Posts Tagged With: Sicily

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 28 Shadow 0007 (July 18, 2018)

 

The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that, “My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
~~Isaac Isimov (1980)

 

 

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

 
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY — GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN:

 

Following a delightful breakfast of coffee, brioche and a fried egg with pepper chips, we set off to Cosenza and the train station. After a series of the usual misadventures and annoyances, I boarded the train to Sicily. It was the same cattle car I remember from years ago when I used to take the dolorous train from Sicily to Rome, a train carrying the impoverished Sicilians to jobs in the North (Sicilian Il Norte) — standing room only for the 13-hour trip. This time there were no impoverished workers going north, but many not particularly impoverished people going south for whatever reason. Passengers still were standing in the aisles and sitting on one another’s laps. My reserved seat was among a group of young women and families going somewhere in the same direction I was. They did not appreciate my expropriation of the seat one member of the group occupied. She then continued the trip sitting in the lap of an older man accompanying them or walking up and down the aisles.

I was also disturbed by the loud braying voice of one of the men traveling with that particular group. I could not make up my mind if he was a “cafone” ( loud, ignorant and oblivious) or “pazzo” (crazy). I decided it was a little bit of both. Even those traveling with him seemed to either humor or ignore him. When the women next to me left the train at Messina, I moved into her seat by the window. He sat down next to me and began to fling his arms about, pester me with questions and opinions and generally acted grievously obnoxious. I seriously considered braining him with my cane. But, long checkered experience in dealing with situations like this has taught me to act like I understand nothing about the language, am old and feeble and a little bit addled and confused (which is not too hard to do at my age). Inevitably, they either give up in frustration or some woman comes to my aid and drives them off. It happened like that here. The women in the group began to yell at him and told him to stop bothering me. The high point of the trip other than when he got off the train was the crossing of the Straits of Messina on the train ferry.

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Scylla and Charybdis. (The Straits of Messina)

 

The trains were decoupled and stacked into the hold of the ferry. We disembarked the train and climbed to the top decks where we could sit, walk around, buy snacks and enjoy the half hour or so trip across the straits.

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The train ferry.

 

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Messina.
We disembarked at Messina. They reassembled the cars into several trains depending on their destination. Ours set out for Catania. Along the way, we passed Taormina and Mt, Etna blowing out smoke from its caldera.

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Mt. Etna.

 

I changed trains at Catania, boarding one for Caltanissetta where I expected to change trains once again to take me to my final destination, Canicatti the ancestral home of my mother’s family. Unfortunately, after arriving at Caltanissetta, while attempting to read the train schedule to find out from which track my connection would leave even though there was only one other train at the station, that train, my connection, left with me running after it banging at the side of the cars until it left me standing at the end of the platform forlorn and alone as the train disappeared into the distance.

I was truly alone and forlorn when I realized I was not at the train station in downtown Caltanissetta as I had thought, but in an almost derelict and abandoned station far out in the countryside at the end of an unpaved and weed overgrown dead end road — and the night was descending. It seems that that station was used only for passengers to disembark from the express train to Palermo and catch the now departed train to Caltanissetta Central and Canicatti. So I called up Antonio and asked him to come and save me. He good-naturedly agreed and explained it would take at least 45 minutes for him to get there. So, I stood there in the gloom and watched hoards of swallow type birds flitter through the sky in search of those insects who dare to come out at dusk, while a hawk sat calmly on a phone wire contemplating tonight’s dinner. A group of young men arrived driving a truck containing a jitney type vehicle in the back, They met some other men who came from somewhere I did not notice although one drove up in an old car with cardboard covering a broken window. They took the jitney down from the truck bed and began pushing it up a hill toward an abandoned building. The jitney got away from them and began rolling down the hill sending the men running in every direction. It then tipped over and skidded to the bottom of the hill. I thought I was watching a Buster Keaton silent film. They then all stood around — wondering what to do, I guess. I never found out what happened next because Antonio arrived and drove me to his home.

During the ride, I noticed much of the highway between Caltanissetta and Canicatti that they had been building two or three years ago when I had last been here has been completed. It is exceptionally lavish. Where it is not elevated it is tunneled. To construct the tunnels they first tear down the hill. Then they build the tunnel. Then they put the hill back on top of the tunnel. I’m not kidding.

When I first arrived in Sicily, now about 50 years ago, although the modern technology of the time, telephone, automobiles, television and the like had been well established but much of the social life of the people remained medieval — Marriages were arranged, dowries negotiated, crime of honor legal and common, crime organized, autocrats vicious, noble families if not admired then respected and government remote and rapacious. It was a place for travelers, not tourists, for those that traveled with no schedules expecting discomfort, not those with schedules, sights to see and an expectation of basic comforts. Yet, despite their suspicion of strangers, the people were welcoming when that suspicion waned, the food good, the wines better and the climate benign.

Since then, most of that has changed, the young are more independent (although my female cousins, PHDs all, will not leave the island even for brief periods without their mother’s consent), suspicion lessened, crime diminished, noble families dispersed and the government still corrupt but no longer remote. The food has not yet been completely homogenized to suit the food production industry and the wines are perhaps even better and while tourism has become accepted, old historical sights cleaned up and new ones developed, it is still not as easy to get around, make schedules and enjoy pure luxury (Taormina and a few other places accepted — but it was always like that). On the other hand, there are few places that afford the wanderer such a variety of experience, even ones that are not so good but, on the other hand, rarely so bad either.

My visits to Canicatti and to Antonio’s house are neither as a tourist or a traveler, but is simply returning home. As I grew older, I found, at least for me, there is no one “home,” a principle place of residence perhaps, but many homes identified by the fact that there reside, people, I love and like to be with. In Antonio’s case, there is also the food and the wine.

 

 

B. ANTONIO’S — THE FIRST NIGHT.

 

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A view of Canicatti. Antonio’s house is behind the tree on the left.
We arrived in Canicatti my mother’s ancestral home and drove on to Antonio’s house at the edge of the town. After getting settled in my room and meeting the new houseboy, a young man from Bangladesh whose name I cannot remember (Friday, the previous houseboy from Nigeria, left to sell shoes in Venice), Antonio suggested a light snack before retiring. I agreed. Here it is:

The first course, lamb stew piccante in tomato sauce.

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The second course, arancini con panel.

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The third course, melanzane parmigiana.

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The Fourth course, Pasta Norma.

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The Dessert, local berries, and lemon granita. All accompanied by wonderful red and white local wines and finished off with Limoncello and grappa.

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C. ANTONIO’S — DAY TWO.

 

The next day, following breakfast and a brief nap, I went for a walk. By that time most Sicilians had returned to their beds for their afternoon siesta. Antonio worried about me walking around during the hottest part of the day. He insisted I carry my phone and call him if I passed out from the heat.

It was hot. Antonio’s home stands at the border of the rural area and the commercial-industrial area of the town. I chose to walk into the rural lands. I walked along a mostly white stone covered unpaved road through some olive groves. The sun’s glare reflected off the white road hurt my eyes even though I was wearing dark glasses. Reaching the end of the road I was traveling on and sweating a lot, I decided to return to the house and take a nap until dinner — and so I did.

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Through the olive groves.

There were two couples and me at dinner. One couple from Germany traveling with a two-year-old boy, an inveterate explorer, were staying the week. The other, a delightful older English couple, were only staying the night. What follows is the meal:

The first course, four different local goat cheeses with a suitable different (local) fruit preserve on each,

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The second course, ripe fig from Antonio’s garden with speck, local goat ricotta with fruit preserve and fried squash blossoms.

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The Third and fourth courses were the same melanzane parmigiana and arancini as I had the previous night except I learned the parmesan cheese had been replaced with a local cheese.

 

The Fifth course, a soup, the ingredients of which I no longer recall, perhaps seafood.

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The Sixth course, mixed fresh local seafood and a vegetable of some sort.

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The Seventh course, local fish, the name of which I missed, cooked in an olive, caper and tomato sauce.

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The Dessert, the same local berries and lemon granita as I enjoyed last night followed by a flute of different local berries and a different granite. I have eliminated the photo here out of pure exhaustion.

We also drank copious amounts of delicious red and white wines from a vineyard located closer to Agrigento (Antonio seems to feel something grown ten or so miles away as not fitting his definition of “local.”) And of course, limoncello and grappa. We all got very drunk and began telling each other our deepest darkest secrets. Ok maybe not our deepest and darkest, we never tell those even when drunk, but we certainly told those that we would otherwise be embarrassed if anyone but our dearest friends knew about them.

I guess I should write a little something about Sicilian cuisine — at least as I understand it. It is not simply indigenous recipes made from fresh local products improved over the centuries by the addition of spices, condiments, and recipes to overcome whatever deficiencies existed in the local agricultural products. It is also a cuisine that requires the reuse of food not consumed the previous day, not by simply reheating leftovers, but as foundational elements in completely new recipes. Another element of the cuisine is its adoption and development of the tremendous variety of deserts and sweets gifted to them by the Muslim community that ruled the island for so many centuries. Finally, the use of sweet liquors in Sicily, like in much of southern Italy, appears to be some sort of a religious ritual to celebrate a meal well cooked and well eaten.

Note: I will no longer post photographs of each course I enjoy since that would extend this issue of T&T beyond tolerable limits.

 

 

D. ANTONIO’S — DAY THREE:

 

This morning, I decided to go into Canicatti to walk around, search out places I remembered from when I lived here 50 years ago and also do a little shopping. Antonio drove me to the center of the town and I set off walking.

Canicatti is not a tourist city, there is nothing to see here. Monuments built by the rich and famous are usually reserved for the hilltops where they lived in their grand villas and palaces. Canicatti, set in a broad agricultural valley, has always been a commercial town for the sale and distribution of agricultural products. It looks grubby but is actually more prosperous than it appears.

I found the park where my mother had told me she played in as a child before she was sent off at seven years old to America in the early Twentieth Century version of indentured servitude. It is now a scruffy little park. It was much grander fifty years ago when I first saw it.

I sat on a bench among other old men and listened to the harsh guttural tones of Sicilian that Marlon Brando mimicked in Godfather I. I wish I could say I thought deep thoughts as I sat there, but I didn’t.

I eventually left and walked through back alleys and streets looking for the cafe where I would sit with friends fifty years ago. The cafe with the bullet holes still in the walls. Bullet holes made by American soldiers in WWII in the Canicatti Massacre when the American commander lined up random citizens and had them shot as a punishment for the town harboring the Germans. The fact was, there never were any Germans there.

My friends and I would gather at the cafe and watch the white-suited Mafiosi stride into the place with their jackets draped over their shoulders and the furtive hand gestures among the other customers ringing as loudly as shouts. The cafe where I sat those long afternoons so long ago with Gigi, Piccolo Gaetano, and others. Alas, I think it is no more, swept up by the years like unwanted refuse.

I looked for the Landowner’s Social Club building that, so long ago, I sat in front of one afternoon with the Baron La Lomia, the head of the hereditary ruling family of the town, a fat overdressed little man with a great square beard who was making his annual appearance at his demesne. As each resident of the area would approach to pay their respects to the Baron, he would say to them “And, I would like you to meet my good friend Mr. Petrillo who traveled all the way from America to be with me today.” And, I would shake the hand of each person in that long line as they passed by. I could not find that place either. Did it exist and was eventually blown away as an anachronism like the dust and litter blowing around as I walk or was it simply my imagination? Who cares? There is no difference — imagination, memory, reality — all the same.

I also looked for the tiny park with the statue of the erstwhile patron saint of the town, the Blessed La Lomia, a missionary in Brazil killed by the natives who saw through the baloney he was trying to sell them. I could not find it. So I sat down outside of a little cafe across from the Church where I was to meet Antonio and ordered a coke and a lemon granita. I chose the cafe because the outdoor tables were shaded by a large tree and an awning.

Alas, I soon realized it was probably the place where the dregs of the town congregated. Those young people who lived at home had no job and wanted none. One table was occupied by a boisterous threesome, two young men, and a tiny young woman. One of the men would shout at me and make faces. The other young man and the tiny young woman would every now and then rise from their chairs and chase each other around the table, ending in a brief wrestling match. I do not know why they did it. A very large tattooed man carrying a beer came in, sat on a bench facing me, not more than three feet away, and stared at me for a long time, then declared “Hot isn’t it?” I agreed and responded, “Yes it is.” He continued to stare and sip his beer. Various people who seemed not in complete possession of their mental faculties would enter, wander around, and sometimes stand next to my table and stare at me. I loved it. The chances of anything dangerous happening was minuscule. Yet the frisson of excitement drove away any residual melancholy remaining from my walk around the town.

Dinner was the usual many course affair, a mixture of old and new. The new included a fava bean soup, crawfish and the melanzane parmigiana with capers and other savory items replacing the cheese. Dessert included cassata as well as the berry and granita dish.

At dinner tonight was an Argentine couple, Herman and Christina who live in Florida and run a business finding investment properties in the US for foreigners. They also have started up a treasure hunting business in Columbia to raise several sunken Spanish Galleons. The twist of this effort compared to other treasure hunting schemes is that instead of distributing the treasure to the investors as it is recovered which when attempted by traditional treasure hunts runs into severe legal and political problems, they intend to keep the treasure hoard intact, but use its value base for the creation of a new crypto-currency and pay the investors with the crypto-currency. Crazy perhaps. But, Trump made a career of persuading people to invest in much less and look where he ended up — the bitch for an insecure Russian autocrat who trapped him in a wired Moscow hotel room taking a golden shower.

As coincidence would have it, about twelve years ago, I had a small practice representing treasure hunters, almost all of whom failed. The dream never dies.

 

E. ANTONIO’S DAY FOUR:

 

Following another excellent breakfast, the Argentinian couple invited me to join them on a trip to the beach. They had asked Antonio to suggest a remote and secluded beach and he did — at a very remote and far distant location. We drove at least 40 miles before we turned off the main road and on to an unpaved track that wound its way through farmland with many abandoned farmhouses and a few appearing not so abandoned. We saw three maybe four very old men working in the fields, and a very old and hunchbacked shepherd driving a small flock of undernourished sheep — no-one else. At times, we drove through weed forests with the cane like stalks twice as high as the car cutting off all view. We drove for five or six miles up steep hills and through narrow canyons before we came to a dirt parking lot containing a few cars and a small shack with a somewhat rotund gentleman standing in front. He took our money and announced in very good English that it was at least a two-minute walk to a sandy beach where it was suitable for swimming which he called “Beach One.” “Beach Two,” he said, “was a ten-minute walk up the coast and was good for taking photographs but because it was rocky was not good for swimming but suitable for snorkeling.” Beach three he explained was a twenty-five-minute walk down the coast, but I forget what it was good for. We walked the allotted two minutes and came out of the towering weeds and saw a very attractive sandy beach containing a few bathers but still many more than I thought would ever chance the treacherous drive.

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Pookie at the beach.

 
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The Beach.

 
After setting up the umbrella in the sand, instead of going swimming, I abruptly announced I was going to hike the ten minutes to the photogenic beach, and then set off. I do not know why. I found a small weed overgrown path that seemed to climb up what appeared to be more than a hill but less than a mountain. After several minutes of climbing, huffing and puffing, and sweating profusely, I realized I was all alone on this steep rocky path that I knew not where it went, without water, becoming rapidly exhausted and convinced I was about to collapse. But like Scott in the Antarctic, foolishly pushing ahead only for the irrational pleasure of beating Amundsen, I went on. Like Scott, I thought I could beat Amundsen too,

I noticed the path was strewn with the bleached shells of snails. I could tell they were not laid down here due to some ancient geological catastrophe, they were strewn around not buried in rock hardened silt. I then imagined massive escargot eating rituals by Sicilian cultists in honor of Diana the Huntress every night of the full moon. But, finally decided they were simply the carcasses of egotistical land snails who believed they could make it across the blazing hot paths in the middle of the day and were fried for their arrogance. I picked up one desiccated bone white shell, put it in my pocket and continued struggling up the slope.

I little later, I came upon a single quill lying on the path. I stopped and stared at it and wondered what sort of quilled creature survived the five thousand year commitment by Sicilians to rid their island of every mammal except those they could domesticate and rats and mice. Unable to reach a conclusion, I picked it up and put it in my pocket too. I also picked up and pocked some interesting small stones and happily contemplated carrying them back home and washing them, not to study but to remind me that it was not a figment of my imagination that I chose to climb this damned path at midday.

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The Treasure.

 

 

Eventually, I reached the top and found myself on a high bluff overlooking a beach with no way down. I then realized I could have reached that same beach by simply walking a few feet from where I began and wading in ankle deep water around some rocks. Annoyed by this discovery, I began to retrace my steps. I was further annoyed when a family with two young children carrying beach equipment and towels jauntily passed me by having clearly enjoyed their morning at the ten-minute walk rocky photogenic beach.

When I returned to the Argentineans they were just packing up to leave. So, we left, renegotiated the weed jungle and drove another twenty miles or so to Sciacca to have lunch.

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The Photogenic beach?

 
Sciacca (pronounced Sha – ca) is a fairly large town on a hill near the water with an interesting if arcane history (look it up). At its base was a large working fishing port.

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The Port of Sciacca.

 
We entered a restaurant directly across the road from the port. It had a great view and served freshly caught fish. We chose our fish and from a comely waitress ordered them grilled and then ate them along with an extremely tasty salad.

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The fish.

 

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The comely waitress and the Argentinians.

 

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The cooked fish.

 

For dessert, I had cannoli made with local ricotta.
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The sacred cannoli.

 
On the way home, we came upon a traffic snarl caused by an electrical transmission wire having fallen across the road. There were no police or first responders anywhere so passengers would jump out of their cars hold the wire up over their heads while the driver drove the car through, then drop it and jump back into the car. Thinking I could be as brave and foolhardy as the women in the photograph below, I jumped out of our car, held the wire over my head until Herman drove under it and then jumped back into the car and we sped away. No, I did not die.
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The brave but foolhardy women of Sicily.

 
That night I played my first game of chess in 50 years with the German gentleman and I won. It took the sting out of Croatia’s loss in the World Cup final. There had been no meal prepared. Antonio was gone for the evening so we snitched some sausages he had cooking on the stove for tomorrows meal. I went to bed happy. It was a good day after all.

 

 

F. ANTONIO’S — DAY FIVE:

 

Today is my last full day here. Tomorrow, I fly to Milano and two days later back to the Enchanted Forest and Naida. I am both sad and eager to go. Sad because I feel so comfortable and relaxed here and eager to go because I feel too comfortable and relaxed here. Too much of a good thing can become irritating if it goes on too long.

After breakfast, I said goodbye to the Argentineans. Then Antonio, the Bangladesh houseboy and I left for Licata, a town on the coast, to buy some fresh fish for tonight’s meal. I pictured a large fish market open to the fishing boats tied up to the wharves, burly men pushing crates around slick cement floors while fishmongers in their stalls lined up their wares with military precision on beds of gleaming ice. It was not like that at all. It was more like a dope deal. First a stop on a remote road on the edge of the city for a telephone call. Then two more stops at gas stations for more calls. Then a wait in a cafe drinking espresso until a man arrived and engaged Antonio in a whispered conversation. Then we get back in the car and follow the man’s car through the back roads of the city until we both come to a stop on the side of the road and Antonio and the man get out of their cars and walk around a building and disappear for a fairly long while. Then Antonio returns with a small plastic bag that I presume contained the fish and we drove off returning the 50 or so kilometers to Canicatti.

Back in town, I asked Antonio to drop me off at the church so I could go to the bank and withdraw the money I would need to pay for my stay. The charges amounted to about $70 per day for the room, breakfast, and dinner and all the wine, grappa and limoncello one can drink. It is not so bad a deal when I consider that I probably drank $20 worth of alcoholic beverages each day.

After, withdrawing the money, I returned to strolling around the town looking for places I knew — no luck there. I then looked for the ice-cream shop I had spotted two days before that made the best ice–cream in the area — but it was closed. I then thought about walking up the hill to where my mother lived in a section of the city called the Borgo, the old center of the town before they filled in the stream from which the town got its name (Cane Brook, for the dense cane like plants that flourished along its banks. Wikipedia, on the other hand, says it comes from the Arabic word meaning “muddy ditch”). I thought it would be good to see my mom’s old house again. But, I looked up at the hill I would have to climb, felt the heat of the sun and concluded it was not going to happen on this trip, so, I chose to sit in a cafe on the main street drinking a very good chilled white wine and nibbling on the little snacky things they brought me. Around me sat a number of young men and women. The men all had beards and the women all had tattoos. In my day, the men all had beards also.

I napped the afternoon away.

That evening, my last here, Antonio made dinner for only him and me. There was a wonderful salad of vegetables picked that day from the garden including sweet onions all in a vinegar, olive oil, and pepper dressing. He also broke out his favorite local white wines from Canicatti. Since he was busy cooking I drank most of the wine.

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He indicated we were going to have a light dinner this evening. For pasta, he prepared a dish with zucchini and mushrooms.
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Then came the fish course.

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Antonio with the fish.

 

I do not know if that was the fish we pursued that morning, but it seemed like a lot of fish for two people. It was cooked with oranges, capers, and tomatoes in olive oil. After, deboning and serving the fish, Antonio brought out another bottle of white wine from Canicatti vineyards. “This,” he said, “is the best white in Sicily and perhaps is all of Italy.” While the previous bottle was made from Grillo grapes, this he said was made from a blending of four local grape varieties.

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The Great White.

 

The white wines from Sicily I have tasted so far on this trip have been very smooth and suitable for drinking with food or alone. They seem to lack that slightly astringent aftertaste of other expensive white wines.

After the fish course and having downed most of two bottles of wine, I was —well drunk or at least well on my way.

Dessert was a cassata followed by an absolute smashing mulberry granita accompanied by limoncello (a lot of it) but no grappa.

I was helped off to bed and woke up the next morning with no hangover.

 
G. DEPARTURE

 

Breakfast, some puttering around packing and then Antonio drove me into town to catch the bus to the airport. Hugs and kisses all around. Then a two hour or so ride through an ofter relatively bleak and empty Sicilian countryside I arrived at the Airport waited for several hours and flew off to Milano.

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The Sicilian Countryside on the way to Catania.

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

 

From Harper’s index: Minimum number of scientific papers published on nomophobia, the fear of not having access to cellular service: 55
Sigh — modern life can be so stressful. Bring back public phone booths with internet connections and save us from this debilitating affliction.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 
A. Matthews’ Musings:

 

Jason Matthews, a retired CIA operative with extensive experience in Russia, in his espionage thriller “Red Sparrow” expresses what are clearly his own feelings about Putin’s Russia through the words of one of his fictional characters.

“Energy, population decline, natural resources, client states. Forget all that. Russia is still the only country that can put an ICBM into Lafayette Square across from the White House. The only one, and they have thousands of nukes.”

“Russians. They hate foreigners only a little less than they hate themselves, and they’re born conspirators. Oh, they know very well they’re superior, but your Russki is insecure, wants to be respected, to be feared like the old Soviet Union. They need recognition, and they hate their second-tier status in the superpower stakes. That’s why Putin’s putting together USSR 2.0, and no one is going to stand in his way. “The Vkid who pulls the tablecloth and smashes the crockery to get attention—that’s Moscow. They don’t want to be ignored and they’ll break the dishes to make sure it doesn’t happen. Sell chemical weapons to Syria, give fuel rods to Iran, teach Indonesia centrifuge design, build a light water reactor in Burma, oh, yeah, people, nothing’s out of bounds. “But the real danger is the instability of all this generation of world-stopping crazies. People, the second Cold War is all about the resurgent Russian Empire, and don’t kid yourselves Moscow is gonna sit back and see how the Chinese navy handles itself when—not if—the shooting starts in the Taiwan Strait.”

Matthews, Jason. Red Sparrow: A Novel (The Red Sparrow Trilogy Book 1) (p. 28). Scribner.

 
B. Giants of History: Pat Carlone:

 

Peter, after reading the previous T&T post, was reminded of his old friend, Pat Carlone.

Our friend Pat Carlone hails from Calabria via New Britain, Conn. Your travel descriptions help explain some of Pat’s endearing bizaarisms. FYI, we enjoyed his aging parents dancing on a table at Spengers around midnight at one of Pat’s birthday celebrations some years ago. Pat, who used to play trumpet, piano, and accordion, was the guy who nudged me to start playing jazz bass back on the 1970s. He lived for a short time with our friend Howard over what was then a laundromat on the corner of 24th St. and Diamond St., which we used to frequent before we acquired our mechanical improvements. Remind me to tell you a couple of vignettes about Pat’s peregrinations before his rendezvous with Lois Lane.

Now doesn’t that last line make you just salivate to learn more about Carlone’s peregrinations and rendezvous with Lois Lane? I can see many a long afternoon at the Geezer Bench listening to Peter’s stories.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTES:

 
Two from Kieran Healy (@kjhealy) on gun violence in America:

“In any case, over a few decades, the US got nudged into a terrible but stable equilibrium by gun hobbyists, at an annual cost of 10,000 homicides and 20,000 suicides. At this point, the issue is less “policy” and more whether there’ll be some tectonic shift in public opinion.”

“Most policy discussions are beside the point, too. There will be no Port Arthur or Dunblane moment in the US. The main response will be to further entrench a layer of consultants whose job is to socialize children into the expectation that they might be murdered in their classrooms.”

:

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

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th.    32 Cold Tits 0007 (March 16, 2018)

“[I]nstinct was a word lazy people had come up with to make guessing sound like something more impressive.”
McDonnell, Caimh. Last Orders (The Dublin Trilogy Book 4) (p. 169). McFori Ink.  
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
It is Wednesday, March 7, HRM’s 13th birthday. On our drive to school this morning, he turned to me and said, “Yesterday I was a child and today I am a teenager. I liked being a child.”
The weather was mixed. I spent much of the morning trying to persuade myself not to exercise. I lost the argument and after a lot of grumbling, I managed to walk three miles around the lakes in Town Center. After that, I felt so good that I jumped into the pool for a 30-minute swim.
On my drive with HRM that morning, I sang and acted silly. I asked H whether he preferred me silly or grumpy. He answered, “It doesn’t matter. You’re silly whether you are grumpy or not.”
Before getting into the car this morning, H announced he wanted to put off his birthday party until Saturday when he was scheduled to go to the scooter camp in the Sierras. I learned then that I was to accompany H, several of his friends, and the other three fathers into the mountains to drop the new teenagers off at the camp until its was time to gather up birthday boy and his cohorts and retreat back down the mountain. Dick told me that later that evening, all four fathers were supposed to go to a western themed  Karaoke Bar. There we were expected to drink and sing.  I was told we would all dress in cowboy outfits also. I assumed they were joking.
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Hayden (in the hat) with his book if western poetry. Tall Jake holds the dancing chicken birthday card.
Days passed, things happened. When the weekend arrived, H and two of his friends had a campout in the redwood trees alongside the house. Dick was away at some earthquake preparedness conference and Nikki, Adrian and I spent time grumbling about life, but not too deeply.
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Tall long haired Jake in the top Hammock, Hayden in the middle and Graham in the bottom,
    My strategy to let things slide regarding travel plans for March and April worked. I still do not know what will happen but whatever I thought might occur will not and a few things actually resolved themselves. So, no lengthy travel plans are in the offing for the next few weeks. Hooray.
Yrrggh! —Everything from here on that I had written during the past four days suddenly disappeared from my computer for some reason. I am furious. How could that happen? I now have to recreate it from memory — something of which I am in short supply —
Let’s see — what happened next:
The weather cleared up for a day or so. Nikki and I went to the health club one morning. On Saturday or Sunday, we had dinner at Wanni’s restaurant, Thai Basil in Roseville.
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Adrian, Richard, Hayden, and Nikki in Thai Basil.
Nikki, Dick, and Wanni went on to the Western Karaoke Bar deep in the wilds of Loomis. I went home. Nikki had dressed in a leather jacket, a black cowboy shirt with elaborately embroidered designs in black thread and black buttons that sparkled like rhinestones in the light. I got it on good authority that at the Karaoke bar he performed a magnificent rendition of “That’s Amore.” Microphone in hand, he passed from the stage and into the audience. While crooning like Dean Martin, he stared into the eyes of several of the startled but appreciative aging matrons. No, he was not thrown out or beaten into sausage by the ex-hippies turned redneck husbands and boyfriends of the bemused ladies.
The next day, we went to Denio’s Auction (flea market) to play our usual game of “see who could buy the most useless object.” Often Nikki and I would compete over who would return with the most outrageous shirt. He preferred Mexican and I was more into Hawaiian. Unfortunately, I had to leave early to go to see “The Shape of Water” and thereby conceded the contests to the others.
As for Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” although I enjoyed it, I preferred the acting and directing in “Lady Bird” more. As typical in Del Toro’s movies, there was a short period of stomach-turning violence. Tarantino movies have a lot of violence also, blood and death everywhere but it is cartoonish with little regard to actual pain and suffering.  Del Toro’s violence on the other hand although briefer makes up for it by focussing in on the agony and anguish. I was surprised at how closely the story of this movie matched that of Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” — In a world of pain and despair, a damaged but innocent young woman enters into a complex relationship with an alien creature, dies violently but is resurrected into a far better universe — all very Catholic.
By Monday, Nikki and Adrian had left to return to wherever they go after they leave here. Following my morning exercises, I called the good/bad David. He lives in South Dakota now — in a little town called Andover. We commiserated about him sitting in his house staring at the snow while I sat on the porch in the golden hills enjoying the 70-degree sunshine. Later, I got on Google and David took me on a tour of the highlights of Andover — there were not many of them — the Lutheran church, the threshing barns, a post office, the railroad tracks and lots and lots of flat grassland with a few grazing cows.
I had an interesting dream last night. I seemed to be watching a movie and did not participate in the action. I recognized the main protagonist, a minor television actor whose name I could not remember. I seem to have come in during the middle of the story. The main protagonist was a pirate of sorts but had not always been so. He was preparing his band and some poorly equipped villagers to defend themselves from the expected attack. Although they were confident they could prevail in the conflict when their enemy showed up it became clear they would be overwhelmed. They agreed to a meeting with the opposition commander who proved to be an old friend of the hero (from an earlier scene in the movie that I had missed). The two friends agreed that the hero and his motley but competent crew would undertake a difficult and somewhat questionable assignment to lead a sneak attack on the commander’s enemy. I then woke up. It was raining again and after dropping HRM off at school and eating breakfast, I put myself back to bed and slept until the afternoon when it was time to pick up HRM again. And, so it goes in the waning years of my life.
The weather turned miserable again. I feel better, however.
News on the adolescent front: HRM’s march beyond childhood accelerates. He may have just graduated from the scooter gangs to the bicycle maniacs all in one day, putting him further removed from his past and mine. Our influence over his environment diminishes with each additional mile he can now place between us. I currently drive him to the skate park the outer limit of his universe.  In two weeks he will be riding his bike far beyond that.
The weekend approaches. Yesterday morning I listened to the heart-rending memories of a dear friend. Life has been described as a vale of sorrows. It is that for most of us — even living through the greatest Golden Age in the history of humankind and consider ourselves fortunate we have not had to experience sufferings like our predecessors in the past, most of us sooner or later experience unimaginable pain. Some handle it better than others and some worse. Some are able to smile through it all and some complain bitterly (I am of the latter group). Like it or not we are all riding together it the same Looney-Tunes cable car careening through the mountains, some cringing in fear, others filling themselves with hate over who they suspect caused them to be in this place, some laughing deliriously, some crying and some just stare at the sky, fist outstretched middle finger extended — but one thing cannot be denied, for most tomorrow  will be another day — And for me, the weekend begins and I intend to make it a happy one…
B. BOOK REPORT: STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT.
If you continue to read beyond this, you will notice (if I am able to reconstruct them from wherever this evil machine hid them) an excess of items of and about Sicily. The reason for this is because I have just completed reading a mystery novel entitled “Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions” by Mario Giordano. Surprisingly, the author is not Sicilian. He is German. A descendant of a Sicilian laborer who had left the Island seeking work and a better life in the Colossus of the North. The novel itself is no classic work of literature. In fact, it barely makes it as light summer reading. I liked it, however, because of the kind-hearted way it plunges into the history, landscape, and foibles of the people and places that I have grown to love.
The main conceit of the novel lies in the author’s alter ego, a young struggling writer recording, at the behest of his Auntie Poldi, her adventures, and misadventures in Sicily. Auntie Poldi a dipsomaniac, over-sexed, bi-polar, caftan-wearing, overweight, sixty year old widow from Bavaria who, after the death of her Sicilian born husband, buys a home in a small coastal village in Sicily in the shadow of Mt Etna where she intends to “drink herself to death with a view of the sea.” Unfortunately for everyone, Auntie Poldi is also loud, pushy, nosy and her father was chief of detectives in some city in Germany. As a result, when she discovers, on the beach, the dead body of her part-time handyman, the handsome young Valentino, she drafts her dead husband’s three sisters and goes on a hunt for the murderer. Along the way, she also shags the handsome but mature local detective with the improbable name of Vito Montana.
Pookie says, “Check it out”
[T]he worst thing that can happen to any Italian male, especially a Sicilian. Economic crises, volcanic eruptions, corrupt politicians, emigration, the Mafia, uncollected rubbish and overfishing of the Mediterranean—he can endure anything with fatalism and a bella figura. The main thing is never to present a brutta figura, a figuraccia. Bella figura is the Italian credo. The basic equipment for this includes a well-groomed, unostentatiously fashionable appearance, a pair of good shoes and the right make of sunglasses. Above all, though, bella figura means always looking good, never foolish. For an Italian this is a must, not an option, and quite indispensable. It also means you don’t embarrass your fellow men. Impatience is unacceptable and direct confrontations are taboo. You share restaurant bills with your friends, don’t put your foot in it, never receive guests in a dirty or untidy home, ask no intimate questions, address anyone with a university degree as dottore, bring some dessert with you when invited to dinner and—even at the risk of rupturing your abdomen—finish everything on your plate. You put your faith in beauty and proportionality and try to make the world a better place. Sometimes you even succeed.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (An Auntie Poldi Adventure). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  
DAILY FACTOID:
The Sicilian language has no future tense.
(JP— It is scary to think about a culture that lacks the ability to express the future. It does have a special tense to express the remote past that has ended. Sicilians use it a lot in their conversations — Everything is in the present or the far past and there is no future.)
PEPE’S POTPOURRI:
A.  On Top —The Quotes of Steven Wright:
1 – I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
2 – Borrow money from pessimists-they don’t expect it back.
3 – Half the people you know are below average.
4 – 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
5 – 82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
6 – A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
7 – A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
8 – If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.
9 – All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.
10 – The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
11 – I almost had a psychic girlfriend, ….. But she left me before we met.
12 – OK, so what’s the speed of dark?
13 – How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?
14 – If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
15 – Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
16 – When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.
17 – Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.
18 – Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now.
19 – I intend to live forever … So far, so good.
20 – If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
21 – Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.
22 – What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
23 – My mechanic told me, “I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.”
24 – Why do psychics have to ask you for your name
25 – If at first, you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
26 – A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.
27 – Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
28 – The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.
29 – To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
30 – The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
31 – The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.
32 – The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required to be on it.
33 – Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don’t have film.
34 – If at first, you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
35 – If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?
 
B. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:
While doing some research on things Sicilian, I came across the blog, “The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife,” (https://siciliangodmother.com/2013/02/12/sicilian-women-are-scrubbers/) It contains some amusing stories about the life of a foreigner (in this case a British woman married to a Sicilian man) in Sicily, especially regarding her relationship with her Mother-in-law whom she refers to as “The Godmother.”
One day, The Godmother came round to my house when I had just swept and mopped all the floors. She was wearing her black skirt and black blouse, which is what Sicilian housewives put on when they really mean business. She gave me a pitying, or perhaps critical, look and said,
“Oh, you poor thing! You must be so worn out with all this unpacking and organizing that you haven’t had time to clean the floor.”
“Erm, yes,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” she said, her nose already in the cleaning products cupboard she had given me as a housewarming present. “I’ll take care of it.”
She extracted a thing which looked like a broom with no bristles and then wrapped it in a cloth which she dipped in something that smelled pungent enough to make my nose run and proceeded to rub it all over the floor with so much verve I thought she might actually erode the glaze off the tiles. “That’s just given it a quick removal of the main dirt,” she said, as she got on her knees and proceeded to pull the plinth away from the fitted cupboards under and around the kitchen sink.
She put the steel strips on the balcony and then proceeded to remove the entire underside of the island unit as well. Not satisfied with this, she then prised all the knobs off the hob, did something that looked downright painful to remove the oven door and then turned the extractor fan over the cooker into no less than eighteen separate, yet almost identical-looking, pieces of plastic grille.
Whilst I was profoundly shocked to see her calmly pull my kitchen to pieces, I was also flabbergasted that she was actually able to. For my whole life, up to that point, I had believed you needed men with exposed bum cleavages to do that type of thing.
While I was still searching for appropriate words, she filled the sink with several potent products, which foamed and gave off a greenish hallucinogenic vapour, and put all the small components of my ex-kitchen in it. While I sat down to regain some breath, she filled a bucket with whatever the Mafia use to dissolve dead bodies away to nothing except a few gold fillings, and started rubbing it into the pieces of stainless steel plinth she had yanked off the cupboards. I had chosen a matt finish but she kept working away at each piece of metal until she had made it look like a mirror.
C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
I Heard It Through The Grapevine:
During 2016 Presidential nominating campaign there were two candidates who:
Declined to support sensible gun control regulation;
Received support from the Russians and;
Refused to release their tax returns.
D. Today’s Poem:
ISULA
Isula nascivu, isula vogghiu moriri.
Isula comu mi fici lu Signuri
cu li turmenti e li dulura
ma sempri abbrazzata a lu mari
e figghia pridiletta di lu suli.
Bedda tra li beddi sugnu
‘nghirlannata stati e mmernu di ciuri.
Curtigghiara, baggiana, ciaurusa
mi vestu di milli culura
e cu sta peddi di meli e di rosi
attiru lapuna d’ogni razza e paisi.
ISLAND
Born an island, I want to die an island.
An island, the way the Lord made me
with all its torments and pains
but always embraced by the sea
a favored daughter of the sun.
I’m a beauty among beauties
garlanded in summer and winter.
Plebeian, proud, fragrant
I dress in thousands of colors
and with this blanket of honey and roses
I attract drones from every race and place.
–by Lina La Mattina –translated by Arthur Dieli
E. Charlie Stross on Bureaucracy II:
The iron law of bureaucracy dictates that most of the people in any large organization will, after a time, be more preoccupied with preserving their own jobs than with fulfilling the mission statement of the agency.”
Stross, Charles. Empire Games: A Tale of the Merchant Princes Universe (p. 322). Tom Doherty Associates.
TODAY’S QUOTE:
Sicilian men (of which I am one) prefer to discuss the minutia of history and almost anything else rather than answer a personal question and risk making a brute figura of himself. Here is an example taken from a novel I am reading:
“Uncle Martino talked at me without a break. He pontificated on Sicilian history, the source of the best pistachio nuts, Lord Nelson and the Brontë siblings, life in the Middle Ages, Frederick II, Palermo’s Vucciria market, tuna shoals, overfishing by Japanese trawlers and the mosaics of Monreale. He commented on Radio Radicale’s live broadcasts of debates in the Italian parliament. He lectured me on the Cyclops, the Greeks, the Normans, General Patton, Lucky Luciano and yellow silk scarves. On the only acceptable way of making a granita. On angels, demons, the trinacria, the truth about Kafka and communism and the relationship between physical stature and criminality in the male population of Sicily. His rule of thumb: the shorter the man, the more threatening and the more likely to be a Mafioso. That I scarcely understood a word didn’t bother him. My Italian was appalling—in fact it was practically nonexistent apart from one or two helpful swear words and che schifo, allucinante, birra, con panna, boh, beh and mah, which constituted an adolescent’s vocabulary on the beach.”
Giordano, Mario.Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (An Auntie Poldi Adventure). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
(JP- For those interested:
Che Schifo — how disgusting.
Allucinante — hallucinating, stoned
Birra — beer
Con panna — with whipped cream
Boh — I don’t know
Beh — I don’t care
Mah — maybe yes, maybe no
Facility with these few words will allow you to communicate adequately anywhere in Southern Italy and Sicily, but only if you also know how to gesture properly with your hands [see below]).
TODAY’S CHART:
Pasted Graphic
These are only a few of the gestures used in Southern Italy and Sicily. As with any language, it takes a while and a lot of repetition to learn. Failure to learn a language properly can lead to confusion and embarrassment. For example, after examining the chart, I realized that during my sojourns in Sicily I never quite understood the difference between What, where, why and you shitted your pants eh — much to my embarrassment in the cases where I have misused them and much to my annoyance is now realizing that I had failed to recognize when someone who I thought was asking a question was, in fact, commenting on my ignorance or worse.
Categories: January through March 2018, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 15 P0PS 0004 (August 31, 2015)

 

“Never under any circumstances interrupt a story!”
Bruen, Ken. Green Hell (Jack Taylor). Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:

After a long, tiring and mostly uneventful trip back from Thailand, I met my sister in San Francisco and she drove us to Mendocino where I slept my jet lag away.

The next day Annmarie and her husband Dean, my grandson Anthony and Irene a relative from Sabina spending a few weeks in the US arrived. Anthony is having a difficult time. Arrested again for operating his marijuana business, he is in a lot of trouble.

Later that night my other grandson Aaron arrived. On the way up he crashed his car into the back of another car that had that had stopped in the middle of the road having struck and killed a large deer. Aside from that, he seemed in good spirits and happy about his burgeoning career as a chef.

The next day we visited Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. While walking along the path someone going the other called out to me, “How’re you doing Pops?” I was not amused.
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Later we attended the Art and Wine show at the Botanical Gardens. The Gardens were a Coastal Conservancy project during my time as director. It was in danger of closing down. So, since it was considered a significant coastal resource for the area, we developed a plan for its preservation enabling it to redesign and reconstruct its physical plant and exhibits and to purchase a large parcel extending to the coast.
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There also was music to go with the art and wine.
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On Sunday, we went canoeing on Big River. It tired me out so I skipped lunch and took a nap.
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B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Finally, I returned to the Golden Hills and things ground to a halt.

My sister dropped me off at the Trans-bay Terminal and after a riding a bus, a train, the light rail and another bus I arrived at EDH Town Center three hours later. The house was still over 2 miles away and there was no way for me to get there except by walking and dragging my luggage (Mr. Suitcase) behind me.
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I looked like a homeless old man searching for a place to sleep. I hoped that that image would so horrify the citizens of EDH that they would call the police who would arrest me and then, after I convinced them I belonged there, would drive me home in an air-conditioned police car. No such luck, so I struggled for another hour and a half walking with Mr. Suitcase, trudging from one bit of shade to another until I arrived home. I then took a nap.

The next day Dick and HRM arrived from Thailand. Since then I’ve returned to my usual routine — Drive H to school, eat breakfast at Bella Bru, go swimming, return home and play with the computer, pick up H from school, eat dinner and go to bed.

Today I met an old retired man from India. I was enjoying a cafe latte in the Starbuck’s at Target while waiting for H to shop for school supplies. The man sat down at the table where I sat. He was waiting for his family to finish shopping. He told me he spent half the year in New Delhi and the other half in the Golden Hills. He said that he used to be a sociologist and, although he now was retired, he sometimes still is called on to lecture about the differences between US and Indian culture. He said he often seeks out Americans to talk to in order to learn more about our culture. Then he said, in words to the effect, “Being old in America sucks. I have to hang out in this Starbuck’s in order to find someone to talk to.”

I have a new phone, an iPhone 6. It frightens me.

I went to the pool early this morning. Alas, the pool I usually swim in was occupied by an exercise class, so I sat on a beach chair to watch and wait until they finished and cleared out of the pool. One of the first things I noticed was the enormous size of the boobs that I observed. Not simply on women but on the men with their distended bellies and their man-boobs sparkling in the sun. Now I admit I had hoped to sit there and enjoy a visually erotic experience since at my age visually erotic is the only type of erotic granted me. Alas, it was anything but erotic. I then I looked down at my own body and realized I fit right in with the water exercise crew. Finally, the music accompanying the happy and vigorous workout eventually drove me to the much colder lap pool for my own usual morning workout.
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This week the trees with the red flowers were in bloom throughout the subdivision. As I have mentioned before, the landscape architect for the various subdivisions did a marvelous job in siting trees that bloom in different colors throughout the year delighting those with little going on in their lives and annoying many others who suffer from pollen allergies.

HRM report: Back in school in fifth grade. Currently, he is focused on his Youtube activities, “The Haystack Show.” He is the Chairman of the Board, Director and Star, his friend Jake is the CEO, Producer, and Editor.
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HRM, Pookie and Tyson HRM’s friend but not the CEO of “The Haystack Show.”

 

I find that spending my time with 10-year-olds is a rewarding and enjoyable as traveling around the world.

Alas, the pump that pushes the house’s wastewater up to the sewer that runs along the street broke requiring HRM and me to spend the nights until it is repaired in the Holiday in Town Center and eating in some of HRM’s favorite restaurants, MacDonald’s, Taco Bell and Panda’s.

I cannot believe I am reduced to writing about broken sewer pumps and Taco Bell.

Since I have returned to EDH my cuisine choices have been limited to McDonalds, Taco Bell, Panda and the snack bar at Target.
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Sometimes we go fishing at the Duck Pond. Where I lie on the grass and stare at the sky until I fall asleep but usually I do nothing.
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I guess I can report that the drought resistant spiders are back and have covered with webs the landscaping for the houses on the street prompting the migration of itinerant pest control experts knocking on our doors and promising to remove the pests in the most environmentally safe manner possible. I assume if that were true, they intend to pick up each spider individually and crush it between their thumb and forefingers.

C. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

Earlier this month when a bomb blew up in Bangkok near a much-revered shrine killing almost 20 people and injuring almost 100 more, the unelected Prime Minister and leader of the country’s most recent coup said that it was an attempt to injure Thailand’s tourism industry, while completely omitting any expression of sympathy for those killed or injured.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

A. Quigley on Top:

“We usually think of Christianity as the great contrast to the Roman ideology, but this is to misconceive the whole civilization. Christianity as an organization was in no way incompatible with Romanism as an organized structure. The teachings of Christ were, but these teachings were so very alien and strange that no one took them very seriously and being a Christian soon meant, not belief in Christ’s teachings but belief in Christ, a totally different thing. The same thing happened in Islam where Muhammad’s teachings were soon ignored, and the requirements of Islam became a few rituals, plus monotheism, and so far as Muhammad was concerned, belief that he was the Prophet of the One God.

The Christians cut down Christ’s teachings to a minimum also, insisted only on the belief that Christ was the Son of God and some related beliefs and certain rituals, and then began to engage in violent controversy on minute details of implications of these, very remote from Christ’s teachings or attitude. On this basis, there was not much in Christianity which could not be reconciled with the Roman system, and the original enmity between the two came more from the Roman side than from the Christian.

…The willingness of the Christians to become part of the Roman system can be seen in the present survival of the Roman Catholic Church as a copy of the Roman empire, a system organized in municipalities and provinces under an absolute ruler who uses the robes, nomenclature, language, and modes of action of the late Roman empire.”
Carroll Quigley

 

B. Xander’s Perceptions:

“When I won my Best Screenplay award several years ago, I had the great pleasure to see a number of films. One short film in particular caught my eye. It was a musical comedy called “West Bank Story,” and . . . you guessed it — it was a take on “West Side Story,” but set on the West Bank in Israel. I laughed so hard, I triggered muscle spasms in my back, and I had to go home and lay on a hot moist heating pad. It didn’t win, which I considered an enormous injustice, but I kept in touch with the film maker, a tremendously talented guy named Ari Sandel.

I saw it was nominated for an Oscar in the live action short film category, and I called Ari and arrogantly proclaimed that he would get an Oscar before Martin Scorsese would, and he DID . . . by about 2 hours! The Live-Action Short Film award was announced very early in the broadcast, with the major categories, like best actors, director, and picture of course saved for the end.

Now I see that Ari is dating actress Julianne Hough. Some guys have ALL the luck! Hey, Juli — for once, what about dating SCREENWRITERS, huh???

“West Bank Story, just shy of 20 minutes, is uploaded here:|

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgQfCUNf0no

But if you purchase it, Ari is donating all proceeds to a nonprofit in the Near East that benefits victims of the violence — Israelis AND Palestinians.”

 

 

C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

I think this animal rights thing may have gone too far. I mean, what’s wrong about a tiger living in a zoo in a place made to look like the jungle it’s never seen and free from scratches and annoyances of the wild, where someone else catches, slaughters and cuts up his food into bite-sized bits while people pay good money to watch him lie around and yawn? Wouldn’t this make him a Kardashian?

After all, humans in their natural state were made to huddle around the entrance of a cave and be periodically culled by Saber Tooth Cats and Cave Bears — not working 80 hours a week in order to afford to live in a fake greek revival house far too large to ever be fully used with a new Ferrari parked in the driveway that inevitably his doped up kids will drive into a tree.

 

D. Today’s Poem:

The frost has known,
From scattered conclave by the few winds blown,
That the lone genius in my roots,
Bare down there in a jungle of fruits,
Has planted a green year, for praise, in the heart of my upgrowing days.
Dylan Thomas wrote this when he was fourteen-years-old. He remained blindly arrogant and mostly drunk for the rest of his life.

 

E. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Altschmerz

n. Weariness with the same old issues that you’ve always had—the same boring flaws and anxieties you’ve been gnawing on for years, which leaves them soggy and tasteless and inert, with nothing interesting left to think about, nothing left to do but spit them out and wander off to the backyard, ready to dig up some fresher pain you might have buried long ago.

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Republicans continue to refuse to extend [unemployment insurance]. You know what, I am beginning to think that they’ve got a point. If you want to get paid while not working, you should have to run for Congress just like everybody else.”
Barack Obama

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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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

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 29 Cold Tits 0004 (March 14, 2015)

 

“A man is never too young to kill, never too wise, never too strong, but he can damn well be too rich.”
Brown, Pierce. Golden Son (The Red Rising Trilogy, Book 2 (p. 41). Random House Publishing Group.

R.I.P. Terry Pratchett. Discworld will live forever.
Pratchett, the inverse of Spock, turned logic on its head and found truth. May they enjoy each other’s company wherever they are.

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

The weather in EDH has gone from pleasant to marvelous, the afternoons in the mid-seventies. The sky a deep blue, now and then dappled with clouds.

A few days ago I read that some scientists suspect the perception of the color blue is a recent innovation for humanity. They were put on to this theory by the fact that Homer never mentioned the color blue in his works (nor did most ancient texts such as the Bible). Homer’s description of the Aegean as the “wine dark sea,” a sea that to us today is decidedly blue, led them to conclude, either the sea was a different color then (wine is not blue even at its darkest) or something was different in the color perceptions of the ancients. They then discovered that people in societies today that have no word for blue, when asked the color of the sky, most often respond that it was colorless. A modern tribe that has no word for blue but several for green can see differences in green not perceived by the rest of us. So given that colors are merely reflections of certain frequencies of light, what is going on? This freaks me out. When I look at the deep blue skies over the golden foothills what, if anything, am I seeing?
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Alas, still no rain. Paradise before the fall?
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So, I have now completed a PET and a CT (CAT) scan. I guess my next one will be a RAT, BAT or perhaps even a VET scan.
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Nikki arrived. He plans to stay for about a week. This means that a lot more noise and a bit more laughter it the house. H has been fitted with braces and is unhappily suffering through the irritation of getting used to them.
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With Nikki attending to H, I spend even more of my time in my room trying to find something interesting to read other than Facebook and trashy novels. Recently I even have begun to look forward to my medical appointments.
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While having coffee with Reed a few days ago, he mentioned that the Coastal Conservancy staff said that they did not know what a coastal restoration project is, despite the fact that their implementing legislation specifically directs the agency to do them.
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During breakfast with Nikki, he asked what would I do if I was no longer living in EDH. I said that I would probably still do much of what I do now. I would divide my time between; California, probably as much as possible with my sister and brother in law in Mendocino; Italy, at Nikki’s home at Saliceto in the Alpine foothills or Sabina or Sicily; and Thailand, although I would prefer moving out of BKK and back to the beach. Winters at the beach in Thailand, Spring and Fall somewhere along the California coast and Summers in the Alps it seems would not be such a bad life.

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Mendocino, California

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Saliceto, Italy
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Roccantica in Sabina

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Sicily

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Jomtien Beach, Thailand
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My visit to the orthodontist with H was a revelation. The waiting area was more playroom than office with its jungle motif, separate play areas and massage chairs for parents. The staff of about 20 or so seemed to have overdosed on ebullience as though they had hit the nitrous-oxide on the way to work. The staff was all women except for the man himself, the orthodontist, the chief giggler himself — the lord of the manor — the Caliph. I used to wonder who lived in those super large homes that line the ridges of EDH. I now imagine they are all inhabited by happy-talking orthodontists.
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El Dorado Hills is an almost place, almost a forest, almost a mountain, almost a city, almost a community and living here is almost a life.
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Well, I can put my hypochondria back in its box for a while. The PET scan came back negative for any evidence of migration by big C into other parts of my body. Now, if the biopsy shows signs of it in the nodule itself, the doctor believes it can be safely removed without resort to either radiation or chemo.
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My very dear friend from Sicily, Luigi (Gigi) Gallo, who suffers from Parkinson’s, recently slipped, fell and broke his leg. He appears to be recovering. I hope all goes well with him. Last year, after an over 40-year hiatus, I visited Sicily and had a wonderful time with him, catching each other up on our lives over the last 40 years and reminiscing about our time together in Sicily and Rome.
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B. BOOK REPORT:

I read “The Girl on the Train,” by Paula Hawkins. It is an interesting book in spite of it being a best seller. All ten or so characters in the novel are reprehensible. It is difficult to care about which ones deserve to die (they all deserve to do so). Yet, their very insensitivity to their own irresponsibility despite their intense and constant preoccupation with it that gives the story whatever appeal it has.

Pookie says, “Check it out.”

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

As for one of the primary organizational elements of Western society, capitalism, in its constantly changing form over its 1000 year existence, Quigley has the following to say about its role:

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

Although Quigley refers to it in this other works of his, the above quote does not mention the impact on society of Debt and the Merchants of Debt, Creditors, even though they are many thousands of years older than Capitalism and Capitalists. If one were to rewrite Quigley’s quote with debt in mind, it might go something like this:

“Debt and Creditors, the Merchants of Debt, because they seek repayment of the loan and the interest due thereon as their primary goal, never seek prosperity, high production, high consumption, direct political power, patriotic improvement, or moral uplift. Instead they seek to assure that the value of the principle and interest remain constant or increase by encouraging depression of the economy to eliminate the potential for that prosperity, high production and high consumption to encourage inflation and reduce the value of their future returns. Interest in political power is limited to issues of so called “sound money” politics. Over their 4000 year history, the Merchants of Debt have rarely, if ever, contributed anything to a society’s patriotic improvement or moral uplift other than to assist in their destruction now and then.”

It is important to understand that banking and capitalism, although they more often than not work together, they are not the same thing nor do they have the same institutional goals or the same impacts on society. Capitalism is as subject to the demands of the Merchants of Debt as is the rest of society. Because of the overwhelming impact of debt on society, the Old Testament of the Bible and most civilizations until the 10th Century AD in Europe encouraged periodic forgiveness of debts. It could be argued that the Lord’s Prayer New Testament plea to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” refers to the Old Testament practice as well as, if not more than, it does to other moral transgressions.

There exists and inherent conflict between Capitalists and the Merchants of Debt. The former risk their wealth on investments in enterprise, the latter abhor risk of any sort.
B. Molly’s Poem:

A New Years Poem
I have a desperate attraction to new beginnings
Sometimes the numbers on the calendar look so beautiful
I think
Today’s the day I drink less and run more
No smoking, all veggies
Honesty, integrity, self-reliance, perseverance, creativity,
No fear, live large,
Dream big, be bright, believe in love and believe in yourself!
And I do
Today is an auspicious day
Today is my new beginning
Sometimes I just feel it, on a Tuesday
Today’s the day I keep doing yoga
I don’t back down when I’m right
I go to bed at a reasonable hour, pay my bills on time
Clean out the toe jam, learn all those languages
All the little steps start here and I’m climbing
I can feel it now, right now, and I won’t look back
This is it!
Today is an auspicious day
Today is my new beginning
Then I find myself making the same mistakes
Who manufactured the grooves in my record?
How would it feel if the DJ scratched me across the turntable?
The dissonant rip, like a zipper coming undone
A cut away from the 4/4 time that I was trying so hard to hold
But this is why the crowd came to the club
To hear the sound of the universe tearing into a new song
The maligned has become music
We throw our hands up and we dance
I am scratched across the turntable and the crowd is screaming
We are scratched and screaming
And the dj takes it back, and the song plays
All of it is beautiful
Every moment new
Every moment auspicious
Every moment beginning
Molly Trad

C. Zander’s Perceptions

“Lentil Soup and Lent

Yesterday I made a pot of lentil soup as well as a loaf of bread, since the weather demands it. I realized that while my back was screwing with me last week, I missed out on Mardi Gras on Tuesday. I have not been a practicing Catholic for . . . yikes. That would be over a half a century. I do dig McDonald’s having cheap Filet o Fish sandwiches (YEEE-Hah!!) during Lent, so naturally I will take advantage of that for the next 5 weeks.

But here’s the thing. Stay with me on this: When the kids were still in elementary school and their mom was on the dating scene, which I called the “Boyfriend of the Month Club,” I decided not to date. One parent dating like a rat in heat and dragging impressionable young kids to these men’s homes was bad enough; it didn’t need to be repeated by me.

I knew that the dating cycle was about 5 weeks is because that is how often I’d be asked for my recipe for scaloppine alla Marsala, the dinner she’d prepared for those guys. And I wouldn’t date.

It got to the point, though, that those years were adding up. Because I did the celibate parent thing voluntarily, I believe I should be allowed to give it up for Lent. Got it now?

So in Rome, we’ve got Il Papa, Pope Francis, who reflects virtually political and social position I have. I’m going to throw myself at his mercy and see if there is a special dispensation in his heart to allow me to give up celibacy for Lent. I’m guessing that he’d go for it. Hell — he can even live vicariously through me, if he wants. So I am confident.

Do I have any volunteers?
Pete Xander

D. Granddaughter’s Painting:
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Athena Petrillo

E. Today’s Paraprosdokian:

Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
Epicurean Paradox

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:
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Sometimes I wonder if the American South is really another country or whether most Southerners are actually illegal aliens residing in the US. Surely a people who are so poorly educated, in such ill health, so superstitious and immoral and so unambitious cannot be real American citizens. Should we require them to go back to where they came from? Who would have them?

These people seem to insist on remaining poor, illiterate, diseased, religion obsessed and immoral. Shouldn’t we allow them to endure that state? Perhaps laws like, unemployment, social security, Obama care and the like should not apply to the South?

We do not have a poverty problem or a racial problem or a health problem or a moral problem or an immigration problem in the United States. We have a Southern problem. We have always had a Southern problem.

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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Point Cabrillo Light House, Mendocino

 

Categories: January through March 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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Happy Holidays to all.

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

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sara King: Legend of Zero

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

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

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

Pookie says check it out….

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

The Little Car that Could

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

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

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

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

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

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Palermo Cathedral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

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

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

TODAY’S QUOTE:

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

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

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

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

 

_______________________________________________

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JASON

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOB URAM

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNMARIE

______________________________________________________

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

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

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

1. To do or not to do.

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

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

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The CSD park showing its Autumn colors

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

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

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

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

Tad Williams: Sleeping Late on Judgement Day

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

Richard Stiller: Cold Warriors

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

Andrew Ball: The Contractors

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

John Conroe: Forced Ascent

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

Declan Burke: Crime Always Pays

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

Andrea Camilleri: Angelica’s Smile

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

Chad Leito: The New Rome.

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

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

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

The Little Car that did — III.
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Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next day we left Rome.

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S QUOTES:

1. Know your Bible:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Trenz Pruca

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

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

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

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

B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN ITALY

1. A brief stay in Rome

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

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My spartan room

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

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The façade

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The interior

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

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

2. Milano for a day

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

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Pookie in Milan

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

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

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

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Our breakfast place in Busto

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

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

The Little Car that did.

England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PEPE’S POTPURRI:

Arrogance and Futility in Action:

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

“To the editor of the Bangkok Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S QUOTE:

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

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

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

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

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY:

1. Reunion with a beloved friend:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gigi today with some of his many racing trophies

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

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Gigi and Wife in the Balilla

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

2. Departure and Return to Rome:

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

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My last views of Sicily

B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

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

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S QUOTE:

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

TODAY’S CHART:
basic-wine-101-guide-infographic-poster

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

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

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

TODAY FROM ITALY:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY:

Canicatti

1. A brief tour into the Borgalino

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

Nonetheless, they really do it up for Carnevale.

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I have no idea what this float is all about.

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

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

Veduta - 1933

Canicatti 100 years ago
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Today

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

Convento S. Spirito - senza data

100 years ago

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

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The much altered home of my mothers birth.

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

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

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

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The Crypt

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The Grave

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

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

3. Giovanni’s country place

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

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In the garden
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Here comes the storm

4. A last supper

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

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The Antipasti

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I have no idea what this was

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My main course was wild boar
TODAY’S QUOTE:

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

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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My sister fooling around

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

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