Saturday, September 20, 2014

Eddie Kendricks

Just keep truckin' on...

I guess I need to fill in the dots a little bit. When I last left you I was itching away in a fleabag dump of a hotel in Fort Stockton, on the last leg of my trip to Houston.

I had just escaped being sodomized by the United States government by the very skin of my teeth, not to mention a bit of prescient foreboding on my part.

The last day of travel was not really all that eventful for the most part. I managed to stop in at a place near New Braunfels for some barbecue, Bill Millers. It was decent.

I had chicken and brisket along with jalapenos and is customary in these parts, sweet tea. They asked if I wanted rye bread and I got a very dark slice of bread that didn't really resemble any style of rye I am familiar with. Actually it was better than decent, the whole meal was pretty good.

No sooner did I get in the car than the sky opened up. The baja hurricane had made its way across the gulf and just started dumping. To paraphrase native Texan Stevie Ray Vaughn, the sky wasn't crying but she was sobbing hysterically.

I tried to drive through it for an hour or so but it finally got so I couldn't see the road in front of me and I thought I better get off the blacktop and rest. I pulled into a Love's Gas Station and thought I would wait out the storm. The parking lot soon flooded and the wind picked up like a tornado and I envisioned one of the stanchions in the parking lot falling over and crushing my car. What an ignoble end, near famous blogger and two bit antique dealer killed in freak storm, news at 11.

Soon many more cars followed my lead and joined me in the parking lot. When the truckers started getting back on the road and the rain slacked a bit, I joined them. After a couple more hours I made my way into Houston and found my hotel. It is situated on Richmond, in area most distinguished by its large number of gentleman's clubs.

I asked the lady at the desk about food and she recommended a thai place across the street that was supposed to be pretty good. I decided to walk over and thought that I wasn't ready for a large thai meal and I would try what looked like a Mediterranean place next door instead. Bad move.

I questioned the tattooed girl at the front of the joint if the food was lebanese and she sort of nodded but the restaurant was actually more of an all night arab social club, called Layal. Ordered lamb kebob. The most awful arabic food I have ever tasted. There were a bunch of swarthy dudes sitting around sucking on shisha from their water pipes, am I seeing things or are they looking at me funny?  I suddenly felt very out of place.

Like Stokely Carmichael walking into a klan meeting. I took the last bite I could suffer from the worst hummus and pita one could ever imagine and skedaddled, get out before ahab and co. could play let's pin the tail on the jew.

I arrived at the George Brown Convention Center at the stroke of 8 the next morning, in pouring rain, with a deep sense of concern. Roads were flooding all over Texas, schools were closing and it was not the ideal time to sell my wares. I would have to make the best of it. I wasn't necessarily pessimistic, more like ready for any eventuality.

I know that negativity can become a self fulfilling prophecy and wanted to be ready to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat if presented with such an opportunity. After all, I am good at what I do, I have certainly done it before, I have just been on a bad run of late and one of these days I will find myself, inshallah, back on the winning side of the ledger.

I drove around the gigantic edifice about three times before I figured out how to get to the proper dock. It turns out the place is so big that you can drive your car right to your booth and unload which was certainly cool and a new experience for me.

I introduced myself to the promoter, a very nice and pleasant woman, Rosemary, who thanked me for making the long trek and inquired about how I was feeling, since she knew I left home feeling so bad.

Took two days to set up my booth, piled high with a lot of fine silver and nice paintings, amazing what you can stuff into a Dodge minivan.

The morning the show opened, Friday, I was awoken twice, starting at five with an emergency alert on my phone warning me of serious flooding near my hotel and throughout Houston and urging me to seek higher ground. I  got two of those alerts and started to sweat. This rain was the strongest in ages and animals were starting to pair off, a flood of near biblical proportions. Certainly did not auger well for my prospect of sales.

I am not going to jinx it, I still have a day left, things could be better and I suppose they could be worse. Plenty of time before that fat lady sings. So I think that it is time to talk about food.


The highlight of this trip, like many of my excursions, has been eating. And this trip has been all about Colombian cuisine, a cuisine I admit to knowing next to nothing about. I have eaten Peruvian and Brazilian but this is different. I was driving around the area near the hotel one day and I found Marine's Empanadas located at 3227 Hillcroft.

I used to love the Argentinian empanadas from the little blue and white place on Pico when I worked in Beverly Hills ages ago and I decided to stop and see what Marine's was all about. Just a little funky place located in a strip center but I really dug it. In fact I have been back three times. 

The first thing that I noticed was the place was full of Colombians and the waitresses and diners were very pretty and guapo. There were funky Colombian music videos playing on the big screens from back home and the diners were really enjoying the music.A lot of afro beat, very bi racial culture.

I ordered the poblano sabroso empanada first time out, filled with chicken and deliciously spiced mole. It was pretty incredible, different than what I was used to as these empanadas are deep fried and not baked like the argentinian ones. Every plate comes with a hot green sauce called aji, which is just lovely. Watery, not thick but very piquant.

I then ordered the arepa con carne asada. Arepas are a delicious corn patty and this one was heavenly. The carne asada was cut as is customary, very thin. I decided to top the evening off with one more cheese empanada, the mozzarella making a perfect marriage with the green sauce.

I went back again and again. Barbecue beef empanada, spinach empanada, pork belly. This morning I had a wonderful cup of colombian coffee, a cheese empanada and one made with banana, cinnamon walnuts and cheese. Deelish! They accompanied my morning meal with a phenomenal chimichurri sauce as well.

I still think that I favor the argentinian stye of empanada better than the colombian, baked instead of fried, but that did not dissuade my enjoyment of the new cuisine in the least.

I was telling some Houstonians and show compatriots about my newfound fondness for Colombian food and I kept hearing about a great place I had to try, Mi Pueblito. It was supposed to be fantastic, best of, heard great things especially about the soup. Last night JP and I had fancy and very nice french food at L'etoile but my taste buds are craving South American right now so I found Mi Pueblito tonight situated a bit farther down on Richmond.

When I got there a girl who looked suspiciously like a hooker walked in front of the van and I wondered a little about the neighborhood. Not to worry. What a fantastic meal.

The place was packed, the live band was great, the food was unbelievable, the cocktails were delicious, the mostly Colombian customers were having a great time, the waiters and waitresses were boogieing, in short the place totally rocked. I had thought about having the national soup, Ajiaco, chicken with potatoes, it is almost a requisite, but decided to wait for next time. Instead I ordered an appetizer of arepa with chorizo.

In broken but functional english, the very nice waiter made sure that I had plenty of lime for the sausage, a Colombian custom. I have to tell you, it was so freaking good. Marvelous. Best I have ever sunk my teeth into.

I thought about ordering the brown cane sugar lemonade but instead opted for a cocktail, tumba muerto, vodka, maraschino and grapefuit, he said it was an excellent choice and he was absolutely right.

Seated next to me, watching the Medellin team play soccer on the television, was an extremely nice and attractive young lady who once lived in Orange County. The older ladies at the next table all joined in song when the band cranked out Gauntanamera.  I imagine that this place made many of these people feel like they were back home.

For an entree I started with the national dish of Colombia, bandeja paisa. I ordered the normal size instead of the large and it was definitely all I needed. Bandeja paisa is made with rice, avocado, red beans, sweet plantains, sausage, carne asada, pork belly, arepa and an egg nestled on top. Everything but the kitchen sink.

They offered me a coffee when I asked for the check, on the house, but I declined. No room for dessert either. And they are known for their desserts, and delicious pastries and meringues. I was totally stuffed.

It was a meal to remember and I hope that I can continue to explore this cuisine once again somewhere close by in California when I get home! I will be savoring these taste memories for a long, long time. Might even have to return to Houston one day.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Six Days on the Road - Dave Dudley

Don't blame the dog

© Bill Schenck 2014
I hadn't driven to Houston in years, well it's all on the blog, somewhere anyway. Last time out I was fighting cancer and sporting a stint 'tween bladder and kidney that caused the most constant and excruciating pain I have ever experienced in my entire life.

The doc now says he never should have let me go but that's water over the bridge at this point. Drove to Miami and back.

Five years ago. The trip was miserable and I wasn't exactly eager for a repeat. Funny thing when you get sick and have felt bad somewhere, that place can scare you forever.

I drove to Phoenix the first day to pick up some paintings from Steve. Weather was pleasant, never broke 107º. Almost that warm in Fallbrook.

We had a nice dinner at their friend's house. Ham and mushroom crepes, asparagus and a pecan chocolate pie with the best flaky homemade crust I have ever tasted.

I took off early the next morning. It would be a long day. I had a lot of miles to cover, two days to get to Houston, a city located in a god forsaken state that tends to go on forever.  I rarely take the Interstate 10 these days but drove it a lot as a kid as a passenger shuttling between San Diego and El Paso, the respective homes of my divorced parents and I at different times in our lives.

The area past Tucson was really pretty, greener than I remember in the Chiricahua pass area, following the old Butterfield Stage route. Read on a sign at a rest stop about Cochise and Geronimo, the latter hated Mexicans for committing some mortal wrong to his family and spent a fair amount of time hunting them down.

Read something else recently about navajos holding similar feelings towards their neighbors to the south, wouldn't wear clothes that might cause them to be mistaken for mex.

I crossed into New Mexico, starting to roll along, it was twoish and decided to have lunch in Lordsburg, not a great choice, a shitty western steakhouse that sold me an overpriced t-bone, fatty and gristly, accompanied by watery and tasteless corn kernels that obviously came out of an industrial sized can. A mound of ugly butter and sour cream supposedly hid a baked potato. I ate what I could stomach and scrammed. I had a lot of miles to cover.

Not a lot to report. I approached Las Cruces and the sight of the Franklin Mountains of my youth and felt a twinge of nostalgia. My stepfather, who did some things to us boys that would make Adrian Peterson blush, worked at nearby White Sands when I was a kid. We lived in an old adobe in Las Cruces with glass shards atop the parapet walls.

We would occasionally tour the cotton fields and nut farms in the area and the New Mexico dust was firmly planted in our psyches forever. I wistfully drove past the old towns of Mesilla and Anthony, wishing that I had time to stop but I could not.

There are 347 miles between Fallbrook and Phoenix, 1513 to Houston. The 771 miles to El Paso meant that I was nearly exactly half done with my trip and I had already burned most of two days. I would have to put the hammer down.

El Paso is so ungodly ugly now, I lived there 1964 through 1968 and don't remember it ever looking so shabby. The rain was starting to fall pretty hard and I was caught in miserable traffic. I finally made it through town and made my way down the road to Van Horn about two hours later.

I saw the customs and border patrol check and wondered if I should turn my music down. I slowed to a crawl and smiled through the open window at the green clad agent. Another agent with a dog circumnavigated my van.

"Sir, would you mind pulling over towards those orange cones?"

I looked at him strangely. I was going to have to go through secondary. Was I getting busted? For what?

"Is there a problem, Officer?"

"Dog alerted on something. Grab your license, please step out of the van and keep your hands in the air and out of your pockets."

Oh, shit, what was going on? Now in case you are wondering, I  foresaw a potential event like this. I had cleaned my car and gone through it with a fine tooth comb. The last thing I wanted to ever have happen was to get caught in Texas with weed.

"You have any humans or contraband in the van?" I was asked by the demanding agent.

"No sir."

The next thing I know, no request for permission, no nothing, a dog is crawling all over my front seat. Agents are scurrying around pulling boxes out of my van. I told them that I was an antique dealer on my way to Houston to do a show but to no avail.

I asked them not to harm my fragile merchandise and to try to be careful. I promised them that they would find nothing in the car, because there was nothing there. But they were having none of it. They had caught themselves a big time smuggler and I needed to shut up.

I was led inside to a detention area, I shared a cold bench with two mexicans. I asked the agents if I could have a cup of coffee and they basically laughed at me.

They asked me if I smoked marijuana and I said that I did occasionally, that I had a medical card and smoked it as necessary for my cancer recovery but that I had nothing in the car and they could save themselves the trouble.

I got peppered with questions about where I was going and what I was really doing as they typed my vital information into their terminals.

I looked out the window and saw a man unscrewing my door panels, my rear hatch. They were literally taking my van apart. I started to get scared. What if they planted something on me? There are anecdotal tales of drugs being planted at the Van Horn Border Check on the internet, the Electra District Attorney admitted recently that it was a fairly common practice in Texas.

Or what if there was an actual roach in the glove box that I might have missed? People have received life sentences for a joint in Texas, 600 years for seeds. Was this the opening entrance to my grand nightmare, was I looking at six years in the stir?

More time elapsed, maybe forty five minutes. I saw my van being moved and asked the agent what they were doing with it?

"It is going to the x-ray machine now."

I watched the large white machine slowly move up and down the vehicle. I asked the agent why I never got stopped in Temecula at the checkpoint there?

"Marijuana is legal there. It's different here in Texas," he explained.

Another fifteen minutes...  An agent finally walked in and quite sullenly told me to grab my license, I was free to go. He looked very disappointed.

I walked over to the van and looked in the back. "Check everything out and see that it is in order. We don't want to hear about it later."

It all looked okay. The dog handler came over and told me not to blame the dog, he was just doing his job. A false read.

I'm thinking to myself, don't blame the dog, who's blaming the fucking dog? He's worried that I am harboring bad thoughts towards his canine? I blame you, the government, who feel that everybody who drives east on the Interstate 10 somehow is surrendering his or her constitutional right not to be stopped and searched without probable cause and gets the pleasure of having a dog crawling through and around their car and jumping all over their effects.

I'm blaming the Supreme Court, who have shit all over the constitution and the bill of rights and allowed the police apparatus to assume that everybody is a suspect in their stupid drug war. A Border Patrol that sets up permanent installations far from the border, positioned to ensnare the unwitting motorist with a joint, a task far removed from their stated purpose.

The dog was the last one I was blaming. In fact he was the only decent person there.

It was now 9:30 at night. I had lost valuable time while engaged in my government's dog and pony show. I had two more hours to drive to Fort Stockton. When I got there all the hotels were booked. I looked in my wallet, the wallet that had been untended in the car. Was it just me or were there now two hundred dollar bills missing? I guess I'll never know...

I was nervous and made a phone call, woke up a friend. He said that the dog reaction story was actually a ruse or pretext, it was my California plates that caused the stop. I really don't know.

The man at the Holiday Inn said I needed to drive two more hours to Ozona but they might be sold out too. I actually had a lot of adrenaline now and probably could have driven all night. But I didn't want to cut it to thin or have an accident. I had read earlier about a tow truck driver dying after hitting a deer and I thought I better stop.

Finally found a fleabag motel owned by bangla deshis or maybe pakis, certainly not Indians speaking hindi, these folks skin a different color, almost blue. Very funky place but there was a bed and that is what I needed at that point.

I layed down in bed and immediately started itching, oh shit, bed bugs. Texas was rolling out in all its splendid lone star glory, my nightmare was returning true to form. I quickly fell asleep.

To be continued...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Roy Gaines - Dream girl


I have received some pretty nice notes this week. Apparently people really enjoy it when I am miserable. Most of us can relate.

Got this from a friend the other day:

...One curious thing I did notice as I drove 4 x 6 hours up/down 395, a whole friggen a week recently, was how many "down on their luck", older, guys and gals were standing by the side of the road with destination signs. I saw maybe 8 or 10 over the 4 separate drives. Maybe I've seen 2 over the past 35 years. A 75 year old man with a cart walking down 395 in 105 degree weather. What the hell?????? Makes me so sad for society and feel so bad about our dam ass greed.

Its funny but I have noticed the same thing. I see the same guy parked outside of Bluewater Trading every year, with the same sign, no gas, no job, need work. Unfortunately lots of cardboard sign holders with small kids in tow. Many more young people now out on the street too, staking out their respective freeway exits and corners. I guess it's a job, just not much of a living. Many have plainly given up.

Mom, I'm home!
Trying to figure out the new millennial economy is tough. The tattoo and piercing thing might be cresting, not a lot of skin around left to fill. The big holes in the ear things are getting sewn up at a rapid rate, the whistle they make is obnoxious when you are driving the car with the top down. I believe that the proper term for the apparatus are gauges.  Eventually such body modifications run into a sad law of diminishing returns, in a land where everybody is increasingly hip, is anybody truly hip?

So what are we left with? Obviously porn. Vape stores have potential, but they maybe have six months left before I think they crash. Sign twirling is always good, especially if you are still reasonably spry, apparently twirlers have two available approaches, amphetamine driven and super bored and laconic.

Long as there is a new subdivision of KB Homes popping up somewhere nearby and an anonymous strip mall or two, you are pretty much guaranteed year round work if this is your chosen path.

Unless of course, the unions get involved. International Sign Twirlers of America, may I please see your union card?

Certainly can't make it as an artist, photographer, writer or musician, all content must be free now, the people have demanded it. There's a brilliant 15 year old in Pacoima who has nothing better to do than bang on his keyboard all day and he is giving it away, so you better get with the program.

I am sick, about to venture into extreme heat with a fever. Next thing you know I will be hooked up to some intravenous device at an emergency room in Deming or something. Spent an hour puking last night, sweated buckets loading the van this morning. Going to go home and sleep for a couple hours, open a can of soup. Take off early.

Lena says I never smile for pictures.
Call me on the road.

Friday, September 12, 2014

David Bromberg - The New Lee Highway Blues

Gotta Travel On

By the time I get to Houston

I'm heading out soon.

Back on the long dotted white line, into the intense desert heat, across that great abyss and expanse known as West Texas. Lordy, lordy. Three days driving each way. Have to go chase that gelt. Get along little doggies. Lead me through the valley of the shadow of death to the brisket and the good texas ice cream.

Driving by myself, well me and the two cataracts, might be getting a bit of summer cold too, feel something scratchy in the back of my throat. We'll see what happens. I'm not a particularly good long distance man anymore, usually can find me with the windows open slapping myself in the face awake a few times the first day or two. Then I settle in.

I think that the blog has been a bit of dark of late and guess I apologize for that. If you aren't depressed right now, maybe you just aren't paying attention. The blog has elicited some interesting comments this week, I am told that I am back in form and people have been generally quite complimentary, if not forgiving.

In the spirit of depression, I might as well continue to shpiel.

Got a note yesterday from a friend who has been contemplating suicide, which is tough. This person will go nameless forever, but I empathize. I think suicide is a basic right, when you decide its time to check out it is your decision, but you need to recognize it affects everybody around you. Sometimes people no longer have the strength to fight and some people don't want to walk around zonked out on anti-depressants to kill the pain. People get tired of grinding.

Al checked out a few years ago, a guy who had everything but peace. Told me he wasn't into the material anymore. Planned things out pretty well. I get a little scared now when people tell me that they aren't into the material.

Suicide is up near 20% in the county this year. Last year 441 San Diego county residents committed the final deed.
“Some people point to the economy, but when we talk about risk factors, what we’re really talking about is life problems — loss of a loved one, financial, relationship problems,” said Stan Collins of the county’s Suicide Prevention Council. “The situation doesn’t matter so much as a person’s inability to cope.”
I think that the economy is a huge factor, people feeling guilt and shame at not being able to adequately provide for themselves and their family. If you are contemplating such an act and need to talk to somebody:

In San Diego County a county-funded crisis hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 888-724-7240. Counselors are also available to chat online through a secure web portal Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Or you can call me. Mr. Happy.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Blue Railroad Train - AJ Lee and the Doerfels

Brokedown Palace

"Said it costs a lot to win, even more to lose..." Loser - Robert Hunter

I am sensing a lot of pain out there. Friends and acquaintances, at a stage of life where things should be getting easier, lazing around the proverbial fishing hole, basically now penniless, thrown out in the street.

Moving back in with their siblings or their aging parents in some cases, sifting through dumpsters. Wasn't supposed to be like this. As Robert Sommers recently said, survival is the new victory, for many of us anyway. And I predict a great new wave of depression chic.

There is a real sea change going on in the nuclear family, evidently income inequality or whatever is driving us back to a multigenerational model of housing. Big boomer generation may not go as gracefully into the nighttime as their predecessors once did.

I am reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and he shares some stories about an italian town in Pennsylvania, Roseta, that has a multigenerational social rubric and where things go on pretty swimmingly, at least in matters of health. So maybe it's not such a bad idea, living Iroquois style in our family long houses. Definitely need a larger bathroom.

Not to get off subject but the book is mildly interesting, he makes the supposition that you have to put 10k hours of work in to become good at anything. Said Mozart never wrote anything worth a shit until he was twenty which may be debatable, Bobby Fischer managed in 9k hours but he was a decided anomaly.

Talent and genius, according to Gladwell, are subservient to good old fashioned american stick-to-it-ness and hard work. So you folks trapped at 9500 hours, the message is to keep plugging, baby, your ship is ready to come in.

Eric Erickson, the conservative blogger, raised no small ire last week when he intimated that if you were working a minimum wage job past the age of thirty you need to come to grips that you are a loser with a capitol L.
“The minimum wage is mostly people who failed at life and high school kids,” Erickson said.
“Seriously, look. I don’t mean to be ugly with you people. What? So my producer from my show is in here and he's just staring at me, can't believe I said this. If you’re a 30-something-year-old person and you’re making minimum wage you've probably failed at life.”
Erickson dismissed the idea that some of those people may have just been down on their luck. “It is not that life dealt you a bad hand,” he said. “Life does not deal you cards. It’s that you failed at life.”
Now I take umbrage with Mr. Erickson. Although I have not personally made minimum wage for quite some time, I don't take pleasure in the misfortune of those people that are forced to. Better than being on the dole or stealing. People do what they have to survive. No sin in losing.

Lets face it, some of us just aren't cut out to be alpha predators. And the simple fact is that the game has now become rigged, it runs like the casinos, on a steady stream of losers. The big fallacy is that there is a seat at the table for everybody. There is not.

© Dorothea Lange
The income gap started flexing its muscle with the Reagan tax change in 1987 and is almost finished with its job of destroying the American middle class. We can go back to patrician and serf classes, polishing the master's hood ornament while they are off shussing the moguls in Gstaad or something.

I got an earful from a friend the other day about what he considered a general anti business tone of this blog. Perhaps that is a fair assessment. He specifically didn't think I was fair to Proctor and Gamble about the little plastic pellets in some of their toothpaste. Said that he doubted that they are being ingested and that if it was okay with the FDA it should be fine for Proctor and Gamble.

I am no health expert but have talked to several dental professionals who were alarmed about the polyethylene and who could envision a scenario where they were in fact ingested.

I guess I don't trust government or Big Business. Having been in and out of a cancer fight much of my adult life, I think that there is a lot of stuff out there that scientists have blessed that is killing us. Maybe I just an alarmist but I see scientists that are bought off all the time. I think that you need to keep your eyes open and keep your own counsel. Don't eat plastic. There, I said it.

I was pretty wealthy once. Thought I was retired at 35. Divorce, cancer, government takeover of my bank and the theft of 12 million dollars from the family company showed me how quickly one's plans get changed in this world. I don't care how smart, rich or talented you are, life has a way to conspire and any of us can be on our ass in about 10 seconds.

And while I rebuilt my life, I now can pay most of my bills, eat great food and occasionally take a vacation, it is not easy for me and for many/most of us. I can't remember a recent time where I haven't stared dumbfounded at the wall figuring out how I was going to work it out in any given month.

And I have lost a lot of drive. The drive to kill that most alpha success stories share. Like the race car driver whose performance suffers and is never the same after the first big crash. Mortal...

When I did have money maybe I wasn't real good with it. I gave a lot away, a sucker for a hard luck story, somebody doing worse than I was. The cancer alerted me that life was a short movie, where people mattered and not much else and the spell got broken and I was destined to live the balance of my life as a shlub.

My friend who busted my ass on the toothpaste called me a lousy businessman the other day, which stung, but he said that it was excusable because he could tell from my writing that I was obviously a tortured artistic type. Pain becomes me, as that Robert Sommers guy once said. If I didn't spend so much time pissing off the only people who were financially able to buy my wares I might be better off.

Who knows?

Got to double down, work harder, try not to miss any opportunities.

If you are a winner at all this, consider yourself lucky, talented or blessed. The rest of us salute you. But try not to rub our noses in it. What is the old chinese proverb, conduct your victories like funerals...

I saw a very interesting graph in the New York times the other day about Ferguson, Missouri,  relative to its neighboring communities, many with very similar demographics.

The average citizen in Ferguson gets one and a half warrants for what are termed petty offenses a year. Because that is how the city gets funded. That works out to close to three per household.  And people get behind the 8 ball and can't stop the can't pay cycle and pretty much live in bondage. No wonder the place blew up. Treat people like animals and they tend to act like animals.
Thomas B. Harvey, executive director of the Arch City Defenders, said the changes were about three-quarters of what they had requested. “Although it’s not exactly what we asked for, it’s a substantial step forward,” he said.
Ferguson, a city of just 21,135 people, issued 24,532 warrants for 12,000 cases last year, the group said in a recent report. That amounts to three warrants per Ferguson household.
The city’s traffic fine revenue has increased 44 percent since 2011, city records show. When drivers who could not pay failed to show up for court, the city issued warrants and increased the penalties.

Do you realize that if you acquire sufficient political power you basically get to control history? Read this fascinating story in Politico. Truly Orwellian.
Texas students may soon be reading in their history textbooks that the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses, segregated schools weren’t all that bad and taxes imposed for programs like Social Security haven’t measurably improved society. The standards require teachers to emphasize America’s Christian heritage, praise the superiority of the unfettered free market and introduce students to conservative icons such as Phyllis Schlafly and the Heritage Foundation.
David Bradley, a board member who helped write the standards, said the textbooks are supposed to reflect the standards, and the standards are set by the politicians who win election to the board.
There is an interesting process of historical revisionism taking place across our planet. Last week, the staid old british warhorse, The Economist, issued a book review castigating a writer for an American History tome that didn't take into account all the positive aspects of slavery. After an incredible uproar, the review was pulled. What's next - Hitler, the good years?

One of my favorite quotes you will not find in any google search. But I was there and heard it with my own three ears. Grateful Dead, Bill Graham memorial. Ken Kesey, Halloween, 1991. Around the 42 minute mark, Kesey talking about losing his son and the Brokedown Palace.

 "In any given situation there will always be more dumb people than smart people. We ain't winning."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fat King Melon and the friendly, if not amicable, numbers

I told Warren that I would write once more about Fermat's Enigma, Singh's brilliant story of Allan Wiles twenty year quest to solve the last theorem, the mathematical riddle that had stumped the world for the last 350 or so years. I finished the book and have to admit that I cried a little bit at the end. Never have got emotional about math before but the human aspect of the book was actually quite moving.

As I have stated before, unlike my brilliant siblings, I am no math genius. I was dragged kicking and screaming through quadratic polynomials. I swear that my algebraic defeat still burns and I am tempted to have another go at it and see if I can crack the lexicon before I finally expire.

I loaned the book out and don't have anything to consult but will try to regale you from memory with a couple tidbits in order to convince you to get it yourself and give it a read. First the concept of amicable numbers.

Did you know that the numbers 220 and 284 are called amicable numbers? Their mathematical significance was known to the ancients as far back as biblical times and perhaps earlier. Amicable numbers are pairs in which the sum of the proper divisors of each is equal to the other number.

The divisors of 220 are 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 11, 20, 22, 44, 55 and 110, the sum of which add up to 284. The divisors of 284 are 1, 2, 4, 71 and 142, of which the sum is 220. This is the smallest pair, other pairs include (1184, 1210), (2620, 2924), (5020, 5564) and (6232, 6368).

The Pythagoreans thought that these pairs were imbued with mystical power. Their general formula was developed in 850 by the great  Iraqi mathematician Thābit ibn Qurra (826–901.) Fermat, Euler and Descartes all played with Qurra's formula.

This is Qurra's formula:  if

    p = 3 × 2n − 1 − 1,
    q = 3 × 2n − 1,
    r = 9 × 22n − 1 − 1,

where n > 1 is an integer and p, q, and r are prime numbers, then 2n×p×q and 2n×r are a pair of amicable numbers.

Rubens - reconciliation of Jacob and Esau
It is said that the significance of 220 was even known to the writers of the torah, in Genesis 32:14, Jacob gives 220 goats and 220 sheep to his brother Esau as a way to try to signal friendship. It is also noted in the Koran.

Talismans and charms with one or the other number inscribed were sometimes used in the middle ages to attract lovers, at times a suitor would swallow something printed with one number and slip the other number into the drink of the object of his or her intentions. Or wear them as amulets with similar goals.

Here is a rather cabalistic look at the first two amicable numbers. Please do not ask me for an explanation. I was as bad at the sephiroth as I was at math.

1927 play that introduced the truel
Perhaps you have heard of a truel? It is an interesting construction in game theory.

Imagine a duel but with three protagonists instead of two. Let's say they are badass gunfighters. The first desperado we shall call Mr. Apple, the second Mr. Banana, and the third Mr. Cherry. These varmints have done pissed each other off and decide to fight a truel.

Each gets a gun and they take turns shooting at each other until, as usually happens in such matters, only one person is left. Mr. Apple, who hits his shot 1/3 of the time, gets to shoot first. Mr. Banana, who hits his shot 2/3 of the time, gets to shoot next, assuming he is still alive. Mr. Cherry, who hits his shot all the time, shoots next, assuming he is also alive. The cycle repeats. If you are Mr. Apple, the worst shooter, who should you shoot first for the highest chance of survival?

This one takes some pondering. In fact it a bit counterintuitive. In a probability sense Mr. Apple, the worst shot, has a 52% chance of winning if he does the smart thing.

Which is to fire his gun into the air.

In this way, the second desperado and second best shot, Mr. Banana, will most likely shoot at Mr. Cherry, who has the greatest likelihood of killing him. Mr. Banana has a 18% chance of survival while the best shot, Mr. Cherry, has a 30% chance of living. But Apple gets the next shot in the rules of the game. And has significantly increased his chances of survival.

Hey tough guy, my innate effeminate tendency towards beta subordination is ultimately going to clean your well toned clock!
So sometimes the weakest person actually wins.

A link to the math behind the answer.

I digress regarding the Fermat book. Hard to put down. The greatest benefit was the introduction to some of the amazing mathematicians of ancient and modern times, Euler, Fermat, Shimura and Tamiyama, Germane, Turing, the book gives us great vignettes of some truly brilliant people. Makes me wish I had paid more attention in class.

The book makes the interesting observation that just because something works for the first million or so numbers doesn't necessarily hold for million + 1. And half of infinity is still infinity. As is twice infinity.

A photon checks into a swank hotel. The man at the front desk asks him if he has any luggage. The photon looks at him and says, "You know, I'm really traveling light."

Robin Adler & Mutts of the Planet

I was privileged to spend the afternoon listening to some great music with Dave Blackburn and Robin Adler. Their Mutts of the Planet concert in Carlsbad was one of the years musical highlights for me and I think everybody else who was privileged to be in that audience.

We listened to a couple of cuts from their upcoming concert release over at Kip's on his amazing sound system. Robin and Dave are both brilliant musicians, multi-talented. Dave was my long time guitar teacher, but an amazing drummer, all around superb musician's musician, producer and sound engineer. The kind of musician I would like to be if I had talent, an ear and a decent sense of time.

Their CD should be available next week. Look for it at

Make sure you listen to the lead guitar work of Jamie Kime on Hejira. Zappa alumni, grammy winner. Amazing  player.

El Pueblo

I first heard about the place about three months ago. I wasn't going to believe the great mexican food you could buy at the car wash in Cardiff. Several people mentioned it. One of Lena's dental customers is an emigré from Mexico and he told her that it was his favorite mexican restaurant in the area.

Ron and Lena and I drove to Marshall's yesterday afternoon to look for some clothes for my upcoming trip. I had gone to two Nordstrom Racks looking for a sport coat and again struck out at Marshall's. Did buy these psychedelic shorts, just as a cool cultural artifact to wear some halloween. Found the coat at Macy's later in the day. Not matching...

Let's see, psylocybin, peyote, pot, baby baby woodrose, datura, yup that just about covers it...

We stopped at the Mexican place on the way back. "Can't beat the 99 cent fish tacos," she tells me. It is located in a Valero Gas station off Birmingham, on the east side of the freeway. Place is called El Pueblo.

Lena loves the carrots and hot sauces there, which come in several strengths. Ron ordered a carnitas taco, Lena went with her favorite. I ordered a fish burrito. I noticed that the new sign misspelled shredded as "sheredded" about fifty times over and saw a flash of pain across the girl's face that was taking my order when I mentioned it.

 I am sorry, I can't help being a spelling nazi, not that I am in any way perfect. Baristas the world over quake at my approach.

Food was great, well pretty good, not Bulltaco on a great day great, but a place I will definitely visit again when I am in the area. You should too. As good or better than most of the -itos, -bertos joints in its class. Check it out. Give you a chance to eat and wash the car.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Spinal Tap Live At Glastonbury 2009 - "Stonehenge"

Monday morning quarterback

Ex Bush White House Press Secretary Dana Perino lambasted the President the other day for the poor "optics" of walking through Stonehenge by himself.
"I don't mind that the President spent 20 minutes sightseeing and knocking something off of his bucket list," the former George W. Bush spokesperson said during Friday's edition of "The Five."

"But remember this is the White House that says they're not that worried about optics?" Perino continued. "Today, to show the President of the United States standing alone amongst the rocks, by himself ... I would have asked David Cameron or somebody to walk with him. Get some staff or have some — take the pilot, whatever you have to do so you don't have to, he's standing alone. I don't think that's a good optic."
I had to wonder about this on several fronts, wtf, could he be accused of kowtowing to the all important druid vote?

Is it tawdry for our leader to be consorting with pagans, no matter how long they may have been dead? Was he engaged in some sort of covert black mass? Just what is the exact problem here? Dude was finished with his NATO summit and had a chance to cross the british rocks off the things to do list.

In fact, the pictures reveal that the assertion is patently false anyway, as all available photographs show him in good company the whole trek through the stone pillars. I hope that you can sleep better now.

Of course Perino is famous for being one dim bulb. This is the woman who needed a few hints to identify the Cuban Missile Crisis.

"It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I'm pretty sure."

This is the same woman who said that women who are victims of domestic violence should make better decisions and that atheists should amscray back to their own country. Not exactly brilliant but admittedly kind of hot so we can let this overly intellectual stuff slide.

Problem in this country is that we have way too much optics and far too little substance.

Romney is on record today saying that he would have done a better job than Hillary would and bashing Obama. Easy to say. Who will ever know? But I think a decent person would refrain from such idle speculation and exit gracefully. You lost loser, no one was buying what you were selling. See ya. Feel free to try again.

And need I remind everybody again, it was Bush and not Obama who inserted the language into the Iraq agreements that we would be out of their country by date certain. Of course the neocons want us to be fighting a permanent war in the middle east, a constant battle against the enemy named terrorism makes it quite a bit easier to suppress freedom on the domestic front.

You know as much as I disagree with our president on civil liberties, pot and several other issues, it is easy to forget the economic morass that he pulled us out of.  I forget, why do we hate him so much? Is it because he is a muslim or a communist? I think that he has done a fairly competent job, considering he is leading a divided nation that can't stand each other, and that anything he could possibly do will be vilified by the opposition. I'm serious, all of you Obama haters, please let me know what is most irksome to you about his policies.

I think that he is a realist who got tired of the bullshit and has sort of packed it in. Disengaged. Overly clinical and dispassionate. He's human. I can make a pretty good case for or against Obamacare but the reality is that it is working for many and a huge contingent of uninsured americans are now protected.

We need to get used to this level of vitriol because whatever party is in charge, it ain't going to change. Too many talking heads with daggers poised, too much vapid instant analysis, too little scholarship and analysis, too little objective neutrality.

Fox may have started it, but we are now left with two equally stupid armed media camps. And an increasingly intellectually lazy and stupid electorate.

Henry Kissinger gave an interesting interview to NPR this week touting his new book World Order. He points out that Iran is a potentially far greater threat than Isis, something I agree with completely. The Persian empire is the one that is quietly getting rebuilt, right through Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

It was disheartening to see Maliki fly up north in his last act as outgoing prime minister last week and exhort his troops to kill the infidels. They don't catch on to the concept of democracy or pluralism too well in the middle east and he made matters worse, subjugating his sunni citizenry, sewing the seeds of revolt that results in factional civil war and in the strengthening of groups like the Islamic State.

Now Obama is looking for help in fighting the Sunni and is going to pretend that there is some benign neutral party in the region. Good luck on that.

Doug Bandow of Cato Institute on Iraq and Intervention - Third time is not the charm.

James Zogby, Arab American and Maronite christian, never met a terrorist he didn't love, has penned an article In defense of christians in which he makes a case for muslims and christians co-existing in the middle east. Let's see, who is he forgetting?

When I saw the headline I made a bet with myself how many paragraphs I would have to read before he bashed Israel and I wasn't too far off the mark. Members of what are termed the "completion" religions have a remarkably forgetful view of their own history.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Omar new head of El Shebang

Infidels beware, Somalia's most exciting  Islamic rebel group, El Shebang, today named Abu Ubeid Ahmed Omar to be their new leader following the killing of the previous leader in a U.S. airstrike.

The Somali militants unanimously selected Omar on Saturday at a meeting in an undisclosed location in Somalia, said rebel commander Abu Mohammed. Omar is believed to be an assumed name, and the new leader's real name is not known.

"It was time to call the kid up from the minors. He's really done everything we've asked from him. Five tool terrorist."

Omar has a long history with the firm, starting out in the terrorist mailroom and working his way up from the bottom smiting and beheading before assuming the titular helm of one of the leading terrorist groups on the scene today.

"I'd like to of course thank Allah and all the little people without whom I could never hope to maraud and pillage. And of course my agent."

Omar may want to stay away from his phone and stop looking out the window. Just saying.

The Battle Is Over But The War Goes On

Blast tally

The blog is edging back up to normalcy, in terms of readership anyway, I understand the writing might be a tad rusty. And it was supposed to be like riding a bike... Even when I was on my literary sabbatical I was still getting at least 500 hits a day, something to be said for past verbosity.

So this is where we stand this morning:

17k visitors last month, not bad. I am only sending it out to a very few people, see if the rest of the readers find their way back.

The question is when do I hit a million pageviews? A contest, closest to the date I go over gets a photograph of their choice.

Saturday Shutters

More of you and less of me is usually a good thing and so we reach the portion of the show we call Saturday Mailbag.

© Michael Bradford 2014
Last year Mike and his son Buck moved to the town of Spavinaw, Oklahoma where he is fixing up a new barbecue restaurant. They both love to fish, Buck is a long time woodsman and fly fishing guide. Mike sends me this lovely sunset picture he took on his iphone while bass fishing on Lake Spavinaw.

I didn't know much about Spavinaw so I googled it. Birthplace of Mickey Mantle. Last population count was 437. Mike says the people are excited about the new restaurant and some locals even came over and serenaded him at Christmas. Very friendly people.

© Ted Fleming 2014

Ted sends a bunch of great pictures from his home in Kauai. Can't afford to visit this year. Damn.

 A westside green flash.

© Ted Fleming 2014

My New Mexico pal had a bear visit the night before last and eat the bird feeder. Again.

After 15 plus years in Frogbutt, Roy pulled up stakes and moved back to Nederland, Colorado. Says it is starting to get cold at night already.

© Roy Cohen 2014
My biologist friend "Black Bart" recently returned from a couple week salmon fly fishing trip on some extremely remote atoll on the Bering Sea in Alaska. Fat hungry fish entering fresh water for the first time, gobbling up flies like nobody's business, all day long...

Going to the sun © Kip Peterson 2014
Kip recently returned from Montana, a state his wife happens to be from. They went back to a favorite spot, Lake McDonald in Glacier Park, where they used to love to sit and watch bald eagles. No raptors this year. Why? 

Well perhaps because some smart guy genious introduced lake trout, which killed the native kohkonee, cutthroat and a bunch of smaller species. And the lake trout is also an apex predator, eats all the smaller stuff, and as a result has the high mercury concentrations that ends up killing the birds. 

Funny but not funny how that all works...I can remember seeing 13 bald eagles on one tree in Kootenai one year when I was thumbing around.

Kip is a heck of a photographer and sends this pretty forest shot courtesy of his Leica M-9.

© Kip Peterson

Kip sent another nice shot, this time with a Sigma DP2 Merrill like mine.

© Kip Peterson

I was talking to Bruce at breakfast about an old Maine Coon Cat he had that chased dogs out of the yard and would only drink from running water. Had dinner with R & D last night and they have two Maine Coons, which are probably directly related to the Norwegian Forest Cat.

Squeak also prefers running water. Biologist D says that there is probably a good scientific reason, running streams being aerated and less likely to harbor nasty parasites and infections than stagnant pools. A very strong genetic disposition in these cats.

Ziggy Marley was fun, if you think fun is being packed with nine million other people on hot asphalt like sardines, that is. Music was great but I am officially too old.

Keep sending in those shots, folks!

Press faster or you'll burn in hell

Press faster or you'll burn in hell
© Bob Mankoff