“Prison always has been a good place for writers, killing, as it does, the twin demons of mobility and diversion.”
Simmons, Dan. Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, Book 1) Random House Publishing Group.
Ramadan ends on June 15 (Eid al-Fitr).
Father’s Day falls on June 17.
July 4 is Independence Day.
July 15 has been designated as “National be a Dork Day.”
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:
Off to Mendocino for the Mendocino Film Festival — great weather the whole weekend. The two directors of one of the film entries (Meow Wolf) were staying in my sister’s Tower House.
We saw four movies. On the night we arrived, we attended the screening of“The Florida Project” an engaging film about a young girl of about six years old growing up in a low-income community near Disney World.
The following morning, N and I walked along the bluffs of Fort Bragg’s magnificent oceanfront park.
Pookie looking exhausted.
That evening, we saw“Getting Naked: A Burlesque Story” which follows the lives of five women trying to make a living as performers in the “New Burlesque” movement. They made it clear this was not the “Old Burlesque.” Primarily, I surmised, that was because it was women of a not so-called ideal shape who twirled their tassels and shook their gluteus maximi. They also were quite clear they were not “strippers” even though they also took off most of their clothes. I guess they were not “strippers” because they seem to be not as serious as most of the strippers I have seen perform. The movie was followed by a live and lively burlesque show, all boobs, butts and adolescent humor.
On Sunday, we saw “RBG,” a documentary as good as it gets. Watching how one small elderly woman who rarely smiles and speaks agonizingly slowly can dominate every scene in which she appears is alone worth the price of admission. There should be an Oscar for “most impressive individual to appear in a documentary.”
Finally, we attended the showing of the film, “Meow Wolf,” directed by the two women staying in the Tower House. It tells about a struggling art collective in Santa Fe that created an interactive artwork in an abandoned bowling alley that became so popular the collective now stands on the verge of becoming a multi-million dollar entertainment empire with interactive art venues soon to be opened in Denver, Los Vegas and I am sure in an abandoned bowling alley or warehouse near to wherever you live.
After the showing, the two directors joined us back at my sister’s house for wines and cheeses and olives and mixed nuts and other things one eats with their hands. We talked a lot, laughed a lot, exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and promised to “keep in touch.”
The next morning, we set out to return to Sacramento. Unfortunately, or fortunately, as it turned out, somewhere a little past Clear Lake I took the wrong turn and found myself traveling through what appeared to be one of the least populated areas of the state — a place of large ranches, burned over forests and memories of Lily Langtry. After a stop for coffee in Middletown a small town destroyed by fire a few years ago, I asked Siri how to find my way home. As it turned out, Siri sent us on the road that ran along the very path that Grizzly Hair took on his trek from the banks of the Cosumnes River to Fort Ross to seek the aid of the Russians in the Indian’s war against the Mexicans that was described in Naida West’s great historical novel “River of Red Gold.” Unfortunately, he failed in his mission because when he finally arrived at the fort he found the Russians were preparing to leave California and had sold northern California to the Mexicans for a few salted almonds. Grizzly Hair did manage, however, to while away much of his time on the coast with a Pomo woman he met which may have made all that trekking almost worthwhile.
B. BACK IN THE HEART OF THE GREAT VALLEY:
Back in Sacramento, I slept most of the day, went for an evening walk along the river and finished the day watching “42nd Street,” and “The Gold Diggers of 1932” with Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Bebe Danials, Ginger Rogers, Joan Blondell, and about half the female musical comedy stars of the time in the chorus. Obviously, I have got a lot of time on my hands. Did I mention Busby Berkeley? Does my watching of these films mean we are about to face an imminent revival of the musical cinema? Perhaps, a return of “Hellzapoppin,” a musical about a historical figure like what was done in “Hamilton” but about He Who Is Not My President instead — a burlesque musical for a burlesque presidency.
The next day, I returned to the Golden Hills. The Enchanted Forest is lovely, but as soon as one leaves its sylvan bounds one enters that overdeveloped suburban mish-mash that only an automobile could love. It was comfortably warm. I walked around the lakes, finishing off with an Iced-tea lemonade at a table in front of the far-too-expensive tea shop in Town Center. I thought about life’s descending curtain for a while then dismissed it as it was too nice a day to ponder the imponderables. I will leave that to dead philosophers and live talk show hosts.
The following day, after my walk, I had a root-beer float at Zia’s a far-too-expensive coffee house a few doors down from the far-too-expensive tea shop. I think I am having an existential crisis. Perhaps I can sleep it off.
We went to a going away party for a next door neighbor who is moving to Normandy for some reason. I may have been the youngest person there. I met a retired dentist from NY who had an office in Rockefeller Center at the same time that I had a law office there — small world or interesting coincidence? Who knows, but it did lead to amusing reminisces. I somehow think I am struggling for meaning here. Perhaps I will try again tomorrow.
It was Saturday and although I am no rabbi, I slept late. (For those who get the reference, think a nice thought about yourself.) I watched a newscast of He Who is Not My President blowing up the G-7 talks in Canada then I took a nap. Sometimes that is all you can do.
The way I see it, without the US leadership, the democratic nations of the West are ill-equipped to confront the Autocracies of Corruption now arrayed against them. Without America, these democracies do not have the military might or the unified covert political infrastructure to compete with what is becoming clear are, if not the co-ordinated then the concurrent, political attacks by the major autocracies like Russia and China. The actions of He Who Is Not My President might not be treasonous per se in that he is not strictly conspiring to surrender political control to a foreign entity but it is a chaotic revolution of sorts by which our operating democracy slowly is becoming replaced by a tyranny while still retaining the trappings of a republic. Sort of like what happened in Rome. Augustus Cesar did not change the structure of the Roman Republic. He merely appointed himself and his family members to all the government jobs that really mattered. It took about 70 years for the family to be ousted by the military and by then even the trappings of the Republic had been all but abandoned.
What this all means is that one should never nap after watching He Who Is Not Our Commander In Chief on television doing anything other than his Levee (although there are those that believe that is all he does do).
Following my post-nap rumination, I took the dog for a walk. We walked along the American River levee, singing and dancing to old show tunes until the sky turned from red gold to deep purple and we returned home.
Dusk on the American River Levee.
By Sunday afternoon, I felt I was going a bit stir crazy. It is not the need for doing something but the need for seeing someone else doing something even if that something is ordering a cup of coffee and carrying it to a table. Hanging around a house with little more than television and my iPhone eventually makes me even more loopy than usual. So, we got into the car and drove up Route 16 to historic Sloughhouse to deliver some books. Then over to Jackson to a bookstore there to deliver some more books. Above the bookstore is a place called Baker Street West. An entire floor of the building is a shrine devoted to the great but fictional detective. They even had a room fixed up like his quarters on Baker Street complete with calabash pipe (which by the way Holmes never smoked in any of his stories. He preferred a clay pipe.) and magnifying glass thrown askew on his desk (I could see no evidence of Holmes’ opium stash (Holmes denied he mixed cocaine with his opium — as well he should.))
After the tour, we drove to the town of Sutter’s Creek for dinner. I ordered spaghetti and meatballs. For those who cook Italian food professionally or for one’s own pleasure please remember, IT IS THE SAUCE AND NOT THE NOODLES THAT MATTER. Whether it is a tomato sauce, meat sauce, Alfredo, even agile olio, spend your time on the sauce — making sure that it has a flavor to die for by tasting it while you cook. The noodles need only to be the right shape to hold the sauce and be cooked properly al dente with salt and a touch of olive oil (no, the olive oil is not used to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Like the salt, it should subtly add to the taste). Finally, please do not pile the plate with noodles at the expense of the sauce — it is the sauce that makes the dish. Also, good tomato sauce needs to be reduced. Simmering for several hours and saving it overnight is good. Those who make tomato sauce in a frying pan in 15 minutes or so should have their procreation organs cut off.
Also, when cooking pasta always make sure you drink some wine while you do — otherwise where is the fun. I have always been disgusted by cooking shows. They either simply end with a shot of the finished product or someone tasting it and rolling their eyes to let you know how good it is. Bullshit! It is the eating of the entire meal that matters — that should take at least as much time and preparation as it’s cooking. Otherwise, why waste your time cooking? You may as well go out and eat fast food. How you set your table, your water, the bread, the wine, the comfort of the chair, the slow savoring of the various tastes and aromas, that is what makes the meal. Talking while eating borders on the barbaric. Between courses, it is fine.
Obviously, you can tell from this rant that I did not enjoy my meal at that restaurant very much. Chatty waiters add little to the culinary experience.
Then we drove home and went to sleep — another a deposit in the Bank of Memories Past.
Today I swam in one of the pools in the Enchanted Forrest. Each HOA in the Forest (10 in all) has a main pool and clubhouse as well as one or two smaller pools and clubhouses. The development as a whole also has a main clubhouse and pool. That is a lot of clubhouses and pools. Anyway, the pool I swam in was surrounded on the south and west side with tall redwood trees shading the pool on summer afternoons. A seven-year-old boy challenged me to a race. He beat me three out of four times. While I was swimming laps, I noticed the greasy black smoke of a nearby fire curling up behind the trees. A fire department helicopter circled overhead and the sound of sirens cut through the silence of the Forest. Such is the excitement of my world now.
In a few days, I am off to Italy. Although I will spend about a week to ten days traveling through Croatia to Calabria and five days in Sicily, except for a few days with Nikki in Milan very little else has been planned. I may travel into the mountains behind Naples to Pratola near Avellino, the heartland of the Camorra. That is where the Petrillo clan comes from. Few who leave there ever go back, even for a visit. An uncle advised me to never go there. “If they do not kill you, they will rob you,” he said. An Aunt cautioned, “They will only ask you to give them money.” I assume times have changed since my Aunt and Uncle visited.
“Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few.”
Today, the news was all about He who is not my President’s trip to North Korea where he once again demonstrated that there is no dictator, no matter heinous, that he cannot love and no ally, no matter how staunch their support, that he would not stab in the back if it suited him. That he has turned the United States into a country without honor seems to not faze him one bit.
Muhammad’s Seventh Wife Zaynab bint Jahsh.
An early convert to Islam, Zaynab was the wife of Muhammad’s adopted son Zayd ibn Harithah. She was also the Prophet’s biological cousin. When Muhammad became infatuated with Zaynab, Zayd was pressured to divorce her. To justify marrying her, Muhammad announced new revelations that (1) an adopted son did not count as a real son, so Zaynab was not his daughter-in-law, and (2) as a prophet, he was allowed more than the standard four wives. Zaynab excelled at leather-crafts.
One that Got Away — Fakhita (Umm Hani) bint Abi Talib.
Muhammad proposed to his cousin Fakhita, but her father married her off to a wealthy Makhzumite poet instead.
Nearly forty years later, after Muhammad conquered Mecca, Fakhita’s husband fled rather than converting to Islam, causing an automatic divorce. Muhammad proposed to Fakhita again, but she refused, saying she could not be equally fair to a new husband and her young children.
Later still, Fakhita came to Muhammad, saying her children had grown up and she was finally ready to marry him; but he said she was too late.
(JP — What intrigues me most about this entry is contemplating what it was that was going through my mind that caused me to research the wives of Muhammed. One of the few minor benefits of aging is the slow replacement of memory with mystery. (e.g., Asking yourself how your eyeglasses got where you found them after looking for them for the past two days or why the wives of Muhammed so obsessed you that you just had to tell those who might read this about two of them.))
A. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:
I especially like this blog because the author seems to believe (as do I) that intemperate invective is a legitimate method of scholarly criticisms. For example, in one of his blog postings reviewing a book written by another anthropologist, he opines:
“You know what? Fuck him. Fuck his ancestors too. What some inbred twit thinks the about the evolution of human society is about as relevant as what a raccoon thinks. The reason this kind of pervy-Darwinistic thought was repudiated many decades ago is that it was recognized as the vulgar self-interested bio-politics of the rich and powerful. If there is a Darwinian lesson to be extracted from the history of the 20th century, it is probably that the poor require constant protection from the ideologies of the overwealthy and underpigmented.”
Anyway, this week’s blog post appears in Anthropomics (http:anthropomics2.blogspot.com/ ), a blog by well-known geneticist and evolutionary anthropologist Jonathan Marks who describes himself as “faux geneticist, now a faux historian, all the while an evolutionary anthropologist.”
In an article in that blog entitled “Who wants Charles Murray to speak, and why,” he examines the recent revival on the university lecture circuit of the well known racist Charles Murray (remember The Bell Curve), and takes special aim at those arguing that “all ideas deserve a hearing.”
“The Bell Curve cited literature from The Mankind Quarterly, which no mainstream scholar cites, because it is an unscholarly racist journal, supported by the Pioneer Fund, that wacko right-wing philanthropy that has thrown money at wacko eugenicists, racists, segregationists, and hereditarians of all stripes, since its inception in 1937 under the aegis of the wacko eugenicist Harry Laughlin. The Bell Curve also cited the work of that racist wacko psychologist Philippe Rushton – who believed that the mean IQ of Africans is genetically set at 70 and that Africans had been r-selected for high reproductive rate and low intelligence — and then pre-emptively defended his wacko racist ideas in an appendix. Even the wacko evolutionary psychologists distanced themselves from Rushton, appreciating the toxicity of his ideas: “Bad science and virulent racial prejudice drip like pus from nearly every page of this despicable book,” wrote David Barash in the journal Animal Behavior.”
And further on:
“And now the alt-right has gained political ascendancy, and Charles Murray is on a speaking tour.”
And goes on:
“The Bell Curve capitalized on the popularity of the Human Genome Project in putting forth its thesis about the genetic stupidity of poor people in the 1990s. Some geneticists repudiated it, but others recognized, as the geneticists of the 1920s did, that it was good for the business of genetics. When Science reviewed Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race – a classic of American racist thought, which was read in defense of Karl Brandt at the Nuremberg trials to show that the Germans had simply been doing what the Americans were advocating — it concluded with a sobering thought: “This is a book that will … help to disseminate the ever-growing conviction among scientific men of the supreme importance of heredity.” Sure, the genetic theory in question might be insane, might be evil, and it might be false, but it definitely is good for business. More recently, the Human Genome Project was backed up with all sorts of purple prose about how your DNA sequence was the most important thing about you: The Code of Codes, The Book of Man, and the like. They knew it was bullshit then, and that’s why there is such interest in epigenetics now.
“These geneticists are reprehensible because they provide the hereditarian soil for scientific racism. The geneticists may not themselves be racists, but their idiotic statements about what they think their knowledge applies to have indeed sometimes crossed over. James D. Watson, who knows more about DNA than you do, caused a stir a decade ago when he said that different groups of people have different “powers of reason”. The rest of the genetics community disagreed, and challenged his own powers of reason.
“We should not be debating the innate intelligence of black people, or of the poor, on college campuses or anywhere. It is a morally corrupt pseudoscientific proposition
“Its like inviting a creationist or an inventor of a perpetual motion machine. The university should not be a censor, but it sure as hell is a gatekeeper. At this point, sometimes they go all radical epistemological relativist and say that all ideas deserve a hearing. But all ideas don’t deserve a hearing. The universe of things that do get discussed and debated on college campuses is rather small in proportion to the ideas that people have debated over the years. Should we stone witches? No. Might the speed of light be 140,000 miles per second, rather than 186,000? No. Might the universe just be made up of earth, air, water, and fire? No. Might Africans just be genetically stupid? Might people who want to debate this point have their fundamental civic morality called into question instead?”
“This also raises bigger problems. Geneticists that mislead the public about what human genetics explains. College faculty that can’t identify pseudoscience. There were, after all, any number of serious refutations of every aspect of The Bell Curve. “
So, there you have it. He, basically, argues that modern geneticists, in their interest to promote their trade as relevant, risk becoming the camel with its nose under the tent of right-wing racist fantasists. I agree, fuck them and fuck the genes they rode in on.
(JP- I realize everyone probably knows a racist or two but is anyone aware of any radical epistemological relativists stalking your neighborhood recently?)
B. Today’s Poem:
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
Performer Billie Holliday
Songwriter: Lewis Allan
C. Giants of History:
Now Saint Rocco may not be anyone’s idea of a giant of history, but he is the patron saint of dogs (as well as, bachelors, diseased cattle, falsely accused people, invalids, Istanbul, surgeons, tile-makers, gravediggers, second-hand dealers, pilgrims, and apothecaries). He is also very popular among Italians for some reason (The nickname Rocky comes from the common Italian name Rocco). There was a statue of St. Rocco above the altar of The Assumption Church in Tuckahoe NY, the church I attended when I was a child. He was my favorite saint. His statue showed him leaning on his staff, a large bloody slash on his thigh and the little dog that saved him by his side. There is a St Rocco feast for the last 129 years every August along Mulberry Street in Greenwich Village NYC.
For reasons that now have passed beyond my memory, I looked up Saint Rocco on the internet and found that on August 10-12 in Aliquippa PA, St. Titus Church is conducting a procession and festa in honor of the beloved saint. To my surprise and with my rant regarding spaghetti sauce in POOKIE”S Adventures above freshly on my mind, I learned that there would be a Spaghetti Sauce Tasting competition at the festa. So, for those who heed my advice on how to prepare superior spaghetti sauce you may want to enter the competition — but first, you would have to beat Mary Petrella and Zachary Patterson who won last year’s contest. If you think you can, call Charlene up right away and enter. Unfortunately, you would have to visit Aliquippa to compete.
SPAGHETTI SAUCE TASTING!
Do you have, or does someone you know have, a spaghetti sauce that is said to be the best??
Put it to the test against others at the annual San Rocco Spaghetti Sauce Tasting!
Winner receives bragging rights for the year!
To enter, need to provide 4 quarts of sauce (2 quarts are used per night labeled with your name).
Please let Charlene know if you would like to participate by Monday August 6th.
Sauce will need to be dropped off by Thursday August 9th.
Call Charlene Costanza before August 9th for drop off information – 724-728-9777
Panorama of Aliquippa PA.
(JP — I cannot decide if there is stark beauty in this photograph or indescribable horror and despair. The factory has been closed for over a decade. It looks like something from a dystopian science fiction movie — a Mad Max sequel perhaps. The photo I think is supposed to entice you to want to visit Aliquippa.)
“[He] did not believe in religion, for they were unwieldy things, designed to fill gaps in human understanding with nonsensical explanations, allowing people to sleep well at night, granting them a false sense of comfort and control and preventing them from stretching further for true understanding,”
Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive (p. 568). Tom Doherty Associates.
California’s Great Valley 1873
(JP — The great Tulare Lake, several times larger than Lake Tahoe, is now gone as are the vast tule marshes [in grey] that still existed in 1873. They were the victims of the vast expanse of agriculture in the 20th Century and the unquenchable thirst for water by the Cities in the Southern California desert.)