“Mutual expressions of love are seldom impressive to anyone not taking part in them.”
le Carré, John. Agent Running in the Field (p. 218). Penguin Publishing Group.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:
Naida dropped me off at the train station Wednesday morning. I boarded the train to San Francisco to spend the night at Peter and Barrie’s house. Tomorrow I am scheduled, as I am every three weeks, to go to UCSF in Mission Bay for my immunotherapy treatment.
After arriving in downtown SF, I took MUNI to Noe Valley where I met Peter for coffee at Bernie’s. It was unusually warm for the City by the Bay, in the mid seventies, so we sat outside on the Geezers bench. We had a long and interesting conversation, nothing of which I remember.
Later, Jason, Hiromi and Amanda joined us at the house for another one of Barrie’s great dinners. It had been Amanda’s fifteenth birthday last week and I had bought her three designer silk scarves as a present. Anthony then arrived. We talked and ate and took photographs until they all left after which Peter and Barrie retired and I spent a few minutes on the computer before I also went to bed.
Amanda trying on her new scarves.
Jason, Pookie, Amanda and Peter.
The next day, Peter dropped me off at the hospital in Mission Bay where I was scheduled for my immunotherapy infusion. The treatment went off without a hitch. After, I boarded the train back to Sacramento and had a good night’s sleep.
Susuin Marsh from the train.
B. OFF TO THE GOLDEN HILLS FOR LUNCH WITH HRM.
The following day, I drove into the golden hills and picked up HRM at the skatepark after school. We drove into Folsom to have lunch at KFC/A&W. Hayden wanted to try the new fried chicken with donuts he had heard about somewhere. It seems odd to me that the youth of today follow the developments in the fast food industry with all the passion that people of another age (mine) followed the awarding of Michelin stars to restaurants. I had a hotdog and a rootbeer float and he ordered the fried chicken with glazed donuts
After lunch we drove to the nearby T-mobile store where they fixed my phone problems. I dropped H at Dicks house and returned home to the Enchanted Forest. Naida and I watched East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. They have not aged well.
C. HOME AGAIN HOME AGAIN HOME AGAIN JIGITY JIG:
I spent Saturday avoiding things. Specifically not doing anything about registering the Mitsubishi. I think if I procrastinate enough it will resolve itself.
While doodling around between watching The Graduate for the umpteenth time, following the results of the SC primary and surfing the internet, I came across an interesting site, Art Odyssey. It’s a site containing works of hundreds of interesting artists world wide. After spending an hour or two rummaging through the site, I decided to add a new section to T&T to be called unsurprisingly Art Odyssey (see below).
The next two days passed by like a whisper in a thunderstorm.
This evening Naida and I went to Zocalo’s for dinner. After dinner we walked a few stores down from the restaurant to shop for the week’s groceries. On the way there Naida suddenly became weak and faint. I suggested taking her to the emergency room but she refused. She insisted on sitting in the car to rest while I did the shopping. When I returned, she had the seat-back down and was barely conscious. She still refused my insistence that we go to the hospital. When we got home she was hardly able to stand up. I helped her out of the car and up the stairs and put her to bed. I now sit here typing this and being very worried about her.
At about 10:30 Naida returned downstairs to the studio apparently having weathered whatever ailed her and feeling much better. I am relieved.
Today is election day and for some reason I woke up on the positive side of deliriously happy. I felt like a character in those 1940-50 screwball comedies full of happiness without reason. Like despair, irrational joy is a form of short term mental illness. In my advance age, I have learned that if I just wait awhile feelings of either happiness and despair will pass to be replaced by the usual boredom and minor physical ailments that existence imposes on us. It could be worse. Imagine being inflicted with ceaseless giddiness or eternal gloominess.
Although I had already voted by mail, Naida had not, so along with Boo-boo the Barking Dog, we set off walking through the Enchanted Forest to the community center where the HOC had set up a polling station.
Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I on our way to the voting place in the Enchanted Forest.
The weather was warm, and the trees in bloom. Naida voted, Boo-boo barked, and I shuffled along.
The trees in bloom on the street where we live.
That night we watched the returns from the Super Tuesday Democratic primaries. It seems that Biden has done surprisingly well and Sanders not so much. Warren, who was my choice, did not do well at all. Oh well, like after the recent Super Bowl, I will put myself to bed and sleep off my disappointment. After all, tomorrow is another day and with it another round of grief and joy to mitigate the barren stretches of life.
What happened during the rest of the week? Time passes too quickly for the aged and the decrepit to fully enjoy the leisure that society imposes on us. I commit to do more next week, meanwhile, I get back to TCM and pass the remainder of the day with the Academy Award films of the 1960s and 70s.
Saturday, the rains came in meager drops and mist. We attended the Saturday Morning Coffee as we usually do. Nothing to report there except that during the get together Frank called from Florida to let me know he expects to be in California in April. After the Coffee we took off with Boo-boo the Barking Dog and drove into the Golden Hills to bring Hayden his birthday presents. We arrived at the house and proceeded down into the teenager cave where Hayden, Jake, Kaleb and Ethan were assembled for their usual Saturday gathering of the gang. After opening the birthday presents we brought him, we all piled into the car and drove to McDonald’s for lunch. Following lunch, we dropped the boys off at Kaleb’s home and returned home. That evening we watched among other movies an excellent noir mystery called The Pink Pony staring Robert Montgomery followed by a Miss Marple movie entitled Murder She Said.
A photograph of the early spring flowers in our backyard with the dog pooping on the lawn.
Sunday passed with little to say for itself. Monday arrived. Naida and I set off for the DMV in order to finally register the Mitsubishi. After four hours, we were successful and went on to the Tower Restaurant to celebrate. Later, after returning home, we walked with Boo-boo the Barking Dog to where the Mitsubishi was parked, placed the sticker on the license plate and went for a celebratory drive through the Enchanted Forest. Now that the car is legal, Naida would like to sell it. So, if you or someone you know wants to buy a 1991 Mitsubishi sport car please let us know.
Late last night, somewhere in the Enchanted Forest, two 80 years olds stark naked and in love danced.
The Azaleas in front of our home are blooming now. The time of the Camellias is passing. So has the time of this post. It seems to be going on far too long.
D. BOOK REPORT: TERRY PRATCHETT.
For those who have never read anything written by Terry Pratchett the creator of Discworld, I feel very sorry for you, for you have missed one of life and literature’s great joys. For those who had read all or most of Pratchett’s works, “Crivens” you are among the elect and qualified for admission into the Unseen University if you are a man or into Granny Wetherwax’s kitchen if you are a woman.
Pratchett is your guide to Discworld through the 41 novels in the series (almost all of which I have read).
I won’t bore you with a summary of the Discworld oeuvre. The above graphics will have to do. I have, however, these past two weeks or so, read Darwin’s Crown, Judgment Day, and The Shepards Crown. The first two are the final books in The Science of Discworld series Pratchett co-authored with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, two practicing scientists. The Science of Discworld is a creative, mind-bending mash-up of fiction and fact, that offers a wizard’s-eye view of our world that will forever change how you look at the universe. The chapters alternate between the story that takes place both on Discworld and our earth and non-fiction science topics.
In the course of an exciting experiment, the wizards of Discworld have accidentally created a new universe. Within this universe is a planet that they name Roundworld. Roundworld is, of course, Earth, and the universe is our own. The universe is kept in a jar on the desk of the Chancellor of The Unseen University, the esteemed wizard Mustrum Ridcully.
One of the themes of the novels centers on the concept that most scientific explanations are in reality a good deal more complicated than most of us realize (It is explained that this is so because teachers of science use the Lies-To-Children method of science education or, in Ponder Stibbons’ case [the most rational of the wizards], Lies-To-Wizards) hence the alternating science chapters. These enlightening chapters are delightful essays that clearly explain various science topics. Among them are:
Squash Court Science: Nuclear energy.
Science and Magic: What is science and how it works.
Beginnings and Becomings: The origin and nature of the Universe.
We are Stardust: Atoms. The periodic table.
The Shape of Things: The shape of the Universe; the Theory of Relativity.
Where do Rules Come From?: Is a “Theory of Everything” possible?; Quantum Mechanics.
Disc Words. The Solar System.
Earth and Fire. Geology: the structure of planet Earth.
Air and Water. The atmosphere, the oceans, the surface of the planet.
Things that aren’t: things that are defined by being opposites, normally with only one of them being measurable and not both (light, heat, etc.).
Despite which…: The origin of life.
Unnatural Selection: Evolution.
The Descent of Darwin: Evolution.
The Iceberg Cometh: Ice Ages.
Universals and Parochials: Evolution.
Don’t Look Up: Meteors and other things that might cause another global extinction.
Nine Times out of Ten: Statistics and biases.
Running from Dinosaurs: dinosaurs.
The Death of Dinosaurs.
Mammals on the Make: the expansion of mammals.
Anthill Inside: The origin of hominids.
Extel Outside: Culture.
What I found amazing about it all is that these novels contain some of the most easily understandable explanations of the sciences I have ever read — even quantum theory was intelligible — almost. Everyone should read these books.
The third book, The Shepherd’s Crown, features the young witch Tiffany Aching who, upon the death of Granny Weatherwax, becomes the head witch and must repel the invasion of Discworld by evil elves intent on inflicting mischief and mayhem. She is aided by the Feegles, a race of seven inch tall extremely warlike men and women. This was Pratchett’s last book and published four years after his death.
Some quotes from the books:
Shouting at the monkeys in the next tree. That’s what brains evolved to do. Not mathematics and physics.
Pratchett, Terry. Darwin’s Watch (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 223). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
When he was Vice-Chancellor at Warwick University, the biologist Sir Brian Follett remarked: ‘I don’t like scientists on my committees. You don’t know where they’ll stand on any issue. Give them some more data, and they change their minds!’ He understood the joke: most politicians wouldn’t even realize it was a joke.
Pratchett, Terry. Darwin’s Watch (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 299). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
“So what have we learned? That the shape of our universe is intimately related to the laws of nature, and its study sheds some light – and a lot more darkness – on possible ways to unify relativity and quantum theory. Mathematical models like Torusland and the Escherverse have opened up new possibilities by showing that some common assumptions are wrong. But despite all of these fascinating developments, we don’t know what shape our universe is. We don’t know whether it is finite or infinite. We don’t even know for sure what dimension it is, or even whether its dimension can be pinned down uniquely.”
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 228). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
“The past was another country, but the future is an alien world.”
Pratchett, Terry. Darwin’s Watch (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 325). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
“Belief is a very odd word, and it is used in several ways. ‘Belief that’ differs greatly from ‘belief in’, which is again different from ‘belief about’. Our belief about science, for example, is that it’s simply our best defence against believing (in) what we want to. But we may also have, to some extent, a belief in science, as distinct from belief in a religion or a cult: we believe that science can find ways out of humankind’s present difficulties, ways that are not available to politics, philosophy or religion.”
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 252). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The appearance of design is the most dramatic element in both systems (Technological design and organic evolution). Although its provenance is different in the two cases , we are no longer surprised by it. We have realized that the universe is not doomed by increasing entropy to an eventual ‘heat death’, a traditional but somewhat misleading term which actually means that the universe will end up as a structureless lukewarm soup. Instead, the universe ‘makes it up as it goes along’, and what it makes up are designs. In that sense, at least, the appearance of new design in both technical and organic systems can be considered comparable. But it’s important not to stretch the metaphor too far.
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 188). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Pookie says, “check them out.”
“Until fairly recently, almost all people were religious believers. The majority still are, but the proportions depend on culture in a dramatic way. In the United Kingdom, about 40% say they have no religion, 30% align themselves with one but do not consider themselves in any way religious, and only 30% say they have significant religious beliefs. An even smaller proportion attends some kind of place of worship regularly. In the United States, over 80% identify with a specific religious denomination, 40% say they attend services weekly, and 58% say that they pray most weeks. It’s an intriguing difference between cultures that have such a lot in common.”
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (pp. 256-257). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
A. Vito Marcantonio on Top:
“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.”
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
The young Trenz Pruca.
We all are simply organized bits of data, not humans, not flesh and blood, not atoms and not even Einstein’s waves. We are merely structured concepts. Someday, we will be replaced by other structured concepts better able to use the energy of the universe in order to more efficiently delay the forces of entropy. Life, after all, is simply the forlorn and ultimately unsuccessful effort by a few bits of the universe to avoid the boredom of eternal tranquility.
C. Today’s Poem:
The history of my stupidity
The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.
Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
Like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
Would have tended nevertheless toward the candle’s flame.
Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
The little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.
I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
The time when I was among their adherents
Who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.
But all of them would have one subject, desire,
If only my own — but no, not at all; alas,
I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild and indecent in me.
The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it’s late. And the truth is laborious.
Czeslaw Milosz, Berkeley, 1980.
Trans. Robert Hass and Robert Pinsky
E. Giants of History: Burma Richard.
My friend Burma Richard, gemologist, ethologist, restraunteur, artist and all around good guy recently sent me the following message:
“I hope your health is sterling and life superb.
I was fishing through some shots the other day and came across these of a lovely young girl from The North Country. 🇰🇵 North Korea specifically.
There used to be several North Korean Restaurants in Cambodia, Burma, Thailand and China staffed by fetching young girls who were part of the elite and trained in schools of the arts since childhood. They were selected like lovely chocolates.
The food was just ok but all the girls worked their talents as waitresses, songstresses and dancing musicians between serving dishes.
Accordions and tubas, flutes and mandolins, and warbly romantic songs.
Most all of the money went back to Kim Jung Un, but they seemed to be reasonably well compensated.
However they were not allowed to stroll around their prospective cities and stayed together upstairs in their establishments under a strict watch.
A few years ago a dozen of these lasses were either tricked and spirited way to South Korea or defected depending on whose propaganda one believes.
That along with U.S sanctions shut all the establishments down. All of them.
There were signs posted throughout the restaurants “No Photos” and they meant it.
We had eaten in the Rangoon branch several times and I told her, as she had asked my nationality, that I was an American. Perhaps because she began to realize I was not a white demon seeking to indoctrinate her into the evil ways of capitalism or to boil her baby sister for stew, she relented at my persistence finally and allowed me these very rare photographs.”
Ruth Lansford, commenting on the memory problems affecting my ability to recall my brilliant thoughts and ideas for items to write about here in T&T, suggested I carry a pencil and note pad and write down those brilliant thoughts and bon mots as they occur to me. Encouraged by her advice, I asked Haden to instruct me on how to use the voice activated note taking ability on my smart phone. He did and now, as I drive along and am struck by some ingenious notions, I immediately record them on my phone so that later, at my leisure, I can play them back and hear how truly stupid and inane those attempted flights into brilliance really are. Thank you Ruth….
“Lungfishes and some salamanders, even some amoebas, have more than fifty times as much DNA as we mammals do. What does this say about how complex these creatures are, compared to us? Absolutely nothing. Tricks like HSP90, and strategies like warm-bloodedness and keeping development inside the mother, mean that bean-counting of DNA ‘information’ is beside the point. What counts is what the DNA means, not how big it is. And meaning depends on context, as well as content: you can’t regulate the temperature of a uterus unless your context (that is, mother) provides one.”
Pratchett, Terry. Darwin’s Watch (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 270). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
TODAY’S ART ODYSSEY:
Alfonso Arana (1927-2005)