Egret and crab

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Island Dreams

Polulu, Big Island - © Robert Sommers 2013
I need to use some up Amex points. We were thinking about making a short bop to either Cabo or Hawaii in the next couple months. Can anybody recommend interesting lodging in either locale? Open to the carribean as well. We will go to any island but we want to go someplace pretty cool and inexpensive. Not too touristy. Any ideas?

Gavin Friday

Thar she blows!

I bought this beautiful ink sketch of a whaler at Del Mar. I had this old frame lying around and thought it would fit nicely. I just got the thing back from Jennifer across the street. I think that it looks pretty nifty. The work was painted by a man named Stuart Morton Boland, signed St. Boland - August, 1951. Drawn especially for the Nautical Research Guild. Never heard of the guy and decided to do some research.

Boland was the author of the book Legends of San Francisco, published in 1954 as well as a play in three acts and nine scenes, Doomsrod in 1936, Immortalia and several other books I shan't bore you with.

The Nautical Research Guild are actually an organization of ship modelers that have existed since 1948. I find a citation for him into the 1970's. I don't know where he fit into the pantheon but he was certainly on deck early.

Boland, Stuart Morton: San Francisco and Whaling on the West Coast.
Nautical Research Journal 20, Washington, 1973-74. pp 15-17, ill. 

Now this guy is intriguing. A very competent artist, I was told that he was a librarian, obviously a historian. A ship modeler. And then it gets juicier. What else?  Holy Cthulu, Batman! I am an old lover of fantasy literature and I find this blurb on an H.P. Lovecraft website concerning the August Derleth letters:

Stuart Morton Boland and the Necronomicon
Back in 2007, I listed an article from the old Acolyte as a Lovecraftian curiosity. Now that the Derleth Letters have been published, more info is available - from HPL's side.

[24 Oct 1936] "Speaking of the bizarre - I had an interesting note the other day from an apparently scholarly chap in San Francisco - by name, Stuart Morton Boland - who announces himself as a librarian who has been all over the world studying esoteric elder parchments like the Necronomicon in various places sch as Budapest, Madras, Bombay, &c. He thinks there may be some substratum of truth behind my references to the Necro, & will accordingly be disappointed when he finds that Grandpa is a callous materialist. But I'm being very curteous in my disillusionment; since he seems to be an extremely pleasant sage, & has promised to send me some mysterious objects which he obtained at the cryptic pre-Nahuan Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan during a recent trip to Mexico. The latter will surely be welcome, since my private "museum" already contains 5 Central-American items - 2 early Mayan images, an earthen Aztec image, an Aztec bowl, & an earthen Aztec calendar-stone."

The only other reference I can find right now is:

[To Barlow, 16 September 1936] "...correspondence hammering on all sides ... I owe 7 letters now ... {on envelope} ... Just had an esoteric-looking communication from an occultly inclined nut in San Francisco who seems to be a sort of educated Bill Lumley. I'll enclose it in my next for your edification."

It's true that Boland was "scholarly" as can be seen with his article in THE ISLAMIC REVIEW of JANUARY 1951: Arab Contributions to World Civilization by Stuart Morton Boland. 

We also know from this journal that Boland was a graduate of University of California, Librarian of the Ocean View Branch of San Francisco.

So Boland was also a seeker interested in the ancient occult mysteries, a pleasant "sage," a student of the necronomicon, or as Lovecraft termed him, an occultly inclined nut. This guy might be an interesting window for me to ply. The Islamic Review article he wrote ain't bad. Even found a picture of him. Lived in the Presidio.

From the Acolyte *11 - Stuart Boland
He corresponds with Lovecraft as well as the great Robert E. Howard, the author of the Conan series. Early seeker of the cosmic truths of the Toltecs and Mayans. A big thank you to Kentuckian and Lovecraft scholar Chris Perridas, whose website compiled and gave me access to much of this material.

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.
The Nameless City - 1921 Abdul Alhazred


Outgunned and gunned out

I got another nutty gun letter today that ends with the statement, "Are you willing to die to take my guns?" And this chestnut:

"It is not my right, at that point, but my responsibility to respond in the name of liberty. What I am telling you is something that many are trying to soft sell, and many others have tried to avoid putting into print, but I am going to say it. The time for speaking in code is over.

If they come for our guns then it is our constitutional right to put them six feet under. You have the right to kill any representative of this government who tries to tread on your liberty. I am thinking about self-defense and not talking about inciting a revolution. Re-read Jefferson ’s quote. He talks about a “last resort.” I am not trying to start a Revolt, I am talking about self-defense. If the day for Revolution comes, when no peaceful options exist, we may have to talk about that as well. " "If they come for your guns it is your right to use those guns against them and to kill them. You are protected by our constitution."

Saw a figure about two weeks ago that gave me reason to pause. 1200 gun deaths since Newtown. Incredible. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says that guns aren't the real culprit here, it's the video games. Hey Lamar, I'll give up my video game when you unwrap my cold dead fingers from it. Video games don't kill people, people kill people. You know the drill.

Found these statistics today. I will assume that they are accurate until I find out differently and for the sake of argument. Something to consider.

The United States has 88.8 guns per 100 people, Switzerland 45.7, Germany 30.3, and Japan 0.6.

In 2012, there were 14,748 killings in the U.S., 9,960 by guns. Germany 690 killings, 158 by guns; Switzerland 97 killings, 57 by guns; Japan 646 killings, 11 by guns.

Extrapolating per 100,000 inhabitants: The murder rate in the U.S. was 5.6 times the rate of Germany, 3.7 times the rate of Switzerland, and 12 times the rate of Japan.

The murder rate using a gun in the U.S. was 16.4 times the rate in Germany, 4.3 times the rate in Switzerland and 327 times the rate in Japan.

One must ask ourselves why so much more violence here and also why people feel so threatened that they think that they need assault weapons at home. Are we really that much worse off than Germany, Japan, Switzerland and Canada?

And forget about the NRA's ridiculous attempt to block background checks and blame all of our gun problems on "criminals." Most guns used in mass shootings crimes were purchased legally according to this article in Mother Jones.

Source: Mother Jones
 Here is another map from Mother Jones that tracks mass shootings. Each dot represents a shooting in which at least four people were killed. As you can see they are spread out pretty evenly. And of course it is out of date, they seem to be occurring at an exponential clip of late.
Source : Mother Jones
Look at this map. For killing, we plainly take the cake.

Read the Ezra Klein article at Wonkblog. The south is clearly the most violent region of the country. I wonder why? Isn't it also the home of the bible belt? 

Source : Keiran Healy

Found these stats over at Informed Comment: 

Number of Murders, United States, 2010: 12,996

Number of Murders by Firearms, US, 2010: 8,775

Number of Murders, Britain, 2011*: 638
(Since Britain’s population is 1/5 that of US, this is equivalent to 3,095 US murders)

Number of Murders by firearms, Britain, 2011*: 58
(equivalent to 290 US murders)

Number of Murders by crossbow in Britain, 2011*: 2 (equivalent to 10 US murders).

58 murders in britain by firearm as opposed to 8775 here, in the calendar year 2010. Britain, another multicultural hotbed, battling poverty and beset with similar problems that we face in the United States. But a fraction of our violence.

Let's look at our homicide rate next to our peaceful northern neighbor, albeit a slightly out of date graph. What gives? Is it the fluoride in the water that gives us our brutish impulses?

One Hundred Years From Now

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I'm getting to that stage where everything hurts. If I was willing to submit myself to the knife I think that an orthapod would have no trouble finding significant work projects if not long term employ on my left knee, right foot and right shoulder.

The left knee has been operated on twice before and needs to be replaced. Anterior cruciate, medial collateral and meniscus are all toast. I have been bone on bone for over thirty years and it is starting to get worse. The arthritis doesn't help matters.

The shoulder used to be a problem at the upper biceps insertion, an injury I incurred after having been jumped in high school. Now the rotator is involved as well and I am having a hard time raising my arm.

Don't even want to get started on the foot and hip.

I have been in the hospital way too much in my life and hope that I can hold out with my busted parts forever, however long that is. I woke up one day in Santa Barbara and could barely walk. Festused my way to the CVS where I bought the industrial size bottle of ibuprofen. By the end of the day things had loosened up a bit. The one muscle behind the knee was taut as a whipcord.

This getting old shit is for the birds. White nose hairs and chest hairs, wayward prostate, hairs sprouting at odd locations, skin tags, aging sure ain't for sissies.

I'll Keep It With Mine

Neill Ketchum, Carrie Repking and Marj Linton


© Robert Sommers 2013

Hello Trouble


I know that I am seven years late but I picked up the book Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich by Robert Frank at the library yesterday. Frank is or was a writer for the Wall Street Journal and did a book about the three levels of the glorious land of Richistan, people with a net worth of up to ten million dollars, ten to a hundred and hundred to a billion.

He travels to Greenwich, the now defunct Yellowstone Club and Palm Beach and dishes on the habits of the then pre recession wealthy in America, at least some of whom are now presumably dumpster diving in abject poverty.

The book is great, you learn about liquidity events, household managers, butler college, rich kids summer camp, people with 200' yachts with inferiority complexes because they berth next to 400' yachts. I couldn't put it down. Frank wrote a sequel in 2011 titled The High-Beta Rich: How the Manic Wealthy Will Take Us to the Next Boom, Bubble, and Bust that is now a must read.

Tore through Richistan in less than two hours. Funny and insightful. Pick it up. 

Sing Me Back Home-Gram Parsons


Amir Pourmond A.P.
I think that the most powerful photograph I have seen in a long time was the photo of this moment just prior to the execution of the two young men in Iran recently. One of the men, Alireza Mahifa, sentenced to die, leans his head on his executioner's shoulder in incredible sorrow.

The men were pretty despicable creatures, they had hacked somebody up with a machete and then posted the footage of the attack on youtube. Mounted on motorbikes, they injured the man and then stole his bag and jacket, netting about $20.00. Irrespective of their perfidy, the emotion in this photograph is compelling. Alireza Mafiha and Mohammad Ali Sarvari were 20 and 23 and lived in Tehran. People flocked to the hanging like ravens.

 “We needed the money because of poverty; I am sorry,” said Mr. Mafiha back in December. The crowds jostled for a better view of the two nooses that hung 15' from extended cranes. I thought that one of the quotes of a friend was interesting;

“This is not fair,” said one young man, crying loudly while being dragged away by another friend. “If they hadn’t been caught on camera this would have never happened to them.”

Ebrahim Nooroozi /A.P.

Sneaky Pete

Chains required, whips optional

A somewhat iconoclastic, if not eccentric, politician from Montana wants to bring back corporal punishment, a la whippings in lieu of incarceration. We haven't seen corporal punishment meted out in this country since back in 1952 in the state of Delaware.

Rep. Jerry O’Neil, R-Columbia Falls, has proposed a bill that would allow for a bit of spanking in exchange for a spot in the hoosegow.

"…a person convicted of any offense by a court in this state, whether a misdemeanor or felony, may during a sentencing hearing as provided in 46-18-115 bargain with the court for the  imposition of corporal punishment in lieu of or to reduce the term of any sentence of incarceration available to the court for imposition.”

Masochists the nation over will soon be moving to Big Sky country so that they can get the punishment they so richly deserve.

From Huffpo: O'Neil has also introduced legislation that would make it easier for students to carry a gun into a school. Under O'Neil's plan, students cannot be disciplined if they store the gun in a locker, a locked car or with school officials during the school day. The Montana bill would also allow for students to bring guns to school when the gun is needed as part of the curriculum.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Set You Free This Time - Gene Clark

Back in the saddle

As I approached the -------- motel I remembered a bit of cautionary advice I had once read in a book, beware of motels with turquoise and orange doors. Might have been Hunter S. Thompson? Damn, they were orange all right... It was one of those typical single story jobbers on State Street, but the place looked clean enough and it was certainly located in close proximity to the show.

Anyhow I had little choice in the matter at this point, it was cheap. I had booked online and it's not like there is a query box for vulgar paint jobs on the website. I checked in at the desk. Somebody had put a couple of guitars on the wall and hung an innocuous pastel of palm trees that evoked a beechnut gum wrapper in a half hearted and largely unsuccessful attempt to make an artistic statement.

I grabbed a dirty, spotted, complimentary orange out of the freebie basket and went in search of my new weekly domicile. Spartan, but no serious hygiene issues.  Hard mattress but the towels had some thickness and there was a nicely stocked basket of complimentary toiletries in the bathroom. Commode and mattress, everything else is fluff, isn't it? The shower had two temperatures, scald and freeze, and like today's political scene, would brook no middle ground.

I have spent the last several days in Santa Barbara doing an antique show of long standing that is pretty impossible to get a spot in. I did it last January and struck pay dirt - begged for readmission for the greater part of the last year and think I may have actually wrangled a permanent spot. I was cautiously optimistic, mostly hoping to avoid the dreaded sophomore jinx. Things went okay. Better than okay. Pretty good. Not nearly as glorious as the first time around but what is in this life?

I do not believe that I engage in excessive hyperbole when I say that Santa Barbara is the mythic and idyllic burg where most of us would live if we had the loot. Try Brigadoon or Lost Horizon.

The cottages are the quaintest, the trees are greener, the women are the most beautiful, the children are smarter, people's teeth are straighter, yada, yada. Living in S.B. and the surrounding tony villages requires serious bank. If you are not a self starter family money would certainly help.

I drove over to the show on the beautiful country road that wends its way through Fillmore and Santa Paula, positively love that valley. I was shocked when I hit the water, encountering a smog strata on the water horizon that enveloped the nearby Channel Islands. I don't believe that I have ever seen such a band in San Diego. Tragic.

Dumped off my stuff at the show grounds on wednesday morning and went through my usual drill. Run my lighting, staple up the backdrop paper, lug the paintings and antique boxes in. I only put a few paintings out, try to feel out the corner space and visualize a pleasing layout.

The dealers are really top notch at this CALM show. Funny and caring promoter who laughs at my jokes. Best decorators and folk dealers I have ever done shows with. Everybody does a beautiful job and I need to raise my game. I tend to orient my sales to collectors rather than the decorative but need to do the former at this show if I am to be successful. Already planning my attack for the next show in May.

The inner structure has billowing tent material radiating from the ceiling. The acoustics are quite curious, at one specific location your voice triggers an echo that broadcasts across the foundation and practically through the soles of your feet. Reminded me of the place in the nation's capitol where Franklin pretended to sleep while secretly eavesdropping on his rivals.

I decided to check in and find something to eat, needing to look at everything with fresh eyes in the morning. It was starting to rain and the girl at the desk suggested I consider the local hang, the Tee off, where I might find a cocktail and steak while rubbing shoulders with a colorful clientele, if I so chose.

I walked over to the joint. Located at the end of a strip center, the Tee off is an old school place with funky sixties captain's chairs, an ample portion of the world's naugahyde supply, a niblick or two mounted on the mint green walls. Believe it dates back even before me, to 1956.  Think some of the waitresses go back almost as long as the persimmon woods.

I took a seat where I could eavesdrop with my back to the bar while still having full view of the basketball game on the widescreen and a ringside look at the servers tossing salad after salad. The Tee Off is old school, way too much food. I started out with prime rib soup, hearty and delicious, then rolls and a big caesar salad. I was feeling full already and was starting to get scared. Then my "colette" arrived, a grapefruit sized sirloin center cut with the molten core a brilliant hue of pink perfection. Baked potato, vegetables, gigantic onion ring, I was crying uncle and begging them to stop. Actually didn't finish my dinner by a long shot, out of character for me.

I wrote down my first note of the trip, when I heard the waitress tell another that she was bored, having already heard every song on life's jukebox which I kind of liked and sounded like a great country western lyric. The busboy was talking with the manager about taking the Knicks, the points and the over at 204. My vodka and grapefruit was stiff. Dames set up like tenpins at the bar behind me. My kind of place. I stumbled back to the hotel and fell out, stuffed and exhausted.

I won't inflict a whole blow by blow on you. MacBook Pro's battery won't charge, had a fruitless trip to the Apple Store. A setup day segued into the three day show. Nice people around me, Ted next door, an antique rival that I love very much after many years in life's trenches together, fighting for and against. One day you're the new guy and you blink your eyes and suddenly you're the old guard.

Ted runs a show in Glendale that I have failed at miserably. He says that people are looking for edgy outsider stuff, guy sold a great oversized frog last show. Modern stuff with a look. Afraid that as much as I appreciate it,  I may not be able to go that route, my snobby sense sensing little value in much of it, getting a little old to sell things I don't quite believe in. I haven't clicked in Los Angeles in a long time.

I found a yellow pages listing for my grandfather's furniture store in Pasadena in the 1940's on Ancestry the other day. His cousins were early citizens of San Francisco, I now realize that my roots in the state extend much farther than I previously realized.

Met a woman who has just written a historical novel on the pony express, Allison Bailey who gave me a copy of the book to read. Will let you know.

Heard some great stuff at the show. One dealer was talking about "persian bait", a term I was previously unfamiliar with, gilded, glittery, cherub ridden merchandise that is favored by the wealthy Iranian customers that live in Los Angeles.

Another dealer couple that I know had an asian client that was just beating them up on a price mercilessly. D eventually dropped his price but told the lady that she would have to pay ten cents for the bag. "Why?" she asked, incredulously. D kept a perfectly straight face and told her that he was sorry but it was the local municipal law that she cover the cost of the bug and she duly paid up. Small victories.

Ted came back from a Northridge estate sale. The happy days writer who came up with the term, jumping the shark, television lingo for the exact point in time when a series starts to go into inevitable decline and the proverbial shitter. From the Fonzie episode where he humps over a shark to prove his bravery, a point in which the fans sensed that the Happy Days thing was over. Guy's name was Bob Brunner, he had some cool stuff in his house. He gave Fonzie his name and persona and the immortal tag line "sit on it."But the man who coined the concept of jumping the shark ironically found that  the event was his own personal shark jump. Man bites dog, life follows art. Wacky world.

I heard a pretty nasty name for a certain customer base, fingernail ranchers, an epithet directed at asian women that own nail salons. I was taking notes of crazy stuff I heard all weekend. Have shit kicker saturday morning, serengeti jotted down but can't remember the context for the life of me.

Met nice people all weekend - only one minor blemish when I playfully suggested that a woman had undergone a little "work." There was a guy comes along from my old neighborhood in Smithtown, Long Island and we started talking spalding, and moons and playing rough and having a great time when this woman walked into the crossfire and I forgot to hit the brake pedal. She and I exchanged a tentative mutual wave yesterday and I think that we are still cool.

The guy from New York and his wife bought some stuff and I went to his restaurant, Presto Pasta after work and got a really nice free meal of chicken piccata and noodles and the perfect garlic bread. Great neighborhood place. Wonderful people, we jibed instantly. Never even got to the Mets.

Overheard somebody talking about needing to put a dead bolt in the pantry. Maid was stealing the food. When asked why they just didn't fire her, the woman said she was just too good of a cook.

Talked to Chuck, who is a part of a big church business from Scranton, PA. They have been around forever, favoring architectural antiques and garden stuff. Asked him a few questions about the church/business hierarchy, he tried to save me but it wasn't taking. He later told me the show wasn't so hot and I told him to pray harder. Later he thanked me, said the big sale came not a minute later.

Missed my guitar and Leslie a whole bunch this trip, not necessarily in that order.

Found a great coffee place in town, Vices and Spices on State. An amateur winemaker had set up shop for a little tasting among friends one morning when I ambled in to the delightful shop. Great coffee and he let me have a sip of his delicious new pinot noir. Sweet.

Sold a couple nice paintings yesterday. Bobby will live to play another day. Two and a half hour pack up and drove the four hours back in the rain, beat. Cat was very glad to see me. Wife coming home soon. Nice to be home. Won't even pull the stuff out of the truck, next stop San Francisco.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Quick take

I am too busy to write, packing, leaving in the morn', just want to say one thing. The post inaugural conservative narrative is that Obama is too partisan, that he missed an opportunity to extend an olive branch to the politically vanquished and is an all around poopy head. Rick Santorum called him a sore winner the other day.

Isn't this rich? These are the people who have questioned his birthplace, lineage, patriotism, color, religion and basically done their utmost to make his life miserable these last four years. A one term president, was the stated dream, if I recall correctly. They obstructed his every move. And now he is supposed to reach out to these people and squeeze the liberal base as a show of affection.

I am going to have to go over the record but I don't recall any great post election magnanimity on the  part of George W. I seem to remember it was more like, take it and shove it.

“Dear brothers, we must not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews, and all those who support them," he said. "They must be nursed on hatred. The hatred must continue.”
Egyptian President and Obama Administration bff Mohamed Morsi

Poor Phil Mickelson. Might have to leave California because his taxes are too high. He's done pretty well here. Estimated net worth - $180 million. Let's pass the hat for lefty.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Sisyphus enters the dreaded Calm of Scorpio

sub topical depression © Robert Sommers 2013
[dohl-druh mz, dol-, dawl-] 
noun, ( used with a plural verb  )
1. a state of inactivity or stagnation, as in business or art: August is a time of doldrums for many enterprises.
2. the doldrums.
a. a belt of calms and light baffling winds north of the equator between the northern and southern trade winds in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
b. the weather prevailing in this area.
3. a dull, listless, depressed mood; low spirits.
1795–1805;  obsolete dold  stupid (see dolt) + -rum ( s ) (plural) noun suffix (see tantrum)
3. depression, gloom, melancholy, dejection.

The physical condition known as the doldrums were first mentioned in Maury's geographical text, The Physical Geography of the Sea in 1855. The rolling vicissitudes and rocky emotional state that they were named after came first, probably even before our hominid ancestors decided to weigh the comparative advantages of an upright stance and the opportunity to try out that nifty new opposable thumb.
578. The Sailing Directions had cautioned the navigator, again and again, not to attempt to fan along to the eastward in the equatorial doldrums; for, by so doing, he would himself engage in a fruitless strife with baffling airs, sometimes re-enforced in their weakness by westerly currents. But the winds had failed, and so too, the smart captain of the Flying Fish evidently thought, had the Sailing Directions. They advise the navigator, in all such cases, to dash right across this calm streak, stand boldly on, take advantage of slants in the wind, and, by this device, make easting enough to clear the land. So, forgetting that the Charts are founded on experience of great numbers who had gone before him, Nickles, being tempted, turned a deaf ear to the caution, and flung away three whole days, and more, of most precious time, dallying in the doldrums.
He spent four days about the parallel of 3° north, and his ship left the doldrums, after this waste of time, nearly upon the same meridian at which she entered them. 
She was still in 34°, the current keeping her back just as fast as she could fan east. After so great a loss, her very clever master, doubting his own judgment, became sensible of his error. Leaving the spell-bound calms behind him, where he had undergone such trials, he wrote in his log as follows: "I now regret that, after making so fine a run to 5° north, I did not dash on, and work my way to windward to the northward of St. Roque, as I have experienced little or no westerly set since passing the equator, while three or four days have been lost in working to the eastward, between the latitude of 5° and 3° north, against a strong westerly set;" and he might have added, "with little or no wind."
From Chapter 7, Routes - M.F. Maury: The Physical Geography of the Sea, 1855.

The doldrums is a name for parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone. The zone is a band of clouds that occur on the equator when the northern and southern trade winds meet. The doldrums is a condition that occurs when equatorial heat leads to low pressure that couples with calm winds and creates a dead zone. The low pressure causes the hot air to rise very high in the atmosphere and travel in a northern and southern direction until it finally settles in the region known as the Horse Latitudes. Sailing vessels can founder in the calm for weeks and months, making the proposition of being trapped in the doldrums the bane of sailors.

Samuel Coleridge refers to the doldrums in his Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

All in a hot and copper sky, The bloody Sun, at noon,
' Right up above the mast did stand, No bigger than the Moon.
Day after day, day after day, We stuck, no breath no motion; As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean.

The Horse Latitudes lie roughly 30° to 35° north and 30° to 35° south of the equator. The region is known as the Calms of Cancer and Capricorn in the north and south hemisphere respectively, Two of the great deserts of the world, the Sahara and Great Australian are both in the Horse Latitude region. The region was supposedly given its name when sailors would throw horse and cattle overboard to save provisions when stuck in their watery miasma.

Beat - exhausted, at the bottom of the world, but looking up and out.
beat about,
a.to search through; scour: After beating about for several hours, he turned up the missing papers.
b.Nautical . to tack into the wind.

"There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick 

I feel like I have been "beat about" myself the last couple weeks, making little progress. Might even need to knock a fellow's hat off. I am afraid that I am/was stuck in my own personal version of the dreaded doldrums.The show was difficult and its bounty fairly meager. Although I am certainly grateful for whatever success I managed to eke out and those customers whose purchases will allow me to pay bills this month.

I try again on Wednesday. And then soon again thereafter. This month is a marathon, not a sprint. Logistical planning will be most difficult in the area of clean socks and shirts and maintaining good will and spirits with my fellow man.

I read Unbroken last year, the story of the man who set the record for staying alive on a raft while being strafed by Japanese Zero's and circled by tiger sharks and then getting stuck in a concentration camp. And I had to wonder how many people eventually just jump overboard and say fuck it, the despair of the doldrums squeezing out the very last ounce of hope from their situation, the inner demons being far greater than anything present in the physical universe at large.

One of the hard won lessons in my life was the one where I finally "got" conservation of energy. There are times when nothing much can be accomplished until we get our tail wind. Conditions eventually change, no matter how bad they seem. People that love you step in to lend a hand and help you on your way. But there is nothing you can do sometimes but chill and wait the bloody thing out. Wait for that wind to change. Unless of course you starve to death in the interim. I suppose there's always that.

Thought about my friend Al, a rich guy who decided the shit sandwich was coming, maybe not this year but eventually coming for certain and he just didn't want to have to face it. Decided life was no longer fun and that he would instead check out of the equation. Which he did. Unequivocally, on the business end of a .38. His choice.

Life can be like chinese water torture for some people. A death by a thousand pin pricks, execution by attrition. I am not going to call the suicide a coward, we all should have the freedom to choose the time and the manner of our passing. Only we know how much pain we individually can stand. I have known a handful of suicides and don't really feel qualified to judge.

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick 

I had coffee with a man this morning whose mother had long ago killed first her husband and then her self. Even though it happened long ago, the pain was still there right below my friend's outer surface. He said that the event had indelibly affected him. Scrambled his brain a bit. How could it not?

His mother was a daughter of a jewish man who never told her kids and hated jews her whole life. My friend found out his family history when a deceased aunt left a small fortune and they were contacted by executors. Sounds slightly familiar...

I wonder if suicide runs in families? After my mother's mother died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage, with the fur business in Los Angeles bad, about my age or a few years younger, my grandfather Martin turned the gas on and took his own life one summer's day. Never met either one of them. 
And my paternal grandmother, supposedly tired of my grandfather's purported infidelity and wearied of this world, was an overdose suicide when I was seven. I stayed at home in Lancaster by myself while the rest of the family attended the funeral and ended up getting really sick with simultaneous mumps and whooping cough.

I enjoy life too much to consider checking out, life is so fleeting as it is. Wake up one day and you're old and dead. But I don't blame people who feel like they just can't go on. Because life can definitely be one big shit sandwich.

Why do writers take their life at such a higher clip than their artistic brethren? Plath, Brautigan, Mishima, Hemingway, Robert E. Howard, Hunter Thompson, Virginia Woolf, the list is very long. Why don't painters feel the same sort of pain? Or cake decorators? Or do they?

Of course, it is usually the really good writers, who's work lays closer to the raw nerve. The shitty writers live long, prosperous lives.

Can we ever really trust people that are happy all of the time? Isn't there some sort of denial working in those situations?

Had the first sale of my new course book on Photoshop the other day. Got a nice e-mail from the company. Maybe the first of many. Yippee! Guy who has owed my five hundred bucks for ten years also made good yesterday. A good feeling for both he and I. I certainly appreciate it. Guy made good.

In case you didn't notice the blog got picked up in a huge way last week, nationally by Crooks and Liars, second time in a little over a month. Thousands of new hits, hope that they enjoyed the Blast. Janis Joplin would have been 70 the other day. Listened to a repeat of Jim Ladd with the Door's drummer John Densmore. Fascinating. A classical piano, clarinet and timpani player, Densmore threw on a copy of Ravel's orchestration of Pictures at an exhibition, talked over the whole thing and explained pianissimo and fortissimo, the concept of dynamics versus speed and volume. He segued into the end and I was left with such an appreciation for him and his wonderful laconic but balanced style.

Another great restaurant week dinner at Pampelmousse with spouse, accent and friend. I had the filet duo, arugula fennel salad with rock shrimp, pear tarte tartin. Nice Hirsch pinot. Somebody had abalone, gnocchi, whole menu looks great. Can't wait for Cucina Enoteca to open at Flower Hill. Hope that the noise level is lower than Urbana. Do I sound old?


William Etty “The Sirens and Ulysses” 1837 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ain't no time to hate...

The closest I ever got to serious religion was being a fan of the Grateful Dead. I guess I first heard the dead in about 1968 or 9. I started going to shows in 1972. Things really started smoking with the band for me in 1976 and 1977, the latter year one that many of us believe was their best.

I could go to a show at Winterland Auditorium and know about a thousand people there on a first name basis. Things were really cooking, on every level and in the best sense of the word. I stopped counting shows at 200, don't know how many I finally caught but it was a heap.

When all systems were firing, seeing the Grateful Dead was the most intense, spiritually enriching, fun and fulfilling group experience I have ever had. By a long shot.

You could see birds of every color at a show, black deadheads, latino deadheads, white deadheads, purple deadheads, gay deadheads, wharf rats (typically deadheads in recovery programs aka known as friend's of August W), straight deadheads, junkie deadheads, corporate deadheads, intellectual deadheads, stoner deadheads, punk deadheads, jewish deadheads, christian deadheads, pagan deadheads, buddhist deadheads, atheist deadheads, deadheads with ties, republican deadheads, commie deadheads, activist deadheads, rich deadheads, poor deadheads, kind veggie burrito deadheads, I need a miracle deadheads, grubby parking lot deadheads, tapers, spinners, the whole panoply of universal color and expression. They all shared one thing in common. A love for positive energy, great music, an acceptance of everybody else in the alembic and an affirmative answer to the question posed in the song Uncle John's Band, are you kind?

The one kind of deadhead I don't ever remember seeing was a nasty, bigoted deadhead. A Stormfront, white supremacist deadhead. You see, it was all about love and acceptance. And so it pains me to have a hideous creature like Ann Coulter claim to be one of the tribe. She engaged in one of her nasty race baiting routines this week. She has said in the past that she thinks that jews should be converted and "perfected." She is a homophobe hater, the worst freaking kind, see disown your kid for being gay. She believes that we should invade foreign countries and convert them to christianity. She has spat the most vituperative messages of hate conceivable. Her politics are anathema to the shared tenets that I perceived in the dead experience. While it is a dangerous proposition to speak for the departed I am fairly certain that old Uncle Jer' would have no use for the hate cartoon that is Ann Coulter.

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.
Ann Coulter

My libertarian friends are probably getting a little upset now but I think that's because they never appreciate the benefits of local fascism.
Ann Coulter 

If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president.
Ann Coulter 

She says that she never got high. I believe her. Because she would have been zapped by a karmic thunderbolt beyond measure if she had pulled her regular nasty shit and hatred at some of the shows I attended. Acid had a way of separating those people that couldn't get along and dropping them on their heads. I doubt that she was at as many shows as she claims (67) and I also seriously doubt that anything tangible ever sunk in.

I call on Phil, Bobbie, Mickey and Bill to tear the tie dyed epaulets off of her uniform and let her know that she is no longer a deadhead. Like Gandalf casting Saruman out of the order. Ann, your staff is broken. You are 86'd. You are a very bad trip.

Statistician's Blues.


While I have no quarrel with many of President Obama's positions, his record has been rather abysmal in respect to civil liberties. I think that we expected more from the vaunted constitutional scholar. All I can say is thank god for both of the Senators from Oregon, the only two people in the Senate that appear to actually give a damn. My own Senator Feinstein seems to function more as a water carrier for the administration.

The President asks that we simply trust him, but strips away the opportunity for real oversight and accountability, even from Congress. Some would say that that mind set is the first step on the road to fascism.

"I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution." -- Barack Obama (March 2007)

Hmm, does he? Talk as they say, is cheap.

Today Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote an open letter to John Brennan, the CIA Chief in waiting, decrying his failure to provide Congress with the secret legal opinions defining the government’s capacity to pursue and kill US citizens suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.

Wyden has tried to get the information for two years, by law members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence  have access to classified legal opinions – but, Wyden writes, the Obama administration has denied him access to the opinions governing targeted assassinations of American citizens. From RT.com:
"The senator has also requested a list of countries in which the intelligence community has used its “lethal counterterrorism authorities,” saying that the committee has the right to know “countries where United States intelligence agencies have killed or attempted to kill people. The fact that this request was denied reflects poorly on the Obama Administration’s commitment to cooperation with congressional oversight,” the letter continues.
He also asks Brennan to prepare to discuss a massive recent Senate Intelligence Report on the CIA's torture techniques and interrogation methods. Wyden seems to be particularly interested in hearing about why the CIA “repeatedly provided inaccurate information about its interrogation program to the White House, the Justice Department, and Congress.”
Brennan is chief counterterrorism advisor to President Obama, who nominated Brennan as his next director of the Central Intelligence Agency on January 7, 2013. Brennan now faces a Senate confirmation."
From EFF :
"Both in 2010 and 2011, Obama administration officials promised to work to declassify secret FISA court opinions that contained “important rulings of law.” These opinions would shed light on whether and how Americans’ communications have been illegally spied on. Since then, the administration has refused to declassify a single opinion, even though the administration admitted in July that the FISA court ruled that collection done under the FAA had violated the Fourth Amendment rights of an unknown number of Americans on at least one occasion.
Starting with the precept that “secret law is inconsistent with democratic governance,” Sen. Jeff Merkley’s amendment would force the government to release any FISA court opinions that contain significant interpretations of the FISA Amendments Act so the American public can know how it may or may not be used against them."
Secrecy News writes of an administration that due to Congressional laxness (ineptitude?) is now no longer accountable to anyone.

Missile Dread. Read this article regarding the harm that drone strikes are doing to United States image globally.

Shortly after the President was elected he issued a memorandum promising more openness and transparency in his administration. It was titled,“Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies” on “Transparency and Open Government.”

"I direct the Chief Technology Officer [Aneesh Chopra (since succeeded by Todd Park)], in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive."

By all objective accounts, his policy has not been effective, if anything he is less transparent than his predecessor. 19 out of 20 Obama cabinet agencies have failed to respond to FOIA requests as required by his directive.

“We were pretty excited when he first came in about his commitment to transparency — that seemed pretty good compared to the Bush years,” said Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an open-government group. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t panned out that way. If anything, the Obama administration is less transparent than prior administrations.”

More on FOIA. The FOIA Whiteout.

The President has a very mixed record in regards to whistleblowers, prosecuting some of them very aggressively under the Espionage Act.

"The Obama administration has charged more people (six) under the Espionage Act for the alleged mishandling of classified information than all past presidencies combined. (Prior to Obama, there were only three such cases in American history, one being Daniel Ellsberg, of Nixon-era Pentagon Papers fame.) The most recent Espionage Act case is that of former CIA officer John Kiriakou, charged for allegedly disclosing classified information to journalists about the horrors of waterboarding. Meanwhile, his evil twin, former CIA officer Jose Rodriguez, has a best-selling book out bragging about the success of waterboarding and his own hand in the dirty work."

Obama has recently signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and his signing statement is causing more tremors with potential whistleblowers. The text of the NDAA expanded whistleblower protections for employees of defense contractors who expose waste and corruption. President Obama’s signing statement announced that the administration could ignore that provision because it “would interfere with my authority to manage and direct executive branch officials.” Experts are worried that this signing statement will actually remove the inherent protections offered in the bill.


The Department of Justice record has been quite atrocious, the draconian penalties and intimidation used by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in the prosecution of people like Aaron Swartz is shocking. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann now has the suicides of two hackers on his record. Try for three, Stevie? Swartz disseminated widely available information as a political statement for free access and was treated worse than a murderer or rapist. Interesting questions over at TechDirt. Why was the Secret Service involved at all in the Swartz case?

From HuffPo John W. Whitehead 11/13/2012 - Our Civil Liberties: What Exactly Is Obama's Track Record? 
"Not only did Obama continue many of the most outrageous abuses of the George W. Bush administration (which were bad enough), including indefinite detention and warrantless surveillance of American citizens, but he also succeeded in expanding the power of the "imperial president," including the ability to assassinate American citizens abroad and unilaterally authorize drone strikes resulting in the deaths of countless innocent civilians, including women and children.
Obama has a lot to account for over the course of his first four years in office, particularly in terms of the erosion of our civil liberties. Just consider some of the assaults on our freedoms that took place under Obama's watch, either as a result of his continuing Bush's policies, enacting his own misguided policies or simply because he did nothing to counter them.
In March 2009, only two months after being elected, Obama defended Bush's unconstitutional National Security Agency spying program in court. Obama went so far as to insist that actions authorized by the president, including illegally spying on American citizens, should be free from any judicial scrutiny whatsoever.
In April 2009, the Department of Homeland Security launched a program, Operation Vigilant Eagle, which calls for surveillance of military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, characterizing them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be "disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war." Coupled with the DHS' report on "Rightwing Extremism," which broadly defines right-wing extremists as individuals and groups "that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely," these tactics bode ill for anyone seen as opposing the government -- whether it be an Occupier, Tea Party supporter or a free speech protester.
In July 2009, Obama threatened to veto an oversight bill that would have required the president to inform lawmakers about covert CIA activities.
In February 2010, the Department of Defense issued a U.S. Army field manual detailing the prospective internment and resettlement of American citizens in the event of another terrorist attack or natural disaster on U.S. soil. The leaked document confirmed the fears of many government critics, "from the Patriot movement on the right to Occupy on the left to Anonymous, anarchists, organized racists, survivalists, and plain old conspiracy theorists in between."
In June 2011, a Department of Education "SWAT team" forced their way into the home of a California man, handcuffed him, and placed his three children in a squad car while they conducted a search of his home, allegedly over falsified student loans. Raids of this type are becoming increasingly common -- more than 50,000 such raids occur every year in America -- with federal agencies such as the State Department, Department of Energy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service laying claim to their own SWAT teams. Also in June 2011, the FBI granted its 14,000 agents expansive additional powers, allowing them to investigate individuals using highly intrusive monitoring techniques, including infiltrating suspect organizations with confidential informants and photographing and tailing suspect American citizens, without having any factual basis for suspecting them of wrongdoing.
In September 2011, two American citizens were killed during a drone attack in Yemen as part of a government "kill list" operation in which Obama personally directs who should be targeted for death by military drones. Drone strikes, a signature policy of the Obama administration, have tripled since Obama took office.
In December 2011, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which mandates that anyone suspected of terrorism against the United States be held in military custody indefinitely. This provision extends to American citizens on American territory. It was quietly signed into law by Obama on New Year's Eve.
In February 2012, Obama signed the FAA Reauthorization Act, which opens up American skies for the domestic use of armed surveillance drones, a $30 billion per year industry. Incredibly, no civil liberties protections for Americans were included in the legislation. By 2020, it is estimated that at least 30,000 drones will be crisscrossing the nation's skies equipped with anti-personnel weapons and surveillance devices.
In March 2012, Congress overwhelmingly passed and Obama signed the anti-protest "Trespass Bill" -- legislation that makes it a federal crime to protest or assemble in the vicinity of protected government officials. The bill's language is so overly broad as to put an end to free speech, political protest and the right to peaceably assemble in all areas where government officials happen to be present. That same month, Obama issued an executive order stating that in the case of a war or national emergency, the federal government has the authority to take over almost every aspect of American society.
In April 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court -- again at the urging of the Obama administration -- declared that any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a strip search by police or jail officials without reasonable suspicion that the arrestee is carrying a weapon or contraband.
In July 2012, the Obama administration began allowing the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to store and "critically assess" information on innocent Americans for up to five years. Data recorded by the NCTC includes "records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records," among other things.
In September 2012 and in the months preceding it, in major cities across the country, including Boston, Miami, Little Rock, and Los Angeles, the U.S. military carried out training exercises involving Black Hawk helicopters and uniformed soldiers. The exercises occurred in the middle of the night, with the full cooperation of the local police forces and generally without forewarning the public.
In October 2012, it was revealed that the Obama administration has been "secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the 'disposition matrix.'" The matrix goes beyond the president's kill list to detail suspects beyond the reach of American drones. This disposition matrix is also overseen by the NCTC."
Obama's backtracking on state's rights in regards to respecting medical marijuana laws is legendary. The Ogden memo, various campaign promises, all evaporated at some point in his first term like, well, smoke.

Add the ineptitude of Eric Holder's g-men in Operation Fast and Furious and you have a Justice Department simply out of control. Couple that with an SEC that lets the big guys walk and has a nasty habit of letting the banks get a wrist slap and a fine and then settle without admitting any culpability. HSBC launders billions in drug profits and walks away scot free. Aaron Swartz is hounded to death. And I guess we shouldn't forget that Obama's DOJ gave immunity to the people who tortured for George Bush.

The fact that things might be even worse under a Romney Administration is immaterial. If we want to keep our intellectual integrity we need to ask hard questions of our elected officials and demand that they respect and represent our constitution no matter what party they belong to. This President's record in these matters is seriously blemished. Maybe even worse than Bush.

Diabetes cure, but only for believers. And communists.

Song for Judith

Monday, January 14, 2013


I got sick yesterday. A cold. Shit. I know half the country has the flu but I was sick last month and don't need to go through this again. It ain't fair. I am on my feet for the next two weeks, the first one right next to the door in a big, cold barn and this could be the opening sonnet to bobbie's journey to death's door. Last year at this time I was sick as a dog in Santa Barbara and was hoping to not go through that business again. I need to be chipper and charming, witty, persuasive and all that stuff.

I slept until almost ten, grabbed some c and zinc out of the cupboard. Went into the bathroom, looked at the scary picture on the wall that turned out to be me and quickly had to avert my eyes. Opened the drawer and did a quick calculation on the damage that the dull razor blade might do to my face, decided against it.

I got a lot to do to get ready for the coming weeks and somehow propelled myself off my ass and into my car. Drove to CVS and looked at razor blades. I know that we have been here before but I still can't figure out when they jumped to 20 to 30 dollars and why anybody in their right mind wouldn't just opt for the cheaper temporary razors at this point? I looked seriously at the house brand and then decided to splurge the extra buck and go schick. Big spender. The line was long. The cashier was a colored woman with facial tattoos, a big ink splotch on her forearm and a big blonde wig like the cute shaggy dog in Please don't eat the daisies. A woman at the head of the line dawdled over which gum to buy, gaining certain pleasure at her ability to make the rest of us wait.

The couple behind me looked like they had suffered a hard night after a hard decade or two. She had a strange way of applying mascara with some sort of crude instrument which skipped patches of brow and lash that kind of reminded me of Marcel Marceau or maybe Emmet Kelly. She had a single large bottle of Black Velvet nestled in the crook of her arm like the madonna holding the holy child. Salvation obviously comes in a multitude of forms.

Clarence Thomas actually spoke today. First time since forever even if it was a quip that was barely heard in the peanut gallery. Thomas hasn't asked a question since Feb. 22, 2006.

I have been engrossed in the Aaron Swartz saga. This is a portion of the last few paragraphs that he had written on his blog regarding Batman and the societal role of the Joker. I wonder which one of the two roles he assumed that he was playing?

The Joker had by far the most interesting plan: he hoped to out-corrupt the corrupters, to take their place and give the city “a better class of criminal”.

And the crazy thing is that it works! At the end of the movie, the Joker is alive, the gangsters and their money launderers are mostly dead, and their money has been redistributed (albeit though the deflationary method of setting it on fire). And, as we see from the beginning of the third movie, this is a fairly stable equilibrium: with politicians no longer living in fear of the gangsters, they’re free to adopt tough anti-crime policies that keep them from rising again.

The movie concludes by emphasizing that Batman must become the villain, but as usual it never stops to notice that the Joker is actually the hero. But even though his various games only have one innocent casualty, he’s much too crazy to be a viable role model for Batman. His inspired chaos destroys the criminals, but it also terrorizes the population. Thanks to Batman, society doesn’t devolve into a self-interested war of all-against-all, as he apparently expects it to, but that doesn’t mean anyone enjoys the trials.

Thus Master Wayne is left without solutions. Out of options, it’s no wonder the series ends with his staged suicide.


The kid up in Riverside that shot his Nazi father was found guilty of murder today. I feel sorry for him. Imagine living with a prick like that. Hope he gets off easy. Kid did the world a big favor. From the Los Angeles Times:
The judge who found a 12-year-old Riverside boy criminally responsible for murdering his neo-Nazi father said Monday that years of abuse and neglect clearly had damaged the child’s thought process, but that she could not ignore evidence that showed he plotted the attack and knew that killing was wrong.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jean P. Leonard found the boy guilty of second-degree murder and for using a gun while committing a felony.
The youngster, who was 10 when he put a gun to his sleeping father's head and pulled the trigger, was charged as a juvenile. He could be held in juvenile detention until he is 23.
The boy’s father, Jeffrey Hall, was a West Coast leader for the neo-Nazi organization known as the National Socialist Movement. He was asleep on a couch in the early morning hours of May 1, 2011, when his son crept downstairs with Hall’s .357 magnum revolver and shot his father point-blank in the head.
The judge said Hall’s attempts to indoctrinate his son into the hate group corrupted the thought process of a disturbed boy who already had displayed violent tendencies.
“It’s clear that this minor knows more than the average child about guns, hate and violence,’’ Leonard said.
Still, she added, “this is not a naive little boy unaware of the ways of the world.’’
The boy attended neo-Nazi events with his father, associated with a hooded member of the Ku Klux Klan and went on “patrol” along the Mexican border to look for illegal immigrants, according to court records.
A juvenile disposition hearing is scheduled for Feb. 15. 
Joseph Hall was convicted despite witnesses describing repeated abuse and beatings, which led to social services being called to the home over twenty times. The public defender, Matthew Hardy, also said the 10 year old boy clearly stated he was trying to defend his family from his father, who had routinely beaten his son and, shortly before the shooting, threatened to burn down the family’s Riverside home with his wife and children inside.

“He didn’t think it was wrong; he thought it was justified," Hardy said about his client. “He thought he had to do it.’’