Apex point - © Robert Sommers 2024

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Perfect Day

Yellow Journalism

Is there a more worthless newspaper in the United States than the San Diego Union Tribune? Seriously, they have not a shred of journalistic integrity, objectivity or balance. During the shutdown, they hew pretty close to the tea party party line. Lately their editorials have come straight from the uber right Washington Times, the Moonie newspaper from the beltway.

Last week they ran a skeptic's view of global warming from the Heartland Institute right next to the  viewpoint of the widely accepted Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as if the flat earth wackos had some kind of scientific equivalence or standing. Can't wait until the paper takes a stand on creationism versus evolution.

Today they decided to do a hit piece on environmentalism, having not one but two lead columns blasting the evil greens, one by a guy named Kotkin, pronouncing environmentalists as being anti black, poor and hispanic, the other portraying the air control resources board as populated by evil and prevaricating regulators, one of whom might even be associated with a fugitive pedophile. Most papers would have a debate on such a subject, the U-T merely goes from bad to worse.They capped it off with an editorial blasting environmental regulations, pushing fracking, blah, blah, blah.

The paper should stick to promoting Manchester's restaurants and cronies and plastering his face all over the social pages and stop with the editorial page hatchet jobs that we have been getting so much of of late.



Greenwald on surveillance:
...Is there any doubt at all that the US government repeatedly tried to mislead the world when insisting that this system of suspicion less surveillance was motivated by an attempt to protect Americans from The Terrorists™? Our reporting has revealed spying on  conferences designed to negotiate economic agreements, the Organization of American States,  oil companies, ministries that  oversee mines and energy resources, the democratically elected leaders of allied states, and entire populations in those states. 

Lou Reed - Thanks and rest in peace


The San Diego State Aztecs have just picked up another amazing prep player, Zylan Cheatham. This is another cherry top the sunday of an incredible recruiting year. As luck would have it, I bought into a season ticket package this year so I am really looking forward to seeing the team although the real fireworks should start next year when Cheatham joins Pope, Zabo, Choi and Kell.

This makes the third top 100 recruit for Steve Fisher's team this year, joining a roster already stuffed with top talent. Fab five anyone? This guy definitely has hops.
Tales from the Strip - Brian McFadden, New York Times

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ky Zizan

My last yoyo video, I promise. This kid is operating in another realm, Incredible mathematical instincts and spatial awareness. Smooth and beyond creative. Crappy music but insane control.

Rolling Stones

Reductio ad absurdum

One of the most specious arguments I have heard about the new health care bill is that it is somehow invalid because it was passed without a single Republican vote. It is true it was not, but the President has had nary a Republican vote in the last six years, is he supposed to forego attempting to pass any legislation at all because we have not found a way to get along with each other?

The lack of any middle ground in today's political arena is one of the most disappointing and nauseating aspects of the current conundrum we find ourselves in. You have to wonder how the GOP would react if they were to suddenly find themselves in a majority position, something that is indeed possible considering the caprice that is politics, and Dems starting obstructing like this? But the good bet says that things aren't changing soon, not with the Hastert Rule and gerrymandering and fringe attacks penalizing moderates on either side of the equation.

I don't blame the President for the lack of bipartisanship, his ill tempered opponents have been trying to destroy him from day one. For a while he was under some illusion that he could reach out to them but he soon thankfully found himself punked and wised up.

Thirty nine votes to kill Obamacare and now that it is up and running, the opponents shift to constant, carping and nitpicking. Hard to pull the wagon when certain passengers insist on dragging their feet.

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant -- society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it -- its means of tyrannising are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as protection against political despotism. 
John Stuart Mill - On Liberty 1859 

Nice to see the large rally in Washington today protesting government surveillance, organized by Stop Watching Us. The march drew support from over 100 separate groups. People are going to rise up and say enough. In the words of Pete Townshend, We're not going to take it!

Better than filet mignon

BigDave is in New York consummating a business deal.

Dirty rat texted me this picture of Dave's lunch, two hot dogs from Papaya King on 85th St.. Papaya King is in my eyes, best dog on the planet, hands down.

Of course, being from Chicago, Dave doesn't even know how to order a hot dog. You get a Papaya King one of two ways, with or without kraut and only with spicy mustard.

They must keep this red crap sauce around for visitors from the provinces.

Wish I was there.

Stagger Lee

monkey variations

Friday, October 25, 2013

ayes have it

It should have been as close and apparent as the nose on one's face, which of course, one can not see at all...

I just haven't been all that happy with my new glasses. It was hard to jump back into progressives, about three decades after I gave up on the trifocals. I feel like there is a bit of clarity absent with the new prescription.

I know that this new doctor has some cutting edge technique but maybe this aged milk horse would be better off in something old fashioned and possibly more functional. Why did I switch doctors anyway?  Maybe somebody screwed up...

But I have scratched the crap out of this pair and I can't stare through the clouds for too much longer. Something will have to be done.

I decided that it was time to get my eyes checked again and go back to single vision. I headed down to Escondido the other day and went through the drill with the nice cheerful staff at Dr. Rose's office, getting a multiple battery of tests including blood pressure, near field, wide field, the whole gamut.

Finally I saw Dr. Rose. He started asking me to read the letters on the chart and I started getting irritated. His machine was obviously not set up properly, when I was asked to choose between good and better on my right eye, nothing worked. I could not see either option worth a damn.

"Are you sure that thing is calibrated properly?" I asked.

He said wait a second and grabbed some thigamajig with the flashing lights on the side and looked into my eye. It only took a moment.

"Darn, Robert, you've got a cataract. That's why you can't see clearly." I was in shock. I have had several fleeting vision problems but had chocked them up to this and that and never considered the presence of a cataract. I will be 56 in a week or two, that's too young for a cataract. The idea of a person of my tender age suffering an old person's disease...In my good eye, no less, the one that was always so sharp.

My 15/20 vision has now deteriorated to 20/25 corrected. For a person who relies on his eyes for his livelihood, the news, no matter how correctable, is devastating. I should have listened to my wife, who has long been on my case to wear sunglasses.

Making matters worse, he had told me on my last visit that I had the start of a cataract in my other eye, so it is only a matter of time for that one.

Although I am not entirely sure that this new malady is self inflicted, it joins a long list of illnesses that definitely were. Anterior cruciate, medial collateral, meniscus, skiing. Other knee, karate. Chronic Active non a non b hepatitis 1973-1975, who knows? Bladder, liver and kidney cancer, poor ventilation and exposure to methyl ethyl ketone and benzene in my not sufficiently ventilated sign shop. Shoulder, Kung Fu and scrapping as a kid. I don't even want to think about the heart attack, the mitral valve failure and murmur was congenital as was the hydroseal, perforated whatchamacallit. I have clearly done a number on my self, probably derives from the Peter Pan complex if not the narcissistic megalomania. Played way too hard. Never thought I would live this long anyway, never gave any thought to a deterioration in old age.

He says that I have a couple years before I have to deal with it but a part of me wants it fixed right now. Vision is my dominant sense and it aches and is a blow to my soul that it is now so imperfect. The doctor says that there is a really good doctor in Carlsbad. I need to go see him soon.

Many people get cataracts, the accent mark had hers at fifty. It is a symptom of this horrible, getting older business. It has been a challenging month, that has gone reasonably well, but still this is another weight on the opposing scale that is wreaking a bit of havoc with my internal equilibrium. Not to overstate things but I am going to be cutting things very fine with the shoulder surgery.

To my friends and clients who may be reading this this, I want to publicly thank you for your help, both material and emotional, in keeping the Sommers ship afloat, past and present. Thanks to all of you that make this blog a daily part of your life. Keep sending me stuff that interests you. I will try to post it.

Take a Whiff on Me


I guess it was only a matter of time...British company announces Shreddies, undergarments that will filter out your farts. Supposedly the garment can neutralize a cheeser two hundred times more odiferous than your average, run of the mill, barking spiders. Sweet!

Shreddies flatulence filtering underwear features a ‘Zorflex’ activated carbon back panel that absorbs all flatulence odours. Due to its highly porous nature, the odour vapours become trapped and neutralised by the cloth, which is then reactivated by simply washing the garment.

Lesley Duncan

Oh yeah wow

Ralph sends along this clever video of people lip synching to the Paper Kites' song Young. It was put together by the Australian company Oh Yeah Wow.

Ralph also provides us with the cute dogs shaking their heads in slow mo video, which is now also a book by artist/author Carli Davidson.

Monkeypod, McBryde

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Darlettes "Lost"

The buck never stops

The United States has been caught with Uncle Sam's arm crammed deep into the cookie jar. In our quest to listen in on the world (purportedly we have been reading the Mexican President's emails, listened to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's telephone calls, bugged the shit out of the French and Brazilians, etc.) we have royally pissed off our friends and neighbors. We must remember, gentlemen do not read other gentle men and gentle women's emails.

Obama and his minions had the standard Obama retort; the Obama administration "is reviewing the way that we gather intelligence to ensure that we properly balance the security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share."

This is a lot like the answer to Snowden, all of a sudden we are having this great national "conversation." Which by the way we would never have had if Obama had had his way and we stayed stupid. Rush Limbaugh, who I can't stand but is occasionally sort of prescient, and sometime even gets it right, has a theory about our President, the Limbaugh Theorem.
“Obama has positioned himself as an outsider…That’s one of the reasons why the constant campaign,” he said. “So he doesn’t appear to be governing, so he doesn’t appear to be part of Washington. So he appears to have this mysterious, powerful bunch of forces that are opposing him and stopping him from creating jobs and stopping him from giving people proper health care…but he is constantly out there fighting.”
There is some truth to this. Obama never holds himself accountable. Not with spying, not with drones, not with the Patriot Act, not with overzealous U.S. Attorneys and marijuana prosecution. Now the rest of the world wants to know what is up? Just because Al Gore invented the internet, do we have some divine right to now suck up everybody else's communications? Frankly, the rest of the world is getting sick of us and I don't blame them.

James Clapper says that reports that we hoover approx. 70 million French phone calls a month is false, inaccurate and misleading. Right James, you have so much credibility at this point. Is it only 69 million?

It would be refreshing if we had a President who could take his lumps once in a while and say, yeah, I did it, this is why I did it, it's on me. Own it and not be so mealy mouthed and equivocating. Always sounds so reasonable even when his policies are decidedly not.

Making plans

Runnin' round

The oracle had looked me right in the eye and given me the message straight up. Get off your ass and get it together.

I knew where she was going... with surgery, a long recuperation on the near horizon and no trust fund from some unknown aunt anywhere in sight, it was definitely time to get it in gear. Besides, you know how she is.

Half way through my five week, four city jog. No sooner had I driven back from Santa Barbara than I headed back up to Los Angeles yesterday to meet the rug restorer and attend an auction.

To say that my life is running on fumes right now is a serious understatement. I am totally exhausted. But things are going reasonably well and in retrospect, it was a fortuitous turn of events that the Yellowstone trip was junked, I have been on a pretty productive jag, turned up a few things out of the blue and planted some seeds for future harvests.

And on my way home from S.B. I even got to help a friend finish up with a book that she is writing.

Too tired and not nearly self absorbed enough at present to give a full run down. Cam and I did the show, shared a room and had our normal great time together. We were in Kauai a week apart and after looking at our respective photo galleries, managed to take shots of many of the exact same things. No whiskey shots for breakfast with my pal this week, will save that for Hillsborough next week.

One of the problems I have playing the Robert Sommers part in this solipsistic movie that I find myself in, is that I find myself so often narrowly averting disaster. I believe that I subconsciously must use it as a motivational tool but the continual stress wears on the psyche. I guess that it beats the hell out of a weird job.

My spouse asked me what the best part of my trip was and the answer was immediate. It was seeing the sunrise over the Pacific monday morning. I wasn't sure if the pale disk in the early sky was the sun or the moon? Didn't realize that the moon was full, the undetermined luminous disk sending a cascade of golden rays over the waters in front of Carpenteria. It couldn't be the sun over the Pacific, the sun rises in the east. But it was.

I explained it to Jerry, a long time resident of Santa Barbara and he explained that directions get goofy in those parts, what you think is south is never south. In any case, the vision was sublime, alas too fleeting for me to grab with a photograph. A solitary moment of time I think that I will remember forever, in any case.

I took one of my favorite roads up and back, the 126, driving through my favorite valley in the whole state past Camulos and Santa Paula. The light on top of the fog enshrouded greenhouses i the morning was similarly wonderful, one day I will go back and take my time visiting and photographing when I have more time. I stopped at Rancho Camulos, the sight of the mythical novel Ramona, and wandered around for a brief moment, footnoting it on my things to do list.

Food in Santa Barbara was pretty much my old reliables, three nights at the Tee Off, Cam was impressed with the padded doors, I tore into a bone in ribeye, a culotte and lamp chops on separate occasions, with all the normal accompaniment, which at the Tee Off includes prime rib soup.

Great coffee at the wonderful Vices and Spices each morning. The owner was heading over to a Chris Hillman/Herb Pedersen show Saturday night that I would have liked to catch myself if I had the time. I introduced Cam to the epic La Super-Rica on Milpas. The chorizo quesadilla was particularly delectable as was spooning the pulp out of my fresh watermelon (sandia) juice. There is, like the commenter said, a very good reason that Julia Child loved the place.

Ate a nice breakfast at Max's, not the funky and terrible bay area chain, the one on upper State. I had a brie, spinach and mushroom omelet that was terrific. Next tiem I will smple their famour pumpkin pancakes.

We had fair fare at Stella with Berg. One funky meal as well, tasty but I don't think I can go back to the specific Vietnamese place in question after watching our server departing the urinal without washing his hands. Totally lost my appetite. No wonder the place was empty.

Leslie and I hooked up in San Diego monday, after returning the rental van. We decided to try Spicy City, the highly rated Chinese place on Convoy. I had tried it and I wanted her to experience it for herself.

We started the meal with hot and sour won ton soup. Hot spicy and flavorful, neither of us had ever tasted anything with this sort of wonderful and extreme flavor palette.

They brought a plate of cucumber pickles, mung bean and tofu sprouts and seaweed which Leslie had espied at the counter. Fresh and terrific.

For entrees we had lamb with cumin and shrimp over sizzling rice squares. The first was fried and had a great leathery crispy quality. I liked Leslie if she liked the lamb better than the dish we had at Dumpling Inn and she said that she did. I still favored the Dumpling but it is a close match. Both phenomenal.

We had the rice squares come out with a fly embedded in one, struggling to escape and the server whisked it away. Hey, that sort of stuff happens. I think that we received a whole new plate, in any case he couldn't have eaten too much.

The dish was fantastic. The rice got a crunchy quality when hit with the broth, almost like clay pot rice.

The next table had a lazy susan that was rocking some very interesting dishes as well, like sizzling beef. I can't wait to check the place out again. In many ways, it is superior to anything I have ever tried in the Bay Area or anywhere for that matter.

I saw both Beth and Helen yesterday, two long time blog readers. Beth wanted to know how I could eat so much food? Great question Beth. It requires definite pacing.

Helen is about to embark on another great adventure. She says that she thinks that she knows me after reading me for so long and I believe that is probably the case.

I heard the R&R case guys snickering about my ever billowing physique in Spanish and know that the diet is waiting impatiently just around the corner.

YoYo Champs

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Family Affair

Brother's Keeper

It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.
It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the masterAyn Rand

Life can be a very cruel affair. especially if you are a 26 year old single mother of two living on minimum wage in Chicago. Ask Nancy Salgado, the ten year McDonald's worker who had the temerity to storm into the McDonalds corporate meeting at the Union Club and ask for a sustainable wage so that she can buy shoes for her children.

I have several thoughts about this incident. The first is how lame the answer was from the CEO, the only thing he could come up with was that he had been there for forty years? He was clearly blindsided by his employee's question and looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Perhaps his retort could have been something more like this:

"I pay you eight bucks an hour because I can. If you don't want the job, I can find a hundred Nancy Salgados to take your place in ten seconds. Sucks to lose, kid. Welcome to America."

The reality is I can understand both positions. Why did Salgado have children with her obvious lack of ability to financially support them? She obviously has limited schooling, her ability to conjugate a verb seriously in question. Is it the responsibility of employers to assure that their minions can actually support themselves? Is she not free to seek another job if she is unhappy with her current situation?

Ms. Salgado may or may not have been arrested for interrupting or trespassing, the story gets a bit murky. I give her major props for having the courage to speak up, in any case. It appears that she is still working for the Golden Arches.

The man that she confronted, Jeff Stratton, is President of McDonalds USA. Jeff takes down about $9.5 million in compensation per year. He reportedly started off as a burger flipper. You would think he could have shown a bit more empathy for his employee.

For more on the topic of executive compensation versus worker pay, read this article from today's Los Angeles Times.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

So Jah Seh

City of brotherly love

This is a telling video from Philadelphia. An officer decided to harass a couple guys for saying hello to a stranger.
"Why were you talking to him?" the officer identified as Philip Nace of the 25th District is heard after approaching the men from his vehicle. "You don't say 'Hi' to strangers."
"Not in this neighborhood," his partner of the same North Philly district adds.
"Don't come to f--king Philadelphia. Stay in Jersey!" one cop tells them.
"We don't want you here anyway, all you do is weaken the f---king country," another adds.
The officer's conduct is now under investigation by Internal Affairs. He didn't realize that he was still getting recorded after telling the man to turn his phone off. Wonder how many incidents like this never get recorded? One of the officers, Philip Nace, was implicated for similarly sorry behavior in another video recently as well, in that case knocking over a basketball hoop. He is currently doing desk duty until this all blows over.
The video was taken in North Philadelphia and purports to show the 25th district officer approach a basketball hoop that was on the sidewalk. Almost immediately he attempts to push it back. 
After moving it back a few feet, he proceeds to knock it down.
A person off camera can be heard saying, "This is what cops do around here. They harass us."
"Internal affairs is conducting a full scale investigation on the incident, however, just based on what we can see, that's not something that's tolerated. I mean, what we can see, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what he's doing there," Lt. John Stanford of the Philadelphia Police Department said.
The video continues with Officer Nace talking to the two people who are off camera.
Person off camera: What's up?
Nace: You have a good day, sir. Both of you. Jesus loves you.
Person off camera: I'm Muslim.
Some more choice stuff on Nace at Philly.com. There is practically a cottage industry on YouTube of recordings of police engaging in similar behavior, I am subscribed to a channel called Cops behaving badly. Makes you wonder sometimes who the real criminals are?

Friday, October 18, 2013

help me

Exile on Main St.

Lilith - John Collier - 1892
I am sitting in Santa Barbara, listlessly lolling about on the vicissitudes of fate, bored out of my skull. Behold the day is not lost, I managed to pick up a new word.

I was reading Stephen Aftergood's excellent Secrecy News when I ran into the phrase in question:

Nuclear Weapons Scientists Are Sad
Scientists in the nuclear weapons program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are feeling blue, according to a recent internal report.
“We heard that there is a sense of increased stress and reduced morale among LLNL technical employees in the weapons program, stemming from a (perceived, at least) combination of reduced resources and increased work requirements,” the report said.
Of course, many people are sad, for many reasons. The Shekhinah is in exile. But low morale among weapons scientists can have negative programmatic and national security consequences.
The Shekhinah is in exile? What in the hell does that mean? Where in the heck is that coming from? I looked it up.
Shekinah, Shechinah, Shechina, or Schechinah (Hebrew: שכינה‎), is the English spelling of a grammatically feminine Hebrew name of God in Judaism. The original word means the dwelling or settling, and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God, especially in the Temple in Jerusalem.
 Sounds a bit kabbalistic and after checking, it is.
In Kabbalistic mythology, the transgression in the Garden of Eden severed the Shekhinah from the rest of the Sefirot. The Shekhinah was expelled from the state of perfection along with humans.
I won't run the poor exiled shekhinah into the ground. Hope she finally makes it home. Sort of strange for Aftergood to make the literary allusion in the first place.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

We know that you are lying, your lips are moving.

Can't wait for that Keystone XL? Check out this nifty article from Minnesota Public Radio, Scientists doubt N. Dakota oil spill estimates. Tesoro may have been fudging a bit about the recent oil spill in North Dakota... The whole article is worth a read.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Scientists who helped calculate oil spilled from a broken BP well into the Gulf of Mexico are questioning the methodology used to estimate the amount of crude that recently leaked from a ruptured pipeline into a wheat field in northwestern North Dakota.
Tesoro Corp. said it came up with its more than 20,000-barrel spill estimate using ground analysis. But oil spill experts say a more accurate assessment likely would come from calculating how much crude went into the pipeline versus what was supposed to come out at its terminus.
Farmer Steve Jensen discovered the North Dakota oil spill the size of seven football fields while harvesting wheat Sept. 29. Tesoro Corp. first estimated the spill at its underground pipeline near Tioga at 750 barrels. About a week later, the San Antonio, Texas-based company increased the estimate to 20,600 barrels, or some 865,000 gallons, making it one of the largest spills in North Dakota history.
Tesoro said in a statement to The Associated Press that it based its calculations on "data collected during our field investigation work. This investigation included a thorough examination of the site spill characteristics including factors such as surface area and depth of soil impacted, and soil porosity." The company would not elaborate.
The company said its "site investigation was developed based on well-established and recognized American Petroleum Institute, Geologic Society of America and American Institute of Professional Geologists standards."
Jack Hess, executive director of the Geologic Society of America, and Bill Siok, executive director of the American Institute of Professional Geologists, said their groups have no such standards.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

GOP catches a grenade

Interesting article over at National Review - Stunned.
William Galston - The Tea Party and the GOP crackup - WSJ
"It's no coincidence that the strengthening influence of the tea party is driving a wedge between corporate America and the Republican Party. It's hard to see how the U.S. can govern itself unless corporate America pushes the Republican establishment to fight back against the tea party—or switches sides."

Burn Down The Mission

Just Ducky

Here's a picture of my wife with her mouth full. She loves it when I take pictures, doesn't she? We spent a nice day together yesterday, one of the few times this month that we will be able to hang out together.

She drove me to Scripps so that I could get a cortisone shot in my bum shoulder. Afterwards we hit Bulltaco in Cardiff for a duck burrito and a shrimp, chorizo and bacon taco. The last sounded better than it tasted but the first one was epic. Four great sauces, a jalapeno, haboñero, tomatillo and a ghost chile, beware!

Never go to the Oceanside Bulltaco, couple people I know have hated it. Strange that one can be so good...

Deep Purple

This is an interesting cut that I had forgot about until they played it on Deep Tracks the other day, Deep Purple's take on the Skip James song, I'm so glad. Very much based on the Cream version, I think that I might even like this one better. You have to get past the characteristic Deep Purple thumpy, throbbing bass. Loudest band ever recorded, but quite fatiguing.

 On a related note, you might look up one of the dreadful versions of Baez's Diamonds and Rust done by Blackmore's Night. Talk about murdering a great song.

No big deal - A House divided

"Even if this bill passed tonight, what would it have done?" "After shutting down the government for two and a half weeks, laying off 800,000 people, all the damage we caused, all we would end up doing was taking away health insurance from congressional employees. That's it? That's what you go to war for? That's what we shut down the United States government for?" Congressman Peter King

Interesting Pew poll out today. Many believe that the nation can default and proceed past the debt limit without experiencing "major economic problems." And even a majority of moderate Republicans think that the GOP is too extreme.

"Nearly a quarter of all americans including 37% of Republicans and 52% of Tea Party Republicans believe that the debt limit does not need to be raised at all."

The House Republicans continue to bicker with themselves as we careen over the fiscal cliff.

There is nothing as pitiful to a card player as seeing somebody bluff the whole pile against a full set, risking their life for a pair of measly sixes. Overplaying a worthless hand, the sweat pouring off their faces, when everybody in the game knows that they don't have shit.

They know they don't have shit, we know they don't have shit, and nobody is impressed with their small pair. But we have to witness the charade anyway, if they stare at the cards long enough, maybe something will happen? Jesus might just come down and magically transform them into a royal flush.

Don't ever double down with a losing hand. Especially if the deed to your house or your pink slip is on the line. Thanks for wasting our time, losers. Next time don't bring a dull knife to a gunfight. You are like a chihuahua picking on a pitbull and then expecting people to feel sorry for you.

Unfortunately, the whole country gets to suffer through your temper tantrum and we will all get to experience the crying kid on the airplane, who won't shut up until it gets its way. The House baggers can still do a tremendous amount of damage. Looks like any hopes for a deal are now off, since they can't even agree amongst themselves on anything to vote for.

I figured out why the medical device tax is the favorite punching bag, it was one of the major mechanisms to fund the ACA. So killing or delaying the tax will help hurt the program. That is what these people want to do, to  hurt anything connected with this presidency, even if they ultimately burn themselves up in the process.

Of course, the way things are going, even if there is a temporary deal, which looks increasingly doubtful, we can look for more and more of these types of pissing contests for the foreseeable future, at least until the midterm elections. So there ain't no hope in sight.

Johnny Horton

Burning Washington

While the prospect of default is certainly frightening and disturbing, although a rare event, it has happened twice before in our nation's history. The 1979 debacle was very similar to today's kerfuffle, a case of last minute brinkmanship that cost our nation approximately $12 billion dollars in U.S. Treasury bill interest.

The 1814 default was a far graver event than either 1979 or the current crisis. Rather than an angry mob of House Republicans intent on burning down the government, the protagonists at that time were the British. During the War of 1812, marauding troops from Ireland and Great Britain sacked our nation's capitol after the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814.

British Major General Robert Ross occupied the city and torched the White House, Treasury and Capitol. The only public building that escaped untouched was the United States Patent Office. A separate force took Alexandria, Virginia. The United States burned its own Navy Yard so that the ammunition would not fall into the hands of the enemy. This is the only time since the Revolutionary War that our country has been occupied by a foreign power.

According to historians, the British were free to prosecute the War after their long time antagonist Napoleon (who is actually a close genetic L-792 paternal relative of mine) was exiled to Elba. The Earl of Bathurst, who was the British Secretary of War, planned to launch additional attacks in Bermuda, New Orleans and Virginia.

The Royal Marines were under the command of British Rear Admiral George Cockburn. He and  Ross landed in Maryland on August 19. Their forces routed the US Navy's Chesapeake Bay Flotilla, a detachment of US Marines, and an inexperienced American militia at the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24. The temperature approached 100º. The fires of the city were said to allow residents “to read by the unnatural light of a city in flames." The writing of the Star Spangled Banner was inspired by the day's events.

Paul Jennings
As the redcoats laid waste to the Capitol, First Lady Dolley Madison frantically organized her staff and slaves to save any valuables they could. According to an account of a 15 year old slave, Paul Jennings;
It has often been stated in print, that when Mrs. Madison escaped from the White House, she cut out from the frame the large portrait of Washington (now in one of the parlors there), and carried it off. She had no time for doing it. It would have required a ladder to get it down. All she carried off was the silver in her reticule, as the British were thought to be but a few squares off, and were expected any moment.   John Susé [Jean-Pierre Sioussat] (a Frenchman, then door-keeper, and still living) and Magraw [McGraw], the President's gardener, took it down and sent it off on a wagon, with some large silver urns and such other valuables as could be hastily got hold of. When the British did arrive, they ate up the very dinner, and drank the wines, &c., that I had prepared for the President's party.
Because the Treasury and all its contents were burned, the United States had no way to pay its debts or its soldiers. After an accidental explosion that killed thirty British men and a bout of inclement weather that included a tornado, the British returned to Bermuda and back across the pond, their pride assuaged for what they considered ill treatment by the Americans of British holdings in both Canada and northern Lake Erie.

Dolley Madison

Monday, October 14, 2013

Rain and Snow


I had a fairly decent show in Glendale, which I am grateful for. Not a lot of sales but I made some good contacts and did put a little money in the bank. Will expound more on the show later. First the food.

I have written many times about my love for Zankou chicken, the wonderful mediterranean chain up in Los Angeles. They either serve Armenian chicken or Lebanese chicken, I can never really remember. In any case it has been my number one pit stop in L.A, for years and is the best roasted chicken you can find anywhere.

Roger and I took Robert, who had never been. Pita, humous, little tubs of garlic paste, pickled turnips and succulent chicken. Simply incredible. Roger told me that the family had split up the chain and that one of the chains is a dollar more than the other. I think that Robert loved it as much as we did.

We went to the place on Verdugo and Colorado, not my norm, I usually go to Hill and Colorado in Pasadena. What was cool was that after a great meal we sauntered over to the delicious Baklava factory next door, where the beautiful young girl behind the counter gave us a lesson on the various baklava.


Jennifer Warnes

Jennifer Warnes is a truly amazing singer. She sang in the original Los Angeles production of Hair as a young girl. Warnes was offered an opera scholarship to Immaculate Heart at the age of 17 and was also reportedly once offered a recording contract at the age of seven, which her father supposedly turned down.

Warnes has had a great career singing challenging and beautiful music, often doing duets with other performers. Her Famous Blue Raincoat album of Leonard Cohen songs remains one of my favorite albums of all time.

I once read an interview with Warnes where she discussed this song from Famous Blue Raincoat, with guitar lead by the late Stevie Ray Vaughn. I seem to remember her saying that Vaughn, who was reportedly using pretty heavily at the time, didn't show up at the recording studio until the middle of the night, many hours late. He delivers one of his great performances on this song.

That old banality of evil

I have been thinking a bit about good and evil lately. It started when the Ariel Castro story broke. Castro pled guilty to 937 counts, including kidnapping, rape, assault and aggravated murder that sent him to prison for life with no chance of parole for abducting the three women and keeping them as sex slaves for more than a decade in his Cleveland home.  He was found dead in his cell a few weeks ago, either by an act of suicide or possibly while engaged in an autoerotic act.

Castro lured one of his young victims with the promise of a puppy. But Castro denied victimizing the women and said that he was the real victim in the experience.
"Most of the sex that went on in the house, and probably all of it, was consensual," Castro said. "These people are trying to paint me as a monster. I'm not a monster. I'm sick. My sexual problem, it's so bad on my mind," Castro said."God as my witness, I never beat these women like they're trying to say that I did. I never tortured them," he said. He insisted "there was a lot of harmony" in his house among himself and his captives. 
You have to wonder about a man who kidnaps his prey, keeps them chained, impregnates them and then convinces himself that his despicable actions were somehow consensual.

I read a review in the New York Times last week along similar lines. It was a review of the book Hitler's Furies by Wendy Lower. The book chronicles the story of normal nazi women and their descent into acts that most of us would consider evil and abnormal. Very interesting review, I am going to try to read the book.
Some of the women she follows were aides to so-called desk murderers, eagerly assisting their bosses. Others took part in the humiliation of Jews, or plundered their goods. Still others shot them from balconies or in forests. One smashed in a Jewish toddler’s head. Even those who did not directly take part in the killing of Jews, she says, could not claim ignorance about was going on. They were passive bystanders.
Fewer expressed qualms about what they saw. One who did, a relief worker and lawyer named Annette Schücking, wrote home: “What Papa says is true; people with no moral inhibitions exude a strange odor. I can now pick out these people, and many of them really do smell like blood.” Despite what they had seen, the author writes, they asked, “What can one do, after all?”
The moral point Ms. Lower repeatedly makes is that “there were choices concerning how one behaved during and after the war.” Men and women weren’t punished for refusing to take part in the killings of Jews. “In favoring perceived duty over morality,” she writes, “men and women were more alike than different.” 

© Reuters
Monique Macias was the daughter of a brutal African dictator, Francisco Macías Nguema, the President-turned-dictator of Equatorial Guinea between 1968 and 1979. Nguema was overthrown in a coup and convinced his friends in North Korea to protect his wife, daughter and son in exile before he was executed. Macias and her brother Francisco spent 15 years in Korea.

Monique has just finished her memoirs, I'm Monique from Pyongyang. The stories I have read are interesting in the same way as the other two tales I cite. She paints the late North Korean dictator Kim il Sung, a man responsible for numerous atrocities, as a kind grandfather who nagged her about her homework.

Macias's father's regime was known as the Dachau of Africa. He executed entire villages and families. including many of his own, and was said to be responsible for killing close to 80,000 people.Yet to one young boy and girl, he was probably just plain old dad.
During Macías Nguema's regime, the country had neither a development plan nor an accounting system for government funds. After killing the governor of the Central Bank, he carried everything that remained in the national treasury to his house in a rural village.[2] During Christmas of 1975 he ordered about 150 of his opponents killed. Soldiers dressed up in Santa Claus costumes executed them by shooting at the football stadium in Malabo, while amplifiers were playing Mary Hopkin's "Those Were the Days".[8]By the end of his rule, nearly all of the country's educated class was either executed or forced into exile--a brain drain from which the country has never recovered. He also killed two-thirds of the legislature and 10 of his original ministers.[9]

Kim il Sung was the grandson of a minister and went to a missionary school. The founder of North Korea was a radical Stalinist who executed many of his political opponents and instituted an autocratic regime and a cult of personality unmatched in our time, which even required a yearly tribute on his birth and death day. It is estimated that he was responsible for killing approximately one million of his own people.

Erich Priebke died last week, at the ripe old age of one hundred. He lived his life in comfort and freedom, enjoying a rooftop apartment where he could tend his geraniums and come and go as he pleased.

Priebke was an SS officer who orchestrated the killing of men and boys at the Italian Ardeatine caves in 1944, in a reprisal attack ordered by Adolf Hitler for the killing of 33 German soldiers in Rome by resistance fighters.

They were ordered to kill ten people for every nazi killed but Priebke went a little overboard and killed five extra, 335, just for good measure and to be on the safe side. In an interesting twist, he was never tried for the 330 murders which he was ordered to commit, only for the five extra that he was not ordered to kill.

Priebke admitted his role in the massacre, but he never expressed remorse and maintained he was only following orders. Priebke maintained that all the people he killed were merely "terrorists."

"An order was an order... I had to carry it out."

From Wiki:
In post–World War II trials, Priebke was set to be tried for his role in the massacre, but he managed to escape from a British prison camp in northeastern Italy in 1946. After he had escaped, he lived with a family in Sterzing/Vipiteno. During this time he received on 13 September 1948 a second baptism by a local priest.[6] After his time in South Tyrol he went to Vatican City in Rome to find protection. Bishop Alois Hudal, a main participant in the Vatican's Ratlines, was accustomed to making false travel documents for German officials who had been involved in the war, and he supplied Priebke with a falsified visa to travel to Argentina (then led by Juan Perón).[7] Though alleged to have been responsible for war crimes, Priebke lived in Argentina as a free man for 50 years.

It is interesting to note the barbarity that we humans can justify in our own behavior. For a myriad of reasons, including loyalty, duty, a desensitization to our victims, whom we may call terrorists, we can engage in the most sordid and despicable acts. All of these men and women probably found their personal behavior entirely normal and perfectly acceptable. And had relationships with family and friends that were also loving and normal in the socially accepted sense of the word. It seems very few monsters can recognize the monster in the mirror.

Hell is empty and all the devils are here.
William Shakespeare 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

David Bromberg

Big Muddy

I got this email today from my friend Ted in Kauai. Ted likes to do night photography, in the company of his canine pals, and he often sends me shots of the night sky. I don't think that he will mind me sharing this one.
Ola Roberto,
I have a funny story for you which took place last night. I was out at the Nininini Lighthouse at Lihue airport and decided to get in the photo with Ricky and Nikki. 
So I set up the countdown timer for 10 seconds and walked out over the "dry" grassy edge of this muddy spot. Wrong! I was trying my damndest to keep upright and the camera clicked  a split second before my butt spatted into the pudding thick mud. OMG! Talk about a frickin mess ha,ha...
Luckily on the way down, I was able to dump Ricky to the left and when I hit the mud, got Nikki as well to the grass, but she rolled back in with me. It was rather comical to say the least. I ruined my brand new Verizon cellphone as it got wet with the red dirt muddy water.
Worse, I just removed the towel from the car and put it into the washing machine, then drove off. Luckily I had an empty cat food bag that I used to put my shoes and shirt/shorts into the trunk, then drove home in my wet underwear. 
My wallet got soaked and everything in it covered in mud, cellphone took a while to clean out, but I got it to work tonight after it was not starting up. Let's hope it's cured. :)
That was my adventure, but I did get some good shots before this happened. 

Future Games

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mi Cucina

It's no big secret that I love food. You can call me a gastronome or a glutton, I don't really care. The truth is that for me, the act of eating great food goes beyond simple nutrition. If you can exist happily on a diet of acorns and gruel, well my hat is off to you. I am more of a sensualist and I make no apologies.

One of the great things for me, being one so interested in great food, whatever that means, is when I can share it with people that are equally committed and epicurily inclined. Dixon emailed me today from one of my favorites, Le Cheval in Oakland, to tell me that he had just finished the greatest asian dish of his life, basil shrimp with eggplant and a rice clay of with veggies, shrimp and chicken. I am happy that he saw what I saw in the restaurant, he is one of the most talented cooks I know, and when I talked to him on the phone I only expressed mild disappointment that he hadn't tried the quail with salt and pepper sauce, which is simply without equal.

I am blessed to be married to a superb cook, who was trained in the French restaurant kitchen of Emil, an august and wonderful gentleman from Lichtenstein. As I have mentioned before, Leslie and I both say that we would rather eat leftovers at our friend Melissa's in Berkeley than any fine restaurant in the world. Melissa is a private chef who has cooked for decades for some of the most particular people in the world and raised two boys and an ex husband to become fine chefs in their own right. Melissa knows food and loves food. Not expensive food, good food.

Melissa and her boyfriend Gary as well as her mom, Peggy, are in town for a wedding and we met last night at my fave spot of the last several years, Cucina Urbana for dinner. I have written repeatedly about this rustic italian place, the site of the former Laurel, with no entree over twenty bucks and an incredible commitment to excellent fare. How would my friend, who can be hypercritical as hell, like my hometown haunt?

We met them at the trendy hotel in the gas lamp for a drink before we headed  up to Bankers Hill. We entered the stepped down restaurant and  I introduced myself to the new manager, mentioned that I was a friend of the old manager and they couldn't have been nicer, finding us a great table with a great server after a short wait.

We started the meal with a bang, a complimentary crudo of all types of wonderful sauces, olives, cornichons, cheeses and sliced meats. We then had a squash blossom antipasti stuffed with herb ricotta, pesto and lemon aoli that were worth the rice of admission by themselves. Please forgive my crummy phone pictures which I include only for purposes of illustration.

I asked the server about the bone marrow appetizer that I had previously sampled and we were brought a generous hot half bone full of succulent marrow along with a bay scallop bruschetta and another appetizer that is now slipping through my memory.

We feasted on the wonderful bread and dug into our vasi, two jars, one full of burrata with a full roasted garlic and one a chicken liver pate with brown sugar shallots. We could have just stopped right there but we were only getting started.

My tablemates loved the wine list, which they thought was great both for selection and price. Spottswood, some really good stuff and nothing over priced. They settled on a nice Sancerre that was off menu and delicious.

The next course was a roasted suckling pig with a poached egg, frisee and cracklings and a sherry mustard dressing. It was sublime, I am glad that I followed the server's advice and tossed the whole thing together. Best dish of the night on a night where everything was good.

Leslie and Mom wanted a salad and we got an acre's worth of arugula and heirloom tomatoes. We were an hour and a half in by this time and hadn't even started on the entrees yet. I was stuffed but couldn't lose face in this company and bravely soldiered on.

One of the cool things about Cucina Urbana is that you can order a family style platter and we received a giant serving bowl of short ribs pappardelle, replete with cremini mushrooms, carrots and parmesan. Ben once told me that they actually once tried to take the dish off the menu but the diners wouldn't have it. The cooks at the table said that you would have to cook the short ribs for hours, with great care and élan, to have them come out that good.

I was overjoyed. My food guru loved my favorite spot. Yippee, a confirmation that my palate was on the right track. Anybody can find expensive food, it is a lot harder to find and appreciate good food. Leslie and Melissa felt that the pasta was underdone, even in an al dente world and the server wanted to cook us a whole new batch. We told them not to bother, the only tiny blemish on a wonderful repast. Later we saw that they took it off of our bill.

After the pasta came not one but two whole baked fish, the special, in this case bream, moist, flaky and perfect. But definitely overkill. It was getting rather late and I had to get up at five to go to Los Angeles for my show.

We ended the night with coffee and zeppole, sugared donut holes filled with meyer lemon curd and topped with wild blueberry preserves.

We got the bill and it was peanuts. We ate all night, had one of the best meals in memory, five people with wine and it was under two bills. A great dinner, an unusual menu that even enchanted my wise and educated gourmand friends from the north. They were on their way to find the duck burritos at Bultaco in Cardiff today.

Cucina Urbana has had a soft opening for their new sister restaurant at the Flower Hill Center in Del Mar, Cucina Enoteca last week. I hope to check it out soon! Was great to pig out with my friends. I went way beyond overdoing it but the diet starts today.