Posts Tagged With: Italy

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th.    17 Papa Joe 0006

 

 

“True peace requires the presence of justice, not just the absence of conflict.”
Jemisin, N. K. The Dreamblood Duology. Orbit.

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Today, September 21, It was cool enough for me to wear a long-sleeved shirt. Summer is officially over. I still don a Hawaiian shirt over my long-sleeved T-shirt to maintain a touch of color. In a few more weeks it will be jacket time again.

A few days ago, while walking around the lakes at EDH Town Center, a woman stopped me to comment on my wooden walking stick. I told her I was somewhat obsessed with walking sticks and used to have a fairly large collection before I gave them all away when I retired. She said her husband, who had joined us by then sporting a handsome hand-crafted walking stick, made walking sticks when they lived in Sedona. She said he made the one he was carrying out of Sedona hardwood. We discussed walking sticks and the beauty of Sedona for a while and then went our separate ways.
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On My Walk Through Town Center.

We had a small but raucous birthday party for Dick (Uncle Mask) on Thursday night.
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After the blowing out of the candles and the opening of presents, the evening ended in a long discussion about SWAC’s murderous brother-in-law who, along with another 6000 convicts, will be released from prison next month due to the Kings clemency in celebration of his ascension to the Throne of Thailand. The brother-in-law, who was also the mayor of the village before his murder conviction, has promised revenge upon SWAC’s family. Among the 8 or so killings for which he was suspected were the murder of his wife (SWAC’s sister) and SWAC’s brother a local cop. He blames her family for his imprisonment. Once, I arrived in that town a day after the Mayor’s opponent in the election was killed in front of the house I was to stay at.

Two days ago, I received my new hearing aids. While I am sure others have had similar experiences, I marvel at mine so far. I hear things I have not heard for 15 or 20 years — the rustle of some small critter in the brush as I walk by; the constant screech of birds unseen in the trees; the annoying clack of my walking stick as it strikes the pavement; the rumble of automobiles off in the distance. The soundscape fills my consciousness just like my visual environment does. As I take my morning walk, I sometimes just stand on the path swinging my head about trying to catch whatever made the most recent sound to capture my attention. I know the novelty will cease as soon as I get comfortable with my new ears, but it is all a pretty cool experience while it lasts.

 

B. A BRIEF TRIP TO SAN FRANCISCO

On Saturday, I decided for my mental health to split from the golden hills and spend the weekend in SF.

I stopped in Folsom to have breakfast at IHOP. After breakfast, as I was walking back to my car, I was surprised by HRM tapping me on the shoulder. He told me that he, Dick, and HRM’s friend Jake had just arrived for breakfast. So, I returned to the restaurant for some coffee and conversation.

After they finished eating we left and I resumed my trip. It took me four hours of driving to cover the 120 miles from Folsom to Peter’s house in San Francisco.

At Peter’s, I had some more coffee and conversation with him and Barrie. She then left to monitor the Swim to Alcatraz event at her swim club on the Bay. Peter and I drove to a relatively new French restaurant in the overly gentrified Noe Valley for a late lunch and more coffee and conversation.
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Peter and I at Lunch

The next day, Peter and I left early and drove to Bernie’s. We met Don there and sat on the Old Men’s Bench in front of Bernie’s for coffee and conversation. Three old men in straw hats sitting on a bench reminiscing and telling stories. Then it was time to go. I left them to walk back home along 24th Street and got into my car for my drive back to EDH. It took only two and a half hours to drive back. That pleased me.

Coffee and Conversation — the glue that holds society together.

 

C. BACK IN THE GOLDEN HILLS:

I returned and resumed my daily swim in the health club pool, one half of my usual 30 or 40 minutes swimming laps and the other half running back and forth across the pool.
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The Blue Bullet-Head at the Pool

I have begun to get used to my hearing aids. The rustling of the bushes, clack of the birds and rumble of traffic now simply background noise. It’s a shame really. But, like traveling to some transcendentally beautiful spot on your bucket list and dreaming about living there, if you did live there, the beauty of the place would disappear from your awareness soon enough. Most likely, you’ll stop to enjoy the view less often than you look at television and certainly much less than you look at your smartphone. Sooner or later, you’d probably start dreaming about being someplace else.

When I take my hour-long morning walk around the lakes in Town Center, I always walk widdershins. Some of the other walkers I meet regularly walk widdershins also, while others walk clockwise. I noticed that, like me, those that walk widdershins always do so as do those walking clockwise. I assume there is a generalization that can be drawn from these observations. I also assume any such generalization would not be significant. Nevertheless, since I do not have earphones pumping loud music or the sound of someone reading a breathlessly suspenseful novel into my ears, I ponder things like this as I walk along. I am sure whatever the generalization is, it is more significant than “people are creatures of habit” and less significant than the fact that the rotation of the earth causes the water to swirl clockwise in the northern hemisphere when you flush your toilet.

 

 

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

 

There was a time in my life when my daughter Jessica and I used to fly every year during the autumn to London for the theatrical season. We would also attend the New York theater season as well. Nevertheless, the sheer breadth of the offerings in London and the excellence of the acting were incomparable.

We attended the opening of Le Miserables and were left teary-eyed and at a loss for words. Of course, at the time, a number of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals were always running. We saw the opening of Starlight Express there.

Cats and the Phantom of the Opera we saw in New York. In New York, we usually got the box over the stage. During the performance of Cats,( Jessica was about eight years old at the time), we were surprised by a panel opening in the wall behind us. An actress dressed as a cat emerged, slinking out and crawling along the rim of the box. The cat meowed and encouraged Jessica to pet her. Jessica was thrilled.

In London, two shows stand out in my memory. One, Pirandello’s Henry IV with that aging Enfant terrible Richard Harris in a stunning performance left us breathless. The other memorable production was the musical Return to the Forbidden Planet. It was a musical spoof on the movie Forbidden Planet that starred Leslie Nielsen during his early years as an action hero before he discovered he could make more money as a goof-ball.

The musical featured a host of 1950 and 1960 Rock and Roll tunes including “Mr. Spaceman,” ”Monster Mash,” “Great Balls of Fire”. “Johnny B. Goode,” “Telstar,” “Good Vibrations,” “A Teenager in Love,” “Who’s Sorry Now?”, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “Only the Lonely,” “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and many others. By the end, everyone in the theater, including us, were dancing in the aisles and some even had climbed onto the stage to dance with the actors.

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

 

100,000 BP (Before Present):

As the last Ice Age impacts the world lowering sea level and leaving vast areas that were submerged now accessible, the diet of Homo sapiens began to include fish and seafood. Some scientists theorize that fish oil was key to the growth of the brain of Homo sapiens. Evidence suggests that no other hominids such as Neanderthals, who had been well established in Europe since at least 500,000 years before present, ate fish. (See Broadhurst, 2001.)

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

A. Peter on Top:

Peter’s observations on Bill’s comments regarding my tendency to rant when under stress:

Five minutes and a candy bar would take care of the rants — except for the recently arrived young man who, after ten days at the old SCC sadly admitted that although the work and situation and your leadership were exciting, he just couldn’t put up with the Rants, notwithstanding your inevitable rapid return to calm and humor and no recriminations within minutes. Dennis and the rest of us knew better.

My response:

The rants were my way of releasing anxiety. To Southern Italian-Americans from NY, this was a fairly normal reaction to stress. It got the fear out of our systems before we did something really foolish.

Eventually, I realized I had to do something about the pain I was causing innocent people like the young man. So, after several profitable, if not especially rewarding years with various law firms, I got my analyst to prescribe happy pills for me. They made me more mellow but absolutely worthless. I was then faced with the choice between stopping the pills and remaining a raving but successful asshole or continuing with them and becoming a benign parasite. I chose the latter. I feel much better for the choice.

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

One wonders if pursuant to Quantum Mechanics, the Big Bang is simply consciousness observing The Singularity.

And, if like me, you question the existence of God or a supreme consciousness, then do you wonder if our understanding of consciousness or observation is faulty?
C. Today’s Poem:

In the desert, I saw a creature, naked, bestial, who, squatting upon the ground,

Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it. I said, “Is it good, friend?” “It is bitter—bitter,” he answered; “But I like it Because it is bitter, And because it is my heart.”

Stephen Crane, The Black Riders, and Other Line

 

D. Aftermath:

The following is an email from a friend of the Old Sailor describing life on St. Johns after the hurricane.

the whole island is a Catastrophic mess…
it is really hard to believe…
Just trying to save things for now… there are 5 of us living together…eating well & sharing laughs…
Putting on different meaning on what’s important in life…definitely roughing it…taking one day at a time…will move back to town once they get power…& need a roofing on 2 cottages…
Will stay in touch the best I can..

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

From my daughter Dr. Jessica E. Petrillo Ph.D.

I am a Ph.D. virologist. I was always interested in why things work; the opportunities I had through school enriched my love of science. I pursued a Ph.D. in Virology not to study one aspect of one virus — but to gain the skills and understanding to help make real what science is: for the people, by the people. I have had the amazing good fortune to do just that. For the past eight years, I have used my scientific knowledge and training in critical thinking, strategic planning, and communication to promote global health security in unique and innovative ways. This is my investment in the future — for all people. My hope is that today folks take a moment to embrace science as one of the many facets (creativity, annoyance, beauty, work) that makes us… us, and that makes life… life. From star wars to soap bubbles, baking to basketball we are scientists at heart.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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Sunrise over the Foothills

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: July to September 2017, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 2 Papa Joe 0006 (September 21, 2017)

 

 

Pee Wee Herman is the metaphor for our generation — a happy life in a children’s playhouse exposed in the dark theater of history.

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RICHARD McCARTHY AND ANN VITA.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

I have settled back into life in the golden hills — Drive HRM to school, have Breakfast at Bella Bru Cafe, a three-mile walk around the lakes in Town Center, and an hour or two exercising and swimming at the health club. After lunch, I return to the house and secrete myself in my room reading or what-have-you until it is time to pick up HRM again. Evenings are the most difficult times.

The doctor has given me some additional medicines to bolster my happy pills and to assist me in gaining back some of the weight I have lost. I think it is too strong because it makes me tired all the time and even more dizzy when I stand up suddenly.

Things at the house in EDH have descended into a series of grimaces, silences and feigned ignoring of one another’s presence. Meanwhile, I continue to plan for whatever comes next while HRM slowly descends back into the emotional vortex from which Richard and I thought we had rescued him. On the other hand, he is on the brink of teenager-hood.

One day, on a Sunday, I believe, Stevie and Norbert came by to take me to lunch and to accompany them to Lone Buffalo Winery near Auburn to pick up their wine club wines. I had been feeling a little down and it was good to see them and do something other than hanging around the house of the health club.

We had lunch at an outside table at the Bistro, a slightly upscale restaurant in Town Center. Perhaps the lethargy I felt for the past week was due to a new medicine my doctor prescribed. Anyway, I was not much of a lunch companion. After lunch, we traveled to the winery and picked up the wine. They returned me to The house in EDH where I ate a dinner of leftovers with HRM while the adults sat down for a formal dinner. It was sort of a Dickensonian experience.

 

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

 

Red Sails in the Sunset

It was autumn in Paris. We walked down Rue de Grenelle on the left bank, my arm around her shoulders. She wore a long checkered coat. We stopped to look into the window of a shop selling antique playing and tarot cards. I pulled her towards me. We kissed. We were very much in love. We stood there arms entwined gazing at one another. She was very beautiful.

That was the point when, last night, I realized I had been dreaming. I could feel myself being pulled away into wakefulness. My dream me cried out. I, however, felt no tears. I lay there in bed the rest of the night unable to get back to sleep. It had been like a reverse nightmare, waking up was the horror.

The whole thing reminded me of a poem I had written many years ago when I was much younger and living in Rome. I fancied myself a poet then (more a lifestyle than a profession). I lived in a small pensione on the top floor of a building on a side street just off via Nationale across from St Paul’s within the Walls, the major American Protestant Church in Rome. In the evenings, I would sit in my room by the open window and listen to the then love of my life, practice on the piano in the church rectory where she lived having been sent there by her exceedingly wealthy Danish parents to study music at The National Academy of St. Cecilia in Rome. She was exceptionally beautiful, an accomplished musician, a doper and a bit of a groupie, especially attracted to bass fiddle jazz musicians with lots of hair.

Eventually, her family felt she was spending too much time with a certain Italian-American drifter and called her back from Rome to marry someone more appropriate. She is now Chairman of the Board of a major subsidiary of the family’s shipping empire. Sic transit Gloria.
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Anne Moller

In Rome during the late 60s, I hung out with a group of ex-pat would be poets none of whom ever made it as poets (one became a high school teacher in Santa Rosa) and a few con-man who also to my knowledge never made whatever it was they were hoping to make. In ex-pat communities world over, there are always a lot of those on the con. How much less interesting would the world be if there were no cons and no grifters to fashion them.

Movies often tend to make the grifters happy-go-lucky sociopaths, sometimes even with a heart of gold. Although they smiled a lot, most of the sociopaths I knew were anything but happy go lucky and as for their hearts, it was far more likely they were lined with lead.

The poem itself was part of a lengthy piece most of which I no longer recall. It was lost many years ago along with all my other attempts at turning doggerel if not into gold at least into something useful like molybdenum. Pretentious Imagist drivel, it went like this:

The wanderer travels not by hook
But sprawled upon the empty tides
Of fairy world and real
And the sham cult darkness lie that was
Yet will not be
Marks its passage on nothing
But cognition.

The entire poem ended with perhaps one of the more tragic images in all of literature, “Red sails returning.” The image comes from the story of Tristan of Lyoness and Iseult (Isolde) an Irish princess.
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Tristan, before embarking from Cornwall on his latest war in Ireland, promised his beloved Isolde (Iseult), that upon his ships’ return, if he were still alive, he would unfurl his white sails but, had he died, his men would put up red ones.

Upon word of the ship’s approach to the harbor, Isolde sent her handmaid to the top of the tower to report what she sees. Tristan, still alive, orders his men to unfurl the white sails. Unfortunately, the sun was setting at just that moment causing the sails to blaze a bright red.

When the maid returned from the tower, Isolde asked her the color of the sails. “Red” she answered not knowing the significance of her response. So, in sorrow and despair, Isolde killed herself as did Tristan when he discovered his beloved’s body.

I always have envied Tristan in part because, as far as I know, there have been very few people who longed for my return even when I just only left the room.

It should be noted, there are several versions of the Tristan tale many of them that differ substantially from what I have described. In some, it is Tristan who dies after mistaking the color of the sails on Isolde’s returning boat. In a few, the colors of the sails were white and black. In others, the Isolde waiting in the castle in Cornwall was not the beloved Isolde, but Isolde of the White Hands, T’s wife who was waiting for him in Brittany. It seems that while T and the beloved Isolde were playing hide the salami, she was married to Mark the King who was also T’s boss. Eventually, the lovers agreed T would go away because, in part, they both liked Mark the King and felt bad about what they were doing, but mostly because Mark the King was the King and if he found out what they were doing he would cut off their heads as well as other important parts of their body. So T left and married the white-handed Isolde because he liked her name and she had a castle near the water.

Frankly, when T returned from his slaughter of his Irish kinsmen and found white-handed Isolde dead due to a mistaken perception, he really was not too broken up about it.

There are also many versions of how T died. Some have him poisoned, probably by a jealous husband, and others have him chopped to bits in the midst of one of his ethnic cleansing jobs. I, on the other hand, believe he died in a bar fight with some lesbian bikers in Pocatello Idaho.
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DAILY FACTOID:

“Remarkably, you can take this information—which describes the order of the bonds of guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine to a sugar and phosphate group—and plug it into a machine that will recreate the DNA by dripping nucleobases one by one into a solution.”

“Researchers have e-mailed text files across the Internet, uploaded them to DNA replicators, and then dropped the DNA copy into “blank” cells, which have then started up and become identical versions of the original organism.”
Mayne, Andrew. The Naturalist (The Naturalist Series Book 1) (p. 72). Thomas & Mercer.

(Can this be true?)

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

A. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

A corporate CEO can best be described as a person exhibiting dynamic and imperious behavior set in an imaginary universe.

 

B. Today’s Poem:

Centre of the Universe

Every dawn as you open your eyes
objects
are awake
this lamp
this book
this flask of tea
this desk and pencil and matchbox
these are the center of the universe
gathered in a house that doesn’t belong to you
Iraj Ziayi — born in 1949 in Rasht, north of Iran. His family moved to Talesh, a small town on the Caspian Sea when he was 4 and Iraj spent his childhood in a beautiful environment surrounded by forest, mountain, and sea. His family later moved to Isfahan where Iraj went to high school and joined ‘Jong-e Isfahan’ circle, a group of influential writers and poets.

 

C. Comments on past issues of T&T:

 

1. From Bill.

Wow, Joe, you have really mellowed. I started reading your screed about the coastal program expecting a good Petrilloish rant. There was not even a four-letter word. I am most grateful to you that you thought, based on my law school journal summary of the ’76 Coastal Act, that I might know “what the fuck the Coastal Commission was supposed to do” after the passage of the ’76 Act. You downplay your immense contribution to the protection of California’s coast at that critical transition from the Prop 20 coastal program to the ’76 Coastal Act in your brief summary. You were the perfect creative personality to ramp up the Coastal Conservancy. You were bold and aggressive when taking risks were essential to launching a conservancy program. There are several places on this coast that under your leadership the Conservancy helped restore and enhance — not to mention some of the ill-advised, short-sighted development proposals that the Conservancy purchased and reconfigured and somehow got approval from the Coastal Commission that you helped to transform. (Not that you were always pleasant to deal with at that time in your career or life.) I am most grateful for the start you gave me and the trust you had in my abilities as you helped me get my foot in the door at the Coastal Commission. Despite your impatience with those of us who did not get your brilliance at times, you are one of the most creative individuals I have ever known or worked with. You are also one of a handful of individuals that made the difference during that transitioning era. It was a good run. Thank you.
My Response.

Thank you. I need to point out, however, that your lifetime commitment to the environment and the success of your endeavors put my meager contributions in their shadow.

3. From Harvey.

Had to take time from this once in a lifetime experience to say: “There will never be another ‘Knights’ tale that comes close to the original! The ‘Heaven’ gathering was a sham, the names unimaginative, the events uninspiring & nothing more than a sequel- and they all turn out the same!”. And it’s old news!
Back to the important stuff.

 

3. From Ruth:

Was that really your last trip to Thailand? Hard for me to imagine. I remember your anticipation of your first trip and what a thrill it turned out to be. How will you amuse yourself instead? And what about the people there?–which reminds me that I never found out the actual name of the woman you refer to as “the little masseuse.” She’s a person, Joe, not an object–at least I hope she’s not just an object to you. She must have a name.

 

My Response.

It is an old Sicilian tradition to give people “nicknames.” We think it personalizes the person more than the name of the particular saint they were burdened with at baptism. Most of the nicknames were not necessarily demeaning (e.g., Nicholas [cockeyed Nick] Rattini, a mob boss of my youth). In Thailand, almost no one uses their given name, often adopting different names depending on circumstances. Anyway, her given name is Kesorn. An attractive name, but one that tells nothing about her.

 

4. From Peter.

Glad you survived the trip back from Thailand. Clearly, your vividly descriptive saga is publishable via this era’s document replacing The Lost Planet. Try to get it out there: “The Blog of Nightmare Travel” or sumpin like that. I expect it will generate much uproar in the travel world, even invitations to go on Weekend Update. I can almost feel the combined exhaustion, fury, frustration, and yet the perverse “anthropologist’s fascination,” re the latter, especially the phenomenon of someone, in each of the successive dreary situations unfolding, suddenly materializing amidst the confusion and escorting you precisely to your desired but to you invisible next point in the journey — hotel, plane. Could be a take-off on The Odyssey: Odysseus Petrillo making his way past the sirens, cyclops, and all those other chapters/stanzas — can’t remember them, I’m 78 – after much Sturm und Drang, back to, not Athens, but EDH!

 

More Peter.

These days I do my own version of walking: As I did several years ago first time recovering from hip surgery, walking up and down the hall every hour. Today, for the first time since the surgery on Aug. 8, I ventured out, making it to Bernie’s and back home without mishap, not really needing the cane but having in case. Thus, the wonders of the “anterior approach” to hip replacement, which avoids slicing and dicing the muscle groups thus resulting in a quicker surgical procedure, out of the hospital in a day, and recovery expected in 4-6 weeks instead of 12 weeks. This approach was in use in Paris, France 60 years ago, and is only now in regular use here within the past few years. Guess the wonder years of America’s Golden Age are long past.

 

D. From the Old Sailor on the Death of his Friend Augie.

to be part of his journey has been an adventure…
to be part of his life has been a priceless gift…
there is no perfect life…
but we fill in with perfect moments…
death leaves a heartache
no one can heal;
love leaves a memory
no one can steal.
saying goodbye to a loved one is
surely one of life’s most difficult
tasks. there are no words powerful
enough, no music soothing enough,
to ease the pain at a time like this.

I shall miss my dear friend Augie, from whom I’ve learned so much. But I
know his life could not have been fuller, and I draw comfort knowing he died on his
own terms with courage, grace, and dignity. None of us could ask for more.
Good life, good death through control and choice.
I loved Augie not because of who he was, but because of who I was when I was with
him…to the world he may be only one person, but to me, he was the world…
maybe God wants us to meet a few wrong people before meeting the right one,
so that when we finally meet the person, we will know how to be grateful.

I don’t want to cry because it is over, let me smile because it happened…~Sylvia

born May 15th, 1930 transition on January 20th, 2016

Great guy. Friend. Of. Hari. Donut. ,, Hawaii

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
—T. E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

 

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:
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TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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Taken by the Original Bill Gates on His Bucket List Trip to Africa this Month.

 

 

 

Categories: July to September 2017, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 2 Shadow 0006 (June 22, 2017)

 

 

“Almost everyone would be rich if great wealth came to people from hard work.”
(Someone, I do not know who)

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SACILE, TAMAI, AND VENICE:

 

Sacile and Tamai

On Saturday, Vittorio and Teacher Brian intend to go off on a 30 hiking pilgrimage from France, through the Pyrenees Mountains, and across northern Spain to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela a journey of about 500 miles. Their friend Marco decided to hold a bon-voyage party for them at his house.

Both Vittorio and Brian are accomplished hikers. Vittorio hikes 20 kilometers several mornings a week. Brian, an American originally from South Dakota, who now teaches physics and other sciences to high school students at the nearby American military base (hence the nickname Teacher), has an interesting back story about his commitment to hiking. When he was a young man serving in the military he was diagnosed with a large growth in his lower spine. After its surgical removal, it was feared he could never walk again. But he did and now hikes regularly through the Veneto plain and the pre-alps.

Anyway, we gathered at Marco’s for the party. I was pleased to see Professor Hank and his wife there. He is a professor (hence the nickname) of economics at a college in New Jersey and used to teach the same at the military base. Like Teacher Brian, he and his wife have a home in Sacile and spend summers there.

The dinner, in good Italian style, lasted from 7:30 when we arrived and until 1 AM when we left. It began with Prosecco, moved through Thai main courses (Vitorio’s wife and several other people there are Thai) and finished off with Italian pastry, sweets, liqueurs and cherries marinated in grappa. It was a truly multi-cultural meal.
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Professor Hank, a thoughtful gentle man whose company I find extremely enjoyable. As usual, when he and I get together, we talked about many things including the possibility next summer of he and I traveling together to visit his friend who lives in Marshall Tito’s old villa on the Ischia coast of Croatia. Thereafter we would take the ferry to Bari and tour Calabria, his wife’s birthplace. After that, I could go on by train to Sicily and visit Antonio and my family before setting off to Thailand. This excited me because I had hoped to take a similar trip this year but had to cancel it because I had not yet fully recovered from my treatment.

 

Venice

On Monday I set off to Venice. I wanted to see how the Biennale exhibits had changed since I visited there almost two years ago.

Although I visit it often, Venice is not my favorite city. Perhaps, it is because of having read Thomas Mann or seen the movie made from his book. Perhaps, I am terrorized by people who creep about at night in masks and garish costumes. Perhaps, it is the signage for the route back to the train station that always seems to lead me through a section of the city I had never visited before, usually, one that I never even knew existed, and lose me there (this visit was no different). But mostly I think, it is because I have never eaten a good meal in that city. Despite whatever it is that puts me off, I still find myself returning again and again and happy I did so.
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Back in Sacile and Tamai

The rest of the week included trips to the markets, mornings and evenings in the cafe’s talking with Hank, Lucia and others. I marvel at how these few people, Vittorio and Anita, Lucia, Professor Hank and Teacher Brian have become such close and important friends of mine despite having first met them only a few years ago and having visited with them only briefly since. I consider them as close and as dear friends as any I have made in my life.

On my last full day there like my first, I accompanied Vittorio to a nearby town where he marched with his band in a religious procession. Although growing up in Tuckahoe where religious processions were common, I have rarely seen them since then. Along with the procession, the town held a soccer tournament and hosted a dinner beneath a grand tent where I watched some men play “scopa” (a popular Italian card game) well into the evening.

 

B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN ROME:

On Friday, Vittorio drove me to the train station for my five hour trip to Rome. The train ride was uneventful other than when somewhere in the middle, I noticed my suitcase was not where I had left it. After some frantic searching, I found it at the opposite end of the car. The car itself was full of American college students on their way from Venice to Rome so I guessed it had been moved to make room for their mountains of luggage and backpacks. I otherwise dozed, read, or watched the hill town pass by my window. Sometimes, I tried to guess their names and recall if I had ever visited them.

Having lived in Rome for three years back in the late sixties and early seventies, I consider it my home. There are four cities I think of as home; Rome (and Sabina), New York City (and Tuckahoe), San Francisco, and Bangkok. I have lived for a considerable length of time in all of these cities. Whenever I return to any of them, I find myself just as happy sitting quietly or strolling around as I would in some more energetic or social activity; so it was with this trip. I am still too weak and ill for anything more than the briefest of walks. Nevertheless, on Saturday morning I ambled to my beloved Borghese Gardens and sat on a bench near the magnificent Borghese Museum that as usual had sold out its tickets for admission about a week in advance.

I sat where I usually do, on a bench near the accordionist. I have been coming here for about 10 years now and sitting on that bench listening to him play. He bills himself as “The Ukrainian Organist,” but I suspect he is just an ordinary Slavic accordion player. He plays light classical music which I always felt had been written specifically for sunny days in a park with breezes rustling the leaves of the trees, filtering the sunlight and dappling the ground in shadow or destined to be stolen by some modern musical comedy composer caught in a momentary lack of inspiration. Today alas, he, the musician, seemed distracted. He’d play only a few bars of a piece before jumping on to another. Even his piece de resistance the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach(what the phantom of the opera plays in his grotto under the Opera House whenever he has agita) seemed forlorn and discordant — at least, more so than it usually sounds.

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The “Ukrainian Organist” at the Borghese Gardens

On Sunday my delightful cousin, Federica picked me up at my accommodation in the Castro Pretoria section of Rome. She first drove us to the “Quartiere Coppede a fantastical mix of Ancient Greek, Roman Baroque, Mannerist, Medieval, and, overall, Art Nouveau mixture created by the mostly forgotten architect Coppedè in 1919.
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Fede and Pookie Footloose in Rome.

After that, we drove out to Sabina where we had a great lunch with her parents and another cousin Andrea.

Lunch was the typical 3 or more hour affair. It began with kisses and hugs all around followed by the antipasto. I do not recall all the ingredients included in the antipasto but I remember fried zucchini and potatoes, tomato and peppers (or perhaps just red peppers) and olive oil on a lightly baked breaded cracker of some sort, I think. Small mozzarella balls, mixed vegetables, and cantaloupe with Parma ham. The pasta course contained cold Ziti (?) mixed with vegetables. Then we had turkey involtini and a salad. A fruit compote followed by ice cream cake (chocolate) made up the dessert —followed, of course, by coffee. This was all accompanied by interesting conversation and a very good chilled white wine that I, unfortunately, was unable to drink more than a sip.

We also spent some time looking at old family photographs and watching the finals of LeMans on television. (Andrea is service manager for Ferrari and had a professional interest)
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The Cousins and me

After the lunch, Fede drove me back to Rome and the next day I set off for Thailand.

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

Recently my daughter, who is a scientist herself, expressed her concern about the anti-science mania rampant in our body politic. For example, there is distrust of the findings of almost every scientist who has produced a peer reviewed article regarding climate change. Not only is this response unscientific it is irrational as well. What is the down side to moving to renewables and lowering our carbon footprint? Even if all these scientists were ultimately proved wrong we still would have a better world.

The issue is financial and political, the understandable reluctance of those few individuals and institutions who believe they own the wealth of hydrocarbons yet untapped to surrender their prospective fortunes. But who owns the billions of years of accumulated sunlight trapped in the ground— certainly not those few. At best, they have a revocable contract to invest their funds in extracting those resources in exchange for a reasonable return on their investment. It is not a scientific issue.

There is a similar negative and unscientific reaction also to things like GM crops. GM is merely a more efficient and safer method of improving crops than the radiation method we have been using for the last 100 years. Yes, there is probably not a single bite of food that you eat today that has not been genetically modified. Almost anything conceivable produced by GM can be produced by other means, but probably not as efficiently at this time.

The problem is not a question science or safety, but of adequate regulation and those who would subvert that regulation. Nevertheless, there remains those who are fearful of putting their safety in the hands of others and try instead to stop or deny the science. Although, I for one having been intimately involved in difficult regulation from all vantage points, am sympathetic with their concern, nevertheless, I believe the worst of all options is to try to halt the growth of knowledge through Luddite over-reaction.

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Remember,” he said to the two beloved faces crowding the carriage window. “No drinking out of wet glasses. No betting on slow horses. No—” The jokes died in his throat. “Oh, Jesus God Christ, what am I going to do without the two of you?” He turned away, bleak with loss.
Delaney, Frank (2009-10-13). Ireland: A Novel (p. 226). HarperCollins.

 

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:
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The interesting thing to note about this chart is that almost all the non-stressful careers are in engineering and are relatively highly paid, while most of the highly stressful jobs are dangerous or low paying or both. So, one would think, if you are young and looking for a career you should head off to engineering school.

 

Alas, here in America over the last score or so of years, we have been closing our engineering schools or being forced to fill them with students from other countries. Yes, the continued health of our modern technological society depends on the despised immigrants. Apparently modern white American males shun the hard work required to earn an engineering degree. And yes again, engineering in America has been often seen as a male only profession. Perhaps, it is the time that American woman should be encouraged to flood the remaining engineering schools and begin taking over this sector of our economy. Obviously, the men find it too difficult. Maybe, that well-represented tee-shirt slogan should be amended to read: “A woman’s place is in the House, Senate and in engineering school.”

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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The Mormons believe Native-Americans are descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel. Anthropologists argue over whether they are descended from East-Asian immigrants to the continent, or Central-Asian or even European. Some Native-American religions believe they are descended from those who migrated through a hollow log or a long deep cave. I believe, however, that by studying the noble noses of some these dignified and proud people one can only conclude that they are Italian.

 

 

 

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This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 30 JoJo 0006 (June 16, 2017)

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN TRANSIT:

The last few days before leaving on a trip are usually part of the voyage itself, even if, like me, you just fuss and fume about not doing anything to prepare. A few days before departure, I did manage to throw some clothes and medicines into a suitcase.

Usually, I have no anxiety about going on a trip — no matter how long and arduous it may be. This time, however, I was apprehensive. Perhaps, it is because of the state of my health or maybe it is my age. In any event, whenever I think about my travels this summer an indefinite shadow of concern rattles around the back of my mind.

On Wednesday evening, Dick drove me to Sacramento Airport for my overnight flight to New York. After saying goodbye to him and to HRM, I walked into the airport. I decided to act the part of a bent and befuddled and creepy old man. An easy task since I am, in fact, a bent and befuddled and creepy old man. So, leaning heavily on my imitation black thorn shillelagh cane, I stumbled around and forced everyone to repeat whatever they tell me twice. I did this because I thought it would help me get assigned better seating and boarding preference (it did), and also because many, many years ago when introduced to “method” acting one of the exercises was to stumble around like an old man. Now that I am an old man, I thought it would be interesting to see how accurate we had been. It was great fun.

In New York, I managed to spend a bleary-eyed day at Kennedy Airport waiting for my flight to Milan. It doesn’t matter how old, bent and befuddled you may be, in New York they will still tell you to “go fuck yourself” or the like if your responses are too slow.

No matter how tiring and uncomfortable traveling may be, especially by airplane, there is usually something interesting to watch. That is probably because unlike passing strangers on a street or in a restaurant, on a plane or waiting around an airport boarding area you are involved in a short term community and with people with similar goals— to survive the trip.

While waiting in New York’s Kennedy Airport at what I thought was the correct gate, I noticed that the boarding area across from me was fitted out with tables and chairs decorated as though a party was going to be held soon. Waiters spread out among the other gates in the area offering everyone free fruit juice. Soon strangely dressed people began to drift in outfitted in various odd costumes usually including a strong dose of sequins. It all began to resemble a Fellini film. Then the star of the show arrived. At least I think it was the star since almost everyone in sequins and some without would come over to her, smile and then kiss and hug her. She was about six feet two inches tall with one of those tight skinned expressionless faces like Trump’s wife’s that are the frightening wonders of modern cosmetic surgery (you wonder how and why). Her breasts were out of a porno comic, her butt something that would make JayLo’s appear malnourished and her dress easier described by what it did not cover than what it did.

Anyway, eventually they all gathered at the tables and after about 20 minutes or so of partying and picture taking, they all got up, including the super-star, and marched through the gate marked “Vienna.” So, if you read or hear about anything unusual happening in Austria during the second week in June, I’d love to hear about it

Shortly after the carnival departed, I learned I that I had been waiting at the wrong gate. So, I rushed across the airport to the correct one where I was met by Frank Cozza, an Alitalia employee, who Nikki arranged to take me through security and generally ease my transit. He told me that he had paged me for an hour or more. But, I guess, with my diminished hearing and all the partying, I did not hear it. Frank arranged for me to decompress for a half hour in the first class lounge.

The most interesting thing about the flight was that sitting a few rows from me was about five deaf Italian women who had been visiting the US and were now returning to Italy. Although I cannot read sign, I could understand them easily since I am proficient in Italian facial expressions and hand gestures. In the US and most other places, I guess, signing carries the message with facial and hand gestures used for emphasis. In Italy, or at least among these women, facial expressions and hand gestures carried the message while the signs seemed to be used only for emphasis.

They were loud also. At the luggage carousel, everyone’s eyes were drawn to them as they talked or argued in sign over the various pieces of luggage that trundled by.

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B. TAMIL AND SACILE:

The following day, I arrived in Italy, the land of expressive hands and dramatic noses. Nikki met me as I exited the plane at Malpensa near Milan. He was scheduled to fly a plane to Tokyo in a few hours. We had lunch. I ate spaghetti and lobster. I actually could taste the lobster. Perhaps my taste is returning. Or, perhaps I can only taste things that come packed in their own slime.

Then it was off across northern Italy by train to Sacile where I was met by Vittorio who promptly drove me to a cafe where the two women owners implored me to assist them with drafting their proposal for developing a techie way of assuring artist profits in the face of discount sales. I agreed. At a little after one AM, I finally got to bed following well over two days of traveling with little sleep.
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Sacile

 

At 8 AM the next morning, Vittorio and I drove across the Veneto farmlands toward another town where he was to play in a marching band during a commemoration ceremony for the town’s Alpine troops who died in the two world wars. As we drove, on our right the pre-alps rose above the fertile plain like a Roman shield wall before an assault by the Gauls. It was a lovely day.

Vittorio plays tuba in a number of bands and orchestras in the area. Like with Peter Grenell, who I often follow along to his various gigs, I happily follow Vittorio along to his whenever I am here. I guess I can be viewed as a “geriatric groupie.”
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Vittorio and His Tuba

Vittorio’s band mates and the Alpini veterans all wore their distinctive hats with one stiff erect eagle feather jutting above each. I learned that the dark feathers ment the person had been an enlisted man and the lighter stiff erect eagle feather signified an officer. I could not help noticing that the stiff erect feather of the officers was, on the whole, distinctly smaller than those of the enlisted men’s except for one or two of the officers whose stiff erect feathers were larger than everyone else’s. You may make whatever sociological conclusions from that you want.

Upon our return, we stopped in Sacile for Prosecco at Lucia’s “Le Petite Cafe.” Disney-world is not the happiest place on earth, Lucia’s “Le Petite Cafe” is.
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Lucia and Vittorio at “Le Petite Cafe” in Sacile.

 

Following an afternoon nap, we set off for a bon voyage dinner in honor of Vittorio and Teacher Brian’s impending 30-day walking pilgrimage to Compostela in Spain. But, that is for my next post.

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

 

There is a proposal to privatize the Nation’s air traffic controller system. Air traffic controllers are responsible for airline safety in take offs and landings at the Nation’s airports and the skies around them. In other words, like traffic cops except with more authority and responsibility.

I guess, the first question that comes to mind is how comfortable will passengers be knowing their safety rests in the hands of the lowest bidder on the contract. Will we find ourselves sooner or later hearing a corporate executive of the traffic controllers private company paraphrase that infamous pharmaceutical exec and claim his job is not to assure the safety of the passengers but the profits of the shareholders?

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

 

The Secret of Thai Soap Operas as Revealed by the Little Masseuse:

 

During my weekly massage, my masseuse likes to watch Thai soap operas on television while she administers the various pains and pleasures of her therapy.

Now, as I am sure we all know, soaps are a window into the dark, twisted soul of a society, so it is with Thai soap operas.

To me, all Thai soaps appear to tell the same story and contain the same characters. There is usually the beautiful innocent heroine and another equally beautiful though not so innocent young woman. You can usually tell them apart by their eyebrows. The innocent heroine’s eyebrows are somewhat rounded, while her evil counterparts appear straighter. They are accompanied by two equally attractive young men, one good and the other not so good. Both men are clearly in charge although in general, they are often remarkably oblivious and at times stupid. These four then are supported by a cast of actors and actresses of varying ages often playing family members of the protagonists. There are also one or two comic characters, usually played by ladyboys.

Although the stories are, generally, all the same, their location varies. I have seen Thai soaps set in the homes of the rich, and others in the homes of the poor living beside a klong somewhere. I have also seen them set in grocery stores, health clubs, and farms. Some occur in modern times others in old Siam and still, others are set in times of magic or in some guerrilla campaign somewhere. One, although clearly set in Thailand, had everyone dressed in American cowboy clothing. There was even a western saloon with swinging doors. Ghosts are popular but production values are low.

Anyway, this particular day, the masseuse was watching a soap in which the straight-browed beauty dressed all in black and carried a sword had just done unspeakable things to a group of poor people locked in cages.

Viewing this through my western acclimated eyes that see everything as a conflict between good and evil no matter the atrocities performed by either side, I commented, “She must be the bad girl.”

To which my masseuse responded, “Good or bad, it makes no difference. She is beautiful and everyone cares about her and what she does. If she were not so beautiful no one would give a damn at all about her or anything she does.”
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The Little Masseuse

 

 

CRACKED FACTOID:

 

According to David Wong, who is definitely not an authority on anything, monsters come in two types — those that breed and those that do not. Frankenstein is one of the latter. Once he is dead everyone can go back about their business. The breeders, however, are another matter. Zombies, vampires, and werewolves are breeders. That means, if you come across one of them, you can be reasonably sure there are more of them out there.

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

Life is a maximum security prison in which all the inmates live on Death Row.

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The Young Trenz Pruca

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“The English language needs a word for that feeling you get when you badly need help, but there is no one who you can call because you’re not popular enough to have friends, not rich enough to have employees, and not powerful enough to have lackeys. It’s a very distinct cocktail of impotence, loneliness and a sudden stark assessment of your non-worth to society.”
Wong, David. This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It (John Dies at the End 2) (p. 23). St. Martin’s Press.

English does have a word for it dude. It’s the second word in the phrase “you’re fucked.”

 

 

 

TODAY’S CARTOON:
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TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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Pookie in Tamai, a Child of the Corn.

 

 

 

Categories: April through June 2017, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th.    13 Capt. Coast 0006 (May 2, 2017)

 

“Time erodes events into stories, stories into recollections, recollections into impressions, impressions into vague sensations that eventually dim altogether.”
Pike, J. Zachary. Orconomics: A Satire (The Dark Profit Saga Book 1) (p. 76). Gnomish Press LLC.

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

The sun is out today. Dick and HRM have left for a few days in San Diego. Dick, who is a graduate of the University of San Diego and worked with its administration on several projects over the years, will introduce HRM to some of his friends in the university administration and tour the campus. They also will spend some time with the people developing drone technology there. It sounds like a great trip.

I, on the other hand, remain back in EDH on fish feeding duty. The fish in question, an extremely large goldfish named Sharky, requires special handling and becomes upset when absent human companionship for more than one day.

When not attending to my duties as fish feeder-in-chief and if it is sunny, I wander around EDH town center and sit on the benches overlooking the lake. I look and feel a lot like some old homeless person. Come to think of it, maybe that is exactly what I am.

A couple of weeks have gone by since I wrote the above. The sun is out the weather is warm and I am for the most part feeling better. I have turned my attention to summer plans. I originally intended to drive south of Rome to Puglia and stay in a Trulli house. Then on to Matera and to Sicily to spend a few days at Antonio’s. However, for the first time in my life, I felt that traveling that long alone was beyond me. So, I probably will terminate my Italy portion of the trip at Rome and Sabina. That is unless someone wants to join me and share the costs and the driving.

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In the meantime, I have continued reading book after book waiting for my body to recover from the medical assault on it. I rarely read a book more than once. Most of what I read is not worth it — trash is trash — no need for second helpings. Nevertheless, I decided to reread Stephen King’s magnum opus (It is obviously an opus, but I doubt it is magnum unless that word simply means long.) a seven-volume novel called The Dark Tower (soon to be a major motion picture starring Matt McConaughey and Idris Elba). I decided to read it again because I had first read the 5000-page novel about 10 years ago and was tired of what I had been reading these last few months. Not that it was any less trash than I had been reading, even King who appears as himself in the novel admits that as a writer he is a hack — a very successful hack but a hack none the less. I heard he had penned a new edition so, since I had now and then thought about the novel over the years, I wanted to see what was new.

The most surprising thing was how little of the new edition I recalled from my reading of it so long ago. In fact, it had little in it that I remembered. Either he completely revised it or I did in my imagination.

My mom is rapidly approaching the end of her life. She mostly sleeps now only now and then waking briefly. Still, she remains feisty, fighting off the orderlies when they try to feed her and still trying to get out of bed and get a job. She will be 100 years old in June if she lives that long. My sister disagrees with me about her age. Maryann insists she will be only 99.

TO YOU ALL, LONG DAYS AND PLEASANT NIGHTS.

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

I was going to continue my favorite eras of history with something about the present. How you may ask, can the present be history? Well, since we humans, at least, are post hoc rationalizing creatures, everything is in the past when we perceive it. Quantum theory suggests that it may not even exist until we perceive it. But, science and philosophy aside, the present has become too bizarre and distasteful for me so I will leave it to lie and fester and jump directly into the far future — but not today, that is for another post.

 

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

 

I wrote the following about 5 years ago. Since then my obsession has diminished but not my admiration.

Rumination on an Ashkenazi Theme

Everyone should know a little Yiddish:

Now, why you might ask would it be important for we goyim to learn a few words of Yiddish? Well, besides the fact that many of these words are already common and well-integrated into English, there is another reason as well. You see, some languages have many words that essentially describe what a non-speaker would imagine being the same thing. For example, 200 words or so for snow or a hundred and fifty words for a camel’s hoof. Yiddish enriches English because it contains hundreds of words to describe human foibles. Even when it ostensibly refers to a thing like a knickknack, the Yiddish word “tchotchke” seems to say more about the observer and the owner than about the object itself.

Many people have the mistaken notion that Yiddish is a Jewish language like Hebrew. True it was spoken primarily by Jews. However unlike Hebrew which until the establishment of the state of Israel served as the “religious” or “intellectual” language of most Jews; much like Latin was used in western Europe until the last century, Yiddish generally was spoken by only one of the major branches of the Jewish Diaspora. That branch, known as the Ashkenazi were those Jews who lived primarily in eastern Europe and originally included Northern France until various pogroms forced them further east. Like the Kurds of today, they were a nation without a land of their own. Until the 19th century, most Jews spoke a pastiche of Aramaic, Hebrew and the indigenous language of the place they were living at the time. The roots of Yiddish are primarily German with Aramaic and Hebrew influences. It also includes words and expressions from several Slavic languages in varying degrees depending upon where the speakers lived. There are several different “Yiddish dialects” including that spoken as the official language in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the Russian far east near Vladivostok. Its capital is Birobidzhan. The First Birobidzhan International Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Culture was launched in 2007.

Ashkenazi Dreams:

Yiddish developed among the Ashkenazi, one of the three main branches of Judaism. The other two being the Sephardim (primarily originating on the Iberian peninsula) and the Mizrahim comprising most of the others. The Sephardim and the Mizraim, if they spoke it at all, did not speak Yiddish as their mother tongue as did many of the Ashkenazi before emigrating to the US.

They all more or less can trace their patrimonial heritage through the male Y chromosome to a single individual living somewhere in the middle east about 5000 years ago, about the time when Abraham was reputed to have lived. A recent study of the Cohen, the traditional priestly class descended from Aaron, Moses’ brother, using DNA from males with that surname worldwide, indicates that most of them are descended from a middle eastern male alive about 3000 years ago; about the time the Bible indicates that Moses and Aaron lived. Given that several hundred years of the most intensive archeological investigation in the world, while turning up scads of evidence of the other Peoples and nations mentioned in the Bible, failed to turn up much evidence at all of Jewish history older than somewhere between 200 and 600 BC, it is remarkable that modern genetics has been able to confirm at least this part of the story. (Not that it proves that Abraham, Moses, and Arron actually existed, but it does confirm that during those times there was in all likelihood some horny goat-herd in the Near East busy shtupping a shikse or two thereby giving birth not only to the great Jewish nation but, in all likelihood, a significant portion of the population of the entire Mediterranean basin. I guess it could fairly be observed that Arron wielded a mighty rod.)
The Ashkenazi male line descends primarily through southern Italian and Sicilian Jews who migrated into Northern Europe about 400-600 AD to escape persecution by the newly dominant Christians. Genetically Southern Italians and Sicilians and the Ashkenazi appear to be closer related to each other than to most of the rest of trans-mountain Europe. Unlike the other branches of Judaism, the Ashkenazi seem to have picked up a small but strong Central-Asian component primarily from the Caucuses and the area around the Caspian Sea, the ancestral home of the Khazar’s, the almost legendary medieval Jewish empire.

On the matrilineal side DNA testing shows that although there is strong evidence of middle eastern origins among the women, there is significantly more evidence of non-middle eastern origins than among the men (Again with the shikses.)

Among the Ashkenazi, there is a high incidence of Tay-Sachs an inherited and inevitably fatal disease. The Sephardim and the Mizrahim seem to have no greater incidence of the disease than the general population, an indication that the effects of natural selection and genetic drift happen quite rapidly and do not require the eons that mutations take to be reflected in a population. The Tay-Sachs’ discovery may have revealed another startling fact, that the genes causing Tay-Sachs may be related to those controlling for intelligence. * Based on standard IQ testing as much as 20% of the Ashkenazi score 120 or higher, scoring higher in verbal and mathematical elements and lower in spatial than the general population (in other words, great scientists, and writers but lousy athletes). In the general population, the average is about 4-5% including for the Sephardim and Mizrahim. It is not so hard to guess why that is the case. The Christian pogroms and prohibitions against land owning for the Jews and against charging interest for the Christians coupled with high literate demands of the rabbinate made those excelling in abstract thought high-quality breeders so to speak.

On the other hand, among the Christian West, strangely enough, those who were most literate were prohibited from breeding. From the fall or the Roman empire until the success of the Protestant revolt, for the most part, the most literate of the Western Christians were forced into the clergy where, unless they were Popes or Cardinals, they were strongly discouraged from breeding.

Instead, we placed our genetic basket on the shoulders of homicidal maniacs whose claim to fame was their preternatural ability to take someone else’s technology and turn it into a more highly efficient means of slaughter.

As luck would have it, due to the plague almost wiping us out, and our short-term tendency to compensate by breeding like rabbits, coupled with our forced procreation of prescient psychopaths equipped with proficient killing machines and a resistance to disease, we in the West were able to conquer the world. Hooray for us.

*Note: Contrary evidence for the genetic connection between Tay-Sachs and a certain type of intelligence is provided by the fact that the Irish appear also to be prone to the disease. On the other hand, perhaps the Hibernians were one of the lost tribes of Israel like the American Indians and just about everyone else, except for the Mormons, who never get lost.

So what’s it to me?

Some of you have inquired about my fascination with Judaism given that I am goyim and all that. Actually is in not Judaism that fascinates me but the Ashkenazi. The Ashkenazi used to be a sizable stateless nation in eastern Europe that barely escaped annihilation. It now has a state of its own in the Near East that exists under the extreme stress of annihilation. Many of the surviving descendants of the original Ashkenazi not living in the Near East now live in the US.

I used to think that my fascination was because my great great grandmother was Jewish (and given mathematics of human generation, whose wasn’t somewhere along the line). Her family (named Tau) was from somewhere in Austria. In the early 1800s, they left Austria, probably under the pressure of one pogrom or another and could not afford the ticket to the US, and settled in a tiny Italian hill town named Roccantica in the then Papal States. Go figure.

More recently, however, as I read about the newest advances in genetic analysis of population migration over time, I was fascinated to learn that the modern Ashkenazi, at least on the male side, were primarily descended from Sicilian and Southern Italian Jews who migrated to Northern Europe to escape the emerging dominance of Christianity during the latter stages of the Roman Empire.

I recall looking at a photograph of my maternal Sicilian grandparents. In the photograph, both my grandfather and grandmother were photographed separately. He, with his tightly curled blond hair, long narrow nose and wispy blond mustache, appeared to be one of those Sicilians descended from either the Normans or later French settlers who bequeathed their blond hair and surnames to their descendants (Cigna and Gallo common Sicilian surnames and my mother’s name Corsello appear to be examples). However, my grandmother, a DeFalco, was different. Her photograph always fascinated me. Dark where my grandfather was pale, long black hair and eyes coal black, not haunted nor haunting but quietly alive as though they saw more and deeper than the rest of us. DeFalco seems to be an old Sicilian name. Several Castelo Falconaras, that may or may not relate to them, dot the Sicilian landscape. Could they be the remnants of that gene line left somehow behind when the rest of them set off for El Norte and became Ashkenazi? Who the hell knows.

When I was a little kid my first playmate other than cousins, was a boy named Ian who lived down the block. I would now and then have what passed for a play date then with him. I liked going over his house. He had a sand box in his back yard. I did not. I only had a grape arbor. We would play and after a while, if he got frustrated, he would punch me. I did not know why he did that.

At the other end of the block, beyond the large black rock that jutted onto the sidewalk, lived an older boy. He was about seven (I was only four or five years old). I was afraid of him because he was big and he would punch me also. Nevertheless, it was always an adventure to walk down the block all the way to the flat rock and sit there. I would not go further because I then could no longer see my house.

At that time we lived on the one street in the lower part of Tuckahoe where no other Italians (or for that matter any blacks) lived. My grandfather built the house when he had gotten rich from his construction company. Unfortunately, he lost it all in the depression, so we divided up the house among the family and still lived there. My father, mother, baby brother and I lived upstairs. The floor had been converted to an apartment. My Grandparents lived in an apartment on the ground floor and my Aunt had a room made out of the old sun deck. We all shared the living room. The rest of the neighborhood was mostly peopled by what became referred to as WASPs, but I knew them then as Americans. There were three Jewish families that I was aware of on Dante Avenue as the block was named, two of them belonged to the boys who would punch me.

Even though I was afraid of him, I soon found out that all the bigger boy wanted was just someone to talk to. I did not understand that at the time. In any event, we would sit on the rock and talk about those things of interest to little boys, like pirates and the like. I later learned that they were both being bullied horribly by the older boys, in part because they were Jewish.

I never understood bullying. I learned to live with the name calling, but when it moved beyond that I always had to step in. I was able to get away with it, not because I was strong or brave, but because I realized that the object of bullying was to take advantage of the ease of dominating someone weaker than you. However, when someone interposes himself then the object of the exercise becomes muddled. To pass through someone who puts up even slight resistance to get at the weak is simply not worth the effort. Besides, most bullies were that way because someone else was bullying them. It was always a risk for them when someone fought back. I would find myself stepping in to stop bullying about once a week. No one ever decided to fight with me about it even though I was small and weak at the time. That puzzled me for a while because I otherwise fought almost every day with someone who I thought was trying to bully me. I wondered why. Eventually, I came up with a theory. But that is for another time.

I did not know what Jewish, or Christian, or Italian, African-American and so on meant then. They were simply words to me. Of course, sometimes those words indicated a difference I could see, for example, “colored” kids as we called African-Americans back then, were often, but not always, darker than Italian kids and American kids were pinker with blue veins. I couldn’t see much difference in most of the others. Later I learned what people meant when they used those words to describe themselves or other people. Most of the time when they were not describing themselves, they used those words because they were a little afraid of the others.

The woman many considered my second mother, was a member of the third Jewish family. They lived next door. I called her Anna Banana, probably because I could not pronounce her last name. She was married and childless. She had a narrow face and freckles. She also had carrot-colored hair that seemed to be all wiry and would fly about her head at odd angles whenever she moved around, which she did a lot. I spent almost every day all day with her at her house. She never seemed to mind. She taught me how to pick and eat scallions and play the piano. Nights, I would spend sitting on my grandmother’s lap before the fireplace that my grandfather built with big rocks that he had carried himself from somewhere. I would repeat from memory all the nursery rhymes I had learned from my mom and Anna Banana, sing songs and recite poems in English and Italian that my grandmother taught me. I felt very and happy with Anna Banana and my grandmother.

Then my father decided to sell the only asset we had, the house, in order to open up a business, a bar, and restaurant. Six months later we were homeless and living on the streets. But that is another story.

 

 

 PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

A. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

On the Role of Civil Society:

Why would anyone be morally bound or wish to be morally bound to a civil society that does not share the goal that its citizens deserve a fair distribution of wealth, income, and power? If the civil society is not dedicated to that end what else could it possibly be dedicated to? What is freedom, to those without wealth, income or power?

 

B. Today’s Poem:

Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still ‘Fie, foh, and fum
I smell the blood of a British man.
Shakespeare— King Lear, Act 3, scene 4

(In the play, Gloucester’s son, Edgar, disguised as Tom o’ Bedlam speaks these words and others in an effort to mislead Lear. Later Browning used the first line in his epic poem “Childe Roland.”)

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

Pasted Graphic

Fornax by Beth Moon

 

Categories: April through June 2017, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 18 Pepe 0005 (November 4, 2016)

 
“I see great things in baseball.”
― Walt Whitman

 

 

My condolences to Bill Yeates and his family for their great loss.

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO:

One Sunday, I traveled to San Francisco to visit my mom, my son Jason and his family, and to have coffee with Peter. While sitting outside Bernie’s coffee shop in Noe Valley, I realized that something about the Golden Hills and my life there has been lacking, Laughter. Laughter seems in short supply in El Dorado Hills. Smiles, there are plenty. Why wouldn’t there be smiles? It is as close to being an ideal place to live as one can imagine. Nevertheless, I rarely hear the sound of laughter, real deep booming out of control laughter. Without laughter is one truly alive — or even healthy? When I am with HRM, I often laugh, but otherwise nada. I need to either find someone up there in the Golden Hills like Peter who can make me laugh or perhaps, I should start rewatching my favorite comedy movies or maybe old Groucho, You Bet Your Life, reruns. Laugh more — you won’t regret it.

As for my mom, she has recovered nicely from her broken hip. She even played an enjoyable game of tossing the ball around with my granddaughter and me. She would throw the ball at me when I wasn’t looking, bounce it off my head and then break out laughing. It annoyed the hell out of me.
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While sitting outside of Bernie’s drinking our coffee, Peter started a story about a trip he took many years ago. A little way into it, he stopped and said that he could not remember if what he was saying was true or if he was just making it up. I urged him to continue in any event because it seemed like a good story. So he did — and it was — something about Frank Lloyd Wright, a burning automobile, and an old lady sitting and looking out her window someplace in Nebraska.

About a week later, I returned to SF to show my cousin Frederica around the city. She had just arrived from Italy and had never seen the City before. While there, I received a call from my doctor with the most distressing news possible. Nevertheless, we continued our tour of the most impressive sights in the city and ended up for coffee with Peter at Bernie’s in Noe Valley. (Peter can be considered one of the city’s more impressive sights.) Frederica was indignant that instead of a spoon to stir the sugar into her espresso she was given one of those disposable wood stirring sticks. After a crazy time maneuvering through rush hour traffic in downtown, she took the train back to Menlo Park where she is staying with some friends and I proceeded on back to the Golden Hills.
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Frederica and I

 

B. BOOK REPORT: THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE by Tahir Shah.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu
While conversing with Peter in front of Bernie’s coffee shop, for some reason, we got into a discussion about India where Peter and Barrie spent many years and where I have, for a long time, longed to go. I mentioned a book about India I read several years ago of which I was quite fond. I could not remember its name but promised Peter I would search for it and let him know. After three days of searching on my computer, I located the book and sent the information to Peter. I also decided to buy the book on Amazon and reread it on my Kindle to see if it was as enjoyable as I remembered.

After reading a few pages, I recalled that the book was also one of the reasons I had put off traveling to India. You see, when I travel, I prefer traveling alone and although I enjoy the “Great Sights” like anyone, I especially like searching for the odd and a little dangerous — like the night I found myself in a knife fight in a rural town in Turkey that eventually prompted the leader of the Turkish mafia to demand I persuade him why he should not have me killed. I knew India for me would never be merely a visit to the Taj Mahal or the Red Fort and the like, but a lifetime commitment.

“A journey, I reflected, is of no merit unless it has tested you. You can stay at home and read of others’ experiences, but it’s not the same as getting out of trouble yourself.”
Shah, Tahir. The Complete Collection of Travel Literature: In Search of King Solomon’s Mines, Beyond the Devil’s Teeth, House of the Tiger King, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Travels With Myself, Trail of Feathers. Secretum Mundi.
Anyway, I guess the book can be considered a travelogue. There are many great travel books, like “A Short Walk Through the Hindu Kush,” and several by Krakauer that read like great novels. Tahir Shah’s book is one also — where the travel leaves off and the novel begins, however, is difficult to discern.

The book begins with Tahir Shah as a young boy in England visited by Hafiz Jan, the hereditary Afghan guard of the tomb of his ancestor the great Muslim general Jan Fishan Kahn (a nom de Guerre that translates to, “He that Scatters Souls.”) He traveled to England because he had a vision of young Tahir, the last of his line, falling into a culvert and dying. He believed it was his duty to prevent it. Hafiz Jon is welcomed by Tahir’s father and takes up residence in Tahir’s home where he sleeps on the floor in front of his bedroom door. The Afghan guard had also spent some time before assuming his hereditary duties guarding the tomb as an apprentice to a great magician in India. The magic we are talking about here is not magic but illusion — the illusion of Houdini and the Indian god-men and sadhus for thousands of years. He began teaching the eager young Tahir the secrets of illusion. The training went well until one day, during an exhibition of Tahir’s magic educational accomplishments, a mishap occurred that almost set his parents on fire. Soon after, Hafiz Jan was sent back to India to resume his hereditary duties.

Years later, Tahir, as a young man, traveled to India found the guard, apprenticed himself to the guard’s teacher, a rather overbearing sort and after a mostly unpleasant education sets off at the request of his teacher to travel throughout India searching for “insider information.” What one learns along with Tahir are the tricks of the trade of the god-men, sadhus and the like that have enthralled millions of poor and gullible Indians and attracted hundreds of westerners to journey there to sit at the feet of holy mystics absorbing their wisdom — for a price.

“Because,” he called out, “we were on a quest . . .” “A quest for what?” “For a third eye. You see, in the seventies, India was Disneyland … it was the Disneyland of the soul.”… “[W]e had all been to India in search of the third eye, but had left with nothing but diarrhea.”
Shah, Tahir. Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Incredible Journey into the World of India’s Godmen. Arcade Publishing.

Among these Godmen, Tahir and his sidekick, a 13-year-old thief and con-artist named Balu, spent some time at a luxurious mostly pink ashram of a well known Guru and in addition to describing at length the oddness of the entire set up, recounts some of his more private weirdness:

“When it came to divine eccentricity, Sri Gobind was no exception. His followers took great pride in the tales of their teacher’s irregularities. Every so often, gripped by an insatiable desire, the guru would jump naked from his bed. Running into the heart-shaped gardens, he would relieve himself in the bushes. Or, in the middle of an address, he had been known to rip off all his clothes and anoint his flabby belly with buffalo milk butter. Each morning, his fans averred, the holy man would douse himself in a bath of potassium permanganate. The immersion gave his skin its exotic purply-brown tinge. He would dress his hair with a pomade of seasoned egg whites,-dab his earlobes with witch hazel; and spray his nether regions with his own blend of catnip cologne.”
Shah, Tahir. Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Incredible Journey into the World of India’s Godmen. Arcade Publishing.

Along the way, Tahir explores the economic and social life of India through stories about the people he meets such as the cadaver collectors and their business of providing the bones for the skeletons in most medical school classrooms of the world, and the women who rent cows after the owners milk them in the morning then stand on the street corners during the day selling the pleasure of feeding the cow to passers-by and in the evenings selling the cow patties to brick makers and so on. The reason why India with its incredibly concentrated population is not sitting on a pile of garbage and human refuse is that that very garbage and refuse is the resource that supports much of the population.

“Real travel is not about the highlights with which you dazzle your friends once you’re home. It’s about the loneliness, the solitude, the evenings spent by yourself, pining to be somewhere else. Those are the moments of true value. You feel half proud of them and half ashamed and you hold them to your heart”
Tahir Shah

Pookie says, “Check it out.”

PS: Amazon had a special on where one could buy all of Tahir Shah’s travel books for the price of one, so I bought them all. I am now enjoying his story about finding a fake map of the mythical King Solomon’s mines in a curio shop in Jerusalem and setting off to Ethiopia where he believes the mines described in the fake map might have been located — if they were real. There he hires a taxi driver as an interpreter, travels by some of the most uncomfortable and dangerous modes of transportation imaginable, explores an illegal gold mine where children are sent into the narrow tunnels and many of them die, spends several nights in an Ethiopian jail, just misses a dinner with Idi Amin, is befriended by the manager of a government gold mine who wants to emigrate to America, travels to a land where the men, instead of head hunting for a hobby, cut off the testicles of their enemies and carry them in sacks around their necks and so on and on. Alas, despite the danger and discomfort he finds nothing but adventure.

“Most journeys have a clear beginning, but on some, the ending is less well-defined. The question is, at what point do you bite your lip and head for home?”
Tahir Shah

(It sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it?)

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOIDS:

 

1. For every human on Earth, there are 1.6 million ants. The total weight of all those ants, however, is about the same as all the humans.

(Hmm, this would mean a single human would weigh the same as 1.6 million ants. Those must be very small ants.)

2. Ten percent of all the photos ever taken were taken in the last 12 months.

(I bet more than half of them are of cats or dogs and posted on Facebook.)

3. Shakespeare made up the name “Jessica” for his play Merchant of Venice.

(Why?)

4. Your chances of being killed by a vending machine are actually twice as large as your chance of being bitten by a shark.

(How does a vending machine kill?)

5. Nowhere in the Humpty Dumpty Nursery Rhyme does it say that Humpty Dumpty is an egg.

(Another of life’s verities shattered.)

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

A. DeLong on Top:

“The authors say the US went off the rails in the 1980s, when government suddenly became the problem, and hundreds of years of institutions were torn down and simply not replaced. The result is a flabby, bloated economy that is bland and non-productive. Moves in the 80s have resulted in a “negative sum healthcare system” that is entirely about processing claims, with providers hiring armies of clerks to do battle with clerks of the insurers and government over codes and reimbursement. Totally nonproductive, consuming hundreds of billions of dollars every year. There is also the financial sector, producing literally nothing, except massive amounts of new money out of thin air, or rather from computer entries in accounts. Cash issued by governments now accounts for just 6% of the money supply, as central banks have been bypassed completely. The nonproductive financial sector siphons the brightest minds and has more than doubled its share of the economy, without producing, improving or exporting anything. Quite the opposite, as wealth is concentrating to the detriment of the vast majority, including to the detriment of governments that enabled it all. Healthcare and finance account for a quarter of the American economy.”
Review by David Wineberg of, Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy by Stephen S. Cohen, and J. Bradford DeLong.

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“Life is one-half lies — lies you tell yourself or tell others, and one-half truth — truth that batters your beliefs or demands your acceptance. Without both, there are no stories. Without stories, what is there to life?”

 

C. Today’s Poem:

 

The Mystery

This poem is ascribed to Amergin, a Milesian prince or druid who settled in Ireland hundreds of years before Christ. It is taken from the Leabhar Gabhala, or Book of Invasions and translated by Douglas Hyde (see note below).

I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,
I am the murmur of the billows,
I am the ox of the seven combats,
I am the vulture upon the rocks,
I am the beam of the sun,
I am the fairest of plants,
I am the wild boar in valour,
I am a salmon in the water,
I am a lake in the plain,
I am a word of science,
I am the point of the lance of battle,
I am the God who created in the head the fire.
Who is it who throws light into the meeting on the mountain?
Who announces the ages of the moon?
Who teaches the place where couches the sun?
(If not I)

Note: ”The three short pieces of verse ascribed to Amergin are certainly very ancient and very strange. But as the whole story of the Milesian Invasion is wrapped in mystery and is quite possibly a rationalized account of early Irish mythology no faith can be placed in the alleged date or genuineness of Amergin’s verses. They are of interest, because as Irish tradition has them as being the first verses made in Ireland, so it may very well be they actually do present the oldest surviving lines of any vernacular tongue in Europe except Greece.”
Douglas Hyde, The Story of Early Gaelic Literature.

 

C. What’s wrong with professional football today?

Professional football viewership has begun to decrease sharply. There have been many theories proposed to account for this. I believe the real reason is evident by simply looking at the sidelines during a game. It used to be that the coaches who prowled along the sidelines had that lean and hungry look, like Bill Walsh and Tom Landry. Now when one looks at those same sidelines it seems as though the coaches are auditioning for the role of Santa Claus in a Christmas pageant. If in an activity where the participants are expected to maintain a regime of rigorous self-improvement, how can one expect from them high performance when their mentors are advertisements for self-indulgence?

 

D. Comments on my prior post:

From Naida:

Hi Joe
Thanks for Ruth’s ballot advice— enlightening and entertaining. I hope she keeps sending that summation in election years. Every time I’m in the voting booth looking at the propositions I feel angry. People are elected and paid to decide those issues, yet I must do that work! — an old lady out here with many other things to do, putting off those pesky propositions until it’s too late and then hoping I know enough, usually skipping most of them and fearing that hoards of people more ignorant than I, are randomly stabbing at yes or no and collectively making wrong decisions. Hiram Johnson meant well, and the Initiative was good for a several decades, but no longer. IMO

Re turkeys:
In their brown-feathered, genetically-unaltered state turkeys are good travelers, following the waterways and making good time. They coast for long distances between wing flaps. The rivers are not barriers (Suisun Strait would be). But they can’t travel during hatching time. The moms form babysitting co-ops, 3-4 per group, about 12 pullets per mom. Those flightless fuzzy balls on long legs observe their aunties and moms pecking and scratching for seeds, bugs and more. The moms relieve each other as sentries, hopping to a high boulder. Round and round she turns, slowly. Intently watching for potential enemies. If she sees anything suspect, she emits a loud piew-piew-pieu, and they all vanish into the brush.

Someday I should publish my article on the dispersal of turkeys in CA, escapees from missions Carmel and San Jose. The State Dept of F & W tells everyone that turkeys were first introduced to CA in 1906. Actually they were re-introduced after being exterminated along with 100s of other bird species during the gold rush. Brown turkeys are smart. I’ve seen them dive-bomb our horse in coordinated attacks, circling and taking turns. They like to see him buck and kick out. They sleep in oak trees. In the early morning the leader floats down and stands there long enough to know the place is safe. Then, on signal, they all go down to breakfast.

 

From Barrie:

My family lived in the Seabrook house in Rhinebeck in 1953, the summer my dad was an actor at the Hyde Park Playhouse. There was a death mask of Wm Seabrook at the top of the stairs. He committed suicide. It was a wonderful summer and we went to tea at Valkill, Elinor Roosevelt’s home. My mother had introduced herself when Mrs. Roosevelt came to see Pygmalion in which my dad was Col Pickering.

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“A good traveler has no fixed plan and is not intent on arriving.”
Lao Tzu

 

Categories: October through December 2016, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 12 Pops 0005 ( August 25, 2016)

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 12 Pops 0005

“Fair is a body pigment, that’s all it is.”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel (p. 495). Harper Collins.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Because there was no one available to drive me, I drove myself to the hospital. After passing through admitting, I found myself lying on a bed in the pre-op ward. The people involved in the surgery each came by to chat, the nurse, the doctor who wrote all over my body with indelible ink so he would not forget what he was supposed to be doing in the operating room — and the anesthesiologist. I told the latter, “Look, I don’t do pain well. I do not want to see anything, hear anything or feel anything. And, when I wake up, I want to be happy.” “ Happy,” he said, “I understand.”

As they were rolling the bed toward the operating room, anesthesiologist sidled up to us like a schoolyard dope dealer. He was carrying a large hypodermic in one hand. When I asked what it contained, he garbled two polysyllabic words I did not understand, and added, “ Also something I am not allowed to mention.” He then plunged the hypodermic into my IV line and ran off chuckling.

They wheeled me into the operating room and placed the bed next to the wall where I would wait for everything to be made ready. I closed my eyes, after a few moments I became annoyed it was taking so long, so I opened my eyes and said to the nurse, “What’s taking so long?” She said, “The operation’s over, you’re in the recovery room now.” I was very happy. I remained happy the entire evening. I even enjoyed the hospital food. I remained happy three days later as I write this.

I was scheduled to leave the hospital the day after the operation but they would not let me leave unless someone came to drive me home. I tried find someone to do so, but no one was available. I thought I would just sneak out, get in my car and drive home. But, they refused to remove the IV before whoever was driving me showed up. I thought of just ripping it out and making a break for it, but like I said I don’t do pain well. So, I suggested they call a taxi. They did so. The nurse removed the IV to allow me to dress and left to deal with her other patients. I quickly dressed, walked out of the ward and the hospital, got into my car, and drove myself home. When I arrived home, I received a call from the nearly hysterical nurse asking where I had gotten to. I told her that since I saw no one on the ward to accompany me after I dressed, I decided to walk to the reception area to wait for the taxi. There I met some people I knew that kindly drove me home. I suggested she call the taxi company and cancel the ride. Although I was still happy, I was sad about the stress I caused the nice kindly nurse. On the other hand, I was home and I was pleased I did not have to go back to pick up my car.

My euphoria extended to my desires. Things that had been reduced to smokey memory exploded in blazing promise. I guess that makes me now a dirty old goat. There is nothing more reviled than a dirty old goat — no, make that everyone reviles a dirty old goat other than the dirty old goat himself. He knows the condition is ephemeral and temporary like puberty. He knows that to anyone who lived for over 75 years one, two, or three years of anything is just a drop in the bucket of one’s life and the next best thing to meaningless.

After my post op meeting with my doctor next week, I plan to travel to Thailand for a month.

In the meantime, I spend the mornings walking around the lake in Town Center and the afternoons escaping the heat by resting in the house with blinds drawn.
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Town Center Lake

During my morning drive to his new Middle School, HRM makes sure I laugh during the entire trip so that I am diverted from droning on with grandfatherly advice.

There has been a massive earthquake in Italy yesterday. Its epicenter was about 20 miles from my familiy’s towns in Sabina. My son Jason is there now on vacation. I called him. He was ok but they were still feeling the aftershocks. There appeared to be little damage in Casperia or Roccantica where most of the relatives live.
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Casperia

B. WARREN HINCKLE, RIP:

Warren Hinckle died today. Although he gave voice to the political aspirations of the counter-culture of the 1960s, most people from San Francisco would recognize him as the eye-patch wearing journalist-political gadfly who a few weeks before election day would publish a political broadsheet happily skewering most of the candidates.

While I could never say we were friends, over the years we would occasionally meet up and spend a delightful time together drinking heavily and talking deeply. Many of those meetings occurred at an annual Christmas/New Year’s party in a well-known Greek restaurant attended by many of the City’s great, near great and those who thought themselves as great. Hinckle and I would retire to a booth and enjoy a pleasant boozy few hours swapping political tales and scandals. Another time, we sat in the stands together at a Superbowl in Miami when the Niners demolished San Diego and spent much of the second half when the game was far out of reach for SD, gossiping about the peccadilloes’ of the high and the mighty.

While no one would refer to him as kind and gentle, he took such joy in his occupation and his one eye would twinkle so gaily that, even if you were the object of his diatribes, you would sooner rather than later forgive him.

Although I will miss him, the City of San Francisco will miss him more. He undoubtedly will be enshrined in the pantheon of the City’s greatest characters along with The Emperor Norton, Dashiell Hammett, and Carol Doda.
From his obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“‘Warren was the godfather of California — and you could say, national —progressive journalism,’ said David Talbot, whose book ‘Season of the Witch’ details the tumultuous history of San Francisco from the 1960s to the early ’80s. ‘As a newsman, he just loved the ’60s as a story, with all its weirdness, from the Black Panthers to hippies in the Haight to the Kennedy assassination. No publication caught it better than Ramparts — it led directly to publications like Rolling Stone, Mother Jones and Salon,’ the web magazine Talbot co-founded in 1995.’”
“One of the milestone moments for Mr. Hinckle came when he assigned Hunter S. Thompson to cover the Kentucky Derby in 1970 for Scanlan’s Monthly. The resultant rollicking article, ‘The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,’ not only launched the over-the-top, personalized journalism that came to be known as gonzo, it began a lifelong friendship between Mr. Hinckle and Thompson.”

“‘In the beginning, we all believed,’ Mr. Hinckle wrote on the first page of the book (His autobiography, ‘When you have a Lemon, make Lemonade’). ‘We believed in many things, but mostly in America. If the decade must be summarized, it could be said that the youth of America, who had so recently studied it in civics classes, tested the system — and it flunked.’”

 

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

The First Centuries: (continued from last post)

Around 300 BC everything changed — at least in the part of the world we are interested in. About then, The Boy King of Macedonia, Alexander, soon to be granted the title, The Really Great, graduated from middle school and decided he wanted to see the world before continuing his education. So, along with about 40,000 of his closest friends he set off and along the way conquered much of the known world (at least the world known to him and his friends) and a lot of the world they never knew about — until about 10 years later they found themselves camped on the edge of a river in India. One evening, most of his friends came up to The Really Great and said, “Look Alex, it’s been 10 years now, it’s really been fun but we really have to get back to our education and jobs. So, tomorrow we are heading back. You can come along or not.”

Alex cried. He knew they had to get back, but he really had his heart set on spending a few weeks on a beach on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, kicking back and drinking Mai Tais with little pink umbrellas.

So, the next day they set off back to where they came from and where some of his closest friends, his bros, poisoned Alex and split up his empire among themselves. Now although this is important, it is not what interests us here. What does interest us here is that Alex and his Hellenes (what they were called instead or Greeks) would plant whole cities filled with Hellenes every place they went, like rabbit droppings. It seems for some reason, a whole lot of Hellenes wanted to live anywhere but Greece.
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Hellenes — apotheosis?

Even near Galilee in Canaan they built 10 cities for these Hellenes to live in called the Decapolis (“ten cities” in greek).

Another thing about these Hellenes was that they were way cool. They loved sex with everyone of any age and any sex. They partied late into the night drinking strong wine and talking about triangles, walking into walls, and smokey shadows in caves. They liked dressing up like the KKK and going into caverns late at night, bringing in blindfolded people who wanted to join their club and making them believe they were going to die or eat ca-ca. Then they would then take off the blindfolds and discover they were eating dolmas and not ca-ca and everyone would slap them on their back and they would become very happy knowing they could now do this to others.

Also, many of the Hellenes could write, not just the scribes, accountants, and priests in the temple and what they wrote about was marvelous, like the meaning of putting your toe in a fast flowing stream or the meaning of words you always thought you knew what they meant, really mean something you never thought about. They seemed to be curious about everything.

About 100 years after they arrived on the scene, some of the more curious of these Hellenes would encourage a few Semitic speakers to write down in Greek the collected stories of some of their people. They copied these tales into a book, or scroll more likely, called the Septuagint for reasons too long to tell here. What is interesting about this book is that it was not written in Canaan but in Egypt where the fantasies of Anknahten still floated around the elite and educated class and where the Hellenes living in and around Alexandria in Egypt were also into some crazy mystical shit and crystals.

Back in Canaan and just about everywhere these Hellenes settled, many Nabateans, Arameans, Samaritans, Judeans and other Semitic speaking people moved into the cities with the Hellenes to enjoy the good life. Many Hellenes also moved into local cities like Jerusalem where they continued their antics — A lot like the Hippies flooding into SF in the sixties.

Alas, many of the people living in the hills, dells, and hamlets of Canaan did not like the Hellenes ideas and behavior and saw them as irresponsible and dangerous, and a threat to their way of life. Sort of like in the sixties when most of the country saw the Hippies with their sex, drugs, rock and roll and enlightened consciousness as a threat to their way of life. It seems there are always those who believe being happy and enjoying oneself is irresponsible and evil, but being angry, miserable and oppressed as they were was nature’s way. So it was also in Canaan at the time and, like the satisfaction many Americans felt after Altamont, a lot of people went about searching for a reckoning of sorts.
(to be continued in the next post)

 

 

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

Of all the honors I have received, the one of which I am most fond was when the secretaries of the California Office of Planning and Research voted me “Telephone Asshole of the Year.”

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

“Globally, the value of all outstanding derivatives contracts (including credit default swaps, interest rate derivatives, foreign exchange rate derivatives, commodities-linked derivatives, and so on) was $630 trillion at the beginning of 2015, while the gross market value of those contracts was $21 trillion.”
Foroohar, Rana. Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business. The Crown Publishing Group.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. On Top: Ecological Causes of the war in the Middle-East.

In an insightful analysis Gianluca Serra, examines the Civil War in Syria. He points out that it is the result of the desertification of the ecologically fragile Syrian steppe, writes — a process that began in 1958 when the former Bedouin commons were opened up to unrestricted grazing. That led to a wider ecological, hydrological and agricultural collapse, and then to a ‘rural intifada’ of farmers and nomads no longer able to support themselves.

“A major role in this unfolding disaster was played by affluent urban investors who threw thousands of livestock into the steppe turning the grazing into a large-scale, totally unsustainable, industrial practice.
Back in 2009, I dared to forecast that if the rampant desertification process gripping the Syrian steppe was not halted soon, it could eventually become a trigger for social turmoil and even for a civil war.

I was being interviewed by the journalist and scholar Francesca de Chatel- and was feeling deeply disillusioned about Syrian government’s failure to heed my advice that the steppe, which covers over half of the country’s land mass, was in desperate need of recuperation.

I had just spent a decade (four years of which serving a UN-FAO project aimed at rehabilitating the steppe) trying to advocate that livestock over-grazing of the steppe rangelands was the key cause of its ecological degradation.

However, for the Syrian government’s staff, it was far too easy to identify and blame prolonged droughts (a natural feature of this kind of semi-arid environment) or climate change (which was already becoming a popular buzzword in those years). These external causes served well as a way to escape from any responsibility — and to justify their inaction.

In an article on The Ecologist, Alex Kirby writes that the severe 2006-2010 drought in Syria may have contributed to the civil war. Indeed it may — but this is to disregard the immediate cause — the disastrous over-exploitation of the fragile steppe ecosystem.

Before my time in Syria, as early as the 1970s, international aid organizations such as the UN-FAO had also flagged the dire need to not apply profit-maximization principles and to therefore not over-exploit the fragile ecosystem of the Syrian steppe.

Denial versus the power of an image

Finally, tired of repeating the same words all the time, I resorted to showing the government staff a self-explanatory picture taken in March 2008, a year of intense and dramatic drought. An image speaks more than a million words, I thought.

The picture [ not included] portrayed a fence separating a steppe terrain in two parts: the area on the left was open to sheep grazing; the area on the right had been instead protected for at least 10 years. The image revealed a lunar rocky landscape on the left, and a blossoming pasture on the right.

The image simply evidences, without need for any words, that the Syrian steppe ecosystem is perfectly adapted to cope with droughts — yes, even with extreme droughts exacerbated by climate change. However, this landscape can succumb easily to human irrationality and indifference. In front of that image, even the most verbose governmental staff would come to a pause — the jaw dropped for a moment.

In 2014, three years after social unrest first and then a brutal civil war erupted in the country, Francesca de Chatel published an interesting essay arguing that the inability of the Syrian government to tackle the rampant steppe’s ecological crisis, steadily unfolded over the course of 50 years of sustained mismanagement, has been one of the key triggers of the armed conflict in the country.

She mentions as other critical triggers the too fast economic liberalization plan, high rates of unemployment and corruption, and, sure enough, a long-term and suffocating lack of freedom.

Over-exploitation of an ecosystem

The Syrian steppe covers 55% of the country’s territory. This vast steppe land, together with portions from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, has been grazed sustainably by nomadic indigenous pastoralists (Bedouins) for centuries (if not more). Each tribe and clan was linked to certain seasonal pastures and this ensured the sustainability of the grazing — a practice finely calibrated on the need of plant regeneration.

These pastoralists of Arabia are known to have been pioneers in establishing ‘protected areas’ (hema): certain pastures were relieved from grazing, permanently or temporary, in order to allow keeping the whole ecosystem healthy and functional.

The beginning of the ecological degradation and destruction came with the modern state, so keen to uncritically import ideas of maximization of agricultural yields from the Soviet Union: in particular the central government decided to nationalize the steppe in 1958, establishing de facto an open access system — a well-known recipe for ecological disaster.

Through this arrangement the customary link between the natural resource and its user was interrupted — abruptly disowning the traditional ecological knowledge of this ancient people. The pastures, not managed and protected anymore by the tribes, started to be over-grazed by free-ranging pastoralists.

A major role in this unfolding disaster was played by affluent urban investors who threw thousands of livestock into the steppe turning the grazing into a large-scale, totally unsustainable, industrial practice.

A similar sort of story of gross mismanagement took place in the eastern part of the Syria’s steppe land, the territory east to the Euphrates, allocated to intensive agriculture via irrigation through underground water.

Water has been pumped from limited underground reserves without much control for decades — so that wells had to be dug every year deeper and deeper with increasing consumption of fuel.

Year by year, desertification sets in

The alternation of wet and dry periods (sometimes lasting up to 5-7 years) is a key structural and natural feature of this kind of environment. The relentless ecological degradation of this semi-arid fragile ecosystem produced a gradual and steady decrease of its resilience in the face of cycles of droughts made increasingly more severe and frequent by a long-term regional drying pattern linked to the greenhouse effects.

Note that increasing the resilience of ecosystems is actually one of the key natural solutions as adaptation to climate change, as it is currently referred to within the circles of climate change international aid work.

While in the past the steppe was able to recover even following intense periods of droughts, during the past decade pastoralists and farmers have started to complain about a sharp and ineluctable reduction in soil fertility and an increase of frequency of fierce dust storms due to erosion.

An evident desertification process has been on display across the steppe land for quite some time. Recommendations to reduce the ecological pressure on this fragile environment — from myself and others — went unheard.

Ecological crisis fans the flames of rebellion

Following a recent cycle of intense drought during 2006-2010, the agriculture system eventually collapsed in eastern Syria greatly facilitated by an abrupt halt of government subsidies and consequent soaring prices of fuel for wells.

At the same time, the ecological impoverishment of the rangelands reached unheard-of levels. “The drought only brought to light a man-made disaster,” said a local journalist from eastern Syria to the International Crisis Group in 2009.

This combined ecological crisis of croplands and rangelands created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the rural areas of the country, followed by massive internal displacements, that the government clearly failed to tackle and manage.

For the first time ever Syria, known to be proudly autonomous in terms of food production (and actually even exporting food), had to rely on a massive international emergency food aid in 2008.

It is therefore not a coincidence that the uprising in 2011 started in provincial towns rather than in the major urban centres of Damascus and Aleppo, Francesca De Chatel argues, aptly defining the rebellion as a “rural Intifada” — one in which Bedouin tribes of steppe origin played a key role.

The same sort of conclusions were reached in analyzing the triggers of the Darfur war that took place from 2003 to 2010 not far from Syria. Darfur suffered from precisely the same sort of over-exploited semi-arid ecosystem, while once again rural and indigenous people were the victims, including nomadic pastoralists.

Life-enabling ecological conditions first

Only in recent times has the key role of ecological conditions in shaping the socio-economy of human populations and civilizations been fully acknowledged and understood. Thanks to a solid western ‘modern’ cultural legacy, until a short time ago, there had been quite strong resistance preventing an appreciation of the link.

Still, in our current consumerist society’s mainstream (sub)culture, nature is perceived as nothing else than a commodity or an ornament for National Geographic covers. But certainly our lifestyle and economy is still completely dependent on available natural resources and on functional ecosystem services.

The good news seems to be that eventually and increasingly these days, the link between ecology and economy (and socio-politics) is analyzed, elaborated and underlined. After all, ecology and economy have the same suffix ‘eco,’ derived from the Greek oikos (home), not by coincidence.

Mismanagement of earth’s resources

Climate change is a major threat to the whole human civilization in the short and medium term — as it is already emerging in the eastern Mediterranean and Syria, and other parts of the world. This ultimate challenge is like the last call for humanity to start reforming deeply an anti-life economic system, as well argued by Naomi Klein in her last book This Changes Everything.

Hopefully, this new awareness will be the basis for a new era in which the economy is deeply reformed in line with the principles of ecology. The time has come to wisely adapt the ‘norms and rules of the house’ (= Economy in Greek) to the foundation principles of the house (Ecology= ‘knowledge of the house’ in Greek) — and not the other way round, as we have thought and done during the past 200 years.

Otherwise, we will simply re-enact once again the same kind of drama that seemingly has already occurred innumerable times on the planet in the course of the human civilization parable. Civilizations have risen, stuck to their core values and then collapsed because they did not change.”

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

The tragic truth, however, is that the young as they age become conservatives, ethnic groups as they move into the middle class do so also. The gay community is now free to vote Republican without shame while the black community is prevented from voting even if they are Republican. And worse of all, the seven and eight year olds of our nation seem to have been indoctrinated in many of our schools to hate others as well as to despise science.

We progressives can slap ourselves on the back all we want, but as usual we have failed to grasp the grim realities of politics which is that it is an eternal war of attrition and the opposition is better equipped and trained while, all too often, all we have is our optimism to sustain us as the barricades are overrun while we wait for popular support that never comes.

C. Today’s Poems:

Love is not splendid

Love is not splendid
At best
it is
a blister on your foot
or an empty room.
I live on borrowed things

I live on borrowed things
On stories and songs
On breath and brawn

Borrowed then left
When I move on.
THE BIG STORM

They say,
it is coming,
THE BIG STORM.
They say,
it will knock down bridges,
with its howling wind,
flood valleys,
scrape the earth from the hills
and end the drought.
They say,
it will do all of that and more.

I stare
through the window
at the grey black sky
and wonder
if I will be disappointed.

 

D. Comments on my previous post:

1. Ann Marie.

I was glad to hear you were feeling better. Hope MaryAnne is as well.

You said you drove yourself to the hospital, and I didn’t see any follow-up on that. Everything ok?

As always it’s fun to read your stories. Hope you’re doing ok.

2. Peter.
Ozymandias and the old creeping the petty pace till the last syllable of recorded time (or, now, until the next commercial).

I’m reading a fascinating book called “Brazillionaires” by Alex Quadros. About this group of people who have $2-$30 BILLION! EACH. He suggests that it may be partially genetic, but however, they have a tremendous drive to achieve – what he finally concludes is – power. After awhile the goodies that immense riches can provide recede into the routine. The energy, the entrepreneurial urge, the incessant work — one of the richest married a gorgeous carnaval queen and Playboy centerfold who eventually left him because he worked all the time — guess some have it, some don’t. I don’t. Although I rule my ant farm with an iron fist.

Look, it’s clearly the Age of Kali. The drought, the fires, the floods, the poisoning of the land and water, the spreading hordes of too many people, the Trumpians whose outpatient privileges should have been revoked long ago — Scandinavia is too small, too white, too lacking in Rosso buco and Lenny Bruce — chanting, chanting, …..

Ok, so the Semites kept going back and forth between Egypt and Babylon, over hundreds of years. Now the so-called modern humans migrated in dribs and drabs out of Africa over a long period, crossing into Mesopotamia and on to China, the islands, and Australia, while others turned north and west into Europe. But eventually the Semites could’t sit still and did their little migratory dance, creating myths and legends to eventually justify booting out whoever was occupying their next stopover. Here’s the goofy part: And people Believed this stuff! Accepted it as “gospel”. No one learned anything — except he who wins writes the history.

As I said, he who wins writes the history. Viva the alphabet, though. After all, the oral tradition lasts roughly two hundred years or so. Even with eventual evolution to practical telepathy, that can’t last longer. And while the Internet Archive folks are valiantly trying to save everything on the internet before it, too, vanishes, in the end will still be the alphabet. Presumably.

Oh yes! I remember the evening in your house where we reviewed the draft sign logo and discussed at length whether the feet should look more “realistic” and less stylized. And lo, there they are.

My response.

Thanks for the comments. Some will go into next t&t. After my operation, I am well enough to travel. I plan to leave for Thailand on Sept. 2. Return Oct 2 or thereabouts. Maybe I’ll see you then.

Never forget, although old Ozy’s head in the clouds soon disappeared, his Birkenstock shod feet remained forever in the sand. What this means, as you get older you realize that the health of your feet is more important than the health of your head.

The tragedy of bazillionairs it that they can no longer truly experience the pleasures of poverty although carnival queens and playboy centerfolds may help to ameliorate that loss.

I suspect the age of Kali begins for each of us at birth. And ends when all we have left is our feet in the sand.

Please give Sherry my best.

I will see you soon — hopefully before Ozy and Kali get up to dance to Blind Lemon Pledge.

Peter again.

Glad to hear you up and around. How’s Maryann doing?

Indeed, healthy feet rule. My father lost a foot to diabetes in his later years; real drag. I hope I avoid that. As to “health of head,” my brother told me once, after he had made one of his regular visits to his then mother-in-law who had ended in a home and was more or less physically ok [he was an RN] and I inquired about her, said: “She’s happy as a clam.” Wasn’t much going on, though.

Re: brazillionaires, yes, they are monomaniac about work, many are little short guys, don’t eat much, don’t do much else. I recall my father, who knew John D. MacArthur a little, said about him, that even in his very late years he awoke early and went to the office every day, miming old dog old tricks. Seems none of them had a money bin to dive into like Scrooge McDuck. No joy.

Pettiness is Not next to godliness: The letter “b” key on my laptop is not working properly, so I often have to back up [just did] to make sure it prints. I’m postponing the inevitable trip to the apple store to get it fixed (and argue against buying a new machine because of the IMMENSE HASSLE of transferring everything. Meanwhile, having finished “Originals” and “Brazillionaires, I’ve started reading the next book, “Chaos Monkeys”; this, from a guy who worked at Goldman Sachs and then went to Silicon Valley, ending up at Facebook. All sounds awful. Money fixation causes really pathological behavior – but we knew that.

Kali Mata ki jai!! and bon voyage. I assume you’ll leave all of your yellow and red T-shirts at EDH. See you after your return, apparently on Gandhi’s birthday.

3. Aline.

OK. You can’t leave it hanging like that. Why did you drive yourself to the hospital? Are you okay?

My response.

I had a minor overnight procedure scheduled. No one was available to drive me to and from the Hospital. The operation was a success and I am back home now.

I enjoyed your photographs from your trip to Sicily. It seemed like you had a great time.

Aline again.

One cannot have a bad time in Sicily. The only bad thing was the trip was too short. I rode in a Fiat down cobble stairs through narrow streets scaring people and cats. I saw the best war memorial museum I have ever experienced. It was very realistic. There were pictures of Catania before the bombing, an air raid signal went off and we all ran into a bunker, the lights went off and we heard bombs going off and the bunker shook. After a time, the all clear was sounded and we left the bunker to view pictures of Catania after the bombing. Chilling. Then a complete shock – coming out of the museum, Comican was going on with many people dressed in their favorite anima characters. I also met with Anthony Provenzano, son of Tony Provenzano who ran the Mafia for years.

4. Bill.

You “outed” me. I did not expect to re-read my email to you in the latest “This and that . . .”. Carol would be a bit brought down about me discussing her health. Although I am touched by your thoughtfulness in sharing your thoughts about what we are going through. Anyway, I am glad these folks know the opportunity you provided me and that you are to blame for what I did or did not do well thereafter. I do recall that hike at Pt Reyes. The hike and my birding were getting in the way of your desire to get to Bolinas for some ice cream. One of my favorite trips that summer was an all day trip to Napa/Sonoma and finding an out-of-the-way vintner who named an especially drinkable jug red wine after his grandfather JD Martin. I think the vintner’s name was Tom Johnson (he is probably a very wealthy vintner now). When Tom told you why they named the wine JD Martin Red Table Wine – because they combined some varietals that just did not quite make the grade on their own, but when mixed together made the kind of red wine his wife’s grandfather loved to drink — you and I bought 4 cases of the jug wine. The end of that trip was challenging when you burned up your VW’s engine, because you ignored the red light on your dash that had you looked in the owner’s manual would have told you your catalytic converter was overheating. I ended up pushing that VW for a few hundred feet up the Golden Gate Bridge (that bridge is not flat!) until a Golden Gate Bridge tow truck pushed us the rest of the way and then towed you to some gas station. I think Don Neuwirth was with us. I remember Don sharing your aversion to the natural environment.

Be well my friend and mentor.

My response.

I apologize. As usual I acted without thinking.

When I started writing T&T eight years ago, I began to include comments and correspondence at the bottom of my blog when I repost it. I found however that it could go for many months before anyone acknowledged they had read it. So, I began including them in the body of T&T so I would not forget them. Recently for some reason, I have received more comments than usual and my excitement overcame me.

I hope I did not upset Carol. Please give her my apologies also.

Unless you object, I will strike out anything that could be construed as referring to her.

As for you comment. On that day we hiked Point Reyes, I recall a bird flew by in front of me from a bush on the side of the trail to one on the other. You did not see it, but when I exclaimed, you identified it merely from the sound it made as it flew by. To me that was magic.

Thanks for reminding me of that memorable trip across the Golden Gate Bridge.

My operation appears to have been a success, so I am leaving for Thailand next week. I will return in October. I hope I will be able to visit with you then.

Bill again.

Great news about your operation. Enjoy your trip to Thailand.

No need to strike anything from This & that. No worries.

Yes, I hope we can get together upon your return to the Golden Hills and State.

I hope your sister is feeling better.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S TEST:

The following is the test HRM was given on his first day of middle school. I bet you cannot pass it.

img_2150IMG_2150.jpg

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

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 3 JoJo 0005 (May 20, 2016)

“Lasting happiness comes only from serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin.”
Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (p. 390). HarperCollins.

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
Complaining about the weather in California is like someone who makes $250,000 a year telling you how hard it is to make ends meet. I understand what they mean but have a hard time sympathizing.

For about a ten days or so here in the Golden Hills of El Dorado the skies have been mostly overcast with a light rain now and then punctuated by the light show that accompanies wonderfully loud thunderstorms. Because I still fear the thunder, I pull the sheets up about my ears.

One day, the internet router stopped working leaving me unable to access Facebook, HRM could not get into YouTube and Dick well… whatever. We desperately searched for the cause — unsuccessfully. It reminded me of many years ago running around the house with the Rabbit Ears, trying to clear the dreaded snow from the television screen so that I could watch Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.

Anyway, I ended up calling India or someplace like that where someone who I could barely understand re-booted the router and tried to sell me an application that he promised would allow me to fix it on my own in the future.

My plans for the summer continue to be unresolved. So far all that is settled is that I will leave on June 4 for Mendocino, then depart for Milan on the June 9. After that who knows. Sometime at the end of June or even early July, I will travel to Thailand and stay there for one or two months.

Jason and I are looking to buy a home in the Sabina area of Italy. This is the one we seem to have settled on. It has two bedrooms and comes with 57 producing commercial olive trees
022_150914_dopo.jpg

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

I have been reconsidering the presidential primary elections now that the number of candidates has been reduced to two and one-half. I used to think this year’s primary process was absurd and have written some snarky pieces about them here and elsewhere. The ridiculous behavior of many of the candidates and the vicious conduct of many of their supporters have turned the process of electing a President into an embarrassment for the electorate as the candidates and their groupies descend from schoolboy taunts to vicious and misleading attacks. Nevertheless, I suspect, something has emerged that transcends the words and policies of the candidates. Something that may be more revolutionary.

With Trump, what separated him from his primary opponents seems to be his appeal to the white male working class, frustrated at the bleakness of their lives. He promises them, at least, the comfort of symbols — pride, flag, country and a God of sorts. On the other side, Sanders has also attracted in great numbers the young white males, in his case from the intellectual elite and middle classes. White males, no longer the dominant voting block, have become a swing group. Still powerful because their interests or fantasies are reflected in the bias of the media to a far greater extent than the interests or fantasies of any other segment of the electorate — women, the young, the old, other defined minorities and so on.

In the middle, Clinton seems the favorite of women and most of those groups deemed non-white. All three candidates have focused their policies and appeals primarily on those groups who see in them the solution to their concerns about our society and their role in it. In other words, on one side there are the concerns and interests of women and the non-white minorities and on the other the white males divided into two groups by ideology and social standing.

The hatred of white males toward Clinton is unprecedented. Those supporting Trump and Sanders seem to be saying that somewhere there may a woman who could be acceptable to us but just not this one, even if most women disagree.

This Presidential election seems to be more or less a replay of the last two, except where the liberal white males joined in with minority voters and women to enable a black man to win they now are adrift and threaten not to vote if their choice is not nominated. Since American elections are decided not by who votes but who does not vote, these voters threaten to sit the election out to throw away their votes thereby effectively joining forces with those white males energized to vote for the candidate of the party they usually oppose.

Trump has no real policies to better the lives of his supporters. He does, however, assure them a balm to their fears and a slice of pride. Bernie, on the other hand, promises an updated traditional New Deal type Democratic solution to certain long-simmering economic problems. He is not particularly focused on the social issues faced by minorities and women.

Clinton, unlike the other two candidates who concentrate on a few hot-button issues that appeal to their primarily white male supporters, understands the job of a President encompasses much more than a simplistic appeal to the concerns of their primary support groups (e.g., Targeting Immigrants and Muslims or wall street and the rich). Nevertheless, she has her own support groups, women, non-white minorities and children on whom she focusses her attention. And that is her revolution.

It is not whether she is acceptable to white males (or males in general) because she speaks out on issues they believe important (like for example, Warren does about Wall Street or say Bachman on immigrants) that matters, but her concentration on female empowerment, something most men either fear or do not understand. It is not enough, for example, to restore Glass-Steagall to law and leave the male hierarchy intact in order to ameliorate the discomfort both the Trump and Sanders supporters have with Wall Street’s domination of the economy and the political process. Her revolution is her determination that the board rooms should also be dominated by women and minorities (preferably female minorities) and the hedge funds be run by women managers. Take a look at her proposal for the Federal Reserve. It calls not simply for the removal of the bankers on the boards, a proposal on which both she and Bernie agree, but their replacement by women and minorities so that the board looks and acts more like America. This is the revolution.

These have always been a central theme of Clinton’s policies ever since she first stepped into the public arena. If she is successful, it promises to become the major and most lasting revolution of the millennium.

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

While trolling through back issues of T&T, I came across a report of the following conversation I had with HRM in 2012 as we were driving back from the Bay Area after some medical tests:

“During the drive, I explained to Hayden that he had to make sure I did not fall asleep due to any residual effects of the anesthesia. So we played ‘What am I thinking.’ A game I learned from the Dalls as something they used on long drives to divert their children. At one point, during a lull in the game I mentioned to H. that talking was a good thing to do to keep me awake.

He said:

‘In that case, there is something you should know about me. I am really an alien from Cluton sent here by my parents. That is why I act like I do. I have three hearts and five stomachs one of which is dedicated exclusively to digesting fish smoothies. I also have three butts one of which I lost during the Butt Wars which we lost and is why my parents sent me here to earth. I am filled with ‘joy bubbles’ which allow me to float in air or water if I want. You should also know that music makes me crazy.’

With that, he turned on the radio to a music station and acted…well crazy until finally and thankfully he shut the radio off.

Who knew?

A few days later I learned about a television show, Marvin Marvin, about a boy also from Cluton who lives with an American family. Hayden tells me Marvin is his best friend and they arrived from Cluton together.
Hayden made me promise I would tell no one of his confession because if they learned he was an alien they would send him back to Cluton. I figured that the well-known discretion exhibited by readers of ‘This and that…’ would permit them to fall within the class of no one.”

4-up on 3-1-13 at 6.18 PM

 

DAILY FACTOID:

“Today, the earth’s continents are home to billions of Sapiens. If you took all these people and put them on a large set of scales, their combined mass would be about 300 million tons. If you then took all our domesticated farmyard animals – cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens – and placed them on an even larger set of scales, their mass would amount to about 700 million tons. In contrast, the combined mass of all surviving large wild animals – from porcupines and penguins to elephants and whales – is less than 100 million tons. Our children’s books, our iconography, and our TV screens are still full of giraffes, wolves and chimpanzees, but the real world has very few of them left. There are about 80,000 giraffes in the world, compared to 1.5 billion cattle; only 200,000 wolves, compared to 400 million domesticated dogs; only 250,000 chimpanzees – in contrast to billions of humans. Humankind really has taken over the world.”
Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (p. 350). HarperCollins.

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Simple Psychology: Dunning—Kruger Effect.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled persons suffer an illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accurately. Their research also suggests corollaries: highly skilled individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.

In my experience, the D—K effect among highly skilled individuals is their mistaken assessment of their ability to explain what they do to themselves as well as to the so-called relatively unskilled.

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

For at least 10,000 years or so virtually every political system, economic system and religion has been designed by men for men. There is no natural or divine law that requires any of these structures to be designed in the way that they have been. During those same 10,000 years, every justification of those structures has been developed by men to benefit men.

C. Today’s Poem:
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Sculpture of the poet Taliesin on permanent loan to the Order of Sancta Sophia, Pennal.

“I have been many things,
Before becoming as I am.
I have been a narrow multi-colored sword.
I have been a tear in the air.
I have lived as the faintest of stars.
I have been a word among letters,
A book among words.”*
Taliesin, 500 ACE
(*My revisions to translation).

The Birth of Taliesin:
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Ceridwen and Gwion Bach by Tim Rossiter.

“The magical story of Taliesin (t-ah l-ee eh-sin) – Hanes Taliesin – begins with the goddess Ceridwen (KEH-rihd-wehn) stirring her Cauldron over her cooking fire. Ceridwen is the triple-goddess in her form as elder or ‘crone’. Her Cauldron is the source of everything, for she is God in the aspect of Creator. At this point, the Cauldron is the source of poetic inspiration (awen in Welsh) and of all wisdom and knowledge. She has her son Gwion Bach (which might be translated “Little Man-ling”) stir and watch the pot. Accidentally, three drops fall from the Cauldron onto Gwion’s thumb, and he sucks his thumb. With this act he becomes filled with all knowledge – and, seeing danger ahead for himself, scurries.

There follows a magic hunt, in which Ceridwen chases Gwion, Gwion shape-shifts into a hare, then an otter, then a bird, and Ceridwen shape-shifts in pursuit. Gwion then becomes an ear of grain and Ceridwen turns herself into a hen and eats him. The symbolic meaning is fairly transparent: Gwion, the archetypal Human Person, acquiring a little wisdom, flees from fire (the cauldron) via earth (hare), water (otter) and air (bird), all of them changing forms within the great cosmic delusion of Creation (hence, “shape shifting”); but the Divine Mother is in constant pursuit, ever coaxing Her child back to Herself. Eventually, the Human becomes totally humble, submitting himself to a state of being (one grain) in which he can be wholly absorbed into the Divine Consciousness…….

…..and, as often happens in a story when grain is a symbol, he is reborn. The Hanes Taliesin tells us that Gwion now spends nine months in the womb of Ceridwen and is then reborn as Taliesin. Ceridwen wills neither to keep him nor to kill him, so she leaves him in a basket by Gwyddno’s royal salmon weir. There he is found by Prince Elffin, son of King Gwyddno Garanhir of Ceredigion.

Elffin is frustrated. He was there, allowed to fish for salmon for the first time in his life, and instead of catching any he caught this darned baby. The baby Taliesin immediately sings Elffin a poem, in which he proclaims himself “loquacious though not yet able to speak” (reminiscent of Krishna’s comparably surprising day-of-birth speech to his father), informs him “I was once little Gwion Bach but now I am Taliesin”, and promises the young prince that he will one day be worth more to him than even as inconceivably big a day’s catch as three hundred salmon.”
https://kingarthursomerset.wordpress.com/about/

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Is it possible that the relationship between humanity and evil is similar to the relationship between the ocean and an iceberg floating on its surface? Both the ocean and the iceberg are made of the same material. That the iceberg seems separate is only because it is in a different form. In reality, it is but a part of the vast ocean.… It was impossible to expect a moral awakening from humankind itself, just like it was impossible to expect humans to lift off the earth by pulling up on their own hair. To achieve moral awakening required a force outside the human race.”
Liu, Cixin. The Three-Body Problem (p. 28). Tom Doherty Associates.

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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Categories: April through June 2016, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 13 Shadow 0004 (July 2, 2015)

 

Laudato Si’

“Men and women who seek to become gods must first lose their humanity.”
Koontz, Dean. Odd Apocalypse: An Odd Thomas Novel (p. 206). Random House Publishing Group.
July 15 is National be a Dork Day. Remember to mark your calendar.

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SABINA:
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Casperia in Sabina

Back in Sabina, we spent a few days exploring Casperia, the town Jason grew up in, eating at some of the fine local restaurants and looking for a place to buy as a family retreat. Since the collapse of the economy several years ago, the prices of homes in the area have fallen substantially.
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A piazza in Casperia
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Jason by the wall
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Pookie enjoys an afternoon snack of prosciutto, Mozzarella da Buffala, a local crumbly cheese made from sheep’s milk, a delicious local salami and, of course, a glass of wine from the nearby vineyards.

One day we visited Roccantica, another hill town nearby where about 120 years ago my grandmother was born along with her 12 siblings in a small three-room home. Those 13 siblings grew up and most of them left the town, some to the US, some to Australia and some to other towns in Italy. Now only Rosina, the widow of the grandson of one of those 13, still lives in that home, alone. During the day, she sits on a plastic chair in the shade by the door, talking to neighbors across the alley a few steps away, hoping for visits from her children on the weekends and waiting to die.
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Jason, although in America often bitter and angry about the hand fate has dealt him, here in Italy his true home is almost always sensitive, compassionate and insightful.* In our short visit he brought joy and happiness to Rosina.

*Of course, not necessarily in the father-son relationship where we naturally must play endless games of Orestes at the Seashore.

B. A FEW DAYS IN ROME:
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A View of Rome

I returned to Rome intending to get only two things done in the week remaining before departing for Thailand. One was to complete some banking transactions at which I was singularly unsuccessful.

One of my minor amusements while in Rome was to plot automobile directions on my computer and watch the contortions which the application goes through to get from one point to another. In the case of the bank, it was located on the corner of the block not more that twenty-five yards away from my pensione. The map showed an image looking like a deranged snake extending about two kilometers before ending at that same corner.

My second goal was to visit Borromini’s mature masterwork, St Ivo’s in Sapienza which was supposedly open to the public on Sunday mornings and which I had longed to visit for forty-five years now. It was open and I was enthralled.
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The first thing one needs to notice in Borromini’s church architecture is the absolute absence of an anthropomorphic God. Nowhere does one find his rival Bernini and other architect’s visions of God in heaven, a sky full of rumbling noise, clouds, putties and flashing lights.
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True at times he was forced by his patrons to include symbols of their families in his designs, but rarely a hint of God. It seems the Popes and Cardinals that hired him were far more interested in honoring their families then in glorifying God.
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Borromini begins his designs with a simple mathematical or geometrical figure and allows it to become more complex as it meets with the restrictions of the site, like some Mandelbrot set cascading from the apex of the dome to the floor. To Borromini, like Steven Hawking, God exists in a mathematical equation — God as the Unified Field Theory.

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I was so thrilled with my morning, I celebrated by sitting at one of those execrable cafe’s the line Piazza Navona and drinking the worst cup of coffee I had in Italy.
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I sat at the same cafe 45 years ago where my old acting classmate Jon Voight sat nearby during the filming of a few scenes from Catch 22. He did not recognize me and I did not acknowledge him.
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An interesting take on the human statue — one floating in air.

Outside of the above, I mostly I spent my time wandering around, primarily in the Villa Borghese. I wonder why I enjoy it there so much?

Of course, I tried again to get into the Borghese Museum but it was sold out until long after I depart. So, the placid Canovas, the hyperactive Berninis, the dead and bilious eyes of the Caravaggios and the etherial Rafaelos will just have to wait for another day and I will have to content myself with a photograph of the palazzo’s exterior for this trip.
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One evening I sat listening to a trumpet player playing the blues. The clear high notes shimmering through the quaking leaves and shadows of the Roman evening seemed as appropriate as if they came out of a smokey bar in Harlem.
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Another day, I sat and listened to the accodianist play “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach, better known to all as the music the Phantom of the Opera plays when he is sitting alone at the organ. (also recorded by SKY, Deep Purple, Blondie and McFly)
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Earlier, a drone hovered above my head. It was a memorable event — my first drone. One never forgets his or her first time.
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Although central Rome is notorious for bad Italian food, I found a place just off the Via Veneto, on Via Sardegna that I recommend. Andrea’s Restaurant is a little pricey, but when you can make a simple tommelli pasta with butter and cheese and a sprinkling of pepper taste like a king’s dish, you have something good going for you. I also had a side plate of spinach that was remarkably free of the often bitter spinach taste. Since it is fig season, I finished the meal with almost perfect fresh figs.

On my last night in Italy, I returned to Andrea’s. I had a superb Gnocchi. The place must be somewhat well known. There was a Japanese couple in the restaurant with me. They had a Japanese woman with them whose job it was to stand by the table and interact with the wait staff. When she had nothing to do, she waited in the kitchen for the couple to finish dinner and then left with them.

I enjoy wandering aimlessly around cities like Rome where people spend so much of their time outside on the streets that bits and pieces of their triumphs and tragedies drop like gold coins on to the sidewalks. I walked by a hotel a few steps off the Via Veneto where a little girl was crying desolately, having lost something of great value to her on the bus to or from somewhere. Her parents, the doorman and the bus driver fluttered about trying to comfort her. But, of course, to children the pain of such loses, although at times brief, cannot be consoled.

One day there was a Ferrari rally through the streets of Rome. It was colorful and loud.
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At other times I would visit my old haunts.
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Pookie happily enjoying an eight euro cup of coffee at Cafe Greco.

Alas, moments after taking this selfie, the background music in the cafe began to play the dying CoCo San’s aria from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly and I began to cry as I always do when I hear it — much to the consternation of the stone-faced waitress as she brought me my bill.

I noticed one morning as I went down to breakfast in my pensione dedicated to servicing impoverished priests and pilgrims, that I was dressed all in black — black shirt, black pants, and even those clunky rubber soled black shoes that priests like to wear so that they can sneak up on you. I wondered if my subconscious was trying to tell me something truly frightening.

The answer to my question above as to why I enjoy the Borghese Gardens so much is because it is a park with benches where old folks like me can sit for free in the shade, watch the people go by and listen to the music of the street musicians, until the biting and stinging insects drive us away.

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Rome as it is now and alas, as it will be.

C. STRANGE DREAMS:

I continue to have strange dreams. In one, I am an undercover police officer who works at night in a city like New York battling those who prey on the weak and the disabled. I dress like I am lame, hobbling along on two canes. I often go into abandoned buildings that terrorize me. I work every night seven days a week and live alone in a small room. When I pass people on the streets, no one says hello or even looks at me.

In another, I am a priest in a hospital charged with transferring deformed infants on life support to other hospitals better able to care for them or more likely, dispose of them. I am silently in love with an ebullient red-haired hospital administrator who is three months pregnant and deeply adores her husband.

D. BOOK REPORT:

Good News! Denise Mina is about to release two new mystery novels for publication. Mina is one of the few mystery writers whose heroines appear to be real women — women detectives that have a right to be as screwed-up as their male counterparts.

The first and to me the best, The GarnetHill Trilogy, features a loudmouth, alcoholic slut on the dole — Imagine Nancy Drew as a dipso welfare queen in Glasgow.

The second and my personal favorite features a young overweight newspaper reporter forced to cover women things. She wears clothing too tight and skirts too short, is the constant butt of male newsroom jokes and falls easily into bed with whichever no-good asks her.

The third, Alex Morrow, is a police detective passed over for promotion because of her sex and reviled in the station house for her coldness, competence and sharp tongue. Morrow deals bitterly and cynically with the demise of her youthful dreams and enthusiasm about her career. Somehow I get the impression this is Mina’s favorite character.

Each of these women through grit and insight solve mysteries the men who bedevil them are unable to even remotely decipher.

Pookie says try them, you’ll like them.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

“ By now it is clear to most thinking people that every decision we make on major public problems simply makes matters worse.”

“We live in a cancer society in which growth has become the enemy of life. In economics this means that our economy cannot sell the consumer goods pouring out of existing factories unless we are simultaneously investing more capital and resources in new factories to make more goods or are otherwise providing more purchasing power to the market by inflationary spending on nonmarketable products such as national defense. This same characteristic feature of our society, that we cannot use what we already have for the satisfaction of our needs unless we devote increasing increments of time and resources to different future desires, now pervades all aspects of our society. Everywhere our activities now have built-in feedback loops which require investment in future technical innovations creating new activities or there will be sudden collapse of our existing activities.”

“Reductionist attitudes and methods now dominate every corner of our lives, defended by an unconscious alliance of special interests, corruption, and irrationality. These would be jeopardized by the holistic methods Ferkiss advocates. We holists are a small minority with little influence. Ferkiss believes that “science” supports his position. Holistic science, such as he and I practice, does support him, but 90% of the American Association for the Advancement of Science are reductionist technicians and would repudiate our version of what “science” is. He ls a holistic political scientist: I am a holistic historian. Each of us is a lonely voice in his own discipline, and our view would be rejected by the majority of our professional associates. Even publication is restricted for holistic views wherever manuscripts are subject to approval by “expert” referees or editorial boards of specialists.”
Carroll Quigley review of Ferkiss “In Search for a Solution to the World Crisis,” 1974

I suggest reading the second paragraph twice. It describes the crisis of our times. The crisis that Laudato Si seeks to address. Sadly, the process of bringing forth a sustainable world will probably be accompanied by economic depression and suffering until it is achieved. The question is not how do we bring about a sustainable world. We already know that. But, how do we take care of people until that revolution succeeds? Because, if we fail at that, we fail with it.

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“The tragic truth, however, is that the young as they age become conservative, ethnic groups as they move into the middle class do so also. The gay community is now free to vote Republican without shame while the black community is prevented from voting even if they are Republican. And worse of all, the seven and eight year olds of our nation seem to have been indoctrinated in many of our schools to hate others as well as to despise science.”

“We progressives can slap ourselves on the back all we want, but as usual we have failed to grasp the grim realities of politics which is that it is an eternal war of attrition and the opposition is better equipped and trained while all too often all we have is our optimism to sustain us as the barricades are overrun and we wait for popular support that never comes.”

C. Emotions people feel but cannot explain.

OPLA. The ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable.
From the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“It should be obvious by now that the right-wing fixation on repealing or defunding Obamacare is symbolic rather than substantive. It’s a political dispute that appears to be about the present and about matters of policy, but is really about the past. Most opponents of the president’s healthcare bill neither know nor care whether it contains elements of “socialism” (which it doesn’t). What’s at stake is the ability to roll back reality, as with a spell learned at Tea-Party Hogwarts. If this aspect of a hated new American reality can be undone, then so, at least in the world of right-wing magical thinking, can everything else”
Andrew O’Hehir, Solon.

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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This photograph is mostly for Bill Yeates and others with a passing interest in the avian world. It is a poster that sits on the plaza that fronts Italy’s Parliament Building. It supposedly represents the birds that frequent the plaza — scavengers all — much like most legislators. In fact from my time in the legislature in California I can attach specific legislators to each species. (Pigeon – Montoya, Seagull – Denny Carpenter, Hawk – Bob Moretti and Willie Brown and those birds that flit around and do nothing, most of the rest.) Let me know how you would categorize the legislators you know.

 

Categories: July through September 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 6 Shadow 0004 (June 26, 2015)

Laudato Si’

“Life has no reason. You are either here or you are in the Cemetery.”
Giovanni Corsello (June 2015)

Jon Snow Lives — Winter is Coming.

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

 

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY:

 

A. Sicily Agonistes.
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The morning sun lighting up Mt. Pellegrino and the Port of Palermo.

I got up early and watched our arrival into Palermo from the deck of the ferry.

After disembarking, we left Palermo to drive across the island to Agrigento. Being spring, the countryside was still green and bright.
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Since it was still early by the time we arrived in Agrigento, we decided to visit the Valley of the Temples. Actually, valley is a misnomer. The temples are sited on a two-mile long ridge atop a cliff facing the sea that formed the fundamental defensive structure for the city. The ancient Greek City of Akragas itself sat in a long flat valley between the ridge and the heights on which the modern city is built. The temples, made of sandstone and originally covered with plaster and painted bright colors, run the gamut from the almost complete Temple of Concorde through various stages of ruin.
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Temple of Concord                                               Temple of Giove

Having been there before, I knew the site would be hot. I had hoped out morning visit would shield us from the worst of it. It did not. Approaching the end and unhappily contemplating returning, this time uphill, I flung myself on a bench in the direct sun, too tired to search for one in the shade. I was still sick, exhausted, old, thirsty and despondent because I had not taken my happy pills for three days. I felt like an aging tiger licking his wounds in the shadow of a rock, contemplating his rising urge to slay and destroy everything in sight, buildings, people trees — all of it.
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Jason, noticing my distress, helped me into the shade of a small park where I could rest. The park, noted by Camilleri in one of his novels, is the attempted restoration of the area where the ancient Greeks used to fish and recreate among the olive trees. Like most operations of this kind, its hopes did not match its funding or staffing levels. Staring at the trunks of 2000-year-old olive trees soon bored me so Jason walked me to a little cafe where I sat quasi-conscious while he trudged the two miles back to the car and then get lost, as one must before he could return and pick me up.

B. Paradiso Siciliana.

We drove to Canicatti. I tried to remember the way to Antonio’s BnB but could not and after a contretemps with Jason and a comedy with the locals over the name of the street, Antonio arrived and led us to his house.
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There we were restored by a lunch of a spectacular caponata and sun dried tomatoes, Pesto Siciliana, local sheep cheese and sausage. I went to sleep until 9 pm when it was time to meet the neighbors.

The neighbors, in this case, being those renting out the two other rooms in Antonio’s house. They were two youngish couples, one French from Montpellier and the other Belgian from Brussels. After a round of introductions and a few pleasantries, we sat down to dinner.

The dinner began with Eggplant Parmigiana made with local tomatoes that look like large chili peppers and have a stronger more piquant taste than regular tomatoes. This was followed by arancini, (Sicilian fried rice balls, rice packed with cheese [mozzarella] and a meat sauce). After this came a plate of mussels cooked in a heavenly sauce that I will not even try to describe. After sopping up the dregs of the sauce with local bread, Antonio presented us with a pasta with clams, mussels and swordfish and some vegetables. All this was accompanied by four wines, three of which were supplied by Antonio, a Grillo and two varieties of local Criso di Campobello. The fourth bottle was a surprise brought by one of the couples, a red from Nimes.

All this was followed by an orange salad, (large pieces of orange covered in well-cooked onions and lightly dusted with black pepper). Then we were served Sicilian cassata, accompanied by a Sicilian Limoncello. And, of course, fruit freshly picked from Antonio’s garden.
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Antonio is a local pediatrician and a leading member of Sicily and Italy’s Slow Food movement. The house has been the family home for at least three generations. It sits on a little less than an acre of land at the edge of Canicatti. There is a small industrial park on one side and a roadway on the other, yet sitting here one feels far away from urban life. On this tiny bit of land, Antonio grows most of the fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, and some of the nuts with which he serves his guests — and of course, the flowers. When I sit at the outside table at which we eat, I see the following:
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The yard has a litter of kittens, the mother of which has disappeared. They romp through the gardens and in and out of the house catching mice and one another’s tails. Now and then one will take a swipe at your big toe should you wiggle it under the table as you eat.
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I ought to mention the recipe for polpette that Antonio made for Jason and I one evening as we were taking a break from the relatives —take very (hard) stale bread, soak in water for about three hours, squeeze out the water; add meat (half pork and half beef), coriander, three eggs, capers, pecorino cheese, garlic, mint, Italian parsley, salt and pepper and nutmeg. Knead, roll into balls and cook in hot sunflower oil.

At that same meal, we enjoyed a pasta with shrimp and prawns and a meat dish made like braciole.
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Pookie digs in

Later in the week, after the two couples left, we were joined by a German couple. They were here to attend the wedding of a friend. The wife, an ex-bartender, was seven months pregnant. The husband was director of business planning for Siemens wind power subsidiary. We had a number of interesting conversations. They both spoke English well having lived in England and India where the husband worked as a medical systems consultant.
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Jason eats a Cannoli                                           Venerdi and Jason

Toward the end of the week, the figs ripened on Antonio’s trees so we pigged out on them as we watched him turn some of them into preserves and other delicacies.

C. Meet the relatives and eat a lot.

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View of Canicatti
Visiting relatives one has not seen for a while is always a mixture of stress and joy — everyone straining to make each other comfortable for the brief time they have together yet wishing for the easy communication of an ongoing relationship.

Anyway, my eighty-year-old cousin Giovanni arrived with his son to take us to his farmhouse on the top of a hill overlooking Canicatti, the town in Sicily where my mother was born and where I lived for a short while over forty years ago. Giovanni likes to sneak away from home most afternoons to drink wine and nod off to sleep free from his wife’s observation. While he enjoys his pleasures, his son putters around the property. A few days later, we spent a lovely Sunday afternoon at the farm with Giovanni and his entire family.
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Jason, Giovanni, and his son.

On another day we had lunch with an additional group of cousins, Guglielmo, his wife Giovanna and their two sons, his sister Elina and their mother Giuseppina. Giuseppina, Giovanni’s sister, still lives in the same building Jason and I lived in so long ago. Guglielmo is a banker and committed marathon runner. His wife, Giovanna runs half marathons. His sister Elina teaches school in Catania. We had an excellent meal as always.
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Guglielmo and Family                        The view of Canicatti from Giuseppina’s window.

Alas, the next day we had planned a tour of the area with Guglielmo and Elina but unfortunately, he took sick and we had to cancel. That was a disappointment as we looked forward to spending the day with them.

Jason, the good guest that he is, ate everything placed in front of him at the various lunches and dinners. I on the other hand, with varying degrees of success, tried to beg off food offerings before they were served, blaming my all too true intestinal maladies.
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Giovanni and his son, his two daughters Teresa and Maria and their children.
One day, while being driven around the city and its environs, we passed Piezzu Giumeddru (I think it is spelled this way), a large outcropping on the outskirts of the city. It dominates the landscape and it appears to have been split apart by a great force. According to the relatives, it is here the Paladin Orlando, in the great Italian epic “Orlando Furioso,” feigning madness over the woman he loved choosing to bed his best friend, sliced the rock in two with his sword.
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We also visited the beach (it was too windy and cold to swim), and the wonderful Spanish Baroque City of Naro, seat of the Chiaramonte Family, tragically mistakenly bombed by the allies in WWII — but mostly we ate and talked.
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D. Our evening with GiGi.

One night we visited my friend GiGI and his wife. Unfortunately, GiGI suffers from Parkinson’s and has a great difficulty getting around. We spent some time looking at photographs of his illustrious automobile racing career and later we went downstairs into his garage to look at the cars he used to race and where Jason was able to view for the first time in over 40 years the tiny three-wheeled Trojan motorcar that he and I travelled in across Europe from England to Sicily when he was only two and one-half years old.
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E. Departure and return to Sabina.
Eventually, our time in Sicily was at an end and with great regret, we set off for Palermo and the ferry to take us back to Sabina. We spent several hours in Palermo, before boarding the ferry to Naples, getting lost, viewing a few historical sites and shopping.
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Pookie in front of Palermo Cathedral
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Our last view of Sicily

The next morning we drove back to Sabina stopping along the way at Nemi in the Castelli Romani and enjoyed a fine lunch overlooking the lake.
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PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

A. Quigley on Top:

“So I told them about the USA — really very hair-raising when it is all laid out in sequence: . . . .1. cosmic hierarchy; 2. energy; 3. agriculture; 4. food; 5. health and medical services; 6. education; 7. income flows and the worship of GROWTH; 8. inflation. . .showing how we are violating every aspect of life by turning everything into a ripoff because we. . .have adopted the view that insatiable individualistic greed must run the world.”

“Although our cognitive system has made our civilization the richest and mightiest in the world, its continued use without cognitive sophistication is leading us to disaster. Lynn White, Jr., pointed this out in his article, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” in Science for March 10, 1967.”

“Professor White’s thesis is that when the Judeo-Christian faith established the view that there is no spirit in nature other than the human, the world was reduced to a created object to be exploited by humans, and the way was thus opened to the destruction of nature and to the total pollution of the world — a consequence that may have become inevitable with the rejection, in the latter thirteenth century, of the message of St. Francis to treat all nature as sacred.”

“The cognitive techniques derived from our underlying outlook have included ( a) using analysis rather than synthesis in seeking answers to problems; (b) isolating problems and studying them in a vacuum instead of using an ecological approach; ( c) using techniques based on quantification rather than on qualification study done in a contextual situation; (d) proceeding on the assumption of single-factor causation rather than pluralistic, ecological causation; and (e) basing decisions and actions on needs of the individual rather than needs of the group.”

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“When all is said and done, it is not how many toys you die with, but how many stories.”

C. Today’s Poem:

Who invited him in? What was he doing here,
That insolent little ruffian, that crapulous lout?
When he quitted a sofa, he left behind him a smear.
My wife says he even tried to paw her about.
If that is what his friends thought of him, what of his enemies?
Norman Cameron on the visit to his home by the famed poet, Dylan Thomas.

D. Emotions people feel but cannot explain — from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
(Thanks to Denise Mina — may she soon write another novel.)

Sonder. The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own.

 

Categories: April through June 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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