Peregrine flight

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Walk Tall

Contextual Robotics

From NBC - The University of California, San Diego has announced plans to start a Contextual Robotics Institute, bringing together top academics from its schools of engineering and social science.
With the institute, the university hopes to design machines that function better with, and act friendlier toward, human beings.
The goal is to make robotic systems that function in the real world based on the contextual information they perceive, in real time.
San Diego is making new inroads as a robotics hub. You might want to also peruse this article from the Union Tribune from three days past, UCSD to create robots that see, think and do.
UC San Diego is creating a robotics institute that will develop machines that can interpret everything from subtle facial expressions to walking styles to size up what people are thinking, doing and feeling.
The “See-Think-Do” technology is largely meant to anticipate and fulfill people’s everyday needs, especially the soaring number of older Americans who want to live out their lives in their own homes.
In particular, UC San Diego has been developing the sort of software and sensors that would be needed to unobtrusively monitor the health and well-being of an elderly or disabled person living in their home. The goal: allow people to “age in place” — a place they desire.
Researchers have created facial recognition programs that can detect an array of emotions, from joy and sadness to surprise, disgust and contempt. The campus also developed software that assesses how much pain a person is feeling.
The software has emerged at the same time that researchers nationwide have been developing wireless sensors that can detect everything from whether a person is moving normally to whether they’re taking prescription pills and making it to the bathroom. Some of the sensors are wearable. Others can be embedded in things like household appliances, furniture, and flooring.
These are exciting times and I can see the value in robotic friends that can both sense and dole out emotion, maybe even laugh at my jokes. I have long envisioned an auto gps system that gets a little bitchier if it has to tell you a second time. And if my sexy robotic playmate wants to tell me how handsome I am looking, I say, what's the harm in that?

Seriously, the advent of machines that both sense and react to human emotion is a game changer. Invent one with a dark sense of humor and I will plotz.

A very interesting comment on the U-T article from one Gary Reber. Taxpayers fund these things but private parties reap the benefits. Hmmm. Follow the $.

Here is an earlier article that introduces you to some of the principals involved at the new Robotics hub.

Stemming and hummingbird - Google's RankBrain algorithm.

An article and edited interview with Ramesh Rao, director of the UC San Diego division of Calit2.


Intelligent machines: Call for a ban on robots designed as sex toys

The following is from one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, The Lonely, with Jack Warden playing Corrie and Jean Marsh as Alicia. A prisoner on a distant planet is reluctant to leave without his distaff robotic companion. Who wouldn't fall for such a gorgeous package of diodes and resistors?

Friday, October 30, 2015


Grandma's nosering

I don't have a band at the moment but I came up with a name for one in case I ever do. Grandma's nose ring. How do you like it?

Not sure what gave me the thought but we were in Hollywood yesterday and I saw many a doyenne whose proboscis was fashionably jeweled and attired.

Last week I witnessed a similar sight, matriarch had to be pushing 75, with the full Ferdinand the bull ring coursing through both nostrils. Whatever floats your schnozz, bubbe.


Continuing confirmation of my advanced age and decrepitude.

I was picking up some low tack tape at the hardware store yesterday morning and did a quick visual audit of my fellow customers.

All hipsters, all rocking the same oversized ear gauge, all with the same silly hat, low slung jeans and flame tattoos. And I had this scary epiphany; what if everybody on the planet gets hip at the same time, then nobody will be hip and I bet these "rebels" will be mighty sore. Wouldn't it be funny if the last un-inked guy or gal standing turned out to be the real hipster in the end?

I get that they want to show that they are as hip and unique as their offbeat parents and grandparents and do something a little different, even if it is adopting terrorist beards and incising gang graffiti on their necks, but think they could at least aim their sights for something not quite as skanky and dare I say, beautiful?

I got a flat the other day. Called Triple A and the guy who came and got me had some interesting tattoos on his arm. Whole family in large horned rimmed glasses, mom, dad and grandpa.

Older versions of Chip and Ernie on My three sons. I took a picture with his permission but sadly lost the sd card, first one that has ever physically broke on me, so the cool inkjob will have to be a mental memory.

I still haven't seen the Carolina drag the girl across the floor video, you know the girl that refused to get off the phone and was forcibly removed from class.

I am sure that the cop was way out of line. They asked the girl why she didn't leave the class prior to her forced removal as asked and she said that she didn't really think that the punishment was warranted.

When I was in school we really didn't negotiate these sorts of things, a person in authority demanded that you did something and you usually did it. But we have this new class of entitled brats and I am absolutely sure that the girl in Carolina is headed for major bank. Good for her. Stick it to the man and all that. I see a book deal and a movie.

What are educators supposed to do when the insubordinate students decide that they are the ones now running the show?

A friend of mine, who is now raising his great grandchildren because his own children and their children in turn are so worthless, told me a story about his young ward getting suspended for, well, acting like a young boy. I was a young troublemaker, still am, got in trouble lots of times, suspended a few times too. Believe me when I tell you that I know the type.

My friend asked them if his ggc had been disciplined and they said they couldn't do that anymore. He said that the boy respected authority and that they had his permission to let him know who was boss. That was the way I was raised as well.

But no, they aren't allowed to discipline any more, corporal punishment now being verboten, so the poor kid is now banished and ostracized because teachers are so afraid of being sued that they refuse to discipline.

I am no parent but always thought it was weird to hear kids call parents by their first names and act like they are just another friend. I don't think it is good for children but what do I know? Most kids could use an occasional smack on the rump.

Now we just pump them full of ritalin, clonapin or some other tranquilizer at the first sign of what might be attention deficit disorder. We used to just call them children, kids act up, now they are all obviously damaged. After we figure out if their true psyches are male or female of course, have to give them that option as well.

A friend has a fishing boat and the neighbor kids want to go fishing. His brother, perhaps wisely, said, no way, some kid can say you molested them and its all over. He told me about a male teacher he knows who refuses to be alone in a classroom with a female student because of these types of allegations. In fact a guy I know had a daughter recently call the cops on him and allege some pretty terrible things because he grounded her, finally recanting in front of the cops. Freaking scary. Insolent little bastards.

If I sound like a pissy old man it is because I am. Every day I feel more and more separated from the aberrant spins of this terran globe of ours. I could give a damn about Caitlyn, Kanye and the Kardashians, think the new love of big butts is very strange, can't stand rap, hate when the cashiers utter the words, "no problem", like maybe there is a problem or even worse, "of course." Please, thank you and your welcome worked just fine but they have been now relegated to the scrapheap of time.

I bought a burrito at the show in Santa Barbara. With drink it was $10.73. I handed the girl a twenty. "What do you want me to do with this?" Uh, make me change, something close to $9.27 give or take a few cents. She didn't have a calculator and had to get her younger sister to help her with the advanced computation. Because we are breeding stupid and doing a remarkable good job of it.

If I may switch to politics, Marco Rubio seems like one of those punk, spoiled, entitled bratty kids. He missed all the senate votes because it wasn't fun anymore, Obama would just veto them anyway and besides his eye was set on bigger game.

Accomplished exactly nothing in six years. What happened to do your job, whatever job, well, before you start thinking about your next conquest? Petulant brat.

Interesting news about Kasich, not sure if it is true. Was he really kicked off the Reagan team in the 70's for selling weed? Guy just rose a few more notches in my book.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Joe Williams

Mind if I ramble?

Boots on the ground

An interesting opinion over at USA Today, Before you complain about patriarchy by University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds. I copy the lion's share.
...In academia, we have a saying: Personnel is policy. If your history department hires a bunch of Marxists, you’ll have a Marxist history department. If the law school hires a bunch of law-and-economics types, you’ll have a law-and-economics based law school. And because most people tend to stay for a long time, and because people tend to hire people like themselves, those changes will be long-lasting.
Which brings me to the unprecedented mass-migration being experienced at present by Europe and, to a lesser degree, by the United States. Hundreds of thousands of people — soon, it seems likely to be millions — are coming from countries where the patriarchy really is a thing. These are places where honor killings, female genital mutilation and the legal and social subordination of wives and daughters to husbands and fathers are considered the norm. (The Dutch are already getting upset about the Syrian refugees who are bringing child brides with them.)
Some of these people, of course, will eagerly adopt the culture of their new lands, and try their hardest to assimilate. But many more will not. They will, as people tend to do, cling to their native culture and customs regardless, either ignorant of (or more likely) feeling superior to the traditions of their adoptive countries. (This is normal for all sorts of people: When Americans do that, they’re called “ugly Americans.”)  And to the extent that their behavior is visible, some percentage of the native population will adopt it, at least to some degree, especially if it seems that it is successful.
The end result will be that patriarchy will be back in the West. Because personnel is policy, and immigration is all about who will be staffing your nation in the future. Keep that in mind as these things are debated.
His comments resonate with me because I have been reading about some of the problems they are already having in Malmo, Sweden, where convert or die graffiti is starting to show up in arabic on buildings and there have been recent attacks against kurds from sunni transplants and purportedly isis supporters. The new migrants have their own ideas about what constitutes rape and on the propriety of marrying children. This new cultural marriage might prove a little messy.

It is foolish to think that Europe will not be fundamentally changed with this new influx, I fear for the worst. Thank god we have a large ocean sitting between the United States and the new migrant masses. For now we get to watch what happens in Europe. Because people are not going to leave their old animosities and cultural tendencies at home. Unfortunately sectarian strife is rampant throughout Africa and the middle east and look for the conflict to be exported to a new battleground.

Imam tells Muslim migrants to 'breed children' with Europeans to 'conquer their countries' and vows: 'We will trample them underfoot, Allah willing.'


GOP Blues

The Republican party is in shambles. While in pretty good sorts from the local to the congressional level, demographics and being on the wrong side of certain issues will make it hard for them to win a national election for the foreseeable future. When the head of the Chamber of Commerce is bemoaning the great hole in the middle and the lack of moderates on your team, you have a problem.

And a principal problem is that the party is so fractured today, a disparate patchwork of social conservatism, fiscal conservatism, hard right, tea party conservatives, anti immigrant, white evangelicals, etc. They have little binding them together at the moment with the exception of a hatred for the left and progressives. So it is little wonder they are struggling so hard to find a standard bearer that can speak to all the factions. Such a person doesn't exist.

John Boehner did Paul Ryan a big favor at taking the debt ceiling vote off the table. America doesn't like brinkmanship and they don't like being extorted. We needed another one of those pissing matches like a hole in the head.

We see way too much of this heavy handed, brute force politics with minority groups like the Freedom Caucus who want to stomp their feet like babies when they don't get their way.

I won't vote for Bernie Sanders for a variety of reasons but the principal one is that we need a leader who will help broach the chasm separating the two american camps, not further widen it. I don't think we can afford a war on the rich, or Wall St. anymore than we need to become the new Denmark. There are enough unfunded entitlements around.

We need true bipartisanship and to somehow meet in the middle. And Cruz, Carson, Trump and Bernie are all located out on the fringe somewhere. Liked the idea of a Hillary-Kasich ticket. Country needs some healing.

Carson is of course, enjoying current polling success for one reason; he's evangelical and a lot of people are solely interested in identity politics. Note that I am not one of them, you don't see me backing Bernie.

I have a hard time considering a candidate who thinks satan is behind evolution, champions a 6 thousand year old earth and a literal six day creation, is against abortion at any time, for any reason, says being gay is a choice, wants Congress to remove judges who voted for marriage equality, believes Obama wants immigration reform so that he can get more people on welfare and also wants to double down on the drug war. I think the nation is going in the other direction but we shall see.

Boo to Dianne Feinstein for championing the new CISA cybersecurity bill which will provide immunity for companies that "voluntarily" share your private data with the government. Feinstein, along with co sponsor Richard Burr, discouraged any amendments to mitigate what many are concerned are unreasonable invasions of privacy in the new bill. Bill still needs to pass the house.


No help at the edge

Hillary's numbers have really taken off since the Benghazi witch hunt. Trey Gowdy did her a big favor. Benghazi was a disaster, I wrote about the perfidy in real time but there was no criminality extant and after nine different investigations it is time to give it up. I too would like Susan Rice's head on a plate but it just isn't going to happen.

And one must remember that the GOP voted to cut embassy funding by $300 million dollars. You can't have it both ways.

O’BRIEN: Is it true that you voted to cut the funding for embassy security?
CHAFFETZ: Absolutely. Look, we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have — think about this — 15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, private army there for President Obama in Baghdad.
And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces? When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices how to prioritize this.

All this tsuris over Benghazi. Why not a similar tribunal to find out why the Bush administration did nothing after receiving the August Richard Clarke memo that described plans for muslim terrorists to fly planes into our large buildings?

So now what does the House GOP want to do? Planned Parenthood hearings. In a country where a clear majority supports the right of choice and supports Planned Parenthood, which provides a panoply of health services for women, often the only care they receive, this is a loser. It might help with the base but it is not going to help in a national election, it will have the same effect as the Donald going off on the mexicans. Have at it. The converts both parties need are in the middle, they get no help from the edge.

Privacy and Wikileaks

I think it is ridiculous for anybody to be sifting through and publishing CIA Director John Brennan's emails. Our leaders and agents deserve the same privacy protections that we all deserve and they should be allowed to keep their private documents private. The world does not have any right to see his position papers and the vital work he is doing on behalf of our country. God forbid the inmates start running the asylum.

Monday, October 26, 2015

My prefrontal cortex made me do it.

I finally finished the Ariely book on dishonesty. Well, okay, I skimmed the last part. Anyway I learned something interesting and will try to break it down for you.

UCLA researcher Yaling Yang sets up a study where she identifies pathological liars and gives them brain scans. It turns out that in a nutshell the human brain is comprised of both gray and white matter. Gray matter is brain cells, white is connective linkage.

Interestingly the liars have 14% less gray matter than the control group and this is significant when talking about the prefrontal cortex, a cranial control tower which controls morality amongst other things. This may make it easier for liars to lie.

They also found evidence that the liars had 22 to 26% more white matter. This heightened connectivity and a larger cranial network of neural associations may make those with this physiologic attribute natural liars and more able to rationalize their dishonesty.

On a completely unrelated note, great article at the Atlantic - If you're not paranoid you're crazy.

La Valencia

I'm not going to be around for my actual birthday so I asked a couple friends to join me for lunch yesterday. I decided to go to the La Valencia because it has been so long since I had their paella and it had some good reviews on Yelp.

La Jolla's La Valencia is one of the places of my youth, we didn't go often but we certainly did on special occasions and they had the best brunch around, or right there with La Costa. Such a beautiful Andalusian setting.

The accent mark (who went to Bishop's School nearby) said "That old warhorse, lets go somewhere else. like Rancho Valencia." But I love the building and treasure the memory of many fine meals there with my late father and Buzz.

So we went. Wore a shirt that reminds me of my dad, too. Going old school San Diego. Lubach's, Grant Grill, Torrey Club, Belgian Lion. Old Trieste. La Valencia. Classy places.

I had made reservations over a week ago. They lost them. No record. So they decided to seat us in the bar across from a couple drunks. Never told us that we weren't even in the La Valencia Restaurant but in the stand alone cafe next door. And no paella on the menu now. Disappointing.

A view of people's ankles through the window and the twentysomethings slouched on the bar getting their hair of the dog.

I asked our really great server Kyle what to get. I listened to him and went elsewhere, ordered lobster crepes and they weren't great. Should have listened. Cold and funny smell. Barely decent. Leslie had a boring blue crab omelette and she says that is hard to do.

Watermelon and greens salad also didn't work too well. Live and learn. We toasted our late mothers and fathers and happily ate our meals, enjoying each other's company immensely. Can't overestimate the value of friends, especially when the cuisine is lacking something.

The quiche that the accent had was good. Most of my guests thought the food was alright. I had a word with the new manager and she took total responsibility for the shortcomings. Will give the place another try when she finishes putting her imprimatur on it.

But it was a little disappointing. Thank god the company was great. Walked down to the cove after brunch.

Afterwards we topped off at Jasmine express with sesame balls, honey roast pork and a peking duck. Saved! A good day, thanks friends!

One More Mile To Go

incommunicado - © Robert Sommers 2015

Who killed Larry Robinson?

The Invisible Man

Goin' down slow

Three Faces

Jo Mora sculpture, Los Angeles
I saw something thought provoking and profound out there recently, on some social media outlet, it went like this:

The Japanese say you have three faces. The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends, and your family. The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are.

Well that is pretty cool I thought. The real face nobody ever sees. Nice. Sucker for that kind of thing.

I decided to do a Reaganesque trust but verify and see when and where the quote first appears in Japan. And the short answer is that like much of the manufactured pablum on Facebook, Reddit and tumblr, it doesn't.

Oh well, not surprising. This meme apparently goes at least as far back on the net as 2005 and has about as much to do with Japan as Vito Corleone does.

I did find this; 表の顔と裏の顔 which means having a front face and a back face. But that is only two faces, we are still missing one.

Read some quotes from some Japanese folks that say that it is certainly a new one on them. There is an old Japanese god with three faces, Vadjra, but he is not rumored to be undergoing any of this sort of existential angst.

Vadjra eventually gave way to the familiar three monkeys, see no, hear no and speak no evil or Mizaro, Kikazaru and Iwazaru.

Others researching this anonymously penned wisdom biscuit have mentioned a poem by T.S. Eliot that bears reading, the naming of cats. Not bad, I can grok the linkage. Here's the end of it:
...But above and beyond there's still one name left over,And that is the name that you never will guess;The name that no human research can discover — But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess. When you notice a cat in profound meditation,The reason, I tell you, is always the same:His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:His ineffable effableEffanineffableDeep and inscrutable singular Name.
Eliot evidently had a thing for names and faces. The following is from The lovesong of J. Alfred Prufock.
...And indeed there will be time For the yellow smoke that slides along the street, Rubbing its back upon the window panes;        There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create, And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plate;         Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions, Before the taking of a toast and tea.

There was a Tarzan episode in 1966 called the Three faces of death but I have to mention that it was the Ron Ely Tarzan and therefore lacking a certain amount of credibility.
When the chief of a tribe, a friend of Tarzan's dies, his daughter prepares to succeed him, a member of the tribe, opposes her being the tribe's new chief. So he asks that the old test, The Three Faces of Death be imposed to prove her worthiness. But unfortunately a woman can't face a man in the test, so another member of the tribe must face him in her place. When no one accepts, Tarzan steps in. And if he fails not only will she not be chief, she'll be killed.
Yaqui mask collection, Casa Grande
Social psychology is divided into three increasingly isolated domains or faces: (1) psychological social psychology, (2) symbolic interactionism, and (3) psychological sociology (or social structure and personality). 

The Three Faces of Social Psychology - ResearchGate. Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/261814010_The_Three_Faces_of_Social_Psychology [accessed Oct 26, 2015].

Sociologist Steven Lukes says that power has three faces.  Issuing, agenda setting and manipulation.


Three face sculptures - Michael Stutz, Fallbrook

Have you heard of Prosopagnosia? It is the inability for some people to recognize faces and an estimated 2.5% of the population could suffer from it. It literally means face blindness in the original greek. I have a friend with this condition. Many famous people, including Chuck Close and Tom Stoppard have it as well.

Anyway it brings us no closer to figuring out the identity of the sage who penned this doggerel in the first place and ascribed it to the Japanese. Maybe we will never know. Hope it didn't come from the Billy Jack movie, the Desiderata poster or the label on a bottle of Doctor Bronners. Have to be awfully careful these days.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Catherine MacLellan

This beautiful song, made famous by fellow Canadian Anne Murray, was written by Catherine's late father, Gene MacLellan. He has a very interesting bio, once played with Robbie Robertson in the Consuls, dealt with a lot of heavy stuff in his life, which eventually ended by his own hand.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

DeGoff of the day


1. Money can not buy happiness, but it's more comfortable to cry in a Corvette than on a bicycle. 
2. Forgive your enemy, but remember the asshole's name. 
3. If you help someone when they're in trouble, they will remember you when they're in trouble again. 
 Alcohol does not solve any problems, but then neither does milk. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015



I am not a television watcher, haven't plugged in for decades but occasionally turn on the infernal box when I am stuck in a hotel, usually leaving the experience even more disturbed about the human condition.

When I was in Santa Barbara I actually saw something beautiful and worth seeing on the tv. The Araya movie.

Araya is a movie filmed in 1959 that is set at an old salt mine on the remote Araya peninsula of Venezuela.

It was written and directed by the Venezuelan born director Margot Benacerraf. The film shared the International Critics Prize at Cannes the year of its release but was never distributed internationally.

The movie shares a 24 hour period in the life of the people of Araya.

 "On this land nothing grew and all was desolation, wind and sun. All life came from the sea, and from the marriage of sea and sun, salt was born."

Araya was never released in this country until the film was finally restored by Milestone Films in 2009.

This movie reminds me somewhat of Kurosawa, with the gorgeous cinematography of Giuseppe Nisoli, a strange discordant sound track of Guy Bernard, basically no dialogue to speak of beyond narration, and incredibly haunting imagery.

The movie has a palpable and engaging internal rhythm.

You might hate it, you might love it, but if you get the opportunity, watch it. A beautiful and unusual film.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Soir Bleu

Edward Hopper - 1914

It makes no difference

Past due

A confluence of dark fortune, dire events and my own general ineptitude conspired for another miserable weekend.

The show in Santa Barbara was pretty awful for most of us, yours truly included.

It was extremely hot and a transformer exploded outside the hall on set up so we set up the show in the dark. I drove to three hardware stores and there wasn't an electric fan to be purchased in the whole town. Total schvitz.

The mudslides closed down the 5, so the truck traffic was routed to the 101 and it was jammed in both directions. Two hours to get back to the hotel in Carpenteria. Didn't help the show traffic.

It seemed that the customers that did manage to show up were out for a weekend stroll, didn't see a lot of buyers anywhere and art definitely wasn't the bag of the rare customer with a pulse. You aren't going to get the full post mortem, that can wait. I will say that I had a couple sleepless nights and woke up throwing up, completely stressed out wondering how to make the whole thing work.

Of course, my story is a familiar one, people have been losing their asses and their property for the last seven or eight years and the last thing anybody needs is for a guy who has received as many free credits and blessings as I have to engage in another one of his countless bitch sessions.

Having said that, I think many of my fellow dealers will not be returning to the venue. This is systemic, antique shows the country over are vaporizing due to lack of interest, as are shops and galleries. I heard a dealer discussing the nature of the chasm; we thought that the younger generation would be interested in modern and abstracts but we finally figured out that they aren't interested in anything. And of course, everybody is broke to boot.

A little late for a personal reinvention, will see how long I can hold on and if nothing else faithful readers who are interested in that sort of thing will be treated to a great public immolation. Not sure how much more I can take.

There were high points. Met George, a legendary flea market picker and sage who once danced with Anna Halprin and led religious rituals at the Waldorf school. Actor, modern holy man.

George doesn't drive and I ferried him back and forth from the hotel. Very nice and interesting guy.

We went to Superica one evening and had an enjoyable meal. It is fashionable to hate the place but I still love it.

Denis and I spoke. He is a little sick of my Israel rhetoric and would rather hear about food. Noted.


Threw the oracle a few times during my nocturnal crisis. The sages say I am fucked, the bed is splitting, shot my wad, peril on all sides. Bastards, I have them right where I want them. Don't they know that I thrive on devastation, that this is the time in the movie when the extra gear kicks in? What's the current betting line on my survival anyway? Overrated, in any case... survival.

I withdrew this year for a variety of reasons that most of you are aware of. There is a price to be paid for disengagement and always the danger of the wheels coming off the tracks. Beats the hell out of trying to sneak through Hungary anyway.

Couple things caught my eye and ear.

Scientist under attack after he kills bird that took decades to find.

Uzbek farmers told to glue cotton back on bushes ahead of state trip.

Leader of doomsday group adjusts prediction to soon.

Steve needed to borrow my car in Palm Springs to get his phone from the hotel. He couldn't believe how many keys I had on my ring, asked me if I was a janitor. I started going through them the other day, realized that I had no idea what at least half of them unlocked at this point. Jettisoned a bunch. Traveling a lot lighter now.

A pretty successful dealer came through the booth in Santa Barbara and was complaining about business. Said when things got bad he liked to take vacations. Just came back from China and now on his way to Cabo to go scuba diving. I believe that he is on a slightly different level of bad than I am traveling right now.

JB sent a really nice picture from his home in Alaska.

Thank you for the several nice notes I received on the agapanthus photograph. I am glad that it resonated with you so.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Another Time And Place - Dave van Ronk

Memory Foam

Lying Bastards

There's one way to find out if a man is honest - ask him. If he says, 'Yes,' you know he is a crook.
Groucho Marx

I am reading another excellent book by my favorite social scientist Dan Ariely. This one is titled The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty - how we lie to everyone, especially ourselves.

I am only halfway through so I don't really want to talk about it too much but will say that it is eye opening. He runs some novel experiments and well, you would be surprised how we humans cheat so. Some of us are just a tad better at masking our larceny.

Anyway the part I found most intriguing so far is the chapter on why wearing fakes makes us cheat more. And in explaining the phenomenon I learned something new. It turns out that the ancient Romans came up with a set of regulations called sumptuary laws.

These laws made it illegal to dress above your class and told people who could wear what. Later in the renaissance, these laws decreed that only the nobility could wear certain fur, laces, would allow so much beading per square foot, etc.

Prostitutes had to wear a striped hood and apostates a patch decorated with a wood bundle so that they could be quickly burned at the stake if need be. It was manifestly illegal to dress above your station.

Now this wasn't just a greek, roman and english thing, in fact this was the way it was the world over, China, Islam, Japan, Italy and France.

Even in the young America.
In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, only people with a personal fortune of at least two hundred pounds could wear lace, silver or gold thread or buttons, cutwork, embroidery, hatbands, belts, ruffles, capes, and other articles.
The need to express our station to the world is called external signaling. We do it with our clothes, our cars and I suppose our language as well.

...no free woman should be allowed any more than one maid to follow her, unless she was drunk: nor was to stir out of the city by night, wear jewels of gold about her, or go in an embroidered robe, unless she was a professed and public prostitute; that, bravos excepted, no man was to wear a gold ring, nor be seen in one of those effeminate robes woven in the city of Miletus.
The Greek Zaleucus - 7th century b.c.e.

From the book, page 121:
What may seem to be an absurd degree of obsessive compulsion on the part of the upper crust was in reality an effort for people to ensure that people were what they signaled themselves to be; the system was designed to eliminate disorder and confusion. (It clearly had some signaling advantages although I am not suggesting that we revert back to it.) Although our current class system is not as rigid as it was in the past, the desire to signal success and individuality is as strong today as ever. The fashionably privileged now wear Armani instead of Ermine.
Interesting subject and book! The concept of external signaling and the innate need for humans to display rank is fascinating. I would bet that the need to draw a distinction from the next lower tier is stronger even than the desire to ascend the class pyramid. And there is also apparently an "anti" drive that prefers to project bottom status. You win.

I have noticed that the way the thing works, if a lower status person finds a way to externally signal at a higher rank, the goal lines move real quickly, always keeping the climber on the outside. Fascinating how it all works. And both honest and dishonest signaling appear to have deep roots in our evolutionary makeup.

I look forward to exploring the entire subject more thoroughly.

Yoga, shmoga

Prettiest Train

The awful case of Stephan Templ

Kurier/Franz Gruber
I would be remiss not to share the tale of Stephan Templ who has been convicted and jailed on the most spurious and tenuous of charges in Austria for "harming the state." Please read the following links to get a bit of background on the case:



This case is such an abomination and travesty of justice. Templ's lawyer Robert Amsterdam has pointed out that Austria appears to have covered up exculpatory evidence that would have aided the man's defense. A sham, designed to mete out punishment on a man who dared expose Austria's dark past by writing a book about Austrian property that had been confiscated from its jewish citizens before they fled or were annihilated.
“Owing to the fact that the state stole the property from my family, the obligation should be on them to track down the relatives. My only obligation as far as I was concerned was to assure those deciding on the restitution that my mother’s claim was bona fide.” Stephan Templ
The story of Templ's relatives reaction to the appropriation and subsequent humiliation is both poignant and disturbing.
"The property at the centre of Templ’s legal battle with the state is a huge, elegant 19th-century villa near the Ringstrasse in the centre of Vienna that was once a private birth clinic belonging to Lothar Fürth, a cousin of Templ’s grandmother.
 The ferris wheel in Vienna’s Prater amusement park was revealed by Templ to have been among property seized from Jewish owners by the Nazis.
A month before the building was expropriated by the Nazis on 3 April 1938, Fürth, the head of the clinic, and his wife, Sue, were forced by a caretaker to clean the pavement in front of the building using toothbrushes in an ultimate act of humiliation. The couple then retreated to the operating room at the top of the hospital and injected themselves with poison.
Fürth wrote in a suicide note: “We have had enough.”"
Actually the full quote of Fürth was "We have had enough. It is my fault, but I am just tired. I kiss everyone who loves me."

Austria has always had a special place in the annals of anti semitism. It is no wonder that the Austrian born Hitler was so inspired by two noted Austrian jew haters, the mayor of Vienna Karl Lueger and the politician Georg Ritter von Schönerer. But the animus started far earlier. From Wikipedia:
The prosperity of the Jewish community caused increased jealousy from the Christian population and hostility from the church. In 1282, when the area became controlled by the Catholic House of Habsburg, Austria stopped being a religious center for the Jews.
Jews were largely hated because they acted as tax collectors and moneylenders. The earliest evidence of Jews collecting taxes appears in a document from 1320. During the same time, riots occurred against the Jews in the area. The Jewish population continued to decline in middle of the 14th century and at the start of the 15th century during the regime of Albert the Third and Leopold III. This period was characterized in the cancellations of many debts that would have been collected by Jews, the confiscation of Jewish assets, and the creation of economic limitations against them.
In middle of the 15th century, following the establishment of the anti-Catholic movement of Jan Hus in Bohemia, the condition of the Jewish population worsened as a result of accusations that the movement was associated with the Jewish community. In 1420, the status of the Jewish community hit a low point when a Jew from Upper Austria was charged with the desecration of the sacramental bread. This led Albert V to order the imprisonment of all of the Jews in Austria. Two hundred ten Jews were burnt alive in public and the rest were deported from Austria, leaving their belongings behind. In 1469, the deportation order was canceled by Frederick the Third, who was known for his good relationship with the Jews and was even referred to at times as the "King of the Jews". He allowed Jews to return and settle in all the cities of Styria and Carinthia. Under his regime, the Jews gained a short period of peace (between 1440 and 1493).
The rise of religious fanaticism of the Society of Jesus
The relative period of peace did not last long, and with the start of the regime of Ferdinand the First in 1556, though he also opposed the persecution of the Jews, he levied excessive taxes and ordered them to wear a mark of disgrace. Between 1564 and 1619, in the period of the regimes of Maximilian the second, Rudolf the Second and Matthias, the fanaticism of the Society of Jesus prevailed and the condition of the Jews worsened even more. Later on, during the regime of Ferdinand the Second in Austria, which in spite of that like his grandfather he opposed the persecution of the Jews and even permitted constructing a synagogue, he demanded a huge amount of tax from the Jewish population.
The nadir of the Jewish community in Austria arrived during the period of the regime of Leopold the First, a period in which Jews were persecuted frequently and were deported from different areas, including a deportation from Vienna in 1670, but gradually returned after several years. Jews also had to bear different laws—one of which permitted only first-born children to marry, in order to stop the increase of the Jewish population. Although Leopold the First treated the Jewish population severely, he had Samson Wertheimer, a Jewish economic advisor, working for him.
I found this interesting article when researching the Templ case; An Anti-Semitic Incident Adds to Austria’s Shame. A Viennese landlord demands that his renter takes down a mezuzah. Love the first quote by Simon Weisenthal.

"Why did you set up the Jewish Documentation Center in the heart of Vienna? Why not Geneva, London or even Tel Aviv?"

"If you want to catch mosquitos, you cannot avoid the swamp."

I had coffee with an Austrian friend yesterday and we discussed the Templ case. While he in no way supported the court's decision and also shared a similar story about the railroading of his old friend Bettleheim, he said that the Austrians roll the thing back another generation.

Once he told me, the non jewish Austrians owned these many confiscated properties and many were lost in a nineteenth century crash. The only people that had the capital at the time to buy them were the jews and that caused long seething resentment. 

In a cultural alembic that long associated the jews with evil and money lending, the attitude becomes more understandable.

42% of Austrians say Hitler wasn't all bad.

Algemeiner 10/12/15 
Austrian historian and writer Stephan Templ said his prison guards denied him kosher food and demanded that he prove his Jewishness during the first week of his one-year prison sentence.
Templ told the Austrian Kurier newspaper that on top of being denied the foods appropriate to a kosher diet, he had to contact his girlfriend to provide proof from the organized Jewish Community in Vienna as to his Jewish identity.

I hope this guy gets out of jail soon. This is a terrible and unnecessary stain on Austria's reputation.

Heinz Fischer/
"Last month, the Austrian president, Heinz Fischer, rejected a request for clemency, saying the punishment was just because according to the court ruling Templ had “damaged Austria” by his actions.
Another Templ supporter, Karl Pfeifer, a veteran Austrian journalist and a Holocaust survivor who has followed the case, said: “The only reason Templ was prosecuted is that he touched a nerve with his book, which reminded the Austrians of how they stole Jewish property.”"

High and low culture

Police & Thieves

Monday, October 12, 2015

Egret, San Elijo Lagoon

I played a little hookey this afternoon and took a walk around the lagoon in Cardiff.

Will sift through my other shots tomorrow.

Judy Henske - Baltimore Oriole

First leg

I am back from the first leg of my fall tour for a couple of breaths. Palm Springs was disappointing.

The Palm Springs Modernism show was held at the Air museum and for one reason or another the buyers didn't seem to come out this time. Beautiful booths and wares, but little traction (cash).

This is only the first sortee in my battle plan, not seeking the high ledges yet.

The weekend actually started out pretty well, lulled me a bit, with a nice Friday night opening, a great band, Splash, several stiff drinks and a couple decent sales.

After that it was definitely a non starter.

There is a full blown rant in me somewhere but I have too much to do to engage in a serious bitchfest at the moment.

Every design movement has its masterpieces. Unfortunately stupid humans also tend to venerate the worst part of any movement and to worship the detritus and pure sheit, largely being incapable of discerning the difference.

For illustrative purposes only I point you to the Jeré owl.

Steve, my good friend and booth partner, had one of these babies and I think that our relationship is reasonably solid enough for me to openly hate it on the blog without incurring his ire.

C. Jeré is a company, formed by two individuals, Curtis Freiler and Jerry Fels in 1963. Their aim was to produce "gallery quality art for the masses."

The company was sold and resold and their material has been made in China for the last twelve years. It is uniformly dreadful, I mean I love it. Art to spruce up the double wide.

I don't know that the human aesthetic output can get much lower than this stuff. I hate it with every pore of my soul and being. The nadir of our design existence, but one which the chic modernists still find delicious.

I try to imagine a timeline from Michelangelo to Rodin to Robineau, on to Natzler and Voulkos, ending up with horrid little brass creations like this one and have to shake my head. I just wasn't brought up that way.


There was some wonderful modern stuff at the show. I like a lot of it. I love Maloof and Nakashima and many of the men and women I consider really great designers. I personally favor a slightly warmer palette but that's just me.

Take my hat off to my fellow exhibitors and hope they had better success than I did. More of an object crowd than a knowledgable art crowd.

Modern architecture was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus movement, a malthusian construct for worker's housing. Hard for me not to envision rats arguing amongst themselves about who has a nicer cage.

I was reading the other day about the new rage in housing, steel boxes, and I thought it was a perfect culmination for this design corollary of stockholm syndrome. Want to scratch that modernist fetish itch? From the GuardianLiving in a steel box: are shipping containers really the future of housing?

Business went to hell last recession and has never recovered for most of us. And perhaps there is a legitimate design paradigm shift as well. But there are things which do not necessarily deserve rediscovery just because they happen to belong to a time period that fits your fondness for the currency of your childhood. Things can stay godawful forever.

Palm Springs is a trip. It was freaking hot as hell and I learned that the folks over there have a different calendar.

This show is the early show, the March show is the late one. Because the gregorian year as we know it is meaningless in the desert, the "season" predicates.

There are two seasons, before and after the awful heat, so springtime is actually now in September.

So I arrived early season, which is somewhat taboo in the desert. I spent two years rehabbing real estate there in the early nineties and got a whiff of all this. Never got comfortable with the hot nights myself.

look ma, no socks...

Socks are taboo in the desert. You can be wearing a cravat, houndstooth, suspenders and button down like this guy but you better not have any socks separating your feet from your loafers. I believe that this look was imported from Palm Beach.


We shared the parking lot the first day with the vintage Acura car lovers group. I am so old and postdated I didn't even know there was such a thing as a vintage Acura. Rip Van Winkle emerges from the rabbit hole once again...

To be continued...