Apex point - © Robert Sommers 2024

Monday, December 31, 2012

Lest old acquaintance be forgot...

I hate end of the year, holiday and christmas letters. People's lives are all so great, so accomplished, their children are so successful, their teflon lives so impenetrable. Make  the rest of us muggles feel like pishers. And yet I write a daily blog, who the hell am I to talk? Talk about self absorbed...

When I was in boarding school, I had a beautiful classmate from a rich Newport Beach family. I will never forget her getting the mimeographed, christmas form letter from her parents in Europe, the parents she hadn't seen in two years. It was pretty sad.

I was at the post office the other day and the woman next to me was yelling to a woman at the back of the line about all of the family fun and accomplishments. After an interminable wait, I couldn't help myself and blurted out, "And little Jimmy's finally out of the federal witness protection program." Had the line in stitches.

It has been a pretty good year for me and I hope for you too. We dodged that Mayan bullet, long time coming. Nobody real close to me died, Leslie and I stayed reasonably healthy. BigD's cancer went into remission. Business was pretty good. Blogging and writing was fairly enjoyable although I have been stuck in a reality rut and still yearn to write something fictional and hopefully more meaningful.

We took some kickass vacations and side trips. I thought I would go through my yet unpublished photographs and try to address some of the higher points, not in chronological order.

With BigD and Dan Flynn - Valley of Fire
Great hanging out with BigD, post chemo in Vegas. We went into the tao bar and I got to introduce him to the bar as an emissary from another world. Venusians are so hip. Hendrix's fire came on the radio at the absolutely appropriate moment as we traversed the Valley of Fire.

Up close and personal with an old bighorn sheep.


I got deeper into the hawk nest with these year's triplets than I have ever got in the past. Still need a longer lens, for an even more intimate view, when I can afford the luxury. I have seen a very fat mother hanging near the nest this week.

One of the highest points and greatest moments this year was being with R & D and pals in the harbor on the backside of Catalina.

We had the harbor basically to ourself and I drank more wine than I have imbibed in years.

As the sun set, we put on Quicksilver Messenger Service's Who do you love and woke up every spirit on the island.
dripping moon, catalina
At one point we were corralled by a silent pod of fin whales. An experience we will never forget.

Alhambra pool

Another highpoint, probably the apogee of my year was southern spain.  A dream, so rich visually and culturally.

shakey hand, golden gate
There were other great moments to be sure. Death Valley, Jemez Springs, Grand Canyon, Hopi, Marin, Half Moon Bay, good old Fallbrook. The best was hanging out with my family and friends, the people I love.

Wishing you all the best in the new year. Stay safe, button up. Take your vitamins.  Be happy. As far as I know, you get one go around. Might as well have a blast.

Until next year,


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hillary and the hyenas on the right

...despite Hillary Clinton suffering from ‘Acute Benghazi Allergy’ that causes lightheadedness she hears the word ‘Benghazi’, she needs to be asked where she was in real time as the events in Benghazi were unfolding on September 11.
Charles Krauthammer

The vultures were all over Hillary Clinton regarding her "supposed" concussion. Today we find out that she actually has a blood clot. Charles Krauthammer is a doctor, you would think he would have a little more professional ethics, not to mention the sense to withhold judgement since he was not personally treating the Secretary of State. Don't hold your breath waiting for these vermin to apologize. Like the administration owes these people a look at the gameday medical reports so they can decide who's really just faking their injuries.

Well, I think she will have to testify at some point. You know, every foreign service officer in every foreign ministry in the world knows the phrase I am about to use. When you don’t want to go to a meeting or conference or an event you have a “diplomatic illness.” And this is a diplomatic illness to beat the band. 
John Bolton

Comments from right wing blogosphere - Townhall 12/31/12

You seen the stars tonight?


Hale Bopp - Wally Pacholka, Joshus Tree 4/5/97
One thing that we already have to look forward to next year is the great comet of 2013.  The comet Ison is to be visible from October through January and to fly 1.2 million miles from the center of the sun. The comet is going to be extraordinarily bright, visible in the daytime sky and projects to be the brightest comet since the great comet of 1680. Scientists say that it will be actually brighter than the moon. I am looking forward to the light show.

Ison comes from the Oort Cloud, near the solar system's edge. We have another comet coming next year as well, Comet Pan-STARRS is going to pass by the planet in March, eight months before ISON shows up. I am looking forward of having my night photography together enough to do some quality work with these arrivals.

There is always a chance that these things burn up before they get here.. Let's hope that they hang around and give us an extended light show. Earth could use some entertainment.

Ah, Milk!

One of the goofier results of going over the fiscal cliff is what will happen to milk prices. A gallon might now set you back eight bucks. I didn't fully grasp the issue until I read this article in the nytimes this morning. When they drew up the sequestration business, a clause was added that milk prices would be tied to the antiquated and somewhat curdled 1949 farm law.

"Under the current program, the government sets a minimum price to cover dairy farmers’ production costs. If the market price drops below that, the government buys dairy products from farmers to buoy prices and increase demand. Since milk prices have remained above that minimum price in recent years, dairy farmers usually do better by selling their products commercially rather than to the government.
But if 1949 rules go into effect, the government would be required to buy dairy products at around $40 per hundredweight — roughly twice the current market price — to drive up the price of milk to cover dairy producers’ cost."
Certain people are always squawking about socialists hiding under the bed. The biggest marxist game in America is played out every day with farms, water and food. But it mostly takes place in the red states so we don't hear too much about it.

Cat and Mouse

Interesting article in the New York Times this morning about Pakistan. Apparently there is a little technology war going on. Somebody is paying local spies to target Al Qaeda targets with little electronic devices that are called Patrai in the local parlance. Oftentimes these spies are captured and killed. The Taliban are also adopting high tech techniques of their own.
The Taliban and Al Qaeda have become obsessed with “patrai” — a local word for a small metallic device, now synonymous with the tiny electronic tagging devices that militants believe the C.I.A. uses to find them. In 2009 Mr. Libi, the Qaeda deputy, published an article illustrated with photographs of such devices, warning of their dangers. He was killed in a drone strike near Mir Ali in June.
This year, the Taliban released a video purporting to show one such device: an inchlong electronic circuit board, cased in transparent plastic, that, when connected to a nine-volt battery, pulsed with an infrared light. A spokesman for the C.I.A. declined to comment on details of the drone program. But a former American intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the agency does use such GPS devices, which are commercially available in the United States through stores that supply the military.
As a result, the Taliban are adapting. Wali ur-Rehman, a senior Taliban commander, said in an interview last spring that his fighters had started to scan all visiting vehicles with camcorders set to infrared mode in order to detect potential tracking devices.
On the ground, though, the spy war has further destabilized a tribal society already dangerously weakened by years of violence. Paranoia about the profusion of tracking chips has fueled rivalries between different clans who accused one another of planting the devices.
“People start to think that other tribes are throwing the chips. There is so much confusion and mistrust created within the tribal communities. Drone attacks have intensified existing mistrust,” one tribesman told researchers from Columbia Law School, as part of a study into the effects of the drone campaign, last May.

These Days - Jennifer Warnes

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sound Off.

As we get older I think that most of us tend to dismiss our own positive attributes and focus more on our ample deficiencies. Spouses are really good at helping to bring them to the fore, if we happen to forget where they live or where we put them. After fifty five years I think I have a pretty good idea of who the hell I am and what I can or can not do but I guess it never hurts to be reminded.

I won't bore you with the list, we have discussed my inability to fix anything in the past amonst many other things but I don't want to retread old ground, with the new year presenting itself so soon. Regrets, I've had a few...

I was never the guy who could walk into the bar and sweep all the available maidens off their feet with a subtle turn of my head or a bat of my eyelashes. Decent looking chap but not quite a looker. More of the Jeff Goldblum, supporting actor type role, had to use the superior wit and sharp intellect if I had any hope whatsoever of scoring. I had friends who had women throwing themselves at them and I have to tell you, they really pissed me off. Honestly I never liked the shape of my oversized head, the back looks funny, not that we ever get a clear view of it.

I could play the guitar for another twenty five years and still never be anything more than a mediocre musician, owing to a stilted sense of rhythm and time. I rarely play for people, being very neurotic about my musical output. The uninitiated tell me that they like to hear me play but I know better. I was similarly neurotic when I was drawing, wouldn't let anybody handle my sketchbooks and insisted on turning the pages for them. Don't have the same vulnerability when I write for some reason. Anyway as much as I love music with me it's pretty much a solitary affair.

I frankly never liked the sound of my voice. I moved from California to New Mexico to Texas to New York to California as a kid and got a strange polyglot of an accent that is thin, slightly nasal and pretty unidentifiable. It is an odd thing about a voice, everybody else hears you better than you do yourself, owing to the peculiar filter of your brain and innate auditory equipment.

My distaste for my own voice really came home when I heard myself on a recording for the first time. Like a needle across a record. A weak voice, even whiny, without any superlatives of any kind to describe it. I once read a quote from a now forgotten sage that in old age we all get the faces that we deserve. Perhaps we get the voices that we deserve as well.

I actually had voice lessons for a semester in boarding school. I was the A in SATB. One of my dad's buddies told him that the voice teacher was stealing his money. I sing a lot, loving music and not really caring what anybody thinks, bad voice notwithstanding. My specialty is Johnny Cash and Bakersfield cowboy. The kid from El Paso comes out in spades when I unleash the pipes.

What this all leads up to, it does lead to something, is that an odd thing happened this month. Two singers independently told me that they thought that I had a really nice voice. I was shocked. I was singing at a party in Rancho Santa Fe and a chanteuse and pianist with a very good rep came over and told me that she liked my singing. Said I had a good voice. I'm like, you're kidding? I have always had such a bad aural self image that I didn't know what to say. Really? Same thing happened this morning at coffee. Either somebody who loves me a lot has paid people off to say nice things to me or maybe my pipes aren't quite as bad as I always thought that they were. Self loathing aside, perhaps my voice doesn't suck as bad as I always thought it did.


Decidedly of this world

© Robert Sommers 2012

I am so pleased with the quality of the photographs that you have sent in. You are a very talented bunch. I think that I have the best team in the whole damn blogosphere and want to thank you all for both tuning in and contributing. Peace, love, good health and prosperity in the new year to all of you in the blog family.

Dafos - Reunion

Hagel Shmagel

My head is spinning with all of the Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense crap. I don't pretend to know all of the ins and outs but we have a bunch of conservatives and Republicans arguing against a Republican nominee and wondering why the President couldn't just nominate a Democrat?

Guess loyalty to party ain't what it used to be. Neocons hate him because he has made some comments in the past that have been construed as hostile to jews. Log Cabin doesn't appreciate his attitude towards gays. Sounds like a perfect GOPer.

Saw an interesting take on the nomination by Rich Lowry at National Review this morning. Worth considering.

The Dangling Conversation

In praise of Holden Caulfield

I was talking to my friend Richard Carpenter a few weeks ago about this life business of ours and he brought up a column of George Will's that he once read and hated and said that he had kept a great, pithy response to it that he once saw in the Herald Tribune.

Kind of funny for George Will to be lecturing anybody about tired vocabulary. He is after all, the all time "champeen" of overwrought, sesquipedalian verbosity. Can't understand half the shit he spews on a regular basis and worse yet, he is so boring that I rarely have the incentive to even try.

Richard sent over the response this morning. The least I could do was dig up the original column.

Holden Caulfield -- American Whiner

By George F. Will
Sunday, July 1, 2001

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

With those words, 16-year-old Holden Caulfield slouched into American life 50 years ago this month. He was feeling entitled to feel quite sorry for himself. His feelings fascinated him, and his creator, J. D. Salinger, thought readers should sympathize with them. By now, many millions of them have. Holden was a new social type that subsequently has become familiar -- the American as whiner.

Anyone who doubts that the supposedly bland 1950s were pregnant with the undoubtedly stimulating 1960s should reread "The Catcher in the Rye." Published in July 1951, it has sold more than 60 million copies worldwide and is considered a "classic," a designation usually reserved in America for a variant of Coca-Cola.
This mildly picaresque novel -- reviewers then considered it risque -- recounts a boy's flight from prep school to an eventful weekend in New York. Like Ulysses he was a wanderer. And that exhausts Holden's resemblance to anyone heroic.
He found almost everyone -- except children; this was Holden's class solidarity -- and everything unworthy of him. By declaring reality a terrible disappointment, he helped teach America's youth how to pout, a talent refined by a Hollywood Holden, James Dean, in 1955 in "Rebel Without a Cause." But at least the adolescents in "Blackboard Jungle" (1955) were interestingly menacing. Holden's emotional range matched that of Katherine Hepburn in a Broadway performance about which one critic wrote, "She ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B."
Holden was forever denouncing "phonys" and "phoniness," which put him squarely on the side of the advanced thinkers. Such thinkers were then understood, by the folks at the serious quarterlies, as people "alienated" by the shallowness of American society, but bravely seeking "authenticity" and rather relishing the pleasure of despair. However, Holden's rebellion was somewhat, shall we say, unfocused, as was Marlon Brando's in the 1954 movie "The Wild One," in which a local girl asks Brando, the leader of a motorcycle gang, "What are you rebelling against?" and he replies, "Whadayah got?"
Fears about the invisible shackles of social pressure in an opinion-worshiping democracy are as old as de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America," and Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" (1925) subtly explored how the integrity of personality is problematic. But in the 1950s, worry about "conformity" became the conformity of the intellectuals, in novels such as "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" (1955) and sociology treatises with such telling titles as "Organization Man" (1956) and "The Lonely Crowd" (1950).
Six years after Holden appeared as the Sympathetic Adolescent Misfit, Leonard Bernstein set "Romeo and Juliet" to music among sentimentalized youth gangs in "West Side Story." Clearly, Holden the nonconformist -- this nonconformity novel was a main selection of the Book of the Month Club; think about that -- was part of the herd of independent minds, happily "alienated," together.
Comparisons of Holden and Huck Finn are inevitable. Huck comes off better. Huck understood freedom in the American way, as the absence of social restraints, and did something about it by lighting out for the territories. Holden merely pioneered a new fashion statement with his baseball cap: "I swung the old peak round to the back." In case you were wondering about the pedigree of that bit of contemporary infantilism.
Huck was American literature's first character to speak naturally. Holden, too, was a literary pioneer, inventing inarticulateness as a token of adolescent "sincerity." ("I shook my head. I shake my head quite a lot. 'Boy!' I said. I also say 'Boy!' quite a lot. Partly because I have a lousy vocabulary." Partly.) Sixties adolescents, who were Holden's siblings, punctuated utterances, often of unknowable meaning, with "you know"; today's lace their locutions with swarms of "like."
The social ambiguities and hormonal turbulence associated with coming of age, and the theme of tragically "sensitive" youth -- Holden is too exquisitely sensitive for friendship -- have been the stuff of much fiction, some of it fine. However, critics, confusing self-absorption with sensitivity, invest Holden's banal discomfitures with more meaning than they can bear, and Byronic dash.
Byron was at least a youth "mad, bad and dangerous to know." Holden was -- is -- just as limited and tiresome as his vocabulary.

Hello Robert,
Hope to see you and Leslie New Years eve or New Years Day. Here is the Herald Tribune editorial response. I was sitting in 'La Rotunde' cafe with a 'grand creme' and a croissant reading the Herald Tribune.

"Regarding,'The Tiresome Legacy of Holden Caulfield' by George Will"
Mr. Will's attack on "The Catcher in the Rye" betrays all the buttoned-down aridity of the far right in America. The dried-up intellectualizing of this pencil-sucking dweeb smells of the grave. He has never been broke, got drunk or smoked a joint. More to the point, has never gone wrong or felt wrong. What a sad boast. He reminds me of Checkhov's 'Man in a Case' wrapped in a mental overcoat and galoshes in all seasons.
Holden Caulfield, for all his gauche phrase-making, felt empathy for those who were not of the herd. As Nietzsche said: "The strong are weak when confronted with the organized instincts of the herd." May the likes of Mr. Will never ride herd on America. It would suffocate. 

Douglas Hamilton - Brussels

I hope you find this beneficial Robert. It is what is happening with the far right today. They are suffocating this country. This letter to the editor really tells it all. Long live the spirit of Holden Caulfield.


Fontella Bass

Linda's page

I was bitching to some of my female readership about their failure to send pics in and got this wonderful message from my pal Linda. She rates her very own page. I am sure Bubbe and Zaide would be thrilled with what happened to the store!

Your wish is my command, Robert.

OF A GIRL:  Ever Lily Rabineau is all girl!  This was her first Jewish Christmas and she dressed for the occasion! (my grand-daughter, 3 months old)

BY A GIRL: by me.  Discovery of my S California personal history this year. The photo of a tat parlor on Venice Beach, the same storefront that housed my great-grandparents Kosher Grocery Store, c 1910. And a second photo of the area in 1941 when my father, his mother, aunt and his grandparents visited the site. I showed the b/w to the guys in the tattoo parlor and they got all mushy on me - loved it!

Marijuana as exit drug

There is an interesting new study published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory titled Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs: A dispensary-based survey of substitution effect in Canadian medical cannabis patients.  
Perhaps instead of viewing marijuana as a gateway drug, we should instead be looking at it as a method to get people off more harmful substances.
Background: This article examines the subjective impact of medical cannabis on the use of both licit and illicit substances via self-report from 404 medical cannabis patients recruited from four dispensaries in British Columbia, Canada. The aim of this study is to examine a phenomenon called substitution effect, in which the use of one product or substance is influenced by the use or availability of another.
Methods: Researchers teamed with staff representatives from four medical cannabis dispensaries located in British Columbia, Canada to gather demographic data of patient-participants as well as information on past and present cannabis, alcohol and substance use. A 44-question survey was used to anonymously gather data on the self-reported impact of medical cannabis on the use of other substances.
Results: Over 41% state that they use cannabis as a substitute for alcohol (n = 158), 36.1% use cannabis as a substitute for illicit substances (n = 137), and 67.8% use cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs (n = 259). The three main reasons cited for cannabis-related substitution are “less withdrawal” (67.7%), “fewer side-effects” (60.4%), and “better symptom management” suggesting that many patients may have already identified cannabis as an effective and potentially safer adjunct or alternative to their prescription drug regimen.
Discussion: With 75.5% (n = 305) of respondents citing that they substitute cannabis for at least one other substance, and in consideration of the growing number of studies with similar findings and the credible biological mechanisms behind these results, randomized clinical trials on cannabis substitution for problematic substance use appear justified.
I can personally vouch for these results. Seven years ago I had open heart surgery to repair a murmur and mitral valve. Split wide open like a chicken breast. I had a total of one pain killer after waking up from anesthesia, with very bad side effects, having always had an adverse reaction to narcotics. I chose to forego them from then on and self medicate with marijuana. My pain immediately was reduced from an 8 on a 10 scale to a 2.

Three years ago I had my left kidney removed due to cancer recurrence. I never took pain killers during the operation and recovery choosing also to self medicate with cannabis. My pain level never rose above 1.5. This is cutting my left flank wide open with an attendant 18" scar and removing an organ. Not exactly child's play. But having unfortunately undergone multiple surgeries in my life I can tell you that this way is far easier. Pity the U.S. government classifies it the way it does and prohibits legitimate medical and clinical study.

I had lengthy rehabilitations after both surgeries and never had to use dangerous painkillers. The only thing I took was an occasional ibuprofen. This harmless herb allowed me to detach and view my pain from a "third party" position and avert any possible withdrawal or addiction behavior patterns.

Although Obama has been a total washout in the matter of marijuana legalization, I can only hope that it is merely a matter of time before "cooler heads" prevail.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Snooks Eaglin - She's One Black Rat

2012 pics from the Blue Heron Blast readership

Rodney Mullen
Feb. 2012
El Segundo, CA
Photo: Grant Brittain
Ladybug - Bruce Taylor
Breneckes - Mike Reardon
Jack's P-51 - Allan Seymour

Front Row Center for Leonard Cohen at Madison Square Garden - Tracy

West Yellowstone - Ricardo Neumann

Horse's view of 103rd Annual Hunewill Ranch Cattle Drive - Bill Le Masters
Fred Young

Ling Ling, Pacific Asia Museum , iphone - Toni Inman

Two young men from Bali - Lena Leichtling
Michael Maas

Amy - Robert DeGoff

Morro Hills - Jon Harwood
Louis Nidorf

Kip Peterson
Sunshine Summit - Carol Lindemulder
Last sunrise of the year, San Francisco Bay - Kerry B

Ron Holder

"Looking Over" - Carrie Repking

Soft to Hard - Carmen Maas
Chinese Scream, Forbidden City, Beijing - Ken Seals
Rosso comp chassis - Richard Hudgins
Meredith, Borrego Springs - Bill Olson
Riley - Renée

kj in Cody
Cinque Terre - Deli Girl
"Old St. Stephen's Cemetery"  Robin Hood's Bay, England.  July 4th, 2012.   This was the final mile of our 12 day, 200 mile walk across England. Vlad and Natasha

Randy Walters

Irish Ponies, Dingle Peninsula - Helen McHargue

Shawn in Thailand