“War is for defending ideals, not exercising them.”
Bancroft, Josiah. The Hod King (The Books of Babel). Orbit.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GEORGE.
HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY TO ALL
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
This morning I woke up and bleary-eyed looked into the mirror. I was surprised by what I saw there — something I haven’t seen for about five months. There on my upper lip hair was growing. I felt mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, now that my Chemotherapy has ended, this bit of fuzz on my upper lip signified my hair might be growing back and that is good. On the other hand, it means that I will have to begin shaving again and getting haircuts — Or, I could just let everything grow out. More decisions.
After the Barr testimony before the Senate a day or two ago, I get the impression that the White House is under siege again. The question I have is, why is He Who Is Not My President so frightened of having the Mueller report, his taxes, and business records released? It is difficult to imagine that his opposition to their release is simply a question of principle.
Also, is it just my imagination or does He Who Is Not My President seem to vociferously attack every potential Democratic opponent he may meet in the 2020 Presidential election except Bernie Sanders?
The weekend has arrived and so has Nikki. The weather is sunny and warm. The azaleas are still blooming. Naida busily works on volume two of her memoir. I sit here at my computer wondering what I will do today knowing full well I have ignored or forgotten things I should be doing. That is one of the aspects of arriving at the age of decrepitude, doing things are less important than having pleasant thoughts.
I drove up into the now once again Golden Hills and parked at the skatepark. Nikki met me there and we gossiped while waiting for Hayden and the scooter gang to show up. A large contingent of the gang soon arrived, including HRM, Jake, Caleb and a host of others. I imagined them all on motorcycles roaring into a tiny town in the foothills somewhere like something from a biker flick of the 60s. I shuddered and put the image out of my mind.
After a long time spent meeting and greeting all the adolescents on scooters that descended on us, HRM, Jake, Caleb and I piled into the car Nikki was driving and went off in search of a pizza. Milano’s, H and my favorite pizza place, seems to have closed permanently (sob). We found another place nearby, ordered the pizza and returned to Dick’s house. The adolescents disappeared into the basement to devour their pizza and play video games. Nikki and I retired to the back deck to sit in sun, eat ours, and continue our gossip session. After exhausting the scuttlebutt and gobbling down a few slices of pizza, I left and returned to the Enchanted Forest.
On the drive back, I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow I am failing HRM and that I simply am unable to give him the counsel, guidance, security, and friendship that he needs and deserves. Of the three children I have contributed to raising, I believe that somehow my efforts to guide them to happy and successful lives were horribly inadequate. It’s just another load of guilt we add to the pack on our backs that gets heavier and heavier as we grow older. Sometimes I think it is the crushing weight of accumulated guilt and failure that kills us in the end.
The weekend brought with it relief from my fit of melancholy. Perhaps it is because I keep lengthening my walks — you know, boosting my serotonin or dopamine or whatever. Perhaps it is because Naida wrote me a lovely poem — no one has ever done that for me before. Perhaps, it is because I was amused by attending a meeting at the clubhouse to meet those running for the Nepenthe HOC board — it seemed most of the people there favored the election of “anyone but the incumbents.” Of the pressing issues discussed, everyone seemed to agree they all hated leaf blowers. Naida suggested they be banned as they had been in LA.
Last night, Naida gave me a marvelous ring. It was made by one of her uncles, a prominent leader in the Methodist church. Naida said that when he was not doing minister things he would often wander into the desert looking for gemstones that he would bring home and, in a workshop in his basement, fashion them into jewelry. He made the ring from silver that he fashioned into lacework in which he set a remarkable opal he had found somewhere in the desert. The stone itself flashes through the spectrum from brilliant turquoise to a spectacular fiery red when light shines on it. I love it.
I have noticed, after reading the last few T&T posts, my life has become dreadfully dull. Not traveling, wrestling with a crisis, or suffering through a real or imagined emotional or physical disaster makes retelling the day to day plod of an old man’s life tedious. After all, how many ways can one describe spending his days, reading the newspaper, checking his email and watching old movies on television? On the other hand, except for these fits of boredom and impatience, I am quite content and happy with my life as a grumpy old man starring at the end of his existence. It could be worse. I could be an adolescent again or I could be working in the Trump White House.
Today I drove back into the Golden Hills, picked up HRM and Big Tall Long Haired Jake at the Skate Park and drove them to the house where I left them after imparting to them today’s words of wisdom. “Remember.” I told them, “always keep on truckin.”
The next day HRM called me and asked me to pick him and Jake up again after school. I did. This time, after a brief stop at Dick’s house, I drove them to Caleb’s house in order for Caleb to give Jake his birthday present since it was Jake’s fifteenth birthday today. I then drove them back to Dick’s house where they picked up their bicycles and pedaled off to practice with the EDH mountain bicycling team.
B. OFF AGAIN TO THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:
Another beautiful sunny day. While Sacramento is no Paradise, here in the Enchanted Forest nestled between that city’s slurbs and a gentle curve of the picturesque American River this morning broke as close to that as can be and still not be considered a dream. Alas, we spent the morning rushing around preparing to leave for the foggy Great Endive by the Bay for my immunotherapy infusion. That preparation included getting Boo-boo settled with the dog-sitter. He wasn’t happy.
That night at Peter and Barrie’s house where we spent the night, Barrie prepared a delightful meal that featured pasta with a sauce of garlic, butter, parsley, lemon, and topped with asparagus. It was accompanied by chilled Prosecco. (It has only been in the last few years that drinkable prosecco has been imported from Italy.)
They had invited a friend to join us for dinner. He was an aspiring author and wanted to discuss with Naida his literary ambitions and get her advice on publishing. He hoped to publish several works including a play about the travails of a man named Thomas White who had homes in San Francisco, Mexico and Thailand. He was accused by several alleged victims (boys) of having who sex with them when they were underage. He was tracked down in Thailand extradited to Mexico where he was tried, convicted and jailed. After spending almost seven years in jail White learned that the attorney who represented the alleged victims and reaped several millions of dollars in payoffs, he along with his accomplice as well as one of the underaged youths were convicted in California of murdering the target of another scam. The alleged young victim also confessed to lying about sexual contact with White. With the new evidence, he was released from jail but died soon afterward.
We had an enjoyable evening listening to the discussion of things literary and the pitfalls of publication. Over dinner, we all told stories. Peter told several about the early days of the Coastal Conservancy. I could not remember much about the things that he talked about although I was a major actor in the drama or more appropriate comedy. It seems my memory lately resembles a ragged lace curtain blowing in the breeze — more holes than substance.
I told the story of the developer who had been stymied by Denise, my wife at the time, in his plans to build a large spec house in our neighborhood and who had shot and killed his two investor threatening to withdraw their financing for the development. He then, gun in hand, jumped into his car and drove up into the Twin Peaks area, presumably to do to Denise and I what he had done to his investors. At the corner down from our house, I guess he thought better of the idea or perhaps he was stricken with guilt and decided to shoot himself rather than us.
As we finished dinner, Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda showed up bringing dessert, a wonderfully light cake and strawberries dipped in chocolate.
The next morning, we drove to the hospital for my immunotherapy treatment. The nurse explained that the immunotherapy was intended to halt reactivation of the cancerous cells that still remain in the tumor. Most of the time, however, was spent with the nurse and Naida discussing books and book clubs.
After the treatment, we drove home directly.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES: The depressing state of the American airline industry; two days in Orvieto; and a bunch of Giacomini’s.
The following morning we left for LAX and our flight to Italy.
The depressing state of the American airline industry is additional evidence that the terrorists won. It was not the taking down of buildings, the killing of Americans or airplanes falling from the sky that was the goal of their attacks, but the subtle certainty of their understanding of the American psyche was their actual weapon. Their focus was to destroy the American economy by knowing precisely the reaction of America’s conservative elite’s thirst for power and profit. And we fell into the trap. Instead of making ourselves even stronger economically at home we wasted American treasure and dollars in unnecessary wars in the deserts of the middle east until we rewarded our attackers their victory, destruction of our economy. I consider the architects of our response nothing less than cynical traitors who wrapped themselves in the flag for personal benefit and power.
The American sad state of Airline travel is small but significant evidence of the extent of the terrorist success.
Anyway, following an especially uncomfortable flight, I arrived at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport with swollen legs, aching back and a foul temper. We were met by Nikki, who had arrived from Chicago a few hours earlier.
After about two hours of trying to secure a rent-a-car for our trip to Milan during which we experienced the full fury of Italian efficiency, we set off.
Within minutes it became obvious that we were not going to make the 4 or so hour drive to Milan that evening as both SWAC and I began to complain to Nikki of our various discomforts. At my suggestion, we agreed to spend the night in Orvieto a small hilltop city not far off the Autostrada.
As we entered the town, SWAC became quite excited. She thought she recognized the town as the site of George Clooney’s escapades in the movie “The American” or some such.
We located a pleasant B&B called “Las Palmas,” dropped off our luggage and set off in search of dinner which we found at an attractive restaurant a few doors away. Following a very enjoyable meal and the downing of two liters of local red and white wines among the three of us, we stumbled back to our respective rooms and to sleep.
The next morning we checked out of the B & B and set off in search of the Duomo as well as to hunt for the locations of scenes in the film that SWAC might recall.
Orvieto’s Duomo is an interesting church with a large Romanesque interior and Italian gothic façade decorated with large Bas-reliefs, statues, and glittering mosaics. On the piers, about 30 feet high are carved a series of Bas-reliefs depicting biblical stories from the Old and New Testament that along with the view from the city walls are the towns glory.
The Facade of the Duomo in Orvieto
Orvieto like many of the hill towns in this part of Italy specialize in a type of pottery called Faience. Each town promotes in a slightly different design on the pottery and ever since Faience pottery became beloved of collectors, each town has developed its own pottery “artist.” In Orvieto, the renowned artist is the daughter of the owner of a pottery shop on the Plaza del Duomo called Giacomini.
For those with knowledge and experience with the California Coastal Commission, yes they are the relatives of the late beloved suspender wearing, rotund, ex-Marin County Supervisor and Coastal Commissioner, Gary Giacomini sometimes also referred to as “Farmer Brown”.
Gary was an ardent environmentalist as long as it did not interfere with his and his family’s economic and political ambitions.
I spent about a half an hour swapping “Gary” stories with the family before we departed to search for the supposed locations of scenes from the movie, take photographs and return to the Autostrada to complete our journey to Milan.
The following was posted in T&T in 2011 before Faux News became the all-encompassing mouthpiece for the radical right it is today. It is interesting to note, however, that in eight years many of the pundits mentioned are still with us and would probably be ranked in the same categories were this poll to be taken again today. Of course, Russ Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and a few others deserve a category of their own — Deplorables will do.
2011: “Are Talking Heads Blowing Hot Air”:
Students at Hamilton College sampled the predictions of 26 individuals who wrote columns in major newspapers and/or appeared on the three major Sunday television news shows (Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and This Week) over a 16 month period from September 2007 to December 2008. They used a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “will not happen,” 5 being “will absolutely happen”) to rate each prediction the pundits made, and then they evaluated each prediction for whether or not it came true.
What did they find? Basically, if you want to be almost as accurate as the pundits they studied, all you have to do is a) root through the cushions of your couch, b) find a coin, and c) start flipping it. Boom! You are now pretty close to being a political genius. Only nine of the 26 pundits surveyed proved more reliable than a coin flip.
Using the students’ statistical methodology, the 26 pundits were broken down into three categories: “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Here’s how they break down:
THE GOOD: Paul Krugman, New York Times (highest scorer); Maureen Dowd, New York Times; Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania Governor; Chuck Schumer, New York Senator; Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader; Kathleen Parker, Washington Post and TownHall.com; David Brooks, New York Times; Eugene Robinson, Washington Post; Hank Paulson, former Secretary of the Treasury
THE BAD: Howard Wolfson, counselor to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor/Fox News host; Newt Gingrich, eternal Presidential candidate; John Kerry, Massachusetts Senator; Bob Herbert, New York Times; Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC; Thomas Friedman, New York Times, David Broder, Washington Post (deceased); Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune; Nicholas Kristof, New York Times; Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State
THE UGLY: George Will, Washington Post/This Week; Sam Donaldson, ABC News; Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Senator; Carl Levin, Michigan Senator; Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Senator; Cal Thomas, Chicago Tribune (lowest scorer)
In their executive summary, the students note:
“We discovered that a few factors impacted a prediction’s accuracy. The first is whether or not the prediction is a conditional; conditional predictions were more likely to not come true. The second was partisanship; liberals were more likely than conservatives to predict correctly. The final significant factor in a prediction’s outcome was having a law degree; lawyers predicted incorrectly more often.”
As for the factor of partisanship, it certainly didn’t help pundits if their predictions were primarily based on who they happened to be carrying a torch for in the 2008 election — Lieberman and Graham, obviously, did poorly in this regard. The students noted that “[p]artisanship had an impact on predictions even when removing political predictions about the Presidential, Vice Presidential, House, and Senate elections,” but I still imagine that this particular script may have flipped if the period of study was the sixteen-month period between September 2009 and December 2010.
A. Terry Pratchett on Top:
“Wen the Eternally Surprised.”
“Why was he eternally surprised?” And they are told: ‘Wen considered the nature of time and understood that the universe is, instant by instant, re-created anew. Therefore, he understood, there is, in truth, no Past, only a memory of the Past. Blink your eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them. Therefore, he said, the only appropriate state of the mind is surprise. The only appropriate state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now. Be glad of it.’”
Pratchett, Terry. Thief of Time: A Novel of Discworld (p. 31). HarperCollins.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations
Trickle down economics is an enviable thing. It affords those who promote it the appearance of concern for the people — with no responsibility for delivering anything to them.
C. Today’s Poem:
In slow rhythm I awoke in a bundle
of comfort and peace made of arms and legs
and torsos in sync with your low-pitched
intake of breath from our air-pool, forehead
snug against cheek, and then our exhale moans
through my chest while somewhere deep
in our bundle a spark flares to another beat.
I love you tells only half what I feel
when you are the other half of me.
D. Joey’s Mystery Novel:
My partially completed unfinished novel, Dominion, can be found at, https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/dominion-an-unfinished-and-never-published-novel/. Below is one of the draft chapters in which the main protagonist, Vince Biondi, is confronted by San Mateo County Sheriff Megs Polan.
JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL: “Dominion.” When Vince Meets Megs.
Vince took into the office washroom the overnight suitcase he always kept available in his office in case he had to make a sudden short business trip or pulled an all-nighter like this one. He washed as best he could, shaved, changed his clothing and returned to his office just as Ray arrived to accompany him to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office. Ray had obviously been called by Ike and was dressed in what for him passed for business attire, pearl button earrings, a military-style camouflage jacket, matching camouflage pants and neon green Crocs on his feet.
When they arrived at the Sheriff’s office, they were immediately ushered into the office of Sheriff Megan (Megs) Polan, former beauty queen, bodybuilding champion and a rising star in local Republican politics. Vince and Ray sat in chairs across the hygienically clean desk behind which Megs sat enthroned like a medieval duchess. Her still super toned body so filled out her tan uniform that it looked painted on. She had curly auburn hair that hung down to her shoulders and the steely blue eyes of either a stone cold killer or paranoid schizophrenic. She did not rise to greet them or speak but leaned across her desk and pushed a transparent evidence bag containing a small piece of paper towards them. As she bent forward, Vince caught a glimpse of cleavage struggling to escape the casually unbuttoned shirt. He also noticed the large black pistol riding high on her hip. Vince disconcerted that he found himself turned on, covered his embarrassment by dropping his eyes to the proffered evidence bag and studying its contents.
Inside the bag was a piece of paper torn from a small spiral bound notebook and on it, written in a shaky hand, was the message, “If anything should happen to me, call Vincent Biondi,” along with Vince’s personal mobile phone number.
“So Mr. Biondi,” Megs intoned in her surprisingly whiskey edged voice, “what can you tell me about this note and what may have happened to Mrs. Stephanie Coign last night?”
“Or an amicable pair,” said Sam. “Sorry?” “In math, that’s what we call two numbers each of which is equal to the sum of the divisors of the other. The smallest ones, 220 and 284, were regarded by the Pythagoreans as symbols of true friendship.”
Hill, Reginald. The Stranger House (p. 191). HarperCollins.
Consider telling your bestie, “I am 220 to your 284.” How long do you think your friendship will last? The Pythagoreans were always a pretty strange group. On the other hand, closer to our time, even Albert Einstein can appear somewhat otherworldly:
“We are slowed down sound and light waves, a walking bundle of frequencies tuned into the cosmos. We are souls dressed up in sacred biochemical garments and our bodies are the instruments through which our souls play their music.”
Try telling that to your bestie.