October through December 2014

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 11 Joseph 0004 (December 31, 2014)

Happy New Year to All…

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN CALIFORNIA:

1. San Francisco:

Nona Teresa

I took the train to San Francisco, met George who drove us St. Ann’s Home to visit my mom. My sister prepared a small Christmas party for her. She was quite lively and happy although she kept getting confused about whether we were celebrating Christmas or her birthday.
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Mom and I
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Aaron, Athena, Nona Teresa and Pookie

Maurice Trad

At the funeral for Maurice someone observed that when Maurice asked you how you were he really did want to know how you were. I agree. No one I have ever known seemed so genuinely interested in those he met. His love for his daughter Molly was remarkably unqualified and selfless. It was reciprocated. When giving the eulogy Molly broke down in tears. Maurice and Molly were as much a part of our extended family as those related by blood or marriage.

Maurice was a cigar aficionado and his cigar collection was distributed to the mourners in his memory.

People I have not seen for many years attended the funeral, including “don’t call me Shipenis, Shipinus” and the “Shufat family.”
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Maurice Trad with cigar
2. Mendocino

I drove to Mendocino with my sister Maryann and her husband George to spend Christmas there. We stayed in the water-tower because their house was being remodeled. My sister invited several friends to spend the holiday with us. They rented a beachfront house in Cleone for everyone to stay at. Beside Maryanne and George’s son and daughter and their respective partners, there was a woman friend who we learned actually attended Woodstock and had the photographs to prove it. Another family, neighbors of my sister when they lived in Berkeley, were accomplished musicians. On Christmas Day we were joined by yet another Berkeley neighbor. I had a wonderful time. It is great to finally experience a Christmas that I actually enjoyed. That is a new experience for me.
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Preparing the food

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Setting the table
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Wearing Kesorn’s hats
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Crab and Eggplant Parmigiano
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Singing carols

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Having fun
B. BOOK REPORT:

I received several great books for Christmas. I still, however, had to complete the series I was already reading before I could dig into them.

Ever since opening up The Hobbit for the first time, I have had a weak spot for Swords and Sorcery and Fantasy genre. True, it has at times produced some of the worlds greatest literature such as, in the West, Homer, Wolfram Von Eschenbach, Poe and more recently Tolkien, Tad Williams, Donaldson, Ursula LeGuin, and Rowling among others. Nevertheless, for the most part, it ranks next to romance novels among the dregs of fiction. As with my life in general it is often among the dregs that I find myself the happiest.

Swords and Sorcery and Fantasy as a rule, no matter how exalted its literary pretensions, is usually what can best be described and the glorification of Autarchy. They are morality tales for the aristocracy. People born with privilege or inherited superiority struggle to rise to the top against a dark adversary, usually someone just the same as they are but more of a dick. The moral is generally don’t be an asshole to people beneath you unless you have to and if a lot of them die in order for you to survive, that’s ok because they are better off with you in charge than the other guy.

Anyway, I just completed reading a four book series called The Evermen Saga. Although the novels are quite good, the author’s life is probably more interesting than the books .

The author James Maxwell a young man who likes to travel and apparently writes these books in order to continue his hobby. His first he wrote on an island in Thailand, the second on a beach in New Zealand, the third in the Austrian Alps and the fourth on Malta.

Pookie says, “check it out”

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

The Little Car that Could:

V. Deterioration and Renewal
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In order to store the car during my stay in Canicatti my cousin Giovanni called a friend who had a large garage attached to his home. The friend, Luigi (Gigi) Gallo, came over and we took the car to his garage. I was convinced the car was on its last legs, or wheels. The engine stopped working before we got to the garage. We pushed it the rest of the way. Once we arrived and settled the car in the garage, I unceremoniously turned my back on it and walked away.

Today forty years later I feel bad about that. After all it safely took my young son and me almost 2000 miles across a continent from north to south, through one of the earths great mountain ranges. Yet as far as I was concerned its use to me was finished.

During the next four years or so while I lived in Sicily and Rome and even after I returned to the US, I would, at Gigi’s urging, return to the garage and check on it as its tires slowly flattened and dust and grime turned its white surface a pitted grey.

Eventually Gigi took it out to his farm in the country where the children could play in the slowly rusting hulk. One time, for some reason, thieves stole it. Gigi called the police who found it and returned it in even worse shape than before.
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As restoration began

Gigi eventually became a locally well-known race car driver. When his son, Marco, was about 14 years old Marco decided to restore the thing he played in for most of his life. According to Marco, he remembered the stories his father told him about the strange American and his young son who drove in the automobile across Europe from London to Canicatti. He wanted to see what the car originally looked like. So he contacted the Trojan Automobile Club and began assembling the car’s original parts and restored it. There now is only one Trojan 200 in Sicily and one in Rome. Marco also became a successful race car driver and now lives in Milan and is a practicing sports nutritionist.
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Gigi and the Trojan shortly after restoration

Today the Trojan 200 of my journey sits in a garage in Caltanissetta Sicily along with Gigi’s race and classic cars. I finally got to see it again after forty years.
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Pookie with the Trojan 200

The joy and the pain of a journey is increased by who and what one travels with. For this somewhat epic trip I was fortunate to have my young son and the Trojan along. I could not ask for better traveling companions.

End.
PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. City Planning:

“Recent developments in the global system of cities present a curious paradox. With the cost of communications declining almost to zero and substantial, though less dramatic reductions in transport costs, there is now little technical requirement for most kinds of production to be undertaken in any particular location, or for elements of production chains to be located close to each other. This fact has had dramatic consequences for the organization of manufacturing industry. Simple production chains involving the import of raw materials, usually from developing countries, for processing in a specialized centre, have been replaced by far more complex structures.

Yet, in important respects, the dominance of a small number of ‘global cities’ has never been greater. In this paper, it is argued that the dominance of global cities reflects a desire for clustering on the part of finance sector professionals and corporate executives. It seems likely that such clustering provides private benefits by enhancing the value of personal contacts, but reduces the efficiency and profitability of the corporate sector.”
John Quiggin. Abstract to Cities, Connections and Cronyism. 2006.

B. Famous Errors of Prognostication:

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”
H. M. Warner (1881-1958), founder of Warner Brothers, in 1927

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
Thomas Watson (1874-1956), Chairman of IBM, 1943

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.”
Yale University management professor in response to student Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service (Smith graduated from Yale in 1966 went on to found Federal Express Corp. 1966-1970)

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.”
Bill Gates (1955-), in 1981

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“I’ll just touch on something else: secrecy in government. Secrecy in government exists for only one reason: to prevent the American people from knowing what’s going on. It is nonsense to believe that anything our government does is not known to the Russians at about the same moment it happens.”
“Public Authority and the State in the Western Tradition: A Thousand Years of Growth, AD 976 – 1976” by Carroll Quigley Ph.D.
TODAY’S CHART:
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Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 1 Joseph 0004 (December 21, 2014)

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Happy Holidays to all.

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“Every saint has a past,and every sinner has a future.”
Oscar Wilde. A Woman of No Importance.

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Well, for the last three years almost unbroken sunshine has fallen on The Golden Hills with bringing with it a terrible drought. For the past three weeks there has been very little sunshine at all. The rain dribbles from the grey skies and flowing along the gutters sweeping the streets clean of leaves.

I am back on antibiotics and feeling better but implacable advancing age grapples with my spirit and is now winning two out of three falls.

HRM is inexorably moving from dependence and fear to independence and self-awareness. My role lessens — from guide to observer.

A mud soaked holiday season approaches, its color certainly will not be white except high in the mountains.

The leafless trees scratch the grey skies, winter is here. Some may see it as an ending but I prefer to look at it as merely a preparation for spring — another rebirth, a promise. It is only we, in the winter of our lives, who know there are no more promises, no more springs. Nevertheless, we endure — for a while.

There is a nine-year old in town who has won the national cross-country championships. Hayden has raced against him in local races. It is fun to watch the young champion run, finishing the 2.5 mile course often 300 yards ahead of the second place runner, sometimes even passing the high-school runners pacing the race.

At one race Hayden went up to him at the starting line and said to him “You will probably win an athletic scholarship to a good school. I am happy for you.”

By the way December 20th in the Gregorian Calendar is a free day in Pookies calendar. The day you can do whatever you want. So, enjoy — but try to avoid hurting yourself or others.

We ought to give that day a catchy name. Any suggestions?

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Maurice Trad has died. Maurice’s friendship saved me at a time I thought I could not be saved. He was always a better friend to me than I ever was to him.

I will miss you Maurice. Rest in Peace.
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B. BOOK REPORTS:

Sara King: Legend of Zero

It is always a sign of the deterioration of my mental health whenever I bury myself in obsessive reading to the exclusion of almost everything else. Usually it means I am teetering on the edge of depression too deep even for my happy pills to remedy. At Ruth’s suggestion, I am ripping through the Martin Beck mystery series. Interspersed with these I have begun reading Sara King’s Legend of Zero series. It is not her books that fascinate me. They are post contact warrior stories where humans and other alien species find themselves in foxholes together fighting an intergalactic war. Sort of like Starship Trooper except the insects are on our side and fighting among themselves because the entire universe is controlled by a galactic state that finds itself every few years putting down a rebellion by one or another of the bazillion species that make up the state. The rebels are usually the most horrible species one can imagine but not nearly as horrible as members of the state’s ruling caste. Everyone talks like post adolescent soldier grunts from WWII. For those that like this stuff it is pretty good and better than most.

However, what really interest me is the author. She lives somewhere in the wilds of Alaska. Her publicity picture shows a middle-aged child of the counter-culture from the 70’s — floppy hat, loose cotton clothing — standing before what looks like an organic garden. She says that she intends to “change the world” with her character writing. I do not know what that is or whether it is a good thing, but maybe she, like Zero the main character in her books, may well do so. She says:

“My name is Sara King and I’m going to change the world.
My goal is simple. I want to champion, define, and spread character writing throughout the galaxy. (Okay, maybe we can just start with Planet Earth.)”
King, Sara . Zero Recall (The Legend of ZERO, Book 2). Parasite Publications.

Pookie says check it out….

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

The Little Car that Could

IV Sicily
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Jason and I stood on the ferry’s deck as it approached the Port of Palermo, the three thousand-year old harbor originally built by the Phoenicians. The morning sun was shining brightly —the water a deep blue-green and the low-lying city a dusty brown with red arabic cupolas here and there and the cathedral a mix or gothic and moorish architecture rising up in the center.

At that time, 1968, the city had not yet sprawled beyond its medieval walls. Along the shore those walls still bore the scars WWII bullets. Mount Pellegrino loomed over the city like a frozen storm.
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Palermo Harbor with Mt Pellegrino in the background

As the ferry docked Jason and I ran down into the hold, squeezed into the Trojan 200 and waited for the doors to open. They opened slowly. Light penetrated the gloom. The noise was almost painful as the engines in the vehicles revved up together, and then we moved down the ramp and into the city.

We drove into and through the city looking for the road that would take us across the Island to its southern shore and Canicatti our destination.

While driving through the city we passed San Cataldo, The Cathedral and the Opera Houses and then we out beyond the walls heading toward the center of the Island.
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San Cataldo

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Palermo Cathedral

At that time there were no highways in Sicily, mostly two lane roads often rural and at times unpaved crossed the Island. Each road connected a town with the nearest one to it, pass through the center of the town and meander on to the next village.

After leaving Palermo, the first village we came to was perched on top of a mountain. The road swooped in long switchbacks until it entered the village. We started up the hill but soon the 9 hp engine could go no further. So I got out of the car and pushed it up the mountain to the edge of the town. It was getting very hot and I began to sweat a lot. I got back into the car and drove it through the village. As we wound our way through the narrow streets,The people came out to watch us pass by. Unlike towns in other parts of Italy where the people would shout, smile and gesture, the villagers here lined the road in silence — the women mostly dressed in black and the men with their caps slouched low over their foreheads. Only a child now and then would smile. When we came to the end of the settlement, I saw that the road swooped down from the mountain top, crossed a small valley and then careened up another mountain upon which sat the next village. And so it went. I would leave a village, drive the car as fast as it would go on the down slope so that I could get as high a possible up the next slope, then get out of the car and push.
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The Road up to Mussomeli

Troina,_sicily
(The above photograph was taken in 1970. It shows the single narrow road up to the village. It also shows the land as treeless, barren and rocky. It no longer is that today. After 2000 years trees are again returning to Sicily.)

Finally about eight hours later, I had travelled a total of 80 miles, my clothing drenched with sweat and every muscle aching. I decided I could go no further than the next village but as we emerged, I saw below not another mountain top village at the end of the road but a rather large town in the valley, Canicatti.

It was late in the afternoon when we arrived in the town. It was larger than I thought. That was a problem. I knew the last name of my relatives, Corsello, and the town in which they lived, Canicatti but that was all, no address and no first names. I had thought Canicatti would be a small village where everyone knew everyone else, but it was a rather large town instead. I drove into the town past a small park where I learned later my mother used to play as a child and stopped by a coffee-house with chairs and tables sprawled haphazardly about. The wall by the café was pock-marked with bullet holes. I was later to find out that is was the site of the Canicatti massacre where American soldiers slaughtered a number of townspeople for no reason.

So, I started asking if anyone knew where a family named Corsello lived. Someone mentioned some people by that name lived just around the corner. We drove there. It was a new building one of the few in the town at that time. I found the name on a card and pressed the button. “Qui e” someone responded. After a somewhat difficult conversation since I did not speak Italian and they did not speak English we managed to discover that they were in fact the right family and they came down from their apartment to greet us. They invited us in. But before entering Vincenzo the patriarch asked, “What are we going to do about the car. We cannot leave it here where it will be stolen.” (to be continued)
DAILY FACTOID:

2012: In Thailand a worker killed another worker with a machete after being taunted for having a small penis.

(I think is was Darwin who pointed out that a man’s chances of surviving to breed are greatly diminished by disparaging the size of someone junk when that other person is carrying a machete.)

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
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This may be one of the most disheartening charts I have posted so far. What this means is that many of those graduating from college today are so deeply in debt that the normal process of exploring options and settling into a career are denied to them.

It also encourages students, rather than educate themselves to be able to handle social and economic changes, to prepare themselves for only jobs available upon graduation despite recent experience demonstrating that those jobs may disappear long before their working lives end. We are no longer educating students but merely engaging in vocational training.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“The state is a good state if it is sovereign and if it is responsible. It is more or less incidental whether a state is, for example, democratic. If democracy reflects the structure of power in the society, then the state should be democratic. But if the pattern of power in a society is not democratic, then you cannot have a democratic state. This is what happens in Latin America, Africa and places like that, when you have an election and the army doesn’t like the man who is elected, so they move in and throw him out. The outcome of the election does not reflect the power situation, in which the dominant thing is organized force. When I say governments have to be responsible, I’m saying the same thing as when I said they have to be legitimate: they have to reflect the power structure of the society. Politics is the area for establishing responsibility by legitimizing power, that is, somehow demonstrating the power structure to people, and it may take a revolution, such as the French Revolution, or it may take a war, like the American Civil War. In the American Civil War, for example, the structure of power in the United States was such — perhaps unfortunately, I don’t know — that the South could not leave unless the North was willing. It was that simple. But it took a war to prove it. “
Carroll Quigley, Weapons Systems and Political Stability.

TODAY’S CHART:
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TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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Happy Christmas to all and to all a Good-Night.

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Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 21 POOKIE 0003 (December 4, 2014)

 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY JASON

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOB URAM

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNMARIE

______________________________________________________

HAPPY BIRTHDAY VITO MARCANTONIO
“If it be radicalism to believe that our natural resources should be used for the benefit of all of the American people and not for the purpose of enriching just a few…then, Ladies and Gentlemen of this House I accept the charge. I plead guilty to the charge; I am a radical and I am willing to fight it out…until hell freezes over.”
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TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. AUTUMN IN EL DORADO HILLS:
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The color for this fall is red.
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B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

1. To do or not to do.

Well, there was one day of sunshine and then it was back to hiding under the covers.
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When the sun did come out again for a few days straight, I fully intended to begin a vigorous exercise regime. I was inspired by Bill Yeates who appears to run up to 20 miles a day. My cousin in Sicily, Guillermo, does also. This weekend I found out that Kathleen Foote’s son Tyco is addicted to super marathons (100 miles). Just thinking about all that vigor so tired me out I went back to bed.

When I do get up and leave the house and it is not raining, I usually walk around the local park for exercise, enjoying the crisp air and the fall colors.

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The CSD park showing its Autumn colors

One of the paths wanders off into a meandering trail through dense brush. This trail, for reasons I cannot even guess at, is called the New York Trail. Since I generally prefer hiking alone, I avoid this path. I fear that a mountain lion will sneak up behind me and jump my aging a**. They say that these predators when they age prefer weak, old and slow prey. Which, seems to quite accurately describe me, don’t you think? I also fear the bushes may hide Puerto Rican or Italian gang members I knew in my youth who have found out where I live now. I picture those now 80 year-old gang members emerging from behind the trees and beating me to death with their walkers. In Pookie’s world, fear is his ever-present companion.

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The path on the right leads to the New York Trail
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2. Book Reports:

Thanks to my sister and George who fixed my Kindle problems, instead of simply napping the day away or exercising, I often begin a reading marathon in compensation — penance if you will.

Although reading a book a day I believe generally is a good thing but somewhat obsessive, the two I read yesterday was clearly excessive, especially since they were not that interesting.

Tad Williams: Sleeping Late on Judgement Day

Williams, one of my favorite fantasy authors (His Otherland series is one of the best in the genre), has leapt on to the bandwagon of the current rage among some readers of fantasy for amusing demon hunter stories. His Johnny Dollar series has been enjoyable. Dollar, a wisecracking angel fed up with the heavenly bureaucracy, often finds himself at odds with both his employers and the Adversary. In this issue, our hero sets out to rescue from Hell his girlfriend, a demon with the improbable name of Countess Cazmira of the Cold Hands. Anyone falling in love with a demon especially one with eternally cold hands seems to me to have a lot of unresolved issues.

Richard Stiller: Cold Warriors

Stiller who wrote two pretty good novels in the Foreworld Saga series tries his hand at a rogue CIA operatives thriller. Although it was able to capture my interest, the plot holes, incredible coincidences and poor editing were annoying. The author accurately described several obscure neighborhoods in current day San Francisco, so I assume he lives nearby or is in hiding.

Andrew Ball: The Contractors

The day before, I finished Ball’s debut novel in an another Heaven/Demon war series. It is a young reader type novel and not half bad. Here, a skinny six-foot tall alien from another dimension who looks like a fashion deprived toad, hires a bunch of totally unqualified amateur assassin magicians and sets them loose on an unsuspecting world in an effort to prevent an invasion from still another dimension by Hitler wannabes who look like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers with facial hair. And, yes people actually write this stuff —— and others read it. Some even think it is not half bad.

John Conroe: Forced Ascent

This the sixth or seventh novel in yet another Heaven/Demon war series, did not excite me as much as some of the earlier stories in the series. Most of these novels are like video games, the hero or heroine continue to acquire additional powers each time they smite their enemies. I no longer remember what actually happened in the book.

Declan Burke: Crime Always Pays

One of my favorite crime authors and current man crush writes a sequel to one of his better books, The Big O. That book ends with the face of one of the main protagonists of the sequel clamped in the jaws of a wolf. It does not get too much better from there.

Andrea Camilleri: Angelica’s Smile

Montalbano in love (or lust) but not with whom you think. And, no we do not discover Montalba is gay, although like most manly men there is the ever-present seed of doubt.

Chad Leito: The New Rome.

Leito claims he is a full-time e-book author specializing in post apocalyptic stuff. His PR photograph makes him look a bit over sixteen years old. He seems to suffer a similar problem of a lot of authors, an inability to actually finish the novel. In his case, he seems to be unable to finish more than the first two novels in whatever series he is writing. In his first series called “The Academy” he had gotten through sophomore year in a post apocalyptic university. As best as I could make out the original society collapsed because poor dental hygiene turned everyone’s gums black so they stopped smiling and sent all the kids off to this school where most of them die horrible violent deaths.

In his newest series (also only two books long) he thankfully spends only about one sentence on what it was like before. You know, there was before and now there is this. What this is, is New Rome. A replica of old Rome except New Rome is actually London. There is no indication of what current Rome is called, but Paris is still Paris. Since there is Rome, then there must be emperors, togas and gladiators. And with gladiators,then there is a big to-do about the significance of thumbs and lots of blood on the sand (Lions provided by Monsanto).

Pookie says, “Check them out.”
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

The Little Car that did — III.
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Italy

Not long after entering the foothills of the Alps it became obvious to me that a vehicle with an engine producing only nine horse-power had little chance of climbing 10,000 feet or so in order to find a pass through the mountain range. So, I began searching for an alternative —which led me to a train on to which I drove the Trojan and in which Jason and I sat for the duration of the trip under the mountains. It was so much fun. We jumped up and down and squealed with delight as the tunnel lights flashed by the car’s 360 degree view or when we would pass out of one section of the tunnel briefly, see the huge mountains and blue sky and then plunge into the looming dark again .

Eventually we were deposited on the other side of the Alps. We seemed to be quite high up because the road snaked a long way down in front of us. I did not know what country we were in but assumed it was Italy since the signs indicated we were passing through the Val d’Aosta and we could see small villages and large castles dotting the valley or clinging to mountain outcroppings far below. We continued coasting down the south face of the Alps until we hit the hills of the Piedmont and Turin.

At that time Turin (Torino) looked like most industrial cities, dark and grimy. Instead of the floral exuberance of classical and baroque architecture we were met with the basic brutalism of 20th century factories and worker housing. We took a room on the outskirts of the City and left early the next morning for Rome.

A few miles from the city we came upon the Autostrada to Rome. This was the first limited access highway I had seen so far in Europe. The Italian system had begun building a few years before and the road from the North to Rome was the first completed.

I decided to take the highway believing it would knock several hours off my trip. Almost as soon as I entered on to the highway I realized my mistake. It was an Italian system, which meant its purpose was to test top speeds of the vehicles and the nerves of the already high-strung drivers. Since the top speed of our little car was somewhere between 40 and 50 MPH, even driving in the slow lane was greeted with loud crashing of horns, red faces and hand gestures, predominately extension of the middle finger. Rather than exiting the system, I decided to try driving on the broad shoulder. This seemed to work somewhat. At least the faces were less red and sometimes smiling, the toots of the horns less insistent and the hand gestures for the most part replaced by putting the thumb, index finger and middle finger together and shaking it up and down. In this way we travelled from Turin to Rome dutifully stopping at all the wonderful rest stops in between where we ate and played. Luckily Jason was as willing to eat anything placed in front of him as he was to dispose of it without notice. The only concern I had was the tremendous whomp that would strike the car whenever one of those large two-trailer trucks whizzed by.

We checked into a small hotel across the street from the Barberini Palace (now the national museum). The hotel still exists. There we stayed for two or three days. I was too exhausted to run around touring so what Jason and I would do would be to walk up the Via Veneto stopping at one of the sidewalk cafe’s for an hour or two and have an espresso. Jason would have a hot milk and some cookies. At that time the places were still primarily coffee houses and had not turned into the expensively bad restaurants they are today.

The ladies of pleasure still displayed their wares along the street. At times when one would take a break she would come over and play with Jason for a while. On the second day one decided to take a long cigarette break and walked with me to the playground in the Borghese Gardens. The Gardens had not yet been crisscrossed with highways and was a wonderful park. I let Jason loose. She went to stand near the kids playground and smoke her cigarette and I laid down on the grass and stared through the pines into the blue sky beyond. I must have dozed because the next thing I remember is her shaking me and telling me she had to get back to work.

The next day we left Rome.

Ever since entering southern Europe the three-wheeled bubble car became less a car than a curiosity. So it was in Rome as I tried to find my was out of the city. People would come out of the shops a stare or wave as we drove by. Years later I discovered that one of those onlookers was my cousin “Gecco.” He greeted me as I drove by with his favorite hand gesture — the first three digits spread wide and twisted like a corkscrew.

I decided against the more direct route over the Alban Hills and chose to hug the coast. Somewhere south of Anzio was the area where the finest Bufala Mozzarella was made. At that time a few rude stands lined the highway where a traveller could buy some of the cheese — as well, if they wanted, some bread, wine, tomatoes or fried peppers and olive oil. I loaded up and then crossed the highway to sit on the large rocks bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea to eat lunch (actually several lunches) with Jason then watched him play by the water before proceeding on.

We arrived in Naples in the evening. The city still bore the horrible scars of WWII. Whole neighborhood remained bombed out. Knowing the city’s reputation for crime, I drove directly for the docks and on to the ship taking us to Sicily.

The staterooms I thought were too expensive so Jason and I curled up on the airplane seats in the hold of the ship used by backpackers and were quickly lulled to sleep by the thrumming of the engine.

In the morning we were awoken by a blast from the ship’s horn announcing we had come in sight of Palermo.

TODAY’S QUOTES:

1. Know your Bible:

“The Bible says, ‘As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.’”
Williams, Tad. Sleeping Late On Judgement Day: A Bobby Dollar Novel. Penguin Group US.
2. Fatherhood at its best*:

“A man’s supposed to shit himself after he dies, son, not before. Try to remember that, lad, so that when your time comes, you won’t make a right girly mess of it. Now fuck off and go play in the bog.”
Hearne, Kevin. Tricked: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Four. Random House Publishing Group.

*Note: For the literal-minded: I do not really promote this approach to child raising. It is sarcasm, a particularly low form of humor to which I am addicted. You should be warned, however, that the father in the quote is a highly trained professional. Do not try this at home.

 

Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 9 Pookie 0003 (November 21, 2014)

Happy Thanksgiving — May we all give thanks to those generous Americans who gave food, kindness and welcome to a hopelessly lost band of immigrants (despite their refusal to learn the language).

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

The rains are upon us in the Golden Foothills. Not enough to break the drought, but enough to make the days dark, gloomy and damp.

A few days later: The dark, gloomy and damp days continue without let-up. It is cold too. So after dropping HRM off at school, I usually huddle-up back in bed until it is time to pick him up. I feel like a kid again — snuggling under the blankets on a cold winter’s morning feeling warm and good. At 75 feeling warm and good is about as much as one can hope for.

Another day of two: Ah finally the sun has emerged. It makes me deliriously happy. It is a wonderful thing when ones contentment with life is dependent on such simple pleasures.

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

The Little Car that did — II.

France

I do not recall where we landed, Calais perhaps. Jason and I got back into the Trojan 200 and drove off the ferry into France.

I had never been to Europe before. As for France, for some reason I had been convinced the French were rude, arrogant and anti-American and so it was my intention to drive through the country as quickly as possible, hopefully in a day or two.

It was late afternoon when we entered the town of St Omer, not too far from where we disembarked. We were both hungry and tired so I checked us into a small hotel with an attractive restaurant on the ground floor. I thought a good night’s rest and some food would better allow us to push through France into Italy as I had planned.

The room was pleasant and after we rested a bit, cleaned up and played around with the bidet and giggled (I had never seen one before), we went down to the restaurant for an early dinner.

As we entered the little restaurant, a rather arrogant looking waiter, a bit chubby with curly reddish hair, a bow tie and striped starched shirt and apron approached and motioned for us to follow him. After we were seated, he said something in French that I did not understand. I responded, in English of course, that I would like whatever he considered appropriate for dinner with an extra plate for my son. I also requested a glass of the house wine. He reddened a bit, made a slight noise like the chuffing of a hog and disappeared in a huff.

Now, my mother was a great cook and my family owned a number of Italian restaurants so I was used to eating good food, but I never had experienced the wonders of a full French meal before. I was stunned. Course after course was brought out and Jason and I happily and greedily ate them all for at least an hour and a half. (I learned a few years later that this place was a Michelin two-star restaurant)

The only problem was the wine. I asked for a glass and he brought me a bottle. I thought that I was about to be charged for the entire bottle. I was determined not to give the arrogant bastard the pleasure of fleecing me so I drank the whole thing (much later I learned that they only charged for the amount of wine one drank).

I was no stranger to drinking wine, being Italian-American, but this was long before the American wine revolution. The wines available in the US then were generally straw encased bottles of cheap Chianti, Italian Swiss Colony Red, Almaden white and the like. They always tasted as though the wine maker left a bunch of metal shavings at the bottom of the bottle. This wine was different, as smooth and mellow as a good night’s sleep.

Following the meal, I staggered with Jason back to my room and after putting him to bed fell into a long deep dreamless sleep.

Thereafter, my plan to race through France was at an end. Every day I would wake up a bit groggy, pack Jason and myself into the Trojan, drive two or three hours and stop to check into a hotel. We would eat lunch at which I would drink the entire bottle of wine. After this I would stagger back to our room and we would nap until dinner. As a result, my intention to traverse France in a day or two turned into a ten-day trek before we caught sight of the Alps.

One day shortly before reaching the mountains, we were traveling along a lovely two lane road through the French countryside, when I heard a large clank at the rear of the Trojan and it abruptly coasted to a stop. I got out of the car to find out what was wrong. What I saw appeared to me as though the Trojan was a giant prehistoric bug that had just taken a metallic crap in the middle of the road. The pile of metal was the car’s engine. This, I realized right away, was probably a much more serious problem than the mysterious stoppages.

Nevertheless, I proceeded with my usual approach to these things — changed Jason’s diapers, threw the used one into the bushes lining the road, walked with him a while and returned to the car. There I sat cross-legged on the road next to the pile of metal with Jason nestled on my lap and began to contemplate my options. I certainly did not relish the thought of hitch-hiking the rest of the way to Sicily. Nor was it appealing to contemplate finding a French mechanic who might be able to fix the machine. Eventually, I realized that the pile was composed of two large pieces of metal and a number of much smaller ones. This fact seemed to demand closer investigation. Jason by that time had fallen asleep so I carried him back to the cab, laid him on the seat and returned to the pile.

I picked up the two large pieces and found that they fit together perfectly. I then opened the engine cover and discovered I could fit those prices snugly around whatever was remaining attached to the vehicle. So, taking a long piece of thin wire that a prior owner of the auto had left in the cab, I carefully fitted the two pieces in place and then wrapped the wire tightly around the whole thing until it seemed relatively secure. I then fitted what small pieces I could back into the engine, throwing the remaining ones into the back of the car just in case they proved to be important.

Satisfied with my efforts, I returned to the cab, turned the key and after a few coughs, to my great surprise, the engine started and we drove off in the direction of the looming mountains. (to be continued)

DAILY FACTOID:

AD 325: Jesus becomes God

The Council of Nicaea: By a vote of 161 to 157, the surviving attendees at the Council declared that Jesus was God.

(Wow, I guess it is true that every vote matters. If just four votes had switched Jesus would have remained a carpenter and we may have elected a Republican as God instead.)
PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Arrogance and Futility in Action — Cont.

The following is the second letter to the editor of the Bangkok Post advising the Thai government on how to draft their new constitution.

“To the editor of the Bangkok Post:

This, my second letter regarding Thailand’s current attempt to draft a constitution, focuses on dissent.

All 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. In the case of a state, disintegration often takes the form of social turmoil and violent reaction, either of which may sweep away the constitutional foundations of a country. Perhaps the most effective means of generating reform is through public dissent.

Professor Quigley reminds us that allegiance and dissent are necessary components of any state capable of reforming itself.

‘First of all, allegiance and dissent, it seems to me, are opposite sides of the same coin. We cannot have organized society without allegiance. A society cannot continue to exist without loyalty. But, I would further add, a society cannot continue to exist that is incapable of reforming itself, and the prerequisite to reform is dissent.

Allegiance is absolutely vital. But so is dissent. To me, allegiance means devotion to symbols and organizational structures, both of which are necessary in any society. Dissent, it seems to me, is the opposite side of the coin. It implies a critical approach to the symbols and to organizational structures of society.’
(Presentation to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces on 24 August 1970)

He goes on to point out that preservation of the means for reasonable dissent is a necessity to forestall the tragedy of revolution and reaction.

‘No society can stand still. Its institutions must constantly adjust and evolve, and periodically undergo reform, because the needs they are supposed to serve are themselves constantly changing. And institutions cannot grow and reform unless the people whose needs they fail to serve, or serve badly, can make their dissatisfaction felt…. If dissent is stifled and denied redress, it builds up like a head of steam. Many people assume that dissent and the demand for reform are the first step toward revolution. They are mistaken. My study of history shows pretty generally that revolutions do not come from dissent. They come from a failure to reform, which leads to breakdown. It is quite true that misguided reforms which fail to attack real problems may also result in breakdown. But dissent, and reform responding to dissent, do not lead to revolution. They lead away from it.’
Ibid

Therefore I urge the committees drafting the constitution to include the right to dissent but, identify the reasonable means to exercise that right and include a process for redress of the grievances if the dissent continues and begins to threaten essential governmental services.

B. Pookie’s puerile epigrams:

Scientists tell us we know nothing but only think we do.

Religious leaders tell us we know nothing, but someone they have never met knows everything.

Politicians tell us that they know everything and we don’t.

Business people tell us, if it cannot be bought and sold it is crap.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“…capitalism, because it seeks profits as its primary goal, is never primarily seeking to achieve prosperity, high production, high consumption, political power, patriotic improvement, or moral uplift. Any of these may be achieved under capitalism, and any (or all) of them may be sacrificed and lost under capitalism, depending on this relationship to the primary goal of capitalist activity— the pursuit of profits. During the nine-hundred-year history of capitalism, it has, at various times, contributed both to the achievement and to the destruction of these other social goals.”
Quigley, Carroll. Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. GSG & Associates Publishers.

TODAY’S CHART:

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TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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This is a photograph of a fire rainbow. Fire rainbows appear when sunlight hits frozen ice crystals in high-altitude cirrus clouds. Because the fire rainbow actually involves no rain at all, scientists would rather we refer to this occurrence by its much less fun, but much more accurate title: the circumhorizontal arc. Since the arc requires both the presence of cirrus clouds and for the sun to be extremely high in the sky, it’s much more likely to be seen at latitudes closer to the equator.

May a circumhorizontal arc brighten your day.

Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 4 Pookie 0003 (November 19, 2014)

“Most wealthy individuals are scoundrels. Only very few admit it and they usually are already in jail.”

Trenz Pruca

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

While I nursed the remnants of my bronchitis, Nikki took over entertaining HRM. He left on Tuesday morning. Happily I am feeling better since my cough has, for the most part, disappeared.

The last days of autumn have come to the Golden Foothills. The leaves on the trees are beginning to turn from deep red to brown. A carpet of fallen leaves covers everything not yet cleared by leaf blowers.

While on my daily walk, I observed the large Blue Heron that usually stays on the far side of the Duck Pond standing on the near side beside the path on which I was walking. As I got close it unlimbered its huge wings, took flight and slowly flapped back across the pond to its usual post. It was quite beautiful.

B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN ITALY

1. A brief stay in Rome

I returned to Rome for two days before continuing on the Milan where I would catch the plane back to the US. I checked back in to the pensione on Via San Basilio, the place where they played Gregorian Chant at breakfast.
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Via San Basilio just off the Via Veneto

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My spartan room

During my time here with my sister a week ago, she indicated her wish to visit St Maria Maggiore Cathedral one of the four major Basilicas of Rome. Unfortunately, we were unable to get to it during our short stay, so I decided to visit it and take some photographs for her.

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The façade

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The interior

Despite its history and artistic significance, it is not my favorite of the basilicas. I prefer the Lateran Basilica for its dark and gloomy appearance and equally dark and gloomy history.
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The Lateran

The following day I took the train to Milan.
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The old walls by the train station.

2. Milano for a day

After a three-hour train ride I arrived in Milan and took a bus to Busto where Nikki lives. The next day we had lunch in Milan with Marco Gigi’s son at Gambero Rosso (The Red Shrimp) where we enjoyed a splendid risotto. After that, we went to see the restored “Last Supper,” that Nikki had never seen.

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Pookie in Milan

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The “Red Shrimp” restaurant (Gambero Rosso)
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Nikki, Marco and I at lunch

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The Church next to the refectory containing Last Supper. (Dome designed by Bramante)

The next morning after breakfast we flew off to the US.

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Our breakfast place in Busto

Traveling by plane with Nikki has its benefits. We get assistance through customs and passport control, help in making connections and better seats. The most unpleasant part of the trip was the huge delays on the Bay Bridge in SF at midnight.

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

The Little Car that did.

England

In 1959 Britain’s Trojan Cars Ltd under license from Germany’s Heinkel Flugzuegwerke began selling the Heinkel’s bubble car as the Trojan 200. The car had three wheels and weighed a little over 1000 pounds. It had a one-cylinder four-stroke air-cooled engine that produced a grand total of 9 horse power that could push the vehicle to a top speed of a little more than 50 miles per hour over level ground. Portions of the automobile were constructed from surplus WWII airplane parts.

In 1968 I was living in London with my two and a half-year old son Jason and decided it was time to visit my relatives in Sicily. No one from my side of the family had visited there since 1928 when three of the four siblings of my maternal grandparents emigrated to America. So, one rainy and foggy London morning I, with my son and my luggage, walked to a nearby used car dealer and bought a Trojan 200. I bought it not because I thought about whether it was suitable for the trip, but because I liked the way it looked and it was cheap.
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The Trojan 200

I immediately piled my son, the one suitcase that held my worldly goods and a huge supply of disposable diapers into the vehicle and took off in what I had hoped would prove be the general direction of Sicily.

The first problem we faced was that the British drive on the right side of the road and I exited the used car lot directly into a busy one-way street in the opposite direction of traffic. There was not enough time to panic (as I am sure I would have preferred) so, I maneuvered my way through screeching tires and blaring horns until I reached a place where I could move on to the proper lane.

The second was escaping from the maze that is London in the general direction of Dover where I was reasonably confident I could find a ferry that would transport us to the continent. By keeping the River Thames on the right side of me, I was able to make my way to the edge of the city where I located signs pointing the way to the coast.

We soon found ourselves driving along a pleasant rural road heading toward our goal when suddenly the car stopped cold. I tried to suppress my worry by attending first to changing my son’s diaper and carefully depositing the used one behind a nearby bush. (In 1968 I had not yet become environmentally conscious or for that matter socially responsible.) We then went for a short walk to observe the visual pleasures of the English countryside. Upon our return, I placed my son back in the car, went to the rear of the vehicle and opened the cover to the engine. There I saw staring back at me a grimy little thing that seemed too small to propel a toy wagon much less an automobile.

My working thesis was that by staring at it long enough I would either be able to figure out what was wrong or frighten it sufficiently to scare it into operating again. After a few long minutes, it was clear the first option was not going to work, so I closed the cover, returned to the cab and turned the key to start the engine. I do not recall whether or not I was surprised but the engine started right up and we soon found ourselves back on the road to our destination.

Throughout the rest of the trip this mysterious stoppage would occur now and then. Rather than worrying, it gave my son and I the opportunity to commune together on beauties of whatever countryside we were passing through at the time.

Not too long after, we arrived at Dover or Folkestone or wherever the ferries docked. I originally wanted to take one of the hovercraft that had been newly introduced but the fare was too expensive. So, we parked in the cavernous hold of one of the regular ferries and immediately went up to the top floor and sat ourselves in front by the big glass window.

The sun had just parted the clouds leaving us in glorious sunshine. We chattered happily to each other and bounced up and down on our seats as the boat sped across the silver water towards the dark line of the continent on the horizon before us. (To be continued)

PEPE’S POTPURRI:

Arrogance and Futility in Action:

Recently I sent a series of four letters to the editor that were published in The Bangkok Post, Thailand’s premier English language newspaper. They pro-ported to advise the government on how they should draft their new Constitution. The following was the first:

“To the editor of the Bangkok Post:

Regarding the current struggle in Thailand to draft a new constitution, and having drafted and administered many laws, rules and regulations myself, I respectfully suggest the drafters consider the following policies formulated several years ago by professor Carroll Quigley of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. Bill Clinton in his acceptance of the Presidential nomination said this of Professor Quigley:

‘As a teenager, I heard John Kennedy’s summons to citizenship. And then, as a student at Georgetown I heard that call clarified by a professor named Carroll Quigley, who said to us that America was the greatest nation in history because our people had always believed in two things: that tomorrow can be better than today and that every one of us has a personal moral responsibility to make it so.’

Among Professor Quigley’s fundamental requirements for any constitutional democracy are the preservation of a right to dissent and the protection of minority rights. Dissent I will take up in a later letter but as for minority rights Quigley states:

‘I define democracy as majority rule and minority rights. Of these the second is more important than the first. There are many despotisms which have majority rule. Hitler held plebiscites in which he obtained over 92 percent of the vote, and most of the people who were qualified to vote did vote. I think that in China today a majority of the people support the government, but China is certainly not a democracy.

The essential half of this definition then, is the second half, minority rights. What that means is that a minority has those rights which enable it to work within the system and to build itself up to be a majority and replace the governing majority. Moderate deviations from majority rule do not usually undermine democracy. In fact, absolute democracy does not really exist at the nation-state level. For example, a modest poll tax as a qualification for voting would be an infringement on the principle of majority rule but restrictions on the suffrage would have to go pretty far before they really abrogated democracy. On the other hand relatively slight restrictions on minority rights — the freedoms of speech, assembly, and other rights — would rapidly erode democracy.’

Thus any constitution whatever democratic variations it may take toward franchise, must provide a strong list of those rights reserved to the individual, such as freedom of expression, and assembly as well as security of their person and in their home. These and all similar individual rights should be clearly spelled out in the document.”

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“I used to tell my students that the important thing in any election is the nomination. And when you come to the election itself, it doesn’t matter who votes, what’s important is who didn’t vote. Elections in the United States are increasingly decided by people who didn’t vote because they’re turned off for various reasons.”
Carroll Quigley

TODAY’S CARTOON:
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Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 4 Pookie 0003 (November 16, 2014)

“A reminder to myself when I feel discouraged: ‘Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little.’”
Plutarch

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY:

1. Reunion with a beloved friend:

Sometimes in life if one is lucky, he or she will meet someone with whom they share a special bond of friendship — one that neither ebbs nor breaks no matter how long the friends are separated or how brief their time together. That was the relationship I had with Luigi (Gigi) Gallo.

In the late summer of 1968, following a two thousand mile trip with my two-year old son Jason from London in a nine horsepower three-wheeled automobile (Trojan), I arrived at my relative’s home in Canicatti, the first relation to return from America since three of the four children of my grandparents emigrated to America in 1928.

Needing a place to park the car for the duration of my stay, my uncle contacted Gigi who agreed to allow me to store the car in his family’s garage and it has remained more or less in Gigi’s possession ever since. (The story of the car, the trip and its amazing survival is one that I will save for another time.)

Anyway, as a result of that chance meeting, Gigi and I became inseparable friends during my stay in Sicily, my life in Rome and whenever I returned to Canicatti — until 1973 when my life changed. Then I met John Olmsted and became involved in the California coastal program. Shortly thereafter I lost contact with everyone in Sicily. Despite my sincere intention to return, for whatever reasons, I did not do so for forty years. I never forgot Gigi and longed to see him again.
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Gigi and I in 1968

On this trip I, with assistance of Antonio, Guglielmo and Giovanni. was able to locate him. He was living in Caltanissetta, a city not far from Canicatti. So, I went to visit him. When I saw him it was as though we had never been apart. As we hugged each other, both of us cried. It could have been one of the happiest times of my life.

Unfortunately, Gigi developed Parkinson’s disease some years ago and shows all the signs of the malady. He is pretty much restricted to his home now. He had married. His wife was quite proud of their thirty-five year marriage. He has a son Marco living in Milan, a practicing sports nutritionist. During his life, before his disease struck him, Gigi was a well-known road race car driver and had, if I understood correctly, won the Sicilian championships four years in a row and had raced throughout Italy and Europe wherever they held mountain road races called Colina de Piste. His son was also a champion driver.

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Gigi today with some of his many racing trophies

Later he took me into his garage where he kept some of his race cars including a Maserati and some others, as well as the three wheel Trojan and an antique car, a 1932 Balilla I think it was called.
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The Trojan

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Gigi and Wife in the Balilla

Leaving him that evening to return to Rome the next day was the saddest part of my trip.

2. Departure and Return to Rome:

The next day we left for Rome. Although the sky was full of rainbows I was depressed. It had been a special trip for me. I missed my kind relatives, Gigi and of course the food.
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From rainbows to a final selfie

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My last views of Sicily

B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Following a hectic but un-notable series of flights Nikki and I returned to El Dorado Hills at about three in the morning and went straight to sleep. Sometime late the next evening Hayden, Richard, Nikki and I gathered for dinner and told stories. The next morning I went to the doctor because of a persistent cough and he told me that I had bronchitis. He said that they used to prescribe antibiotics for the malady but no longer did because the pathogens had mutated to have become resistant to the medicines. He said I would have to wait until I develop pneumonia before effective antibiotics could be prescribed. In the meantime he recommended bed rest and chicken soup. In accordance with his instruction I have remained in bed while the others have gone about whatever adventures they may find. I have, however, altered his prescription for chicken soup to minestrone.
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Nikki’s new shirt from Denio’s

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

The collapse of the world economy a few years ago and the feeble attempts to save it has highlighted the role played in society by classical economics and economists. Not since the middle ages has a belief system and its episcopate so dominated secular society as classical economics and economists has these past 30 or so years. So what is wrong with that, you may ask?

Here is some of what’s wrong with it (Can you think of more?):

1. Despite every attempt to demonstrate its kinship to science there is no natural or scientific law that requires that it be set up as it has been.
2. It is a system set up by men to benefit men and based upon the evolutionary directives of their sex.
3. It assumes human behavior is deterministic and minimizes the unpleasant fact that people can and do choose and agree to live and act in ways inconsistent with its theology.
4. It was developed in an attempt to explain certain international transactions and the actions of a few men in coffee houses in sixteenth century England. It failed to establish any significant predictive value for those transactions then and it fails to do so now for contemporary transactions.
5. It has for the most part been immune to the advances of science, biology, sociology and psychology that have occurred over the past 300 years.
6. It relies on classifications of people and activities that at best are illustrative of certain past events and at worst worthless.
7. It claims, like a religion, that it can explain most significant political, commercial and mass behavioral activities while it steadfastly ignores other explanations and analyses for the same phenomena.
8. It refuses to recognize that is has a fundamental conflict of interest at its core in that its episcopate, the economists, generally are employees and agents of the system that rewards them and that they then claim they have the ability to describe and analyze without bias.
9. It has at best become neither a hard science nor a social science but a lobby for itself and its employers.
10. It has polluted the system by which we govern ourselves by claiming expertise where it is lacking.
11. It assumes that because its practitioners can articulate what may have happened in the past they are better suited to guess what will occur in the future than anyone else with access to the same information.
12. It steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that expertise in describing past transactions does not qualify one for advising on or administering anything.

In short, classical economics is treated today as a religion and its practitioners, the economists, as priests. In order to deal with the current world economic crisis we should add economists to Shakespeare’s famous quote about lawyers.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“I’ll just touch on something else: secrecy in government. Secrecy in government exists for only one reason: to prevent the American people from knowing what’s going on. It is nonsense to believe that anything our government does is not known to the Russians at about the same moment it happens.
Carroll Quigley

TODAY’S CHART:
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Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 1 Pookie 0003 (November 13, 2014)

“By now it is clear to most thinking people that every decision we make on major public problems simply makes matters worse.”
Carroll Quigley in his review of Ferkiss’ “In Search for a Solution to the World Crisis.” 1974.

TODAY FROM ITALY:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY:

Canicatti

1. A brief tour into the Borgalino

Canicatti, except for the fact that my mother was born here, is a rather uninteresting city at least in so far as art, architecture and history are concerned. Essentially established by the Saracens for commercial purposes along side a small stream (Canicatti means clay ditch in arabic), it has remained more focused on commerce than art ever since.

Nonetheless, they really do it up for Carnevale.

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I have no idea what this float is all about.

Canicatti was the site, however, of the massacre of unarmed civilians by US troops during WWII.

The “old town,” across the river from the fortress, where originally most of the people lived is called Borgalino. It is there that in 1917 my mother was born. Since then the city has metastasized and covers much of the valley and surrounding hills.

Veduta - 1933

Canicatti 100 years ago
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Today

We visited the Borgalino one day in pursuit of intergenerational connections or what is now generally called roots.
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Santa Spirito today

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100 years ago

Maryanne and I pose in front of the church and convent where my mother was baptized. The adjacent picture shows the church as it looked at about the time my mother was born.

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The much altered home of my mothers birth.

My mother was only seven years old when my grandfather died of his war wounds. As my mother tells it, as he lay dying, she prayed that he would live so that she would not have to wear black for the rest of her life. She was saved that fate by being shipped off to America not too long after the funeral.

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Borgalino today
Borgalino
100 years ago
2. The Cimitero and a surprising story.

Following our visit to the Borgalino and my mother’s birthplace, in pursuit of symmetry we naturally then visited the cemetery where my grandfather and many of the relatives, including Vincenzo, are buried
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The Cemetery

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The Crypt

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The Grave

It was here we learned one of the family legends we had never heard before. It seems that during WWI at the battle of Caporetto or perhaps it was the Veneto, I was unclear on which, my grandfather Giacinto Corsello and his brother Salvatore were serving as officers in the front lines when the Austrians attacked their machine gun position. The brothers held them off for a day until Giacinto was wounded in a poison gas attack. He was removed from the front for treatment (he would die from the effects of the gas about seven years later) leaving Salvatore alone at the machine gun to face the Austrian hordes. Which he did heroically for another 24 hours before he was killed in a second poison gas attack. This much was probably true since the brave and heroic brothers had the medals, if not their lives, to show for it.

The legend or myth however is the family’s belief Hemingway wrote about their heroism in either The Sun also Rises or For whom the Bells Toll and Salvatore was played by Gary Cooper in the movie. I doubt this because, in For Whom the Bells Toll, although Cooper dies valiantly holding off the Fascists, the event takes place in Spain about 20 years after the brother’s actions. In The Sun also Rises, Cooper, plays an American ambulance driver. Nevertheless, I am greatly pleased that my grandfather has a legend associated with him no matter how false it may be.

3. Giovanni’s country place

We later visited Giovanni’s country home where we watched a storm come in over the mountains. The house is quite rustic. He invited me to stay there whenever I return to Sicily. Giovanni likes to slip off to the place as often as he can to sit and sip wine.

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In the garden
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Here comes the storm

4. A last supper

On our last evening in Canicatti we visited with Guillermo’s family for dinner (of course) in a restaurant that served Sicilian food ”hunter’s style” (a La Cacciatore).

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The Antipasti

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I have no idea what this was

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My main course was wild boar
TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Those who use the past to oppose the present must be ex-terminated.”
Li Shu

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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My sister fooling around

Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 25 Pepe 0003 (November 11, 2014)

TODAY FROM ITALY:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY:

1. Antonio’s House

In the morning after I woke up, I walked down the stairs and was greeted by a six-foot three-inch tall skinny Nigerian named Friday.

Friday comes by in the mornings to assist Antonio servicing his guests. Friday’s goal in life is to become a blues singer and while he putters about, he sings snatches of songs, sotto voce.
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George, Friday (actually Venerdi) and Maryanne

Antonio’s home, surrounded by his garden, nestles, oasis like, in an uninspiring neighborhood on the outskirts of Canicatti.
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The entrance to Antonio’s home.

It has been his home and that of his father before him and has the well settled feel of at least two generations arranging things for their long-term comfort.  Bookcases lined the walls alon with cabinets filled with various personal acquisitions. There is even a stand containing a walking stick collection.
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Clockwise from the top left: The patio; Maryanne and George in the garden; Antonio preparing dinner; The main room with fireplace and table set for breakfast.
Antonio is a pediatrician and a beguiling host. He fancies himself a gourmet chef of Sicilian cuisine and for good reason — he is one.
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Antonio at his favorite place in the house

I could not possibly describe all the various dishes he made for us but a few stand out — a dessert made with fresh (one day old) flaky ricotta covered with home-made fig jam — fried meatballs of finely ground pork and veal incased in breadcrumbs from fresh Sicilian bread soaked in water — an infinite variety of preparations featuring eggplant including a compote with olives and other things to die for — calamari stuffed with almonds — freshly made tagliatelle in a pesto sauce made with basil picked from his garden that day — An ice cream dessert (cassata) he called the history of Sicily containing Arab, Norman and Angevin originated ice creams — and on and on.
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The Sicilian History ice cream

Most of his spices, vegetables, fruits and nuts come directly from his small garden each day. FullSizeRender
Pookie, glass of wine in hand, prepares to eat home-made Rigatoni with crayfish.

I sleep in his daughter’s room complete with pictures and favorite things seemingly just the way she left it before departing to study medicine at the university in Milan. Rather than an interloper, I felt like I was in a place built over the years to provide security, comfort and joy to whoever occupies it. I sleep well there.

In fact I would prefer spending my days there rather than touring or visiting relatives I had not seen for 40 years.

2. Meet the Relatives: Part I

I first arrived in Canicatti in 1968 with my son in tow having driven from London in a three wheel vehicle. The American side of the family had not laid eyes on the Sicilian since 1928 when the patriarch of the family unceremoniously, but for the good of the family, married his newly orphaned 16-year-old niece and sent off her younger siblings, my mother included, into indentured servitude in America thereby securing for himself his brother’s inheritance — for the good of the family.

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Here I am in 1968 standing in front of a part of that inheritance with the patriarch himself, Vincenzo with one of his sons Giovanni who we will meet later. As I learned at the time from other townspeople feared Vincenzo  and reviled, all four-foot ten inches of him. The beanpole on the right is me in 1968. I can truly say that I am twice the man now than I was then.

Since then, Vincenzo has died and as is typical among Sicilian families they have broken into two warring groups who do not speak to or about each other. The reason for their enmity is unknown and probably forgotten by now.

The first group we visited with were the sons and daughters of the banking side of the family. Giuseppe the oldest son of Vincenzo was director of the local bank. now retired. Guillermo, the son of Giuseppina one of Vincenzo’s daughters, is a rising presence in the bank. We spent a delightful evening with them all, large and small.
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Sitting on the sofa

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At Dinner, of course

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Playing with the children

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Maryanne George, Guillermo and his wife.

Guillermo is an enthusiastic marathon runner as well as a banker. I promised him that should he visit us in California I would speak to Bill Yeates about the possibility of him running in one or two while he is there.

3. A visit to Enna and Piazza Armerina

The next morning we departed to visit a few of the sites in the area. Our first stop was Enna.

Enna was the last stronghold of the Saracens before the Normans conquered them under the Great Count Roger. Unlike the Reconquista in Spain three hundred years later, the Normans did not expel the Muslims and the Jews, nor did they forcibly convert them. Instead, they welcomed them into their administration and military and adopted many of their cultural practices, (Most of Italy’s great pastries and desserts come from this period).

Enna, like Erice in the West, sits on a mountain about three thousand feet above sea level and commands the view of much of southern Sicily.

Unfortunately, the stormy that day limited touring.

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A statue in Enna that reminded me of me: walking stick, fedora and protruding belly.

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A portion of the castle at ENNA

We then left for a site that a visitor to Sicily should not miss: The Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina, perhaps the finest collection of classical mosaics in existence.
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The so-called Bikini girls – (actually depicts Roman female athletes in competition.)
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A fanciful scene of Putti living it up on a boat.

4. Meet the Relatives: Part two, a night at Giovanni’s

That evening we spent with the other side of the family at Giovanni’s house. Giovanni, brother to Giuseppe and Giuseppina, as far as I know, did not pursue higher education and perhaps as a result was not as formal as his siblings.

We were met at the door by:
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The following photo is of me and my cousin Giovanni. As you can see, I appear considerably heavier and shorter than I was forty years ago.
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Pookie and Giovanni

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Maryanne and two cousins, Teresa and Maria

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All the relatives gathered that night at Giovanni’s

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“The state is a good state if it is sovereign and if it is responsible. It is more or less incidental whether a state is, for example, democratic. If democracy reflects the structure of power in the society, then the state should be democratic. But if the pattern of power in a society is not democratic, then you cannot have a democratic state. This is what happens in Latin America, Africa and places like that, when you have an election and the army doesn’t like the man who is elected, so they move in and throw him out. The outcome of the election does not reflect the power situation, in which the dominant thing is organized force. When I say governments have to be responsible, I’m saying the same thing as when I said they have to be legitimate: they have to reflect the power structure of the society. Politics is the area for establishing responsibility by legitimizing power, that is, somehow demonstrating the power structure to people, and it may take a revolution, such as the French Revolution, or it may take a war, like the American Civil War. In the American Civil War, for example, the structure of power in the United States was such — perhaps unfortunately, I don’t know — that the South could not leave unless the North was willing. It was that simple. But it took a war to prove it.”
Carroll Quigley

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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Only in San Francisco…

(For those still confused, they jacked up one side of the building after taking the first photograph.)

Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 22 Pepe 0003 (November 6, 2014)

TODAY FROM ITALY:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY:

1. Segesta and Erice

I flew Ryan Air from Rome to Palermo. It reminded me of flying Icelandic Airlines in the 1960s. Among other things the seats did not recline. One woman sitting across the aisle from me boarded with a toy Maltese dog sporting a “service dog” emblazoned jacket. What sort of services a dog of that size could provide I refuse to speculate on. Although the woman had carefully complied with all procedures and was approved by the departure desk, the pilot insisted he was not authorized to fly with dogs. After many, many tense minutes the crisis was somehow resolved and we took off, dog and all.

I met my sister and George at the airport in Palermo and we immediately left for Erice.

Before arriving at Erice we stopped to view the impressive classical ruins at Segesta.

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Pookie in front of the temple at Segesta

Located on the top of a massif about 3000 feet above the plain and sea below Erice can be seen from most of western Sicily. At times because of its height it disappears into the clouds. I loved the place as soon as I saw it.

Upon our arrival, we checked into an old Carmelite nunnery converted into a hotel. Similar to my lodgings in Rome, the hotel maintained an aura of religiosity. It retained all of the religious trappings of its prior life, including a chapel for devotional use by guests.

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Checking into the “Carmine.”

We set off to explore the city and to have dinner. We were enthralled by the views from the city walls and the quiet peacefulness of the town. Now and then a bell would ring out marking the liturgical hours. The City, as small as it is, has 60 churches, most of which state appropriated during the Risorgimento and now house museums, artistic or scientific institutes or simply stand empty.

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A view from Erice

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Sunset

Later, of course, a fine dinner at a place suggested by the hotel.

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Maryanne and George at dinner

The following morning we continued our tour. One side of the city still has its ancient Phoenician walls.

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The ancient Punic walls— VII-V Century B.C.

The city, like Sicily itself, is triangular-shaped. At one point is the Cathedral and main gate. At another stands the Saracen-Norman castles.

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Castello de Pepoli

At the third point are the old Spanish and Jewish Quarters where our hotel was located.

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A street in the old Jewish quarter.

The city is high enough that I watched some clouds float across the plains and creep into Erice like tourists looking for espresso.

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Erice collage

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A final view from the heights of Erice

2. Camilleri — Vigata (Puerto Empedocle) and Montelusa (Agrigento)

Following an extended and mostly uninteresting drive from Erice we arrived at Agrigento, the Montelusa of the Montalbano novels by Camilleri. Agrigento an ancient Greek City boasts some of the finest examples of Greek classical temple Architecture.
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Maryanne at the Valley of the Temples

It was also the home of the playwright Luigi Pirandello. Camilleri’s first published book was a biography of Pirandello. The playwright, in a novel of his own written over 100 years ago, first named Agrigento Montelusa.

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George in front of the Pirandello homestead

We began at the Questura where Montalbano unhappily spent much time explaining his actions to his superiors. It stands across the street from its rival police force, the much reviled Carabinieri.
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The Questura

We visited the site of the school at which Camilleri was studying for his final exams when the Allies bombed it during WWII killing over 300 people. The event played and important role in the Terra-cotta Dog novel.

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The Churchyard where the school was located.

Camilleri’s middle name was Calogero. Saint Calogero, a much beloved saint in Sicily, is the patron saint of Agrigento. Calogero was black and arrived in Sicily from Africa sometime in the forth century. Calogero is a common name and surname in Sicily.

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The Church of Saint Calogero where Camilleri was baptized.

In one of the novels, I think it was The Snack Thief, Cantarella is sent off to collect some information from an accountant in the Arab Quarter of the city.

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The Arab Quarter – the accountant’s office is off to the right.

We visited a several other locations and then set off for Porto Empedocle, the fictional Vigata.

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Vigata

In almost every novel, at some point Montalbano will eat lunch at his favorite restaurant and later walk out on the jetty, sit on the flat rock beneath the lighthouse and consider whatever case he is working on or more than likely his life in general.

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The lighthouse and flat rock at the end of the Jetty

We drove past Marinella where Montalbano lived next to the beach in a much more modest house than the one pictured in the TV show. Unfortunately, because of construction of a project promoted by the very ambitious current mayor of Marinella, we were unable to get on to the beach itself.

We then went to the Turkish Steps an unusual marl formation that appears in The Voice of the Violin, I believe.

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The Turkish Steps and our guide Michelle

After visiting too many scenes from the novels to recount, we stopped at the restaurant owned by Enzo that Montalbano, after his beloved lunch place near his office was closed, with great trepidation tries and falls in love with. Enzo was not there but his brother-in-law was and we visited with him for a while.

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Pookie in front of Enzo’s restaurant.

Finally, we set off to our lodgings to rest before facing the city of Canicatti and our relatives.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:

I sincerely apologize for sending these pallid travelogues to those devoted readers of T&T who look forward to my scintillating prose, trenchant observations and insightful clichés.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“… some alternative method of organizing large numbers of men had to be devised so that the energies of such men could be coordinated and directed and so that they could be deprived of much of what they produced in order to accumulate capital to be used for the creation of non-subsistence enterprises (from art and literature to war and monuments).”
Carroll Quigley.

Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 17 Pepe 0003 (November 4, 2914

TODAY FROM ITALY:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

This is my last night in Thailand on this trip. No matter how much I look forward to my next stop, I still feel a bit sad to leave.

Today I went to the health club in the morning as usual, but instead of swimming I spent my time swapping stories with the Old Sailor/Deep Sea Diver. This time he told me about when he tried to enter the body bag business in Santo Domingo. He and a few of his buddies from the bar he frequented also tried to purchase a mobile crematorium to go with the body bags. They believed, since it was relatively quite expensive in The Dominican Republic to die and be buried, a full service mobile death service would be welcome. They were not able to get the business started for some reason. I guess you can say that it died.

Following this failure, he travelled to Australia where he bought a land-rover and decided to drive to the northern most point of the continent. There were no roads for the last six hundred miles back then, but he plodded ahead anyway. One night while he was camping he was attacked by giant cane frogs. After that he slept in his car.- – – Hey, I’m not making this stuff up. That was his story and I’m sure he’ll stick by it.
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This evening after dinner I went to the pharmacy and bought the various medicines I thought I would need for the rest of my trip. I decided to take my last walk through that cesspool of corruption and model of capitalist market driven society that is Soi Nana. For some reason as I walked along, Christmas carols kept popping into my head and I began humming “O holy Night.” The ladies of the holy night graciously stepped aside and smiled as the old man with the funny hat, a protruding belly, brightly colored shirt and carrying a cudgel as a walking stick strode by singing Christmas carols.
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Me on Soi Nana
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On my last day, on my way to the barbershop, I walked through the Arab-India-Africa section of BKK with its sandal shops and restaurants. It reminded me how much more attractive and clean it was than most other parts of the city. The restaurants are better also.
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And then, that evening, off to the airport.
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B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN ROME:

Sometimes the lack of drama is welcome. The flight from Bkk to Rome was mostly uneventful, except for  the fact that I thought I was in for a long six-hour layover in Singapore. At least that airport provide travelers with a pool, sleeping cubicles and massage machines to tide them over. I was looking forward for a swim while whiling away my time between flights — at least before they told me at the check-in in BKK that I read my ticket wrong, I was going to Shanghai instead. So rather than enjoying the capitalist excess of Singapore airport, I experienced the socialist realism of Shanghai for six long hours.
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Shanghai Airport
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Each time I return to Rome in is with a little sadness. There are a few cities I call home — New York because I grew up there, San Francisco because I’ve lived there longer than in any other place and of course Bangkok because I live there now for some of the year and have done so for five years. There is also Barcelona and Istanbul, cities I love but have never lived in. Then there is Rome where I lived for about three years and to which I have returned innumerable times. If it were not so expensive, I very well might be living here now.

My lodging during this trip is in something I found in Air BNB. It is located less than a block off of the Via Veneto in central Rome. It is hostel-like usually housing religious groups of very modest means making pilgrimages to the city. It feels a little like a cult operation although the woman who runs it is very nice. It is quire basic. My bed is only a slight upgrade from a cot.

On my first day here I took my brother-in-law George on a tour of some of the well known tourist spots and to some places very few tourists visit. In the evening we along with my sister Maryann had dinner near Piazza Navona. Here are some photographs of the first day.

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George by the Colosseum
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George in the Forum contemplating classical antiquities.
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The next morning at breakfast, Gregorian Chant filled the air from somewhere in the building. I sat there listening and thought of the liturgical reform that I was so eager to promote in 1960 and so equivalent about the results a few years later. I feel like a monk, living in a plain cell, sleeping on a cot, listening to Gregorian Chant and worrying about liturgical reforms. Perhaps I should consider that option for the next phase of my life.

After breakfast I joined my Maryanne and George for the days stroll around the eternal city.
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Maryann and George at Cafe Greco

We began with coffee at Cafe Greco, then off to the Keats-Shelly museum located in the rooms overlooking the Spanish steps where John Keats died of tuberculosis. I do not consider my trip to Rome complete without visiting here.
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Maryann standing in front of the Spanish Steps and the building housing the Keates-Shelly Museum

Then up the Spanish Steps and past my old law office into the Borghese Gardens to visit the Borghese Museum, one of the worlds great museums with their collection of paintings Caravaggio (a thug and murderer but a great artist) and the Bernini sculptures (mostly statues commissioned by various princes of the Church depicting rapes and attempted rapes by sundry gods) and Canova (who was incapable of rape). The museum was sold out so we walked to the church displaying Bernini’s The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (psychosomatic rape). It was closed, so we decided to eat lunch. We found a great local restaurant a few blocks away from the tourist areas. After lunch we visited the ruins Baths of Diocletian where, as his last commission, Michelangelo designed a spectacular church. Located in this church is one of the wonders of the age, the Great Sundial. It was used to calculate the accuracy of the Gregorian Calendar prior to its introduction into use.

Then, off to visit Borromini’s great architectural triumph, the church of San Carlo, after which, to Berninini’s Saint Andrea followed by the Doria Pamphili palazzo with its huge collection of paintings. Finally we visited the Church of St Ignatius, the mother church of the Jesuits with its magnificent trompe l’oeil frescos. We finished off the day with drinks, overlooking the city at night from the rooftop terrace of the Intercontinental Hotel.

The next morning I discovered a few other guests had checked into the place I was staying at. They were middle-aged men with grey hair and chalky white faces. I guessed they must be priests, because only those who take permanent vows of chastity and spend their lives in darkened churches could have skin so pallid.

C. VOYAGE TO ROCCANTICA IN SABINA

Roccantica is a small town in Sabina about an hours drive from Rome. It is the original home of my paternal grandmother. My grandmother had 12 brothers and sisters. Some emigrated to the US others to Australia and South America and some stayed in or near Roccantica. The town is noted for, in the tenth century, sheltering Pope Nicholas II, who, having been chased from Rome by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto, took refuge in a tiny tower in the town where he was defended by the men of the town, all thirteen of them, during a two-year siege until it was lifted by Robert Guiscard’s arrival with his troops. For this act of singular heroism the Pope awarded the people perpetual exemption from taxes. The citizens of the town enjoyed this benefit for 900 years, until in was revoked after the unification of Italy during the Risorgimento.
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Roccantica

One of the country’s more prominent medieval reenactments is held once a year in the town.

The town is also noted for a remarkable work of folk art efforts by the local priest for the glory of God. In addition to his fame as a folk artist this priest, who because of his short stature was referred to as the dwarf priest, was in love with my grandmother and reputed to have had an affair with her. He dedicated his life’s work to her. I am convinced that he also was insane.
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Examples of the priestly folk art that dominates the town heights around the restored church.

It addition to that bit of notoriety, one branch of the family became wealthier than the other citizens of the town when one of them, a priest, became the private secretary to Pope Pius XII. Due to that bit of good fortune, that branch of the family inherited two of the town’s churches. The dwarf priest administered the local parish church and the state I believe owns the one he restored and adorned with his brand of folk art. Because of the peculiarities of Italian tax law the family keeps their two churches closed and locked so that the tax men will not learn of the artistic treasures within. As a result they remain living in genteel poverty despite their potential wealth.
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Maryann and George in front of the house in which my grandmother was born.

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A group of photographs including lunch in one of my favorite restaurants in all of Italy located in the town and a snapshot of Mary and I with some of the remaining relatives assembled in the house where my grandmother and all dozen siblings were born.
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Via San Giuseppe, the street on which I used to live
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The street by the apartment I lived in for about a year.

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The view from that apartment.

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Looking down on Roccantica

On the way back to Rome we stopped at the nearest town to Roccantica, Casperia. My son Jason grew up here.
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The walls of Casperia

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The municipal plaza in Casperia where Jason and I used to stay at times.

And so on to Sicily———

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“A responsible government is one in which the real disposition of power in the structure is the same as it is in people’s minds or as it is in law (which is an objectification of how it is subjectively in people’s minds). In such a case, when people act on the basis of the picture they have of the situation, they will be acting on the basis of the real distribution of power because the two are about the same. Thus, there can be no sudden rude awakening from the fact that the situation is, in fact, different from what it is reputed to be.”
Carroll Quigley, Weapons Systems and Political Stability.

Note: those interested in back issues of This and that…. they can be found at: josephpetrillo.wordpress.com

Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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