Posts Tagged With: Africa

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 25 Papa Joe 0008 (September 8, 2019)

 
“The measure of a civilization is in the courage, not of its soldiers, but of its bystanders.”
McDevitt, Jack. A Talent For War (An Alex Benedict Novel Book 1) (p. 204). Penguin Publishing Group.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

 

We drove to the Bay Area and spent the night at Peter and Barrie’s. Hiromi and my granddaughter just returned from their summer in Japan, joined us for dinner. We told stories. I told about the time my son Jason and I hitchhiked across the United States. He was about six-years-old at the time. It took us about six weeks primarily because we stayed for three of those weeks with friends who lived in the Bitterroot Vally in Montana.
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Peter, Amanda and I.

 

The next morning, I went for my immunotherapy treatment. The doctor told me that I had a significant number of blood clots in my left leg and lungs. He hoped the anticoagulant he had prescribed for me would begin to clear them up. We will know better after my next visit when I will have some additional tests done. Later, one of my blood tests came back showing severely low thyroid levels which may be the cause of my constant fatigue. The doctor said I need to get more exercise.
Following my visit, we returned to Noe Valley and sat at the Geezer Bench in front of Bernie’s Cafe. We were joined by my grandson Anthony and his girlfriend. Anthony has always been a kind and considerate young man who had a very unhappy childhood and adolescence that sowed the seeds of anger and frustration inside of him. I try my best always to be supportive of him in the hope that his innate gentleness will eventually calm his internal demons.
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Naida and Anthony with me on the Geezer’s Bench.

 
B. BACK TO THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

The drive back was a horror, taking over four hours to cover the eighty or so miles. That evening, Naida suggested we get starkers and retire early. It was delightful. We lay on the bed in the dim light and talked for hours — about the light, our love, the day, the night, tomorrow and beyond, yesterday and the dim reaches of memory, our plans and our hopes for the brief time we have ahead of us. I slept well.

A few days pass like a spring breeze through the tattered remains of my memory. Let us work our way backward. It is Sunday, we just returned from a magnificent concert at the Nepenthe clubhouse. A Japanese jazz harpist (Motoshi Kosako) had given a performance far beyond that of the third rate bands that usually perform at the Sunday Jazz By the Pool nights in the Enchanted Forest. He was accompanied by an equally accomplished guitarist who played an instrument that seemed to be able to mimic any instrument in a symphony orchestra. True the Harpist, was no Miles Davis but was clearly a master Jazz musician. Jazz played on the harp was interesting, if to me a bit unsettling. There was none of that sense of sliding into the notes like one gets with traditional jazz instruments, like the sax, cornet or guitar. The sound of the harp is bright, not rounded. It would be like a jazz piano riff played on a harpsichord, everything musical would still there but it would sound, to me, a bit too vibrant and missing the auditory shadows I have come to expect in good jazz.

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That morning I drove the Scooter Gang (Hayden, Jake, Kaleb, and Tyson) into the Gold Country for a hamburger taste comparison between the hamburgers served at Giant Burgers to Go in Pine Grove and those cooked on the wood-fired oven at the Country Store in Volcano. H and I had always believed that the burgers cooked up at the Country Store were the best, but they were strangely dry that day so Giant Burgers to Go won the taste test that day.
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As for teenage chatter during the trip, alas, there was little of note. I hoped that they would show and interest in some of the sights along the way and suggest we stop and explore them (e.g., Indian Grinding Rock, Some old mines and Volcano itself) but they were too far into their existential adolescent blasé to consider anything but the torrent of recognition about their own emerging individuality to consider anything else intriguing.

On Saturday we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe clubhouse. It was also Dustan Hoffman day on TVM. After the coffee we returned home and watched “The Graduate,” Midnight Cowboy,” “Tootsie,” “Marathon Man,” and “Straight Time.” Hoffman was trained in “The Method” at the Actor’s Studio. That means, he may look more or less the same in each performance but he is a different person every time. Non-Method actors, look the same, are the same person, but behave differently as the script requires. It is difficult to claim one knows what Hoffman or DiNero are like in their private lives, but you are usually reasonably certain you know Gable or Olivier remain the same person away from the screen. There was a time, I was walking by a hotel located at the beach in Santa Monica. I saw Al Pacino, wearing an overcoat hanging down to his ankles hiding in the bushes and peering into the breakfast room of the hotel. I guess one might have expected something like that from Pacino. On the other hand, perhaps he was just getting into his character for some performance.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep, so I first went through the 49rs potential lineup as I sometimes do hoping the exercise would bore me enough to put me to sleep. That failed, so I went to my backup, counting my breaths backward from 99. When I got to about 10, I realized I was thirsty, so I got out of bed to get a drink of water. As I got up and started walking I began to feel dizzy so I grabbed the footboard as I usually do to keep me from falling until the dizzy spell passed. The next thing I recalled I was still lying in bed counting backward with Naida in my arms. Slowly, I began to realize that it was not a pillow behind my head but the rug instead. Also, Naida was not sleeping in my arms but holding me and calling my name. It dawned on me that I had fainted. The last time I had fainted like this was when I had a pulmonary embolism a few years back. Oh, I forgot, the dog lay on the rug near me, a concerned look in his eyes as he contemplated the possible loss of a secure source of food.

With Naida’s help, I got back to bed drank some water and laid back down. I still could not go back to sleep, but now I instead of NFL rosters or counting breaths, I worried about whether if I fall asleep I would ever wake up. I slept fitfully and awoke exhausted and muzzy and with a nagging sense of dread but pleased to have survived the night.

Now the title of this section of T&T includes the words “Pookie’s Adventures.” Most people, I suspect, view adventures as things like climbing a mountain, exploring a dank jungle, or being chased down a dark alley by white nationalists or Mafia hitmen. I, however, consider last night’s events an adventure. Think about it. It took place in the dark of night. There was clearly a danger. I was mystified about what was happening. There was a dollop of pathos and a pinch of bathos (not to mention a full dose of melodrama). Imminent death was a distinct possibility. A beautiful woman lay in my arms. The problem was successfully overcome and a residual shadow as to what it all means for the future remained. That’s what adventure is all about.

I asked Naida to review my unfinished mystery novel, “Here Comes Dragon,” that I had published here in T&T some years back. I wanted her opinion as to whether I should finish it and publish it as an ebook. After reading two or three chapters, she stopped. I asked her if she thought I should try to finish it. She responded that perhaps I should devote my time and effort to T&T. So noted.

On Friday, we walked over the bridge to Sacramento State and joined the Renaissance Society. An organization that allows us Vecchia Gente to attend lectures and classes. I was interested most in history, Celtic, Mesopotamian or Judean. Naida seemed more intrigued by courses music and writing.

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The view of the American River from the Guy West Bridge.

 

On Saturday I drove into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM and three other members of the Scooter Gang in order to drive them to Berkeley for lunch at a Mexican restaurant he likes followed by a visit to the Bone Room. When I arrived at his teenager cave, he said that since it was Labor Day weekend the traffic would be too heavy. So, instead, we went to a fried chicken place they like in Folsom.
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After that, we walked to the Natomas Reservoir nearby. HRM wanted to show me the 65ft high cliff from which he and some of his friends would dive into the water. On the way, we met Dick and his house guest Cristina’s daughter Julia from Italy who had been riding their bicycles around the lake. The boys (Jake and HRM) decided to show us their dive but luckily the park rangers came by boat and warned them off.

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During the drive, they told me about a conflict that has arisen during the first week of High School between a group I call “the Jocks” and another group, “The Slackers,” to which the members of the Scooter Gang belong. It seems the Jocks have been whispering to some of the girls in the class urging to stay away from the Slackers because they lack ambition and will never amount to anything in life. This has riled up the Slackers ( including the Scooter Gang) quite a bit.

In an effort to not so much calm the waters but salve the bruised egos of the Slackers, I explained that the difference between them is that the Jocks need someone to tell them how to exercise or what to learn, but the Slackers (at least the Scooter Gang contingent) prefer to explore things on their own. For example, they certainly get significant exercise at the Skatepark, mountain biking, and skiing, while the Jocks prefer to get theirs under the direction of the coaches on the sports teams. Similarly, the Scooter Gang prefers exploring and learning things in addition to school (which they find confining). Also, they are always dreaming about doing exciting, if less conventional things in addition to their plans for college and a career. They responded something like, “Yeah, we’re explorers. They are only interested in a conventional life.” I guess that is good.

On Wednesday, Naida and I visited another independent living facility. What happened in the past four days? I don’t recall much except I am sure it was nothing bad. A few calls from Frank in Florida and from David in South Dakota broke up days of watching old movies and cable news or playing with my computer — I did go swimming once. Anyway, the visit — it always makes me feel uncomfortable when I enter one of these facilities. I think I am visiting my temporary coffin, reserved for that period between decrepitude and death. Sort of like I picture purgatory to be. A cold misty place where one waits uncomfortably to finally graduate into the eternal boredom of Heaven.

Thursday was an interesting day. In the morning, Naida told me several spooky stories about events in her life that she plans to include in the second volume of her memoir. The first included a story about her grandmother’s house, strange music, and dancing candlesticks. Another story concerned her meeting a native American man who had read River of Red Gold, her novel of life along the Cosumnes River during the Gold Rush. He said he was enthralled by the way she treated Native Americans in her book. He claimed it changed his life. They visited the abandoned native American village on the banks of the Cosumnes and the tree of the spirit women described in her book. His spirit animal was a bear. The painting that graces the cover of Eye of the Bay reflects that spirit. It also reflects the orSwimmingange light that shone in his eyes. Strangely the painter was not informed of any of this but just decided on her own to paint the bear, the fire motif and the orange rendition of the San Jose Mission in his eye.
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Later I drove into the Golden Hills for lunch with SWAC after which I picked up HRM at the ESD Skatepark and drove him home. Confidentiality prevents me from writing here all that I learned.

That night Terry arrived in Sacramento on his way back to Dunsmuir. We had dinner at Zinfandel a restaurant nearby that Naida and I enjoy. After dinner, we invited him to stay the night in one of the now-empty bedrooms. The next morning we all had breakfast together and talked about many things — Politics mostly. In addition to current national politics, we also talked about our lives in politics and the sexual peccadilloes of those in politicians we all knew. Terry and I discussed the Catholic schools we attended and the malevolent morality of the diocesan hierocracy we all knew. Naida told about the Mormons in Idaho and Utah and their frightening hierarchy beginning with Bingham Young. Later, Terry and I reminisced about our time at Georgetown. I told about my friendship with the Buchanan family — of Pat Buchanan, speechwriter for Nixon, Presidential candidate and full-time racist and fascist. He was considered the smart one of the family. He was also violent and crazy. I was convinced he would eventually die in the electric chair. Psycho Buchanan was Pat’s brother, and a Jesuit seminarian at the time I knew him. He was called Psycho for a good reason. He was a close friend of mine. Then there was Buchs Buchanan who was usually referred to as the dumb Buchanan. A finally there was Bay Buchanan the sister who was thirteen when I first met her. That day I, as I was walking down the hallway of the Buchanan house and heard her speak, I was convinced she was the demon child. Whenever I see the possessed child in the movie The Exorcist, I can only see Bay in my mind as I first met her that day.

Terry and I then left. He to continue on to Dunsmuir and me off to EDH again to pick up HTM. Hayden and I set off for lunch. After lunch, I drove him back to his home to pick up his scooter. His mom came by and said she would tell him this week. I then dropped him off at the Skatepark and returned to the Enchanted Forest.

Saturday, we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee. Winnie was there. Her immunotherapy has stopped working. She was desperately frightened. I felt bad for her and a little scared for myself. The primary issue for discussion at the coffee was the recent break-in by two thieves of a home in the area and the beating of the homeowner. While such an event perhaps concerns old folks more than others, I was surprised at the high-level unemotional discussion that followed.

I think this is enough for this post. Next week following my trip to SF for my immunotherapy treatment, Naida and I leave for a two week trip to Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. We will be visiting some of the locations of many of the events in Naida’s newly published memoir as well as relatives and old friends. It is, in part, a sort of a good-by trip for Naida as she may never see most of these people again. We also plan to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

Take care of yourselves and remember to keep on truckin.

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

 

 
In the prior T&T post, I began a rumination about biological life, not in the hope of adding to the sum total of the earth’s knowledge or even to be correct. I have neither the knowledge nor the ambition to do either. I only want to see if I can come up with something with the information I have assembled that convinces me or if not convinced then leaves me bored enough to do something else. I have done this before in T&T with my posts on the spread of humanity out of Africa, as well as the First-Centuries and the rise of the Abrahamic religions we know today.

I ended the previous post with the following:

“When coupled with the fact that many believe the biosphere extends as a band from somewhere below the surface of the lithosphere (ground) up until it dissipates somewhere near the stratosphere, it helps me to explore a possible concept on which I believed I could replace my uninformed uncertainty with dogmatic bias.”

And continue here:

“Whitehead and Russell taught us that words have no meaning unless backed by mathematics. In other words, it is all blah, blah, blah unless it has numbers. Goedel then taught us that mathematics is based on unprovable assumptions. In other words, blah is still blah even with numbers.”
Excerpt From: J. E, Petrillo.Trenz Pruca’s Musings.” Apple Books.

In the early part of the 20th Century, it became generally accepted by scientists that words, the fundamental element of the system of aural and visual symbols that make up what we call language, was not adequate to describe some of the fundamental elements of physical reality. They chose the symbolic (or semantic if you will) system of numbers with which to describe the very small and very large aspects of reality. Later, they realized, numbers have their own problems as a system of description.

When we dropped from the trees and appeared to separate ourselves from other mammals, one of the indicators of that separation was our realization that we could manipulate and communicate our visual and auditory impressions. Other (perhaps most) organisms, including plants, seem to be able to communicate to some extent. What differentiates genus homo from the others is not just this ability but also the scope of the physical changes it induced in human physiology to take maximum advantage of that ability. It’s downside as Whitehead and Russell point out is its imprecision and subjective nature make it less than desirable for some of the needs of science. So what does this mean for understanding life?

Well, for one thing, in our efforts to understand life and communicate it we may be hindered by those symbolic concepts we have traditionally used. Even Schrodinger, after accurately predicting the basic building block of life, had to resort to invoking eastern religions to describe the more macro elements of the biosphere. Again, so what?
Well, perhaps the categories imposed upon us by our system of symbols to describe reality are misleading us.

Let’s take the biosphere. When say, dinosaurs evolved and dominated during the Triassic I believe some of them crawled along the land others swam in the sea and others developed the ability to fly. Later mammals when they achieved a similar form of existence within the biosphere, some swim in the water others travel along the land and others take to the skies. There seems to be a common evolution of large groups of related species when their phylum, domain, or family gain worldwide distribution. Teilhard De Chardin described this phenomenon as a precursor to the evolution or addition of a “more advanced” life form that in turn would circle the globe. Humans also have, in relatively large numbers, traveled on and under the oceans and waters of the earth and extracted resources for their benefit. Similarly, they have managed to fly through the air. Does this mean humanity has broken into separate species? If not then could the previous masters of the world be considered the equivalent of a single species? If not, then does this factor in the evolution of the biosphere mean anything?

The biosphere (life on this earth) is hugely complex. The universe is hugely complex also. Yet, Einstein through a clever thought experiment followed by its expression in mathematical symbols simplified much of it and made a lot of it predictable. Could something similar be done with the biosphere?
(to be continued perhaps)

From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.”

Natalie Wolchover. A New Physics Theory of Life, January 22, 2014

 

 

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

 

January 16, 1963,

 

Ugh, I seemed to have taken the pipe on the Domestic Relations exam. I made two mistakes — first, I did not properly read the questions and second I may have omitted many of the issues raised by the facts. I need to develop a better method for taking these exams.

Jack Lee called to moan about the test. It was funny listening to his concerns especially when they made mine appear trivial.

Tony Russo was on the verge of tears about the exam. He, of course, is taking it harder than anyone else because it is his second time around. He told me his girlfriend Denise cheered him up. It must be nice to have someone to cheer you up.

It will be interesting to see who received the highest grades.

I hope to do better on tomorrow’s test. I think I am less prepared for it, but somehow I feel more confident.

Kevin appears to be pulling a fast one on the travel business. I will stop him.

Last night I dreamed about a Shangri-la of my own. It is a beautiful place, warm — kind to all and generous, tolerant but restrictive. Perhaps all that goodness fascinated me. This feeling has lasted two days now. I wish it could last forever. At least it provides some hope and happiness.

 

(Kevin was a college classmate and my contact with the travel agency yay made the arrangements for the trip other than the securing of the planes and the selling of the travel packages. As I said, I kept the profit on the planes and the agency on the accommodations. I suspected Kevin wanted to take the operation for himself.

All my life I have taken refuge in fantasy. I guess most people do. I do not recall my Shangri-la fantasy, but I assume, as usual, I was the central character, brilliant, courageous, handsome and well balanced.)

 

 

January 18, 1963.

 

A little fact is worth a limbo of dreams.

I woke up today with a ferocious headache. It was followed by the usual depression for the rest of the day. I fought it by trying to sleep in off. When that did not work, I fantasized about becoming a wealthy hero.

Ah, I need to prepare for my personal property exam.

 

(Besides taking refuge in fantasy whenever I ran into problems, I also convinced myself I was an incurable depressive. Both delusions have lasted my entire life.)

 

 

January 19, 1963.

 

I read an article by H. L. Mencken today. His cynicism must be irresistible to those who doubt as much as I do. Perhaps ontologically he is right, all is doubt, all is changing and beyond our grasp. Then again maybe he is wrong. Psychologically, he may have scored a bullseye, however, by pointing out that belief in oneself allows us to unify the exterior world and enables us to act, produce and contribute to it.

The problem, I think, is how do we express ourselves? Not, I am sure by the drivel I have written here — I do not even know if I have been lying to myself. Maybe this page should begin:

Those who believe they know something completely are usually wrong.

 

(Twenty-three-year-olds who believe they know something. anything, are always wrong)

 

 

January 20, 1963.

 

What have I done today that makes me proud? Absolutely nothing. At least I can do no worse tomorrow.

Last night as I struggled to sleep, I tried to remember something I had done of which I was Proud. I came up empty there too.
Pat gave me some information that may be useful for the Puerto Rico trip. I need to get my brother Jimmy a free trip.

 

(“At least I can do no worse.” One thing I found out in the almost sixty years of my life since then is that I certainly can.)

 

 

January 21, 1963.

 

The study group today went better than usual. Ora seemed to grasp this subject better than he usually does. Personal property will most likely be our most difficult exam.

I need to get a date for Mike’s party on Saturday. But who?

Why the hell can I seem only to write trivialities? Am I so shallow? Probably.

Today was cold.

My brother Jim seems distraught. I think it is that college freshman sickness where the student takes himself and everything happening to him to seriously. Although it probably will pass, it could be dangerous. He needs watching.

 

(My brother started art school. He always dressed in a jacket and tie. The other students made fun of him. Eventually, he conceded but always remained the best-dressed artist around.

As to my shallowness, there is no probability about it.)

 

 

January 23, 1963.

 

After much procrastination, I called Bobbie. I thought I handled it well. Perhaps I will be able to find a way around my prejudice. That would be something to be proud of.

I got a date with Stephanie for February 1. I called her at work. She seems more pleasant than before.

I have my personal property exam tomorrow. I believe my problem stems from my failure to read the questions properly. I hope to do better tomorrow.

I no longer suffer shattered confidence when those I know appear to know more than I do about something or have accomplished more. Now I make a note of what knowledge I lack or set a new goal to surpass them.

About Bobbie, I discovered two sheets of paper dated January 7, 1963, hidden between the pages later in my diary, I include them here now:

“I received my reply from Lawyer’s Library Club. I cannot make up my mind which books to buy because I have no idea of their quality.

Yesterday Al said it would be better that I do not date Bobbie because it would be detrimental to my career because she is Jewish and Married. This upset me. I am tempted to change my decision and begin dating her again.

It revolts me when convention becomes as unfair as this. I want to reach out and smash this like someone bashing the head of a rattlesnake preparing to strike.

The reports of the Boston Strangler slayings to me are both horrible and fascinating.

 

The second sheet of paper had no date. I do not know whether it was written at the same time and the first sheet. I include it here assuming both notes were written at the same time.

 

At the party last night Bobbie disclosed that had been married. Why I mused, do people seem to choose to make dramatic announcements at dramatic events or times.

I felt closer to her than ever before. Later appeared to turn colder to me. I cannot explain why I felt so close to her. Perhaps I never will. Nevertheless, I believe our relationship is over.

Bobbie has made my thoughts dwell less on the past and concentrate on this one that is not really important.

I admit her legs were warm, inviting, as my hand moved along them while we sat in the darkness. The memories of pleasure past and dreams of future pleasure unite to heighten the pleasures of the moment. I will miss that more than anything, I think.

Al Spengler drove me home. I owe him.

(At that time in the early sixties New York we lived in separate communities, more of less — The Italian and Irish Catholic communities, The Jewish community, the black community, the Puerto Rican community, and so on with a white Protestant living in remote ghettos everywhere and running all those things remote from the neighborhoods. It was expected one would not marry outside one’s ethnic community and religion. It was also expected that one would seek work in those communities or with organizations run by the white Protestants. It was both difficult and uncommon to step away from our communities then. College was one way. We the young also had spending money or youthful ancestors never had. This all culminated in the false dawn of the late ’60s when we were persuaded we could leave that all behind, with a little music and little dope and a good dose of recreational sex.

At least my 1963 self, as much as I find him a jerk, seems to have come to a dull awareness of some of the chains that bind him. I can attest that even now 60 years later some of them still do.

Bobbie seemed important to me in 1963. Alas, here in 2019 I do not remember her at all.)

 

 

 

 

TODAYS FACTOID:

 

 

Abraham Lincoln: Besides being a distinguished attorney, President of the United States and a well-known depressive he was also an accomplished poet. Here is one of his short poems:

Abraham Lincoln,
His hand and pen:
He will be good but
God knows When.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

 

A. A Barely Begun Story on Top:

 

While rummaging through some forgotten scraps in the bowels of my computer, I came across the following effort to write a story. It contains barely two paragraphs, but I was attracted to its title and by the pseudonym, I chose for the author:
GOD IS A TRANSEXUAL STREET WALKER IN BANGKOK
Malcolm “Luke” DeLucca

He leaned against the wall in the tiny alley throwing up everything he had in his stomach. He felt like he was dying. No, more like he wanted to die. It could not have been the few beers he had downed at Hillary’s 4, the bar on Soi Nana next to the entrance to Nana Plaza, one of Bangkok’s flesh emporiums. It was probably something he ate at one of the sidewalk food stands that line the street nearby.

After the retching stopped he slowly sunk down on his haunches being careful to avoid any part of his body touching the muck he disgorged a few inches away. He could barely move. His head hung between his knees and he but stared intently at a spot on the ground directly in front of his eyes. He still wanted to die. The sickness made it…”

At that point, I stopped for some reason. I recall that I intended that time to have the drunken farang meet a beautiful transexual in that dank alley. She claims she is God and had chosen the life of a transexual prostitute in Bangkok because she was bored with heaven and felt she would meet a better class of people here in the sordid alleyways of “the village of wild plums” then she did in the land beyond the pearly gates. I never got around to finishing it though. I guess it is the thought that counts.

As for the pen-name I had chosen, I have no idea where that came from. I knew a kid named Louie De Lucca when I was a kid back in Tuckahoe. Why I would want to memorialize him as the author of a story like this, I haven’t the foggiest — I actually liked the kid.

 

 
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 

Shouldn’t we consider it a greater insult to the American flag or anthem to display the Confederate Battle Flag or the Swastika, both of which represent not only gross inhumanity but also those who sought to replace our flag, anthem and way of life and replace them with their flags, anthems and reprehensible ideals, then it is to take a knee to protest injustice, which by the way is a constitutionally protected act?

 

 
C. Today’s Poem:

 
What Was Your Name in the States?
by Anonymous

Oh, what was your name in the States?
Was it Thompson or Johnson or Bates?
Did you murder your wife
And fly for your life?
Say, what was your name in the States?

This poem and song was common during the Gold Rush. It describes the nature of many of the first pioneers to emigrate into California and savagely fall upon the unsuspecting indigenous people and pristine resources of the area. These murderers, the thieves, the psychopaths, the loners unable to prosper in the more civilized parts of the world arrived first, often under assumed names, and created the ethical basis upon the society they built that is, in part, every bit as despicable as that society that developed under slavery. In California, they obliterated the indigenous people rather than building an economy around enslaving them. The rape of the State’s natural resources with psychopathic abandon continued, however, well into the later part of the 20th Century and became the foundation of its economy until replaced, in part, by defense industries and the digital revolution.

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

 
“We’ll keep a crystal vase near our pink and blue pillows, and after we wish and then after we kiss, we’ll lower our faces to the very brim, the very delicate edge of the crystal vase, and then we’ll let the syrup flow from our eyes into the gentle crystal vase. And every Christmas and every Easter and every other holiday known to man, we’ll feed the syrup to our seventeen children, and they will remain children forever. Their imaginations will be in full bloom forever…and they will never die. Everything will be forever…”
-Leonard Melfi from TIMES SQUARE.

 

Melfi, the well known off-Broadway playwright, an old friend who I last saw in the mid-sixties when we got very drunk in a friends apartment in Greenwich Village and believed in our boozy stupor that we had solved a notorious mass murder of the time only to discover a few years later we were utterly wrong. He died alone in 2002 at Mount Sinai Hospital of congestive heart failure due in part to his alcoholism. His body was misplaced and discovered four months later in a potter’s grave in Queens. His brother had him exhumed, flown to his home town of Binghamton NY, and following a funeral service and Catholic mass buried in his family plot. He would have appreciated the melodrama. Alas, nothing is forever.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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My Grandson Anthony Laying Flowers at the Grave of My Parents.

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This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 1 Capt. Coast 0008 (April 20, 2019)

 

“[R]estraint is a sign of weakness.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
Joy! Auntie Poldi has returned — finally (See Book Report below). I cannot resist posting here the magnificently exuberant and perhaps shameless bit of overwriting with which the author begins his novel:

“Although in the past few months Poldi had temporarily thwarted death thanks to solving her handyman Valentino’s murder, her romantic encounter with Vito Montana (Polizia di Stato’s chief inspector in charge of homicide cases), her friendship with her neighbours Valérie and sad Signora Cocuzza, my aunts’ efforts and, last but not least, her own love of the chase, we all know the way of the world: peace reigns for a while, the worst seems to be over, the sun breaks through the clouds, the future beckons once more, your cigarette suddenly tastes good again, the air hums with life and the whole world becomes a congenial place pervaded by whispers of great things to come. A simply wonderful, wonderful, universally familiar sensation. And then, like a bolt from the blue, pow! Not that anyone has seen it coming, but the wind changes. Fate empties a bucket of excrement over your head, chuckling as it does so, and all you can think is “Wow, now I really need a drink!” And the whole shitty process starts again from scratch. So it was no wonder my aunts became alarmed when Poldi still had no running water after two weeks and Lady was murdered. No doubt about it, the wind had changed and the ice was growing steadily thinner.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

It is Saturday morning and time for the weekly Saturday Morning Coffee Hour at the Nepenthe Club House. The Club House is nestled in a corner of the Enchanted Forest a short distance from our home. Under a bleak sky, Naida and I walked there along the meandering pathways that run beneath the flowering trees and bushes — I, leaning heavily on my fake shillelagh cane, and Naida gaily reciting some long poem by Longfellow or now and then breaking out into a few stanzas of song.

By the time we arrived, I had become so dizzy from the exertion of the walk, I plopped down on the sofa in the hope that the merry-go-round in my head would soon subside. Naida busied herself assembling coffee and various pastries.

Sitting around on a circle of chairs were the usual attendees at these weekly get-togethers: the Leader of course, the spy, Billie the cute woman, the artist, Big Bill, the short-haired lady, Good Old Dave who looks like someone named Dave should look, Silent Gordon, Jan who selflessly scuttles around making sure the place is set up and we all have our coffee and name tags, and a few others. The woman who suffers from what appears to be CP arrived a bit later and settled herself by the large fireplace.

When we all were in place with our coffee and pastry, our leader, Ginnie, rang the little bell she carries around with her and began making her announcements — where this months TGIF would be held, the date of the Take Me Out to the Ballgame Party, and various other housekeeping items. She then announced it was Jan and Good Old Dave’s birthdays. Jan brought out a cake and we all sang Happy Birthday. Then with the announcements over everyone got down to talking to one another other except for Young Silent Gordon who stared morosely at the floor and me.

I decided to slowly examine the other attendees in an effort to understand better why I am beginning to become so fond of these Saturday morning gatherings. I did not reach any conclusion on that but I did notice that Billie the Cute Woman seemed to be the most fashionably dressed, from her patent leather flats, to her tight black leather pants, to her poncho-like black and white buttonless jacket, black sweater, and large golden outline of a heart hanging from a chain around her neck. Her fingernails were colored a light gold to match her jewelry. The rest of us were dressed in sports or casual outfits except for Naida who sported a smashing tight multi-colored blouse.

Good Old Dave told us his father owned the historic hotel in Murphy’s. Naida told him about a book she had read, The Black Sun of the Miwok, a collection of six stories about the deaths of the last six Miwok in the area, one of which tales was set in the hotel. Unfortunately, the book is no longer in print after several Native-American groups objected to it because it focuses on how the miners and settlers ridiculed the death and suffering of those individuals.

Sunday — the wet weather departed for a day or two restored the sun to the sky, cleared the air and drove the annual Great Valley spring pollen assault into hiding. The flowering bushes and trees in the backyard are in full bloom.
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Backyard in Full Bloom.

 

Monday morning — it is hydration day. I sit in my comfortable reclining chair typing this while saline solution slowly drips into my arm. The sun is out. Naida hard at work on her computer prepares the version of her memoir that will be sent to the printers. The dog, freshly bathed, naps on the chair next to me. What’s not to like?

On Tuesday, my urologist informed me my plumbing showed no immediate threats to my current existence. I ate a hot dog and drank a root-beer float for lunch. After lunch, I washed the car. I apologize, but as one approaches 80 years of age, days like this are what passes for excitement. I look forward to tomorrow. I get my hearing tested.

I got my hearing tested and ordered new hearing aids this morning. This made me happy. At my age, it does not take much to make me happy. I also saw it all as a bit of adventure. For we Vecchi, little things often seem more significant than they are — sort of like a form of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AiWS). In addition to finding little things a big deal, I now often see minor events as great adventures. On the other hand, perhaps, I always did.

After my adventure with the certified audiologist, I drove into the Golden Hills, now a lovely green due to all the spring rains. The sun was out and the clouds were bunched up high on the Sierras like Miracle Whip on an ice cream Sunday. I picked up HRM and the Scooter Gang, Jake, Caleb, and Hamza at the Skatepark. After a brief stop at Dick’s house for some mysterious reason, I then dropped them off at Caleb’s — but not before urging them not to get into too much trouble although listening to them talk it seems they are well into the adolescent we versus them syndrome. Yes, I worry. Teenage alienation is not just a fact of life but also a concern for the adults involved.

This morning while I was lying in bed trying to decide if it was worth getting up, my eyes fell on a small red diary that lay among the books littering the floor at the side of my bed. I had kept this diary way back in 1960. Strangely, given the number of times in my life when I rid myself of everything I had accumulated, it is one of the two things I have retained from more than a few years ago. How it survived for almost 60 years I do not know.

The diary details an almost one-year relationship I had with a woman. Strangely, the woman’s name does not appear in the diary. I was clearly in love with her, at least as much as a callow 19-year-old can be, and perhaps she was in love with me also. Alas, like most of us at that age, I believed I knew all that I needed to know about life and love.

We met in January and our relationship ended the following December. According to the diary, much of my preoccupation that year was the conflict, in my mind at least, between my affection for her and my anguish over the fact that she had a three-year-old child and was Jewish. While in retrospect, I could berate myself for my shallowness, but this happened almost 60 years ago and I had lived my life until then within a relatively closed Catholic Italian-immigrant society and had little experience with much outside that culture. But that is not what I pondered this morning. You see, I had no recollection of that year, not her, not my name, not my anguish — not anything.

If someone does not remember something does that mean it does not exist? Does it then return to existence if one suddenly recalls it? Does everything we experience somehow exist in our subconscious or some configuration of our neurons? I spent perhaps an hour this morning contemplating those questions until the dog started barking at the garbage truck as it passed by on its rounds and I began to feel a desperate need for my morning coffee.

On Friday, I, once again drove into the Golden (Green?) Hills to pick up HRM and Jake. H told me his mom did not want him traveling with me during his spring break, We had planned a trip to Portland to visit Naida’s son who works assisting a noted sculptor, Bruce West, another Naida relative. There he was to be introduced to high-quality welding, something he was eager to learn. After that, we had planned to travel to Sun Valley Idaho so that he could get in a day or two snowboarding. Then a few days at a large cattle range in Montana with other relatives. Alas, H is now a latch key kid, forced to spend his vacation bunking with Jake at his family’s house.

Sunday came around. I do not recall what happened Saturday. Not very much I assume. Perhaps I slept most of the day. Anyway, On Sunday morning we received a call from Sarah, Naida’s daughter. She was suffering from an overabundance of Cala Lilies growing in her backyard and urged us to come over right away and take some. So, after a stop to buy a vase large enough to accommodate the flowers, we arrived at Sarah’s home and proceeded to the backyard where in addition to the Cala lilies, irises, roses and a host of other flowers were in bloom. Sarah’s husband Mark busily pushed a hand-held mechanical plow through the ground in order to begin the planting for this summer’s vegetable garden. Then we all retired to the deck and had an enjoyable lunch.
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The Backyard
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Drinks on the Deck with Sarah and Naida

 

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The Cala Lillies at Home

 

B. ONCE AGAIN OFF TO THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

Under a sunny sky, we left for SF. That evening at Peter and Barrie’s house, Judy, who lives across the street and is my most consistently responsive Facebook friend brought over two framed photographs of Peter and I sitting on the “geezer bench” in front of Bernie’s coffee shop that she made from a Facebook post of mine. Barrie again prepared a tasty meal this time featuring spaghetti with clams.

The next morning we left for my appointment at the hospital for my immunotherapy treatment. The doctor gave me the most ambiguously optimistic opinion I have received since my original oncologist opined that the swelling in my neck was nothing to be concerned about. He told us that the CT scan I had taken that morning showed some shrinkage in the tumor and he could not tell if it was now scar tissue caused by the previous radiation treatment or not but may be inactive. He also explained that chemotherapy does not cure cancer and the immunotherapy program I am starting on helps the body’s immune system to fight reactivation of cancer.

After the treatment we returned to Peter and Barrie’s home where Barrie prepared a delicious anchovy, garlic and parsley spread from a recipe of Leo’s mother.

Who is Leo?

The next morning I woke up and realized the aches, pains and general malaise caused by the side effects of chemotherapy are gone replaced by the sniffles, runny nose, itches and the normal aches and pains of life and age.

After breakfast, we left and returned to the Enchanted Forest.
C. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST

 

We arrived back in the Enchanted Forest at about 1PM. After a brief rest, I took Boo-boo for a walk. During the three days we have been away, spring has given way to summer. The fruit trees have shed their flowers and the camellias are gone. The branches of the deciduous trees sport their new shiny green leaves. We stopped at the small community center with the tiny pool and sat in the sun. It was perhaps the first day it has been open for swimming. There were two families there, an elderly couple in swimsuits taking in the sun and a mother and her three young children playing and shouting in the pool, The dog and I sat there under a cloudless blue sky and enjoyed the doings in the pool. I felt good but a little sad that swimming was out for me for a long time.
D. BOOK REPORT: Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2) by Mario Giordano.

 

I have just finished reading the second installment in the series of my current book crush, The Adventures of Auntie Poldi. Although purporting to be detective stories, I, frankly, do not recall who was killed or why in either of the two novels of the series I have read so far. Nor can I claim they are great or even good literature. So, what attracts me to these books?

Perhaps it is Auntie Poldi herself, a lusty sixty-year-old German woman who had married a Sicilian immigrant to Bavaria and who after his death retired to her husband’s ancestral town on the slopes of Mt Etna there to “drink herself to death with a view of the sea.” Poldi wears a wig, dresses usually in brightly colored caftans, enthusiastically and vigorously enjoys sex, and as the daughter of a Bavarian chief of detectives is compulsively drawn to solving crimes, photographing cute policemen in uniform and bedding dusky and hunky Sicilian detectives (well one in particular). The quotation from the novel with which I began this post may give a glimpse of Poldi, herself.

On the other hand, Poldi was a woman of strong opinions as well as strong appetites. As she explained to her nephew whom she had appointed to be the Watson to her Holmes:

“I’ve never been devout,” she explained later before I could query this in surprise because I knew that Poldi harbored a fundamental aversion to the Church. “I’m spiritual but not devout, know what I mean? I’ve never had much time for the Church. The mere thought of it infuriates me. The males-only organizations, the pope, the original-sin malarkey, the inhibited cult of the Virgin Mary, the false promises of redemption, the proselytism, the misogyny, the daft words of the psalms and hymns. Mind you, I’ve always liked the tunes. I always enjoyed chanting in the ashram, you know. I screwed every hippie in the temple of that Kali sect in Nevada, I’ve meditated in Buddhist monasteries, and I believe in reincarnation and karma and all that, likewise in people’s essential goodness. I don’t know if there’s a god and if he’s got something against sex and unbelievers, but I can’t help it, I’m Catholic. It’s like malaria: once you’ve got it you never get rid of it, and sooner or later you go and make peace with it.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

 

On the other hand, perhaps it is the authors alter ego himself, Poldi’s 34-year-old unmarried nephew, the narrator in the books, a self-described but inept author who works at a call center in Bavaria. He has been attempting to write the great Bavarian novel for years now but seems to have only recently gotten inspired to write the first four chapters the last of which he enthusiastically describes in a blaze of overwriting:

“I was in full flow. I was the adjective ace, the metaphor magician, the sorcerer of the subordinate clause, the expresser of emotions, the master of a host of startling but entirely plausible turns of events. The whole of my fourth chapter had been completed within a week. I was a paragon of self-discipline and inspiration, the perfect symbiosis of Germany and Italy. I was a Cyclops of the keyboard. I was Barnaba. All I lacked was a nymph, but my new Sicilian styling would soon change that.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2) . HMH Books.

 

He found himself periodically called to Sicily to reside in an attic room in Poldi’s house whenever the Sicilian relatives believed Poldi was skating on the thin edge of reality or Poldi herself needing someone to beguile and complain to demanded his return.

Or perhaps, it is the denizens of my beloved Sicily like the three aunts fascinated, often shocked, and at times participants in Poldi’s escapades. Or her partners in crime, so to speak, sad Carmina and the local priest. Or, Poldi’s French friend, Valerie her forlorn nephews love interest who Poldi steadfastly refuses to allow him to meet.

“For Valérie, like Poldi, happiness possessed a simple binary structure, and the whole of human existence was suspended between two relatively distant poles. Between heaven and hell, love and ignorance, responsibility and recklessness, splendour and scuzz, the essential and the dispensable. And within this dual cosmic structure there existed only two kinds of people: the deliziosi and the spaventosi, the charming and the frightful. Rule of thumb: house guests, friends and dogs are always deliziosi, the rest are spaventosi. At least until they prove otherwise.”

“‘You see,’ Poldi told me once, ‘Valérie has understood that happiness is a simple equation. Happiness equals reality minus expectation.’”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2) . HMH Books.

 

Or perhaps it is just that I am a child of Sicily, have lived as well as visited many times and loved that large rocky Island whose citizens have suffered almost two thousand five hundred years of continuous occupation by a host of invaders— Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Germans, French, Spanish, Bourbons, Nazi’s, and even British and Americans. Where the inhabitants were considered so irrelevant by their foreign overlords their cities, unlike the rest of Europe, were built without defensive walls. Where the people are reticent with strangers but boisterous and generous with friends and family, where Bella figura reigns, the cuisine is wonderful, people speak in gestures and revel in the mores of their medieval culture and where “Being Sicilian is a question of heart, not genes” (Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna, An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2. HMH Books.)

Whatever, the reasons for my own enjoyment of the books,

Pookie says you should check them out, after all, as Auntie Poldi advises:

“Moderation is a sign of weakness.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

A. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:
Another snag from Brad Delong’s Grasping Reality with Three Hands (https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/04/economics-identity-and-the-democratic-recession-talking-points.html#more), this time an outline of a paper he wrote entitled Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession: Talking Points. I have included here that portion of the outline dealing with Economic Populism.

I would like to draw a sharp distinction between:

On the one hand, populists: who have a coherent theory about how the market economy is rigged against ordinary people by an upper class and have practical plans for policies to fix it;
On the other hand, a different group: a group who believe that a true people, among whom some are rich and some are poor, are being deceived culturally, sociologically, and economically by internal and external enemies, and need to follow a leader or leaders who have no patience with established constitutional powers and procedures to point out to them who their internal and external enemies are.
It is this second set of movements—true people-based, leader-based, enemy-based, that has been by far the most powerful since the breaking of the real populist movement before 1900 by the hammer of racism: the discovery that a large enough chunk of the populists potential base were easily grifted by a white identity-politics assignment of the “enemy“ role to African-Americans.
Powerful both in America and—except for when under the shadow of Soviet threat—in Western Europe since the day Benito Mussolini recognized that rich Italians who liked order would not fund Benito’s socialist movement, but would gladly fund Benito’s “we are stronger together, for a bundle of sticks tied together with leather thongs is strong even though each individual stick is weak“ movement.
Today looks to me like nothing that special: Recall:

Harding and Coolidge, Taft and Nixon, Goldwater, Nixon, and Buchanan:
Harding and Coolidge’s mobilization of the revived Klan and of nativism against blacks and immigrants to geld progressivism in the 1920s.
Taft and Nixon’s mobilizing McCarthy against the communistic New Deal at the end of the 1940s.
Goldwater’s transformation of the Republican Party from the party of upward mobility and those who believe they have something to gain from economic growth and creative distraction to the party of those who believe they have something to lose if uppity Negroes and the overly educated overly clever are not kept in their place.
Richard Nixon’s idea to drag out the Vietnam war for four more years at the cost of 40,000 American and 3 million Vietnamese lives. Why? So that he and Pat Buchanan can break the country in half, but with him getting the bigger half—until enough Republicans plus Mark Felt of the FBI were sick of him and willing to help bring him down.
How is today different? Possibilities:
Concentration of the easily-grifted, somehow the internet, Rupert the Kingmaker, the Gingrich model, unlock:
Tyler Cowen’s observation: 20% of the population have always been crazy— easily grifted by some variant of white identity politics—but they used to be evenly divided between the two parties and now they are concentrated in one.
Somehow the internet.
Blowback from Rupert Murdoch’s insight that if you could scare the piss out of all the people you could glue their eyes to your product and then make money by selling them fake diabetes cures and overpriced gold funds.
Rupert the Kingmaker: In the fifteenth century the marcher Earldom of Warwick was uniquely able to mobilize those in the affinity of Earl Richard for the battlefield—and so became known as “Warwick the Kingmaker”. There are analogies here…
The Gingrich model: We now have two generations of Republican politicians who believe that technocratic policy development is for suckers, and then what do you need are:
tax cuts for the rich,
regulatory rollback,
perhaps a short victorious war or two, plus
Whatever culture war currently resonates with the base—notice that “women need to stay in the kitchen and the bedroom“ and “we need to shun homosexuals“ have passed their sell-by date, but transsexuals and anyone who fails to shout “merry Christmas” every five minutes between Halloween and New Years are still fair game.
Or perhaps we have simply been unlucky—and we had gotten used to luck running in our favor:
Otto von Bismarck, perhaps: “a special providence watches over drunkards, fools, and the United States of America”…

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
Too much happiness is a precarious state, it eventually leads to anxiety.
C. Today’s Poem:

 

Considering the current fear and anguish over migration, refugees, and asylum seekers, I thought it would be interesting to see what Homer may have thought about it over three thousand years ago.

SOME SHELTER FROM THE WIND: HOMER ON OUR DEBT TO EXILES
Homer, Odyssey 6.205-210

“We live at a great distance from others amid the much-sounding sea,
Far way, and no other mortals visit us.
But this man who has wandered here, who is so ill-starred,
It is right to care for him now. For all are from Zeus,
The strangers and the beggars, and our gift is small but dear to them.
Come, handmaidens, give the stranger food and drink;
Bathe him in the river, where there is shelter from the wind.”

οἰκέομεν δ’ ἀπάνευθε πολυκλύστῳ ἐνὶ πόντῳ,
ἔσχατοι, οὐδέ τις ἄμμι βροτῶν ἐπιμίσγεται ἄλλος.
ἀλλ’ ὅδε τις δύστηνος ἀλώμενος ἐνθάδ’ ἱκάνει,
τὸν νῦν χρὴ κομέειν· πρὸς γὰρ Διός εἰσιν ἅπαντες
ξεῖνοί τε πτωχοί τε, δόσις δ’ ὀλίγη τε φίλη τε.
ἀλλὰ δότ’, ἀμφίπολοι, ξείνῳ βρῶσίν τε πόσιν τε,
λούσατέ τ’ ἐν ποταμῷ, ὅθ’ ἐπὶ σκέπας ἔστ’ ἀνέμοιο.”

D. Readings from the Mueller Report:

 

In a section related to episodes involving the president and possible obstruction of justice, Mueller’s team explains how it “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.” But the special counsel’s team also said it was unable to definitively conclude that Trump did not commit obstruction of justice:

“Apart from OLC’s constitutional view, we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct … The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

“You have imposter syndrome,” He says, “but paradoxically, that’s often a sign of competence. Only people who understand their work well enough to be intimidated by it can be terrified by their own ignorance. It’s the opposite of Dunning-Kruger syndrome, where the miserably incompetent think they’re on top of the job because they don’t understand it.”
Stross, Charles. The Labyrinth Index (Laundry Files) (Kindle Location 4514). Tom Doherty Associates.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:
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TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
Children

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 
C. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

A. Yglesias on Top:

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Thus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Krugman

C. Today’s Poem:

 

I snagged the following in Brad Delong’s blog,

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

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

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

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

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

 

This remarkable poem ends with the following lines:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

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

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:

CBO_tax_expenditures_panel_v1

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

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

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

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 5 Pops 0007. (August 20, 2018)

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

The weekend passed by quickly — mostly waiting for the biopsy on Tuesday. Not having an automobile (it is in the shop having its crumpled fender and other maladies attended too), cuts down on my activities. I had to turn down an assignment from the Scooter gang over the weekend. So, I read and went on walks through the Enchanted Forest. I get all the angst and despair I can handle from social media and television news.

Well, well, — I went for my biopsy yesterday and for the third time during my age of physical deterioration, the doctor, in this case wielding his sonogram, could find no reason for a biopsy. In other words, he could not find a mass in which a malicious deranged cell would hide. I do not know whether or not to be embarrassed after spending a month or so in gloomy speculation and endlessly disclosing my fears to all who would listen — I guess at my age I should not be embarrassed by anything I do anymore. Anyway, I know it is, at best, only a temporary reprieve.

Onward and upward as Terry always advises. Lack of a car limits my mobility and the awful air pollution from the fires restrict my walks and swimming. So, I sit at home, watch Naida work on her memoir, read as much junk as I can, and nap a lot. So goes the winter of my life. It’s not too bad. I could still be sitting around wondering about the results of my medical tests.

This evening was spent watching Janette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy movies. The last movie ended with the Canadian Mountie and the Opera star in an embrace and singing:

You belong to me
I belong to you.

We then rolled up the stairs to bed singing, one with a professionally trained voice and the other with a throat ruined by radiation therapy:

When I’m calling you, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh ooh
If you answer too, ooh , etc.

That means that I offer my love to you
To be your own
If you refuse me, I will be blue
And waiting all alone

But, if when you hear
My love call, ringing clear, ooh, etc.
And I hear you’re
Answering a call so dear, ooh, etc.

Then I will know
That our love will be true

What could be better than that?

The next day I swam in the Nepenthe pool. It is my first time swimming in over a month. It felt good. While sitting by the pool a woman got out of her car and started banging on the gate demanding to get into the pool area. Eventually, she somehow got in. She was hugely pregnant. She took off her shoes, then jumped, fully clothed, into the pool, swam its length, got out, picked up her shoes, returned to her car and drove away. I did not realize it was that hot out. Life is wonderfully surprising even when you are doing nothing but staring at the leaves of some trees.

Today I spent the morning watching Doris Day — Gordon MacRae movies. Listening to them sing “Tea for Two” is an experience I rank somewhere between being drowned in a vat of medicinal cannabis or smothered in meringue.

Later I went to the pool and fell asleep in the shade only to be awakened by the sound of ten-year-olds doing flips into the water. I did my laps while trying to determine if I was in a good mood or bad. Gave up and went home.

My sister Maryann and her husband George dropped by on their way back to Mendocino from Nevada City where they were making arrangements for the wedding of their son Brendan to Ashley his intended. A few weeks ago, I discovered that a friend of mine from my childhood who I haven’t seen in almost seventy years, Snookie Salerno, now lives in Nevada City. I have been told he never returns calls from his old friends (Would you return a call to someone who called you Snookie?). He did not return my calls. So I left him a message inviting him to the wedding.

Anyway, I took Mary and George on a walk around the Enchanted Forest and along the banks of the river. Mary seems well recovered from her bout with breast cancer. I am well recovered from my bout of hypochondria.

I did not watch movies of any sort this evening. Instead, I went to bed at 8PM. Tomorrow the automobile comes out of the shop. I am relieved. I now can drive aimlessly about. I like that better than “tea for two.” Check that, it depends on whom I am having tea with and what kind of tea.

Picked up the car. Have not yet driven it aimlessly but have driven it between the shop and the house with great determination to avoid another crushed fender.

The days pass on — driving the scooter gang around, walking through the Enchanted Forest, swimming in the pools, singing show tunes, drinking margaritas, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, petting the dog, crying over Aretha Franklin, watching old movies, laughing at old jokes — the wheel turns on. And then there is this:

“For the past 2,700 years we have been evolving through the ascending Kali Yuga, and this Yuga is coming to an end in 2025. The end of the Yuga will inevitably be followed by cataclysmic earth changes and civilization collapses,…”
Bibhu Dev Misra

This morning when I left the house I ran into one of the TURKEY GANGS right beyond the front door. Yes, the Enchanted Forest is plagued by several TURKEY GANGS. They lounge along the pathways, mumbling threatening sounds and forcing residents to walk around them. They litter the sidewalks and don’t clean up after they leave. They terrorize small children and small dogs. They are huge, hulking, ugly creatures often four feet tall or more. Something needs to be done about them by the HOA. Perhaps once a year say in November we could have a community Thanksgiving Party and eat a few. They are so large they could each feed several families.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, isn’t that the celebration of a group of immigrants saved by the citizens of the area who in turn demonstrated their gratitude by slaughtering their rescuers and taking their land? Instead of Thanksgivings Day shouldn’t the day be called something like Ingratitude Day?
On Saturday morning, we attended then weekly Saturday Morning Coffee put on by the Nepenthe HOA in the Enchanted Forest. The usual group had assembled. I had a lively discussion with the 93-year-old architect about our various maladies. Later the woman that seems to run these things announced she was not going to run the “Sock Hop” in September (don’t ask — I think it is some attempt at replication of an ancient mating ritual that everyone believes existed and they experienced but it didn’t and they only imagined it. Ask yourself, “Did you ever attend a ‘sock Hop?’” And if you did, did you think the experience was such that you would want to replicate it in your old age?). This set off a flurry of whispers. Later I learned that there is a conflict between the Nepenthe HOA and the nine other HOAs over the running of the social events. I did not understand the politics involved but agreed with Naida who leaned over and said to me sotto voce, “It seems pretty silly to argue over who gets the right to volunteer.”

There are three Age of Declines:

The first Age of Decline is now. It is the first time in history that a majority of a generation lived to old age together, declined together and ultimately will die together. As usual for the past 80 years or so, we have, for better or worse, been the pacesetters.

The second type of Age of Decline is the end of an era. In our case, the end of the greatest Golden Age the world has ever seen.

The third version of an Age of Decline is experienced by all of us that live beyond 75 or so years. Not only do our bodies begin to undergo the inevitable physical and mental failures faced by all biologic creatures who have exceeded their use by date, but also our functions in society at large begin to dissipate. Oh yes, some of us keep on working and striving — and good for those of us who do. Others of us can sometimes pass through a brief period where we are consulted (not very seriously) or honored (weekly or monthly visits) by younger relatives or friends. But really for most of us, we ultimately gather in homes for the elderly or periodically meet with other elderly friends where we attempt to create a small replica of the society that we strode through in our past life — much like the members of the Nepenthe morning coffee, complete with its politics, petty annoyances, and amusements. Lucky are those of us who instead fall in love and experience a decline no less painful but much more blissful.

For the second time in a little over a month, I have been attacked by a Russian Bot. Three critical comments from the same person appeared on my Blog, Trenz Pruca’s Journal — https://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/. This is unusual because almost no one ever comments on my blog. Two of the comments were general criticisms of my writing competence in two of my blog posts. A criticism I believe fully justified. In the third comment, this time on my blog about Vladimir Putin (https://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/petrillos-commentary-who-is-vladimir-putin-and-why-is-he-an-enemy-of-the-united-states/. Also, reproduced below.),

He not only objects to my writing style but included an example of how it could be improved by changing my criticism to a justification of Putin’s behavior. I am so proud to have been noticed.

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

 
WHO IS VLADIMIR PUTIN AND WHY IS HE AN ENEMY OF THE UNITED STATES:
It is important to explore the motivations of Vladimir Putin in order to understand much of the actions and policies of the Kremlin in the past few years.

First, as is true with most revolutions, the inevitable reaction reinstitute the structures of the old regime but with new titles (but often the same slogans). In Russia, the new oligarchs, like the Soviet Commissars before them, have decorated their dachas and palaces like the Tsars from whom they have taken them. The old prisons have been reopened and refilled with the enemies of the state. The so-called secret services have been restored and given new names.

The Tsar’s rentier aristocracy was replaced by the industrial Commissars. The Commissars have now been replaced by a financial/commercial oligarchy. True, the Commissars were governmental employees at the time they acquired their wealth and power and the oligarchs are not, but like the landed aristocrats they still owe their wealth to the Tsar in the Kremlin and they cross him at their peril.

Second, Putin is not only the head of the Russian government but the chief and undoubtedly the largest oligarch of them all.

Third, Putin is a Russian, a child of the Rodina, and as such the humiliation of Soviet Russia by the American commercial and military empire is a stain on its honor that any patriot would work tirelessly to remove.

Fourth, he was a low-level bureaucrat in the Soviet secret service (KGB) trained in espionage. As such, one would assume he is more comfortable with the strategies of subversion that those of military conquest.

Finally, he is extremely popular in Russia (and in many other areas of the world). Ninety-six percent of Russians approved of his military initiatives in Ukraine; ninety-five percent believed that America was goading Kiev to persecute ethnic Russians in that country. Ninety-two percent believed the same situation existed in Russian enclaves in the Caucasus, Moldova, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia.

In brief, we have in Vladimir Putin an exceedingly popular, short (he is a tiny but exceptionally athletic man), greedy, subversive nationalist with a special antipathy for the United States.

 

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

 

‘’ When the long nights would come long ago, the people of this and another village would gather together every night sitting beside the fire or wherever they could find room in the house. Many a device they would resort to shorten the night. The man who had a long tale, or the man who had the shorter tales (eachtraithe), used to be telling them. At that time people used to go earning their pay working in County Limerick, County Tipperary and County Cork, and many a tale they had when they would return, everyone with his own story so that you would not notice the night passing. Often the cock would crow before you would think of going home.”
Leabhar Sheáin Í Chonaill (1948)

 

MEMORIES OF BLASKET ISLAND, IRELAND.

FieldSchoolImage2

 
40 years or so ago, I traveled to Great Blasket Island off the Western Coast of Ireland. This bleak and barren island located off the tip of the Dingle Peninsula housed between 100 to 150 souls until the 1940s when the Irish Government in a fit of uncharacteristic responsibility removed the remaining twenty-two of them and resettled them in other parts of the country. As far as I know, none of the islanders objected to the relocation nor made any attempt to return.

I ferried there from mainland Ireland in one of those tar-covered little leather boats that used to be common in the western part of the country.
IMG_20141020_192600_608
Drying the boats. The village is in the background.

 

I met the ferry-man in the pub that stands on the bluff overlooking Blasket and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. For a few dollars, I persuaded him to row me there. There was no regular motor ferry to the island then but there is now.

Although the passage from the mainland to the islands is no more than a couple of miles, during much of the year when the Island was inhabited, it was too stormy and impassable for the small traditional row boats available at the time to make the crossing. As a result, the residents of Blasket were often marooned and had to live exclusively on what they could glean there on the island.

Even though the sea was relatively calm during my trip, the waves and currents in the straight threw the little boat around quite a bit causing the oarsman to strain at the oars and me to question the rationale for my visit.
Scan0008-31
A traditional leather covered boat (a type of coracle) approaching Blasket Island. I took a boat like this on my trip.

 

We landed on a tiny bit of dressed stone surrounded on three sides by large rocks making an anchorage about ten feet or so wide. We tied up to a rusty and corroded iron ring.

I left the ferry-man there with a promise to return in an hour and a half.

In the only habitable place on the lee of the island lay a tiny village in ruins and deserted. I climbed through the ruins and into the abandoned cottage — Peig’s cottage. It was my reason for the trip — to pay homage Peig Sayers.

Peig was an old woman and seanchai (storyteller) who when approached by a representative of the Irish Folklore Commission and asked to write the story of her life on that forlorn island, did so. Much to the surprise of all, it became perhaps the greatest work of Gaelic prose literature.

The Book opens with the words:

I am an old woman now, with one foot in the grave and the other on its edge. I have experienced much ease and much hardship from the day I was born until this very day. Had I known in advance half, or even one-third, of what the future had in store for me, my heart wouldn’t have been as gay or as courageous it was in the beginning of my days.

 

In the evenings the people on the Island would gather in Peig’s cottage to listen to her stories. Seosamh Ó Dálaigh wrote the following about these sessions:

‘I wish I had the ability to describe the scene in Peig Sayers’s home in Dunquin on a winter’s night when the stage was set for the seanchaí’ ‘When the visitors arrived (for all gathered to the Sayers house when Peig was there to listen to her from supper-time till midnight) the chairs were moved back and the circle increased. News was swapped, and the news often gave the lead for the night’s subject, death, fairies, weather, crops.’ All was grist to the mill, the sayings of the dead and the doings of the living, and Peig, as she warmed to her subject, would illustrate it richly from her repertoire of verse, proverb and story…

Great artist and wise woman that she was, Peig would at once switch from gravity to gaiety, for she was a light-hearted woman, and her changes of mood and face were like the changes of running water. As she talked her hands would be working too; a little clap of the palms to cap a phrase, a flash of the thumb over the shoulder to mark a mystery, a hand hushed to mouth for mischief or whispered secrecy. ‘When the fun is at its height it is time to go,’ runs the Irish proverb; and when visitors went each night Peig would draw the ashes over the peat-embers to preserve the fire till morning, reciting her customary prayer: ‘I preserve the fire as Christ preserves all. Brigid at the two ends of the house, and Mary in the centre. The three angels and the three apostles who are highest in the Kingdom of Grace, guiding this house and its contents until day.’

 

Her home there on Blasket was now little more than rocks piled on one another for walls with more rocks added to make the roof (I understand it has been made into lodging for a small hostel now). Peig’s home contained a single room in which she spent most of her life.
IMG_20141020_192528_725
Peig in her cottage.

 

Beyond the village, exposed to the fierce winds off the Atlantic, the island was covered in a thick mat of furze, Irish gorse, and heather, with peat (or bog or turf) beneath. When walking on it, although it supported my weight, it felt as though I was walking on a springy mattress.

There were no trees or bushes to be seen anywhere. I climbed part way down a steep incline towards the cliffs on the island’s north side where the residents would scramble down to pilfer the eggs of the shorebirds that nested there. I did not go further than perhaps 10 feet or so because the cliff quickly became much steeper. It was on those steep cliffs according to Peig that Blasket’s citizens often met their death trying to secure enough food to carry them through the winter storms.
blasket-island_1383770-fc009ff8
The North side of Blasket Island and the cliffs.

 

As hard as life was on Blasket, during the Irish persecutions and famines several mainland families settled on the island, “Because life was better there.”
Scan0011-21
A Better Life?

 

Perhaps the most astounding thing about Blasket was that Peig was not the only one from there who authored a Gaelic literary classic. Two others, Twenty Years a Growing and The Islandman, were written by Blasket natives also.

How hard was life on Blasket? Tomas O’Crohan in The Islandman wrote the following about his children:

“Ten children were born to us, but they had no good fortune, God help us! The very first of them that we christened was only seven or eight years old when he fell over the cliff and was killed. From that time on they went as quickly as they came. Two died of measles, and every epidemic that came carried off one or other of them. Donal was drowned trying to save the lady off the White Strand. I had another fine lad helping me. Before long I lost him, too.”

the_great_blasket
Blasket Island Today.

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOIDS:

 

 

In his fascinating book In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power, Alfred McCoy relates some facts about the collapse of the American education system that should give every American concern about what sort of a society we a leaving to our children.

In 2012, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) tested 510,000 fifteen-year-olds in thirty-four developed nations, finding those in Shanghai came first in math, science, and reading, while those in Massachusetts, “A strong-performing U.S. state,” placed seventeenth in reading, twentieth in science, and twenty-seventh in math. The OECD also found that American students “have particular weaknesses in performing mathematics tasks with higher cognitive demands, such as … interpreting mathematical aspects in real-world problems.” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan rued these results as “a picture of educational stagnation.” The National Intelligence Council noted that the country’s educational advantage “has been cut in half in the past 30 years,” meaning that without major investments in schools Americans “will increasingly bring only mediocre skills to the workplace.”

McCoy, Alfred W.. In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (Dispatch Books) (Kindle Locations 4973-4975). Haymarket Books.
After leading the world for decades in twenty-five-to thirty-four-year-olds with university degrees, the United States sank to twelfth place in 2012. That same year, the World Economic Forum ranked the United States at a mediocre forty-seventh among 144 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction. Two years later, its position slid to fifty-first.

McCoy, Alfred W.. In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (Dispatch Books) (Kindle Locations 4978-4981). Haymarket Books.

A survey of some 150 major American universities in 2010 found that more than half of all graduate students in the sciences were foreigners: 70 percent in electrical engineering, 63 percent in computer science, and 52 percent in materials engineering.

McCoy, Alfred W.. In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (Dispatch Books) (Kindle Locations 4982-4984).

 

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 
A. Lou Bronico on Top:

Something I received from my cousin Lou:

Letter to My Boss:

I have enjoyed working here these past several years. You have paid me very well and given me benefits beyond belief. Have 3-4 months off per year and a pension plan that will pay my salary till the day I die and then pay my estate one year salary death bonus and then continue to pay my spouse my salary with increases until he (or she) dies and a health plan that most people can only dream of having i.e. no deductible whatsoever.

Despite this, I plan to take the next 12-18 months to find a new position. During this time I will show up for work when it is convenient for me. In addition, I fully expect to draw my full salary and all the other perks associated with my current job.

Oh yes, if my search for this new job proves fruitless, I will be coming back with no loss in pay or status. Before you say anything, remember that you have no choice in this matter. I can, and I will do this.

Sincerely,

Every Senator or Congressman running for re-election

Are we stupid or what?

 
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 

History: A few truths surrounded by a lot of little lies and one or two big ones.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

“If there is one person a fanatic is predisposed to hate, it’s a moderate who is almost but not completely aligned with their program.”

Stross, Charles. Dark State: A Novel of the Merchant Princes Multiverse (Empire Games) (p. 343). Tom Doherty Associates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:
FT_17.08.01_debt_interest_420px

 

Two interesting aspects of this chart:

1. In general, it shows that since the Reagan Administration, interest payments on the national debt as a percentage of GDP have generally risen during Republican administrations, while under the Democrats, it has usually fallen.

2. Trump has already sharply increased that percentage from what it was in the last few years of the Obama administration.
The relationship between interest payments on the federal debt and the nations GDP is perhaps the most critical relationship in the debate regarding the appropriate size of the Federal Debt. If the interest payments get too high then a nation generally has to raise taxes, reduce expenditures or modestly inflate the economy (usually by keeping interest rates low during a rising economy ) in order to retain its credit rating.

Raising taxes is problematical because those whose taxes should be raised are the same people who fund the election of those who would vote on the action.

Cutting expenditures has its problems also. There are really only three sources of governmental expenditures large enough to make a difference if cut, defense, social security, and Medicare. Cutting defense is problematical because defense funding also provides much of the income for those paying for the elections of those who would vote on the cuts while cutting the latter two would be unconscionable to anyone but elected Republicans.

Finally, moderate inflation by keeping interest rates low thereby reducing the value of the dollar also runs up against the opposition of those who fund the elections of those who would vote on any such approach. In this case, the creditor community, the banks, etc., who would oppose any approach that would make their loans less valuable in the future.

Until we find an alternative to the media-entertainment-financial control of the political system, the solution to the Republican policy of increasing the debt-payment problem while choosing the worst of the remedies will remain elusive.

 

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

Pasted Graphic
Exodus #6 a Wall Sculpture by Bruce West.

Categories: July through September 2016, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 20 Joseph 0002 (January 7, 2013)

 

TODAY FROM THAILAND:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

Preparing for departure on a trip is a dead time in one’s life.

Cordt arrived in town last night interrupting the tedium for a few hours. He invited me to have dinner with him and Scott. Scott, originally from the Bay Area, now lives in BKK and works as an executive for the Bangkok Post the main english language newspaper in Thailand. Scott was SWAC’s first husband, but now is happily married to another Thai woman and has two daughters.

LM and I joined them for dinner at a place called Bourbon Street, a restaurant that features Cajun food. I ordered blackened catfish that although it was quite good was neither blackened nor catfish.

Bourbon Street was originally in a section of BKK called “Washington Square.” During the Vietnam war that area had been favored by the CIA and Air-America operatives. Both Scott and I knew a number of these aging spooks and soldiers of fortune who still live around there. They are slowly dying off now and taking their stories with them.

Later we went up to the top floor lounge where we had a drink and talked a lot about music. Both Scott and Cordt are accomplished musicians who had played with professional bands now and then during their past lives.

After drinks, Scott and Cordt wanted to see one of the cabaret type sex shows at Nana Plaza, the red-light entertainment district near my apartment. LM and I joined them.

The show itself was a pale copy of what could be found in any stripper joint in the US. A few simulated sex acts followed by the meat-market of go-go dancers staring at themselves in the mirror as they slithered around the poles. There were no darts puncturing balloons on the walls, ping-pong balls shot into the upper galleries, razor blades, frogs and similar things appearing from where they should not be and no Marlboro smoking vaginas. The management seemed to have chosen performers who had not yet had breast implementation surgery so they all looked like long-haired pre-adolescent boys in bathing suits. Scott and Cordt called one of the women over to sit with us. She was very pleasant and mostly naked. I wondered if it was easier or more difficult to be pleasant when one was naked. LM and I left soon thereafter and returned to the apartment where I continued on with my departure preparations before retiring for the night.

B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

1. Soap Opera madness.

A new scandal in Thailand has erupted over cancellation of a popular soap opera on Thai television. The soap was about a likable, incorruptible Prime Minister and his exceptionally corrupt deputy. No one knows for sure why the show was cancelled beyond vague whisperings from the station hosting the show that there were political considerations involved in the decision. Representatives of the minority political party have alleged that the deposed fugitive prime minister living in exile, Thaksin the Terrible, was behind the cancellation. Spokespersons for the deposed fugitive ex-prime minister living in exile responded that he does not own a television that gets the soap opera where he currently resides and that he would never watch it anyway.

2. Saving the Environment.

In other news several, several officials of the Thai governmental agency responsible for forestry, resources and the environment have been reassigned to other posts after their wives complained that they were keeping mistresses, sometimes as many as three or four. When agency representatives offered to fire the errant husbands, the wives objected. It seems they did not want to lose their livelihood but only to remove their spouses from their current temptations and one would assume, extra-marital expense obligations.

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

Creation myth update #3: Maybe we are not in Mr Rogers’ neighborhood anymore Toto.

Before returning to the story about the genetic history of humanity described in some of the recently published books on the subject I have read during the past few months, I thought a slight detour would be appropriate.

While most people who study the subject generally agree that a small group of anatomically modern humans, probably about 20 or so, left Africa sometime between 60,000 to 45,000 years ago and populated the rest of the planet, for many years it was assumed that except for an odd Neanderthal or two, the world outside of Africa was unpopulated allowing Homo Sapiens Sapiens to walk in and take control of the vast open spaces of the earth. After all, the only creatures that walk upright, use tools and talk on earth today are we Homo Sap Saps.

Alas, recent paleontological and genetic discoveries seem to indicate that the huge landmass called Eurasia was chock full of upright walking, tool using, trash talking hominids most of whom were bigger and stronger than the puny creatures that made up that forlorn little band containing the ancestors of most of us that had left Africa about 50,000 years ago.As far as can be determined by anthropological, paleontological and genetic discoveries so far, our band of Homo Sapiens Sapiens (Very very smart people) faced not only Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and Denisovians who we discussed last chapter, but also Homo Erectus (upright people), Homo floresiensis (sometimes referred to as the “Hobbits”), maybe a few Homo heidelbergensis (people from Heidelberg who auditioned for “The Student Prince” and have scars on their cheeks.) and possibly others we do not know about yetThat is a lot of people whose neighborhoods H Sap Sap was about to invade. Some of them like the Neanderthals and the Denisovans had larger cranial capacity (bigger heads) than HSS and may very well have been smarter. They all could speak, use fire and appear to have developed languages. Also they all used tools similar to those used by HSS and lived in small hunter-gatherer groups. Finally, except for the Hobbits which were pygmies living in Indonesia, they all were larger and a heck of a lot stronger than Sap Sap. Here is a comparison between a Neanderthal skeleton and a fully modern human one:

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Neanderthal skeleton on the left and modern human on the right.

Neanderthals had massive, broad shoulders, about 8% larger than their modern human contemporaries. Their pec muscles were enormous, up to twice the size of today’s average human. Neanderthals had shorter, wider muscular upper arms. The bones in their forearms were actually bowed from muscles that must have powered a grip that could crush stone. Neanderthal fingers and thumbs had upwards of twice the strength of modern humans. All of this upper body musculature was anchored on a solid foundation of massive quads that specialized in explosive power and side-to-side movement. Neanderthals were probably better at throwing than their modern contemporaries (It has been suggested that some Neanderthals escaped extinction and have been recruited by professional football and rugby teams around the world).

So, given that they were bigger, stronger, perhaps even brighter than our ancestors and possessed comparable technology, how did our ancestors manage to get rid of them all and take over the world?

Some theorized we dazzled them with our technology. The problem with that is we all began with about the same technology – rocks. At some point we made our rocks a little sharper edged than they did with their rocks, which some argue shows that we were really smarter than they were. On the other hand, our ancestors initially lived by combing the beaches where they probably used shells for scraping and cutting things. The edges of shells are pretty sharp. It is just as likely that we were used to sharper tools and formed the edges of appropriate rocks to mimic them. There is no need to postulate an act of genus when most people in fact try to hold on to favored technologies as long as they can. In any event, the neanderthals adopted the new technology pretty quickly anyway. And, certainly simply wielding a sharper edged stone tool was not going to make the difference in a fight with someone who was capable of bringing down a giant mastodon armed only with a rock and who could break your bones with his bare hands.

Some others say we were physically better able to handle the extreme climate changes of the time. Unfortunately for this theory, these various hominids had been dealing successfully with even greater climate shifts for hundreds of thousands of years before they ran into HSS.

Another theory is that we out-competed them for food. This makes no sense to me because if we killed all the game we would die also.

There must have been other reasons why the last few of the Neanderthals ended up reduced to sitting in a cave in Gibraltar chewing on uncooked seal meat waiting patiently to expire as a species.

The guests are gone from the pavilion high,
In the small garden flowers are whirling around.
Along the winding path the petals lie;
To greet the setting sun, they drift up from the ground.

Heartbroken, I cannot bear to sweep them away;
From my eyes, spring soon disappears.
I pine with passing, heart’s desire lost for aye;
Nothing is left but a robe stained with tears.
     Li Shang-Yin, ninth century BCE

Consider this, although the remains of the other early hominids often show broken bones and other injuries from their incredibly hard and difficult lives, it is rare that their remains are discovered with their head crushed in with a rock, or with a spear point up its rectum or tied up, beaten with clubs and thrown into a bog like is only too often found among human remains.

I think perhaps at least part of the answer, lies in understanding the difference between our nearest non-hominid cousins the chimpanzees (pan troglodytes) and the bonobos (pan paniscus). The bonobos are a pretty peace-loving, although by even human standards a stunningly over-sexed, species. The chimpanzees, on the other hand, seem to be the only species other than HSS who kill for the hell of it.

Like a rotten log
half buried in the ground –
my life, which
has not flowered, comes
to this sad end.
     Minamoto Yorimasa, 1104-1180

(Part 2 of Mister Rogers Neighborhood to be included in next post.)
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

Joe Montana could have become my friend:

I, and I assume others when they reach my age, sometime think back over our lives and speculate about what may have been or what it is we really regret. With me there are many things such as the death of loved ones or pain I have caused others that bring me sadness or fill me with remorse. But, in almost all of them, although I wish they never happened, I do not see how avoiding or reversing them would have altered my life all that much. There was, however, one event I recall that I am convinced may have made a difference.

It was during the early Nineties. I was visiting Rome Italy and it was as hot as it gets in that town towards the end of Summer. The city was mostly deserted, the Romans had left town for their annual holiday at the seashore and most tourists remained in their air-conditioned hotel rooms awaiting the cooler temperatures of evening. I was standing in line with my then wife Denise to buy tickets to visit the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum. There was only one other group ahead of us braving the burning sun; a family made up of man and a women with four strikingly blond pre-adolescent children in tow. The woman was about six feet tall, also blond and movie star attractive. The man was even taller, sandy-haired and athletic looking. Suddenly I recognized him. It was Joe Montana, the legendary American football quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. I guess you can say I was gobsmacked to see him there in Rome standing so close to me.

images

In addition to the victories and the statistical records that most sports aficionados use to judge excellence and without which all else is almost irrelevant, what I admired most about Montana was his preternatural grace and his gamblers instincts. I recall once watching him play in one of the Superbowls, he had just thrown a pass that the receiver eventually caught for a touchdown. Nevertheless, it was not the touchdown but the fluidity with which Joe leapt into the air and threw the ball that enthralled me. He was every bit as graceful as a ballet dancer; not tutus and en pointe ballet graceful but something more masculine and forceful.

I used to attend performance of the New York City Ballet when I lived in the Big Apple. The principle male dancer at that time was, Jacques d’Amboise. When standing at rest on the stage he looked a lot like a champion body builder after he had just put down his barbels. When, however, he moved it was as smooth, graceful and beautiful as drops or water slowly dancing in the sunlight. Balanchine, the choreographer for the Company then, believed that the male ballet dancer was little more than a mobile post upon which the ballerina was displayed, exalted in all her lithe sensuous feminine glory. Nevertheless, when d’Ambiose lifted his partner up and carried her across the stage everything else on that stage disappeared except the image of his power and grace. So it was for me with Montana on that pass. I felt as though I had achieved satori. Everything else on the field dissolved from view but Joe when, as though in slow motion, he pushed off with one leg, rose into the air and in perfect synchronicity arced his arm across his body as he released the ball.

His gamblers instincts were not those of a risk-taker but of someone who knew the probabilities and above all the psychology of the game. At one time during an interview, I recall him describing a drive, probably in one or another of the Superbowls. He said something like, “I was driving them crazy, dinking and dunking (throwing short passes for 3 or 4 yards) them here and there, until they began to lean forward and inch in eager to stop what we were doing, and then I threw it over their heads for a touchdown.”

“He possessed an almost mystical calmness in the midst of chaos, especially with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. While others saw turmoil and danger after the snap, Montana saw order and opportunity. He was Joe Cool, the unflappable king of the comeback.”
     Larry Schwartz, ESPN

So there he was, in Rome, that day, standing about a foot away from me. One part of me, delirious with excitement, wanting to say something, something like “Joe! Joe Montana, what are you doing here in Rome?” while another part terrorized me into silence at the realization of how stupid that sounded and how embarrassed I would feel after saying it – especially if he ignored me.

I thought about mentioning to Denise that Joe Montana stood in the line in front of us. Denise was a woman of legendary assertiveness with a tongue as sharp as the edge of a Samurai’s sword. Although she would not have known Joe Montana from Bozo the Clown, she was much more likely than me to strike up a conversation, lacking the shyness that comes with awe and idol worship that I was feeling. Alas, I could see that she was already annoyed at how long it was taking them to buy their tickets and well on her way to flinging some insult at them as only she could. So, I hesitated saying anything fearing that she would offend them and I would lose my opportunity to meet Joe and maybe become his friend.

They eventually got their tickets and passed through the gate into the Forum. We got ours and followed. Right behind the gate we came upon them again. The children were sprawled on various broken bits of Roman History complaining bitterly, as children often do, about the heat and whining about why they had to be here and not back in the hotel at the pool. I could see that Joe Cool was at the edge of losing the legendary calmness that allowed him to bring Notre Dame from 22 points back in the fourth quarter to win in the Cotton Bowl. He snapped back at them, probably a lot like any other parent in a similar situation would when being harassed by whining children “You can’t. You have to learn about culture. There is a lot of culture here.”

I knew that I could step in and help out. Over the years I virtually haunted the Forum. I knew more about it than any guide. I knew the history, the gossip, even what was traded in the market that was set up in the swamp between the hill the future rulers of the world lived on in somewhat upgraded caves and the larger hill on which the more respectable Sabines resided and from whom their wives and daughters were reputed to have been carried away by the Romans in the dead of night and upon the fecundity of those stolen wives and daughters built an empire. I had crawled into places few are allowed to go or for that matter ever went or even would want to go. I knew which toilets were the cleanest. I knew where to find shade and the location of the coolest water. I knew I could keep the children entertained and enthralled and that Joe and his wife would like that and we might become friends.

I imagined that since I had lived in Rome for a few years and knew interesting places to go and appealing places to eat that Joe and his wife would never otherwise know about or go to, we could go out some evening and have dinner together. I knew that Denise with her bottomless reservoir of humor and behavioral oddities would amuse them and we would become friends.

But I did not do anything. I just stood there. Then Denise irritably called out, “Hurry up, its hot.” and I went on. For a while, as we made our way through the rubble of an empire, I would see them prowling through other parts of the ruins. Then they were gone.

Since that day, now and then, I think about what could have been. Even as I write this now, I am convinced that if Joe Montana had become my my friend, my life might somehow have been better, happier even. Some of my other friends might even have become jealous. I would have liked that.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Reader’s comments:

I am always pleased to transmit something interesting written or said by one of my “This and that…” correspondents. The following briefly discusses a book about Winston Churchill. On the whole, I am not as big a fan of the bigoted, overweight, cigar smoking, alcoholic, trust fund baby as are many, but even I must agree that it is doubtful that anyone else in England at that time would have been so cocky and self-assured as to be able to lead the world through those very, very dark days. The interesting thing about the piece is its take on Hitler’s potential winning hand and Churchill’s role as the little boy with his finger in the hole in the dike:

“I’m reading the third volume of “The Last Lion” “Defender of the Realm” Paul Reid’s (filling in for William Manchester) biography of Churchill 1940-1965.

Now there was a man who had absolutely no reason to win, no logical way out; but win he did. He did it by surviving just long enough to allow his enemies to make stupid mistakes: invade Russia (Hitler) attack the US (Japan) and, of all things declare unprovoked war on the US (Hitler).

The biography makes clear that had Hitler turned south (not stopping in Greece but on to Suez and Persia) in 1941, rather than east (Russia), he would have dismembered the British Empire and cut off the Home Islands from the Dominions and India, leaving Britain a ruined hulk, to which America might have had great pity, but was in no mood to go to war for.

Had he done that he could have persuaded Japan to attack, not Pearl Harbor, but Singapore and Bombay, grabbing all the resources Japan needed and avoid war with the US. It was a flat-out winning hand which Hitler’s Admirals, and Army General Staff pleaded with him to do. Why, pray tell , didn’t he do it. Because he was really only a talented huckster, with no real strategic sense and a WW I enlisted man’s brain, able to comprehend only land war against those he, in his deranged mind, saw as inferior beasts not capable of beating the great Germanic race.

The human race really lucked out, (like in the Cuban Missile Crisis) one more time.

I’m struck by the sheer luck of the draw that Churchill was there to plug the dike long enough for fate to take its course. Kennedy was there to prevent Curtis Le May from launching Armageddon. There must be a God. But if the Pope is not his vicar on earth (which he clearly isn’t), Churchill and Kennedy certainly were. I really do wonder about “The Force” in large human affairs.”

The above was sent to me by Terry Goggin. In addition to serving in the California State Legislature, Terry also was an instructor at West Point in military history and the role of politics in military affairs and has written a book on the same. He is now a restaurateur in Manhattan.

B. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:

1. Milton Friedman is a poo-poo head.

18209_361004763995038_650580507_n

Although the above is a blatant oversimplification, grossly misleading and proof that liberals can be as superficial as conservatives, I post it here only because it allows me to bring up a rant about Milton Friedman.

Milton Friedman is the economist who popularized what is sometimes referred to as conservative economics. He was trained as an actuary which perhaps explains his inability to recognize human motivation and social aspiration as a factor in economic analyses, If Friedman were alive, I suspect that, as I have seen him do in similar situations, he would insist that the impulse behind the actions of both individuals in the above graphic was the same: self-interest and greed. Gates did what he did only because it made him feel good and therefore Friedman would argue was simply another form of greed. That he was unable to recognize the difference, in my opinion, even though he clearly made significant contributions to statistical analysis in economics, it still puts Friedman right up there among the greater malefactors in human history.

2. Republicans and European Austerians are dead wrong on the economy

In the International Monetary Fund working paper entitled “Growth Forecast Errors and Fiscal Multipliers,” Messrs. Blanchard and Leigh calculate IMF and European economists underestimated the euro-for-euro effect of cutting government budgets. While economists expected that cutting a euro from the budget would cost around 50 cents in lost growth, the actual impact was more like 1.50 per euro.

What I believe this means is that by cutting government budgets so that the rate of return expectations for financial institutions like banks are preserved reduces the amount of money in the economy available for the rest of us by a factor of three to one. In other words, the only reason to cut governmental budgets in this economic environment was to preserve confidence in the financial community that they would receive 100% of their expected profits when those debts become due. The cost of that assurance required the rest of us to earn less money now by a factor of three to one in favor of the banksters’. Or to put it a third way, in return for something that produced nothing other than a feeling of confidence among bond holders a lot of the rest of us had to lose our jobs.

C. Fun in the labyrinth or giggles in the heart of darkness (Chapter five: At the airport with no place to go – Part 3):

So, I followed her, ever hopeful that this time it would all work out. She led me to Airport security. After I passed through the usual minor strip-search, I looked around for the woman. She was gone leaving me confused about what I was supposed to do next. I decided approaching the two uniformed passport officers I had seen her speaking with was the most reasonable thing to do.

I walked over to the counter they sat behind. Told them my story while waving around the increasingly wrinkled, sweat stained and forlorn piece of paper. I handed them my passports. They leafed through them knowingly. Spoke to each other. Then looked over at me and spoke to each other again. Finally one of them took possession of the passports turned towards me and told me that he would handle it. I was elated.

“Give me your boarding pass,” he demanded. I plunged into depression. With my voice rising with my hysteria I said, “No, no you do not understand” and I began to tell my story again and wave the little piece of paper around, at which point a younger man in a darker uniform with a bit more ribbons and braid arrived. Spoke to the passport officer. I repeated my story again and showed him the piece of paper.

“No problem,” he said. “Come with me

I followed him through the passport review post and into an office that contained two desks behind one sat a similarly uniformed officer and behind the other he sat down. He leafed through the passports. Just to be sure, I explained everything again and showed him the piece of paper one more time. “No Problem,” he smiled and turned to fiddle a bit with his computer. My happiness level began to rise one more time.

Finally he finished whatever he was doing, satisfied he turned to me and asked, “Now where is it you are traveling to today?”

(Unfortunately, to be continued.)

D. Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:

His Story – Her Story:

Ruth pointed out that in the 1970’s “Herstory” was a common term in Woman’s Studies programs and the like. I explained, “Alas, the Her Story boomlet of the 1970’s, like so much of the optimism of that happy and somewhat stoned time, was crushed in the reaction of the 1980’s that, as we know, swept even some of those closest to us into darkness once again.”

TODAY’S QUOTE:

18236_10151176740616275_158125879_n

TODAY’S POEM:

“The pipes of our organs are broken
Our harps have lost their strings that were tuned
That might have made the great lamentations of Ireland
Until the strong men come back across the sea
There is no help for us but bitter crying,
Screams, and beating of hands, and calling out.”
     Lament written by an Irish Priest during the “Time of Troubles.”
TODAY’S CHART:

Fig.A.lrg

The issue of wether recent climate changes have shown a marked warming trend or whether human activities have have had a significant effect on them is well settled. It is true, however, that so called “natural” influences on climate have been going on ever since the earths atmosphere was formed. Since humans have been on earth they have had at times a moderating influence of these natural variations, making their effects a little better or a little worse, usually in a particular local setting. For example, if there were a “natural” dry period causing increased desertification in a particular locality and humans overgrazed on the margins of the desert thereby increasing it, it could be said the humans made the climate induced desertification worse.

In about 1950-60 this all began to change. Human influence on the climate at least in so far as its accelerating warming trend began to dominate the changes and any “natural” influences essentially only moderating effects. It is for this reason that those who, for one reason or another, oppose any conclusion that human induced climate change exists, are able to point to periodic “natural” events that halt or even for a brief time reverse the general trend of escalating global temperatures as evidence that the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion regarding climate change is wrong.

For example, I have seen it asserted in emails from several of the usual suspects and in various anti-climate-change blogs, that from 1940 to almost 1980 world temperatures actually declined therefore global warming is a myth. Similarly, I seen it argued that from about 1980 to 1997 the rate of increase was slowing down. Alas, many people accepted those assertions at face value having nothing to go on but the naïve belief that the person making the claim would not lie to them.

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

521507_363486007080247_1578532980_n

I am not generally a fan of Feinstein. I have had too many dealings with her to be so. But on this issue, banning assault weapons, she has, for almost 20 years, not only been right but consistent and forceful.

 

Categories: January 2013 through March 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 12 Joseph 0002 (New Year’s Day) December 31, 2012

 

Happy New Year (See below)

 

TODAY FROM THAILAND:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

1. Maggots are amusing only to those who consider them a culinary delight.

One morning I woke up in the midst of one of my periodic struggles with depression and despair wondering if I even was going to be able to get out of bed that day. I turned over and looked across the room to the blanket on the floor in the corner where LM slept. She was lying there staring up at the ceiling giggling.

Annoyed that in the midst of my existential crisis anyone could find anything amusing, I growled, “What’s so funny?” Besides who giggles at 6:30 in the morning?

In her fractured English she said, “In America you white and fat. In Thailand you black and small.”

“And, you find this amusing,” I responded?

She did not answer but got up, squatted by the small water heating appliance and began making that morning’s jolt of instant coffee.

I turned back and stared up at my section of the ceiling and contemplated the impenetrable barrier of intercultural humor while she continued to chuckle in the background.

I later got up and glanced in the mirror and noticed that indeed my belly, if not necessarily flat, seemed to protrude much less than when I was most recently in California. As for the blackness, I decided that she was referring to the current state of my soul.

As I sat at the table drinking my coffee (three heaping tablespoons in a small cup), I wondered if there was not something about that morning that was auspicious, but alas, its meaning escaped me.

2. Creation myth update #I

Recently I have been reading several books about genetic research that trace the descent of humanity since that moment when our ancestors first dropped from the trees and began walking upright through the veld until, through sheer persistence, we now are poised on the brink of becoming the only species to consciously choose to risk their own continued existence.

I have now read five books on the subject and several articles. The books, because the unraveling of the human genome that enabled much of the research only occurred within the last 10 years or so, all have been published within the past three years. Although they are “popularizations”, they are for the most part written by the scientists that actually worked on many of the breakthroughs that enabled the current view of human genesis to develop. One book, however, written by a journalist who has been covering the field for the past twenty years, is the best written of the lot.

According to the generally agreed upon calculations based upon the analysis of the Y chromosome in males today and something called mitochondria DNA in females, both of which strangely enough remain mostly unchanged throughout the generations, they estimate that the male and female ancestors of just about everyone outside of Africa today lived in East Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia etc) sometime between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand years or so (Adam Y and Eve Mitochondria).

It is a fascinating story but one still full of inconsistencies and holes. For example, although I do not for one moment doubt that modern humans first arose in Africa and then spread throughout the world, a mystery surrounding indigenous Australians persists. The generally accepted theory is that about two dozen individuals from a tribe left Africa sometime around 45,000 years ago, most likely by crossing the Red Sea into what is now the country of Aden on the Southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. All of the rest of humanity outside of Africa (not including migrants from that continent, forced or otherwise, within the past 600 years) according to DNA analysis appears to be descended from this small but obviously determined and exceptionally fecund band.

At that time because of the various cold spells that sucked moisture from the air and the sea and deposited it in its crystalline form, ice, in great glaciers around the earth’s higher latitudes, the sea was often much lower, about 100 meters or so, and the climate considerably drier than it is now. The most accepted speculation is that the descendants of this band went walk-about along the sea bed thus exposed until, after what I am sure were many adventures, a group ended up in the Australian outback feasting on kangaroo meat and dingoes.

The problem is that some archeological and anthropological evidence puts the original native Australians in Australia at about 60,000 years ago. Now I figured out that early migration patterns move roughly about a kilometer a year. One kilometer would put the new settlement probably in sight of the old. I pictured one or two of the younger members of the band every year or so sitting around the campfire suddenly announcing they were tired of the same old songs and stories and were moving out down the road a bit. After they have a few children of their own, this little traditional domestic scene would play itself out again, until eventually one disgruntled adolescent stumbled over a platypus, decided he had gone far enough and began the first aboriginal song-line.

“…the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as ‘Dreaming-tracks‘ or ‘Songlines’; to the Aboriginals as the ‘Footprints of the Ancestors’ or the ‘Way of the Law’.
Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path – birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes – and so singing the world into existence.””
Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines.

This 1 kilometer or so rate has been confirmed by several scientists and is consistent with every other migration during these initial expansions of humanity (for example, Tierra del Fuego is about 30,000 kilometers from the Red Sea by way of Alaska and the first humans arrived there about 15,000 years ago). So, if it is about 15,000 Kilometers from Ethiopia to Adelaide, the original Australians should have arrived there about 30,000 years ago, not 15,000 years before they even left Africa. That’s a lot of dream time to go walk-about in. Even were one to assume that the notoriously difficult dating methodology was off; to be off by 30,000 years is a pretty broken song-line. (More to come)

Manukirni
Dijankirni
Wurulu layynngkirni

Blind Rainbow Serpent is old;
he does not want Law from the
Whirlwind Rainbow Serpent

Barbabarda karma
Bardangimanji

Whirlwind Rainbow Serpent moves on;
he leaves the Blind Rainbow Serpent
with nothing
 Songline

B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

Retirement: A few days ago I read that Thailand was among the top five places in the world to retire to. Panama was number one and Ecuador number two. About five years ago, I visited the town in Panama referred to in the article. It is located by the ocean and was chock full of new retirement developments. Unfortunately, I found it somewhat remote requiring the retiree to possess personal transportation options. Ecuador I have never visited but suspect that although the retirement communities are located in the mountains, they also are somewhat remote from the country’s major urban areas. Thailand, in addition to being less expensive than the other countries identified, has an abundance of public transportation (only the craziest’s farangs drive). Also, even when living at the sea-shore or in the mountains, you are usually close to an urban area, if actually not right in one. Finally Thailand is thankfully free from the retirement community blight, thereby forcing retirees to forgo living next door to other retired farangs and instead necessitate that they live cheek by jowl next to native Thais, who for the most part ignore their existence (but not their money).

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quantum Mechanics:

Just in case you wondered–

1.2 Basic axioms of quantum mechanics…

Axiom (States). The state of a quantum mechanical system is given by a vector in a complex vector space H with Hermitian inner product <·,·>…. *

(* Is this the quantum version of a happy face? Can a Hermitian inner product ever be happy?)

Note two very important differences with classical mechanical states:

The state space is always linear: a linear combination of states is also a state.

The state space is a complex vector space: these linear combinations can and do crucially involve complex numbers, in an inescapable way. In the classical case only real numbers appear, with complex numbers used only as an inessential calculational tool….
[T]he notation introduced by Dirac for vectors in the state space H: such a vector with a label ψ is denoted:|ψ⟩

Axiom (Observables). The observables of a quantum mechanical system are given by self-adjoint linear operators on H….

Axiom (Dynamics). There is a distinguished observable, the Hamiltonian ℋ. Time evolution of states |ψ(t)> ∈ H is given by the Schrodinger equation: d/dt(|ψ(t)⟩) = − (i/ħ)(ℋ|ψ(t)⟩)

The Hamiltonian observable ℋ will have a physical interpretation in terms of energy, and one may also want to specify some sort of positivity property on ℋ in order to assure the existence of a stable lowest energy state. ħ is a dimensional constant, the value of which depends on what units you use…. We will see that typically classical physics comes about in the limit where(energy scale)(time scale)/ħis large….

Principle (Measurements). (1) States where the value of an observable can be characterized by a well-defined number are the states that are eigenvectors for the corresponding self-adjoint operator. The value of the observable in such a state will be a real number, the eigenvalue of the operator. (2) Given an observable O and states |ψ1⟩ and |ψ2⟩ that are eigenvectors of O with eigenvalues λ1 and λ2 (i.e. O|ψ1⟩=λ1|ψ1⟩ and O|ψ2⟩=λ2|ψ2⟩), the complex linear combination state c1|ψ1⟩ + c2|ψ2⟩ may not have a well-defined value for the observable O. If one attempts to measure this observable, one will get either λ1 or λ2, with probabilities c1^2/(c1^2 + c2^2) and c2^2/(c1^2 + c2^2), respectively.

This principle is sometimes raised to the level of an axiom of the theory, but it is better to consider it as a phenomenological over-simplified description of what happens in typical experimental set-ups…
Peter Woit: Quantum Mechanics for Mathematicians http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/QM/fall-course.pdf

(Now you know — or you don’t know. It is quantum mechanics after all. On the other hand, perhaps it is all a phenomenological over-simplified description of what happens. Wouldn’t that be a shame?)

(You know now that I think about it, God seems to be a simpler source for it all than quantum mechanics. Perhaps it is as Kurt Goedel implies, no matter how far you go or how deeply you think about it, sooner or later it all comes down to six of one or a half-dozen of the other.)

 
B. Fun in the labyrinth or giggles in the heart of darkness (Chapter four: At the airport with no place to go).

Having arrived at the airport and ignoring the insane itching all over my body from the flea bites, I rushed up to the fourth floor as I was directed to by the bemedaled and braided uniformed character back at the immigration office. I was still clutching the tiny slip of paper with my printed interview number on one side and the scribblings of that esteemed gentleman on the other: “Airport, fourth floor immigration” in both Thai and English.

Upon reaching the fourth floor, I recognized it as the departure floor with its row upon row of counters for ticketing and hundreds and hundreds of people busily engaged in going or processing the going or cleaning up after whoever was going actually went.

Knowing that in all this turmoil I could never figure out the location of the immigration office, I sought out an airport information desk. Found it. The woman behind the desk smiled at me. I explained the situation to her and waved around the piece of paper. Her smile disappeared and she motioned me to wait while she called someone. After speaking to whomever for a few minutes she put down the phone and told me to wait and then proceeded to completely ignore me. I recognized that particular Thai trait. To her I had suddenly become a non-entity; someone no longer quite human.

Perhaps a little explanation about Thai culture would help to understand her reaction. To a Thai you are not completely human if you are not Thai or are a lower social status (this is a trait not unknown among Americans also). Farangs, could be forgiven their non-Thai-ness only if they are of a superior class . A superior class in Thailand usually means, money. If you have it you are rewarded with a smile and an acknowledgement of potential humanness even as they try to separate you from the money. There were three reasons that disqualified me from being truly human in the eyes of the lady behind the information desk; 1) I was not Thai; 2) I was not dressed like I had money (I was in my Ocean’s Eleven outfit, flowered shirt, short pants and floppy hat) and; 3) If I had money, I would not be doing this myself but would have paid some Thai some of it to run around collecting the documents and paying the bribes on my behalf.

The phone rang. She picked it up, spoke for a moment and handed the receiver to me. I explained everything to the woman on the other end and waved the piece of paper around even if she could not see it. She said that I should hang up and wait until someone calls back. I did and waited. After awhile the phone rang and we repeated the process, at the end of which the voice at the other end directed me to be at door M-28 at precisely 20 minutes after the hour where someone will appear there to help me. After profusely thanking the voice, I hung up. I asked the information lady where door M-28 was located. She pointed vaguely across the departure area to the right and returned to ignoring me. I went off in search of door M-28 full of optimism that someone there would finally solve all my problems. It was only 10 after the hour. I, nevertheless, rushed to find door M-28 not wanting to risk being late. (To be continued)

C. Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:

In my last two posts, I have included: a series of holiday photographs, seasons greetings, my feeble attempts at holiday inspired wit, and clever observations of others about the festive season. With one or two exceptions all I received in return was silence. On Christmas Day, I sent out an email containing some of this same photographs and a simple holiday greeting. Almost everyone who received it responded.

From this I deduced that for the most part the appearance in ones email the words, “This and that…” produce in the recipient the irresistible urge to click on the delete button.

Having thought at length about the merits of the amusement generated by writing to myself versus the desperation exhibited in repeatedly shouting down into an empty well, I decided that it is simpler and less onerous for one to click on the delete icon than it would be for me to give up hoping that someone at the bottom of that particular well will respond to my pleas for recognition with the hoped for, “All-right, I hear you. Shut the fuck up already.”

So, no apology or regrets and only the slightest humiliation.

TODAY’S QUOTES:

1. James Lee Burke:

“…Marry up, Screw down.”
Pegasus Descending

2. Wisdom from Lake Woebegone:

190061_10151176310861275_2065903362_n

Really now — As much as I like Keillor this is a bit over the top: in fact, golfers are totally oblivious to the fact that golf is nihilistic as well as sadistic; only pimps would wear brown shirts with pinstripes and; the rest of the world believes we hear well enough, it is just that we do not listen.

TODAY’S CHART:

assault-deaths-us-ts-region

This is an interesting graphic. It shows assaults in the US by region. Over all, among the world’s advanced democracies, the US is by far the most violent. The Southern portion of the US is significantly more brutal than the rest of the nation [Note: In some urban areas in the US the rate of violence approaches and even exceeds that found in the South]. Firearms make up a major and sometimes majority component of the violent events. Interestingly enough, although in the rest of the country there is a sizable “hunting” contingent, it is in the exceptionally violent South where gun control efforts have had the least success. Not surprisingly, the death and injury rates from firearms in the South approach those experienced in the charnel house that is Mexico.

[ Note: Perhaps one of the best repositories for these type of peer-reviewed studies can be found at the Harvard School of Public Health [http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/index.html]] )

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

DSCN0583

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THAILAND

 

 

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

 

Categories: October 2012 through December 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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