*

*
Rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies © Robert Sommers 2017

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Trails





12.30.10


What kind of a fool of a man gets lost not a mile from his own door? Well maybe lost is not the proper term, perhaps trapped, stuck and bogged down in a thicket would be a more accurate description of my dilemna.. A brief synopsis is probably in order.

I woke at dawn this morning. There is an old dictum that photographers mutter, "morning light, evening light."  Galen Rowell may have written on the subject but most shutterbugs agree that they are the magic hours. I had missed my shot yesterday, since it is terribly difficult to take a picture when your camera is perched miles away on the top of your desk. So to atone I hurriedly dressed and went outside to face the chill.

It was plenty cold last night but not as cold as the night before. I still had to scrape the frost off the car windows with the old plastic hotel key I found in the side pocket of the van. I drove over the narrow winding road out of the Santa Margarita River valley. The road is now washed out in spots, trees and boulders have tumbled across our path in spots and the road peers dangerously down to the icy river far below.

I have lived on the Santa Margarita for 23 years and a valley over for another seven. A relatively short fifty mile aquifer, it is the last free flowing coastal river in Southern California. The river is a rich habitat, it's arbors principally sycamore, cottonwood, alder, mulefat and willow, with an occasional palm visitor that finds it's way somehow into the foreign habitat.

The river habitat is home to weasel, beaver, bobcat, coyote, raccoon, deer and lion. Leslie saw a fox and a ferret last year. I once came within arm's length of a bighorn ram. Hawks of every stripe, owls, a very occasional golden eagle and lots of noisy crows and jays complete the bucolic picture. And of course blue herons. Fish, chubs, killfish, mudsuckers, trout in some spots and of course the mythical red eye bass.

I love the river. I love how it seals out the world on my flank, the top of river slope being a mere twenty feet from the end of my drive. I love the fact that the people who have chosen to live on its side have decided to remove themselves one step farther away from the world than normal folk. The road is a further impediment to the city dweller who might think of coming and stealing its beauty without making the proper sacrifice. But the river and my long relationship has now rendered me unfit to live in real urban civilization.

I parked my car near the mailboxes and walked around the metal gate, designed to let the horses in and keep the motorcycles out. I walked down frosty trails until I could see her in the distance. The river bed was a mixture of mud bogs and tules, reeds and toppled trees.

The recent rains have really altered the river bed. The flow of water was so great that the native plants that managed to survive are now stooped and bent over like an old man with a cane. Huge sycamores now litter the bottom along with a small assortment of old tires and plastic.

This was not the biggest rain in memory, not by a long shot. In 1993, we river dwellers were trapped for nine days. The river killed four folks that year, swept them right out to the Pacific and they were never found. We had a several hundred yard mudslide, 5' high in some spots. Several spots up the road made travel impossible as well. No water, power, food running short. Brett hiked over the mountain and brought me a steak and the Los Angeles Times. True Friend. The nine days was one of the greatest times in my life. Got all the grove work done and insulated ourselves from the world's cacophony.


When a river runs that high, it is like living in the time of the volcanoes and dinosaurs. Primal. The earth's topography is changed forever. And you can hear the sound of the river for a mile.

I got down to the river after traversing a bunch of mud bogs, slides and thickets. Unfortunately yesterday's picture was yesterday's picture, not destined to be found again. But it was great to take pictures of some of the frostbitten foliage and to tread on trails with virgin footprints.




I hiked upriver a ways.  Areas that were under strong rapids a week ago are now relatively calm.  People think that rivers are high after a rain but actually the inverse is true. They get lower. All the pooling and ponds that appear during the dry months are whisked away with the power of the storm's water and runoff. The topography looks like a bomb has gone off. In a few months the wind and time will take the edges off of everything and it will all look normal again.

The Santa Margarita starts at a point fifteen miles northeast of Temecula where the Temecula River and Murrietta Creek meet. It flows through the steep Temecula Canyon and finally out to the Pacific, culminating with the ocean near Camp Pendleton.


In 1881 the California Southern and the Atlantic and Pacific Railroads formed a joint venture to create a rail line that would run from Albuquerque to the Colorado River and on to the Pacific. In 1882 hundreds of chinese coolies started building the 16' railroad bench that flows through my steep valley. The local Luisieño indians told them that they were not going high enough but the brilliant engineers wouldn't hear of it. The railroad washed out three times, was completely annihilated in the great rains of 1884 and finally abandoned in 1891. Sometimes it pays to listen to the locals. Vail Dam was completed in 1948 and drastically reduced the historic flows. But I will never forget Tom Palmer pointing out the old terminus point roughly 60' over the top of my roof.



I started to hike back this morning and as I said sort of got lost if that is possible, when Gavilan Mountain sits on your left and the sliver of a moon sits perched on your right shoulder. But I was in the middle of a thick bramble of branches. I started scrambling on the tops of trees trying to find my way out. Once my foot submerged when the vegetive mass gave way and I found myself in a mud puddle. Nothing but thicket, not really uncomfortable in my fleece, but not finding an easy way back to my starting point.

It was at this point that I had my epiphany. For one I was totally happy to be out on the frosty river this fine morning. But I also felt good knowing that I was still capable of getting lost. That so often we find ourselves in these tight little lives that leave nothing to chance and they are hermetically sealed and temperature controlled and where all of the oxygen is filtered. And it just felt so good to be back in the wild.



I don't know if I feel comfortable calling myself an artist, certainly I write, occasionally draw and paint and often point a camera. But as a person who spends an inordinate amount of time in these pursuits, I think that I must seek out chaos and the wildlands often in order to feed and cultivate my craft and soul. Probably why lost roads in Utah and New Mexico scratch my itch so. We all need to get lost now and then. Helps the spirit when we eventually find our way.

I climbed over and through the trees and tules and finally found an old trail. Not perfect but solid enough to get me back to my car. Wishing you peace, safety and happiness and all the best in the new year.



Thursday, December 30, 2010

Congressional Porkfest

Interesting news story the other day that Alabama Senator Richard Shelby stuck language in a bill so that the american public would have to fund 500 million dollars for a defunct defense program that benefits his state. 

The cancelled Ares rocket program must be funded through March, while many ongoing Nasa projects are shelved due to lack of funding. The President made his intentions clear in October when he redirected Nasa's mission but Shelby saw fit to place the language in the defense bill which would help contractors in his home state, even though the project had been canned and the technology deemed dated. Nasa believes that a liquid fueled rocket will be safer, cheaper and more powerful than the solid fueled systems planned for the Ares.

The federal government's 2010 budget contains Shelby inserted language that barred NASA from shutting down the Ares program until Congress passed a 2011 budget.

That should have been done before the Oct. 1 start of the federal fiscal year but Congress was unable to pass a 2011 budget and instead voted this month to extend the 2010 budget until March -- meaning NASA must abide by the 2010 language.

Now NASA and its contractors are required to keep building Ares I, even though President Obama  killed it when he signed the new NASA plan that canceled the Constellation program begun under President George W. Bush.

The President's plan is to replace the Constellation program which includes the Ares with commercial "heavy lifting" rockets that can take astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station.

$165 million of it -- will be paid to Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, toward the development of a solid-rocket first stage for the Ares I the rocket. Alliant is one of the Senator's largest campaign contributors. Shelby’s 2010 reelection campaign was the top recipient of funds from ATK’s PAC, receiving the maximum $10,000. And the company’s employees gave more to Shelby than to any other politician in the 2010 election cycle. Guess the strategy worked. And the American taxpayer foots the bill once again.

(If sharp eyed readers think that they have seen this shot before, they are correct. Shelby is a notorious porker and I use it often.)

T.Rex




Leslie asked me for some Marc Bolan.

They Raided The Joint

Random musings near the gregorian flip

"I almost had a psychic girlfriend but she left me before we met" David Milz - Bristol WI - 2010 winner, Burlington Liars Club

As 2010 comes to its inevitable close, we take pause regarding the general nature and disposition of the previous year. In regards to the life of one Robert Sommers, it had debits and credits on both sides of the ledger.

On the plus side, it was the first year in the preceding five where I wasn't stuck in some hospital having some major surgery. Yea. On the downside I never used up my deductible and have been paying close to full boat at the pharmacy all year. Guess I will have to take that trade.

On the minus side my father no longer knows my name and my mother has been hospitalized numerous times, on the other side of the country and I have not seen her in over four years. Never had the bread or time to make the trip this year, and one day it will be too late.

I am not big on resolutions but I do have a list of hopes. I hope that the economy will find a way to improve so that we all can get a little ahead. Just one tailwind, so that I can remember what it felt like. Somebody was in the gallery the other day and remarked that it was a remarkable feat to even survive the last three years in the business but I am still here grinding. As many of us are. But we are all still in the game and that is what counts. None of my immediate friends or family are sleeping in their cars yet.

The highlights of the year for me were many. Started off great at Stan, Trace, Lynne and Richards' New Years Day. The truffle dinner, the Local Color photography show, Bosque De Apache, Acoma Pueblo, the bottle of Duckhorn that Mike Mahoney brought over and drank with me one lazy afternoon. Duck tacos, cruising Central Avenue in Albuquerque for shots of old neon. My coffee group. Great times with great friends. The Catalina adventure. Regular brunch at Le Bistro. My photo show with Louis Nidorf. The Big Island, the trail to Polulu. Akaka Falls.

It was a really nice year creatively, with both shutter and print, and a year where a lot of friendships got strengthened. I call it a success.

***

I am not resolved to do much different in the next year, with a few exceptions. I want to have a camera with me wherever I go. I want a Nikon D7000 so bad that I can taste it. No money for such extravagances. I woke up this morning to the chilliest dawn of the year. I scraped the frost off my window and noticed huge plumes of steam coming off the Santa Margarita River, my neighbor for the last 23 years as well as Rainbow Creek. Absolutely gorgeous. Not a camera in sight. The cell phone camera just does not do the trick. I will bring my camera home tonight just in case the same conditions are recreated but lightning rarely strikes twice. My favorite shot of the year was in fact one that I missed.

I also need to get some long necessary projects started and completed at home - utility door that committed suicide in a storm, carpet, electrical problems, office cleanout. Hopefully one day I will be able to afford the fix the roof leak behind the shop.

***

Read today that Al Qaeda has a new english language internet magazine called Inspire. The first issue, published in July has an article called "Making a bomb in the kitchen of your mom."  The nine men arrested in Britain last week on terrorism charges had apparently been researching their bomb making skills with this internet primer. Summons up a great Rockwellian picture of a burka'd Betty Crocker pulling a nice improvised explosive device out of the oven. Glad to see that the kids are reading again.

***

Now for a little quiz.

The Danes thwarted a large scale terrorist attack last week. The attack was targeting the office of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Who were the perpetrators?

Were they:
a. Angry Mennonites from Ohio complaining about spoiled Lutefisk?
b. Members of the Greek Olympic Basketball team?
c. Zionist aggressors intent on cornering the world money markets?
d. Agents of George Soros intent on cornering the world money markets?
e. Five muslims of mid eastern origin upset about a cartoon.
f. A bunch of drunken Finns who thought they were at a hockey game.

If you answered e. you are correct. How did you know? Could it be that they are the only people in the world so quick to take innocent human life over something so trivial as a cartoon? The scandinavian countries are seriously thinking about pulling back the welcome mats for their muslim friends.  It was interesting to read the Times Square Bomber admit that he lied when he became a citizen of this country. You know, these parts; I hereby declare, on oath,    * that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;    * that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;    * that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.... He was apparently just kidding.


“You are a young man, and you will have a lot of time to reflect on what you have done and what you have said today,” Federal Judge Miriam Cedarbaum said in handing down the life term.
The judge, in a brief back and forth, had earlier asked Shahzad about the oath he took when becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.
“I did swear but I did not mean it,” Shahzad replied.
“So you took a false oath?” the judge asked.
“Yes,” he replied.


Oaths are easily broken in today's society. And it is in very poor taste to bomb the host country when you are in fact a guest. Makes folks less likely to trust your friends and family the next go around.

***

One of my very good friends actually expressed concern for me regarding some things that I have written. We were having an afternoon shot at the pub across the way. Said that she was worried about someone coming in to the shop with the sawed off and taking a pistol shot or two at the old scribe. Had never really thought about it. Have I been that bad?

The one and only Michael Bloomfield






Electric Flag - Bloomfield, Barry Goldberg, Harvey Brooks, Buddy Miles
Carousel Ballroom 5/18/68



Paul Butterfield Blues Band - East West - Two trains running

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wrap Up

As we finish the third year of the blast, I think that congratulations and huzzahs are on order all the way around. I really appreciate the blast community, with its divergent opinions and beliefs, and the terrific input and dialogue we have had of late.

WindowDancer, E., RC, Wildbill, Brian V. and Jeff have been valuable new voices in our midst. I also love it when Millard writes in, anonymously, but usually with a ciao. Maybe the best writer of any of us. Works for the other team. Grumpy, Sanoguy and Kerry are there through thick and thin. Stan has been there since day one.

I appreciate all of the regular readers, the gals from Guacamole Gulch, Banar, Mike in Washington, Barbara, Tracy, Dave in Japan, My brother Buzz in Toronto, Linda in Los Angeles. Shawnin Tland. Ricardo. Loughlin. Brett. Joe. Keith. My wife. Cam. Denis. Melissa, Lena. MMWB. LeMasters. Dave. Jim Swan. Howard. DeGoff. Bijou. Frazer. Brigitte. Helms. TRZ. Jane. Reneé. Reth. Doug. Hudgins. Creech out there in Arizona. My cardiologist. All the lurkers. All you sad saps who landed here looking for porn. Everybody I forgot.

Some of you tell me that you only come for the music. That's cool. I'm back in the blues thing. I can listen to that Albert Collins video over and over again, it is so fucking good. What do you want to hear, any genre you want me to mine? Major 7th ballads from the seventies, perhaps?

I had a late fury and eclipsed last year's post totals and the whole thing still feels pretty good and I don't feel too cooked. If anybody wants to write a blog post, send in pictures or a poem or a story or anything, lets talk. Best of luck in the new year and be safe.

***

A guy was in the shop last week who was talking about the depression many of us feel in cold december. He said that as far as he is concerned summer started on December 21, when the light finally started increasing again and days got infinitesimally longer. I think I know where he is coming from. To the light!

John Fahey - Desperate Man Blues

Burning Embers Repost

I wrote this short story of an apocalyptic meltdown on August 16, 2009. Roy mentioned that he liked it a lot and so I repost it as it sort of fits in with the current theme.

Burning Embers



Bryce Walker raked the last errant components back into the center of the roaring fire. The release of the chemicals in the glowing circuit boards and diodes left a foul smell in the air and an acrid taste that coated the upper palette of his mouth.

He knew that it was probably too late in the game but he had felt a strong urge to take his life back. And protect the health of his family. He heard a large pop and turned and saw the expensive plasma television set's screen implode and turn into an almost unrecognizable blob. He could not restrain the huge smile that crossed his lips. As he kicked a stray cell phone back into the toxic coals he pondered his feelings of release from the technological straightjacket that had taken over his life.

When Bryce was a child in the 1950's, television was a welcome invention that brought the family together for wondrous viewing of such shows as Arthur Godfrey and Uncle Milty. Every sunday night the tribe would grab their space age tv trays and retire to the den to watch the Wonderful World of Disney on the oversized Curtis Mathes. In black and white of course. How did the great invention fall to such depths and become a disseminator of the worst reflections of human nature?

And when was the last time he had seen kids throwing a ball in the street? Yes, the wii games were a short fad in the "ought" decade that encouraged physical activity, but the obese younger generation had quickly tired of such vigorous pursuits and soon went back to blowing up monsters on their video consoles.

No one believed what the cell phones would do to your brains until the first videos appeared on the net that clearly showed that they could easily pop popcorn. More and more people were entering emergency rooms and doctors offices with intense migraines that turned out to be early indications of brain cancer.

Walker used the rake handle to stir his misbegotten electrical stew. He impaled his expensive lap top through the glowing fruit on the lid and tossed it into the hotter regions of the fire. He had 256,936 Facebook friends at the moment and their every stupid thought and bodily function was now transmitted to him and the world at large in real time. In clipped misspelled cadence not to exceed 144 spaces or characters.

He had once been a student of history and had read the letters of Adams, Jefferson and even the general population during the turn of the nineteenth century and knew how far the human race had fallen. The eloquence and vocabulary of the average american, not to mention penmanship, had been truly astounding during those times. Now, communication occurred too quickly with all of the new devices and we had reverted to atavistic, neanderthal grunts and glyphs.

He missed the pleasure of laying down on the couch with a good book. The tree huggers had led the charge against books, all that wasted pulp you know, and convinced the population that they were better off with those bulky electronic "booque" gadgets. He hated them. You couldn't dog ear a favorite page, or god forbid pick your teeth with one. If an author fell out of favor with the folks in Washington, the title was simply deleted, and for all intents and purposes, never existed.

He disliked books on tape as well. Ya, they could kill idle time on long trips or in traffic, but the voices never quite matched the priceless one's he heard in his head when he was reading. The inflection of the actor's background and history was indelibly scribed in his or her voice and mucked up the intended character that the author had originally created.

A yellow pool of toxic silicon sludge ran in rivulets toward his feet. He pirouetted around the gunk like a dancer. His blackberry, which he now was offering to the gods as a techno sacrifice, had a red button which flashed when he got an email. He found that he was constantly monitoring that light from the time he awoke to the hours of sleep. The invisible universe was cutting into his time on the physical plane. When was the last time he had walked over to say hello to a neighbor? Or said hello to a stranger? And that infernal website he had created...

The government had assured every american that they really didn't care to pry into their private business but the data mining and deep packet inspection technology had turned out to be just too damn good and now there was a neat little archetype file in cyberspace at NSA that laid out the web browsing history, political and religious affiliation, close personal associates, sexual proclivities and real time global positioning of every one of its citizens.

Walker worried about his children. The most aberrant and risky sexual activity was now being played out by youth as normal human interaction. Thanks to the new technology, there was no possible way to guard them from the filth that constantly coursed through the cyberworld.


Bryce looked across his valley and saw four or five similar fires burning. He had a strange feeling of optimism. Maybe we still had a little time to live. Free. For a time.

© 2009 Robert Sommers

Mercury Retrograde



All of my electronic devices have been on strike for the last several weeks. For an über communicator like myself, it essentially means that I am totally stressed out. My friend Reneé said that Mercury was in retrograde, making communication difficult. I don't really follow the heavenly orbits myself but something is definitely out of whack. I have spent what feels like an eternity the last few weeks on the phone with Verizon, ATT Yahoo, SBC, Apple, Motorola, all to no avail.

Having received a notification that some personal information of mine might have been released to the arch evil gnosis hackers during the Gawker heist, I thought that I would do the prudent thing and change all my passwords. Letter/number combination, not an actual word, hopefully you know the drill. Well that is when things started cascading downhill.

My Mac desktop and laptop started having problems sending and receiving emails. They would not accept my password and kept going off line but occasionally working, when the sun was in the right house, I suppose. My Motorola Droid phone stopped delivering synched Gmail and email messages and that service got real spotty, also giving me username and password error messages. My credit card machine went on the fritz as well, no longer giving me a radio signal. None of the automatic door locks in the van work any longer either. The machines appear to have all gone awol.

I called SBC and they said that the system worked fine on their end and that it was a Mac problem. When I pointed out that the problems occurred simultaneously on computers located 10 miles apart, the level 2 tech  informed me that coincidences happened all the time in nature. I think that there is a structural and systemic problem at the server but what the hell do I know? Verizon could no longer synch my gmail and email and don't understand how I got it to work the last two years. Now everything is routed to gmail which is difficult for me since I much prefer MacMail. I went out and purchased Snow Leopard, just in case there is a macmail corruption issue and that won't install either , the program only recognizing Time Machine as a drive so another hour on the phone today to Toronto. The Credit Card company said that all the Mobilex towers have been torn down that ran my processing machine so looks like I am out another grand.

So here I sit a broken man, all systems were functioning perfectly and now I am caught in between a clash of the monolithic computer titans, not able to pierce the tech layers and reach somebody who actually knows what is going on. Big Dave assures me that he can fix everything but has also let me know that it will cost big bucks and I am running on fumes.

I will place all of my electronic devices in a large burning pyre and make proper obeisances to the cruel gods who are in charge of this sort of thing and then make a vow to remove myself from this cyber samsara and live the rest of my days as a luddite yogi, free from technology and all this mental agony. Because this is all total bullshit.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mike Finnigan



I had been sending my blog to the Crooks and Liars website for a couple years to some guy named Mike Finnigan. He was an occasional grump but very helpful to me in the long run. We did a little corresponding and I found out that his real gig was being one of the greatest session musicians and vocalists on the planet, in fact a master of the Hammond B-3. When I started looking in to his resume I was in shock, this Ohio native playing on a who's who of my favorite albums including Electric Ladyland. Played and toured with a murderer's row of rock luminaries including Finnigan and Wood, the Finnigan Brothers Band, Phantom Blues Band, Dave Mason, Maria Muldaur, Dr. Hook, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Frampton, Bobby Womack, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Eddy Money, Leonard Cohen, Stills, Crosby, Santana, Fogelberg, Rod Stewart, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Joe Walsh, Michael McDonald, Taj Mahal, Les Dudek, Cher, Jackson Brown, Manhattan Transfer, Poison, Jane's Addiction, the list goes on and on. Here is a selected discography.

He just got off the road with Joe Cocker. Check out some of his cuts on Youtube. Brilliant player and soulful singer.

So not only is this guy a talented musician, he is a progressive with a heart and a gatekeeper to one of the best blogsites on the planet, Crooks and Liars.

Thanks for everything and most of all for putting up with me, Mike!

Conspicuous Devotion

Leslie and I were treated to a free night at Loews Coronado resort on Sunday. Very nice place, walked on the beach, visited my mother in law who lives near bye in the Coronado Cays.

As we were leaving the hotel, we saw this fellow walking around with this big cross. I insisted that we drive back and take his picture. And I got to thinking.


As an apostate, I don't understand what possesses people to walk around with their religious affiliation so heavily burdening their back and shoulder?  If this man meets a fellow pilgrim with an even larger cross, should it be taken as a sign of greater piety? Isn't the wheel in the back cheating, wouldn't the show of faith be even more striking if he was actually dragging the cross? Do true believers feel that it is fair to use simple machines (lever, screw, wheel, pulley, wedge and inclined plane) or does god frown on such modern contrivances? And not to sound unduly crass but what about the ten penny nails part?

So you see, this man's obsessive show of faith actually might cause a skeptical person to doubt his faith.
I certainly don't get it but I don't get most religion period. What is such a person trying to tell the world? I love Jesus more than anyone you have ever met, enough that I can never get into a taxicab or take this thing off my shoulder? Plaudits to him. The shiites have a similar ceremony in which they whip themselves bloody to show their love for Allah. I assume that this man lives his burden 24/7.

After I took the pic I saw that he was sort of accosted by someone who works for the hotel. We turned around and I rolled down my window and made a stupid statement and got a pained look back from both the cross man and my wife. I said, "Good thing it's not a star of David or you might roll down the street in a strong wind." Little sense of humor but as they say, it's not my cross to bear.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Birds of a Feather

Qiu Chengwei

With so many of us spending time in alternate cyber universes, a blurring often occurs between the real and virtual. Read an article today about people going to court over disputes that happen in cyber reality.

One of the most interesting stories is about Qiu Chengwai, 41, a man from Shanghai. He was an active participant in the online Legend of Mir 3 game. He obtained a magical sword, the mythical dragon saber. It was valued at over 7200 yuan ($1000.00). A friend, Zhu Caoyuan borrowed the sword and then betrayed Qiu by selling it to a third person on ebay.

Qiu went to the police, who said that no theft occurred because the item didn't exist in physical space. So Qiu visited Zhu at his home and killed him with a real knife. A space age operetta. Qiu will spend the rest of his physical life behind bars. But his avatar is destined to roam the ghostly passages of cyberspace for eternity.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Little Feat

Oh Atlanta

I have just started following the CRTC cheating scandal in Atlanta. This has not been the finest hour for the leaders of the black clergy in Atlanta who have chosen to frame blacks as victims and the investigation of the cheating scandal as racist.

"The bigger option is dealing with racism, and how it affects the public education system," said Concerned Black Clergy President the Rev. Richard Cobble on Monday. "It's a costly witch hunt."


"We expect our prosecutors to go after criminals and not our educators," said Dr. Richard Cobble, President of the Concerned Black Clergy. He and more than 30 others blasted the investigation as "disturbing, reprehensible and misguided." Pressed on how the CRCT investigation was racist, Cobble told CBS Atlanta, "Cheating on tests is one of the means in which the system designed to keep us unfocused, to keep us distracted and keep us at each other throats."


Members of the Concerned Black Clergy also said they plan to meet with the Fulton County District Attorney and ask him not to impose jail time on educators found guilty of cheating on standardized tests. Black ministers in Atlanta denounce what they say is a “witch hunt” on educators who — however misguided — were just trying to help children. 

“Now we want to put teachers in jail, which is absurd,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald, a leader of the group, the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta.

They insist that no one, especially teachers, should face any criminal charges if found guilty of changing students' test sheet answers. "I see no way for us as a community to call ourselves progressive and innovative if we even talk about jailing teachers," said Rev. Joseph Roberts.

The ministers say they don't condone cheating by anyone, but fear fallout from the investigation could cripple Atlanta's Public School system and make it even more difficult to replace outgoing Superintendent Beverly Hall.

They believe teachers have become scapegoats in the probe and, if guilty, should only face job action such as suspension. "District Attorney Paul Howard has been misguided and has joined the forces of those who dare to destroy public education," claimed Rev. Cobble.

District Attorney Howard said he hopes he doesn't have to charge anyone with a crime. But when pressed, he still reserved that option, if needed. "We will make some determination, as in every case, as to whether or not any other criminal actions are necessary," Howard said.

When asked if criminal charges are still a possibility, he said, "Always a possibility."

Black clergy members put most of the blame for the scandal on the No Child Left Behind Act and what they feel is an overemphasis on testing.    

Members of the Concerned Black Clergy think a more appropriate punishment would be to reprimand teachers found guilty of cheating or force them to take furlough days.

"There are other avenues besides threatening teachers with jail time. And we don't think any teacher should go to jail for changing any erasures on a test," said Rev. McDonald. 'Suspension with pay, suspension without pay, there are other alternatives than putting folks in jail."

"We admit some cheating went on; ain't nobody up here saying ain't been no cheating, but we got to find a resolution that moves us forward and not backwards," said  Rev. Mcdonald. "These teachers, even those who cheated, let's face it, they were trying to help."

To give you the story in a nutshell, in february state officials in Georgia noticed an abnormal amount of erasures on student answer sheets for the state's Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, which tests first- through eighth-graders on reading, math and language arts. In response, the state ordered an inquiry into 58 of Atlanta's 84 elementary and middle schools. Many Atlanta Public Schools employees have now confessed to changing students’ test papers, providing answers to students or watching others manipulate tests. Federal criminal charges may now be filed. The Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall has resigned and has been implicated for being less than truthful during the investigation. There was also apparently a huge effort on the part of administrators to suppress the scandal.

***

U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. spoke up this week about his infidelity with a female acquaintance. "Every one of us has erred in their personal lives and while I don't claim to be a perfect servant, I'm a public servant," Jackson told the AP. "Often times we carry with us the burdens of our personal shortcomings even as we struggle to articulate and clarify a message that helps other people. That what I dedicated my life to. Everybody's falling short of the glory of God.""

***

The african american community is not well served by leaders who justify cheating. On tests or on their wives. Crying racism when being caught red handed altering test scores will also not help the community in the long run. And the students are certainly not being served by allowing them to pass forward while failing to meet the most minimum requirements and being "helped" by such teachers. 

I don't blame the teachers entirely. I blame the parents who don't stress the importance of education to their children and do their part to ensure their children's education at home. And Black clergymen who speak ghetto ebonics, regularly say ain't and can't complete a proper sentence. The black community will get ahead when they face these problems head on and stop laying them off on imaginary racism. They are not "helping"their children by insisting that they be held to a lesser standard than that adopted by any other american community. In fact tragically it sends the opposite message to the kids, that the children can not measure up on an equal playing field.



But Dr. Cobble is coming out of left field. The "man" didn't create a vast conspiracy that would tempt the brothers and sisters to cheat or to "keep us at each other throats." You guys figured this one out yourselves.

Same Old Thing

Re-brand

Just to show the American public that they really are committed to solving our nation's problems 24/7, House Republicans have announced that they are changing the name of the House Committee of Education and Labor to the House Committee of Education and the Workforce. 


"The workforce" sounds a bit more clinical than labor, and probably nicer than working folks that we grind up in the machine. It does lead those of us who spend far too much time contemplating the psycho analytic underpinnings of these sorts of things to wonder about the reasons for the name change.

The Workforce sounds a bit malthusian, with a tip of the cap to scads of futuristic sci fi thrillers where the troglodyte worker bees become grist for the mill. To recognize labor was to empower unions, and we know that they are the enemy of all things american to the plutocracy. Now with the name change we demote the workers so that they are not on equal footing with the corporations, who by the way have been recently enshrined by our august Supreme Court as people too.

And for those of you skeptics who think that this is merely a trivial name change, I would like to point you to the work of George Lakoff, a Cognitive Linguistics professor at Berkeley. I first encountered Lakoff with his seminal book, Don't think of an elephant, know your values and frame the debate (2004) Chelsea Green, wherein he introduces the power of framing and the importance of language. Lakoff is brilliant and always worth a read. Words have power and the name change is a product of a concerted calculus.

***

In the spirit of the name change, I have been thinking of a few more committees whose monikers could stand a  rewrite.

The House Committee on Science and Technology will be renamed the House Committee of Science, Technology and Creationist Theory. Since all science is theoretical, we must give equal time to the 4000 year old earth factions.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is now the Committee of good for nothing redskins who should be grateful that europeans decided to bless their shores and lead them out of the swamp so that they could establish Indian Casinos and steal all of grandma's social security check at the one armed bandits. Or maybe something shorter.

The House Committee on Armed Services is officially renamed - Kill them all and let god sort them out.

And of course the Minerals and Management Services is in desperate need of a rewrite, how about, "we sell you leases for pennies on the dollar and then when we retire we go to work for you and get the big bucks" services? Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?



Saturday, December 25, 2010

yo yo yo

I have been eating like a swine for days. Any more holiday and I am the new float in the Macy's Parade. Juleen made homemade cookies this week and I was a total pig.


Yesterday we went up to some friends' farm. Leslie and I had a great time with their alpacas, donkeys, great pyrenees and horses. Along with a whole bunch of nice humans. Mashed potato martinis with chili, cranberries, sour cream, every imaginable fixing. Sliders. Really nice wine. Beautiful spread and gracious hosts.

We then went to Gilbert and Tony's party where we munched on homemade tamales, made fresh that day, with the olive. Lovingly custom tied. Delicious. Could only stay for a minute.

We then popped over to Bill and Jean's for our customary Christmas dinner of her delicious lasagna. Bill made four pies, his first. Fabulous. Gorge.

Today we were driven to Dim Sum by Morgan and Bri. We got there and the place was literally teeming with people. I walked up and said shalom and everybody laughed. It was like temple. Dim Sum was insane! I would say 70/30 chinese to yids, with an occasional ethnic albanian in the mix.

We started off by ordering a whole fish steamed with ginger. A rock cod, we ate it down to the bones and eyeball. Barbecued duck. Crab rolls. Fresh wonton soup. Shu Mai. Beef. Many permutations of shrimp. Lotus wrapped rice. Scallops. Dumplings of every shape and persuasion. Chili sauce. We were like termites eating in waves. Did serious damage. Our companions were right there with us, for every bite. The food was hot and rolling past the table at light speed today. Maybe our best meal at Jasmine. We had just finished our sesame balls when the salted shrimp rolled by. We sadly looked at each other, with the realization that we couldn't eat another bite, or go salty after the sweet dessert again. We were toast. So we will have to go another time. Soon.



Afterwards we went to Ranch 99 market and checked out the unusual fare. Today I saw lamb testicles and beef pizzle (exactly what you think it is.) Snails. Deer Flank. Quail. So many mollusks. Live seafood. Darien. Dragon fruit. We bought imbuche, the salted plum delicacy and a bunch of other stuff that you would never see at Vons.

Came back and crashed. The diet awaits.

Love and Rockets

Friday, December 24, 2010

M.O.T., no M.S.G.

Like most of my tribe, tomorrow starts the annual pilgrimage to great chinese food. We wait until we see a certain star in the sky and then skip past the three wise men and head out for dim sum. Anyone that wants to join us at Jasmine in the early afternoon,  give me a call. And of course that invitation is open to all friends, faiths, tribe and absence of faith notwithstanding.

Jasmine Seafood Restaurant
4609 Convoy St.
San Diego, CA 92111
858.268.0888
***
Plagiarized from various sources including Wiki:

Archaelogical evidence suggests that Jews were in China as early as the 8th Century, having arrived from Persia along the Silk Road. In 1163 the Emperor ordered the Jews to live in Kaifeng, where they built the first Chinese synagogue. Marco Polo recorded that Kublai Khan celebrated the festivals of the Muslims, Christians and Jews, indicating that there were a significant number of Jews in China in the 13th Century.



Jews traveled from West Asia over the Silk Road and by sea via India probably in Tang dynasty (618 – 907 CE).   Some scholars think they may have arrived even earlier, during the Later Han dynasty (25 – 220 CE), which would coincide with Roman persecution in Judea.

Jews were certainly established in Kaifeng by 960 CE, which was then called Bianliang, when it served as a capital of the Song dynasty.  China was then a world center of civilization and trade.   Jews also settled in major shipping cities, such as Guangzhou (a southern coast port with access to SE Asia and Persia), Quanzhou (in SE Fujian and a center for foreign trade), Ningpo (from which the Kaifeng Jews received Torah scrolls after the flood in 1461), Yangzhou (a Grand Canal port near the sea on the Yangzi River), and Hangzhou (also on Grand Canal, which is known to have had a synagogue).  There is also evidence of Jewish presence inland along the Silk Road in such locations as Dandan Uiliq, Dunhuang, and Ningxia.

In 1163, a synagogue was built in Kaifeng and the community lived close by the synagogue in two lanes called the North and the South ''Teaching Torah'' lanes.  The Jewish community prospered despite repeated disasters, such as fires or the flooding of the Yellow river, which frequently destroyed the synagogue.

Whenever disaster struck, the Jews worked together to rebuild their synagogue. A stele was erected each time to commemorate the rebuilding of the synagogue.   The Kaifeng Jews erected four steles in total, one each in 1489, 1512, 1663 and 1679.


A Ming Emperor conferred on the Jews seven surnames - Ai, Lao, Jin, Li, Shi, Zhang and Zhao. To this day Chinese Jews will only have one of these seven names. Christian missionaries also recorded meetings with Chinese Jews. At least one synagogue was constructed, and the community was active for about eight centuries. Currently, the Vatican holds letters from Jesuits in the 18th Century describing the daily life and religious practices of Jews in Kaifeng, and drawings of their synagogue.


Westerners lost touch with Kaifeng Jews in the mid-1700s. It was not until 1900 that an effort was made to re-establish contact.


In the late 19th century, Russian Jewish communities were founded in Harbin, Tianjin and elsewhere. The project to construct a Russian railway to East Asia was centered in Harbin. Anxious to populate the city, the Russian government provided incentives to minorities, including Jews and Karaites, to settle there. In the early years of the 20th century, Jews fleeing pogroms in the Pale of Settlement and demobilized soldiers from the Russo-Japanese War joined them, raising the Jewish population of Harbin to approximately 8,000 by 1908. The Russian Revolution of 1917 practically doubled the size of the community, and served as a stimulus to Zionist activism. Japanese annexation in 1931 brought increased restrictions on many facets of life, and many Jews left for free countries. Most of the Russian Jews remaining at the end of World War II emigrated to the West. Some were repatriated, both voluntarily and involuntarily, to the Soviet Union.


The development of the port city of Shanghai as a Jewish center parallels that of Hong Kong. Sephardi families from Baghdad, Bombay and Cairo, including the Kadoories, Sassons and Hardoons, established a communal structure in Shanghai in the 19th century. By 1903, there were three synagogues in the city, and the number of Jews totaled to 30,000. However, most of them fled when the Communists took over in 1949. 


The Chinese government now recognizes Jews as an official Chinese ethnic group.  On Sept. 29, 2000, Rosh Hashanah services were held at the Ohel Rachel Synagogue for the first time in nearly 50 years.


***


The existence of Jews in China was unknown to Europeans until 1605, when Matteo Ricci, then established in Beijing, was visited by a Jew from Kaifeng, who had come to Beijing to take examinations for his jinshi degree. According to his account in De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas, his visitor, named Ai Tian (Ai T'ien) (艾田) explained that he worshipped one God. It is recorded that when he saw a Christian image of Mary with the child Jesus, he believed it to be a picture of Rebecca with Esau or Jacob, figures from Scripture. Ai said that many other Jews resided in Kaifeng; they had a splendid synagogue (禮拜寺 libai si) and possessed a great number of written materials and books.

About three years after Ai's visit, Ricci sent a Chinese Jesuit Lay Brother to visit Kaifeng; he copied the beginnings and ends of the holy books kept in the synagogue, which allowed Ricci to verify that they indeed were the same texts as the Pentateuch known to Europeans, except that they did not use Hebrew diacritics (which were a comparatively late invention).

When Ricci wrote to the "ruler of the synagogue" in Kaifeng, telling him that the Messiah the Jews were waiting for had come already, the "Archsynagogus" wrote back, saying that the Messiah would not come for another ten thousand years. Nonetheless, apparently concerned with the lack of a trained successor, the old rabbi offered Ricci his position, if the Jesuit would join their faith and abstain from eating pork. Later, another three Jews from Kaifeng, including Ai's nephew, stopped by the Jesuits' house while visiting Beijing on business, and got themselves baptized. They told Ricci that the old rabbi had died, and (since Ricci had not taken up on his earlier offer), his position was inherited by his son, "quite unlearned in matters pertaining to his faith". Ricci's overall impression of the situation of China's Jewish community was that "they were well on the way to becoming Saracens [i.e., Muslims] or heathens."

Later, a number of European Jesuits visited the Kaifeng community as well.

The Taiping Rebellion of the 1850s led to the dispersal of the community, but it later returned to Kaifeng. Three stelae with inscriptions were found at Kaifeng. The oldest, dating from 1489, commemorates the construction of a synagogue in 1163 (bearing the name 清真寺, Qīngzhēn Sì, a term often used for mosques in Chinese). The inscription states that the Jews came to China from India during the Han Dynasty period (2nd century BCE-2nd century CE). It cites the names of 70 Jews with Chinese surnames, describes their audience with an unnamed Song Dynasty emperor, and lists the transmission of their religion from Abraham down to the prophet Ezra. The second tablet, dating from 1512 (found in the synagogue Xuanzhang Daojing Si) details their Jewish religious practices. The third, dated 1663, commemorates the rebuilding of the Qingzhen si synagogue and repeats information that appears in the other two steles.

Two of the stelae refer to a famous tattoo written on the back of Song Dynasty General Yue Fei. The tattoo, which reads "Boundless loyalty to the country" (simplified Chinese: 尽忠报国; traditional Chinese: 盡忠報國; pinyin: jìn zhōng bào guó), first appeared in a section of the 1489 stele talking about the Jews’ “Boundless loyalty to the country and Prince”. The second appeared in a section of the 1512 stele talking about how Jewish soldiers and officers in the Chinese armies were “Boundlessly loyal to the country.”

Father Joseph Brucker, a Roman Catholic researcher of the early twentieth century, notes that Ricci's account of Chinese Jews indicates that there were only in the range of ten or twelve Jewish families in Kaifeng in the late sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries, and that they had reportedly resided there for five or six hundred years. It was also stated in the manuscripts that there was a greater number of Jews in Hangzhou. This could be taken to suggest that loyal Jews fled south along with the soon-to-be crowned Emperor Gaozong to Hangzhou. In fact, the 1489 stele mentions how the Jews "abandoned Bianliang" (Kaifeng) after the Jingkang Incident.

Despite their isolation from the rest of the Jewish diaspora, the Jews of Kaifeng preserved Jewish traditions and customs for many centuries. In the seventeenth century, assimilation began to erode these traditions. The rate of intermarriage between Jews and other ethnic groups, such as the Han Chinese, and the Hui and Manchu minorities in China, increased. The destruction of the synagogue in the 1860s led to the community's demise. However, J.L. Liebermann, the first Western Jew to visit Kaifeng in 1867, noted that "they still had a burial ground of their own". S.M. Perlmann, the Shanghai businessman and scholar, wrote in 1912 that "they bury their dead in coffins, but of a different shape than those of the Chinese are made, and do not attire the dead in secular clothes as the Chinese do, but in linen".

Today, 600-1,000 residents of Kaifeng trace their lineage back to this community. After contact with Jewish tourists, the Jews of Kaifeng have reconnected to mainstream Jewry. With the help of Jewish organizations, some members of the community have emigrated to Israel. In 2009, Chinese Jews from Kaifeng arrived in Israel as immigrants.

***

In his 1992 documentary series Legacy, historian Michael Wood walked down a small lane in Kaifeng that he said is known as the "alley of the sect who teach the Scriptures", that is, of the Jews. He mentioned that there are still Jews in Kaifeng today, but that they are reluctant to reveal themselves "in the current political climate." The documentary's companion book further states that one can still see a "mezuzah on the door frame, and the candelabrum in the living room." Similarly, in the documentary Quest for the Lost Tribes, by Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, the film crew visits the home of an elderly Kaifeng Jew who explains the recent history of the Kaifeng Jews, shows some old photographs, and his identity papers that identify him as a member of the Jewish ethnic group. A recent documentary, Minyan in Kaifeng, documents and covers the present-day Kaifeng Jewish community in China during a trip to Kaifeng that was taken by some Jewish tourists.

In The Kaifeng Stone Inscriptions: The Legacy of the Jewish Community in Ancient China, Tiberiu Weisz, a teacher of Hebrew history and Chinese religion, presents his own translations of the 1489, 1512, and 1663 stone stelae left by the descendants of the Kaifeng Jews. Based on the new information gleaned from this translation, Weisz theorizes after the Babylonian exile of the sixth century BCE, disenchanted Levites and Kohanim parted with the Prophet Ezra and settled in Northwestern India. Sometime prior to 108 BCE, these Jews had migrated to Gansu province, China and were spotted by the Chinese general Li Guangli, who was sent to expand the borders of Han Dynasty China. Centuries later, the Jews were expelled from China proper during the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution (845-46), where they lived in the region of Ningxia. Weisz believes they later returned to China during the Song Dynasty when its second emperor, Song Taizong, sent out a decree seeking the wisdom of foreign scholars.

In a review of the book, Irwin M. Berg, a lawyer and friend of the Kaifeng Jewish community, claims Weisz never figured the many religious documents—Torah, Haggadah, prayer books, etc.—into his thesis and only relied on the stelae themselves. Such documents can be roughly dated from their physical and scribal characteristics. Even though he refers to Persian words utilized in the stelae, Weisz did not include a study on when the Judeo-Persian language of the liturgical documents first came into use in his thesis. Judeo-Persian first developed in Central Asia during the eighth century, well after the author supposes the Jews first entered China. Berg questions the historical reliability of the three stone inscriptions themselves. He gives one anachronistic example where the Jews claim it was an emperor of the Ming Dynasty who bequeathed the land used to build their first synagogue in 1163 during the Song Dynasty.

Little of the written works of the Kaifeng have survived. A significant portion, however, are kept in the library of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. Among the works in that collection are a siddur (a Jewish prayer book) in Chinese characters and a Hebrew codex of the bible. The codex is fascinating in that, while it ostensibly contains vowels, it was clearly copied by someone who did not understand them. While the symbols are accurate portrayals of Hebrew vowels, they appear to be placed randomly, thereby rendering the voweled text as gibberish. Since Hebrew is generally written without vowels, a literate Hebrew speaker can disregard these markings, as the consonants are written correctly, with few scribal errors.

During the Taiping rebellion of the 1850s, the Jews of Kaifeng apparently suffered a great deal and were dispersed. Following this dislocation, they returned to Kaifeng, yet continued to be small in number and to face hardships, as is recorded in the early 20th century.

Jews, Shanghai ghetto


Shanghai's first wave of Jews came in the second half of the 19th century, many being Mizrahi Jews from Iraq. The first Jew who arrived there was Elias David Sassoon, who, about the year 1850, opened a branch in connection with his father's Bombay house. Since that period Jews gradually migrated from India to Shanghai, most of them being engaged from Bombay as clerks by the firm of David Sassoon & Co. The community was composed mainly of "Asian," (Sephardi) German, and Russian Jews, though there were a few of Austrian, French, and Italian origin among them. Jews took a considerable part in developing trade in China, and several served on the municipal councils, among them being Silas Aaron Hardoon, partner in the firm of E. D. Sassoon & Co., who served on the French and English councils at the same time. During the early days of Jewish settlement in Shanghai the trade in opium and Bombay cotton yarn was mainly in Jewish hands.

In Henan, Guangdong, and Gansu, Jews converted to Islam and were assimilated into the Chinese Muslim community.

***
A family of Kaifeng jews, circa 1910


The contemporary term for Jews in use among Chinese today is Youtairen (Chinese: 猶太人; pinyin: Yóutài Rén) in Mandarin Chinese. The term Youtai has similar phonetic sound of Jude or Judah, Greek terms for Jew.

It has been recorded that the Chinese historically called the Jews Tiao jin jiao (挑筋教), loosely, "the religion which removes the sinew," probably referring to the Jewish dietary prohibition against eating the sciatic nerve (from Genesis 32:32).

Jewish dietary law (kashruth), which forbids the eating of, among other foods, non-ruminant mammals, shellfish and reptiles, would have most likely caused Jewish communities to stand out from the surrounding mainstream Chinese population, as Chinese culture is typically very free in the range of items it deems suitable for food.

Jews have also been called the Blue-Hat Hui (Chinese: 藍帽回; pinyin: Lánmào Húi), in contrast to other populations of Hui people, who have identified with hats of other colors. The distinction between Muslim and Jewish Hui is not, and historically has not been, well recognised by the dominant Han population.

A modern translation of the "Kaifeng Steles" has shown the Jews referred to their synagogue as "The Pure and Truth", which is essentially the same as the term used in modern China to refer to Muslim mosques (清真寺).

According to an oral tradition dictated by Xu Xin, Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Nanjing University, in his book Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, the Kaifeng Jews called Judaism Yīcìlèyè jiào (一賜樂業教), lit. the religion of Israel. Yīcìlèyè is a transliteration and partial translation of "Israel". Xu Xin translates this phrase as "Chosen people, endowed by God, and contented with their lives and work". Content, probably - kvetching, certainly.

***

Of course, the real reason jews eat chinese food on Christmas is that it is usually the only thing open.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Band- Christmas Must Be Tonight



My favorite Christmas song. Hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday filled with happiness!

Psychedelic Reindeer!

Barney Frank wants to scrub your back



Beautiful theater from Rep. Barney Frank while being questioned by a reporter from the right wing Cybercast News Service.

Michael Chapdelaine -- Come Together



Kevin Kinnear brought this guitar virtuoso to Buffalo Brothers a few years ago and he blew me away. Cool percussive thing. Chapdelaine teaches music at the University of New Mexico. Very gifted, won major finger style awards. Started as a classical guitarist.

Toe Jam Football

Sexuality is a strange thing. Bizarre enough that every last one of us should probably be strapped to a therapist's couch somewhere. Men have an infatuation with breasts, butts, legs and vaginas. They hold a mystery on the equal of the great sphinx, yet the reality is they are standard operating equipment with approximately half the human species.

And it gets kinkier. Some people are into pain. Some are into latex. Stumps. Panties. Spanking. Domination. Submission. Big and Beautiful. Transvestism. Watersports. Same Sex. Groups. It is a big wacky weird world out there when it comes to sex, to be sure.

The one thing that I never got was the foot fetish thing. Boobs, I understand, after all dear old mom sported her own set and for most of us, it was our first shot of nourishment. Ditto the pudenda, reproductive organs are the go to areas of eroticism I suppose. Child bearing hips must trigger some deep genetic switch about the female's ability to successfully bear offspring. Legs, six pack abs, necks and eyes (my favorites) you got me? I am an art dealer after all, not an evolutionary biologist.

But the feet thing throws me a little bit. Every few years a foot fetish topic hits the news. Clinton political advisor Dick Morris was outed for his fondness for sniffing his girlfriend's footwear. His shame was so great he ended up having a breakdown and going to work for the other team, Republicans having a much greater tolerance for weird sexual peccadillos.

Don't get me wrong. I love feet. Where the hell would we be without them? They get us around and rarely complain. But on the sexual response meter toe sucking is just way down near the bottom of my list. "Baby, your bunions are the best, he purred..." What deep seated atavistic impulse is being tickled by smelling dirty feet?

I know that some women get lathered up buying Manolo's or Jimmy Choo's but I think that is a different matter entirely and not necessarily part of this discussion.

Which brings us to today's topic. The New York football Jets coach Rex Ryan evidently shares a passion for peds with his wife Michelle. Several of their private videos illustrating their fondness for feet have hit the netwaves.

Hey to each his own, whatever floats your boat. Just don't stare too long at my New Balance. It makes me uncomfortable. Got to run.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mannish Boy

Playing Nice

We are not doomed to endless gridlock,” said Barack Obama today. I wonder if that is a good thing or not? If you have only averted that gridlock by constant capitulation to the other side, oft times prematurely.  Some gout ridden old fossil like Mitch McConnell threatens to shut off government and you shake in your boots and give away the store. If you had waited a little longer on the tax cuts, maybe they could have felt some of the heat, no? Cut off all their lazy constituent's unemployment checks and see what happens...But enough about the past, it is a new day after all.


Dealing with the obstructionist Republicans should be like the recent South Korean reaction to the North. We are going to drill and we are going to respond and if you don't like it, tough shit. And the North backed down and whimpered for once. It's like piss on it, you want to fight, lets fight


Ditto the Republican's losing hand on not granting benefits to 9/11 responders. The responders got in Tom Coburn's face today, tried to look him in the eye. Who's the good american again? And the GOP backed down.


Obama scored one with the Start treaty today so he deserves a little credit. And I hope that my conservative friends agree, or at least agree with Colin Powell and the first George Bush, two supporters of the treaty. John Kyl looked like he had drank spoiled milk. And McCain is all apoplectic about DADT repeal. 


Maybe the President can get a little headwind and make a few more things happen. See what else he really actually believes in...

Funny How Time Slips Away

Jehovah's favorite choir

Senator Tom Coburn has used the funding of the Grateful Dead Archive project as an illustration of government waste in America. His annual oversight report on government spending, known as "Wastebook 2010: A Guide to Some of the Most Wasteful Government Spending of 2010" lambastes the earmark.

A $615,000 federal grant to University of California Santa Cruz to digitize the Grateful Dead archive was listed at No. 4 in the report that identifies 100 examples of "wasteful" spending.

On a certain level I totally agree. If I had my druthers the first responsibility for spending would be helping feed hungry people, the second keeping them warm. But I think that an archive to a great american institution like the Dead is certainly preferable to say, paying Goldman Sachs 100 cents on the dollar (12.6 billion dollars) in retiring AIG's debt or buying a bunch of napalm or something like that. (Cost - war in Afghanistan - 377 billion dollars.) We set aside 250 million dollars for abstinence education funding last year. Like that's not pissing money away.

By these standards the money for the Grateful Dead archive is pretty paltry, a mere $615,000.00.  I started looking into the archive and found this information in the Calgary Sun:

The UCSC Grateful Dead Archive, announced in 2008, is an extensive collection of thousands of pictures, documents and pieces of memorabilia. The archive also contains band member journals, paraphernalia related to the band's extensive social network of devoted fans and the group's highly unusual and successful business ventures.
"The archive is of interest to a great deal of people," said Virginia Steel, UCSC librarian. "There is a lot of scholarly interest in the Grateful Dead, whether it's studying the significant role that they played in our culture and society, or their management and how they ran the business."
The grant from the federal Institute for Museum and Library Services was awarded to UCSC so they could use the Grateful Dead Archive to work on a new, innovative, "socially constructed" archiving system.
"The goal of the whole project is to advance archival practice," Steel said. "The goal is not the digitization of the Grateful Dead Archive, but to create a socially constructed archive which allows individuals access to material. Then people can help in the identification of materials and also upload their own relevant materials."
UCSC was one of 51 institutions nationwide that received National Leadership Grants from the IMLS this year totaling nearly $18 million. The UCSC archive initiative was given the special distinction of a "National Leadership Project" by the institute.
The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums, and has a stated mission to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.


So if we take the nice librarian at her word, this isn't just about chronicling wacked out hippies doing bong hits in the parking lot, we are actually furthering (excuse the pun) archival practice as we know it. Damn it. Again from the Calgary Sun:

Steel says the focus should be on the benefits of the new archiving system, and not the Grateful Dead project specifically.
"The digital archive will have significance in the way it changes how people can view the materials and interact with them," she said. "We are always trying to think about what's best for the public, and how to share the material. Whether it was digitized or not, the archive would be free and public. That is what a library at a public university does."
I also have another angle on the whole business. In the United States we spend literally millions of dollars subsidizing the archaic arts like ballet, opera and classical music every year. Arts primarily appreciated by the patrician aristocracy, folks who can certainly afford to subsidize their fancies out of their own pockets. Arts that would be deader than the Grateful Dead the second they got off the public tit. I know I am beginning to sound like a populist again but try walking into the opera in a tie die and blue jeans. Major opprobrium. Now if you wanted to go to a dead show in a tux, we would make room for you in our big tent, actually saw it happen on several occasions.

But the aforementioned arts, which are subsidized to the hilt, serve a class purpose, they are actually designed to keep out the riff raff like me and to give their patrons the feelings that they do indeed belong to a privileged and most discriminating sect. I read up a bit on the NEA today. They doled out about 167 million bucks last year. An opera house in Billings Montana. Funded a bunch of theaters for some guy named Shakespeare. Why can't we have a bite of the kind veggie burrito? It's our turn. Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news, you know what I mean?

Coburn released this statement: Grateful Dead chose a public institution to archive the band's memorabilia "because the whole idea of it being public and free was important to them," yet taxpayers are paying $615,000 to make the band's archives 'free" and "public" .... Rolling Stone magazine listed the Grateful Dead in the top "100 Greatest Artists of All Time," and estimates place the net worth of two prominent band members, Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh, at roughly $40 and $35 million, respectively.

Uh Tom, just a note - Jerry died about fifteen years ago. The psychedelic explosion in America is definitely worth archiving. If we actually make our way into the future, I can see 22nd century anthropologists poring over this stuff with a magnifying lens and a fine tooth hair separation device. The conquest of inner space will take it's place next to John Glenn and Alan Shepherd in the annals of history. While you were studying and holding down jobs, we were changing the course of civilization as we know it. And you are sore because you missed the party so you are going to continue to be an asshole for the rest of your life.

By the way the two progressive proof Grateful Dead posters shown on top are very rare pieces from my collection. Probably one of a kind. They are from the Texas artist Jack "Jaxon" Jackson. AOR 2.25 Avalon Ballroom - 1969.