuperating, he graciously let me use his internet connection and assisted me in dealing with my problems until sometime after midnight things seemed back to normal. They let me stay the night there and the next morning I again traveled across northern Italy. This made three times in two days I made that damned trip.

I thought it was obvious my phone had been hacked in Verona. (“Hacked in Verona,” a movie starring John Goodman as an aging, fat, inept, hacker hiding out in Verona because of his erroneous belief he was being hunted by the police of several nations. Frances McDormand plays the Interpol receptionist dedicated to tracking him down to let him know that, in fact, no one was looking for him. She locates him in a one-room attic apartment two doors away from the “Juliet” house. They fall in love and she moves into the apartment. The film was so successful that its two stars were contracted to appear in its sequel, “Malaise in Verona.” — OK Peter the ball is in your court.)
C. ST. MORITZ AND MORE ALPS THAN ONE CAN HANDLE:

At three the next morning N and I left to travel to Milano Centrale to catch the 6AM train to Tirano near the Swiss border in order to take the famous tourist train that climbs from there into the Alps and on to St. Moritz and beyond. The train to Tirano passed along the edge of Lake Como and into the mountains. At Tirano, we boarded the amazing train (a World Heritage something or other) that climbs the Alps summer and winter. When we arrived at St. Moritz, we had an excellent lunch at some upscale restaurant. Next to us was a table of six or seven youngish men (Anyone in their 30”s and 40’s I consider young) three of whom sported prison tats including the obvious leader (he paid the bill), a swarthy man with wavy black hair and sunglasses that he never took off. N overhearing some of their conversations said they discussed something about the clothing industry but confirmed they were those people you usually deny having seen. After lunch and a brief walk along the lake, we returned to the train and began the ride down the Alps. We arrived back at N’s apt at about 12 midnight.

I took a lot of photographs. These are some:

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The Alps

 
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St. Moritz

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More Alps

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Still more Alps with a town in the valley
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Even more Alps. This time with the World Heritage train in the foreground.

The next day, we slept late and went for a walk of about three miles from Busto to another town where we had a coffee, watched the World Cup and then walked back. Later that evening, because it was my last day before returning to Sacile, we decided to have dinner at one of the best restaurants in the area. It was Monday and the restaurant was closed as were the eight or so other restaurants we tried. We ended up eating at a fast food place located in a twenty-four-hour supermarket.

The following morning, I left at 5AM for my fourth trip across Italy in the past three days and my fifth since I arrived in the country. It must qualify for the Guinness Book of Records.

 

D. BACK IN THE VENETO:

At about 1PM, I exited the train at Sacile. After a brief stop at Lucia’s for a prosecco, I sat at a cafe in the piazza and ate a lunch of barley salad and ground meat in zucchini along with an iced white tea and cranberry. For dessert, I had a delicious chocolate ice cream drink. Hank found me there and offered to let me stay at his apartment until we leave for Croatia. I thought it was a good idea because it would relieve Vittorio and Anita of the burden of hosting me while also caring for the two women. I would miss Topo Tamai though.
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They put me up in a wonderful garret type room above their apartment with a long sloping ceiling, a large bed with old wood carved headboards and three windows with views across the orange-tiled roofs of the town and into the pre-alps off in the distance.
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The next morning following a breakfast go cappuccino and brioche at Lucia’s, Hank and I drove off towards the old American air-force base at Aviano have lunch with to have lunch with some friends. Along the way, we stopped at a local winery so that Hank could by some wine for household use. Their best wines were arrayed several large barrels. Attached to each barrel was a hose from with you could draw the wine contained their in into your own bottles at About $1.50 a liter.

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We were joined at lunch by a retired American Army officer and his wife who used to be the American military historian assigned to the base. While eating a delightful meal (I reprised the pasta I enjoyed so much in Verona) we talked of many things, where we came from, what brings us here in northern Italy, favorite books, dinner plans and so one. The historian and I discussed Naida’s trilogy. She appeared eager to read it and wrote down its name.

After lunch, Hank drove me to the two headwaters of the Livenza River, the river that flows through Sacile and into the Adriatic. A river that had been a major trade route for over 7000 years since Neolithic times. ( As a side note, perhaps twenty years or so, after reading the book “The Nine Daughters of Eve” I had my mitochondria analyzed by the geneticist author and found my penultimate mother to have been born somewhere around here about 15,000 years ago). The entire river is generated by springs under the mountain. The first source is this spectacular turquoise pool fed by water from the caves beneath the cliff. Divers have gone down up to 250 feet to find the source of the water with no success. If you look closely at the center of the photograph there is a submerged statue of the Christ facing the cave from which some of those divers never emerged.

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The second headwater emerges directly from the rocks at the bottom of the photograph below and alone creates the river you see in the picture.
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That evening Hank, Camille and I went to a restaurant in a nearby town that specialized in fish dishes. We were joined by the couple with whom we had lunch, an Italian gentleman who, as it was explained to me, was the wealthy owner of a local winery, and another couple, a retired contractor for the Defense Department and his wife a very engaging woman from Madrid. I ate a spaghetti with tiny clams and a salad and for dessert a melted ice-cream and vodka drink.

The next day was market day in Sacile. The stalls were set up along the streets throughout the central part of the town. After a cappuccino and a brioche, I set off to wander through the market and the town. I walked over bridges I had never crossed before, down streets I had never traveled before, past restaurants I had never eaten in, past town walls I had never passed before, and took photographs of views I had never seen before. I was both happy and a little sad. Happy to see all these new things and sad because at my age who knows if I shall ever pass this way again.
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Then back to Lucia’s for a prosecco and water with a little ice and lemon and then off to pack and to nap.

Tomorrow we are off to Croatia.
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E. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

Besides the World Cup, the news here these past few days have been dominated by the plight of the 12 member Thai teenage soccer team and their coach that had been trapped in a cave for about 10 days. Through the efforts of an international rescue team, they were eventually found miraculously all still alive. The coverage is ongoing since the students have been determined to be too weak to move according to medical personnel with the rescue team and must remain in the cave for another week or so.

Meanwhile, the media being so preoccupied with the rescue and the World Cup completely missed the news of Trump’s appointment of Vladimir Putin as the US Secretary of State, putting him third in line for the Presidency. When queried about how Putin could ascend to the Presidency of the US given the Constitution’s requirement that the President be a natural born American citizen, the administration’s spokesperson stated that a birth certificate recently had been discovered showing Putin was born in Tennessee, the child of two Russian double agents working in the US at the time. When asked when the birth certificate would be available for review, it was explained that it was in the President’s possession and would be released when he releases his tax returns. Reports that Vice-president Pence and Speaker Ryan, the two people in line for the presidency before Putin have recently hired a team of food tasters and doubled their security detail cannot be confirmed at this time. The President, in announcing the appointment, said that he, Trump, was the greatest President and leader of a nation in all of human history and that Vladimir Putin was “a good guy,” “very trustworthy,” “a true lover of democracy” and a “friend of the United States.” Trump also said of Putin that, “All the prettiest girls in Russia love him almost as much as they do me.”

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:

While rooting around the internet a few days ago for reasons I have now forgotten, I came across something that quite amazed me — a blog site in which the author attempts to reproduce James Joyce’s Ulysses word for word in comic book form. So far he has transcribed three sections and has a long way to go yet. That he chooses to make the attempt demonstrates a level of obsession and determination of which I am in awe, even if it leads me to question why. After all why Joyce wrote it at all, other then to bedevil the critics, is a question worth ruminating on.

The blog, in addition to the comics, also includes clever “opinion” pieces like this one about famous first lines in fiction:

“I’ve been thinking about first lines a lot lately, and I’m pretty sure I find the first line of Ulysses to be just okay. Here it is: ‘Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.’”

“Now there’s nothing wrong with the line. It’s perfectly serviceable. Joyce wonks like me are fond of pointing out that ‘Stately’ contains the novel’s final word (‘Yes’) in reverse, lending the novel a nifty quasi-palindromic quality. And the densely packed images of the bowl, the mirror, the razor, and the cross each accrete layers of symbolic meaning as the novel progresses. Still, it’s not the sort of first line which, as a line, burns into the reader’s brain in the manner of ‘Call me Ishmael’ or even ‘A screaming comes across the sky.’ The American Book Review recently compiled a list of ‘100 Best First Lines From Novels.’ All the usual suspects are there, including Ulysses, but it seems to me that certain of their selections are simply nods to great books rather than to individual lines. ‘I am an invisible man,’ for instance, from Ellison’s novel of that name. The novel’s a masterpiece, but is the line really so wonderful? I suppose, if we’re taking context out of the picture, we might have to nix Ishmael too—if we want a pure list of this kind, then I say we do it. By contrast, a line like the one that begins Michael Chabon’s ‘Werewolves in Their Youth’ is pretty darned interesting in its own right (and I’ve never even read the story): ‘I had known him as a bulldozer, as a samurai, as an android programmed to kill, as Plastic Man and Titanium Man and Matter-Eater Lad, as a Peterbilt truck, and even, for a week, as the Mackinac Bridge, but it was as a werewolf that Timothy Stokes finally went too far.’”

“And here are a few others not on the ABR list that I’m fond of for reasons both obvious and ineffable:

‘Where’s Pa going with that ax?’ (E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web)”

“Back in the time of which I am speaking, due to our Coordinators had mandated us, we had all seen that educational video of It’s Yours to Do With What You Like! in which teens like ourselves speak on the healthy benefits of getting off by oneself and doing what one feels like in terms of self-touching, which what we learned from that video was, there is nothing wrong with self-welltouching, because love is a mystery but the mechanics of love need not be, so go off alone, see what is up, with you and your relation to your own gonads, and the main thing is, just have fun, feeling no shame!’ (George Saunders, Jon)”

“‘Hellfire hallelujah and halitosis. Mike Schmidt sits to pee.’(Shawn McBride, Green Grass Grace)”

“Are these culled from great works? Does it matter?”

 

There is also a site that lists the best last lines in Fiction. And, while plump Buck Mulligan’s shaving preparation is a pretty good line, I prefer Molly Bloom’s soliloquy that brings Ulysses to its glorious end:

“I was a Flower of the mountains yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls use or should I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another…then he asked me yes would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

 

 

B. Giants of History: Peter’s responses to the previous T&T post.
On Pythonism

Interesting chronological confluence: Recently finished reading “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern” by Stephen Greenblatt. It’s about the rediscovery of Lucretius”s poem “On The Nature of Things”, after over a thousand years, by Poggio Bracciolini around 1417, who was a former pope’s secretary and enthusiast for ancient Greek and Roman manuscripts, and the poem’s contribution to and impact on Renaissance and later thinking. Lucretius was a disciple of Epicurus. the poem articulated the radical (for the late middle ages) view that the universe and all things, human and otherwise, consist solely of atoms and the void, that there is no afterlife or resurrection or heaven and hell, God doesn’t exist let alone run things, and after all the right approach to life is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Find joy in what you can now, ‘cause there ain’t no heaven. Works for me. Monte Python in a Roman toga.

On coffee get-togethers in the Enchanted Forest

Sounds more intriguing than Leisure World or stumbling down Collins Avenue sidestepping doggie do. Do they wear purple hair in the Enchanted Forest? Boy toy sounds like some exotic Asian dish (just watched Anthony Bourdain in Viet Nam eating some fabulous soup in Hue); but cannibals probably wouldn’t eat geriatric boy toy.

On the contention, that beauty can bore

Interesting: Suggests that wandering is a cure for the ennui or boredom of salubrious settlement. Thus, commuting from Heaven to Purgatory to Hell and back, and onward. Or at least to New York and Sacile. Forever seeking beatitude or a good pastry. Unless, of course, one is totally absorbed in one’s obsession, whatever it is: Putin’s grabbing and disrupting others, Van Gogh’s painting and agonizing, Scrooge McDuck’s diving into his money bin….

On negative news about negative people

Years ago I read something about news, and how history shows that people always want to hear/read/see the bad news, disaster news, negative stuff. What I read referred back to news, and pamphlets. And whatever back two-three hundred years. So there’s a psychological basis to take advantage of for slanting the news.

Given US history, as shown e. g by “Fantasyland,” the US is both a testing ground for new corporate-driven forms of domination and, together with its predilection for violence and fantasy, a retrograde movement backward toward more primitive and difficult times.

On corporations and oligarchs

Ultimately, the world corporate oligarchical/dictatorial concentration and continued climate change impacts will result in continued and enhanced mass migrations and consequent population redistributions, and as a byproduct a reduction of “guns in America” as counter-productive. The beauty of the Veneto will provide an oasis in which the “ho hum, another day in paradise” ennui will be reluctantly deemed the tolerable alternative to hemlock or standing on line at the Louvre to gape at the Mona Lisa or joining a futile, isolated white armed resistance cell whose membership includes — by that time — a senile Michael Caine, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Sean Penn, Samuel L. Jackson, Benicio Del toro, Russell Crowe, and Angelina Joli.

On “the cradle of civilization”

Now, China’s new Road (whatever they call that) essentially recreates the old Silk Road by rail and highway from China to the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. The Russians are already building up Kazakhstan with their space program (and even Trump was trying to get some business there!). Iran will be a key, as it was back then, in spite of the Saudi/Sunnis. The US will have a lot to learn from the Italians’ sense of history via “Catch-22”

 

Wisdom from the Kabbala

“Travels With Epicurus”. Has its benefits.

Do the swallows return to Compostello?*

Thus the wheel of Karma turns; what’s new?

How do you spell Medicare in Italian?

*Note: my spell check translated this as composted.

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Clothes do not make the man, but you need the proper costume if you want to play the part.”

Rothfuss, Patrick. The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, Book 2) (p. 181). DAW.

Categories: July through September 2018, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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