Posts Tagged With: tamai

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 7 Shadow 0007 (June 27, 2018)

“Putin covets. He wants what others have. And the taking of something from someone is the ultimate delectation.”

Matthews, Jason. Palace of Treason: A Novel (The Red Sparrow Trilogy Book 2) (p. 110). Scribner.

 

REMEMBER, JULY 15 IS “NATIONAL BE A DORK DAY”

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

 

A. POOKIES PREPARATION FOR A VOYAGE.

In two days, I will fly off to Italy and stay there for about six weeks. On one hand, it is no big deal — you know, been there done that — although I hope to visit a few places I have not seen before. On the other hand, I have passed my do by date and the immortal stage hand’s sweaty fingers await the directors signal to draw the final curtain. — — Well, that is a little bit overdramatic. Actually, age tires most of us out. It certainly does me. Sometimes, watching the sunrise and the sunset seems to be a pretty cool experience and quite enough for me for that day and if I want to laugh or cry, a smartphone can do wonders for connecting with relatives and friends who live far away,

Just before I began writing this, I noticed an article entitled the Meaning of Life saved on my desktop for some long forgotten reason. It gives a brief discussion of what each major religion or philosophical school believes that meaning to be. I thought about what I had read and tried to figure out what it means to me. The best I could come up with is: if I feel good, then life is good and if I don’t feel so good, then it’s not so good.

I think that makes me an epicurean or a Monte Pythonian. The latter postulated the “Meaning of Life” that it is:

“Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

Hmm, I think I like that — the answer to any inquiry about what or who you are — “I am a Monty Pythonian.” Works for me.

The Saturday before departure, Naida and I attended the morning coffee held every Saturday by our section of the Enchanted Forest HOA. One of the women who seemed in charge announced the birthdays of those in attendance at the coffee and the deaths of those who were not. Another woman, several years older than I named Winnifred (Winnie), engaged me in conversation. I later learned she found me “interesting.” Perhaps, I can become a geriatric boy toy. I also had a spirited discussion with Naida, another woman and a retired teacher regarding the persecution of Native Americans, a subject the retired teacher will be lecturing on at something called The Renaissance Society, an adult education organization at the nearby university. Could I be becoming acculturated to the senior community of the Enchanted Forest? I can envision myself eventually becoming like some elderly elve strolling among the trees with the other ancient elves talking of shoes, ships, candlewax and whatever.

 

B. ACROSS THE LAND AND OVER THE SEA.
Travel may be annoying at times but almost always interesting. For example, while loading for my flight from NY to Milano, a little old lady (younger than me I think) struggled to put her exceedingly heavy suitcase in the overhead bin across the aisle from me. I jumped up and helped her stow it. She then went into the restroom. A young man wearing a NY Police Department tee shirt then came along and tried to get his luggage into the same bin in which the old lady had put her suitcase (there were plenty of other empty bins). He could not fit it in. Frustrated, he ripped the woman’s suitcase out of the bin and threw it on the floor. “Hey,” I said, “What the fuck do you think you are doing?” ( just so you will not confuse my action for senseless chivalry: One, I was still p.o.’d from the unpleasant twelve hours I had sat in the airport’s departure lounge and Two, it takes me only a few hours of being in NY to acculturate myself to its mores and manner of interpersonal colloquy). “I’m sitting here,” he said in Italian pointing to the seat directly under the bin. “The bin is mine. It has the same number,” he added this time indicating the row number. As we faced off, LOL emerged from the toilet, eyed her suitcase on the floor, quickly took in the prancing bulls locking horns and with an annoyed snort, hauled the suitcase off the floor, slammed it into an empty bin and took her seat next to mine. The young man and I glanced at one another and sheepishly returned to our seats never to look at one another again during the entire flight.

I arrived early morning in New York’s Kennedy Airport. I was listed standby for the flight to Milano. Unfortunately, the plane was overbooked so I had to wait twelve hours to be admitted into the departure area. During that time, I mostly sat and stared. I tried to eat a hot dog while I waited for my Mac and iPhone to recharge. As with the last two times, I tried to eat a hotdog, a piece lodged in my throat and I ended up spitting bits of the dog across the table. Instead of wondering whether I was going to die as I usually do, I wondered how embarrassed I was going to be. Not much as it turned out. I was back home in NY after all.

 
C. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN LOMBARDY OR MORE ACCURATELY THE LACK THEREOF.

I landed in Milano. Nikki met me there and immediately announced he was leaving the following morning for Thailand despite the fact that he urged me to travel early so that we could spend some time together. I said, “Tell me, Nikki, isn’t it true that as soon as SWAC heard we were going to spend some time together she told you to leave immediately because she needed you to deliver some cheese and salami to her bar in Thailand.” After a short period of prevaricating, he agreed that was pretty much what happened. As Vitorio pointed out a few days later when I told him the story, “Nikki’s mind turns to mush whenever he talks to the SWAC.” Despite this minor flaw, he remains one of my dearest friends and can make the dreariest of days delightful.

The next morning, following some delicious pastry at a local cafe bakery, I left for Sacile by train. I was not particularly unhappy. As I said, it is the annoyances that make travel interesting. On the other hand, I could just as well have stayed home and fallen down the stairs and get to enjoy the same experience without having to fly half-way around the world.

 

D.TAMAI AND SACILE — IN THE HEART OF THE VENETO.
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Tamai and Sacile sit on the fertile flat plains of the Veneto that lie just beneath the rise of the pre-Alps jutting into the sky

 
After a good night’s sleep and a breakfast of coffee and toast, I walked the half-mile or so into Tamai the small village that sits in the middle of the farm country it serves — Its church bell tower rising higher than anything else. The bell tower used to provide the farmworkers in the fields with the time, now it serves as the romantic focal point for this scenic northern Italian town in the Veneto.
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I walked past well-tended houses on their half an acre to acre lots, fruit trees and vegetable gardens co-existing with clipped lawns and florid flower gardens. Behind the houses stretched the farmland all a deep green with vineyards, corn, and alfalfa fields. The latter two secondary crops are grown to feed the meat and dairy products industry somewhere else in the Veneto.

It used to be that these farmlands were owned and worked on by those who lived in those nice well-maintained houses. With the aging of the farmers and changes in the industry, the fields were leased out or sold by the owners of those houses and are now farmed by industrial conglomerates whose offices are located in the big city financial centers. In the well-tended houses, many of the aging farmers still live. Their children, however, have gone to seek employment in those same financial centers. When I look around me I think of how well these communities would serve as ideal senior communities — but then again they already are.

I had coffee and a delicious pastry at the New Life Cafe one of the two cafes in the town. After an hour or so, I left and walked to the other cafe, the Central Tamai Bar, and had another coffee and pastry and then walked back to the farmhouse and took a nap. As I was falling asleep, I contemplated the benefits of traveling four days from where I can enjoy a comfortable nap any time I want, to someplace else where I do the same thing. I decided, it is much sweeter as a reward.

IMG_4718Pookie at the New Life Cafe in Tamai
That evening, Vittorio, Anita and I went to a cafe we often visit when I am in town. It is a place where musicians frequently congregate although there was no music that night as everyone was watching Croatia defeat the heavily favored team from Argentina in their World Cup match.
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Anita and Vittorio at the cafe.

A few days went by until Professor Hank (Hank Schwartz — “Black Henry” in English) and his wife, Camille, the couple I would be traveling with to Croatia and Calabria, arrived and met us at Lucia’s Le Petit Cafe (the happiest place on earth) for several morning glasses of Prosecco. Hank who is an economics professor at some college in New Jersey and staunch, if gentle, Republican and I had a lighthearted discussion of current American and Italian politics. Italy is going through a similar collapse of the body politic as the US (although they are more used to it). The North has succumbed to the argument of the radical right that they are being invaded by hoards of black people landing on their beaches (alas, building a wall would be impractical). They also have accepted the canard that the south of Italy receives an unfair amount of government handouts and its people are lazy and corrupt (corrupt perhaps, but lazy, no. Good corruption requires significant effort). I asked one man who was making this point how he would feel if the situation was reversed and the Veneto was destitute as it had been at times in the past. He said he was all for one part of the country assisting the other during a time of need, but in this case, it was too much.
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Camille, Lucia, Black Henry and Past Primetime Pookie.

That night we gathered at Teacher Brian’s house. There were four couples and me — Hank and his wife Camille, Vitorio and Anita, a pilot for Air Italy named Alessio and his girlfriend, and Brian and his wife who he met in Korea when he taught at the American Embassy there. We had a good time. For the first time in two years, I was able to drink too much (Prosecco, Grappa, a Japanese Grappa like drink, etc.)

The next day I strolled around Sacile, one of my favorite places on earth. They were having their once a month Flea market in the Town Square. I enjoyed rummaging around in Italian garbage as a change from rummaging through American garbage as I do at Denio’s in Roseville. Italians seem to like to throw out a lot of old coins and old letters. At Denio’s, the refuse is predominately toys, clothing and old tools.

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A view of Sacile

Later I went to professor Hank’s apartment where we planned our trip. First to Croatia for two days, then the long drive through Italy to Matera stopping two nights along the way. At one of the stops, we reserved rooms in a nice hotel high on a hill overlooking the Bay of Naples. Then off to Maratea on the Calabrian coast and spending the night at the Altamonte hotel where according to Hank they serve “the best Calabrian food in the world.” Then, the next morning, off to Cosenza where I stay the night before boarding the train for Sicily.
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A View of Sacile from Professor Hank’s apartment.

Today I learned I have a mouse that shares my room with me. I am staying in the family room in the basement of Vitorio’s house in Tamai. I sleep on a temporary cot that sits low to the floor. At eye level, to my left, as I lie on my bed is a bench. Periodically, the mouse scampers along the bench, stops to check on me, then satisfied that I am ok scurries back to wherever he came from.

During my morning walk today into Tamai and back, I took a path through the town I had not taken before. Although the town has no more than six or eight streets, I found it contained a surprisingly modern and well-equipped sports stadium. Following my morning coffee in the New Life Cafe and a prosecco at the Central, I returned to Vitorio’s for lunch where for the first time in my life I tasted fried chicken blood. It was not as bad as it sounds.

This morning, I awoke much earlier than I should. I laid in bed waiting for my friend the mouse to check up on me. I have named him Topo Tamai, the Mouse of Tamai. By the way, in case you are interested, Tamai refers to the containers or barns in which you store cow dung until it can be used as fertilizer. I guess you could call the town “Compost.” At least that is not as bad as Booger Hole, West Virginia or Toad Suck, Arkansas.

Vittorio and Anita provide care for his 94-year-old mother and his 83-year-old mentally retarded diabetic aunt. Both women are confined to wheelchairs but eat all meals with us. Every morning at about 7:30 Vitorio’s two sisters arrive like the Marines at Iwo Jima. They burst through the door, wash, dress and strap the two woman into their respective wheelchairs. Then they strip the beds, clean the rooms, deposit the women at the table for breakfast and are out of the house by 8 o’clock. I am impressed by their synchronized efficiency.

Tomorrow I leave for Verona and perhaps Bolzano before returning to Milano for four days. Then I come back here and set off for Croatia.

I left the house at about 9:30 this morning. It was beautiful outside — the temperature almost perfect, the mountains glistening like silver ingots lying on blue silk, the few clouds fleecy and pure white floated around the peaks, the fields a deep dark green and flowers everywhere. It was that beauty that makes you believe that if you had the choice of all the places in the world to be at that moment, you would choose here — for a few minutes at least, perhaps an hour or so. Pure beauty if held for more than a few minutes is a form of death or at least ennui.

I walked into Tamai. I stopped at the New Life this morning for coffee and a brioche. Instead of my morning prosecco at Central, I strolled along a different road, one that led out of town to the east. I soon came across a bridge over a pretty little stream. I walked along the banks of the stream through a copse of trees much larger than I had seen in the area before. Eventually, I came to another road and followed it back to Vitorio’s for lunch.
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Then, off to Verona.

 

E. A LITTLE BIT OF SNARK.
Verona the city of Romeo and Juliet, two dimwitted self-absorbed children living in a completely insane society. They should have been kept under lock and key instead of allowed to hang out under balconies looking for sex or prowling about at night getting into switchblade fights or rifling the medicine cabinet for drugs. Rather than “But soft, what light through younger window breaks,” Romeo could just as well have recited Hamlet’s palaver with old Yorick’s skull — “to die to sleep, to sleep perchance to dream.” Wasn’t that really the choice these pre-adolescent half-wits were given — to die or to sleep, to be or not to be?

 

F. NOT A BOOK REPORT:

As we all know, there has been a lot of public discussion about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In 2013, Jason Matthews, a recently retired CIA agent began publishing an international espionage thriller trilogy. Mathews was an officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate. Over a thirty-three-year career, he served in multiple overseas locations and engaged in the clandestine collection of national security intelligence, specializing in denied-area operations (e.g., Russia). Matthews conducted double agent recruitment operations against Soviet-East European, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean targets. As Chief in various CIA Stations, he collaborated with foreign partners in counterproliferation and counterterrorism operations.

His first book, Red Sparrow, was made into a recently released movie that caught the flavor of the book even if it did not quite follow its specific plot. One of the aspects of the book that the movie does not cover is Matthews’ deep analysis of and antipathy for Vladimir Putin, his goals and the government that he set up — a government Mathews considers not significantly different from what existed in Stalin’s time except that the Soviet Commissars have been replaced by the capitalist oligarchs. In the novel, one of Mathews’ characters states:

“The Rodina, sacred Motherland of black earth and endless sky, would have to endure a while longer, as the chain-wrapped corpse of the Soviet was exhumed, hauled dripping out of the swamp, and its heart was started again, and the old prisons were filled anew with men who did not see it their way.”

Matthews, Jason. Red Sparrow: A Novel (The Red Sparrow Trilogy Book 1) (p. 27). Scribner.

In 2015, still before the 2016 US election, Mathews published his second Novel Palace of Treason in which he further dissects the character and motivation of the autocrat that now runs the Kremlin. After the thwarting of a Putin initiative in Iran, Mathews explores the Russian leader’s popularity, motivations, and goals:

“Kakaya raznitsa, who cares,” thought Putin, flipping the folder closed and tossing it into an outbox of white Koelga marble. He didn’t give a shit; global imbalance, confusion, and chaos suited him and Russia just fine. Maybe this fire was the work of the Americans or the Israelis, or maybe those Persian babuiny, baboons, didn’t know how to handle uranium. Well, he had long since received the money from Tehran for the shipment, and “investors’ deposits” had been made—Govormarenko had already divvied up the euros. Never mind; when the Iranians were ready to rebuild, Russia would step up with equipment and expertise to assist. At à la carte prices.”

“And let them try to rile up the Caucasus—no chance, he had his domestic audience well in hand. Ninety-six percent of Russians approved of his recent military initiatives in Ukraine; ninety-five percent of them believed that America was goading fractious Kiev to persecute ethnic Russians in that country. Ninety-two percent believed—no, knew—that the same situation existed in Russian enclaves in the Caucasus, Moldova, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. Opportunities would present themselves. They always did.”

“He would keep an eye on the oligarchs. They were rumbling about their money troubles in the face of Western banking sanctions. Nothing a few corruption trials and prison sentences wouldn’t smooth out. Massive gas and oil deals with China, India, and Japan would take the teeth out of the sanctions soon enough. And he would continue to defame and stress the NATO weak-sister coalition. Conditions were right to shatter the Euro-Atlantic alliance once and for all, which would be redress for the dissolution of the USSR. With NATO razed to the ground, the Czech-Polish missile shield proposal would no longer be a worry.”

Matthews, Jason. Palace of Treason: A Novel (The Red Sparrow Trilogy Book 2) (p. 468). Scribner.

It seems that with Putin’s success in affecting the US election and the suborning the American president he helped elect, the shattering the Euro-Atlantic alliance depicted in the novel as his obsession is exactly what Putin has accomplished in reality now three years later. Given his position in the CIA and the fact that the novels were reviewed and approved for publication by that agency, I suspect Mathews intended them to be more factual and cautionary than fictional and prescient. In other words, a warning that sadly went unheeded. Russia remains our enemy.

 

 

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

 

 

Recently, in discussions with several of my better educated conservative friends, I was told that there existed a Harvard conducted study that found that Faux News was the least biased of the mainstream media purveyors of news. I told them I found it hard to believe and if true it was an outlier to otherwise consistent findings of the exact opposite in almost all other studies. I suggested it should be treated as such an outlier and ignored. They did not agree.

Upon returning home, I decided to research this anomaly in my understanding (an indication that I lack things of any significance with which to occupy my time). I found the only outlets to reference such a study were a few conservative blogs (“conservative” being a charitable description on my part). So, I decided to go and read the source of the inference, the study itself. The study was conducted under the auspices of the Harvard Kennedy School and the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy by a Professor Thomas E. Patterson. It certainly did not conclude what the conservative blogs said it did. .

What it did find was that since 1963 with the move of broadcast television to longer newscasts and moving picture based news, reporting of negative events (negative news) by media outlets increased. This is why, for example, automobile accidents (random acts of violence but good pictures) receive more press attention than random acts of kindness (no matter how hard the station may try to balance the coverage). The author of the report specifically warns against considering negative news as either biased or fake. The automobile accident in the example happened. It was not fake news. The reporting of it was not biased. The Trump stories themselves are not biased.

The report further points out that by far the greatest imbalance of negative over positive news occurred during Clinton’s presidency — greater than any other in modern history, although Trump is well on his way to exceeding that record. They do point out, however, that the media reported far more positive stories about Trump during the nomination process than it did about his competitors.

While Clinton complained bitterly that the press rarely included his administration’s defense of its actions and policies in the negative stories, that is not the case with Trump. In 65% of negative news stories about him, Trump himself was the featured speaker. Also, Republicans within and outside of the administration accounted for an unprecedented 80% of what newsmakers said about Trump’s presidency. Democrats had only 6% of the sound bites with protestors garnering a meager 3% more.

In general, Trump and his administration have had a much greater opportunity to tell his side of the story than most. For purposes of comparison, the study points out that unlike Trump and his supporters who accounted for the above 80% of the commentary, Muslims provided only 6% of the commentary on issues relating to Islam.

Faux News, clearly an outlier in terms of negative news about the president, reported more positive stories about Trump than the other outlets. It made up for its discrepancy in negative stories by finding very few good things to say about the public and Judicial response to Trump’s actions.

Still, the sheer volume of negative stories is approaching and undoubtedly will surpass that of Clinton. So what accounts for that? Perhaps the answer is contained In the words of the author of the report, “The early days of his presidency have been marked by far more missteps and miss-hits, often self-inflicted, than any presidency in memory, perhaps ever.”

 

DAILY FACTOIDS:

 

I) There is a company, Dopamine Labs that provides tools to App developers to make any App more addictive or to reduce the desire to continue a behavior that is undesirable.
2)  According to the historian Strabo, within a few years of the (Roman Empire) occupation of Egypt, 120 Roman boats were sailing for India each year from the port of Myos Hormos on the Red Sea.
Frankopan, Peter. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (pp. 15-16). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.  

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

A. The Most Significant Post You Will Never Read:
In his blog, Charlie Stross reproduces the keynote speech he gave at the 34th Chaos Communication Congress. The speech is, as he says,”polemical, intended to highlight the existence of a problem and spark a discussion, rather than a canned solution. After all, if the problem was easy to solve it wouldn’t be a problem, would it?”
Stross has some interesting insights into a few of the fundamental issues of our time such as what is AI and what is its role in the future of humanity. His oblique look at many of the issues raised from those questions alone is worth the read. For example, the following rumination about what he calls “very slow AIs,” modern corporations:
Corporations are cannibals; they consume one another. They are also hive superorganisms, like bees or ants. For their first century and a half, they relied entirely on human employees for their internal operation, although they are automating their business processes increasingly rapidly this century. Each human is only retained so long as they can perform their assigned tasks, and can be replaced with another human, much as the cells in our own bodies are functionally interchangeable (and a group of cells can, in extremis, often be replaced by a prosthesis). To some extent, corporations can be trained to service the personal desires of their chief executives, but even CEOs can be dispensed with if their activities damage the corporation, as Harvey Weinstein found out a couple of months ago.”
“Finally, our legal environment today has been tailored for the convenience of corporate persons, rather than human persons, to the point where our governments now mimic corporations in many of their internal structures.”
“The problem with corporations is that despite their overt goals—whether they make electric vehicles or beer or sell life insurance policies—they are all subject to instrumental convergence insofar as they all have a common implicit paperclip-maximizer goal: to generate revenue. If they don’t make money, they are eaten by a bigger predator or they go bust. Making money is an instrumental goal—it’s as vital to them as breathing is for us mammals, and without pursuing it they will fail to achieve their final goal, whatever it may be. Corporations generally pursue their instrumental goals—notably maximizing revenue—as a side-effect of the pursuit of their overt goal. But sometimes they try instead to manipulate the regulatory environment they operate in, to ensure that money flows towards them regardless.”
In his discussion, he maintains that regulation is the only tool available to prevent the instrumental convergence of corporations (the need for profit) and other, swifter AIs from behaving uncontrollably and running amok. Unfortunately, this same need will also impel them to seek to manipulate the regulatory agencies for advantage instead of competing within the system. To me, this implies the need for regulation that absolutely prohibits and prevents AIs whether slow moving or fast, from influencing the rulemaking that affects them — fat chance that.
Some time ago, in Trenz Pruca’s Journal, I published a brief post on Decentralized Autonomous Corporations (DAC) https://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/the-inheritors/. DAC’s are corporations run “without any human involvement, under control of an incorruptible set of business rules.”
Like most corporations, they generally cannot be terminated except by the investors, often have more rights than ordinary citizens and cannot be imprisoned if they break the law. Their investors, shielded by law, are responsible only to the extent of their monetary investment for the actions of their creation. If therefore, Stross is correct that the AIs, whether fast or slow, are subject to uncontrollable instrumental convergence* what happens to us?
* Instrumental convergence — the act of implacably moving toward uniformity to the exclusion of or the consuming of all else. e.g., in the case of making a profit, ultimately to the exclusion of all conflicting goals. A form of institutional autism.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
The cradle of civilization lies not on the banks of any river or ocean but on the banks of the ancient so-called Silk Routes. For over two millennia the Silk Routes crossed the central Asian expanse along which flowed the worlds riches and nourished the great centers of civilization. The maritime trade routes across the Mediterranean were a lusty but modest imitation. Europe was an economic, political and technological backwater. Then suddenly in the Fifteenth Century along the east and west coasts of the vast Eurasian landmass, the beginnings of a vast nautical revolution was born. The nations of the East ultimately turned their back on its promise but in the West, vast oceanic trade routes grew to create new great commercial centers. The efficiency of oceangoing trade was so much greater than the land-based Silk Routes that the magnificent cities and civilizations that had grown up along it shriveled up and died.
C. Today’s Poem:

Medicate You

Resist your temptation to lie
By speaking of separation from God,

Otherwise,
We might have to medicate
You.

In the ocean
A lot goes on beneath your eyes.

Listen,
They have clinics there too
For the insane
Who persist in saying things like:

“I am independent from the
Sea,

God is not always around

Gently
Pressing against
My body.”

HAFIZ

From: ‘The Gift’
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

“If there is a Darwinian lesson to be extracted from the history of the 20th century, it is probably that the poor require constant protection from the ideologies of the overwealthy and underpigmented.”
Jonathan Marks, Anthropomics (http://anthropomics2.blogspot.com/ )

 

 

 

TODAY’S PAINTING:

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Nude in Red by Roger Smith.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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Keep on Truckin…

 

 

 

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Categories: April through June 2018, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 24 JoJo 0004 (June 9, 2015)

 
Sam Spade: “Ten thousand? We were talking about a lot more money than this.”
Kasper Gutman: “Yes, sir, we were, but this is genuine coin of the realm. With a dollar of this, you can buy ten dollars of talk. “

Happy Birthday Good/Bad David

 

TODAY FROM ITALY:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN VENETO:

Back in Sacile and Tamai:

Following my return from Venice, I awaited news whether HRM would be joining me here. On June 2 he arrived in Milan. I was very disappointed when I heard that he would not be coming to Sacile before I left for Rome. So, I moved my departure date up to June 5. Sadly I realized I probably would not see him again this summer.

On the other hand, my son Jason, through the formidable efforts of his wife Hiromi, finally notified me that he will be able to join me on this trip. That made me happy.

In the meantime, I spent my days roaming around the farm or walking in the mornings to Tamai about two miles away for coffee and a brioche.
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Vittorio plows his fields

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The farm. Barely visible in the haze, Mt. Cavallo rises in the background about 6000 feet above the flood plain, hiding the Dolomite and the Alps from view. From its slopes on clear days, one can see Venice and Trieste.

Some barnyard humor: Hens lay eggs. Roosters become dinner.

Vittorio once told me that Tamai was named after the sheds in which the local farmers dumped their cow feces to be reused as fertilizer. You may amuse yourself, as I have, thinking up ways to translate Tamai into English. My favorite, Cowpattyton.
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The cafe at which I enjoy my espresso and brioche and the Tamai clock tower in the background, tall enough for all the farmers in the area to see the time from their fields or hear the bells.

In the evenings, I joined Vittorio and his family for dinner. I have forgotten what daily meals in extended families were like; full of talk and noise, lots of arguments, some laughter and bits of unintentional cruelty. The food was always enjoyable and hardy and the wine mellow. I missed the presence of Vittorio’s father who died about a year ago. He would not consider the meal ended without a healthy dose of grappa.

Often I sat on the porch dozing or watching the intellectually challenged sister endlessly sweep the tile pathways that Vittorio laboriously installed the last time I was here.
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One evening I joined Vittorio for band practice in the nearby Town of Porcia. He plays Tuba in the Porcia Symphonic Marching Band (not its real name). I enjoyed myself immensely.
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Another evening we traveled to Pordenone, a somewhat larger city and the administrative center of the area. Vittorio disgustedly told me that the town of about 60,000 has over 400 lawyers. They were having a town wide antique sale that evening with booths lining the streets in the center of town. As we walked from booth to booth, I stopped at one specializing in antique sword canes. I used to collect walking sticks. I picked up some of the more interesting ones to examine more closely, then regretfully put them back down because I no longer could afford such extravagances.

On June 2 the holiday celebrating the foundation of the Italian Republic, Vittorio, dressed in his band uniform, invited me to join him in Pordenone to listen to the political speeches and occasional band music. I declined and instead spent the day wandering about Sacile taking photographs of things I have photographed before and a few I haven’t.
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One scene I had not photographed before.

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And one that I have.

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Where I had pizza and of course, prosecco.

While sitting outdoors in one of the cafe’s in the piazza, a cheeky pigeon landed on my table and boldly stared me in the eye. It then arrogantly strutted, as only a pigeon can, across the table. After looking into my eye once more as if challenging me to stop it, it dipped its beak into my espresso and flew off. I sat there staring at the cup wondering if I were enough of an environmentalist to view this as an opportunity to mystically bond with one of nature’s creatures and drink the rest of the coffee. I decided, in agreement with Bill Yeates, that I was not and left to continue my exploration of the city.
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The piazza with the cafe on the near left where my espresso was attacked by the pigeon.

One blissful evening while wandering through Sacile, I happened on a concert in the piazza. The Trieste Percussion Group, led by composer-director Fabian Perez Tedesco, performed a number of interesting pieces. They were fine musicians. One piece, performed by three drummers got everyone’s blood racing.
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Thursdays were market days in Sacile. The streets of the town were covered in stalls selling just about everything. I would linger by those selling flowers, cheese, fruit or leather enjoying the color and aroma.

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After shopping and completing our tour of the stalls, we would visit our favorite bar/cafes for coffee, prosecco and whatever before returning home to Tamai.

There are three bar/cafe’s in Sacile that I along with Vittorio and Anita frequent; Lucia’s with the happy Prosecco; Nadia’s near the piazza where the young man with the Elephant Boy’s disease can sometimes be found. Despite his facial deformity, it seems to me that when he speaks his voice is magnificently beautiful and angelic. He sounds so compassionate and humble that people gather around for the sheer pleasure of listening to him. He also owns the most spectacular tricked out Moto Guzzi I have ever seen. I did not see him this trip and Vittorio indicated that he had not seen him around in a while.

The third cafe is Maria’s. It is always open. From daybreak to about midnight every day, Maria is there behind the bar. That day, when I asked her if she served lunch, she brought me some wonderful chicken croquettes and local wild mushrooms that she had prepared for her family and which I washed down with two glasses of prosecco. She did not charge me for the meal. One evening I was at the cafe drinking some pear juice when Maria confided how much she likes the music of Queen.
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Vittorio, some of the regulars and I sit and smile in front of Maria’s cafe.

Another afternoon Vittorio pointed to a man who drops by Maria’s every day and sits in the bench by the window drinking wine and reading the newspaper. Vittorio said he was 99 years old and has been following this routine for many years now. He does not even wear glasses.

Like most of the bars and cafes, Maria’s has an electronic slot machine at which some of the local pensioners spend all their money within the first few days after receiving their checks and spend the rest of the month cadging drinks from their friends. Vittorio told me that when he asked a few why they did this when their pension money would allow them to live well in a low-cost jurisdiction like Thailand, they usually respond with something like, “Ah yes, I know, but this is home and this is what I choose to do and where I want to stay.”

In addition to Professor Hank, another of my American friends here is Brian the Teacher. He is the science teacher for the high school students and the American army base. He grew up in South Dakota somewhere near the Good/Bad David.

I love the towns, Vittorio and his family and the people I meet at the three cafes.

Across the street from Maria’s, behind a hedge of sweet smelling honeysuckle, there is a large palazzo originally owned by a man, now passed away, who most likely made his money manipulating the government (he may have started as a plumber or perhaps a farmer or a plastic fabricator). His wife I understand, now old and leaning toward infirm, lives there alone. Sometimes when I sit at the small table outside of Maria’s and look up at the palazzo I speculate whether or not she ever stands at the window looking down at us with our glasses of wine in hand laughing and talking and wonders if that life she had convinced herself was so much superior to that of her childhood friends, really was.
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And suddenly it was time to leave.

B. Book Report:

Although I am traveling, I still manage to put in time reading novels. Recently I read Arturo Perez-Reverte’s latest. Perez-Reverte whose taut but lush adventure and mystery novels generally take place in Spain during its long sad decline from world empire until the old order was finally snuffed out by the armies of Napoleon. His series of books, featuring the melancholy but indomitable soldier and peerless swordsman Captain Alatriste, are classics.

The Siege, as its name implies, takes place during the interminable multi-year siege of Cadiz where the armies of Napoleon and his brother Joseph, the imposed King of Spain, had chased the government of the tattered empire and its inconsistent allies, the English. Cadiz, however still had access to the sea and many of its merchants, smugglers and privateers flourished even while the bombs daily rained down on parts of the city. The plot revolves around the attempts by the brutal and corrupt Chief of Police to solve a series of exceedingly vicious murders.

Unfortunately, Perez-Reverte introduces a sub-plot, a bodice ripper straight out of Danielle Steele — A romance between the dashing but crude and dangerous, curly haired, handsome and muscular captain of a privateer, Pepe Lupo (Joe Wolf) and his employer, the refined, learned, capable, aristocratic, accomplished and almost beautiful owner of one of the city’s premier shipping companies, Lolita Palma. Lolita, virginal from to tip of her leather boots to the top of her lace mantilla, unfortunately is 32 years old and unmarried. In the Cadiz of that time, at 32 she hovered between the twilight of fuckable and the onset spinsterhood. Perez-Reverte, damn him, shamelessly introduces a scene where Joe confronts Lolita at an elegant ball, causing her to snap open her fan and rapidly cool down the rising warmth of a blush.

“At least,” I thought, “he does not have the poor woman wet her drawers.” Alas, not more than a couple of dozen pages later, as Joe Wolf’s cutter heads off on another venture in legalized piracy, the still virginal Lolita, standing behind the crenellations of the tower above her Palacio and staring at the corsair’s ship as it disappears over the horizon, does just that. Arturo Perez-Reverte, you should be ashamed of yourself

Nevertheless,
Pookie says, “check it out.”

“…all things have their allotted time in the suicidal order of things— in life, and in its inexorable outcome, death.”
Perez-Reverte, Arturo. The Siege: A Novel (p. 358). Random House Publishing Group.

Note: Reading this book makes me wonder if getting involved in the shithole that was Spain at that time was not as great a mistake for Napoleon as his march into Russia. It is usually the inability of empires to know their bounds that bring them to ruin. I wonder if that was the genius of Augustus Caesar; to recognize there were limits to expansion of empire beyond the need to establish secure boundaries. It probably enabled the Roman Empire to survive for another 1000 years until the thugs of the Fourth Crusade finally put it out of its misery.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Quigley on Top:

Will history repeat itself?

“In the west with which we are concerned here, there was a climate change after A.D. 200, marked, it would seem, by a retreat of the polar icecap and the polar area of high pressures; this allowed the prevailing westerly winds and rains to move northward so that they passed over the Baltic Sea and Scandinavia, with great growth of forest in all northern Europe, and with greatly reduced rainfall in the Mediterranean, North Africa, and east of the Caspian Sea.

In the same period, war and disease resulted in a decrease of population of up to 60 per cent in Europe or in the Roman empire from about 200 to after 800, that is to say over six hundred or more years. Careful studies of the population of the Roman empire seem to indicate that its population fell from about 70 million persons at the time of Christ to about 50 million in 300. The wars, migrations, spread of plagues, and abandonment of much family life, including the spread of chastity for religious reasons and of sexual perversions for other reasons, all contributed to this decrease. This had a very adverse influence on economic production as well as on defense, especially when it was combined, after 200, by a flight from the cities to the rural areas, and a movement of economic activities toward self-sufficiency.

One of the chief characteristics of an economic depression is a reduction in roundabout modes of production by a decrease in investment, although not necessarily in savings, along with a reduction in the specialization of production and exchange of products. The links in any chain of activity from the original producer to the final consumer are reduced in number; individuals retreat from very specialized activities to more general ones; the use of exchange and of money decreases.

All of these changes are to be found in weapons systems and in defense, where we find a similar tendency to fall back on the simpler, less complex, and more general forms of weapons, tactics, and organizational arrangements, including, for example, the belief that the same man should produce food and fight (peasant militia) or a reduction of defense to a single weapon or only two. We may not notice these military consequences when the depression is brief, as the world depression of 1929-1940, but these effects do appear when such an economic collapse continues for centuries, in a dark age.

The effects of such a change are also important on the non-material aspects of the society, where we find a tendency for people to turn toward a more personal and existential life, with emphasis on day-to-day interpersonal activities, decreasing emphasis on planning for the future in this secular world, and a decrease in abstract thinking and generalizations, but instead, a great emotional and intellectual emphasis on a few symbols and words. Life tends to polarize into almost total absorption in momentary empirical activity, with intellectual life reduced to a few large symbols.”
From Weapons Systems and Political Stability (1976) by Carroll Quigley.

It appears that many of these things are occurring again today except for the population reductions, although in Western Europe and English-speaking North America immigration is all that is keeping those areas from experiencing a precipitous population decline.

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

“Crises like climate change, food sufficiency and water availability probably cannot be resolved if human population continues to increase. Hydrocarbon emissions, food consumption and water use are not increasing on a per capita basis anywhere near rate of growth in the total use of those resources. The direct approach to dealing with population growth has been to provide greater access to birth control. This is a good thing and should be continued. Still, despite decades of trying, the growth of human population continues out of control. The only successful population control other than war, famine and plague has been the liberation and education of women. Wherever women are free and informed, rates of population growth decline.”
Trenz Pruca

C. Today’s Paraprosdokian*:

Some people are like Slinkies … not really good for anything, but you can’t help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.

*Paraprosdokian was not the name of a Governor of California.

D. Today’s Poem:

Watching blue mold of bread grow,
Birds fly, cocks crow,
Autumn leaves come falling by,
How many days before I die?

(As one wag said after reading this poem, “The sooner, the better.”)

E. A Skype message from The Old Sailor in Bangkok

“I have been drunk now for over two weeks
Passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks
But I’ve got to stop wishin’, got to go fishin’
I’m down to rock bottom again.

 

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

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