Clouds over the Gros Ventre © Robert Sommers 2019

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Danny's Song

Aglow at the El Tovar

He has been my friend for over four decades. In the interest of his privacy, I will not print his name. A well respected and very successful photographer, he lived in the Grand Canyon for over twenty years.

Yet there was always something curious, if not baffling, about his occasionally aberrant behavior. It could not all be traced to his Swedish lineage, his overconsumption of pickled herring.

There was always something even darker, lurking, right beneath the surface. Something wasn't right.

And now I guess we know. According to an article in the Arizona Republic, people in the Grand Canyon, who lived and worked where my friend lived, were possibly exposed to radioactive uranium ore for almost twenty years. Three five gallon open paint buckets worth of the potentially cancer causing material, to be exact.
In a rogue email sent to all Park Service employees on Feb. 4, Elston "Swede" Stephenson — the safety, health and wellness manager — described the alleged cover-up as "a top management failure" and warned of possible health consequences.
"If you were in the Museum Collections Building (2C) between the year 2000 and June 18, 2018, you were 'exposed' to uranium by OSHA's definition," Stephenson wrote. "The radiation readings, at first blush, exceeds (sic) the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's safe limits. … Identifying who was exposed, and your exposure level, gets tricky and is our next important task."
In a Feb. 11 email to Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, Stephenson said he had repeatedly asked National Park executives to inform the public, only to get stonewalled.
All kidding aside, it is an unbelievable story. After the whistleblower's email, park employees dumped the buckets of radioactive ore out at an old mine two miles away and then brought the empty buckets back into the building. Watch the powers that be do nothing re: this story. Nothing to see here...
Stephenson said the containers were stored next to a taxidermy exhibit, where children on tours sometimes stopped for presentations, sitting next to uranium for 30 minutes or more. By his calculation, those children could have received radiation dosages in excess of federal safety standards within three seconds, and adults could have suffered dangerous exposure in less than a half-minute.
 If you read the comments from the locals in the Arizona Republic and other experts, the story is much ado about nothing, the exposure levels minimal. I wonder...


Liars figure

I got to coffee late this morning. I went to the SDSU and Nevada basketball game last night with Kent and it had a late tipoff, eight o'clock. Nevada had been rated number six in the nation but the young and improving 17-9 mighty Aztecs took them down with their guard play. With my help, of course.

Student section was full for once and swarmed the court in their black shirts after the win, most jazzed game since the great New Mexico contest I witnessed a few years ago.

We stopped at Tommy's for chiliburgers on the way down. Normally I would go for the triple but I am honestly watching my weight so I settled for a double although I did upgrade the patties to quarter pounders.

Anyhow I think that we can now make the definitive statement that eating chiliburgers from Tommy's will guarantee an Aztecs win. I believe that I am now three for three in this particular experiment.

Or can we make that statement?

The boys at coffee are generally far more intelligent than I am. This morning Bill let loose some latin phrase, I had no idea what it meant; Post hoc ergo propter hoc. I hate being the dumbest guy in the room but he was talking to Alex and you know how smart he is... Anyway, somebody has to bring up the rear.

I asked him what he was talking about, the meaning of the phrase, obviously secure enough to display my ignorance publicly. Although it really ticks me off when people have to show off their latin.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc - It is a latin phrase that means "after this, therefore because of this." It is known as a logical fallacy, the error of thinking that correlation constitutes causality. In other words, as wiki so ably states, Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.

Ergo, the Aztecs win can be traced directly to my chiliburger with cheese. (Had I mentioned the cheese?)

This whole notion is a close cousin to the false cause or cum hoc ergo propter hoc "With this, therefore because of this." In that situation events happen simultaneously instead of chronologically.

I believe that I would have to be devouring my burger at the game for that to occur. The Greek and Latin types obviously spent a lot of time splitting hairs on these sorts of conundrums.

Our conversation sort of ambled over to the funny ways people can manipulate graphs and data to make their points and often to obscure facts.

Bill sent over a website called Spurious Correlations.

You can see from the data that per capita cheese consumption is closely related to people who expired while wrapped up in their bedsheets. Or to keep the dairy theme going, there is this one:

Be careful with facts, they are pesky little critters.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Another picture of red tailed hawk and snake

A Merman I Should Turn to Be


Acting EPA director Andrew Wheeler criticized last year's Federal Climate Change report as being based on a "worst case scenario."
Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler on Wednesday downplayed last year's dire federal government report on climate change, saying some of the report's conclusions "were based on the worst-case scenario."
"Some of the conclusions were based on the worst-case scenario. ... And so, I’m trying to take the report as a whole.
Isn't that what responsible scientists do, analyze and measure the full range of potential impacts? Seems reasonable to me to plan for the worst and hope for the best but what do I know? I am sure that I would see things differently to if I was an ex industry lobbyist, like Wheeler.

Trump wants to take a billion dollars back from California. Last I checked we were getting what, 78 cents back for every California dollar paid in federal taxes? Last study I saw we Californians paid out about $13 billion more than we received back from the feds. Pony up Washington...

I have little sympathy for the ISIS wives who want to come back to their respective home countries and think that we should have pity on them. Wasn't long ago they were fomenting hate and calling for the destruction of the west.
“Americans wake up! Men and women altogether. You have much to do while you live under our greatest enemy, enough of your sleeping! Go on drivebys, and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriots, Memorial, etc day … Kill them.” Hoda Muthana
“I think a lot of people should have sympathy toward me for everything I have been through. I didn't know what I was getting into when I left.” Shamima Begum
Pound sand, Hoda and Shamima.


Jews in the Labour Party in England are resigning en masse due to the ever increasing anti-semitic nature of that Party. I predict that it is only a matter of time before it happens here in America. I was listening to new congresswoman Rashida Tlaib lambasting jews for having "dual loyalty" to Israel and thought,"Isn't that exactly what you are doing here too?" How ironic.

Of course, things aren't much better in France.


The robocalls you get regarding your google listing that implore you not to hang up? Is there anyone out there that doesn't immediately hang up?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Nuestra amor es termino

White tailed kite

Elanus leucurus - © Robert Sommers 2019

Maureen Tucker

Mod affair

I am back from a near week in Palm Springs. I exhibited at what is probably the best Modernism show in America, the Winter Palm Springs Modernism.

Modernism Week in the desert brings people in from all over the country. The way it was raining last Thursday I was surprised any one would make it, braving traffic jams, road closures and extreme weather. But they did. Place was packed, even with near five inches of rain.

Also, this year featured tours of iconic mid century modern homes this year that never get open to the public. Modernism Week is a big deal and functions and lectures sell out quick.

Luckily I got most of my merchandise in to my show on a dry Wednesday, Thursday morning the sky broke open and floodwater was cresting over the sidewalks, making crossing the road a portage expedition.

The show was pretty good for me, could have been much worse as I said. Sold a few things. Next door was the very interesting Palm Springs Art Fair. Someone over there had a great Bay Area figurative collection including large works by Hassel Smith. Vincent Vallarino had a very nice John McLaughlin canvas.  Some dealers from years passed were notable in their absence, Novak, Victoria among others.

Both shows were excellent for people watching. Wish that I had had more time to take pictures but I really kept it to a minimum this week. Trying to pay the bills.

Some of the work wasn't exactly my bag but there is room for all points of view on god's green earth and I have to assume that no children or small animals were hurt in its creation.

Not a lot to say, really. After a couple decades of doing these Modernism shows it is both satisfying and remarkable to have old friends and clients approach me and tell me how much they love various items that they have bought from me over the years.

I shed tears this year with a late friend's sister who I hadn't seen in ages, her brother's passing still hurts us both deeply, even with several years to process. Everything came bubbling up.

Anyway, on a happier note, people really pull out the duds. Place was awash in sartorial splendor, of a flavor that many would be frankly petrified to wear in other haunts. If not arrested.

Certain outfits just send me running for the Nikon.

Caught up with a few cronies, Gordon McLelland walked through with artist buddy Brad Salamon, Mark and Jan Hilbert, George Stern and his wife Irene. Bob Kaplan came by as did Dan May, Marty Newman and Bob Zinner.
Had some nice meals with friends, a streak of five or six meals in a row at one Rick's or another, gay Chinese at the aptly named Wangs, tongue and corned beef at Shermans.

Great mole and carnitas at El Mirasol with our dear friends Frank and Joy.

I got into an interesting conversation with a few people at one point. It was my contention that gay people have done more to revitalize urban neighborhoods than anybody else in America.

I have seen it in many places, Hillcrest, Long Beach, Greenwich Village and Palm Springs to name but a few. Gay people move in and the place goes to heaven. Property values go up, things get less scroungey.

And I think there is a similarity with what Jews were able to do in the province of movies and television.

They moved into occupations that were thought of as low class like stage and theater at the turn of the nineteenth century, occupations thought beneath the dignity of the majority and developed them and made them lucrative in their later incarnations. Made them their own when no one else cared.

Both groups felt alienated and divorced from mainstream society so they found certain islands like Provincetown, Palm Springs and Hollywood and created a new lexicon, fresh aesthetics and media delivery systems from scratch, unencumbered by the prevailing winds and design motifs. Perhaps the alienation and perceived persecution brings the blessing of a certain liberation from conventional morés.

This particular show ended with a loud clunk for me, the be backs didn't come back, no sales on the last day, t'was a very lonely Monday.

Maybe I will get a call one day soon from someone who simply can't sleep with the thought of the painting they passed up? Here's hoping anyway.

I had nice stuff, including a rare triptych from the late Susan Bright Lautmann Hertel, a remarkable artist who worked with Millard Sheets. Booth looked nice.

Met a one time blog reader who said she will still occasionally venture in to listen to the music but honestly finds the commentary too dour and depressing for her taste.

Truth is, life has been tougher than shit this year and I have never been one to sugarcoat my feelings and probably am not emotionally equipped to change my m.o. at this point. But I will try.

Everything is fucking wonderful.

How is that?

Sunday night Steve and I drove out to the place past the tram where the 111 was closed due to storm damage. This installation was set up near there and was blowing smoke. Have no idea as to the particulars but it was raining and we stopped. I thought that the guy with the umbrella made it sort of interesting.

I look forward to processing this series. Please click on them and see them full size.

Traffic on the 10 was really backed up after my two hour pack out. I needed to gas up and lose some personal fluids. I stopped at Morongo, signed up for a rewards card and had the buffet, which was decent.

Found a fifteen dollar blackjack table and could do little wrong for an hour. Got up and skeedaddled home, completely exhausted and a little bit richer. Almost fell asleep at the wheel two or three times.

Haven't even unpacked the van this morning, pretty drained. But it was, all in all, a good experience in Palm Springs, if you have never been they do it twice a year, although the February show is by far the best. Check it out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Jingle Of A Dog's Collar

Get jiggy with it

I'm out the door for a couple days, might as well put my two cents in.

I was reading the always excellent Mark Zeigler's article on the SDSU basketball game against Colorado State last night and something piqued my interest. Besides a rare road win. It was 90's throwback night in Fort Collins.
"It was ’90s theme night at Colorado State’s Moby Arena, with cheerleaders waving neon pom-pons (sic), with 20-year-old school logos on the video board, with “Getting’ Jiggy Wit It” blaring from the speakers."
And I had to think to myself, the 90's and "ought" decades are really a big blur to me, did anything really remarkable occur that would allow one to differentiate between, let's say, 1985 and 2005? Any cultural milestones in the mostly vapid trough? Let me know.

Of course, I slept through Friends and Seinfeld, television was off for a decade or two. Grunge, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls. What did I miss? Neon pom-poms? Getting jiggy with it, is that all you got?

I was driving on Mission this morning and once again wished I had my camera in hand. A truck took out a large section of plastic faux fencing between Willow Glen and Hamilton. The way the fake fence was cracked was so non wood like, so synthetic and strange, a perfect metaphor for whatever global malaise we are now experiencing. Time to get rid of anything remotely Flintstones and head straight to the Jetsons. Let plastic be plastic for dawg's sake.

I think that I miss off just as many people when I am not writing about politics as when I am. If not more. I might as well go back to letting it rip.

I am not sure if the universe is conspiring to kill me, keep me alive or just doesn't give a shit. More later.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Above the clouds and sea, Del Mar

John Mayall - Sitting In The Rain

with Peter Green, John McVie and Aynsley Dunbar.

Ducks in a row

John Denver

Where have all the insects gone?

A new study in the peer reviewed Biological Conservation journal says that 40% of the world's insect population is in danger of extinction in the next few decades. The terran ecosystem, and human life, can not live without bugs, folks.
"The repercussions this will have for the planet's ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least, as insects are at the structural and functional base of many of the world's ecosystems," reads an excerpt from the study conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney, the University of Queensland and the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
By the time humans figure it out, it will of course be too late. All part of god's great plan, I suppose.

David Hawkshurst/Wilson Center

The new Secretary of the Interior is serving his masters and former masters well. Goodbye Delta smelt. David Bernhardt is rolling back protections for the fish. What they don't get, or maybe just don't give a shit about, is that it is not just one small fish.
For the California farmers on whose behalf he once lobbied, Mr. Bernhardt’s actions to weaken environmental protections would free up river water, an asset of incalculable value as climate change propels California toward a hotter, drier future. Rerouting river water would also devastate the regional ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay Delta, scientists say, imperiling dozens of other fish up the food chain and affecting water birds, orcas and commercial fisheries and encouraging toxic algal blooms.
It is a bellwether species and its demise tells us that the Sacramento Delta will continue to suffer from toxic algal blooms that threaten many other species including chinook salmon.
Biologists say the protections have many benefits. “This is not just about two boutique species of fish,” said Jonathan Rosenfield, lead scientist at The Bay Institute, a nonprofit research organization in San Francisco, citing the increased risk of algal blooms in the San Francisco Bay Delta. “Those algal blooms create the kind of toxin where, when dogs jump into the water to go swimming, they don’t jump out,” he said.
Call me naive, but I will take the advice of environmental scientists over sleazebag lawyers, corporate farming interests and unethical lobbyists any day of the week.

chinook salmon


I was doing a little research on kestrels today and found out that in some areas of the world the small falcon is known as a windfucker. Don't believe me, look it up. From the Bohuslän Swedish fokka (“to fuck; to thrust, to push.” Before it became part of the carnal vernacular, fuck meant to beat or to strike.

Our American kestrel, Falco sparverius, might in fact not even be a true kestrel. Might be closer to hobbies and its similarity to old world kestrels a product of convergent evolution. Which begs the question; what is a hobbie? Well, they don't grow around these parts.

Windfucker, I like it. I dub thee Sir...well, never mind.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Proof of San Diego's Epic Run of Swell | Amp Sessions, January 2019 | S...

Steve Goodman

Antelope Canyon


Great dinner at Pamplemousse last night. If you guessed the venison, quail and duck mixed grille I guess that I owe you a dollar.

And besides the great food and delightful company, the restaurant offers something else, the greatest urinal known to man.

You think the Madonna Inn bathroom is cool, this pisser takes it into another dimension.

Pamplemousse is the brainchild of chef and owner Jeffrey Strauss. Jeff, like me, is a big guy with a similarly twisted sense of humor. I think that it is the best restaurant in San Diego, unfortunately I can't afford to eat there except for restaurant week. But last night was special, we were treated by some lovely friends, for a lovely birthday.

First time I stood at the urinal, a video of the owner, strategically placed above the stall, angrily warned me not to piss on his floor. I couldn't stop laughing. Probably pissed all over myself.

I sent our host in to check it out last night and he came back, said he saw nothing.. Hmmm, maybe it was expunged by the p.c. police? I decided to check for myself. I walked past the many patrons having dinner at the bar. Past all the cool paintings. I took my position and unzipped my fly and while taking care of business a video of a large black male appeared right above me on the video screen. He looked down at my humble unit and laughed, "Really, that's it? That is what you got? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha." I wanted to tell the uninvited simulacrum that it was indeed cold out and about the concept of shrinkage but quickly broke off our one sided conversation.

I went back to my seat and quizzed our charming French waiter about the situation. He said that there were indeed twelve different videos and that he himself had to go to a shrink after being humiliated by our video guest over his own inherent shortcomings.

Hope I get a chance to see the rest of the vids some day.

Spike Jones - Dance of the Hours

Perpetually aggrieved

Angelfood @ Robert Crumb
Political correctness is running amok. As a proud reader of the late Zap, Mother's Oats and Insect Fear comics, I shudder to thing what these priggish moralizers would have done to the great underground comics of my youth.

We don't live in the sixties and seventies anymore? Well, that is too bad, people were not nearly as uptight.

The thought police of the left are every bit as obnoxious as the thought police of the right.

Are we going to legislate satire now, are we so thin skinned that we can no longer laugh at ourselves, for the fear of offending some unknown aggrieved party?  And there are a lot of folks around who obviously feel that it is their duty to feel persecuted on someone else's behalf.

Like the folks in that college in Canada who stopped doing yoga for fear of culturally appropriating the poor hindu. Now Mary Poppins is also being called racist because the chimney sweeps have sooted faces. Very ridiculous. We have become very touchy, we humans.

A large percentage, 59%, of black Virginians, have signaled that they want Governor Ralph Northam to stay in office. They obviously feel that they will get a better shake from him than from the alternative. But we know better than they do. Burning somebody at the stake for a college prank. Ridiculous. And yes, if you wear a big nosed groucho mask and a tallis around I will feel the very same way.

Eat more bran, you sound quite constipated.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Abba Zaba - Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Steve Stevens

Chuck Stout says play some Steve Stevens, I play Steve Stevens.

Call me Ophelia

A little of this, a little of that. 

Bees count. And they subtract too.
Ten things you never knew about the Flying Burrito Brothers Gilded Palace of Sin.
Wonderful and very honest Ralph Williams car commercial.
Gender confused cardinal.
Bonsall High School - underperforming? Saw it listed but now can't put my finger on the article.

A good, anonymous soul bought my oatmeal at my breakfast group this morning. Thank you kind stranger, whoever you are!

Honored to be partaking in a birthday meal of one for my favorite people at my favorite North County restaurant, Pamplemousse, tonight. First person who guesses in advance what I am ordering gets a dollar or a vat of beluga, my choice.

I never thought of myself as a real funny guy until I met Morty in New Mexico and people anointed us the next Martin and Lewis. I was supposed to be the funny one, I suppose. Morty was a joke writer, of course, in a former life. Now I think up incessant numbers of gags and one liners and bore him to death all the time on the phone.

So I am sitting in front of Walmart in Temecula the other day and I looked over at Steinmart.

"Hey Morty, I just went into Steinmart and couldn't even buy a Stein." Oh ya? "I did get too Kleins and a Goldberg." buh duh pa. Rimshot.

It wasn't very funny then either.

Morty says that frankly, I am all drama these days. That if Shakespeare was alive, every play would be about me. Which is actually a little too funny and way too true. Bastard. Very stressed out about a lot of things the$e days.

I got up at one in the morning with the pickled pecker rhyme circumambulating in my head. Knew that if I didn't write it down that I would lose it by morning. Half hour later I got back in bed. Wife asked what I was up too? No way could I tell her the truth at two in the morning, that I was working on my material - so I told her I had to pee.

Ophelia - Friedrich Heyser

I missed my second ablation appointment last week and it sucks because I physically feel like shit. First miss was my fault, second was on them. I called at eight thirty in the morning and asked if the meet up was in Temecula or Murrieta and the girl that answered said, "Oh no, Mr. Sommers, your meeting is at La Jolla, at one o'clock."

I drove down in the rain. About an hour and a half each way in the bad weather. When I got to Scripps Memorial I was informed that the appointment was indeed in Temecula. No apology.

So now I have to wait another month while the potassium channel blocker renders me useless.

Besides the mixup, which happens, I was a bit taken aback by the language of the girl at the desk, her full bird tattoo peaking out like a radioactive buzzard from her store bought bosom."We don't got no records here," she intoned or something to that effect. Why would any serious professional put Eliza Doolittle at the front desk? Had me wondering about the doctor, frankly. But hey, it must be working.

Full sail*

* unfortunately with monofilament attached.

Pecker publishes Bezos pecker, puts him in a real pickle. How many other private pecker pictures has this Pecker pecker picked?

Friday, February 8, 2019

No mercy in this land

Take a shot.

I have a show in Palm Springs next week, Palm Springs Modernism, and things are about to get busy. I wasn't feeling really well yesterday and decided to take the afternoon off.

It was either go home and read the latest Wild Cards book, the mosaic novel of George R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass that I found at the library or shoot some birds with my camera.

I opted for the latter. Drove up to a new birding place in Perris off Case Rd. that was supposed to be great. It wasn't. Afterwards I drove a short way up the freeway to my familiar haunts at the reserve.

It was beautiful out, with snowcapped San Gorgonio looking gorgeous in the distance. Road was muddy in spots. I had the place pretty much to myself, which I like.

But the day didn't really fire photographically for me. Odd. Not sure if it was technical, luck or sheer incompetence but I was always a second slow and botched more shots than I can remember. Didn't see a lot either, besides well, coots.

white crowned sparrows

Maybe my worst day there ever. Saw the kite but couldn't pull the trigger, saw no eagles or falcons. Blah. I have written before about intermittent responses being the most powerful, according to behavioral psychologists.  If you win every time, you quickly get bored and things stop being fun. Wasn't my turn. Obviously.

And maybe my standards have changed somewhat, having nailed a fair amount of decent shots over the years. Maybe it is tougher now to get something halfway acceptable? Here is an underbelly shot of a harrier that is pretty cool, seeing as she was very much in shadow:

I did manage to get a very long and muddy walk in with my heavy gear. Wondered how long it would take to find me if I had a cardiac event out there, if they could i.d. the remains before the buzzards and lions made mince meat of the corpus delicti.

You win some and you lose some, I guess. My day to fail.

And have a marvelous time doing so, I might add. Did see a cute little Audubon warbler.