Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dark End of the Street


The show and weekend have greatly exceeded my expectations. Perhaps it was my new loose and mellow attitude, perhaps I had divined the eventual outcome from the tea leaves. In any case, the little roll continues and you have to be willing to accept the good times along with the bad times so lets keep it coming.

Yesterday's antique blog went if not viral, at least mildly contagious, having been picked up and sent around by a couple promoters. Welcome earthlings and alien visitors alike. We are only here to observe your planet and will not interfere unless you force us to or we get really hungry.

Had one interesting thing happen. A dermatologist doctor friend showed up with a couple vials of cortisone and a syringe. Years ago I had open heart surgery to correct a few internal malfunctions which left a strange bumpy ridge on my chest. He motioned me into the bathroom and administered a few shots to the area. As I felt the sting I was just hoping that nobody walked into the public restroom, probably would have thought we were a couple of junkies shooting up.


I had some interesting blowback from my post where I was bitching about people needing to drive fancy cars to ensure their status in this tawdry world of ours. It was pretty funny. Lena called first. "Hey Robert (and now mimicking me) Stanley and Tracy drive Mazdas and Hyundais" I'll have you know that I bought the BMW because it has a steel frame and I was just broadsided. You didn't mention that." Luckily she was laughing.

Mel drove up next in her Mercedes CLK350. "Hey jealous asshole, Steve and I said fuck you." Just kidding, I am pretty sure.

R&D had us over for an incredible shabu shabu dinner. "Uh. was that blog about us?" "No," I said, shaking my head vigorously. "Well that's nice. I am thinking about buying the new M5," confessed my good pal and lovely hostess.

BigD said he wouldn't even read it because I drove like an old lady and couldn't even begin to understand a real man's attachment to a fine automobile.

I think one other person piped up who I am momentarily drawing a blank on. I had done it. I had managed to offend a large swath of my closest friends. Somebody came up to me at the show yesterday and said hey idiot, read your little ditty on the class war. Really smart to bite the hands that feed you, you dope.

The truth is that a lot of my income is derived from the 1%. But it is also true that I love my friends and that they mostly accept my deficiencies, a fact for which I am really grateful.

You can't blame me for being a little conflicted about the money thing. I am the son of a millionaire real estate developer who never paid his child support, leaving his progeny including yours truly eating scraps and running from the creditors while he lived the dolce vida. Always hated entitlement.


Now these days said father, who I love and made peace with decades ago, doesn't know my name and is living some sort of life in a group home in the Central Valley. Monday afternoon I am going to a meeting with his doctors. Apparently he is acting out and getting physical with his fellow Alzheimer's patients. The doctors want to increase his meds and he can no longer visit his own home. Tomorrow will be a very long day.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Law Man

More crap from Sacramento

This is a nice 19th century Gorham sterling silver kettle on stand. It's purposes on this post are merely illustrative. Due to the passage of the California law Penal section 6530, it is now illegal for me to either sell this antique or even have it in my shop, which the authorities would deem an intent to sell. These violations could result in a fine of up to $5000.00 per item.

Why you might ask? Because of the little round ivory insulator on the handle. Ivory has been used for this purpose for at least the last 500 years but short sighted legislators, propelled by fanatical animal rights activists, have now outlawed the sale of any object containing ivory and a multitude of other materials that have been used for hundreds of years, no matter how old the age of the object in question. As I wrote earlier this month, it is now illegal to sell an old piano with ivory keys in my native California.

This is causing a nightmare in my business. Fish and Game agents are swarming the auction houses, antique faires, shops and flea markets, criminalizing the innocuous trade in a whole slough of material that has been used for centuries. This is sending shock waves through the trades and putting a lot of good people, already battered by the recession in real danger of losing their livelihoods.

I walked the Hillsborough Antique Show on setup and cautioned quite a few of my fellow dealers to remove objects that contained ivory or turtle shell. "But this plaque is from the seventeenth century," a bewildered older dealer protested. Doesn't matter. The gorgeous 18th century japanese knife with a bit of shell in the handle? Now dangerous, illegal contraband. 

Do the people drafting these laws give any consideration to the ramifications of their decision making? First they came for the silver dealers...


If this wasn't bad enough, now we have new proposed legislation A.B. 391. This will require every second hand dealer (like yours truly) to fork over about six hundred dollars to the government in fees, fingerprint every client who wants to sell me anything, create a whole new bureaucracy to oversee the retail market and waste the time of local law enforcement throughout the state, who are already stretched beyond capacity and not able to adequately fulfill their primary function, which is purportedly to stop crime.

I got this letter a few weeks ago:

Assembly Bill 391, in the guise of creating an electronic reporting database to recover stolen property will force you to:

1) Obtain fingerprints and photo ID from anyone who sells you merchandise.
2) Report daily or on the first working day following the receipt or purchase of secondhand tangible personal property to a statewide electronic database.
3) Hold all merchandise for 30 days prior to selling anything.
4) Register as a Second Hand Dealer, submit fingerprints relative to a required criminal background check and pay an initial licensure fee & annual renewal fee of up to $300.
5) It appears the way the bill is written, you would be required to obtain the above licensure for every location you sell in.

Needless to say this would devastate the antique industry and force a majority of Dealers out of business.  This would also lead to the end of events such as our faire.

Please review the latest updates to Assembly Bill 391 using the link below.  It is moving quickly through the Legislative branches and is in the last phase at the Senate Public Safety Committee before coming to a final vote. If it passes, it will take effect immediately.

We believe the legislators do not understand what you do for a living or how you sell.  Many of you do not have brick and mortar shops or a means of submitting electronic reports in the manner and timeline they are requesting.  If AB 391 goes through, many of you will no longer be able to engage in the business of buying used goods and selling them at venues like our antiques faire.

AB 391 is very serious.  Call the Senator for your District and those on the committee below NOW!

I have to figure that this is an attempt to get a little mordida out of the swap meet and underground cash economy. The reality is that this type of draconian, nanny state oversight will have the opposite effect of its intent. It will drive more and more people into cash transactions to keep the government out of their businesses. The thirty day hold will be enormously difficult for people to work with, many who have to quickly "flip" merchandise to survive.

A.B. 391
Existing law generally requires secondhand dealers and coin dealers, as defined, to report specified transactions to the local law enforcement agency where their businesses are located. Under existing law, secondhand dealers and coin dealers are required to report this information using an electronic reporting system 12 months after the Department of Justice develops that system.
This bill would instead require that secondhand dealers and coin dealers report this information using the single, statewide, uniform electronic reporting system on and after the date that the system is implemented, as specified.
Existing law requires a local law enforcement agency to issue a license to engage in the business of a secondhand dealer or pawnbroker to an applicant who meets designated criteria. Existing law authorizes the local licensing authority and the Department of Justice to charge an initial licensure fee and a renewal fee, as specified.
This bill would require the Department of Justice to charge a licensure fee and a renewal fee of no more than $300, as specified. The bill would also require licensees issued a license before the effective date of this bill to pay an additional fee of no more than $288 for the purpose of funding the single, statewide, uniform electronic reporting system, with payment due within 120 days of the enactment of this bill. The bill would require that the fees assessed by the department be deposited in the Secondhand Dealer and Pawnbroker Fund, which the bill would create in the State Treasury. The bill would continuously appropriate the money in the fund to the department for the purpose of paying for specified regulatory costs, including the cost of implementing, operating, and maintaining the single, statewide, uniform electronic reporting system, and would appropriate $2.5 million dollars to the department for the purpose of implementing the system. The bill would also require applicants for a license to submit fingerprint images relative to a required criminal background check, with associated fee revenue to be deposited in the Fingerprint Fee Account, and would continuously appropriate those revenues to the Department of Justice for these purposes. The bill would make other related conforming changes.
The bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Agave © Mike Reardon

Sanoguy posted this gorgeous shot on our Fallbrook Shutters website. Mike has really been nailing it of late.

George Shearing Quintet

More food.

Toni and Joe must be in New York. I just got an email entitled Carnegie Deli 1:00 a.m.. That mountain in front of you is the famed open face Reuben. Leslie and I once ordered one and it took two or three sittings to vanquish the beast. Why do it? As Edmond Hillary once said, because it is there.


I am not feeling so good after my adventures at Dave's Cable Car, might have a mild touch of food poisoning. The old constitution is listing heavily and starting to sink. Will run over to Trader Joes soon for nutribiotic and papaya enzymes. I am determined not to let the gastric rebellion interfere with my newfound satori like state. Think I will forego the fancy meal at the Iron Gate tonight and stick with the mylanta.


As most of us codgers tend to do when we get older and want to plumb an everlasting source of conversation, I started reciting a laundry list of current ailments to friend Kerry last night. He suggested brown rice and macrobiotic. I replied something on the order of the afterlife looking pretty good if I am relegated to that sort of ghastly earthly fare. As we have noted many times, no extra points for leaving a good looking corpse.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jesse Fuller


I have to say that it has been a really nice trip. I have set up a beautiful booth at the Hillsborough Antiques Show which opens tomorrow at the San Mateo Exposition Grounds. I have seen a lot of really great friends, enjoyed some great meals and conversation, bought some wonderful new treasures and just feel really happy, mellow and relaxed.

It was a fairly benign drive north. I stopped off and saw my friend, the famed Russian musicologist, Vladimir Smythe in the outskirts of Prunedale and then popped over to Monterey to see my pal Cam. We bought a very nice canvas together which I had been very excited to see and inspect, by the 19th Century barbizon painter Julian Rix. Fantastic and very atmospheric. Cam and I went to a local seafood grill and I ordered something unsustainable and with a purportedly high mercury content. Delicious.

Cam had the very bad idea of going out to a movie, his girlfriend is a tango dancer who was supposed to go out but decided to join us. Cam had the idea that we should see the three stooges. Now I really didn't care for the original Stooges, except maybe for Iggy but these guys were even worse. I believe that it was the worst film I have ever endured, even with the cameo by the stars of reality show Jersey Shore. One hundred twenty minutes of my life wasted that I will never be able to get back.


Set up yesterday than went to Berkeley to have dinner with chef friend Melissa and Gary at an Izakaya restaurant called Ippuku on Center. Ippuku is a yakitori or japanese skewer restaurant.

My friends were tired of me dragging them to Le Cheval every trip and wanted me to try something new that just rocks. A very special, exceptional place. A beautiful room. Groups of four sit on a tatami platform.

We started the meal ordering drinks. I had a meyer lemon seltzer combination. They bring you the seltzer, the fruit and a reamer and you squeeze it yourself. We then received a cabbage web with a japanese mayonnaise which was very refreshing.

The menu is so intriguing. Gizzards and hearts and leg cartilage. I ordered a plate of roe stuffed smelts. Japanese fried chicken. Beef tongue. Shoulder blade. A chef's choice skewer tray. Succulent gyoza. Bacon wrapped asparagus. Waves upon waves of food. Melissa sent me a review of Ippuku which is much better than anything I am capable of at this late hour. I can't wait to return with Leslie. Sorry about the pics but I was using a crummy loaner cell phone.


2130 Center St. Berkeley



Finished setting up today and things are looking really good. This evening I met up with Kerry and BigD, who is starting to grow some facial hair after his chemo that he is apparently pretty proud of. Good for him.

We all went, after much discussion, to one of BigD's favorite haunts, Joe's Cable Car Restaurant, for top rate burgers and shakes. BigD drove his fancy new ride, the Mercedes E350 in the hot european color, mauritius blue. Very classy.

BigD wanted to know why I had to eat so much gourmet sissy food and why I couldn't just eat like a regular guy so I did. Place is a trip.

Joe's Cable Car

4320 Mission St. at Silver in
San Francisco


I have a lot to write about but am frankly exhausted. New hard drive, the old MacBook Pro is humming like a top. Later.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Revenge of the Machines

I knew the day was coming, I just didn't know it was coming so soon. Today was the day that the machines tried to take over. The rebellion started innocently enough with the laptop when it feigned illness only to immolate itself and fry its own hard drive. I had to avert my eyes, it was hard to take. The genius at the Apple genius bar just shook his head. Wasn't his first Mac Book Pro suicide, nosiree.

Somehow the insurrection spread to the new LG Lucid cell phone. I should have seen it coming when the first battery didn't even last an hour and I quickly swapped phones. Won't take a charge or even recognize a power source. Tough luck says Verizon, you are four days out of the initial two week warranty. Sucks to be you. We can mail one to whatever fleabag hotel you end up staying in in San Francisco but you better not plan on using the phone this week, okay daddyo? Can't swap for an iphone unless you want to forkover six hundred bones, either.

I sucked in my breath and tried to stay calm. What else could go wrong? Wrong question to ask. The red light on the epson printer started blinking, that big label project you waited til the last second to do, Bob? Well just forget it, unless you know a neat trick to make an epson T5809 cartridge materialize before your eyes or out of some other anatomical location. (haven't learned that one yet, ed.)

I had to mail a package off to New York and drove to the post office. Car in front of me broke down just short of the entrance, effectively pinioning me. Oh yes, the word was out. Kind of a day a guy just wants to pull the blankets back over his head and suck his thumb. With my luck the electric blanket would probably snap at the chance to electrocute me.

Make it stop, mommy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hamza el Din - Ollin Arageed

Those old travelin' shoes

I am getting ready to pile all of my worldly possessions into the buckboard and set off on another trip to the northlands.

Thanks to some super clients, the week was the best in a long time and I leave in a very mellow and good mood. Nice not to have a lot of pressure for a change.

Last night the Mac book pro got a case of the dreaded blue screen with the flashing question mark. I hope that I still have a hard drive  but don't have time to deal with it until I return. Might be fried. In any case, I am fairly well  backed up so I will deal with whatever comes down the pike.

I will probably not be posting much unless I get a wild hair and bug a friend for access to their computer or post off Leslie's ipad, which frankly is a pain in the ass for publishing or at least posting photos.

I had a couple interesting conversations with my friend Ken over beers at the pub this week.
Ken is an ex army photographer, a pilot who gave up his wings when he retired last year, and the former flight operations manager for a large commercial aviation company. He has the laconic nature of his native Kansas, but has a great sense of humor and is a really smart dude.

Ken mentioned to me that when they were interviewing pilots to work for the company they contracted with a company to do psychological evaluations on the prospective hires and come up with what is called a predictive index. A predictive index measures four personality factors, assertiveness, extro or introversion, patience and attention to detail. We are made up of varying quantities of these four traits. I love tests like this and asked him if I could get one but he said that the test is not only proprietary but exceedingly expensive and that the trick is in the analysis portion.

I bet that I am a highly assertive extrovert with little patience and middling to good attention to detail.


It made me think of some of the times in my life when I managed people. When I had my development company I didn't always have the best relationship with my secretaries,  having little tolerance for mistakes and errors. I was an occasional wall puncher and pushed people maybe a little too much.

Later I managed a financial research company with about twenty employees. I found that no matter how nice and win win I tried to make it with my subordinates,  some of them decided to hate me anyway. Because I was the man. Being nice didn't pay off and some of these people and I don't speak to this day.

Ken says this is why the military has rules against fraternization. You can fraternize with one rank higher and one rank lower than you are but that is it.  He says that it is a very sensible rule and keeps  the military from situations where things can get exploited by unequal relationships e.g. an officer or command authority getting into a romantic relationship with a low level recruit who then can exert undue influence on a given situation. I had never thought of that and want to explore the rule and concept when I have time to research it.

He also said that out of all the branches of military service the Coast Guard had far and away the greatest code of professionalism and training in that regard and in developing leadership skills. Something else I want to look into. Might be a little late to join.


I was listening to  the Grateful Dead channel on Sirius XM this morning when I heard a familiar concert from Winterland 10/22/78. I was at the show with three thousand of my closest friends and it was epic. The section I heard today was the nubian oud master Hamza el Din and his merry band coming out of drums when the audience started  an asymmetric, polyrhythmic group clap that went on for many minutes and which I was a part of. It was the most complicated beat ever and it came out of nowhere and everybody was so spot on and rightly proud of their selves.
I can only listen to so much dead these days in the car without screaming but this was great.

I jettisoned Sirius in the old van when the portable unit kept breaking but this one is free for a year and the service has gotten better. I like Deep Tracks the best, the playlist and dj's are superb and I get a lot of links to cool old chestnuts.

Other stations that I find interesting are Garage, 60's on 6 and classic vinyl. I try to listen to the 40's station but get a little fatigued listening to big band.  On long roadies I will sometimes listen to the radio classics. Leslie likes First Wave.  Still not enough blues on the service.

Traditional radio really has to step up its game these days with the advent of satellite radio.

I think that my cronies in my photo group have been doing some good work of late. Check the Fallbrook Shutter site out.


That's it cheers!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Clifford Brown Quintet

Clifford Brown - Trumpet
Sonny Rollins - Tenor Sax
Richie Powell - Piano
George Morrow - Bass
Willie Jones - Drums *

*Max Roach was "indisposed" for this session, and was replaced by Willie Jones on drums.

Another trip from kip

Elizabeth © Kip Peterson
My friend Kip and his wife just returned from a journey to the southeast. He took this fantastic picture of Elizabeth, a basket weaver, in Charleston, South Carolina.


Here's a synopsis of our journey last week, which covered a little over 1900 miles in our rental car:

Began the trip in Raleigh-Durham, NC. We first went to Kill Devil Hills, NC, the real location of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight in December, 1903. Kitty Hawk is nearby. This, like nearly every destination, was awe inspiring. What inventive, persistent people those two were.

We next drove down the "Outer Banks" of NC, stopping at the famous Cape Hatteras lighthouse which, due to beach erosion, had to be moved further inland in 1999 to be saved. Next, we took the first of two ferries, necessary to return to the mainland without retracing our steps while continuing southward. This ferry went from Hatteras to Ocracoke, NC. Then a second ferry took us from Ocracoke to Cedar Island, NC, back to solid ground.

Our next destination was Charleston, SC, which may have been our favorite stop, as we discussed earlier today. We then headed north to Asheville, NC and the Biltmore House. Ostentatious is not a powerful enough word. The next day we went through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and visited Tennessee, including Dolly Pardon's roots in Pidgeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

We next headed to the countryside of Kentucky (Pikeville) and drove through the heart of coal country West Virginia to end up in Staunton, VA, a lovely revolutionary-era village in western Virginia.  This allowed us to visit Monticello and the University of Virginia the next day. We then returned to Raleigh-Durham, NC, to catch our flight home.

This trip brought into complete clarity what an amazing country we live in, offering incredible diversity in just a narrow swath of one part. We felt very fortunate to be able to visit as well as be citizens of the United States.

Take care--


Grotto Falls, Great Smoky Mountains © Kip Peterson

Fantastic Voyage

Today is the last day for Family Tree DNA's spring sale. If you have ever wondered about your genetic genealogy now is the time to take the test and open up a whole new understanding of your ancestors. I will be happy to walk you through it.

I recommend a Y-DNA 37 and MtDNA test for men and a MtDNA test for women. Cost is a couple hundred dollars. MtDNA is supposed to be $59.00 today but the site says $159.00. Order and then call them on Monday.

Later on you can get the Family Finder autosomal test which will give you access to new relatives all the way to fifth cousins in the largest genetic database. I have 85 pages of cousins I have discovered with this test.

The test is simple, a couple scrapes of the inside of your cheek, goes in an envelope to the Texas Genomics Center and in a month or two you get the results.

Click here to get to the website. My knowledge of anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, paleontology and so many other fields has increased markedly since I started to explore my personal DNA.


L-792* A1 (formerly E1b1b1c1- d1)

M34+ L798+ L792+ L791+ Z850- Z842- V23- M84- M290- M136-

Friday, April 20, 2012

Don't do it


The mother red tailed hawk is spending more time away from her nest, getting a break from the chicks.

I caught her on a distant bough this misty morning.

I went to the Bottom Shelf yesterday, the non profit bookshop affiliated with the Fallbrook Library and bought a wonderful copy of Philip Unitt's The Birds of San Diego County.

The book shows historical data and nesting spots of the local birds and the sometimes visitors.

The San Diego members of family Accipitridae (hawks and eagles) included in the book are the Osprey, White Tailed Kite, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Harris' Hawk, Red Shouldered Hawk, Broad Winged Hawk (very rare), Swainson's Hawk, One Tailed Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Rough Legged Hawk and Golden Eagle.

Falcons (Falconidae) include the Merlin, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon and Peregrine Falcon.

Renée has a red shouldered living in her trees as do Les and Mary. One flew over my head when we were in their garage porch the other morning and the underside was variegated and gorgeous. Their There is a nest near Ranger Road that I must look at soon.

I once saw a golden eagle standing on the ground outside of the North County Bank in Escondido on Aldergrove. It may have been injured. I called the tellers out to see the amazing sight.

Flying mosaic

My friend Shawn Mayes sends me these pictures of a flying visitor that he received this morning at his home in Thailand. The post that the moth is hanging out on is 4" wide so this guy is probably at least twice that. He says that he has seen them even bigger.

I sharpened them up in Adobe Lightroom so they bear my watermark, sorry Shawn! It's automatic. He added a caterpillar with a stare for good measure.

Shawn is celebrating his birthday today. Celebrate a 4/20 birthday in whatever way is customary in your culture. Tip a glass to a great guy.

Shawn and I have been friends for going on thirty six years. He is a botanist amongst other many other skills, specializing in a carnivorous plant species called nepenthes. He has been involved in creating an educational campaign to teach thai youngsters about their native flora. I found this link on the net this morning, not sure how current it is, but it might be up to date.

Happy Birthday, Shawn!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Last Call

Cooper © Robert Sommers
I had a minor realization this morning. A couple really. They both had to do with getting older. I realized that I am older now than my grandfather was when I was a kid. Kind of strange. And no matter how old we get, we were all the "kid" once.

Of course I look at both my dad and my grandfather's many achievements and accomplishments and I feel sort of like a schlubber who has never done much and doesn't know much either. When you are a kid you think you gain some special wisdom with age. Still waiting.


My wife got a facebook message last week. A girl she hasn't seen in close to forty years, lives somewhere in Micronesia. A professor. With breast cancer.  Leslie offered to come to Los Angeles and be next to her during her surgery. She had no one because her family was on the east coast, Leslie didn't want her to be alone. I am proud of her but there was never any question. When the chips are down she is rock solid, always has been. A great friend, a great partner. So I have been batching it for a couple days.


Alone with the burmese cat, I have been looking for minor acts of rebellion to celebrate my newfound independence. I started off with a pint of an ice cream flavor she abhors, vanilla bean, she being an exclusive devotee of chocolate. Could never do it to the partnership. Left the toilet seat up and hair in the sink just because I could. Have not yet drank milk out of the carton but there is always tomorrow.


Speaking an age I have noticed a strange thing occurring with a few friends and acquaintances. My chiropractor is retiring, going to catch up on the free life he gave up thirty years ago when he got his straight gig. Needs to see the world a bit. Another friend's husband is ditching her for life on his own in Mexico. What do they have in common? They are both turning sixty real soon. Is that when the post midlife crisis kicks in? My god, my life is slipping away and my due date approaches and I have to go make something of my existence before it's too late. Or something like that. I don't see my life falling into that pattern, have six years to find out, mainly because I have tried to live my life on my own terms, at least as much as I could. And not having kids, never really had to grow up. Thank god.

I don't cry too often when artists pass but I lost it for a minute today thinking about Levon. And Rick Danko too for that matter. The Band had an incalculable effect on music and on me and I was privileged to watch them perform on several occasions. With an honesty and a purity not often found in this sometimes harsh world of ours.

Levon was a tough man from Arkansas, a scrapper and a one time roughneck on the derricks.  I remember reading in his bio about the time he threatened to bite a guy's nose off. Great singer, drummer, guitarist, mandolin player, actor, what have you. A musician's musician.

May the four winds blow you safely home, Levon Helm.

Potomac Chronic

It is definitely the political season. Obama says that he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His opponent Mitt Romney, in turn called the president a poopy head. It is on, ladies and gentlemen and it is all ready way too tiring.


Saw that the Obama administration is now pushing for company drug testing across the land. It will boost "productivity and reduce health care costs", according to the 2012 National Drug Control Report released Tuesday.

On the heels of the Oaksterdam crackdown, more drug testing? Barrie is sounding more like a Republican every day. The now repentent ex stoner from the Ponahou School appears to have been institutionalized if not completely co-opted. The Young Obama would be very disappointed with this prissy late incarnation. The guy who sounded so cool as a candidate and then conveniently forgot all those promises. Oh, well. Politicians are mostly lawyers and everybody knows lawyers lie.

The political calculus is that the medical and recreational pot community is either too insignificant to harm his election chances or else much more inclined to vote for him than his Republican opponent anyway so you can't blame his strategy, just his about face.


CIA wants permission to kill people with drone missiles, even when they do not know their identities if there is "intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior." I applaud the move. Can't make omelettes without breaking a few eggs and win a few, lose a few. And hey they are only Yemenis, its not like they are going to come over here and kick our ass, right?


American Catholic nuns are on the hot seat over radical, feminist views according to a new Vatican report. The archbishop from Seattle has been appointed to kick a little butt and get the sisters in line.

Network is a catholic group formed in 1971 that focussed on the dumb stuff like "poverty, immigration and health care." They were silent on abortion and it evidently pissed off some of the boys overseas.


Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is upset with the Los Angeles Times for printing two of the least gruesome photographs of members of the 82nd Airborne with mutilated corpses. I can see the reason for his discomfort but think that his ire should be reserved for his own troops, the people actually responsible for the pictures.

As a student of history with a fondness for 17th century Japan, I can tell you that these types of war trophies are as old as combat. During the time of Ida Nobunaga troops would have to bring back heads of opposition leaders. I doubt that there was ever a war where soldiers didn't help themselves to these types of morbid parting gifts.

These soldiers are not robots, nor crusaders. They are men and women with real emotions. That is why so many of them come back so messed up. Killing is barbaric by nature, no matter how noble the supposed cause. War is crazy and people are all affected differently. Can't be sanitized.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

David Lebovitz

I discovered a link to an interesting writer and food blogger, David Lebovitz, on Helen McHargue's blogsite, Guacamole Gulch. An ex Chez Pannise alum and acclaimed pastry chef, Lebovitz now writes books and lives the foodie expat life in Paris.

Here is a snip:

Paris & Switzerland Chocolate and Gastronomy Tour in June
We have two spaces left on my upcoming Paris and Switzerland Chocolate and Gastronomy Tour in June (due to a last-minute cancellation.) Requirements are that you must be able to consume large quantities of chocolate and caramel, reasonable amounts of butter and cheese, wine (as necessary), and plenty of charcuterie. If you fit this description and are interested in coming – or want more information – there’s a link on my Tours page for getting in touch with the contact person.

Now that caught my attention! Check the site out. I only caught a bit but he appears to be a pretty good writer.

Crimson and Clover

Selling Out

Blogger, the google company that offers me a free platform in which to blog, sent me a nifty note today:

Monetize your blog with Google Affiliate Ads for Blogger
When you share your words, thoughts and photos on Blogger, you are sharing your passions with the world. Sometimes, you’re passionate about brands or products. Starting today, you can make money by promoting relevant products in your posts, gaining income for each new customer you introduce to your favorite brands.
This is a new way for you to monetize your blog, giving you control over the advertisers and products you promote, and better connecting your readers with the things you love.

I especially like the line "Sometimes, you’re passionate about brands or products." Really? I am going to pitch products on my blog now? You think I can be bought that easily? As I sit here on my comfortable Barcalounger™, drinking this fantastic Fanta™Grape Soda, watching my ultrasharp Sony™high def television? Dressed in my form fitting Fruit of the loom™ briefs and watching my sweetheart whip up a tasty pitcher of Don Julio brand margaritas in my Ronco™ blendamatic Predator© brand blender?

Never! (cha-ching.)

smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette

There is a very interesting little article in this month's print edition of Mother Jones called The book big tobacco doesn't want you to read by Michael Mechanic. Unfortunately it is not on the web edition or I would link to it.

The article is about Robert Proctor, a Stanford professor who has written a book about the tobacco industry called Golden Holocaust. Proctor, a science historian, is an expert witness who has participated in quite a few major tobacco lawsuits and what he has to say is quite interesting.

The cigarette companies were so concerned about his forthcoming book that they subpoenaed the unfinished manuscript in 2009. It was an unsuccessful attempt but followed a pattern of harassment against Proctor that included  attempts by tobacco lawyers to convince a judge to let them troll through his private emails.

Proctor unmasks the master plan of a few companies to market what the author of the article calls the "mass marketing of the most lethal product on the planet." And I learned a few things already. Proctor gained access to over 100,000 internal tobacco documents including a 1970 Lorillard memo that suggests that menthol was smoked my negroes to mask their "real/mythical odor." He found detailed plans on how to market to young "starters."

We learn that a rodent anal secretion is added to cigarettes to enhance what is termed as "pack aroma." Yum. That 90% of american licorice supply is used to sweeten smokes. 4% of the weight of a cig are humectants like propylene glycol antifreeze. Other ingredients cited in the article are pine oil, beeswax, patchouli, rum, caffeine and urea.

Cigarettes kill 400,000 people a year. It is estimated in the article that that works out to about $10,000.00 in profits per casualty.

Looks like a very interesting read.

What next?

Busy and sad week in our little town. They found the body of the missing Fallbrook woman a few hours ago in a ravine. Brittany Kilgore was only 22. The woman responsible for her death had tried to commit suicide and had left a note in a Point Loma hotel telling where the body would be found.

It has been a real whodunit. Suspicions had been focussed on a 45 year old marine who had been picked up for having an illegal assault rifle. Don't know if he was actually connected to the homicide or not. Her husband was on a tour of Afghanistan.Tragic that this beautiful young woman has lost her life so suddenly.

I just went to the bank and saw this sign on the door.  What I hadn't noticed until I looked were the cops running around everywhere. The Bank of America had just been robbed and they were looking for the now red dyed perp. Never found him, the sheriff told me.

Fallbrook, we're not just about avocados anymore.


Talking to yourself has cognitive benefits

Interesting new study titled Self-directed speech affects visual search performance published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology by psychologists Gary Lupyan (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Daniel Swingley (University of Pennsylvania).

These scientists conducted experiments where subjects were shown 20 pictures of various objects and asked to find a particular one.

In some trials, participants saw a text label telling them what object they should find (“Please search for the teapot.”) In other trials, the same subjects were asked to search again while actually say the word to themselves. It was found that speaking to themselves helped people find the objects more quickly.

So talking to yourself is sometimes helpful and beneficial. The problem arises when you start talking back to yourself and engaging in full blown arguments. That is when the men come by with the butterfly nets and you end up either seriously restrained or cutting out endless reams of paper dolls.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Season Of The Witch

We are entering the wah wah phase. Here Bloomfield and presumably Stills try their able foots at the pedal.

Harvey Mandel- Christo Redentor

Killer version of Wade in the Water by Harvey Mandel. Great album cover art by the late Alton Kelley.

Presidential Tout

My buddy W used to set lines in Nevada. He is presently taking action on the Presidential election. That is, if it is legal. He will give two to one odds up to a g-note on anyone that wants to pick Romney.

30 Days In The Hole

The Small Faces were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this week along with their later incarnation, the Faces.  I love Steve Marriott. It bums me out that I never got a chance to see him or Ronnie Lane in person. Marriott was the most intense vocalist of the period. Loved his guitar work and everything else about the guy. He died too early, I think that he accidentally lit his bed on fire. Didn't really dig the Faces all that much, Stewart played it a bit too cute and I never liked Ron Wood's sound all that much. But as New York Stan likes to say, he only has the best things to say about me!

This song of Humble Pie was recorded after Frampton left the band and features Clem Clempson on rhythm guitar.


I bought a large collection of original cartoon art this weekend by Mickey Bach (1909-1994). Mickey was an artist who started a very popular cartoon strip called Word-a-day in the 1940's that was published by the Chicago Sun Times Syndicate.

Mickey was an interesting character, a star athlete, a one time quarterback at the University of Wisconsin and a military man. He eventually went to work for Richfield Oil.

Here is a website dedicated to Word-a-day.

I love words and vocabulary so this stuff is right up my alley. I will be posting pictures of this new collection from time to time. Let me know if you want to buy any of the many originals. Thirty bucks a piece plus a few simoleans for shipping. They measure about 10" x 6". Here's your chance to own some original art and increase your vocabulary at the same time!

To Love Somebody

I know that Robin is in the home stretch and thought it would be nice to post something before he went to meet his heavenly reward.

Wired to buy

Dave from Japan sent me an interesting link to a book that helps explain the effects that the actions of buying  and selling on the cerebral cortex, Jonah Lehrer's 2009 book The Decisive Moment.

This research might help us understand the rudiments of our physiologic and psychologic buying impulses. A whole new neuroeconomic frontier.

I followed the link back to the original paper.

Neural Predictors of Purchases
Brian Knutson, Scott Rick, G. Elliott Wimmer, Drazen Prelec,and George Loewenstein
Psychology and Neuroscience, Stanford University, Building 420, Jordan Hall, Stanford, CA 94305, USA, Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, 208 Porter Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA, MIT Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, E56-320, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA Correspondence: knutson@psych.stanford.edu
DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2006.11.010

Microeconomic theory maintains that purchases are driven by a combination of consumer preference and price. Using event related fMRI, we investigated how people weigh these factors to make purchasing decisions. Consistent with neuroimaging evidence suggesting that distinct circuits anticipate gain and loss, product preference activated the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), while excessive prices activated the insula and deactivated the mesial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) prior to the purchase decision. Activity from each of these regions independently predicted immediately subsequent purchases above and beyond self report variables. These findings suggest that activation of distinct neural circuits related to
anticipatory affect precedes and supports consumers’ purchasing decisions.

The decision of whether to purchase a product is the fundamental unit of economic analysis. From the bazaar to the Internet, people typically consider characteristics of available products, determine their cost, and then decide whether or not to purchase. The success of economic theory rests on its ability to characterize this repeated and elementary decision process. Neuroeconomic methods offer the hope of separating and characterizing distinct components of the purchase decision process in individual consumers. In addition to being attracted to preferred products, consumers avoid prices that seem excessive. Many incentive schemes for promoting purchasing appear designed to diminish the salience of payments (e.g., credit cards) or to create the illusion that products have no cost (e.g., frequent flyer mileage) (Prelec and Simester, 2001). To explain these phenomena, recent behavioral economic theories have postulated a hedonic competition between the immediate pleasure of acquisition and an equally immediate pain of paying (Prelec and Loewenstein, 1998). The notion that people consider prices as a potential loss can be contrasted with a different economic account in which people represent prices as potential gains of alternative products that could be purchased for the same amount of money (Deaton and Muellbauer, 1980).The idea that purchase decisions involve a tradeoff between the potential pleasure of acquisition and the pain of paying is consistent, however, with recent neuroscientific evidence that distinct neural circuits related to anticipatory affect provide critical input into subsequent decisions (Bechara et al., 1996; Kuhnen and Knutson, 2005). Mounting neuroimaging evidence suggests that activity in different neural circuits correlates with positive and negative anticipatory affect. In the absence of choice, anticipation of financial gains activates the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and correlates with self-reported positive arousal, whereas gain outcomes activate the mesial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) (Knutson et al., 2001b). These findings have been interpreted to indicate that NAcc activation correlates with gain prediction, while MPFC activation correlates with gain prediction errors (Knutson et al., 2003). Further findings suggest that anticipation of physical pain activates the insula, among other areas, and that insula activation also correlates with self-reported negative arousal (Buchel and Dolan, 2000; Paulus et al., 2003). Thus, insula activation has been hypothesized to play a critical role in loss prediction (Paulus and Stein, 2006).
Emerging evidence also suggests that activation in these circuits may influence subsequent choice. For instance, during an investing task involving choice of risky (e.g., stocks) or risk less (e.g., a bond) alternatives, NAcc activation preceded switching to risk-seeking strategies (in which anticipated gain should outweigh anticipated loss), while insula activation preceded switching to risk averse strategies (in which anticipated loss should outweigh anticipated gain) (Kuhnen and Knutson, 2005).

Homespun Blues

Monday, April 16, 2012

get up stand up.

Michigan Republican Representative Peter Hoekstra raised both women's ire and eyebrows last week when he declared that laws that mandated equal pay for women were a "nuisance" for business. Today Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney refused to say if he would have signed the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter act which helped women who have been the victims of such discrimination sue their employers. That was in the past and Mitt is looking towards the future. The man who ordered that welfare moms go to work in 2005 in order to help them find a little dignity doesn't want to deal in hypotheticals and I don't blame him.

In fact, both of these men should be applauded for their stances. Since when has a woman ever worked equally to a man anyway? Let's look at a typical day. Start off by putting your makeup on in the car and performing a few illegal lane changes. You clock in and then maybe look at your horoscope. Fix your nail polish.  Watch the Guiding Light on hulu. Type a letter or two and it's nearly time for lunch. Read US or People and catch up on a little water cooler gossip and its almost time to go home.

You women have had it too easy for too long. There's gonna be a new sheriff in town and his name is Mitt. It's time to get the dead weight off of american business and you know how to spell it. W-o-m-e-n.

John Moores

I have to be honest. I have never met the owner of the San Diego Padres, John Moores. I know he is a Texan. I know that he is a democrat. I know that he was a friend and client of the late Sam Maloof, Sam told me. I know that at one time he had some nifty Georgia O'Keefe paintings, a friend who was working in his house saw them. I know that he was the owner of Peregrine Systems and cashed out 600 million dollars before the company went belly up and a bunch of his top management team were indicted and convicted of various sins. I know that my late friend Al, a wealthy La Jollan, said that he was no damn good.

John Moores bought the San Diego Padres from Tom Werner in 1984. He convinced the City of San Diego to let the taxpayers finance Petco Park to the tune of about $300 million dollars. He kept some sweetheart real estate holdings around the park for his JMI company. He has gotten very fat on the San Diego Padres.

A couple years ago he and his wife Becky got a divorce and he decided to sell the club to an ex player agent that many people in baseball evidently hated, Jeff Moorad. Moores just wasn't into it anymore. Maybe the  potential of Obama instituting some new capital gains tax hike scared the Texas bejeebus out of him?

Moorad really didn't have any money and wished to finance the purchase with speculative television money and the other owners balked. The deal fell through and Moores is in the driver's seat again. He is looking into finding another buyer. The club is now worth over a half a billion dollars  in the wake of the Dodgers deal and he stands to make a pretty penny on his initial investment, especially with a new tv deal on the horizon.

When the park financing was put before the citizens of San Diego there was all kind of puffery and drum rolls about how the Padres were finally going to spend some money, having historically been along with the Pirates, the cheapest team in baseball. It never happened. They jettisoned all of their talent, people like Gonzalez, Peavy and Bell. They started operating as an ostensible farm club for the Cubs and Red Sox.

The woeful team once again this year has the lowest payroll in baseball, about $55 million. They have the worst batting average in either league, a robust .183. They flat out can not hit. Yesterday they hit into a 2-5-6-3 triple play, first time it has ever happened in baseball history. Of course, the ump was responsible, calling a foul ball fair. They got swept by the Dodgers and they start this awful season two and seven. It's all right though, I distinctly remember their President Tom Garfinkel telling everyone last year that the fans didn't care so much about wins as the baseball experience.

I don't understand what makes guys like Moores tick. He fell out of love with his wife, he fell out of love with his team, he fell out of love with the city, who knows? Rich people are phlegmatic. What I do know is that San Diego fans are holding the bag, their love for their miserable team once again sorely tested and with an absentee owner who appears to no longer give a shit, nothing looks like it will change in the near future. It is a shame that the man who got everything he asked for could treat his play toy with such neglect and our region with such contempt.

Splash Dogs

There was a pet show next door at Del Mar. They had the amazing splash dogs, both experienced and rookies. People were welcome to bring their dogs and let them try. It was a lot of fun watching them. I think the record jump there is over 26'.

Taking Up Serpents

"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils: they shall speak with new tongues;
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." Mark 16: 17,18'

Johnny Cymbal

The trappings

You can win the rat race but you are still a fucking rat.
Mike Tyson

I have been thinking a lot about the subject of class and materialism of late. My thoughts coalesced this morning with a spirited debate with coffee partner Bob at the klatch this morning.

I am tired from a long week but will hopefully be able to present you with a not too scrambled post on the subject.

We are largely defined in our culture by what we have and what we drive.

I went out to dinner in a tony exburb of Del Mar with S and T the other night. The upscale shopping center was awash in expensive to very expensive cars. I have noticed that I have been feeling very poor driving through some of these coastal communities in my humble dodge lately.

My hosts are wonderful people who can afford to drive anything they want but choose to drive a Mazda and Hyundai. Highly functional, nicely appointed cars that rank quite low in terms of social cachet. They get major points for this in my book. They could care less what anybody thinks about their rides but did let on that the Genesis came with the option of removing all recognizable branding and it passes quite nicely for a more socially acceptable ride.

My friend Mel is a hardened Berkeley radical who came up in the Free Speech Movement and is as far left as they come. She and her hubby are both rocking Mercedes as of last week, she the CLK 350 and he a nice sedan. I told her last week that come the revolution she was now officially dead meat.

BigD's M5 took a powder and he also got a Benz after 30 years of having the top BMW's. BigD has been to all the race car schools and for him it is supposedly about performance so maybe I cut him some slack. Barely. The new one is more of an old man ride.

Lena had her beamer broadsided by a hit and run before our trip and is also looking for a new ride. When I mentioned a lesser breed of car she looked quite horrified. Not to pick on my dear friends. We all want a nice mode of transportation. And the decision involves something more than mere utility.

Our cars obviously serve a function beyond mere transportation. They are telling the world something about our images of ourselves.

Several of my close friends, a couple of who read the blog, made a bunch of money through hard work and bought Ferraris. They all sold them. K said that he thought he really wanted one but it ended up just sitting in the garage so he sold it. Because it turned out that it didn't matter to him. When I lived in Rancho Santa Fe for a brief period in my youth the guys I really admired were the zillionaires driving Civics. They had nothing to prove to anybody. Of course, driving a bat out of hell can be a lot of fun too. We all do things for different reasons. Wanted a minerva blue porsche 911 in the worst way as a kid. But ended up fat and living on a dirt road so it was never to be. Did do the BMW thing early on.


My father had some very nice cars. I showed his 1954 Sedanca De Ville Rolls Royce Silver Wraith at the Laguna Concours de Elegance in 1976. The one with the open chauffer's compartment. Mulliner body. He also had an extremely rare Aston Martin DB5 convertible. Many Bentleys and Shadows, E types and what not. Gravitated to Lexus in his old age.

He was presenting the world a picture of himself as a man with taste for the unattainable. They were beautiful cars and I think that I understand his motivation. And have to say that he never thought too good to drive in my old truck.

My father was a rare cat, a wealthy man with taste. People think that there is a correlation between having money and having taste but after thirty years of selling art, I have learned that the opposite is usually true. My father had an exceptional eye for nice paintings, ivory and orientalia and his hallways sported canvasses by Van Dyke, Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds. I have been in many millionaires houses with an abysmal sense of design. In my opinion of course. Zebra rugs and Patrick Nagels. Spent so much time clawing their way to the top that they never had time to develop an aesthetic sense or have a proper look around.

In my business the most passionate collectors are rarely the most wealthy. They are often teachers or people that save for a whole year to purchase their prizes. I always enjoy selling to these people. They are informed and many times more expert than I am.  The recent recession weeded out a lot of people who were really more interested in making a quick flip in a booming and speculative California Impressionism art market than actually enjoying the artwork. Unlike the new money people who buy Warhols or the latest modern art rip off.


I was out of high school and working as a groom in the saddlebred and hunter jumper horse business. Hard work, mucking stalls sometimes at 4:30 in the morning. One of the barns I worked for was in Rancho Santa Fe. I will never forget the day. A fifteen year old girl had a fierce screaming tantrum. Her Mercedes was in the shop and her parents suggested that she drive a Vega the three miles home. She couldn't be seen in such a lowly car. Apoplectic.

I got burnt out on the gaited horses for the same reasons we stopped showing cars. At some point it degenerated into a pissing contest where the really wealthy people just showed you how they could win by throwing obscene amounts of money at everything.


My breakfast argument started with my observation that most BMW's and Mercedes are very stale from a design sense. I can hardly tell most of the BMW series apart. But they deliver enough social cachet that they continue to sell.


There was a very successful art dealer in town that got a frantic call from a client a few years ago that he needed paintings for his home in Newport Beach asap. He was having a home tour the next day. Spent a couple million, including a Granville Redmond painting for over 600k. My friend laughed as he told me about receiving a call from the guy the next day, "What was the name of that painter again?" Can you imagine spending that kind of coin and not even knowing the name of the artist?


I was sitting at the blackjack dealer last month when the guy from Phoenix sat down next to me. He was making some heavy losses back and betting a couple grand a hand. His wife walked up sporting the new three thousand dollar purse he had just bought for her. God bless them for being able to afford it and more power to do whatever they want but I would freaking if my wife decided that she needed an expensive ugly purse to separate herself from the masses. Nouveau richedom seems so tiring and venal at its worst.


Some accoutrements of the wealthy are indeed quite beautiful. I would love to tool around in a nice Bugatti or Talbot Lago. Give my eye teeth for an Edward Hopper or N.C. Wyeth painting, even a small one. If I had any bread I would indeed be dangerous. I am not merely talking about simple envy here.

What bothers me is the junk that has become currency in the culture. Anything adorned with initials that give you instant access to some club gets under my skin. So stupid. But serves some internal purpose of defining you as a class apart from the philistines. It is tricky to collect status symbols because it can be so transparent if the object in question is obviously tawdry.


I was talking about this subject with some buddhist friends this afternoon and they brought up the concepts of dualism and attachment. You can be equally ensnared by having something and not having something. I am not championing some sixties paradigm of non materialism. You made the freaking money, probably through talent and very hard work, you can do whatever you want with it. However I do think having to keep up with the rich neighbors seems a bit exhausting. And it will be so hard to fit all the toys into the eventual pine box.

If I measured my self worth by my balance sheet, I would have to characterize  my life as a colossal failure. I tend to measure my worth in the great friends I have, of all social stratas and walks of life. And in being so handsome and brilliant of course.