*

*
Water and stone

Thursday, September 30, 2010

From the Railbird's Perch


I have been asked by my loyal readership to help handicap the California Governor's race. As you know, the Blue Heron Blast is a non partisan blog and we neither endorse candidates nor take blatantly political stances. We let the reader decide. However I have been solicited for my honest opinion and feel duty bound to respond.

Since you asked, I will put on my trusted Karnac turban and venture down to the track for a peek at the upcoming race. Stopwatch oiled and ready to see some early works. The well pedigreed filly, a maiden claimer from the rich barn back east against the people's champion, the old gelding who still thinks he's a stallion, Moonbeam. His sire was once a stakes winner as well. He's workmanlike but not too flashy.

First off for the distaff nag. Meg Whitman. My first question is, why Meg? Aren't girls named Margaret supposed to be nicknamed Peg? Is that not the law? Fourth richest woman in California (net worth 1.3 billion), lives in the tony burbs of Atherton, a town ranked as the second richest zip code (94027) in the United States in the new Forbes Magazine. Married to a Doctor named Harsh, ouch! Griffin Rutherford Harsh IV, to be exact, a man of the people, I assume. Has spent approx. 129 million of her own simoleans so far in her efforts to buy the governorship.

*Claimed not to know that her long time housekeeper was an illegal, even though she received a letter from the government way back in 2003 saying that the social security number she was using was phony.

*Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar has refused to endorse her. A man that worked at her side for years.

* Pulled some major boners at Ebay, bought Skype for 4.1 billion, sold it for 2.75 billion. As Bernard Schwartz used to say, "nobody's perfect."

*Pushed an ebay subordinate, communications employee Young Mi Kim, while preparing for interview with Reuters in 2007. Fracas resulted in a cool six figure settlement for the pushee.

*Has not voted in 28 years.

*Whitman has vowed that if elected, on her first day she would suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, to study its potential economic implications. AB32 requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020.

*Supported Proposition 8, the initiative banning gay marriage.

*Says that marijuana legalization is the worst idea she has ever seen.

*Wants to suspend the Federal Endangered Species Act so that the Central Valley can get more water.

*Earned approximately $1.78 million resulting from a practice known as "spinning" whereby executives who did business with Goldman Sachs could reap profits by getting early deals before the public did on hot IPOs offered by the bank.

*Wants tax cuts, but only for the rich in her bracket, potentially cutting her own tax bite in half. Favors eliminating the tax on Capital Gains.

*Wants to cut 40,000 state government jobs. Are you aware that California ranked 48th out of the 50 states with respect to the number of state employees per 10,000 residents?http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/the_state_worker/#ixzz0lOivfKre

*Frat boy son beat up a girl.

*Second son dropped n-bomb on black girl.

*****************************************


Jerry Brown 

* boinked Linda Ronstadt.

*Went to Sacred Heart, studied to become a jesuit priest.

*Hailed as a fiscal conservative during his term as governor - The American Conservative noted he was "much more of a fiscal conservative than Governor Reagan."His fiscal restraint resulted in one of the biggest budget surpluses in state history.

*When Proposition 13 passed, he heavily cut state spending and used much of the surplus his government had built up, roughly $5 billion, to meet the proposition's requirements and help offset the revenue losses. His actions in response to the proposition earned him praise from Proposition 13 author Howard Jarvis who went so far as to campaign for Brown's successful reelection bid in 1978.

*While Governor, Jerry Brown reduced Californian's tax burden by more than $16 Billion. He indexed the personal income tax, eliminated the business inventory tax.

*Brown appointed more women and minorities to office than any other previous California governor.

*Declined to defend Proposition 8.

*Instituted an innovative solar credit program in California.

I like Jerry Brown. He reminds me of John Henry, the people's champion who just wins year after year. He has been a great mayor, Attorney General and Governor. His dad was the Governor. If that is not a winning bloodline I don't know what is? Mudder, front wraps, no lasix. Strong closer. Irrespective of his unfortunate nickname, seems to make prudent, rational and sometimes tough decisions.

The idea that a rich girl from Long Island can carpetbag her way out to the left coast and buy an election doesn't quite square with this native San Diegan. Business people do not necessarily make great elected officials; see George Bush. A woman who is suddenly interested in governing yet never took the time to even vote?

I don't admire snobby waspish women who push subordinates around and raise foul mouthed and nasty children who engage in violence against women. She needs a new toy, let her buy Arizona. We've had eight years of a Republican Governor. Isn't it time to try something different?

I would stick Brown in an exacta box with anything under 8 to 1 for a big payday.

See you at the track.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday's turgid tidbits

It appears that Christine O'Donnell has been caught fibbing again. Not that it will matter one iota to the party faithful. She's a god fearing christian, brother, and that's good enough for me. Going to stop people from having sex and masturbating. Got to give her a hand for that. Gaybaited her republican opponent, Mike Castle like a seasoned pro. Wants to take another look at all that evolution nonsense.

I guess someone decided to check her bona fides in reference to her education at the University of Oxford. Well, she may have stretched the truth a teensie weensie bit, you see she didn't actual take any classes from the esteemed University. She took classes from the Phoenix Institute that rented some class space from the University. It's a fine line so I hope that you can follow along from home. The title of the course was "What is it to be human?" And they said we liberals were touchy feeley. Hey I went to Harvard.*

This was not the first time that Ms. O'Donnell had fudged a bit regarding her academic record. According to the WaPo, she has long claimed to have a bachelors from Fairleigh Dickinson, although it was not received until last summer. She claimed in a deposition to be working in the master's program at Princeton but later admitted to not having taken a single class at the esteemed Ivy League institution.

A copy of her linked in page, via the Wapo:


Christine O'Donnell's Education
Fairleigh Dickinson University 1989 -- 1993
Claremont Graduate University
Constitutional Government
University of Oxford
"Post Modernism in the New Millennium"


Seems like she has all the standard qualifications to be a good republican! I will let you fill in the blanks.

postscript - another O'Donnell lie uncovered.

***

In all of my years in business I have never joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The locals always seemed a bit creepy and I could never accept the national policies. Today the chamber came out against a bill that was designed to keep American businesses from outsourcing about 4 million jobs. Senate Repugnanticans successfully repelled an effort by Democrats Tuesday to end tax breaks for companies who send jobs offshore only to import products back into the United States. The House has passed a series of similar bills over the past month. Joe "Benedict Arnold" Lieberman carried water for his newfound conservative pals in sending the bill down to defeat. Filibustering Repubs argued that revoking the tax breaks would punish American companies and make them less competitive with foreign firms.

According to the Wapo again: The U.S. Chamber fought efforts to include a provision that would encourage taxpayer money to be spent on products made by domestic companies. It opposed the outsourcing bill, arguing in a letter to the Senate that "the concept of economic growth is not a zero-sum game. Replacing a job that is based in another country with a domestic job does not stimulate economic growth or enhance the competitiveness of American worldwide companies." Chamber head Tom Donohue made the case that outsourcing shouldn't be a concern because only "two, maybe three million jobs, maybe four" would be lost. The bill included a payroll tax holiday for companies that bring jobs back from overseas, ended tax breaks for plants that shut down to go elsewhere, and blocked companies from deferring their tax bill year to year by keeping money out of the U.S.


The U.S. Chamber, in a letter to the Senate, outlined its opposition to the measure and said that it may use the vote to rate how friendly to business a senator is in the lobby's annual scorecard. The bill, argued the Chamber, would "significantly curtail [tax] deferral [of earnings], reversing longstanding tax policy and subjecting American worldwide companies to immediate double taxation on the earnings of their foreign subsidiaries. Limiting deferral would hinder the global competitiveness of these American companies, impede U.S. economic growth, and ultimately result in the loss of jobs - both at the companies directly impacted and companies in their supply chains." 

Compassionate conservatism once again raises its ugly head. Once again they stiff the american worker. Who are they working for again?

***

The pastors are at it again, trying to initiate a squabble and test case with the I.R.S. to challenge the law that limits them from backing candidates from the pulpit and losing their tax exempt status. Nearly 100 pastors took part in pulpit freedom Sunday, another attempt by Christians to further their political agenda.
Several of the churches made political endorsements.


Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an initiative organized by the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian nonprofit organization, which according to its website seeks to "defend the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation."

ADF spokesman Erik Stanley said, "We believe that a pastor has a right to speak whatever he believes without fearing the government will somehow censor what he says or threaten to take away his tax exemption."

The group believes that the 1954 amendment, sponsored by then Sen. Lyndon Johnson, D-Texas, is a violation of the Constitution. According to the ADF, the government's monitoring of the content of pastors' and churches' speech is a violation of the Free Speech Clause.

It is obvious that 99% of these evangelical churches support republicans. Like the power of the christian right isn't already a behemoth swallowing up everything in its path like Jonah's whale, now they need to start pushing their own candidates. I would like to see the IRS get more aggressive and start pulling tax exempt status from these partisan preachers.


 Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, has made it clear that participating churches have plenty to lose.

"Tax exemption is not a right; it's a privilege that comes with certain restrictions," Lynn said.

***

New Pew survey poll shows that atheists and agnostics know more about religion than believers. Can we surmise that the more you know, the more difficult it becomes to swallow? That all the religious malarkey and mumbo jumbo doesn't stand any rational test.


 The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life posed 32 basic religious questions and found that atheists and agnostics answered, on average, 20.9 correctly. Jews were right on 20.5, and Mormons on 20.3.

The survey of 3,412 people, conducted between May and June of this year, had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, while the margins of error for individual religious groups was higher.

The survey found atheists and agnostics to be more knowledgeable about religion than Protestants and Catholics.

People in the South – the Bible Belt – tended to score lower on the survey than those in other regions. What a surprise. The survey found that most American Protestants don't know Martin Luther inspired the Protestant Reformation. Forty-five percent of American Catholics are unaware Catholicism teaches that bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ during communion, the survey showed.

Hey believers, how does it feel to know that the pagans and pariahs know more about the swill you are peddling than you do?

I salute those brave atheists and agnostics who dare not to believe in a society where so many fall victim to rank superstition and religious guilt.   Of course if you have sufficient faith, thinking becomes overrated.


Theocracy Watch.


*I didn't go to school there but I went there to watch crew once.

Take The 'A' Train

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stuxnet Worm Ouroboros

The breaking story of the computer virus that has attacked the Iranian nuclear program reads like a Le Carre spy thriller. A photograph that was inadvertently disseminated by the Iranians themselves last year showed a computer screen with a little red box clearly visible. A box that alerted every computer security hack in the world that the Iranian nuclear program was essentially unsecured.

I just can't for the life of me think of who might be responsible for the virus. I just hope that the perpetrator is brought to justice. Because who knows how long it will be before they can get this whole mess under control? How will the Iranians be able to arm themselves with nukes if they are sitting around waiting for their Mcafee update?

The virus apparently attacked the inner workings of a Siemens software system that had been appropriated from the russians. Unsuspecting engineers reportedly brought it in on their flash drives. As effective as a well placed missile aimed at a nuclear reactor like say, Osirak, but this time delivered in a bevy of 0's and 1's.

"We had anticipated that we could root out the virus within one to two months," Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran's Information Technology Co., a part of the ministry of communication and information technology, told the Islamic Republic News Agency. "But the virus is not stable, and since we started the cleanup process three new versions of it have been spreading," he said. Darn it, that's awful.

The worm reprograms the critical function software once it is inside the target system. Researchers still do not know which system it ultimately had in its sights or what type of sabotage was intended. Or even what future damage may occur as  result of the breach.

Iranian officials said Saturday that they had been hit by "electronic warfare" and acknowledged that the worm had infected more than 30,000 computers, including personal computers owned by employees of the nuclear power plant near Bushehr. According to Israeli sources, the real target was the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz - where the centrifuge operational capacity has dropped over the past year by 30 percent after an unknown attack. The new analysis, based on the characteristic behavior of the Stuxnet worm, contradicts earlier assessments that the target was the nuclear reactor at Bushehr.

According to Haaretz Yossi Melman:


The Bushehr reactor, however, is considered less of a security threat than Natanz by the intelligence communities in both Israel and the United States. Because intelligence analysts believe Iran would have enough material for at least two nuclear bombs if it enriched the uranium held at Natanz from 3.5 percent to 90 percent, every scenario for an Israeli or American attack on Iran's nuclear facilities has put Natanz high on the list of potential targets.
There have been reports in the past of other alleged efforts by Israel and the West to undermine the Iranian nuclear project, some of which also targeted Natanz. These efforts included infiltrating the purchasing networks Iran set up to acquire parts and material for the centrifuges at Natanz and selling damaged equipment to the Iranians. The equipment would then be installed on site and sabotage the centrifuges' work.
The centrifuge - a drum with rotors, an air pump, valves and pressure gauges - is an extremely sensitive system. Generally, 164 centrifuges are linked into a cascade, and several cascades are then linked together. But the centrifuges need to operate in complete coordination to turn the uranium fluoride (UF6 ) they are fed into enriched uranium. Their sensitivity makes them particularly vulnerable to attacks, since damage to a single centrifuge can create a chain reaction that undermines the work of one or more entire cascades.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors regularly visit Natanz, has reported that of the more than 9,000 centrifuges installed on the site, less than 6,000 are operational. The agency did not provide an explanation of this 30 percent drop in capacity compared to a year ago, but experts speculated that the centrifuges were damaged by flawed equipment sold by Western intelligence agencies through straw companies.
The recent revelations about the Stuxnet worm might provide new insights into the problems encountered by the enrichment facility. German computer expert Frank Rieger wrote in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday that Wikileaks, a website specializing in information leaked from government agencies, reported in June on a mysterious accident at Natanz that paralyzed part of the facility. Rieger now thinks the Wikileaks report was connected to the Stuxnet worm. He noted that whoever developed the virus refined its programming to allow it to damage small, sensitive components like regulators, valves and pressure gauges, all of which are found in centrifuges.         


The long term impact may be negligible.   Iran has enough enriched uranium now in its possession for nuclear weapons. Russian security expert Eugene Kaspersky believes that this virus is a first strike in a new era in cyber warfare. This Computer World article deals how the worm spreads back to previously scrubbed pc's. And this one, also from Computer World that shows how the worm took advantage of  spooler zero days, including one that was not known to the public at large. ZDNet notes that the password for the system was public knowledge. An interesting take from the NYT that takes the position that only a nation state could be capable of such a concerted attack, perhaps a nation like Israel. Our own pentagon will neither confirm or deny. Christian Science Monitor had an excellent article.


And another great CSM article where I found this snippet: 


...A journalist's photo from inside the Bushehr plant in early 2009, which Langner found on a public news website, shows a computer-screen schematic diagram of a process control system – but also a small dialog box on the screen with a red warning symbol. Langner says the image on the computer screen is of a Siemens supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) industrial software control system called Simatic WinCC – and the little warning box reveals that the software was not installed or configured correctly, and was not licensed. That photo was a red flag that the nuclear plant was vulnerable to a cyberattack, he says.
"Bushehr has all kinds of missiles around it to protect it from an airstrike," Langner says. "But this little screen showed anyone that understood what that picture meant ... that these guys were just simply begging to be [cyber]attacked."
The picture was reportedly taken on Feb. 25, 2009, by which time the reactor should have had its cybersystems up and running and bulletproof, Langner says. The photo strongly suggests that they were not, he says. That increases the likelihood that Russian contractors unwittingly spread Stuxnet via their USB drives to Bushehr, he says.


It remains to be seen just how deep this cyber bomb has burrowed. And how would you like to be Microsoft, scurrying around trying to make security patches for software that just may have been damaged by their very own United States of America? Or is this another case of the zionist entity perfidiously making Achmadinejad their beehatch?



SLIPPING INTO DARKNESS

Spy vs. Spy

I was in a rather heated discussion on a conservative blog recently regarding the koran burning epsode. I brought up the fact that our military was asking for a bit of sanity, and pleading with the wackjob preacher not to burn the koran, on the grounds that it could endanger the U.S. Military in Afghanistan and the middle east.

The military have a hard job as it is, and don't need it to get any more difficult. Agatha, my able adversary, replied that liberals had no similar qualms when the New York Times ran Abu Graib headlines for 41 straight days.

My retort was that there is a real difference between state sponsored torture and a lone citizen's depraved insanity. That Americans expect more from their government. That the media exists in part to reveal similar behaviors that the government sometimes like to sweep under the rug. Think My Lai, Watergate, the Pat Tillman coverup, that sort of thing. That sometimes things are best aired out in the light of day so that we can take our medicine. Fundamental bulwark of a free and responsible society. She failed to acknowledge a difference in governmental and individual activities.

I bring this whole line of enquiry up on the heels of the DIA (Defense Information Agency) decision to buy all of the available 9500 copies of Army Reserve Lt. Colonel Anthony Shaffer's memoir, Operation Dark Heart. Shaffer claims that the intelligence apparatus was briefed on the activities of 9/11 bomber Mohammed Atta prior to the infamous bombing. He personally tells Dr. Phillip Zelikow, head of the 9/11 Commission about the information at a hearing in the story he recounts in the book. In addition he reveals the existence of an early data mining operation called "Able Danger."

Lt. Gen Ronald Burgess of Defense Intelligence Agency said the DIA "identified significant classified information, the release of which I have determined could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security." Burgess said the manuscript contained information about classified projects of the U.S. Special Operations Command, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Security Agency.

Interestingly enough, the book cleared the Army censors but somebody in the Defense Department apparently had second thoughts and got scared. Shaffer had led a black ops team in Afghanistan and won a Bronze Star for his efforts. He said that he had no intention of either jeopardizing American lives or damaging national security.

The few copies that evaded destruction are reportedly selling for over two grand on Ebay. Which is stupid, because in a digital world, everything comes out eventually, and these things will be digitized and in your mailbox in a split second.  The New York Times published an article that not only points out the stupidity of the redacted edits but also claims that the clumsy censorship will only flag the offenses to a greater degree. And why strike John Wayne's name from this sample page? Because there is no rhyme or reason to the redaction. Not to mention any accountability to the American people.


Obama has been pretty much a carbon copy of his predecessor in terms of secrecy, wiretapping and the rest of the "spook" stuff. He continues the Bush era policy of outlawing the publication of "mosaic" information on the grounds of national security. Mosaic information is the notion that while the separate parts may not reveal classified information, their collective aggregation might. Which while almost understandable, is also a mighty convenient way to suppress information that possibly does not show illegal or immoral behavior, but maybe stupid or embarrassing or politically undesirable behavior. That is the information that I think I have a right to see as an American citizen.

I just finished Frank Snepp's book Decent Interval, chronicling the fall of Saigon. Snepp was the CIA's lead security analyst in Vietnam. Like Shaffer, a devoted and true American who put his life on the line for his country. His book illustrated criminally negligent and criminally stupid behavior on the part of Snepp's boss, Tom Polgar and the Ambassador and Kissinger protege, Graham Martin during the last stage of the Indochinese conflict.

Fantastic book. A book whose issuance caused the spooks to go to the Supreme Court to ban. Which they successfully did, without benefit of brief or discussion. Now Snepp has to have anything that ever comes out of his pen vetted by the CIA. From his website ...ex-CIA agent been ordered to hand over to the U.S. Treasury all profits, past and future, from his Agency memoir, Decent Interval; he’d been saddled with a permanent gag order, obliging him to submit to CIA censors anything he might write about his professional past or its emotional fallout, classified or not, fiction or non-fiction, for the rest of his life.


Snepp wrote another book Irreparable Harm, which I have not yet read, about the way he felt his first amendment rights were trampled at the Supreme Court, how the CIA rigged the case, with the complicity of Justice Powell. Not because he offered any classified information, because he made the government look stupid.

We were talking at coffee about the Obama Administration's new directives to monitor internet communication, requiring developers to leave little trap doors for the snoops. I was wondering where in the constitution it gave the government the right to monitor every bit and method of our communication? They asked me if I had ever heard of the Patriot Act. And it is true and the recipe is so simple: keep the country in a perpetual declared state of war, against countries or just terrorists at large and you can, as Judge Scalia says, "ratchet civil rights down to a minimum." And call me a cynic or pessimist, but those are the rights that like a genie, never get fit back into the bottle.

Pickle Wars

As an ethnic minority type in America, I constantly try to find a common ground with my fellow citizens. Yet I know that in certain areas, we are guided by our biology and our inherent cultural and genetic predispositions. As a jewish man for instance, I know that I will never "get" college football. I can't fix anything around the house, I don't have the Nascar gene. In fact I have no mechanical bent whatsoever.

Meat, which I readily admit to enjoy, comes conveniently packed in styrene trays at the supermarket. I could no more kill and eat something than I could surrender my big toe.

And I can not eat the gentile's pickles.

Pickles are a fairly accurate demarcation line between the major creeds in America today. Let's leave the fastest growing religion out of the mix, Islam, I don't know if they even eat them, probably not halal. The koreans and japanese are masters of pickle making but we are talking about pickle eating on the north american continent today and will leave the rest of the foreigners out of the mix for now.

The gentile will eat your bread and butter, cornichons, garlic, sweet gherkins, the kosher dill, which is usually anything but, pickles made with vinegar. People of the jewish persuasion tend to favor the half sour. An authentic jewish style pickle is never made with vinegar. I am about as apt to eat a vlasic as I am to take holy communion.

A real jewish delicatessen will have a crock at every table, the better ones having "new pickles" on top, crisp dilled cucumbers not too far along in the brining process, and the more intense softer sours resting just outside of knuckle range near the bottom of the container. As a child, reaching in to the pickle jar at Blumer's Delicatessen at 54th and El Cajon Blvd. was as close to heaven as I could possibly target.

My wife and I are in a continual search for a good half sour, not really living in a close proximity to a deli now whose pickles meet our picky pickle requirements.

Our champion to date has been Bubbies, the San Francisco pickle. A smallish pickle in a great signature clouded brine.  A very nice sharp bite, and a very consistent, fairly late tasting pickle. But they have become so expensive, $7.99 at Major Market, up three dollars in just a few years.


We also like Ba Tampte pickles, a lower East Side variety (think Crossing Delancey) with a neutral taste. Young and fresh, heavy dill. Strub's is another quite acceptable pickle from our good neighbor to the north, Canada, that will work in a pinch but is not really the equal to the other pickle titans on the page.



LAST WEEK WE FOUND THE NATHAN'S PICKLE AT MAJOR MARKET FOR $3.99.  We had never tried it but at less than half the price of our beloved Bubbies, decided to give them a shot. While not necessarily Bubbies equal, they possess their own naive charm and are really quite good. We are now well into the second jar. This has now become our standard "go to" pickle. The real dill.

Pickling 101, from Wickipedia:

Pickling, also known as brining or corning is the process of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation in brine (a solution of salt in water) to produce lactic acid, or marinating and storing it in an acid solution, usually vinegar (acetic acid). The resulting food is called a pickle. This procedure gives the food a salty or sour taste. In South Asia, edible oils are used as the pickling medium with vinegar.


Another distinguishing characteristic is a pH less than 4.6,[1] which is sufficient to kill most bacteria. Pickling can preserve perishable foods for months. Antimicrobial herbs and spices, such as mustard seed, garlic, cinnamon or cloves, are often added.[2] If the food contains sufficient moisture, a pickling brine may be produced simply by adding dry salt. For example, sauerkraut and Korean kimchi are produced by salting the vegetables to draw out excess water. Natural fermentation at room temperature, by lactic acid bacteria, produces the required acidity. Other pickles are made by placing vegetables in vinegar. Unlike the canning process, pickling (which includes fermentation) does not require that the food be completely sterile before it is sealed. The acidity or salinity of the solution, the temperature of fermentation, and the exclusion of oxygen determine which microorganisms dominate, and determine the flavor of the end product.[3]


When both salt concentration and temperature are low, Leuconostoc mesenteroides dominates, producing a mix of acids, alcohol, and aroma compounds. At higher temperatures Lactobacillus plantarum dominates, which produces primarily lactic acid. Many pickles start with Leuconostoc, and change to Lactobacillus with higher acidity.[3]


If you have a favorite I haven't mentioned and can add anything to the pickle conversation, I am all ears. Yours in good pickles.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Goo goo Goojoob

A.R. Valentien

Botanical Study #8, verso - A.R. Valentien
courtesy - The Blue Heron Gallery


It's Restaurant Week in San Diego. For the seventh year, over 180 different fine dining establishments are open at discounted prices for the biannual event. Menus are scaled down and delectable fixed price offerings are available for the culinary curious. This gives us plain folks a chance to go to places that are normally out of our reach in these miserable economic times.

Tuesday night we were treated to a great meal at 333 by our good friends Bill and Jean. Last night the members of the Fallbrook Gastronomic Society, our loose knit group of foodies (once given the moniker of "the avopigs" by Colleen Aichle), decided to sup at A.R. Valentien at the Torrey Pines Lodge.
The Torrey Pines Lodge sits next to the first tee at the Torrey Pines Golf Course, site of the U.S. Open in 2008. The spacious hotel is a gorgeous Greene and Greene style craftsman structure that underwent a remarkable facelift a few years ago, under the capable direction of its owner, Bill Evans. We have stayed there and the rooms are incredible.

A.R. Valentien was the art director of Rookwood Pottery for 25 years. He moved to San Diego and started Valentien Pottery on 30th and University in 1905 with his wife Anna Bookprinter, a student of Rodin. They are often referred to as the "first family" of the San Diego craftsman renaissance.

My food group are pretty hardcore foodies and cooks. R & D recently came back from a three day personal symposium with Thomas Keller that was filmed for A&E. Several of the group have recently returned from Napa and Sonoma. We are all lucky enough to spend a fair amount of time at nice restaurants.

Last night was not a great eating experience. There were eight of us and we were seated on the veranda at 8:15. When I made the reservation no one thought to inform me that people would be smoking big fat cigars on the veranda as well, not 20' from our table. It was like a rich frat boy symposium of loud and obnoxious stogie smokers.

We complained to our server and were told that there was nothing that they could do. I thought that there was a law in California that outlawed such behavior near where people were dining? One of our group members was having an extreme reaction to the smoke and most of our eyes were tearing up. They could not or would not find us another table. I guess that is how you treat the tourists on the discount plan.

Service was pretty lousy all night, with interminable waits between courses. We had all eaten at the restaurant many times before, and this was the only time any of us had experienced such lapses. And to be fair, they were very busy. We had a lot of options in picking a restaurant this week but decided to have our group meet at the Lodge because R&D have so much respect for Chef Jeff Jackson's work and reputation.

Our group was originally going to be 10 people and we had a cancellation and scaled back to 8 yesterday morning. Good thing. The patio acoustics are terrible and with the background noise I could barely communicate with Doug on the other end of the table so we spent the dinner attempting to talk in staccato sign language.

I started off with the corn soup with a sort of deconstructed scallop mousse. Almost cloyingly sweet but good. Very good. We ordered two extra plates of the pistachio and duck pate with the white peach puree and truffle vinaigrette for the table. Incredible. Leslie had the chicken liver pate with the pork rillette which was absolutely delicious as was all of the bread all night. Especially the multigrain slice which was one of the best I have ever tasted.

Jim brought two fantastic french wines from his collection, a 1990 Lynch Bages bordeaux and a first growth burgundy from 1995, Nuit St. Georges, Les Hautes Poirets. Leslie and a few other people in our group ordered the wine pairing. Leslie got her first flight, a delicious chardonnay. Her second flight was unfortunately a cab that was not to her liking. She had it replaced with a nice pinot noir with no problem.

The entrees finally came after several glances at our watches and I think the table was collectively unimpressed. I had a chicken under brick with sweet corn piccalilli and beans. Cooked perfectly with very moist meat. Yet the chicken was so heavily brined it was difficult to enjoy. I liked the texture of the crispy skin but just could not get past the salt. Many of the diners had the steak and the braised short rib with spinach with garlic and bordelaise. The consensus reached was good short rib, okay steak. It is admittedly apples and oranges but the steak at 333 far surpassed this one. Leslie asked them to hold the onions and got back a plain steak with no garnish or side whatsoever. She mentioned it to the server and received a bare spinach dish.

It is difficult enough to sit through a two hour long meal while bathing in a fine mist of acrid cigar smoke. Unremarkable food made our job no easier. Thank god we have such a great group and enjoy our own company as much as we do. We have been dining together for a long time and there will always be another restaurant. We were starting to swelter in the heaters and asked three times before they were finally turned down.

The whole experience was so disheartening that we thought about just skipping the dessert. When it came after just a very long wait, there was no wine pairing. When we inquired we were told that the sommelier was in the basement. It finally showed up.

Dessert was just okay but better than the entree. I had a fruit terrine in a light gel of some kind with a passionflower sauce. Connie had a sorbet course that she found tasteless. Jim tried it and was turned off by the bland gelatin base under the sorbet. Leslie's white chocolate and mint mousse with chocolate ice cream was terrific.

We got the bill and saw how our $40/65 dollar dinners had ballooned up and that the bill was now the price of a used car. Not fancy but running. $25.00 a bottle corkage fee, gratuity, etc., the thing had really catapulted. Over seven hundred and change. And to a man or a woman, it would have been all right if the food had been better and if we were not forced to breathe stinky cigars all night from arrogant young men who had not yet come to grips with the reason why they needed something so long and tubular in their mouths.

We polled each other at the culmination of the meal. I went first and said 6.7 out of 10. The rest of the group topped out at 6. As a final capper, my wife just called to tell me that the leftover steak that she took home had somehow mysteriously morphed into someone else's chopped up doggie treats, the boxes being mixed up inadvertently by somebody in the kitchen, I suppose.

I probably made a mistake by suggesting the restaurant and feel sort of bad. Connie and Dixon were opting for Pamplemousse. I would have gone back to Vincents in a second if I had been more prescient.

I guess there is a moral to the story somewhere. Don't ever sit on the veranda. Don't order the salted chicken. And don't expect to be treated like a first class guest if you order off the Restaurant Week menu at A.R. Valentien.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Burn not, lest ye be burned.


The library didn't only contain magical books, the ones which are chained to the shelves and are very dangerous. It also contained perfectly ordinary books, printed on commonplace paper in mundane ink. It would be a mistake to think that they weren't also dangerous just because reading them didn't make fireworks go off in the sky. Reading them sometimes did the more dangerous trick of making fireworks go off in the privacy of the reader's brain.
Terry Pratchett. Soul Music




It's Banned Book week nationally. This is a shot I took this morning of the window at the Fallbrook Public Library across the street. They did a great job on the window display. Here are the top fifty books that people in the United States tried to ban from 2000 to 2009.

1 Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2 Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3 The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4 And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5 Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7 Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8 His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9 TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10 The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11 Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12 It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13 Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15 The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16 Forever, by Judy Blume
17 The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18 Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19 Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20 King and King, by Linda de Haan
21 To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22 Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23 The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24 In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25 Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26 Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27 My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28 Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29 The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30 We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31 What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32 Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33 Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34 The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35 Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36 Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37 It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38 Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39 Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40 Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41 Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42 The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43 Blubber, by Judy Blume
44 Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45 Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46 Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47 The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by George Beard
48 Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50 The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

It is interesting to go through the list. I see neither a Fanny Hill or a Candy or any other of that ilk. Pornography is evidently not the hot button that sends the townspeople scurrying for the torches. Some vulgar language but nothing that the kids don't hear every day. So what are their knickers in such a twist over?
Harry Potter, the number one offender, a children's book, is of course in reality a tome guaranteed to turn your impressionable child into a witch or a warlock. Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (promotes euthanasia, condones racial slurs, "anti-business", containing profanity, and generally containing "vulgar" and "offensive language"), To Kill a Mockingbird (depictions of rape, insults the south), One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest ( promotes dangerous anti-establishment views), basically the lot is a pantheon of classic American fiction. Catcher in the Rye, between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States. Promotes teenage angst, includes the words fuck and goddamn. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Allende's House of the Spirits. Brave New World. Fahrenheit 451, as if that irony isn't extra rich.

What are we trying to suppress here? It seems like the list is more geared to quash dissent and objective self discovery than to shelter our impressionable little darlings from harm. Keep the fertile young minds on the ultra square.

I have my own problems with the library. People forgot that they are supposed to be quiet there, somewhere along the way. They chatter, speak on their phones and let children run amok. In some cities, it is the final decampment for hygiene deficient homeless. But I am sure glad that books and libraries exist. 

Books. Beware of those that would ban or burn them.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Murder in my heart for the judge

Frying Time

Albert Greenwood Brown abducted, raped and killed Susan Jordan, a 15 year old girl on her way home from school, in 1980. He was convicted in January of 1982. Teresa Lewis traded sex and money so two men would murder her husband and stepson in 2002 and enable her to collect a quarter million dollar insurance payoff.

Both of these murderers should have taken their last breath years ago. Both have lawyers that are intent on casting blame anywhere else except where it belongs and continually gaming the system.

Lewis's attorney James F. Rocap III says that a good and decent person (Lewis) is about to lose her life because of a system (?) that is broken. He claims that the gunmen manipulated his client. Please. Brown's lawyer David Senior says that the lethal injection team has not been adequately trained.

I have an idea. If the lethal injection does not work for one reason or another, perhaps because of the team's incompetence, just position someone outside with a 357 magnum and finish the job. I am reminded of the fat inmate in Washington who said that due to his obesity, execution would be cruel and unusual punishment. Sucks for you, Jumbo.

Brown never even proclaimed his innocence, but has been saved by a pussy Marin County judge who ruled in 2006 that the standard protocol for lethal injections caused excruciating pain before death. Boo hoo. I am sure that the people they killed hurt a lot too and I am sure that their families still hurt.


Brown called the girl’s mother at home later in the day after the murder and taunted her, saying, “You will never see your daughter again.” Brown had been previously convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl almost exactly three years earlier. He pleaded guilty to that assault and was sentenced to four years in state prison, but was paroled after barely serving half his term. He murdered Susan four months later.


It is a shame that we live in a sometimes terrible world where people occasionally commit unconscionable crimes but it is a fact. I have no doubt that some of these people are truly retarded or insane. But it is also a reality that we can not let these murderers back on the streets to kill again. It is unfortunate but your salvation, and/or remediation is beyond our earthly ken. Better luck next incarnation.

***

Like swallows returning to Capistrano, the expected U.N. Human Right's Report is back concerning the Israeli's interception of the Gaza flotilla. Israel's use of violence was disproportionate, excessive and brutal according to the three judge panel from Trinidad, Malaysia and Britain. Yea, yea, ya.


The report found that Israeli commandos' response to the flotilla was disproportionate and "betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality". "The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence," the report said.

"The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extralegal, arbitrary and summary execution," it added.

The 56-page report also said that the Israeli blockade was itself unlawful, because of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, meaning Israel's claim that it was entitled to use force to defend the blockade should be dismissed.

Now I have watched and posted the videos of the Israelis being beaten with metal rods, knives and chairs and thrown in the ocean. I have also seen and posted the video that the Turks made prior to the flotilla promising to liberate Palestine by violent means if necessary. This was a a martyrdom campaign if there ever was one. The organizers wanted action and they got it. Israel had told the flotilla organizers from the outset that the boats would be stopped. Can you imagine any country allowing its borders to be so breached?

Once again the usual suspects deny Israel's right to protect itself and deny its sworn enemies the weapons to destroy them. Once again they rant about collective punishment while the Hamas dominated Gazans celebrate Israeli deaths with pizza parties in the streets and a cowardly pattern of hiding their missiles among civilian centers. It is a war. The Human Rights people are mum when the Israelis are on the receiving end of the violence. Because to people like the United Nations and to certain members of this administration, jews are okay only when they are on the tail end of the stick.

The United Nations has long since given up any attempts to be fair and objective where Israel is concerned. Obama's surrogates have allowed Israel to be censured by this islamically dominated Security Council body while countries like Libya are exalted.

I would tell them all to pound sand. The United Nations has long since outlived its useful purpose.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Juicers vs. Stoners


As has been widely reported today, the alcohol lobby has come out swinging its hop soaked fists at California's new marijuana legalization initiative, Prop. 19. The California Beer and Beverage Board has donated ten grand to No on 19, the Public Safety First group, which is also being funded by some law enforcement organizations.

It is ironic in a way that an alcohol industry that was once itself an illegal pariah and forced to exist through speakeasies and the mafia, a victim of prohibition, now stands hand in hand with the establishment in favor of a different kind of prohibition. To fight an industry that is fighting for the same recreational dollars. Memories are short. Similar to the way that the Indian casino lobby fights non indian gaming propositions across the state. Simply a matter of dollars and cents and self interest, conscience or other's personal freedom not ever entering into the equation.

I am pro Proposition 19. I know firsthand how marijuana helped me through cancer, to such a degree that I was able to do without any narcotics whatsoever. That is old ground. What is interesting is the way some potheads have been co-opted to campaign against the proposition, on the grounds that the mystic herb can never be taxed and regulated. I am pro tax and regulate for several reasons. One, it will take a huge bite out of Mexican cartel money, sure opponents of the measure. Help restore the state's coffers. Let us do our share.

Keep your crappy brown mexican dirtweed, we're Americans pal. Drink your twobuckchuck with the screw tops and the brown paper bag, we're drinking Crystal. California can shine again, with golden nuggets baking as far as the eye can see!

Cops are against the proposition because police departments unfortunately live off the money they get from the feds for anti-drug campaigns. It funds department budgets. Personal Marijuana busts are at an all time high under Obama and law enforcement and the criminal gangs are walking hand in hand against the ballot measure and to protect the status quo. In a faltering economy, in a strange way, illegal drugs mean jobs on both side of the equation.

People surmise that the old Humboldt and Mendocino growers are also not keen on changing things around and having a wholesale price reduction but I don't know any so I couldn't tell you. I would like to think that they had more integrity than that.

The microbrewers like Stone and Sierra Nevada were very adamant today that they had nothing to do with the contribution.

If Proposition 19 fails, I want all of the people who are potheads that are anti 19 to realize that people are not going to say "oh, it was a bad proposition." They are going to say, "The people of California do not want the legalization of marijuana." And the next one arrested may be you or your kid. The medical marijuana movement approved by the voters twice so far has been stifled at every turn by parochial communities like San Diego county that do everything they can to thwart the will of the people manifested in Propositions 215 and  420 . That many elderly people still can not find safe reliable sources of medical marijuana because of draconian persecution and harassment.

We can not let the perfect stand in the way of the good. Vote yes on Proposition 19.

Call for entries - Local Color

Whatever happened to their heads? - © Mike Reardon


Several months ago I was asked if I was interested in showing my photography at Fallbrook's Pinnell Gallery for the month of November. I was happy to agree. However I have had three photography shows already this year at other venues and don't think I will have a fresh body of work that I will be happy with in the short time available.

Because of this I asked the owner of the gallery, Jennifer Paprock, if she minded if I opened the show up to other people's work. There are a lot of great photographers around that never get an opportunity to exhibit. She consented. I am now in the midst of curating a show that I think will be exceptional.

I have four or five people at present. A fifteen year old kid with talent brought his portfolio in off the street, some nice images. And some very strong photographers that you are probably not aware of.

If you know of a person who does interesting photography that might want to exhibit, please get in touch with me. I am looking for beautiful and powerful work. And I would like to focus on the people who do not normally get an opportunity to show their stuff. I will curate and be the final arbiter of what gets displayed.

This will be a great show that will run the length of November. We should be having a nice opening as well.

Johnny Too Bad - The Slickers.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fish Tale

Anyone who is actually listening should agree that we Americans are in the midst of a civil war.

I don't think that we will ever take up muskets, Springfields or even Glocks against each other but the war is real and the thought of a truce or armistice is a pretty far reach these days.

It isn't about our leadership. It is about us. We just plain don't like each other. We are pretty evenly split down the middle and we are flailing around and listing like the Titanic getting buffeted by gigantic waves. First one side teeters up in the air and then finally the other and we try to scratch each other's eyes out when we meet in the middle.

Yet even in the midst of this great discord and cultural war, at times strange alliances are made. Saw an article today about Sen. Tom Coburn, an extreme right winger joining with organic farmers to fight a bill that would let the FDA regulate and safeguard our food and hopefully avert situations like we had with the recent egggate. Ag Department had found over 400 cases of salmonella in the past year and the FDA could legally do nothing. Coburn thinks that improving food safety will be too expensive. Even the grocery manufacturers support the bill. I understand that the organic farmers have nothing to fear from the bill, despite a lot of misinformation. In any case I think that we deserve safe food.

***

Americans should be up in arms about Section 9006 of the new Health Care bill that will require by 2012 that businesses receive a 1099 for any purchase from a supplier over $600.00. This will add ridiculous requirements and hardship to my business and I hope it gets turned over somehow. I guess they are trying to attack the shadow economy but I see an avalanche of paperwork.

If a little old lady walks into my gallery and wants to sell me a painting for $800.00 that has been in her family since 1910, are we going to have an army of IRS agents interrogating her on the picture's cost basis? This bill is going to suck and it's going to stifle trade in a measurable way.

***

Now for the entree for this post. Salmon. This is one of the things that I think every American should be able to agree upon unless perhaps that you are lucky enough to have your own salmon farm. That the country is run by idiots. Not just now, all the time.

The FDA is taking the position that genetically modified fish, in this case salmon, does not have to be labeled as such. As you are probably aware, mad scientists have created a new frankenfish that gets big twice as fast and eats half again as much.

Now I think that this is terrible but it actually gets worse. The nimrods are taking the position that it is illegal for a company to mark non genetically modified fish as such because the FDA can supposedly not "materially" tell the difference. Bullshit. I want to know what I am eating. I personally think genetic modification is a really bad idea for a host of reasons previously discussed.

This salmon would be the first modified animal ever offered for consumption in the United States. AquAdvantage has given the salmon a gene from the Ocean Pout (an eel like fish) and a growth hormone from a chinook salmon. Purportedly the FDA is under great pressure from industry to approve a label free fish.

I would hope that this asinine stance gets squashed. I demand the right to know exactly what I am putting in my own body. Something smells mighty fishy in Washington.

Prometheus steals fire. © Chris Harding

Let's Polka, Everybody!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Acidhead



Things to do today:

  1. Return library books
  2. Make a bundt cake
  3. Follow Aston Kutcher on Twitter
  4. Study for finals
  5. 100 abdominal crunches
  6. Pour highly corrosive acid on my face, disfiguring myself for life and implicate a black woman for the alleged crime


Friday, September 17, 2010

Terrible Ted

Low down blasted

After 1650 or so blog posts, I have to believe that the weakness in my game, both intellectually and in terms of my vocabulary, are now as readily apparent to my readers as they are to myself.

Throughout the construction of this blog, I have tried to keep the use of any fifty dollar words that I do happen to know to a minimum, so as not to sound like a pretentious twit a la George Will. I have tried not to repeat myself, but realize that I have in fact repeated several musical selections on occasion (ichikoo park and Willin' come readily to mind), slipping them in in the hopes of no one noticing. I like them. Speaking of music, I have been accused of being too bluesy, too twangy, with a marked absence of heavy metal and no polka that I can remember whatsoever.

I have also plied the same trodden ground topically, enough to lose more than a few loyal readers and at times to almost bore myself to sleep. Mea culpa. What do you want? It's cheap entertainment. I have played the jew thing on my banjo until some have cried for mercy, Kerry thinks my forays into the culinary arena smack of patrician, bourgeois gluttony and the conservatives in this country have been excoriated by me like they are a demonic killing plague from the death star.

I have offered up thousands of my photographic images to the blogosphere, all without any real functional copy write, and the artistic funny bone that I get to tickle is one of the personally most satisfying aspects of this literary device. That and possibly exposing people to good blues, bluegrass, jazz and rock and roll music, or at least the stuff I think is good.

I have had a loyal following that comments on occasion and I have tried to meet all comments with respect, and have even managed to stifle my natural propensity for combat and not react to the ones that are downright hostile. Like the guy last week who told me I thought that my shit didn't stink. Thanks for reading pal, want me to mail you a sample and clear it up once and for all? But I try not to get too defensive and understand the cover that anonymity brings to certain people and shrug it off.

I really appreciate all of you folks who do tune in regularly, readership is a steady 8500 page views a month, a scary number in a way that triggers no small responsibility for me. I am toying with having a blast party in the next several months, just to see who would show. All readers welcome. You could canonize me, shoot me or even maybe just share a glass of wine. But it would be interesting to see who the tree shook out.

***

I have learned some new words recently. Brigitte came back from an energized (as opposed to its antonym, to enervate) two weeks at Burning Man and talked about her rumspringa (rumshpringe, rumshpringa, Pennsylvania Dutch), a term that the Amish use that literally means running around.* This refers to the time between the age of 16 and baptism when the Amish go out into the world, or among the english as they call it, (remember Witness?) and decide if they will live in the world at large or go back to the religious community.  It is also a time for courtship or to find a spouse. They tend to let their hair down during this period, even conceivably (thanks again Wicki):
  • Wearing non-traditional clothing and hair styles (referred to as dressing "English")
  • Driving vehicles other than horse-drawn vehicles (for communities that eschew motor vehicles)
  • Not attending home prayer
  • Drinking and/or using recreational drugs
  • Engaging in pre-marital sex
*According to Wickipedia: A contraction of rum, an adverb meaning "around" (also used as a seperable prefix as in the case of rumschpringe), and the verb schpringen, meaning "to run" or "to skip."
The word rumspringa is closely related to the standard German word herumspringen for 'jumping around'. Omitting the he syllable leaving only the rum is widely accepted both in colloquial Pennsyvania Dutch German and in colloquial Standard German, and does not change the meaning of the prefix. The modern German word springen means "to jump"; herumspringen in this sense would mean something like "hopping around." In Swiss German as in some German dialects, springe however does - besides meaning "to jump" - also mean "to run". In modern German "to skip" would rather be translated with the verb hüpfen.


You have to love a good rumspringa, I certainly took mine when I dropped out at 16 and hitchhiked to Montana for a year, most fun I ever had and came back little worse for wear. Thank you Brigitte for the new word and the concept.


***


I also heard a great moniker the other day for the large rolls of fat around a waitress's tricep in a jewish deli, think billowing limpid schmaltz cascading over a starched white server's garb, you know you've seen them, hanging over the heaping plate of whitefish salad. The person referred to them as "Hadassahs" and a better term may never be scripted.


***


There is a cute young girl at the italian deli across from my gallery. She had some calligraphy tattooed on  the back of her neck recently. I try not to judge but something deep in my inner soul is so judgmental in these matters and I want to cry but these girls are so nice and I need to face my declining age and lack of hipness with the full realization that time has, in fact already passed me by and keep my mouth shut and I mostly do. 


Yesterday I noticed that the whole tattoo megillah had been brightly colored and I couldn't help but pry.


"Your mother must love that, Kelly?"


The sweet girl looked at me and said," Oh yes, she loves it, she is working on a full sleeve herself."


It was my time to be shocked. I sputtered, "Just exactly how old is your mom, anyway?"


She smiled at me, "She had me when she was really young, she is 35."


A thought dawned on me. "Kelly, do you realize that I am old enough to be your mother's dad?"


And with that advancing age crushed me down like a balsa wood statue in front of a D-8. A southern trailer park trying to stand up to a tornado. The generation gap hit me in the jaw like a Mike Tyson uppercut decking Rocky Marciano.


My worldview in this day and age is like a pleistocene dinosaur trying to breathe the same oxygen as Lady Gaga. There was a big competition and guess what, my anachronistic concepts about how things are supposed to work have not been getting rave reviews from the critics. 


If you would have told me that the current vogue of white guys, post hootie, wearing their caps to the side, blaring hideous rap music, affecting the worst vestiges of the black ghetto experience, would suddenly become such the rage that a person like me now feels ashamed not having a goatee, multiple piercings, spider webbed elbows and a shaved head.  What does it say about society that the prison experience is being glorified to such a degree, complete with the de rigueur carotid tattoo? The trendy waiter at the local coffee shop has reportedly had the words east and side tattooed on either knee.  Considering his sexual orientation, wouldn't this end down have been more appropriate? I never would have believed that things could have bottomed out to such a degree. Which brings me to the next word. Wigger.


According to wicki again:Wigger (alternatively wigga, whigger, or whigga), and also known as acting black is a pejorative slang term for a white person who emulates mannerisms, language, and fashions associated with African American culture – particularly hip hop in the United States, or the Grime/Garage scene in Britain. In short, it means "white nigger." The term is considered derogatory due to it being a portmanteau of white and nigger, in addition to its reflecting stereotypes of African American or Black British culture. Wigger is most often used in a pejorative manner, with the associated practices regarded as cultural appropriation. It is also often used in a racist manner, not only belittling the person perceived as "acting black", but also demeaning black people and culture by proxy.

I must confess that I may have heard this word before but had never considered its etymology or meaning. My gym, which is mostly older folks in a similar twilight state as your author when I work out, is almost entirely rap in the mornings. I feel embarrassed asking the young attendant for classic rock as the least of all sonic evils. Anything, I would rather listen to skynard for god's sakes. There is something surreal watching old folks pressing and curling under a bleak, ghetto, hip hop, musical landscape.

***

Living on a dirt road, my car is pretty much continually dirty. Somebody saw fit to scribble this little nicety on the back window yesterday when I was having a libation at the Moose Lodge.

Have a great weekend.